I remember when I was 14 trying to smoke. My buddy Brent and I stole a pack of cigarettes from my mother and went off to smoke them in hiding, in case the smoking police caught us and told our parents. It was very urbane, we lit up and started to suck. We were coo, for about a second until the smoke reached my lungs and my body went, “not in here!”. I felt like I’d been hit in the chest by a baseball bat. We both hacked and barked and I almost barfed, and after about 30 seconds it calmed down and I looked at Brent and said, “Pretty smooth huh?” (I’d seen that on a commercial). I think Brent was going into cardiac arrest.
We worked away at that vile thing, hacking and gagging and my eyes were tearing up and flushed and my throat felt as though I’d been eating the sidewalk. But we were looking cool. That was until I turned green on the way home, and threw up on my bike, and drove into a ditch, and hit my head on my steering wheel, and threw up again all over my pants, and kind of passed out for a bit on the road to the air force base.
But it was a small price to pay for cool, right. And after a few dozen I didn’t get sick anymore and I was set. Course I couldn’t play sports much anymore and I stunk and it took my dad about 3 minutes to catch me and apply the hand of justice to the backside of reproach. But I was cool. I belonged and I was better than other losers who couldn’t handle their smoke.
A lot of us pridefully try to fit in, in order to be someone.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression… so they say…
As a result many of us are hungry to impress other people.
We want so bad to make a splash. Just look at the Academy Awards. It has become a contest to see who can wear the most outrageous outfit, people dressing up like birds for heaven’s sake.
Why? To stick out in the crowd, to be noticed and admired. “Love me- hate me, just don’t ignore me.
Many of us feel we have marginal personalities. We wonder if we will ever fit in, especially when we look around at those who seem to fit in far better. It leads us to perform. We are great performers, you and I. We have pretended to be many things, many different people. We have learned to fit in, to say the right things and impress the right people. Many begin to rationalize any behavior that will allow them to look successful or healthy. We lie. Though we are supposed to be adults, no longer tossed to and fro by peer pressure, the fact remains that we are all still trying to fit in, to be loved, to be adored.
I have tried to find my identity in many places, and many of those places were destructive. Girls crave love and attention so much that they settle for anything that even resembles it, mainly from guys looking for only one thing. Guys crave status and respect and when they cannot find it they are fooled by its illusion in pornography and casual sex. Lonely people longing for approval fall into the world of drugs and alcohol, and insecure people strive to get to the top, only to find their identity lost when they finish second. It is the reason for the latest trend whereby young girls of twelve or thirteen give blow jobs out as free gifts at house parties and school dances.In each case, people are looking for love and acceptance, identity; for the fulfilled life. They long to rise about their own mediocrity and worthlessness and soar like the eagle; but instead they wind up more confused as to who they are, and where they fit into the world. We have all felt the shame of insignificance, and left wondering if life is even worth it. We have all dreamed of being a ‘someone’, of being loved and adored. We have all longed to be special.
And if the truth were told many of us are convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if people really knew us, if we really acted in an authentic way, that no one would like us. I once heard a speaker say, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t come to hear me speak. But that’s ok, because if I really knew you I wouldn’t talk to you!”
That’s our greatest fear, isn’t it? If I let you inside, if you knew that even though I get paid to be mature, be wise, be profound, say smart things, if you really knew what a screw-up I am, could you still care for me? Could you love me if you knew how ordinary I was, how black my thoughts can be, how insecure I am, how convinced I am that I am ugly? I’m a great person until you get to know me. How can I believe that someone could think I was special, love me for who I am, without any of my masks, if I can’t even learn to like myself?
The older I get the more convinced I am that this is the greatest and most difficult journey we will ever take – the road to self acceptance. As the monk once said, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself.”
I still want to change the world but maybe I need to start closer to home.
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Author: Unknown Monk 1100 A.D.