just call me raegen


Tag: decisions

Careful the Company You Keep

When my second cousin was about 3, her mother would scare her into sticking close by by shouting, “Bad people! Bad people!” whenever she’d wander off too far.

bad people

Totally unrelated, but has anyone else noticed how gas has gone up 80 cents in the past two months? (Photo credit: brand0con)

Admittedly, the quality of parenting represented by this statement is questionable. Still, I have to admit that, beyond just being frickin’ hilarious, it got the job done; little M always returned to her mother’s side when she heard this.

I hope M will someday know — in less scary ways, of course — how important it is to choose the company you keep wisely, for this is a lesson everybody is truly well served by. Without going into too much detail about the specifics of why this topic is on my mind to protect the parties involved, I was reminded once again recently of the power that the company one keeps can truly wield over a person.

big stick

Oh, yeah — wield that big stick, Billy! (Photo credit: uzi978)

I remember very distinctly the turning point in my relationship with the two people I’m thinking of specifically while writing this blog. One I never liked; we’ll call this person X. Sometimes you just meet people and know right away there’s just going to be a clash. It’s nobody’s fault; your personalities and values may just be too different, and perhaps you sense or experience a lack of respect for what you believe or represent. When that happens and you know your path and this person’s will cross again, pretty much the best you can do is hope for civility — which you may or may not give or receive.

The other — let’s call this person Y — well, that person’s just young. I always felt the — there’s no great way to say this — immaturity of Y’s mentality (exacerbated by the fact that Y always claimed to be very mature for Y’s age). And given how immature I am, that doesn’t speak too highly for Y. Still, I rarely begrudged Y for that mentality because I guess I felt I’d sort of been there, done that, and at one point, I genuinely hoped to help Y avoid some of the burning buildings I saw Y rushing toward.

fire - onlookers

Don’t get sucked in by the light, little moth! (Photo credit: Daveybot)

One October, my relationship with both X and Y took a turn for the worst. It seemed as if Y felt torn, like Anakin Skywalker, between the Jedi and the Dark Side. You can decide which category you’d like me to represent in this equation, but long story short, Y felt — for some reason that will likely never be known to me — that Y had to choose between me and X, and the choice Y made was X.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Reve...

I regret turning to the Dark Side almost as much as I regret this hairstyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Disappointed, yes, but mostly just confused by the whole thing — and the lack of explanation accompanying it. Good thing I had a brain cell or two left (at least at the time) to figure it out for myself.

But here’s the thing: Once I got past the inconsideration of the whole episode and the fact that, in this particular situation, it would not have behooved any of the parties involved to have a conversation about the incident that might’ve cleared the air, I started thinking about the effects Y’s choice would have on Y’s life. Now, I’m not Y’s keeper, and it’s not my responsibility, but still, Y is young, and I suspected that one day — maybe not right away, but at some point down the road — this decision would cost Y something very valuable that Y may not even realize is valuable to Y…yet.

And so it seems it has happened.

I don’t think Y realizes it on a conscious level at this point, but all the negativity, gossiping, and general Debbie-Downering Y has been doing with X ever since I exited the scene (I was the one who always put the kibosh on that shiz) has led Y to make a major life decision that I suspect — based on the waterworks, anxiety, etc., that accompanied the announcement of the major life decision — Y already subconsciously regrets. I believe, with all the conspiring and, again, just straight-up negative jibber-jabber that X and Y were doing, Y lost sight of what really matters to Y as an individual, not just someone who needs to feel like part of the “cool” (if by “cool,” one of course means “alienating others with different views in order to bond”) crowd. Y made a decision not for Y’s own legitimate reasons, but because Y got sucked into the Vortex of Stupid. And I fear Y is going to be finding out very soon — the hard way — just what the price of that is.

This picture from a NASA study on wingtip vort...

It looked good at the time, but… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not blaming X for Y’s life decisions. No matter how naive or immature Y may be, Y must still be accountable for Y’s choices. And Y will undoubtedly learn much from this experience — but what a price to pay — if I’m right about it. Not that I hope I’m right about it. In fact, I hope things somehow do work out for Y. It’s just hard for me to see how that’s going to happen, given what details I know of the circumstance.

