A couple of nights ago, my little sister and I were talking about middle school. As it so happens, middle school, specifically fourth grade in my case, was perhaps the most defining year of my life.
My middle school, Daniel Wright, featured public humiliations by teachers, emotional abuse, betrayal by the people who were ostensibly there for our betterment. They even turned my own parents against us, so that the hell didn’t end once I got off of the bus. So I stayed home as much as possible. Played sick. I learned to hate everyone. I learned to disengage. I learned that trusting authority meant that authority could hurt you.
Little did I know that my sister was going through a very similar experience at the same time, at the same school. We were almost unconscious of each other, I think because we were both very young and very focused on our own pain. Side by side, and both unknowingly going through the same things. But where my response was a middle finger to the sky, to anyone ontop, to God Himself, my sister’s response was probably a bit more constructive. Where I withdrew into myself and developed a deep rebellious streak, she became spiteful. She resolved to prove that, despite her teachers telling her she would amount to nothing, she would become successful instead. With the help of her relationship with God, she worked through it.
I discovered only a core of Self, fueled by fury and hatred. But where do we stand today? My sister is a highly motivated and successful president of a club at UIC, a good student, and a devoted Christian. She has an ability to rally people. She has held a job for years and was offered a full time position there recently. I, on the other hand, have never held a job for longer than a year, if we’re being generous, and the number of organizations I’ve quit is about equivalent to the number of organizations I’ve joined.
That’s one side of the coin. The other side is that I am dependent on no one for a sense of security. I am beholden to nobody except myself. If I fail, it’s because I set the bar myself. If I succeed, it’s solely because of myself. I could be a janitor and be happy, because I’d be doing my own thing. In many cases, I am interested in what I can do by myself, skillsets that I can improve on my own.
But I’m beginning to think I’ve taken that “flip the bird” mentality as far as I can go and still be satisfied. Yes, it’s good that I am happy with who I am. But in order to develop further, I need to care about other people more.
I was going to write “I need to care about other peoples’ opinions more,” but that’s farther than I’m willing to go right now.
PS, I’m no longer living in my car. Apartment living, woo!