I can’t really tell you an answer that will fit your spirit, but I think I’ve got a fairly good idea how I keep on trucking. It has to do with knowing what I want, and then going after it. And because of it, I’ve managed to stay afloat– and not just stay afloat, but to tread water. Sharks at my heels? Take a punch in the nose, shark. How do you like that?
It’s a different time, a different place from when I was younger. You may wonder, “what’s the difference?” between being younger and older, and there is none, really, except for your physical age. A lot of people my age don’t worry about being my age– but I think it’s the gamer in me who wants to get as many sidequests done before the end of the game. Ever get that feeling?
Every now and then, I lose momentum. But that’s actually symptomatic– a loss of momentum naturally occurs when you lose sight of your goals. But I think I’ve got that feeling back. That feeling where this game is fun, where I’m feeling like a badass motherfugger because, I know what I want to do– and shit, if Life wants to get in the way, Life better get ready for a beating. The truth is, I’m crazy– I’m an absolute glutton for punishment. Through years of martial arts training, teaching, hospital work– it’s a punishing existence of disappointment, injury, and heartache. But there are good points, once you come to accept the natural order of the world: which is that there is no order, it’s just a deck of cards, and you can play.
On Thursday, it was revealed that one of our younger patients has leukemia. I’ve been there for deaths– one time, I was there when a mother thought her child had died (her daughter was actually fine; if you recall this story, it’s the one about the mother who wasn’t paying attention when she was told her daughter was about to be given a sedative) but I’ve never been there for when a parent finds out that their child is has cancer.
Is that the fun part? Is this why we play the game? No. I’m not that sick. But what I am saying is that I love life. Call me crazy, but for all the shit that goes down in this world…
I wasn’t there when the parents were told by the surgeon that leukemia was the cause. Poor [Mickey], she was at the front desk. (She’s been having a bad month at the front desk.) When I got there, she was just in a daze– she’s been in the hospital business for a bit less than a year now. Even though she’s older than me, I guess she’s just more shaken up by these things than I am. Her face was drained of color, she was babbling– when I went to replace her, she couldn’t keep focused on the report she was supposed to give me between shift changes. She just kept talking about how the woman just started wailing, and the father fell to his knees and wept.
I don’t mean to sound like a downer– I’m not feeling down. That’s part of what makes me crazy, I suppose. My point is exactly this: shit happens. But by and large, shit, of the real sense, isn’t happening to me. I haven’t run into something so incredibly superbad as leukemia (knock on wood) so why the hell should I whine about how sucks? Maybe I should just make do with what I have, and fight for more, instead of wondering how things could be easier.
[CM] often says, “I don’t know how you do it!” referring to how I manage to keep the faith. Well, simply, I guess if I really examine it, it’s sorta like a twisted version of the prisoner’s dilema. For those of you who don’t know it– the police have caught a couple of people for commiting a crime. They are grilled in separate interrogation rooms. If Person A rats out Person B first, Person A goes to jail for just two years while person B goes to jail for ten years. If Person B rats out Person A, B goes to jail for just two years while A goes to jail for ten. If neither of them confess, then both of them get off scott-free. If they both rat on eachother, they both go to jail for six years.
So, assuming that both Person A and Person B are in different rooms, aren’t psychic, and know eachother only fairly well, what’s their best choice? Rat, or not rat?
Now, you can play with the years a bit to try and change the example, but that doesn’t really matter. This problem is sometimes used to illustrate why the common modern practice is to never take prisoners, and never trust anyone. Assuming I don’t particularly know the other guy well, I would rat the other person out. My relationship with him/her isn’t the issue– the point is, when loyalties are unknown, ratting is the smart choice.
There are two reasons for this.
The first is because the world is a tough place. Realistically, the guy who commited the crime with is, frankly, a criminal– would you trust him to not rat out? Furthermore– you are also a criminal. Does he trust you? Where variables exist, isolate, simplify: protect yourself, don’t be a sucker.
The second reason is simply that it is the only reason that affords you any control over your life. If you do nothing, you’re just wishful thinking. Assume responsibility for your fate.
The second reason is probably the most important. I do believe that the world is not fundamentally full of evil– but at the same time, I believe that the whole dialogue of bitching about good and evil is altogether uninteresting and mostly unimportant. Regardless of what happens, you should take matters into your own hands. That means that, when given a choice of wishful thinking versus working hard, working hard wins out. Knowing that if I go this route, my fate is in my hands and not someone elses’, this mental shift from “passive” to “active” is what gets me through my life.
Fundamentally, I think many people already know that taking control is the way to go. I think that what most people disagree with me about isn’t about the importance of taking responsibility for one’s life– what I think is actually the area of debate is what constitutes things that can be worked for. Some people for example don’t believe they can get a better job, find the man/woman of their dreams, or be happy through active effort. They’d rather sit back and wait for something to happen to them.
Which brings me back to the idea of self-affirmation. Self-affirmation for me is what runs through my veins– it is confidence, it is substance that tells me asks first “do you want that?” and then says “okay, lets do this” rather than “wouldn’t that be nice!”
Bono, in an interview about five years ago regarding his extensive contributions to humanitarianism, I think it was for the Time Magazine 2005 People of the Year article, was asked a nice icebreaker: “What’s your favorite Beatles song?”
His reply was something like, “they’re all pretty good, but I hate Imagine. Because at it’s root, it’s a story about wishful thinking, and wishful thinking won’t get us anywhere. Action will.”
Self-affirmation, then, is the first small step. I might seem like a cocky bastard nowadays, but you shoulda seen me when I was younger, just another teen who said “nobody understands me” and thinking I was so special to have my burdens. Self-affirmation begins with having enough respect for yourself to treat yourself with dignity, by affording yourself with responsibility in your life. And that snowballed into me being the asshole (albeit a benevolent and loving one) that I am today.