I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone. I know that’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. And yet, I don’t consider myself a victim or anything like that; I don’t blame anyone (except myself) for all the bad shit I’ve endured. In fact, most of it is my fault anyway. But that doesn’t make it any easier to endure; in fact, it’s worse. So perhaps I am a victim — a victim of myself.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his 1959 novel, The Sirens of Titan, “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.” Yeah, no shit. Or, I suppose in my case, substitute “accidents” for “really shitty choices.” But regardless, here’s the thing: Those choices have been made, it is a part of the past, it cannot (and will not) change, so I am forced to live with the consequences … for the rest of my life. I am not undeserving of this burden, but again, that doesn’t make it any easier to endure.
But maybe, just maybe, the people casting their metaphorical stones should consider one thing: Why don’t you take a walk in my shoes, if only for a few minutes?
Here’s how I often relay this point:
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
What is the thing in your life for which you are most ashamed?
Now, imagine that this one thing is the only thing everyone knows about you.
•Welcome to my reality.•
This is the cloud I live under, every single day of my life. Yes, I’ve made some terrible choices in my past. And to a varying degree, we all have. The only difference is, my failures are not only known, but they are the paramount detail many people know about me.
Here’s the interesting caveat: When people know me — I mean, actually know me — they don’t even see a hint or a shadow of the horrid person I was over a decade ago when I made the destructive choices I made.
I am me, now. I am not me, then.
Are you the same person you were a decade ago? Why do you assume I am? And I’ve been through two years of prison and countless years of therapy. Why would you assume I’m the same selfish horrible asshole I was in 2010?
The people who know me now have told me repeatedly that they don’t see the person I was because the person I am is nothing like that. However, that doesn’t stop people’s hate, paranoia, and fear. People like their fear; people want their fear; people think their fear gives them a sense of control because they think they know what (or who) to hate. And when we know who to hate, we build a wall between ourselves and “the hated” which we think protects us. People honestly think hate protects them from the people they hate. But it doesn’t. Hating someone doesn’t hurt the person you hate, but there’s still plenty of collateral damage.
And here’s the kicker: All of this would be entirely apparent and obvious to anyone who sat down and had a ten-minute conversation with me. It took a lot of work to become who I am now, shedding the horrendous person I was a decade ago. But in some ways, it’s all for naught when people refuse to take the time to ask simple questions or explore beyond what they read on the Internet or step beyond their paranoia and fear.
But “people” don’t do that. So how do I react? I typically avoid “people” whenever possible. I dislike being around “people,” probably to the extent that “people” dislike being around me. I often have to take anxiety medication just to go out in public. Honestly, I barely leave my house anymore. Sometimes, it’s just too much.
Yes, this is the life I’ve carved out for myself, and it definitely is not how I envisioned it when I was young. This is what a ruined life looks like. And although there are some stellar aspects of my life (such as my wife, family, and close friends), the full scope of my existence cannot be quantified as anything other than a failure. And I doubt I’ll ever fight back from it.
I do, however, acknowledge that things could be so much worse. I have a nice house, a good-paying job doing something I enjoy, a wife and daughter who love me, a family who loves and supports me, and friends who accept me for who I am (rather than rejecting me because of who I was). So I am not ungrateful for what I have. But it is also difficult to contemporaneously live the life I have while the memory of my previous life remains. I don’t think I’ll ever not be able to compare my life now to my life then. Perhaps I can take solace in knowing that even though my life seems worse now, I am actually a much better person now; ten (plus) years ago, when my life seemed great, I was actually a really horrible person.
I guess that’s just how it is; I guess that’s just how it was; I guess that’s just how it’s going to be. And in the end, I don’t even know if any of this matters. Most nights, as I lie in bed, waiting to fall asleep, I pray silently, “God, I’m ready whenever You are. So if I don’t wake up in the morning, I’m okay with that.” I’m not suicidal or anything like that, but a significant part of me knows I’ve ruined too much of this life beyond repair, so I’m just done with it. But I woke up this morning, so I guess this life isn’t done with me yet.
Anymore, I merely exist on the whims of luck, chance, and Faith. I guess we’ll see what happens…