And There You Have the Facts of Life

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“I love how big your heart is.”

One of the nicest things said to me, just recently, by a very close friend. It stuck with me over like the week or so since she said it. I rarely ever reflect on myself as someone with a big heart, let alone anyone exceptional. I usually just do what I think is right, for better or worse.

But I suppose it’s true, I do tend to err on the side of compassion. Or even just congeniality. Hold doors, compliment people, help when I can. I’ve helped friends move or change tires. I’ve been their late-night phonecall when in a bind, provided an ear and a shoulder, helped drive people to the hospital when they were injured or, in one case, overdosed on god-knows-what. I’ve always tried to make myself approachable and available, willing to listen sans judgment to the problems and concerns of others. This isn’t bragging, nor do I feel like I’m better than anyone, far from it actually. This is just fact. It’s who I am.

I don’t do the things I do or seek the compassionate route for attention. Like I said, it just feels right. Long ago I heard a quote, and now that so much time has passed I can’t remember who said it, whether it was a famous person or perhaps a teacher, or if I just came up with it myself, but it’s been a mantra I’ve sort of designed myself around:

“It’s so easy to practice kindness, but it’s even easier to forget how.”

So, I try to do what I can. It’s little things mostly, but I’ve always felt little things make a world of difference. A small gesture can mean the difference between a bad day or a good day, and sometimes those two results can have very different outcomes. A smile and a wave even can be the difference between someone feeling like there is no goodness left in the world to changing their perspective. That’s the reality of life, honestly: It’s all built on a foundation of perspectives, and perspective changes like the weather. That person whose coffee you randomly bought may have been working up the courage to confront someone they have romantic feelings for, and your gesture gave them confidence. That person you complimented may have lost a relative and been searching for any remaining light in the world. That person you helped pick up their spilled groceries may have been thinking this accident was the final straw, the last inconvenience driving them to something reckless. We never truly know where the perspectives of others may lie, and we can’t just assume that simple, kind gestures will be met by apathy and a shrug. But if they are, who cares? We should do kind things because they’re right and they COULD help, not for the affirmation that they are.

I want to do more, I do. I plan to, at least. Right now I donate regularly to charities, but volunteering has not been something I do, so that’s next. Larger acts that I can achieve with the means I have available. I just want to do more, yknow. So, we’ll see how that goes.

“You can be pretty manipulative.”

One of the harshest things ever said to me, and one that has stuck with me for the two or so years since.

Made worse because it’s true.

I can and do manipulate people. I have for years. I often find that I know better how a situation should be handled than those involved, and if necessary I will manipulate people in whatever way possible so the resolution I think is best is achieved. I’ve been this way for years, have gotten fairly good at it. Admittedly, I never do any of this maliciously, to better myself over others or make anyone suffer, but that doesn’t excuse it. I manipulate, real hardcore Game of Thrones crap.

I grew up to be patient and observant. Bald kid at a new school, I went from outgoing and charismatic to quiet and calculated very quick. I had to readjust, figure out new social structures. Part of that was learning how to read people, and, if need be, use people. I helped stronger, stupid kids cheat in class so that I would have physical protection, schmoozed teachers to get advantages in classes, hung around with most of the nerdy group so I could feel like the cool one. Jesus, I developed into a miniature sociopath. I’ll spare specifics for myself and those involved.

I’ve cut a lot of that out of my life as I got older, decided that it was too risky or just generally uncool. Through middle and high school it did cause quite a few friendships to self-destruct and other very intense, uncomfortable social situations. I became a bully even to some. I’m sure there are plenty of people that remember me as a fairly shitty person. For that, I am sorry.

Thank you to the person who called me out, by the way. If you know who you are, I have been pissed about that moment for years, but it’s given me that drive to dial back on one of my major flaws, the remaining “damn, you’re a supervillain…. all bald and maniacal….” quality I had left. So, to you I say “fuck you” in the most appreciative way.

Seriously, thanks. Calling people out is good sometimes, and I needed it.

So I’ve stopped a lot of what comes with this territory. I make it a point to never say something about a person when they are not present unless it is something I would say to their face. I choose to focus on how much I care about the people around me, how much I want to see them succeed. That’s where I run into trouble though, as described above in the “I’m an arrogant fart who thinks he knows better than everyone.” But I’m learning to step back and let people deal with stuff themselves instead of just having to get involved. It’s a process, for sure, but one I am knee deep in.

What I’m trying to get at with all this is that every person has two sides. People are complex and crazy. They’re depressed and sociopaths and anxiety-riddled. They’re compassionate and kind and talented. When you meet people and get to know people, you have to prepare yourself for both sides. Obviously, this binary was just for example purposes, I have more than one good quality and more than one shitty quality (probably many more of the latter). People have many of both, and that’s okay. We need to accept our flaws, give them names and faces. If we deny their existence or try to hide them, they only become worse and hold us down. By addressing them, we can move forward, we can strive to improve ourselves and in that improvement will come a boon to our good qualities, the things that we enjoy about ourselves.

We also need to remember this fact when we meet people or grow to love them. There will be parts of the people you love that you wish would change, and maybe they will. But if they don’t, that’s okay too. Be a friend to them, or a sibling, or a parent, or a child, or a colleague and help them achieve a perspective of the world that makes the other side okay. Help them elevate their good qualities and have them help you. Understand that nobody is perfect and if everybody was the world would be incredibly boring.

I sit here writing this and petting my adorable handicapped cat, Weebles, while I reminisce on the amount of friends I’ve lost or people I’ve wronged and how I’d give anything to change that. But I can’t. So I’ll just focus on my drive for kindness, my desire to do good, my determination to volunteer more and give back.

Anyway, I’ll have plenty of time for that after I lose all my friends because of this post. At least I still have Weebles…

….She just left me for food.

Cats, man.


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