I have a critical flaw (or maybe it’s a strength). Despite the influence of substances, there’s a certain level of freewheeling behavior that I can’t seem to inhabit. It feels foreign, and I guess it is because I’ve never acted like that before.
In middle school, the dad of one of my basketball teammates promised me ice cream if i was able to get a foul in the last game of the season. He had never seen me act aggressively, so he wanted to give me a reward for doing so. Throughout the rest of that 30 minute game, I didn’t foul anyone a single time. I thought about it for sure—I pictured myself pushing someone over for the sake of ice cream and my own personal development. I imagined myself doing it every opportunity that presented itself, but I just couldn’t. Something stopped me from encroaching on someone else’s territory, on someone else’s personal space.
I think this internal aversion follows me in everything I do. I’m extremely non-confrontational, and I normally choose to acquiesce my desires for those that I know. I choose the easy path instead of fighting for what I want. I convince myself that someone else deserves it more, so I should give up early instead of risking the pain.
What I’ve learned recently is that risking pain is the only way to get what you really want. If you get lucky, things will just come to you: you’ll find the right mentors and the right friend group and the right career path in college. This is the perfect path, where everything you want is naturally in reach if you keep going along the path you’ve been set on. More often, there are pieces missing: you have to make up for the missing pieces in order to get to where you want. You have to seize it by force, rather than sitting on the sidelines, trying to be nice to everyone. I’m reminded of this snippet from Blue Period:
I’ve engrained from since I was small to please everyone around me. I was told to keep my mouth shut and mind my manners when adults made their appearance. As a boy, I was praised for my propriety and commended on my restraint. I was the “perfect” child who never disobeyed their parents or did wrong to their teachers. One time my phone rang in class when I had forgotten to silence the ringer, and when I didn’t receive a detention even though the teacher assured me I would receive one, I went to the vice principal, full of anxiety, to confess my sins and received a pity detention in return.
A friend once asked me whether I’ve ever done something and apologized for it later. I thought for a while and reflected that I hadn’t. It had never occurred to me to even do something like this. Anything that I would want had to go through a filter of whether it would be harmless. I guess the problem is that most things that you really want are controversial—they’ll provoke people.
I’ve toyed with the idea before, but I’ve grown conviction in committing to it now. I’m going to try my best to act like an arrogant, selfish fool because I think I’m too far on the opposite extreme, accommodating at every turn. I think acting is a shortcut to personal growth: it forces you to behave a completely different way and normalize yourself to the new form of being. I’m not a pro actor by any means, but I think even the intention to act like someone selfish and self-centered will push me towards the middle, a healthy point of convergence between what you think you can do and what you can actually do.
I’m done swallowing my losses. It’s time to fight for what I want and provoke the system and those that stand in the way.
This is the 70th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here.