When you’re away for more than a few months you start to miss things, but I think it takes many more months before you start to really appreciate those things that you really feel are missing in your life. For every individual, those things are going to be different, and that’s what makes the world the wondrous and inspiring place it is. For me, over time, there are a few things I’ve come to recognize as being intrinsic, as being necessities for me.
Surprisingly, I don’t necessarily miss my life in Montreal, or even the city itself. As much as I LOVE Montreal, and still believe it to be one of the greatest cities on the planet, I don’t particularly miss the city. However, there are a few things within the city that I do miss. I miss the ability to go to my friend’s place to play board games or video games, I miss the tendency to go another friend’s place to have some random conversations about life, technology and politics. I miss the touch and warmth of the women that I shared meaningful connections with. I miss the ability to take advantage of a warm summer day and meet up with random friends and pals in the central park. I miss the impromptu dinners accompanied by unexpected meetups with friends I hadn’t seen in months. I miss the late night roller-blade or bike trips to a friend’s place that I hadn’t been to in a month but always knew I could crash at any time. I miss the conversations with girlfriends and girl friends. I don’t miss the restaurants or the choice, I don’t miss any of the bars or clubs, I miss the specific interactions with the people who meant the most to me. In many ways that makes perfect sense, but when I first left, those aren’t the things that touched me. Now, these are the things that I find most pungent, most visceral.
Missing things is one thing. And it’s an easy thing. We all have that innate ability to compare life now to what we knew before. It’s what colors nostalgia and what creates the tendency to see the world before as better and the hardships of today as worse. It’s what wins fascists presidencies. It’s what causes a whole series of problems. But it’s not necessarily objective or based in reality. For me, what’s important is living in reality and I believe the majority of my posts reflect my innate desire to discover not just the reality of the world but of myself. That being said, I’ve had unique opportunities over the past few months to glimpse the reality of who I am. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, the view has not been as positive as I would have hoped. While it’s unfortunate, I also view it as an opportunity. But for it to be an opportunity I need to not just see it for myself but admit it to others. So, this is the point of this post.
I recently met someone who I found fascinating, mature, strong, and beautiful in many ways. I wanted to know more. And the more I discovered, the more I realized that this person was incredibly similar to me. While that sounds like self-aggrandizement, it isn’t. The beauty of this experience is that in this person I was able to see both my strengths and my weaknesses and it opened my eyes in ways that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I think life has this tendency to present you with a series of opportunities to learn certain lessons at the moments when we’re finally open to them or when they become absolutely necessary. No, I don’t think the universe is making a concerted effort to press those lessons, or to push a certain agenda, but I do think that life is constantly evolving and if we’re open to it, we’ll learn a lot from the things that cross our path. I was either lucky enough or simply ready to learn something from a particular experience that I had. In so doing, I managed to get a glimpse into humanity and more specifically into myself because this person displayed so many of the traits that I have that I found it impossible to deny that in many ways, this is exactly how I appear to others. It was an eye-opener on so many levels, and at the same time, quite sad. My interactions lead me to a few conclusions that I feel I have to share, if I’m to be honest about who I am.
I’m spoiled. Don’t get me wrong I don’t take that for granted but I can’t deny the fact that I have benefited from a background that excludes the vast majority of the global population. I had a much privileged life and have to this day benefited from the advantages of that privilege. It’s not just in terms of my socio-economic background, but also my genetic one. From birth I was given a set of gifts that, like with everyone, have shaped my life. I’m relatively attractive, relatively intelligent, relatively in good shape, and given my parents and upbringing, I was taught to be caring, compassionate, even-tempered. Those aren’t things I had to work for. They were simply given to me. But that fact also means I’ve never really had to fight for anything, to work for anything. Things have always been relatively easy for me. Friends, girlfriends, opportunities, academics, have always come with minimal effort. It’s a privilege that has also weakened me, or rather prevented me from having to be stronger than I should be. Sure I’ve dedicated close to half my life to running a business, and I certainly have worked a great deal to make that work, but aside from that, and even within that, I generally don’t fight. I adapt and move on. This laziness, this lack of really going after what I need or want I have no doubt has had huge consequences in my life. There’s a level of cowardice that I perceived in another, that made me see it in myself, and I spoke about that in a previous post, but recognizing that is at least a good start.
I’m selfish. No, I don’t believe I’m the most selfish person out there, but interacting with this person I gained a new appreciation of what selfishness means and the many subtle ways that is presents itself and I cannot deny that they apply to me. I wish it weren’t the case and I wish I could say I’m a generous, giving person, but I have to simply admit that that is not the case. It’s a source both of shame and inspiration.