Anyway, it reminds me of this insightful tidbit from a longer piece that is generally attributed to Colin Powell but for which other origins have been claimed: “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate — for the good and the bad. … If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.”

I myself had to learn the hard way just how costly surrounding myself with the wolves could be. The wrong company leeches into your system like poison; don’t drink that Kool-Aid, man!

Kool-Aid Man

The Kool-Aid Man seems like your friend…but is he? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the immortal words of Rushmore, “With friends like (that), who needs friends?”

This brings me to the following poem, which to me represents the natural conclusion to my own trials and tribulations with the wrong crowd: Sometimes it’s best to just be on your own, even if you’re lonely; to wait for worthy company that can help you soar manifest itself in your life instead of settling for less.

“Samurai Song” by Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Your Dreams Will Haunt You the Rest of Your Life

I’m not talking about the sleeping dreams that really qualify more as nightmares from which you awaken in a pool of your own urine sweat and feel compelled to wake someone else up and prattle on about them until you realize that person has actually fallen back to sleep on you, and you get just mad enough about that to forget your horrible dreams and be able to fall back to sleep yourself.

I’m so mad at you right now, I’m either going to smother you with this pillow or zzzzzzzzzzz…

Nor am I talking about the dreams Brandon’s students stories end up being.

I’m talking about real-life dreams — the illustrious crap you think it’s important to accomplish in your lifetime, no matter what that illustrious crap may be.

Recently, I was talking to someone I’ve known for quite some time. Have you ever had the experience where you’ve known someone for, like, at least a decade, if not longer, and you realize that, while some of the things you talk to each other about have changed, there’s, like, this one thing that’s sort of lingered on throughout the years — some kind of unfinished business either you, the other person, or both have to address but still haven’t?

We have unfinished business. Do not forget.

That’s called a dream. And that dream will haunt you the rest of your life.

Doubt it? Just talk to Langston Hughes.

“A Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Then ask yourself why you’re still talking about this thing 10 (or more) years later. You wouldn’t need to if it really wasn’t that important to you (i.e., really wasn’t a dream of yours after all), you’d satiated the desire through accomplishment, or you’d otherwise made peace with it through action.

70.365 No Escape

Embrace your dreams! No, that’s just your pillow, dude. (Photo credit: fmgbain)

This is what came out of my mouth to the person I was talking to during our most recent conversation. And, “Wow, I was not expecting that,” was what the person said in response. Believe me, I was just as shocked by my statement as the other person was and perhaps you are. I like to think that when something like this happens, I’ve just been a conduit for what that person really needed to hear. But maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Plus, I’ve also heard that we only say what we really need to hear ourselves, which I think might hold some truth as well (although as applied to my life, I think that comment would be more a statement of impatience as opposed to inaction on my part).

I don’t think I’m particularly special here when I say I’m aware of many people’s dreams. It’s not like I’m a mind reader or something. Anyone who has the opportunity to know a person long enough (or sometimes even a short time, actually) and figure out what that person’s conversations revolve around can decipher what another’s dreams are.

I’m seeing… that you want… me. Oh, wait — that’s just my reflection. Never mind.

Often, they’re not even that “spectacular” — by typical “dream” standards, anyway. Most people don’t actually want to be astronauts, millionaires, or the president (although they wouldn’t necessarily turn these things down, either). Perhaps that’s why people sometimes don’t really realize that what they’re obsessing about is actually a dream.

One person I know has a dream of finding Mr. Right and building the family that person never had growing up.

Another has a dream of finding Ms. Right and for the first time having a healthy, satisfying romantic relationship.

Another has a dream of being truly loved, of finding someone who isn’t shallow and stupid — someone who will not care how time and illness has affected this person’s body.

Another has a dream of making music.

Another has a dream of starting a business.

Another has a dream of simply leading a peaceful existence.

These are what most real dreams look like. They sound ordinary or perhaps even — gasp! — boring to the rest of us.

