Chapter 21 : Give A Little, They Take A Lot
(or: The More Things Change, the Harder It Is For Them to Stay The Same
June 11, 1999

Lifeís a bitch.

I used to think I knew who I was. Then, sadly, the walls of reality came crashing down around me, showing that things just arenít always the way I wish they were. Perhaps it is just a natural progression - the issue of inertia and that you never really have become who you are until you die. But I always believed there were some inalienable facts that make a person who they are, that wouldnít really change.

The only problem is, is that you change unless you make sure step by step that you do not. It isnít outward appearances, or perceptions of people that shape who you are. But they serve as markers of what you possibly may be, and that is something that cannot be changed.

It may be quite one-dimensional to look at this in the light of only the so-called Ďestablishment.í For defining what the establishment is is such a subjective task, open to permutations and interpretation. But given that the establishment encompasses some of the waste and sloth of life is enough.

I have bought in full-force to what has become the yuppie expectations of life; the suit job, a suburban house, with a Suburban parked in the driveway. 2.2 kids, a dog, a cat, a wife - well, those are dreams of people spanning the spectrum. But how they fit into your life is what matters. Are they sacrificed at the expense of what you are doing? Does the means to ends really become justified?

Maybe it all started when I cut my hair from itís mid-back length so I could interview my senior year at college at the likes of Arthur Anderson and Southwestern Bell. Maybe it was when I began to take the limo rides for granted instead of chatting up the driver for the hour or longer trips I took to and from the airport.

Regardless of when it began, I was called on it. My priorities, I suddenly realized, had shifted a minute bit, but my behavior had begun to change dramatically. I havenít written in a journal in months, just to jot down what has been going on in my life. I havenít written anything for my wife or son in age, just to illustrate my emotion. As my main outlet for expressing my feelings, you would think at this point in my life I would be pounding out sonnets and prose.

I have become jaded. I know itís happened gradually because I can still see the time when I thought the world was better, or at least that I could take the higher road, even as it collapsed in front of me. As everyone else was thinking of only themselves, I would still be there, making sure I wasnít an undue burden on someone else. I would think better of people, give them a chance. It didnít matter about classes, money, education.. any of it. It was all about the person you were. But somewhere along the line one too many people ignored the line of waiting people behind them as they stood, oblivious, on the down escalator as everyone missed their train.

I have become jaded as I fight less and less against other peopleís perceptions, however wrong they may be, based upon years of stereotypes and misinformation. I have found it too tiring to continue fighting. I gave up a little and it cost me a lot.

I have become mean. Perhaps the cynicism over my own predicament has sat, knowingly, in my subconscious, erupting out in spurts of finely crafted poisoned darts. I could blame the weight of the world that has shown me that it takes more effort to be there, to be someone, to be concerned for someone else than you ever will gain in return. But then, thatís the whole concept behind the giving, isnít it?

In my headlong rush to fit the world into what I want from it, I have given the world too much. I have given up parts of me that are not simply reclaimed. The lure of a quick payoff, an easy ride, time to rest all gained, knowing full well it would be paid for in the future with a penalty, a bumpy road, and sleepless nights, but sweeping that off to the side, sight unseen under the carpet where I can conveniently ignore it.

I have become less than I was. Small pieces of me have changed sides, have given up on the endless fight my conscious would rage at through the night. Roses still smell sweet, but I fail to appreciate them for the beauty I once swooned at years ago.

Itís the infection of the ĎI want it nowí generation. We donít have to wait for gratification, because for any price, it is instantly available to us. Falling into this trap, my wants and desires have become more important than anyone elseís. Itís a tradeoff now, not a payoff when someone else needs something from me. Goals are shortsighted, down from the years of looking forward for a goal of life fulfillment. I want to mow the lawn now, not play with the boy because then I may miss a repeat of Homicide later on.

And thatís just mean. Sure, itís cruel to myself, but it hurts him more, regardless if he can comprehend anything at 16 months. Iím forcing him to pay the price for my wants. Iím forcing friends and family to pay the price.

They say the New York area can suck the life out of a person. The hustle and bustle of the city, everyone in a rush. The last instance I saw anyone take time to appreciate the world in the city was the first snowfall this past winter. But that quickly changed into a cursing of the snow, the delays, and the slush. Everyone only seems to have concern for themselves.

I was in Seattle recently. People didnít honk their car horns. People waited at a ĎDonít Walkí sign, even if there were no cars on the road. It wasnít wasted time. It gives you time to think. To appreciate your surroundings. It reminds you that you may just not be the center of the universe, but instead you are a part of it, with something to contribute.

Now, I have no illusions of my past. I have always been mean, somewhat selfish, and self-centered. But I was always nicer, more caring, more open, more concerned about other people. But Iíve begun to give up who I am in some respects, not always to better who I am as a person, and sometimes at the expense of other people. Itís the little things that matter that begin to affect the way the bigger things look to you. The change from perceiving something as special to something expected, like leaving a light on, or not thanking someone and meaning it at the same time.

Sure, Iím still the same person, for the most part, that can be relied upon when someone comes running. I still appreciate beauty, the soft red of the sun coming up over the horizon onto a new day. But I know that the depth of me has shallowed out a bit, like the mouth of a river filling with silt. Itís time to dredge the river mouth.

This is not to say I am not past redemption, or that I am in need of it. Perhaps just a little adjustment of the sails to correct the path.

Which isnít to say life isnít a bitch.

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