I find that I'm often careful about what I say and do because I feel judged by many people around me. This causes me to act against what is in my inmost nature and is, therefore, difficult. I live a certain way. I have always lived this way. Surely, years ago, I was different but when you think about it... not truly. I was... more of me. I haven't changed but rather, toned down a bit. I was more stubborn, angrier, less yielding and less likely to own up to my mistakes. I'm still pretty sure of myself, bordering on arrogance, but leave room for doubt and sway. Maybe I leave less than the average person and maybe I'm more pragmatic than I should be, but this is who I am through and through.
I grew up with a tight knit, open, honest family and group of friends. My closest friends in the whole world have been with me for 20 years, some longer. In all those years, we've never had serious beefs or fallings out - aside from high school generated nonsense indicative of excessive hormones, finding our ways in the world and overall rites of passage.
Over the last 8 years, I've met many people. I've made and lost friends. It's always hard to let go of what you thought was an amazing friendship, but one change I've certainly made is that I no longer hold onto friends just for the sake of holding onto them. It is all about value added. I don't care if we've been friends for for 24 hours or 24 years... if we have nothing in common, see the world differently, want different things, approach things differently, and generally don't get along then there's nothing left to say. This seems to happen more often than not in my military world. For so many years, I thought my life was the norm - united, unbroken nuclear family, long standing friends, upper middle class, big home, dad worked, mom raised the kids and it was all steeped in heritage and tradition which intertwined amongst our family values, faith, and ethnic background. To put it simply, I'm a pasta eating, family loving, do anything for my friends, stop at nothing to do well in my life, Italian Catholic from New York. As it turns out, I'm the exception, not the rule. I can count on one hand, my friends who have parents that are still married. It takes less than that to pick out those who grew up the way I did financially and with opportunities afforded us. The unwavering parental support - despite my best attempts at self-sabotage - is nearly unique to my folks.
These traits seem to be passed on to my generation. The world at large has changed, leaving current relationships in a constant state of confusion and disarray, requiring management. I don't know if it is a function of time or location or background or both. I'm not sure how much of the nature vs nurture debate comes into play. The fact is that I'm different than a large percentage of those I'm surrounded by. Notice I didn't say better or worse... just different. It takes all types to make the world go 'round or different strokes for different folks - pick your cliche. The point is that I feel out of place.
I notice it more and more with each passing day. My dwindling patience is inversely proportional to my longing to be back with people like me. Maybe my home area is insular in that as worldly as I am in some ways, I'm sheltered in others.
I guess it all boils down to the fact that I'm tired of making excuses for the man I've become and I'm tired of being judged by people who don't know me to my core because I don't see eye to eye with them. There are certain people who have earned the right to sit me down, look me in the eye and tell me I'm being a dick. Dr. Jim is one of those people. He is my brother in every sense except DNA. Yet, he is the last person to do so. He accepts me as I am, for better or for worse. I suppose after 20 years of friendship, he knows what he signed up for and is ok with it.
There are days I love my job but it is not my career. It is not long term. I get great satisfaction from being part of something bigger than myself but I get greater satisfaction from being near the most important people in my life... despite how close you, the reader, may think we are; I can guarantee you that I'm closer with my mom, dad, brother, grandmother, etc. Going "home" to be with them lands me in an area intolerant of mistakes. There are more people than jobs, quite often, and a cost of living that requires people to strive at all moments. I took that for granted years ago and learned from my mistakes. One morning I was on top of the world. That afternoon, I was packing my desk. These things happen - once.
I won't be caught with my proverbial pants down again. I'm driven. I'm motivated. I'm focused. I want certain things for my life and not getting them is simply not an option - at least not through any fault of my own or lack of trying. This is why I work my full time military job and go to school and do my research, write my articles, do my videos, create content, interface with captains of industry and stay plugged in. I'm often looked down on by people as if I'm trying to be better than them. That is where they are wrong. Those people and their lives don't even rate. I'm trying to be better than me. Better than the me I was and better than the me I am. I'm trying to improve my circumstances, enlarge my territory and enable my life for more opportunities. Some say it's materialistic to want more money and stuff and maybe it is but in the USA in 2011, stuff is what it's about. I don't want money to have money (like I used to); I want money to do the things I love with the people I love doing them with. I want to ski with Alan, watch football with Mark, make wine with Dad, take vacations as a family. I want to have a large home with the nicest things that I'm proud of and I can have these wonderful folks in my in life visit and not be disgusted by squalor or be cramped. I want to see and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
I don't think that's too much to want. I don't want a free ticket. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have no trust fund. There was no dowry when I got married. My parents provided for me and they did it in abundance but rarely as a free ride. When my dad bought my car first car, it wasn't fancy. Our conversation looked at my finances and realized that teaching me a lesson by letting me buy my own came with a cost... safety. It was more important to him to buy me a car that would be safe without going over the top than to teach me the value of a dollar and let me struggle. Plus he'd be up worrying that I was stuck somewhere. When he bought my second car, it was a loan. I paid him back for it. In truth, he didn't buy it. He laid the money out and gave me an interest free loan. I had to budget my money and make payments, without helping the banks get rich in the process. When he paid for my school, it came with a clause on grades. As and Bs or I was to owe him reimbursement for my tuition. I worked for it. It wasn't a gift, it was my future.
I have expectations from my friends and those I keep company with. Not for them, but for us. I don't care if they rule the world or pick up trash for a living, truly I don't. But regardless of who signs their paychecks I have expectations for OUR interaction. They MUST accept me for who I am because that's the only person I can be. They must view our relationship as a partnership. I will not chase someone to be my friend. If you are important to me, I'll call you and I expect the same thing in return. I do not deliver unrequited love for my friends. I expect honesty. I expect to not be held accountable to my friends' standards because my life is my own.
You don't have to like what I do, who I am or how I approach things, but to be my friend you have to accept it. I don't change for people. I carefully weigh and measure every situation (a tactic learned after years of rash, impulsive decisions). I adapt and overcome as required. Something may look like a sound investment in my life and upon further examination or new information, that may change. That may conflict with your outlook. I'm sorry if it does. Until you're prepared to pay my bills and create a life for me (one that I want), your say will not sway me in a way I'm not willing to be swayed. Input is valued and will be internalized for its merits and implemented as it makes sense. If it doesn't make sense to me, then I appreciate your advice but respectfully pass on utilizing it.
If anyone ever, at any point, speaks negatively about my publicly, belittles who I am as a person, makes me feel to be of no value to them or creates situations in my life that make it more difficult, stressful or otherwise problematic, then we will, more than likely, part ways (accidents, unintentional situations or things beyond one's control notwithstanding). Life is hard enough as it is. In the past 10 years I've dealt with loss in more ways than most people deal with in a lifetime. Some is permanent, some is not - none is easy.
The bottom line is that I was on my way to being somebody and took a wrong turn and tumbled. When I lost family, job, finances, education and opportunity I also lost part of me. After a decade of struggle, therapy, medication, reflection and work I have found it again. My personal stock is on the rise. I know my value. I'm not a slouch. I'm far from unintelligent. I have the support of wonderful people. If you're a supporter, I welcome you. If you're a detractor, take a hike. If you don't like my attitude, I'm sorry but this is MY life. Not yours, not ours. I'm not perfect. I'm as flawed as anyone, in some ways more, but I'm accountable only to myself and those I choose to let influence me - if you don't share my last name or bloodline, chances are you aren't one of them, at least not entirely and certainly not in terms of my life plan.
You may help me with individual situations or introduce me to a new music or food. You may help fine tune parts of me, but the core of my being? It is not for sale or up for negotiation. It took me a long, damn time to realize my worth in the world and to not be afraid to be me and reach for the brass rings in life. Nobody has the right to undermine that work or erode the results.
So... where do you fit? That answer is unique to each reader. I will tell you one thing... if you don't like how I handle my business; cut me off, walk away, say goodbye. I won't fault you for it. I won't think less of you. I'll think we're different and that's ok. I'd hate all 6 billion+ people on Earth to be the same, anyway. What you are NOT permitted to do is to pass judgment on me publicly and to others. You cannot call me out or cryptically point out what you consider my flaws to be. You have yours. I have mine. Have your opinion of me, but don't dare tell the world that I'm wrong for living my life as I see fit.
At the end of the day, I know I'll be educated, successful and happy. I'll have the support and warmth of my friends and family. I'll have all the material possessions I'm interested in. I'll be financially sound. I'll never reach a goal because there is no goal. There is always room for more. You know why I'll do all that? Because I'm focused. Because I run MY race. Because with my blinders on I don't see the negativity, I'm unaffected by my detractors, I rise above the nonsense. You're not wrong if you're different, you just have no place near me.
One last time, your life is your own and I wish everyone well on their endeavors, whatever those may be. Mine are clear in my mind and in the map of my life and I choose to surround myself with people who work in concert with my plans, not in opposition to them. I apologize to anyone offended by any of this, as it is not my intention. I don't apologize for being me. It is working out pretty well for me overall right now and better than it ever has before.
My life is good and certainly on the way to getting even better. Join me or make way, but do not try to steer this train or block this path. It's not yours to block.