But to the person who’s dreaming of it, that shiz is off the chain, and life is pretty much not worth living unless there’s the possibility of fulfilling the dream during it — whether this person admits that to him/herself or not.

I’m off the chain while on the chain. Whatcha got to say about that?

So here’s the thing: I know some people’s dreams. I even gave you examples, for goodness’ sake. And in all likelihood, if I know these to be people’s dreams, they know these are their dreams, too. With this kind of awareness, we should all be able to easily just go out and strive to live our dreams, right?

Sounds like it should be that easy. Actually, it probably is that easy.

The problem is, people don’t actually believe it’s that easy. Another problem is that people engage in self-sabotaging behavior that makes it more difficult to achieve their dreams.

This turned out to be hard work! Think I’ll just go drink a beer instead.

I admire the courage — well, or sheer desperation along the lines of the famous Henry David Thoreau quote — this person had to be willing to admit to me the dream lives on. I know many people have (consciously or subconsciously) given up talking to me about their dreams, mostly because they’re smart enough to know I’m going to say something like, “Your dreams will haunt you the rest of your life if you don’t do something about them.” In other words, I’m insanely impatient hearing about the same thing for more than 10 years while seeing no efforts being put forth to change it, because I want the people I love to be happy, and living dreams can make them happy. In other other words, I’m not going to let people get away with lying to themselves or to me about their dreams. In other other other words, when no one else will, I will always try to hold people accountable to their dreams.

Shock of the world, some don’t like this about me. Shock of the world, some don’t like me period.

But I digress.

Here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter what the dream, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the dream, and it doesn’t matter how much you might try to go mess things up for yourself in attempt to distance yourself from a true dream; it will haunt you if you don’t try to live it.

It's a ghost!

A ghost of your unlived dream isn’t as cute as this, though — just FYI. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Look around you. You can tell so, so very much about people by just watching and listening to them. You can tell if they’re living their dreams or not. I know someone who sits on a computer all day instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who pursues degree after degree but never finishes any of them instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s settled on the wrong person instead of trying to live the dream. I know someone who’s had kids instead of trying to live the dream.

So what can be done? The problem is ultimately rooted in each person’s mind. This much is clear when you hear those inspirational stories of people who have gone on to achieve greatness in spite of missing limbs, persecution, or crazy baby daddies (or mamas — whatever).

So the solution — or at least the beginning of it, anyway — must be to change your mind. You’ve got to start believing your dreams can come true. Then, you must start to build up the courage to try to live your dreams again. Courage, like snowballs, can start small but accumulate into something huge enough to bruise some neighborhood bully’s face with.

English: The Snowball Русский: Снежок

Pack it nice and good, now! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, want to write a book? Start with writing a word. I actually saw this hilarious  journal titled One Word a Day, which was extremely tempting… until I remembered how long-winded I am. But this would be a great place to start for someone who needs to build the courage to start writing that book. You may not see how, but I do.

See, the trick isn’t actually to achieve one’s goal (and no, I’m not going to tell you, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” because that’s really not the point, though I think it’s true). The trick is to simply do something to try to achieve it.

Because the reality is, if you never try, you have absolute certainty that you will never live your dream. What you do have to live with, however, is that decision — for the rest of your life… or until you choose otherwise. The butt clowns who tell you you can’t live your dream don’t. That’s why it’s so easy for them to say that to you. They get to go on being butt clowns completely untroubled by your unlived dream. You, on the other hand, will be haunted for the rest of your life by it. And that will make you unhappy.

Doesn’t the picture just say it all?

So why not try? You may not get there, but so what? You can — and likely will — be happy while trying just knowing you’re trying. And who knows? You may actually get there during the process. And then you’ll be living the dream. Which would be awesome.

I do know people who are living their dreams — or at least one of them. They are happy. They may not bounce around all geeked up on Red Bulls like motivational speakers, but they are jubilant nevertheless. They may still be disgruntled or dismayed by certain things in life, but they are also still smiling through and through. So to my telephone friend — and anyone else who can relate to this — I say, why shouldn’t this also be you?

