"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, December 12, 2003
Riding on the Dreams of Others
val-i-date Function: transitive verb
1 a : to make legally valid b : to grant official sanction to by marking c : to confirm the validity of (an election); also : to declare (a person) elected
2 : what I wanted others to do to me
Even when we try to see ourselves through another's eyes, we are still looking into a mirror using our own.
As long as I can remember, I have based my self image on what I thought others felt about me. I think a lot of people do that. But I always took it a step further.
I learned, eventually, to try to figure out what other people wanted me to be, and then become it. I was an actor on a stage, 24/7, dancing to my own imaginary tune based on the half heard thought murmurings of whoever I happened to be standing in front of at the time.
Then I learned that surprise was the key to memory. If I could stand out from the crowd, if I could somehow rise above what a person thought I was, then I would earn a place in their thoughts if not their heart.
I think that's when I developed my incessant habit of going 110% on whatever task I do. I'll always go overboard, every single time, giving of myself sacrificially in the worst of places.
In the summer after 10th grade, I spent a great deal of my summer at Myrtle Beach in a campground called Lakewood. This was to be a key summer for me, an integral part of who I now am, much more than anything I had experienced before that.
It was during that period that I met my very best friend that I have ever had, a guy named John. John and I had almost nothing in common except a similar view of the world around us. We both found ourselves comfortable around the other, and both of us respected the other one. Respect, sheesh, that was a new one for me.
Oh, and there was one other thing we had in common too.
Every time I had a chance we would go surfing. Sometimes it would be really early in the morning at dawn, when the waves were breaking crystal smooth on glassy water, hardly making a sound as the lip glided gracefully into a curl. Other times, we would make a point of walking down the beach with our surfboards just when all the pretty girls would be out sunbathing.
And of course I was driving that atrociously fitted out Baja Volkswagen thing I mentioned earlier. It was loud and attracted a lot of attention. We both loved just riding around in it with the sun roof open and the big muffler rumbling, and we burned tank after tank of gas right there in the campground.
It was, to a 15 year old, paradise. We spent countless hours oogling girls, since the campground was fill of them all the time. Neither of us was confident enough to do more than play a few rounds of pool or an arcade game with any of them, but that would all change quickly with time.
At the beach, I was able to cover myself with a new persona, one that didn't include the baggage that my "home" persona had. I felt confident, in charge, in control.
At least, most of the time.
Sometimes I would help out the campground chaplain, and occasionally I would play guitar for the weekly service or the Saturday night sing along. I always enjoyed that. And it made me feel important, since I was way younger than anyone else that was involved.
I was building my character, a brick at a time, trying desperately to replace all the bricks that had been thrown down. And I was trying to build it in the image I had always held dear to my own heart. I wanted to be like the people I looked up to, people like the Christian rock artists that had come on the scene, such as Barry McGuire and Larry Norman. I wanted to be respected. I wanted to become something much more than I was, and be seen as much more than I had been.
Of course, like anyone shooting blindfolded, I would miss. More on that later.
That summer was remarkable for another reason as well. They closed the high school I attended, McClenaghan, and consolidated that student body and the one from Southside High School into a new school, South Florence High School. I was part of the first junior class in that school, and over half of the student body consisted of people I had never met and who had never met me.
I had gotten in good shape and tanned during my summer of surfing. My hair was long and thick and a bit wild, and I was no longer an ugly duckling. No, not at all. I was swan from the word go.
I immediately made friends with a group from the other school. I had no real use for a lot of the folks that had been with me since first grade, after all.
Confidence, that was something I had not really had before. I would get more before it was all over with, way more, too much more.
That was the year I had my first real girlfriend, and the only local one I ever had. It was a hot and heavy relationship that lasted all of a month and a half, I think. It seems like we were an item on thanksgiving, but it was all over by Christmas, anyways. Her name was Cindy Furlong, and she was a skinny girl with long brown hair, and really pretty. I always had a weakness for skinny pretty girls with long hair. But when her parents referred to me as their future son in law, I bailed.
Hey, I was 15. And I had lots to do yet.
It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny.