Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ruled by Fear

As a 37 year old man, I know that a 14 year old kid is not suppose to have all of the answers.  I know this.  And for the most part it's exceedingly true.  I'm sure there's a rare exception, that kid, wise beyond their years, though I think for the most part that kid is just a fictional character in a book or movie.

So, when I recently decided to look through my old high school yearbooks, I was not doing so in order to find the answer...but I did.  It was written on the front inside cover of my 9th grade yearbook.  And more than once on that page.  And then again in the back.  It was written in the messages of over half the people that signed my yearbook that year, which may not have been a lot of people that year, but I have over a dozen messages that say practically the same thing.

Reading through all of the signatures, I have the obligatory "Hey, this year was great, see you in the fall, have a great summer" etc etc etc.  I think there was one of two that were literally just a signature.  Then a couple from kids who I never really liked and signed my book with a line such as "Hey, you're a dick, love whoever".  But the majority of the messages all read the same.

"Hey Dan, You're a great person/friend, You're smart/nice/talented/etc, But you're also a coward/chicken/gutless"

There it was, relentlessly repeated.  The same message, over and over.

After the third time I read the same message I had to stop.  I turned off my tv, I turned off the light in the other room.  I sat in the semi-dark and I thought.  And I realized it was true.  And not just back then but still, now.  A bunch of 14 year old punks with little knowledge and insight into life saw right through me and called me out.  You're a coward.  I am.  I've always been.  I'm afraid right now.  A general sense of doom permeates me.  I don't admit this from feelings of depression, I admit it now because I finally see it.  I've admitted to being afraid of this situation over here or this type of thing over there.  But no.  That's not quite it.  I'm just afraid, always.

I'd love to end this note with a tremendously powerful and positive message about how now that I recognize this I will soon rise up and conquer it, vanquish it, curb-stomp it's ugly face and then I will have my success and I'll rise to the top and be an inspiration to all those that dream...blah blah blah.  But the truth is, I don't know if that's going to happen.  Yes, I recognize now that this fear has kept me caged in and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But I also see that I'm completely conditioned by it.  The iteration of failure, the clear signs that the very world finds my existence abhorrent.  I don't know if I'll be able to escape that.  I'd like to and I know that recognition of a problem is the first step of moving beyond it.  So, though I can hardly claim any confidence in becoming a completely different person, I guess the most positive spin I can put on this is that I am at least putting my foot forward upon the first stair of change.  Beyond that, I don't know.  But it's funny, I never expected to find the answer written in my 9th grade yearbook.

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