Reflecting on My Past – Lessons Learned

Yesterday, I turned 23. It’s primarily a time of reflection, not just of the past year but of the past decades. I’ve been reading one of Chris McCombs’ awesome blogs lately, which I first discovered through Greg Ellifritz via his excellent ART blog. Check ’em out, you won’t be disappointed. So, the combination of those things has put me in a mood to share my story so far. In order to keep it somewhat interesting and not just a bitchfest, I’ll be presenting it in sections by this order: How things were (this will be the longest section), how things are, and what I learned. No, no, don’t try to contain your tears. Grab some tissues (or some popcorn if you roll like that) and let it happen. Either way, I promise it’ll be worth it.

How Things Were

Whether at home, at school, or somewhere in between, there was always a new type of hell waiting for me. At home, it was an abusive parent which to those who know does not need any more explanation. Financial issues, constant moving at a moment’s notice (often from one bad place to another), and a general atmosphere of fear and misery made sure I would have no peace in the one place we all should have it. Then divorce left us penniless and with horrible credit, albeit free from the worst human being I have ever had the misfortune to personally know – But not without a fight. Needless to say, those who have experienced this can understand how ugly it gets, especially when you’re dealing with certain types of people. It took a decade to recover financially, but there are other things that are much harder to recover from.

It wasn’t any better at school. It was the typical – Bullies, harassment, and just plain bad luck made sure that every day found me in another uniquely awful situation as the cherry on top of the standard punishment cake freshly baked for me every morning. It’s not like in the movies where there’s just one guy giving you shit and you’re okay if you avoid him. Try dealing with multiple people for years who like to dish out random beatings and happen to enjoy stabbing a little too much. My stubborn personality didn’t really help, either. Despite everything, the worst offender was me. I kept ridiculously high standards that I would inevitably fail to meet no matter how hard I tried. I put myself through the Junior ROTC program seemingly only to further add a mountain of responsibility, stress, and image maintenance when my life was already falling apart at the seams. I worked myself to near death and I didn’t fit in with anybody – Not the popular kids, not the unpopular kids, not the kids who also had similar problems. Later, I would lose purpose in even those efforts as I began to question and distrust “The System”. I felt like years of my life had been taken from me and I suffered for naught.

This is a time where you gotta go outside, take a deep breath, and enjoy nature. That’s kinda difficult to do when you’re being made to vandalize, steal, and generally be the gopher to whatever local gang decided that some wimpy kid was clearly the best new member material. You’re judged by the company you keep, and the company I kept (or rather, kept me) were the last people you’d want to be judged by. I had a handful of friends. None of the people I’d find myself hanging with were them and I barely avoided prison. Besides just plain doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing and didn’t want to do, their personalities were insufferable to boot. Nothing but a bunch of petty bullshit, constant fighting and backstabbing.

While that was happening, I’ve also had my share of medical issues, though they were not incredibly serious nor permanent. A very typical thing for kids is to have asthma which I also had. There are other things, of course. All that traveling to different places wreaked havoc on my underdeveloped immune system. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, really I am, but traveling through the worst parts of Pakistan and India can kill you in more ways than you’d expect. Don’t take your small kid to those places if you can help it. At 9, I ran into a glass door while visiting family in southern Brazil and took a nice chunk of fat and meat out of my right knee. That’s not too bad, in fact it’s a fairly standard thing – Except when you’re out in the boonies in a foreign country, it can be kinda hard to find a doctor at all, much less one who’s not crap.

After the situation in the mid-east as a very young child, the last time an illness nearly killed me was a couple years after the glass door incident. I wasn’t as weak at 11, but it was a brutal infection and a hallucinogenic fever that sent me to the hospital. What happened next wasn’t nearly as pleasant. I had the choice of, for the rest of my life, downing what today is still the worst assortment of nasty, gritty liquid slurries and chalky, bitter pills I have ever tasted by far – Or go under the knife. I chose the knife. Being cut open and temporarily living with tubes in your new entrances wasn’t great, but at least they were eventually yanked out without any anesthesia so hey, it wasn’t so bad after all. Oh, and during my recovery, I got kicked in the still-open wound and passed out. Apparently, you can’t go outside in the Projects without getting into a fight. Between that, I’ve had minor things. Spraining my wrist just before volleyball season, breaking my toe the day before I was supposed to dash the 100m, and then doing all that anyway because I kept my mouth shut like an idiot.

The next time I got cut open by someone who was supposed to know what they were doing was also particularly nasty. That was 5 years after my previous surgery, I was 16 at the time. It didn’t help that I tried to suck up the pain for months before actually seeing a doctor. That definitely complicated things. The only option left was a rather crude procedure that would leave me with yet another open wound to this day. Maintenance of such things is neither fun nor painless. And hey, as my brilliant luck would have it, I was scheduled to lead my Junior ROTC fitness team at our first competition in several years. Again, I kept my mouth shut. I ran, did sit-ups, push-ups, climbed, carried, and led my underclassmen to not-last-place. We were happy with that. Anyway, this isn’t the “everything’s better now” section so allow me to wrap up.

That’s about all the major physical issues. The psychological issues took a much greater toll. I’ve never been able to get a good night’s sleep. I’d always wake up exhausted and out of energy. As well, I would have nightmares all night every night so that’s not a huge surprise. I recently found out that one of my close friends also had nightmares every night for years when he was younger, and this was due to very different reasons. There are many causes, but when your own bed sucks the life from you, it doesn’t help you tackle the day in the best of conditions. I survived by becoming unemphatic, silent, angry. I lost a God I had never properly known after years of being pulled between two opposing orthodox practices.

Put all that together in a big, steaming shit sandwich and it’s no wonder I’d often grab the biggest kitchen knife I could find and decide whether or not today was the day I’d plunge it into my neck.

How Things Are

You know, I’m really fucking glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t say “everything’s better”, but things are a hell of a lot better now. What got me through life so far has been the same stubborn personality that exacerbated my situation before. It allowed me to latch onto the few good things and look to the future. Every mountain has a peak. Well, turns out it wasn’t so much of a mountain as a molehill. There is much ahead of me yet. The psychological scars haven’t healed, I still have trouble sleeping, I still have horrific nightmares, and I’m still feeling the effects of my last surgery. I’m not where I want to be. Asthma disqualified me from military service. It’s a tough situation for this generation to make their own in the uncertain world of today.

Yet, I continue to be grateful. Financially, I am better off than I have ever been. I’ve worked out and I’m unrecognizable from the wimpy kid I was many years ago. I could do with getting in better shape but it’s not bad. My health could use work but it’s not bad. No more suicidal thoughts. Much more spirit. I’ve found a new purpose. I’ve found God for real this time and it’s a wonderful thing. You don’t need religion to connect with God, and I am not religious. I’ve ditched my old life, cast aside the people who were bringing me down and got away from the places that were hurting me. One thing I’ve carried over is my insatiable curiosity for learning anything and everything. I’m warming up to people in general and turning my attention to helping others rather than sulking about myself, though I’m still pretty self-centered. I’m more in tune with the world around me and more motivated to prepare for emergencies. I feel like I can handle anything. Life right now, it could be better – But it’s not bad.

Lessons Learned

  1.  Suicide is never the answer – Well, almost never. If it is, it’s not because you are personally suffering. It ought to be for a greater cause if you even consider it, which I still do not recommend.
  2. A Higher Power – Even if you didn’t grow up in a family where prayer was common, try it. Put your heart into it. Don’t expect anything in return. The goal is to have faith and ease your mind.
  3. Little things rule – Take advantage of any second of respite you may get from life. Cherish every escape and allow it to energize you for what’s to come.
  4. Laugh – You know what they say, if you’re not laughing about it, you’re crying about it. Laugh or cry, those are always your options and you get to choose between them. Use some common sense, though.
  5. Learn – There’s something to learn in everything. Remember that the hardest things in life can imprint the most useful lessons. You might not know what the lesson is just yet, give it time.
  6. Get help – The thing that really made it harder for me was that I didn’t tell anyone. I had family, friends, and counselors who were willing to listen but I never told anybody. Tell somebody.
  7. Fight – You know, sometimes, you just gotta lay someone out. Or try to, anyway. Don’t make it a habit by any means. Save your punches for those who really cross the line and don’t go overboard.
  8. Don’t fight – Most of the time, however, you are much better served just letting it go. Don’t blow things out of proportion. Step back, step away, and screw the haters.
  9. Hold on – You’ll eventually reach a point where things will get better. Find something, anything, to hold on to until then. Even if it doesn’t take you where you want it to, if it helps you break through, it did its job.
  10. Take charge of today for a better tomorrow – Especially for those of you still in school, trust me on this. When you hit 18, you are legally an adult. Things are expected of you that weren’t before. It’s a freedom you never had before. It changes your life. There may be things you’ve wanted to do for a long time that you can do now. You garner a bit more respect than you used to, and youngsters will begin to look up to you. For the first time ever, you feel like you are in control. This is the time where you put on your best hat and tell the world, “Give it your best shot.” If things aren’t right, you have the time and the power to make them right. Take full advantage of everything at your disposal. You don’t have to jump into college or even work right away (though I would recommend getting a job after a couple months).  Enjoy new-found adulthood for a while. From this point on, you can decide where to go and what to do. There’s a million ways to make a living and chances are there’s a thousand of those that you like. You will find purpose again. In some ways, things might be more difficult. This time, it’s all you. It’s your show. Run it like a champ. And you know, if it crashes and burns (which it probably will), pick up the pieces and learn from it. You’ll do better next time or maybe there’s something else you can do. Don’t give up on life.

I figure that’s a good number to stop at. I hope this post gave you more than a lengthy story. We’ll be back to regular format and content in the next post! Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there.



~ by demonhide on April 27, 2013.

2 Responses to “Reflecting on My Past – Lessons Learned”

  1. Good advice – I’m glad you are coming through ok now.

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