When You Can’t Unknow Something

I had an epiphany this week. Not a general understanding that’d been lost to me, nor a new perspective on a familiar situation.

Well, maybe it was those things as well, but it was beyond them, too.

English: Artificial boundaries for an atom.

The atom is like the honey badger; it knows no bounds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s the difference between a clearer understanding and an epiphany? Well, I can only speak for myself here, but here goes…

There’s been something that’s been bugging me for quite some time — at least a year, if not longer. (I don’t mean to be cryptic here by being nonspecific, but it’s necessary.) I’ll wake up in the morning with my mind on my tasks, what I have and want to accomplish in my day. Somewhere along the line, though, something will happen that will trigger my brooding about this particular annoying thing; it’s the proverbial wound that someone keeps pouring salt in, if you will. Nearly every day, I put ointment on the wound and bandage it, and nearly every day, I’ll find by the time I’m getting into bed that the bandage is all gray and fuzzy and icky, having separated from my skin and collected lint, and there’s that salt that worked its way under my raw skin again.

English: sticking plaster Français : Pansement...

“I try not to think about what might’ve been…” Anyone? Anyone? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been incredibly frustrating, and I know I’m not the only one to have experienced something like this. It could be anything to any of us, really, and most of us have at least one of these annoying things we just can’t seem to shake at any given point in our life. I can think back to my 20s and recall, for example, drama over a roommate’s boyfriend. I can recall even earlier drama over the cheerleading squad. (Stop laughing, you jerks!)

Cover of "Bring It On (Widescreen Collect...

Admittedly, I’ve never seen this, but I imagine my drama was similar — an as epic, of course — regardless. Ha! (Cover: Amazon)

The poor people nearest to us at these points in time — in this current case, that would be my boyfriend — have to listen to us drone on and on and on about how tragic and terrible our lives are even though 1) they’re not — not by a long shot — and 2) they very clearly see the problem and usually its remedy as well, having the necessary distance from and lack of emotional investment in it. Most of us have been on both sides of this coin — the bearer of the cross as well as the person who points out the cross is actually a pebble in our shoe that can be picked out quite easily — so I’m guessing you can relate to both sides here.

And like my boyfriend — putting you in the Captain Obvious role here for a moment — you probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out why I just had not figured this thing out yet. Am I stupid? (Don’t answer that.)

And so it has gone with poor Jesus, who’s been grinning and bearing it, reiterating what the real problem has always been since a few months after I started having it. I may come to him with, yes, a different complaint, but inevitably, it’s still one that can be filed under the category of “Main Issue I’ve Been Complaining About for X Months.” He gets it. So what’s my problem?

Clueless (film)

‘Nuff said. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess it just boils down to time: time I needed to snap out of my own denial about — yet again — another case of genuine disregard and lack of investment on the part of another. In other words — like some people, although I’m not sure I can qualify it as “most people” anymore — I have a very difficult time understanding how someone else could carry on not considering the consequences of the things they’re planning to do during the decision-making process as I would. Or, as Jess would say, I have a hard time accepting that other people just don’t think like me.

True story.

But it goes beyond that. I actually don’t expect that others will think like me (although, admittedly, I’d like them to). I’m an overanalyzer to the Nth degree, so I know that my kind of thought process is not likely occurring among the majority of people. However, I do expect that others will consider those around them when making their decisions to some degree — you know, giving others a little courtesy and empathy. It’s the humane thing to do, right?

Maybe. But that doesn’t make it any more likely to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about kitties stranded in trees or little old ladies crossing streets, sure, we can expect that at least one person passing by will use their heart and help the helpless out. But people truly considering the impact of their actions on the lives of others on a daily basis? Turns out that’s idealistic.

English: A cat on the tree. Italiano: Gatto su...

U do knowz Ill claw ur eyez out aftur u reskewz me, rite? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess some people need the impact of their decisions on others’ lives to be so blatantly apparent to them in the moment (i.e., have kitties and old ladies in their faces) just to even trigger the thought that hey, maybe they should, you know, perhaps consider the implications of their actions (or lack thereof) on other people’s lives. Some need to be spoon-fed an extremely obvious case of “your help is required in this situation” to even spark the notion that their decisions affect the lives of others positively or negatively… or even, in some cases, both.

