I honestly never thought I’d be here.
By here, I mean writing into the echo chambers of this human data harvesting system that spews more hatred than compassion and more propaganda than fact. All I want is the freedom to write what I think, but even that is being threatened in a country that was founded on that very concept.
It’s a stupid idea.
Writing that is.
Trust me, I know.
But I tried to become blissfully ignorant and accept a 9-5, a white picket fence, occasional missionary sex and Sundays dressing in over-priced clothes to impress the hot neighbor with recent marriage problems. Life was too short to waste doing that 1950s bullshit.
Now, if I’m being honest, I’d give anything for a Saturday night at my hometown’s watering hole. I enjoyed running into former friends that turned into barflies, not because I actually enjoyed their company, but because their judging looks and attempts to put me down made me feel better about myself.
Isn’t that what everybody chases, that feeling of being better than someone else?
Bullying a stranger on the internet, watching reality tv, binging a marathon of daytime talk shows or spreading some rumors about Betty and Billy’s polyamorous marriage can give a human that superiority feeling we all crave. Hell, some people secretly record those they find weird to mock in the privacy of their social media profiles. I bet attention from strangers on the internet who agree with that ‘better than them’ behavior really hits the endorphins happy.
You know, at least I had the balls to get my self-righteousness rocks off in person.
Whenever I’d visit home and run into my old friends at the hometown bar, they’d be nice to my face while looking to load their gossip gun with ammunition to shoot when I wasn’t around.
Their bullying used to make me hate myself. Now their attempts to belittle me made me feel bad for them. Funny that they’re always the ones scolding me to grow up.
They’d compare routes to work, repeat something they read online and tell it to me as if it was their own original thought, bitch about things without doing anything to change them and ramble on and on about the glory days of yesteryear. I’d act interested as these people explained how much smarter they were than their bosses and how everyone around them was incompetent, but they, of course, were completely proficient. Circumstance fucked their lives, not their own effort.
It was all very riveting stuff.
They were all very proud.
Yet, I couldn’t figure out why these people were constantly angry, often in the most subtle of ways. They were quick to anger, with the smallest things enraging them into a frenzy. Someone was always getting one over on these people, too. My old pals loved comparing themselves to others, bragging how much better off they are than who, and so, like Frank, the addict or Sandy, who keeps falling for the wrong man. That was their favorite display of self-righteousness.
Too bad their gossip was nothing more than these miserable fucks convincing themselves that they made the right decisions in life. Their decisions to give up. Their best days were certainly behind them. And they knew it. Hence their quiet rage.
Every weekend they’d spend at the same bar drinking the same booze with the same faces telling the same stories. Years and friendship turned into decades and convenient marriages. Proximity love is romance for the fearful. These people’s fears and doubts paralyzed them into inaction. Lives, once full of promise and potential, slowly faded into beer bellies and closed minds. They attempted to replace the emptiness with prestigious job titles, fancy cars, a social media highlight reel, the coolest gadgets, booze and unpassionate love. They buried their regrets as they pumped themselves up in the mirror before long commutes to jobs they despised. They blamed life, others and their circumstances, never themselves or their effort, for not being happy. They romanticized the past, forgetting they were miserable then too, lamenting how things were better yesterday even back then.
It was quite the American Dream.
Coming home taught me where a risk-free life led to. People turned into things they swore they’d never become. Miserable, boring fucks. They told me it was called growing up. I called it selling their soul.
Sure, I didn’t know where my next paycheck was coming from or if things would work out, but I knew why I was writing. It didn’t matter if I failed or made it because I hadn’t given up. I knew most people couldn’t say the same. And for me, that was enough.