If you’ve followed along, I’ve been trying to sort of reinvent/rediscover who I am. I feel that it’s due to my stagnancy as a man(-child) and as a Christian – but mostly due to the former. Also, I feel like I’m the only one going through this particular sort of dilemma, like sitting in a bureaucratic waiting room between diagnosis and surgery.
Part one was about why I’m kind of a huge dick, and how I realized that I am. As many self-help books or [insert number here]-step programs would point out, acknowledging the problem is only the first step. People say it’s the hardest, but I feel like it was easy. Maybe too easy, since self-deprecation is a simple second language. (It still boggles my mind when people don’t pick up on the sarcasm.) In any case, I tried – and still continue to attempt – to keep it real.
If you’re one of those people that think it’s better to be true than fake, then congratulations, and welcome to my camp of snobbery: the trench of all things pretentious and self-glorifying, and at the same time, not. It’s not to say that I act this way all the freaking time, but it’s what I’m thinking all the time. Depending on the audience, you get either a sample or the whole buffet, but not everybody wants to be obese on keeping it real. To top it all off, I have a resting bitch face in both visage and demeanor.
Am I Justified to Behave This Way?
Objectively speaking, yes. Considering the depth of my hazing during my youth, I feel justified – from having kids calling me Chinese boy, to middle-schoolers spreading rumors of my supposed hit list, to college students and young adults not being able to be discrete about things. If I saw me on the street, I would probably think, “Yeah, there’s no other way he would’ve turned out.” If I had one wish, one freebee, one sinful request that wouldn’t go on the record; it would be to line up every single person that did me wrong, side by side, and with an ATV, I’d roll by and slap them all into oblivion. Oddly specific, but I guarantee that my soul would find some recompense and satisfaction.
Keeping on that note, I didn’t come from privilege. You compare me with any other Korean-American, and I think I’m on the lower-middle tier, the ones you don’t hear about in the news or have movies written about. The light-blue-collar workers who don’t really make waves. If you want something, you gotta work for it (as long as it’s being a doctor/lawyer/engineer for most second-gens). This wouldn’t be much of a problem – more of a fire in my belly – if the first-generation Asian-American mantra didn’t engrave the status of financial stability as the highest and often only achievement. (I feel like this is why many of the first-generation low-key subscribe to prosperity gospel.) I can’t remember if my parents ever drilled this into me because they’ve changed quite a bit (thank God) and I’ve long forgotten if they did; but their peers definitely didn’t let me forget it.
Most recently, one of my mom’s friends who sometimes provides food gave me some unsolicited advice to hurry up and get married, just to take some stress off my parents. Probably the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time, and on any given day, I would’ve pounced on the opportunity to serve up a slice of my mind. However, you don’t bite the hand that feeds, even if what they’re serving is a
shit sandwich poop piroshky. Still, I can’t help but feel the imposition of the previous generation onto mine, like it was some cookie-cutter, round-hole-square-peg, forcible situation, and I have an itch to line this woman up with the rest for the double-tap with my backhand.
Note: I realize I harp on the previous generation a lot, and perhaps I am being a bit unfair to the group. But at the same time, I don’t (fully) discount my upbringing and emotional onslaught I had to endure.
Lastly, if you were to strip away the Christian-ese from my personality, you’d probably find someone who is slowly coming around to the idea that the world will never change. It’s easier to resign than to fight change, to call out blame from the sidelines than to get one’s hands dirty to fix the problem. A while ago, I would’ve easily picked up my sword in my crusade to civilize (props if you get the reference), but now, my arms are tired – figuratively and literally. Watch enough current event media, and not only do you get the sense of being the least crazy person in a room full of bonkers, but an insurmountable desperation that turns into extreme discontentment. Debby Downer cranked up to eleventy-eleven, but is also self-loathing. Somebody has to be the bad guy, right?
The Christian answer is no. The old school answer is also no. To be a functioning member of society, the answer is ultimately no. (“Do unto others” and “suck it up” come to mind.)
While I may easily stack up reasons for why I should be the bad guy, it’s another thing to believe it. If you keep telling yourself that you’re a bird, eventually you’ll come to believe it to the point of jumping off from a high place to try to fly to freedom. (Remember Peter with his “Peter, You Suck” song towards the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall?) Check any good story, and the bad guy never believes he’s the bad guy. Not only would that be too easy, but there’s always good, if not misplaced, intention.
Also, be that guy too long, and no one will want to work with you – unless if you have all the money in the world, in which case only snakes, leeches, and ticks will be your peers. And if you keep it real too long, you can’t earn a living, which is starting to become way too real for me. (Ever try to pay off a film school loan on a film school graduate’s wages?) You can’t be picky when you have crushing debt and bills to pay. Oh, and when you need to survive.
Lastly, but surely not least important, if I still believe in Christ crucified and my redemption only thru His work, then I can’t keep this up. If my resting bitch face is indication of Christ, then I’m failing hard. Christianity’s not a 24-hour picnic, but it’s also not the converse. Case in point: I recently read 1 Cor. 4 during my (forced) habit-building quiet time, and it was like a ton of hot coals on my head, or a few hundred liters of cola charged with Mentos aimed at my head. Basically, you can’t believe in Christ and still be a dick. I think it’s a whole “fruit of the Spirit” scenario, in which case… Well, I’m screwed.
It feels like I’ve been playing table tennis against myself, but not in the Forrest Gump sense. Rock and a hard place sense. Essentially, I’m finding out that being alive is hard. Again. Like I didn’t get it the first twenty-nine years, so I have to be reminded once more, just for good measure. The problem is that every freaking time this happens, I become so self-absorbed by my self-criticism that everyone around me gets burned.
I close myself off, and my normal stonewall face becomes stonewall face with no soul. (Honestly, I feel like I have a pretty terrible smile as well, so I never smile – and it probably makes it worse.) I make no effort to engage in conversation unless I find some selfish reason to do so or if it’s just simply easy to talk to said person (still selfish). I just keep digging that hole, expecting to find sunshine at the bottom.
I feel like the question shouldn’t be if I’m justified, but more so why the hell is life so goddamn hard? I mean, it shouldn’t be rolling a ball down a hill, but it also shouldn’t be pushing a boulder up a mountain. Nothing easy, sure, but can I get a break? Or at least a notification as to when it’s time to tap out? Why is the feasibly unattainable so freaking attractive?
Because I’m that guy, the idealist. It runs through my veins and psyche (and MBTI and Enneagram tests), and it is driving me insane – to the point where I somewhat wish Eternal Sunshine/Memento on myself. (I wrote something else, but it was pushing it too far.) Giving up control to God sounds like it would help, if my grip wasn’t so iron-wrought.
Basically, I’m self-aware enough that I hate myself. And other people. But mostly myself. (I love my family, though.)