Riding on the delayed Red Line train toward Porter Square this afternoon, I spotted someone who reminded me of someone I knew back in grade school. His name was Michael, stood at a brave five-foot-seven with a thin, wiry build. There wasn’t much about him that was remarkable to me at the time aside from his sports prowess and his seemingly physical incapability of ever looking bad in any kind of clothing.
At least, that’s the way I remembered it before today.
Thinking back now, I wonder how different my life would have been had I known the kind of person I was going to be. I probably would have told him what I thought then and what I still think now: that he was and is physically beautiful, talented, and socially irrepressible. I imagine my relationship with him would have been markedly different than what it is today, which is basically a kind of nostalgic remembrance. He and I never really had much interaction during the three-or-four years that we knew each other in grade school. I moved on to the charter system in San Diego, and Michael… well, I don’t really know what happened to him. He and I are friends on Facebook at the moment, but that’s about as far as its gotten.
This whole memory started a thought in my mind, and it’s taken a pretty deep root. It’s made me wonder why we really restrict ourselves and tell ourselves we’re not good enough to talk to someone (or anyone, really) about how we really feel. Why we are not as truthful as we probably can and should be with each other and how that might affect inter-personal relationships. Actually, how that might affect the whole world and every inter-personal interaction we encounter on a day-to-day basis.
I internalized a set of false concepts early in my life that I was never really good enough to talk to anyone that looked even half-way better than I did or was more social than I was, and I kept to the outskirts of the social order, becoming rank-and-file amongst self-labeled rejects, reprobates, and idiots. We knew that we weren’t the best-looking, the smartest, or the most social but that really didn’t matter at the time. After getting into the charter system and becoming as utterly alone as one can get without dropping out of school entirely, I spent the majority of my days either in front of a computer screen or skating around on a “Wal-Mart Special” skateboard. There literally wasn’t a single soul I cared about besides my parents and my dad’s family. I could’ve cared less if the world blew-up or burnt to the ground, just as long as my parents and my grandparents were in my life I could get-by with just about any situation.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
I realized in no uncertain terms and in no time at all that the reason why I blended well with the older crowd was because I found that there I wasn’t an outcast or outlier, I was actually accepted and held in some semblance of esteem. I could hold political conversations with even the most jaded of the elder generations, I could read long and difficult books about abstract topics and speak about them at-length, and I was doing just about everything that a grown man would be expected to do at the time (aside from the whole gay thing… that came later).
The past is not a healthy place to live, but sometimes is a healthy place to re-visit and either burn to the ground or infuse with fresh energy and new perspectives. The old adage “if I knew then what I knew now” holds ever-so-true. I wish I’d have known myself more at that point, and I wish I would have known that in the end it didn’t matter at all. I was panicking and shrinking from social situations and potential friends for fear of being permanently branded or shunned.
Thick skins are one thing, but having the self-confidence is another beast altogether. There a myriad of things I could lay the blame upon for squandering what should have been some of the best times of my life, but in complete honesty it wouldn’t make a bit of difference in the here-and-now.
As I’ve been exploring, learning, and experiencing, I’ve realized more often than not my own fears regarding failure are either unfounded or are blown out-of-proportion to what they really should be. There are a great many more things I can be expending energy doing other than wondering what the person looking at me thinks about what I’m wearing, how my hair is cut, or whether they think I’m overweight. There’s far more things in life than worrying about failure and trying to do damage-control before I even hit the obstacle. There are a great deal more things I can constructively spend my time engaging in and building rather than spending time and energy on ghosts, whispers, and nameless fears.
So, Michael, if you’re reading this… I thought and still think you were pretty fucking amazing. I hope things are still working out for you as magically as they seemed to while you and I were both in grade school. You keep rocking-on, and I’ll do the same.