Nurses and nursing

Open up for this airplane now, Billy. It’s called “compassion.” Vroom! Yum-yum-yummy! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And sometimes even then, they don’t care. (Ever tried to reason with practicing addicts about the impacts of their decisions on others? Anyone? Anyone?)

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how difficult it would be to consider all the ramifications of each and every decision one makes. I’m sure I’m plenty ignorant of the full breadth of consequences of the choices I make in my own life; I’m American, after all, and that’s the American way.

American flag

And I’m proud to be an American! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if you find yourself in a certain position in life — like a leadership position at a school, a church, or a company, for example — guess what? Considering the impacts of your choices on other people — students, parishioners, stockholders, employees, etc. — is actually what you were hired to do. You get paid to do it. It’s, like, your job. No one should have to tell you to do it, and no one should have to tell you how to do it, either. And we’ve seen plenty of examples of what’s happened to leaders who didn’t do their jobs. And while in some extreme cases, such charlatans have lost their very freedom, those who still walk free, those who haven’t been caught, and even those whose “crimes” are really more just indiscretions (impactful but not criminal) have lost one major thing that they can likely never get back: the respect of others.

Playing in cage

Who cares about respect? Do you know what happens when I drop the soap in here? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, circling back to what I started talking about eons ago at the beginning of this blog…

It was June 7 — this Thursday. I texted Jess when I noticed that my adorable little bandage with unicorns on it had come unpeeled again. I’m sure he was expecting me to come home from the gym and give him another earful of my broken-record-esque complaints.

But something happened on the way to Anytime.

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven

No, Phil, on the way to Anytime. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the pieces finally started clicking in my head. I’d been looking at this thing for so long under a microscope, I never fully acknowledged the person who’d been slipping the slide under my lens all along — smoke-and-mirroring shiz and throwing me off the scent. Going back to my 20s example, for instance, I really didn’t have beef with my roommate’s boyfriend, who I was picking apart on the stage; I had beef with her. Again, I’d been taking for granted that a person close to me in my life had my interests in mind, at least to some degree.

And I was wrong.

(Yes, certain family members — you know who you are — I do admit I’m wrong sometimes. There’s your proof.)

And I realize that 99% of this was probably obvious to you, gentle reader, but it wasn’t to me, so jump off my balls.

This person’s actions — and this lack of consideration when it comes to me — are not personal. They’re extended to others as well, and I have plenty of examples of this. This whole thing boils down to the fact that some people just won’t or don’t care enough to consider deeper ramifications of their choices. I haven’t determined whether or not this is a conscious choice yet.

A Night at the Roxbury

— “You can’t take away our dreams!”     — “Yeah, because we’re, like, sleeping when we have them!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it doesn’t matter. I came home from the gym laughing to myself. When Jess came to meet me at the door, he knew right away that it’d finally clicked, and he started laughing, too. Because real epiphanies, though sometimes they have sad elements to them, ultimately make you smile, because they set you free — free from your brooding thoughts, free from yourself, and eventually, even free from the situation that sparked all this drama in the first place.

English: one of many knots

“Maybe I’m supposed to undo these outer knots so that my inner knots will come undone, too!” Anyone? Anyone? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings us to the “downside” of epiphanies — which I clearly use loosely here (I mean, what else are those quotation marks for, right?). You can’t fall back into denial once you’ve had a true epiphany. You can’t unknow what you learned in you heart. So now you have to deal with it. Now you have choices to make.

Such choices weren’t there when you were in denial. But now they are, and you know you have no choice but to proceed forward with one of them, because you know you can’t unknow the thing that would’ve kept you from even knowing there were all these other choices available to you out there, let alone making one of them. (Confused yet? Okay, good.)

But these choices don’t have to be daunting. They don’t even have to be hard work. They can and should be viewed as opportunities. And that’s what I’ll be trying to keep in mind now as I proceed forward with this new little awareness of mine. Wish me luck!