I wondered why she didn’t come around much anymore. On the weekends, my mom would leave to visit her boyfriend in the city and we would rent movies and eat mass amounts of fast food in a way that only high school kids or stoner adults can get away with. Our late night basement parties suddenly were missing one person. I asked a few friends where she had been and they said something to the effect of, “Well, she just wants to surround herself with different people for new experiences.”
You would have thought someone shit in my lap. I lost it and basically said, “Fuck her,” in a million different ways and told everyone to tell her we didn’t want her back in our circle because she was now dead to us. Like, what - we weren’t good enough? We didn’t do cool enough shit? What, did she think she was better than us?! Well, good fucking riddance.
Last weekend, I spent a few days with people I would never normally hang out with. People from a different way of life. A different age. A different mindset. People whose political views were drastically different than people I normally surround myself with. Yet, somehow, I managed to have a really nice time. While I was sitting there are the dinner table respectfully bowing my head while they said a prayer and I couldn’t help but wonder why I didn’t feel so… agitated. I mean, I didn’t believe in the cult teachings of religions so what the hell was I doing just sitting there. Taking it. Listening to these people talk about how grateful they were to this all-knowing god? Somehow, I managed to live through it and start eating my chicken and rice. Eventually, I looked up and started having a discussion. I don’t remember exactly what it was about but it was engaging. It wasn’t some Chris against the world-type shit. It was a respectful exchange of ideas. I wanted to share a little insight into a life they were unfamiliar with and I wanted to hear about what motivated them through their life. There was no animosity. There was no smugness or condescension or pointing of fingers. They were people who were genuinely interested in Chris as a person. I didn’t talk about my accomplishments or my adventures or my friends but about what I have learned and how I continue to motivate myself. And I asked about their lives and what motivated them.
That night, I was told that they said they really liked me and that they liked how I saw things from all angles and that it gave them a different perspective. I liked that. And as I was getting in bed, It made me smile and I wondered why I didn’t feel like this more often. To be surrounded by people who challenged me and my ideas. People who inspired me to articulate how I see the world and to show me that just because people have different ideas and ideals, doesn’t mean that they’re not good people at heart.
I would have liked to think that I softened their views on a few aspects of social justice and diversity. But what I really took away from this weekend is that it is good for our heads and our hearts to surround ourselves with genuine and positive people.
I was an asshole in high school. A little loud-mouthed turd with a chip on his shoulder and a planet of insecurity on his back who blamed the world for his own shortcomings. Only now can I understand why someone would have wanted something better for themselves. Oh sure, we did some amazingly cool shit back then - but we also were short-sighted spiteful kids surrounded by a bubble of prejudice and bigotry. So yeah, I get it now. I get why she would have wanted to expand her circle. To go where people weren’t always shouting hatred and smashing mailboxes.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should never feel guilty for wanting better for yourself. You should surround yourself with people who make you smile. People that you are grateful to have in your life. People who support your endeavors and push you when you get lazy. People who put positivity in your head and compassion in your heart. Because while high school is about surrounding yourself with people so you don’t feel so alone - becoming an adult is about surrounding yourself with inspiration so you make others feel LESS alone.
Evaluate everything. Every person. Every career choice. Every blog post. Every record you listen to. Evaluate your relationships with your family and your friends and your boss and the homeless person on the corner. Are these things, events, people, benefitting your life or attempting to snuff out your fire? Your spark? Your light?
Well then, move on and away and surround yourself with different people for new experiences so you can learn to smile more often when you are getting ready for bed.
Because the only thing you should feel guilty about is NOT wanting more for yourself. Your head and your heart deserve it.