Monday, May 25, 1998

Week of 05/25/1998

Is It Reality, Or Is It Negativity?
- by David Matthews 2

You know, I realized that I haven’t taken a pot shot at myself lately. Oh, sure, I lambasted myself when I turned 30, and if I ever finish one of the books I’m working on you’ll see how I’ve really taken some shots at myself. But here on my online column, I’ve been sending out a lot of shots at the world around me without taking one in the foot. So here goes…

Recently I had an online associate complain that I was negative about things. She first thought I was being negative "for a reason," but then just deduced that I was just plain negative about everything. I don’t know what she meant when she thought I was negative "for a reason." Perhaps she thought it was just an act, a character to better expose some of the faults in the world and offer some constructive criticism.

It’s not the first time someone has noticed a streak of negativity in my writings. A few of my readers have noticed this. Ryan Keppel e-mailed to me similar sentiments when he said I was "in general pissed about something or everything," which he said was cool. Rick Gaber commented that I had just too much "edge" for his tastes, but enjoyed my work nonetheless.

Truth be told, I am negative about a lot of things. And yet, I’m not negative about everything. If you’ve ever visited my work in progress called "The New Society," you’d read some pretty optimistic stuff about the changes that we are facing. Unlike the moralists, I don’t believe we are all going to hell in a handbasket. Reactionaries who fail to look at the big picture don’t realize that a good portion of the conflicts we are experiencing are necessary in order for more positive changes to occur. I have a lot of confidence that the world my young niece will inherit in the next two decades will be completely different from the one you and I are living in right now.

I’m not negative about the world. The world has gone on quite well before me, and will continue to do so after I’m gone. However, I am certainly negative about things as they occur to me, specifically.

It wasn’t always like this. Once, I used to be quite positive about myself and what I can do. I used to think I could do anything in the world that I wanted to if I put myself to the task. Graduating from college, I had a degree, I had hopes, and I had a plan for myself. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and a sense of what it would take to get there.

What happened, you ask? Well, reality happened.

Reality checks are a real ego-buster. You think you’re on the top of the world, that you can do no wrong, that everything will work out just the way you want it to. The reality checks reminds you that you aren’t the center of the universe, and that the world will respond the way other people want it to, not necessarily how you it to.

Mind you, I’ve had my share of reality checks all through school and through college. My social life, although active enough in appearances, rivaled some of the monks at Saint Anselm College. (In fact, I seem to recall there was one brother-in-training who actually had a better social life than me!) Truth be told, I spent more of my time making sure other people had fun than to enjoy the evening myself.

But the real world saved the best for me until after I graduated from college and it was time to set forth that "goal" I had established. Nothing like a little economic recession and an old physical injury to take me out of my goals. I woke up one morning and realized that after literally two years of travelling up and down the East Coast for interviews and tests, the closest I ever got to getting into law enforcement was working for a security company, weekend night shift, at minimum wage, in a small hick town where their definition of "up all night" means closing at ten p.m. instead of nine. It’s rather humbling to realize you live in a town that if you aren’t married by the time you’re 21, you’re already over the hill. That’s when you have to rethink your goals and priorities.

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t wait for you to catch up. You’ve got bills to pay and food to buy. You don’t know what you want to do with your life? Too bad! Work it out along the way. What? Can’t afford a social life and pay the bills? Well, you’re going to have to lose one of them, won’t you? That’s life! Life sucks, so deal with it!

Truth be told, I’d LOVE to be optimistic about myself. I’d love to be able to look at my life and say things would be great from this point on! I used to be able to do that only a few years ago. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t allow that for me. Almost the minute I say to myself "you know, things are going to get better from here" is when life slaps me down with a new hardship. Get the bills under control? Whoops! That’s when someone gets sick, or the car breaks down. Get used to a job? Whoops! Time to relocate that job to outside the state! Find someone at work you like? Whoops! Time for her to move away, or for your job to end.

And people wonder why I’m negative about myself?

Yet, I know that if God wanted to, I would really be in a world of hurt. There are a lot of things that I am thankful for, such as having parents who are still together, still love each other, and still care enough about me to help me out when possible. I may be a struggling writer, but at least I’m a struggling writer who is still able to pay the bills and go out every so often. Of those things, I’m very thankful for, because I haven’t always had them.

I often like to think that having those reality checks means I can strip away some of the BS that exists out there and see things more realistically. That’s not easy sometime when we’re so wrapped up in the illusions of things instead of their substance. Quite often, I’ve found that a realistic viewpoint is mistakenly confused with a negative one.

I know we all want things to turn out for the best. I know I do. But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the hype that we don’t realist that there are other people with dreams and aspirations, just like you do. Sometimes their dreams and aspirations are in conflict with yours, and someone must lose out. In just too many instances, I was on the losing side. That’s not negativity, that’s reality.

And, of course, I’d like to wake up one day and say to myself "my life will turn out okay" and not have the world slam me down hard. Unfortunately, past experience tells me otherwise.

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