I’m cold and calculating. This is not an easy thing to admit, along with the other truths in this post, but it’s true. While the calculation is not conscious, I can’t deny that it’s present in my expressions and part of how I share my world and my thoughts with others. I don’t know if this applies to others as much as it does to myself and I would be relieved if it did, but I have to admit to the fact that my personality makes me prone to approaching every problem from a cold and calculating perspective (even if my calculations are often wrong). It’s not something I’m proud of but I’m also not sure whether it’s something I should be ashamed of. I never intend or make any moves to purposely hurt anyone or gain an advantage over anyone, but there’s always a certain distance taken in my decisions and how they might affect me or the other person.
Despite the last paragraph, I’m too conscious of my image and both too comfortable and careful with words. I can’t help it. Both my parents exceed with literature, expression and culture. They espoused the value of communication and I adopted it. I never mean to use that against anyone but for me, it’s second nature. I can’t imagine a world where expressing oneself without the tools available to each of us isn’t seen as a positive. I express myself in the best way that I can, without the intention of overpowering anyone but with the hope of being convincing. I don’t think I should feel wrong about that, but at times it does make me feel manipulative. That’s something I’ll have to deal with. But combined with my ultra-sensitivity to image, this makes it a hard battle to wage. I’ve always seen myself and conducted myself based on a certain image, much of that based on a mixture of Haitian ideals and conservatism mixed with extreme liberalism and anarchism and the 2 don’t always mix well, leaving this eternal sense of doubt within me. I believe both in culture and evolution and that causes huge discrepancies. Reconciling the two is a huge challenge in my life that I constantly battle. But regardless of what happens internally I always project the image of someone who’s confident living in the gray area. While that’s true, it’s hard to convey and explain, not just to others but to myself. So, in the end, what ends up happening is I’m rife with contradictions. Just look at this last paragraph. It’s a mess. While I understand what I’m saying how can anyone else pretend to?
I’m careless with emotions because I don’t feel them as immediately as others, there’s always some huge delay with me (and this may relate to the cold and calculating aspect of who I am). This is true. I don’t feel things the way most people do. I’m in a sort of no-man’s land. I don’t have the sterotypical male tendency to negate and ignore emotions but at the same time I don’t have the innate reactionary emotional response to things that many of my female friends have. I’m somewhere in the middle where my intellect creates an emotional barrier for a given amount of time before my emotional self begins to take over and breaks it down. So I don’t react to things on an emotional level but an intellectual one, but given a bit of time, the emotional side, more now than ever, forces itself onto the scene and shapes my perspective. I don’t know yet how I feel about this because I’ve always had such an appreciation of my intellectual side that I find it hard to manage this emotional side of myself. The irony is, I’m over-sensitive to the emotions of others, pulling back too much on the truth to let others down easily, to not disappoint. That hearkens back to the selfishness strangely, but it’s definitely one of my biggest issues. Careless with my own emotions, because I don’t feel them, but extremely, and unhealthily careful about the emotions of others.
I am filled with doubt. The problem with privilege and conscientiousness is, it breeds this eternal sense of doubt. I was raised within an immediate circle of prosperity but surrounded by a crushing reality of destitution and that is something few people can relate to. It has shaped a huge part of how I see the world, for good and bad. It has been a huge source of contention not just with my parents but with my partners, who, while best intentioned never really got a sense of how trapped a huge portion of the world’s population is. I keep playing back the conversations about how people can bring themselves out of their situations if they really want to. No, sorry, they can’t, the system is designed specifically to prevent that. I don’t know if this is an advantage or not for me; this privilege and inexorable doubt. It certainly has had an effect on who I am and how I see the world, affecting as well, my sense of confidence and worthiness. It has made me more sensitive and also more vulnerable. At times I envy the perspective some of my childhood friends have taken and at others I resent their callousness. I’m eternally torn by the experiences and perspectives of my childhood. By the words of my father when I once called someone a bum and got reprimanded, by the oppression I saw around me, by the blatant inequality inherent in modern society. I knew that wasn’t natural but had no way to fight or understand it. The end result has been that I both take things for granted and question everything and feel guilty for the little that I do have. That’s not healthy. I’m caught between the poverty of Haiti and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Feeling grateful for what advantages I’ve had feels wrong when I know how hard life is for so many, but at the same time knowing that to a certain extent I have a safety net makes me feel weak. It’s a hard line to walk and one I’m still trying to make sense of. On the one hand I recognize that it’s a beautiful thing to have people you can rely on to bail you out of hard times, but at the same knowing how rare that is makes it hard to accept that I even have access to that. I see nothing simply.
