“So I have this friend…” You’d think by the start of that, I’m about to make some sort of read-between-the-lines remark in the act of setting up two people or asking something that’s quite frankly none of my business. However, this is directly relating to a friend of mine. A very special friend that deserves some text time.
We met under the most melodramatic of teenage circumstances. She was dating my ex-boyfriend. Now that didn’t threaten me at all. It actually frightened me. By the age of fourteen, he was a full-fledge alcoholic. He came with daddy issues out of the Sopranos (I always secretly believed his father was in the mob, but I digress…) and the pathological impulses of Frank Underwood. I was so naïve and young that I took all of the irrationality for Romanticism. Looking back, it was straight-up delusion. I saw this poor meek, trusting girl as a chance to stop someone from making my mistakes, so I looked after her. There were some CW-esque high school drama moments such as me screaming at him in the middle of our high school gymnasium at homecoming, but overall it was a watchful eye I placed on this girl. Fast-forward eight years, two psychiatric ward visits and three rehabilitation clinic stays shared between us, we are still friends.
I used to think of her as a reflection of what I once had been, and all the regrets of my past incarnated into a being I wished to spare from an equal fate. But with her over with me tonight, I saw something differently entirely. She was a projection of the love I had poured into her over the years, a reminder of why it is we choose to be decent people. I won’t use that as some sort of millennial style pat on the back. I’m not a perfect or even great friend all the time. I can always do better. But as my relationship with the understanding of the human condition has changed over the years, she’s a reminder of a constant that I’ve always held. It is a far nobler pursuit to be a decent contributor to life.
Over the last several years, I rattled with the idea of a religious doctrine in terms of how it fits into my life. I’ve reached a stop along the way of agnostic atheism. It fits for where I am in life right now. The question I pose to myself when considering a change in moral code is “Why should we even bother to be good?” And the response, not final answer, I have right now is; we are given a life, and it is ours to decide what to make of it. We will only be as happy and fulfilled and positive as we have chosen to be. None of us are important enough in the grand scheme of the universe to really think that we deserve anything. By that same token, we are also not important enough to think of ourselves as entitled to make a major contribution the script of someone else’s life, especially if it is for the worse. It should be our aim to set up those around us to have the same right we all have. We all have the right to be happy. It goes beyond the “Golden Rule” we are taught as young children. We should actively pursue a lifestyle of contributing to others’ lives in a positive fashion.
Bonds like this girl are why I am still alive. In a very real sense, that is certain. The protective bond I felt and still feel to this day over my little sister is why I did not ensure my death at the age of seventeen by suicide. I couldn’t bear the thought of my mother informing my then-ten-year-old sibling that I had relinquished my role as big sis by choice. I did not quit for her sake. It would have detracted from her life in an irreparable way. Where do I come off thinking that I am entitled to such power of harm?
I mean this in the most positive sense. The Iron Giant, one of the most underrated and politically minded animated films of my childhood, distilled it best in “you are who you choose to be.” We all have an opportunity to affect change, even in the smallest sense of a recovering addict from an upper-middle-class Midwest suburb, to allowing someone a meal where they would otherwise continue to starve, to simply creating a moment of tolerance. It is a choice. And we act for selfish reasons, we want to feel that we are contributing positively. I don’t care if it is said to be for the good of humanity. That desire to do good stems from an innate association with the quality of our own lives if we continue to generate positive change. There is a voice inside most of us that says “this is what I am supposed to do.” That’s a self-centered motive, but approaching an interpersonal goal. There’s no shame in admitting that.
Our time is fleeting, if not superficial relative to the age of the universe. But we owe to it to the billions of others around us to account that in those fleeting periods of time that lifetimes encompass, we would appreciate the same chance of a happy life that everyone should get. Creating happy makes happy. It’s something I still need to work on, but that’s what I have the billions of you for. It should and shall always be for you.