I was reading an article once about one of my favorite movies, The Dark Knight, and the writer said, “When you’re a kid, you cheer for Batman; when you’re an adult, you realize the Joker makes more sense.” This struck me as a bit of a cynical view of the world, regardless of how brilliantly Heath Ledger portrayed the Joker in that film. But it also made me wonder if being a villain had some sort of a morbid glamorous appeal to it. For example, I went to college with a guy who said (on multiple occasions), “The movie Blow always makes me want to be a cocaine dealer.”
But trust me, being the villain isn’t glamorous; it’s torturous.
Today I found this new show on Netflix called Everything Sucks, about what it was like to be in high school during the 90s. It’s like The Wonder Years, set in 1996. Characters are funny, music is awesome, and it’s certainly relatable (considering I was in high school from 1994-1998).
But that is neither here nor there. That one quote about being “the heroes of our own story” in Everything Sucks absolutely froze me. In fact, I scrolled back and listened to that quote several times, and I feel like that singular line explains the deepest realization to which I’ve come in my life: I do realize I’m the bad guy — the villain.
This is not a status or label in which I take pride (actually, quite the opposite). However, I really do understand my role in the world, post-prison. And I think that’s a misconception I often fight within the perspective of some of my readers.
I’m honored and humbled when people read my Ongoing Commentary (blog) and/or buy one of my books. Every time I receive a Royalty Payment, it’s just a little bit surreal. But I suppose it’s important to point out that nothing I could ever write (or say, or do) could ever atone for my sins of the past.
In the saga of my own life, I’m the villain, not the hero — the antagonist of my own existence. But that doesn’t mean the villain can’t turn his back on evil and do the right thing, not to be a hero, but to simply do the next right thing. Perhaps that’s why one of my all-time favorite movies is Suicide Squad, a movie about notorious villains who save the world. And I suppose one thing I really like about that movie is, in the end, regardless of saving the world, the villains still must serve their prison sentences. Essentially, even saving the world wasn’t enough to completely atone for their sins of their pasts — they were still villains; they would always be villains. They would always be villains, and they would never be heroes, no matter what they did.
I’m the villain in many people’s stories (including my own), and shall for ever be such. The choices of my past will forever cast me as the antagonist in an infinite number of stories. But that doesn’t mean I have to continue to lead a villainous life.
My post-villain life carries a reputation and a stigma; my post-villain actions are not an attempt to be the “good guy,” be the “hero,” or atone for the indiscretions of my bygone life.
I do what I do now because it is the right thing to do. I live how I live now because it is the right way to live. I am who I am now because it is the right way to be.
I will never be the hero — but I am no longer the villain.
I am not who I was.