I’m questioning way more things than I ever expected to and seeing way more negatives than I ever thought I’d ever be capable of housing. The simple fact is, when I left I felt confident (as far as I can feel confident about anything) that I likely wouldn’t be affected greatly by my experiences. I have to admit, for the most part that’s held true. My perspectives on the world haven’t changed. I’m still just as liberal-minded if not more, than I used to be. I still believe in the goodness of mankind, in trust and hope. In many ways I haven’t changed much. In others, I feel like I might end up being a completely different person in the long-run. The problem is, I don’t really know exactly where those changes manifest themselves. I can’t say I’ve seen anything so completely foreign that it’s changed my perspective on life, but I can say that I’ve seen enough on a consistent level to make me question myself, at the very least. I don’t know where that falls in the grand scheme of things. I’m trying my best to make sense of everything; of the world, of my place in it and at times I feel good about my perspective but at others I find myself wanting in so many ways. Things simply aren’t as simple as I would have liked, but are as complex as I expected them to be. We are, all of us, this complicated arrangement of thoughts, views, perspectives, energy and mistakes. Navigating this complexity at times feels overwhelming. I’m trying to do justice to the grandeur of what I’m surrounded by but I feel too often that I’m failing and that has defined the past few months of my life experience. I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself based on the mistakes I’ve made or if I’m just on the verge of seeing something new, but the experience has been heavy.
I think if we’re lucky the universe, happenstance, destiny, whatever you might want to call it, throws a form of randomness into your life that can have significant meaning. For me, it was meeting someone who was like me in so many ways that I was forced to recognize those traits in me at an emotional level. I never expected that experience because the honest truth is, I always saw myself as quite different from most of the people I knew, but this particular interaction was undeniable. The sad truth about my life, is it took seeing myself in someone else and recognizing something I didn’t like without knowing what it was, until it popped out at me, to realize, “OMG that’s me, that’s what people see, that’s how I treat people”. That was an interesting moment. That was just another confirmation of my having reached rock bottom. But it was also inspirational. To see these flaws in someone else that I respected and admired reminded me that perfection doesn’t exist, that cowardice and selfishness is human, that flaws are inherent in every genetic makeup and social upbringing. It reminded me that I have a lot of work to do, and that I wasn’t limited by experience but empowered by it. For the record, even after seeing all these traits in someone else, I still thought very highly of them, appreciated it and certainly admired them, but I also saw something much deeper that forced the issue. And in the end, I gained a much richer appreciation of the complexities of the soul, and can honestly say that I’m somehow now in love with this murky totality of human nature, of the personality.
I have a clearer understanding and appreciation of where I’ve gone wrong in my relationships over the years, whether with my parents and sister, or with friends and girlfriends. I can’t change that past, nor am I sure I’d want to, but I can at least carry those lessons into the future with the people that I meet. I know I won’t have the opportunity on a regular basis while on the road to practice that with meaningful relationships but in a sense that should empower me to try, to experiment, to approach every opportunity from a position of confidence rather than doubt. That’s something I need to work on, but having seen my deepest faults in someone else has given me a number of tools that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
My advice to you; when you meet someone you are attracted to on a level you can’t understand at first, ask yourself why. You might come to realize that there’s a familiarity there you didn’t notice at first. And if that’s case, observe and learn as much as you can because even if it doesn’t work out, which it probably won’t, there’s a ton to be learned about yourself from that experience. It will likely be ugly but it will be incredibly educational. You’ll both love and hate the person for being you, but it will empower you to tackle those aspects of yourself that you’ve long avoided or been afraid to confront. We’re all on a journey to improve ourselves, to find some semblance of peace and achieve a measure of happiness. Doing so without knowing what makes us who we are is essentially impossible. Luckily, if we’re open to seeing it, the universe will send people into our sphere that expose who we are in way that both hurts and inspires us. Don’t shun it, embrace it. Every interaction has something to teach you.
Maybe you’re emotionally cold or too emotional. Maybe you’re callous to other’s feelings or too involved and easily manipulated. Maybe you’re too much fun or too boring. We all have our issues. We won’t fully change that, but we don’t need to. We can accept who we are and what we have to offer and work with that to be the best version of who we are and that will ALWAYS be good enough for the right person and people. That’s all that matters. We’ll always be flawed and always make mistakes, and that will never change, but we’ll always be ourselves and as long as we can be honest about who we are, and share that, we’ll always have a decent chance to live a fulfilling life. That’s what I’m aiming for. Hopefully that’s enough.