I remember seeing a picture –
maybe we spoke about this
or maybe we didn’t;
I think the relevance of this picture is true to life.
I think that the picture is brilliant –
no wait, the picture is powerful
and the reason why is the picture
The Power of Stepping Away.
I do not own this picture
not am I claiming anything by sharing this with you.
Instead, I am offering a relatable nature
to which all I am saying is this:
and, therefore, I have to be mindful of myself.
I have to mindful of who I am
where I come from
what happens when I eat too many sweets
or what comes with a life that’s been lived
with an unhealthy mind.
I do not say that chemistry is a choice.
nor do I have a choice of what happens around me
I do have the right to be observant
since I can see then
this means I have the responsibility
to either grow up
Or, in this case –
Now that I know the so-called difference
between right and wrong,
I can choose to disassociate myself
with the problematic lies
and the unhelpful woes
that we claim and hold too tightly.
But yes. . . I can see where the blame comes in.
I look back at them in photographs,
in black and white, and there they are
those who had something to do with my life
and my upbringing
younger than I could have ever imagined.
I see them with their hair combed perfectly, styled by the times,
and dressed appropriately,
and respectfully of the times as well,
sitting in a pose for a class picture for the alma mater,
as in oh, hail to the chief
and all praises due to the order of life and
with the utmost respect to government,
or how they were with respect to authority,
with reverence to the law, to the mighty good, and Almighty God
or to the basic esteem of posture and presence;
I see them for what they were, at one point,
which is young – like us.
and approaching the gateway of the real world.
I see them on the verge of life,
which is about to reveal their untested lives
and being that we are from the future,
and since you and I have the ability of hindsight,
we can look at them, our parents, our aunts and uncles,
our grandparents and elders
and even with those who are family –
even if they were never really family,
we see them now, in our settings of their future,
which is now in the past
and, our perspective of them is different now than say,
their perspective of the world
when they were alive back then.
What happened to you?
Where did you go?
What did you do?
And, of course, why?
I suppose we can look at their photos
and the family photos that took place, long before our birth,
and more so, there are pictures that took place
long before the connections that created our birth –
and we see them in their poses.
We see their smiles and their youthful expressions.
We see their world before it changed
or altered by the pressures of life around them
before adulthood took place
Before they thought about things like
What happened to them?
Where did they go,
the young souls before they knew us and raised us?
What happened to them?
What changed their direction
or caused them to make up their mind
and come to a decision on where to go
or how to be?
I see them and wonder if they knew
who they would grow up to be.
If their young souls could see who they grew into,
what would they say about themselves?
Would they curse themselves for being the person
which they swore that they’d never become – yet,
somehow, the people we become
are often the person we swore that we’d never be like.
I wonder about The Old Man . . .
Did he know that he would lose his patience
so often and so quickly?
Did he know that he would curse the television
or argue about the price of gas?
Did he know that he would grow old and become somewhat jaded
yet in his moments of awareness, I wonder;
did he ever see himself
or catch himself slipping into an almost uncontrollable version
of the person he never wanted to be?
I say this with an awakened heart because, of course,
before anyone is a parent or before anyone is anything
we are the soul of ourselves, which means that we are a cosmic phenomenon;
which means that we are a series of mixtures
and a swirl of different ingredients
that, in some cases; we can be sweet,
in others, we can be bitter and unpleasant.
I wonder if he knew who he was about to become.
I wonder about Mom.
I wonder about the generation before mine and in their stylish ways;
I wonder if they knew who they would turn out to be – and
if their youthful selves could see who their older bodies became –
what would they say to themselves?
Would they kick their own ass?
Would I kick my own ass
if this option was offered to me?
I can say that when I was young;
although I never posed for too many class photos
or posed for anything, aside from perhaps my driver’s license
or for the photo I.D. on my passport,
which in fairness to myself,
either picture is an accurate representation of me,
and, in fact, I can say their are old mugshots of me
with a number running beneath my headshot,
which looks better than either my driver’s license
or my passport . . .
I can say that there are things that I swore I would never say.
There are things that I swore I would never do.
I can say that I swore I would never be like “that guy,”
or that “old man”
in the neighborhood
who’d shout out from his window,
“Hey you kids . . . get off of my goddamn lawn!”
I swore I would never be uncool or so out of touch;
yet here I am in the rundown of my life
looking at myself, introspectively
and looking back at myself with open eyes.
I am realizing that in spite of our best efforts,
we often attach ourselves to unwanted characteristics
that at one point,
we swore that we would never do.
I am not so cynical. Skeptical, maybe . . .
I am trying to redefine myself
the same as I wished my Old Man would yet,
The Old Man did not have the benefit of my hindsight.
I look at some of his pictures.
I look at the old black and white photo albums
that go back to the generations before me.
I think about my best friend’s Grandfather
and how he was in sanitation;
or, otherwise known as a “Garbage man”
and how each day, this man went to work,
dressed in a suit, and then he would arrive at work,
place his clothing in a locker,
do his job,
and then he would clean up,
return to his suit, and then go home
after working hard to feed his family.
It seems as if certain dignities
have become outdated
I think about the dedication of the generations behind me
and thus, I understand
why The Old Man was frustrated with what he saw.
I understand why he was frustrated with life
and perhaps I understand this now more than ever
because here I am and standing as I am,
as a man who has a past behind him;
as a man with lived experience
as someone who went through countless versions of an identity crisis:
I am trying to establish who I am
and trying to define who I want to be
and in an honest regard – I realize that, at best,
I am only human, same as my parents were before me
Only now, and I think it is you who allowed me to come to this;
now that I understand where I fell short
and now that I recognize my needs to improve
and, as well, now that I know the difference between right and wrong –
if I do nothing about this to change
and do nothing about this to improve
then my failures caused by my chemistry
are not just failures destined by my DNA –
Now that I know,
I can’t claim ignorance to the crimes more than once,
which means now that I know where my wrongs are,
I have to make changes in order to improve.
This means, above all.
I have to recognize and learn about
the power of stepping away
I used to blame my upbringing.
I used to blame the unwanted sessions that come with life
and the unwanted memories that never seemed to leave me alone.
I used to blame depression. I used to blame my anxiety.
I used to try and find accountability
in order to understand why things “happened”
or “why” people did what they did
or said what they said when, in fact,
there are things I’ve said and done,
and in both cases, I have both said and done
undefendable things in my life.
Because I am human.
I have faults and flaws; however,
I also have the ability to update my thinking
and, therefore, I have the responsibility to adapt
and improve my behavior –
If the life I live is up to me, then my life is up to me
and blaming somebody else
for my faults and flaws
does nothing but keep me living
along the lies of a victimized state
I am not victim . . .
I have learned that oftentimes in life,
there are no victims – only volunteers.
I decided to remove myself from the trade
and by stepping away,
I remove my match from the flame
because even if no one else forgives me –
or even if someone looks at me
and thinks about my shortcomings to ask,
“What went wrong in your life,”
or “What the hell were you thinking?”
At least if anything,
I can stand here and face my convictions,
honestly and say, “yeah, that was me.”
My bad . . .
But, in my favor,
I’m here to answer for who I am
because rather than blame my faults on the “sins of the father,”
and I mean this in a figurative sense –
at least I have made the choice to withdraw
from contention and to go forward.
I have decided to stop the chain of events from
becoming a chain reaction because. in all fairness,
I don’t ever want to be that guy who screams out the window
at the kids in the neighborhood
or sits alone in a wheelchair
and talks to myself in some old folks home
until I die
I don’t ever want to be that guy –
So, please . . .
Keep me accountable
And don’t let me be him