I didn’t go out much. I remember the few times I did hang out late in the city. Jr. High School prom night, for example. After the prom was over, a group of us just wandered the city. My date and I were ignoring each other. She didn’t really want to go with me, it was a long dance that led up to that night, complicated by the involvement of others to put us together, and an older guy that she was interested in, at least that’s what she said. She wrote in my yearbook, “sorry about all those broken dates” to immortalize it forever. I ended up talking with another girl at a swingset somewhere that we all stopped at along the way. She was someone that actually liked me, and we ended up dating for about four months.
There was a night much later when I was at Hunter College that I hung out with Raul Dennis and the Envoy newspaper entourage, they liked to call themselves that, on the roof of my apartment building before they put an alarm on the door to keep people from going there anymore. We climbed up and hung out by the chimney, and I played rhythms on the metal ladder, and Dennis was impressed. So was I, I was impressed with myself. I’m not very consistent, at anything, but I have my moments.
I thought that the roof of my building was one of the coolest places. I took people there a lot. The view was unique, if not the empire state building, or top of the rock, or the world trade center. I have pictures somewhere. I took them in 360 degrees because I wanted to blow them all up, stitch them together, and make a roundabout, where you could stick your head in it and look around and see what it was like. I had this idea that I could turn it into wallpaper and make my bathroom look like I was on the roof. Except for the notion of actually taking a shit on the roof, it was a cool idea.
I hadn’t realized there was slide film in the camera when I did this, so I never even stitched together a prototype. I’m not sure I even know where those slides are. I would never have thrown them out, but I swear it seems like I used to have a lot more slides and negatives.
But I was more of a homebody. I didn’t really like going out, at least that’s what I told myself. Either I was shy, or I really didn’t like the music most people were going to listen to, or the volume, or the crowds, or dancing. But I see now that it would have been good for me to get out, to watch life, the lives my peers lived, even if I didn’t participate. I might have understood the context in which we lived, and who we pretended to be. I imagine that it would have made it easier to be something different, or even influence what it was that defined our generation. We’ll be happier, in my opinion, if we know what we are expected to be. And also if we come to understand how much variety there is even among our peer group, then that can help us find the confidence to be unique.
My one and only reader (not really, but the others don’t SHOW YOURSELVES) wrote recently that when you travel to where no one knows you, you can be anyone, even yourself. I’ve always embraced this idea, that you almost have to pretend to be someone else in order to shed the expectations of people who know you. To be yourself, you have to be free to be anything. But the opposite is also true. If you know what you’re expected to be, by whatever group you belong to, that makes it easier to willfully divert from it. You need to know what society expects, if you are to rebel.
I never really had the strength to rebel. I don’t feel like I ever really took charge of my life. I had an argument with my wife this morning on our way to the airport, she’s taking a trip. We were talking abstractly about people who are unhappy, because, perhaps, they just don’t take charge of their own lives. She said that they’re lazy. I was like, “I think that’s judgmental to call them ‘lazy’.” Then we got into a fight. I’m like, “I feel like you’re calling me lazy.”
“I wasn’t even thinking of you,”
“But you’re describing me to a T,” I said. “I’ve never taken charge of my life, I haven’t even learned Spanish, and I’ve been trying for 40 years, I have a career I always say I never wanted. Everything I’ve ever said I wanted to achieve in life, with writing, music, or political activism, I have not. I’ve never taken charge.”
Honestly. I’ve got issues. I lack courage. I’m shy. I lack confidence. I have trouble choosing between multiple interests. I may be over-analytical. These things affect my motivation. But it’s not just laziness.
I hate it when people call other people lazy. I feel like, more often than not, the accusers are a certain type of person, it comes natural to them, and they expect everyone else to find it just as easy. They’re results oriented, direct. They make decisions and never look back. This is merely a particular personality type that certainly has value. But there are other personality types, which also contribute different talents. Like the kind that triple check their answers, are more focused on getting things right than getting things done. Like those who want to bring teams together, get people to do the work collaboratively who may not really do the work themselves, but do facilitate the outcome. Diversity is grand, and needs to be understood and not judged. Calling people lazy is like saying there is no hope for them. Actually calling people lazy is lazy. Cause it’s just not that simple.