Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

So, I had this roommate. He was smart, brilliant even, and had an exceptionally good head on his shoulders for a 19 year old guy.

But he drove me crazy.

He worked hard, getting good grades: then refused the jobs his work had earned him.

He always knew to the penny his monthly cash flow; but he’d spend it all on video games

He was kind and attentive to his girlfriends; but he went home to his mother every other weekend.

He loved to cook; but it was always deep-fried if it wasn’t also breaded.

I admired him for his absolute dedication to a balanced lifestyle, but I could never understand why he refused to set goals.

He refused to plan for his future. What I didn’t realize, however, was that he had planned his future: He was going back to his home town, get a job in the local factory, marry a nice girl, and basically do exactly what his parents had done.

I could never wrap my mind around what was plain to him: What was the point of getting a high-paying job in the city when everything he loved was already in one place?

I still gnash my teeth over it. But that’s my own hang-up. “Let your light shine!” Sure, somebody needs to feed the rugrats and build widgets, but you can do other things: Things only you have the skills to do. He had a brilliant mind for working out puzzles. He could have applied it to so many problems, and would have been well paid to do so.

But he didn’t.

And it took me a long time to figure out why I took that personally.

Our most integrated beliefs are the ones that are hardest to see, but they can be discerned by the shadow they throw— a visceral reaction to something that doesn’t affect you in the slightest.

It makes no difference in my experience of the world whether Xris continues to consume deep-fried chicken five nights out of seven, playing Zelda every evening with his wife and childhood friends, working at a dead-end job and visiting with his mom every day. It only bugs the hell out of me because of my unspoken assumption that you have to do something remarkable with your life.

It’s easy to believe, given the sheer volume of literature out there touting perennial self-improvement and excellence as the gold standard, that you are a failure for not contributing to civilization.

Furthermore, to my eternal chagrin, I’ve discovered in myself a kernel of bigotry. I feel that there’s nothing wrong with that lifestyle if you have nothing else to offer. In other words, being a great neighbor in  a small town and raising up a bunch of bright healthy kids was a perfectly fine way to make a contribution. You know, if you got nothing else to contribute. I thought, Xris being a smart as he was, that there were plenty of better ways he could live his life.

Ouch. That was me slapping myself.

And yet, the funny thing is, I know that Xris has never thought about such existential questions as: how should I live my life? What am I here to contribute? Am I being the very best me I can be? I know this because I asked him.

And here I am, half a decade later, thinking: What the hell am I doing up on my pedestal here? He already has his life figured out, and it is every bit as valid as mine. And it sure as the hell didn’t take him this long, either.

Does anyone have the lesson plan? I want to know how many more are left. My ego is starting to get quite bruised.


Comments on: "A difference in perspective: Or, wherein I discover I’m a bigot" (22)

  1. I’ve been trying to tell you this since I first met you, and yet someone else inspires this epiphany for you? I’m so goddamned jealous.

    • Don’t feel bad. There are so many parallels– I just had more example with Xris. Do you spend every evening playing Zelda? And being from the south, you might eat deep-fried chicken five nights out of seven.

      • I could happily lose myself for weeks or months in quite a few Xbox and Playstation games, but not Zelda itself. There are many atrocities I would calmly commit if I had to in order to play Resident Evil 4 whenever I wanted.

        “Deep-fried” — just the phrase makes my stomach turn with the thought of all that heavy grease. No wonder the south is the most obese area of the country.Bleah. Plus, vegetarian.

  2. Oh, and do I have a N. quotation for you that fits the occasion? (Does the Pope shit in the woods?)

    “Whatever kind of bizarre ideal one may follow, one should not demand that it be the ideal, for one therewith takes from it its privileged character. One should have it in order to distinguish oneself, not in order to level oneself.”

    Or, in other words, you should be thrilled to see other people doing things differently than you, not only because it allows them greater autonomy as human beings, but because it frees up more space for you to be all the glorious Shanna you can be. It throws you into sharper relief to be contrasted with others.

  3. […] those of you that have been paying attention, yes, that is where my epiphany with Xris arose from. […]

  4. Hey, Shanna!

    Wonder if I can write this here without sparking a screaming-flaming-blog-war-(so-called)debate? Not with you or Mr. Scribbler, but, y’know, there ARE folks besides the 3 of us reading this!

    Here goes:

    Beware the “I don’t like it, therefore thou shalt not (we’ll even make it against the law, dammit!)” crowd
    and their equal-but-opposites: “I think it’s such a good idea, it should be REQUIRED by Law, dammit!”.

    I have some specific groups in mind, but in the interest of avoiding the attention of the afore-mentioned comment-spam, I will refrain. Unless you really want to know – just ask me! Caution: they’re hot buttons of mine, too. LOL

    • Naw, go for it. I’m kind of of the school ‘if you don’t comment, you don’t count.’ That might be harsh, but why should I exert myself to avoid offending people who only exist on my stats page? Who knows what they think? They’re only numbers.

  5. Acccckkk! Started to write this, and realized I needed to think it through *a lot* further – to write intelligently, and not get all knee-jerky – will require either a larger chunk of time or more clarity, before I set pen to paper, asitwere. (tangent: IS that supposed to be one word, like it sounds? or three, which would ‘look’ better??)

    My friend, this is temporarily in my Drafts folder – will fish it out of the marinade very soon, though!!

    • Three days and many. many personal Ah-Hah!s later:

      Shanna ~ I didn’t so much ‘chicken out’ on listing the “specific groups” – ultimately, what I was deciding,was to not hijack the thread!
      — Boy am I glad I did, too! This is sooo much more interesting and useful than any “I’m right and yoo’re stoopid fer not totally agreein’ wit’ me!” morass that might-maybe have been. I’ll rant in my own space – or maybe not. Seem to be defusing some of those hot buttons, even as I type! LOL

  6. I am a little late to reading this one, but I wanted to toss some pennies in the well. 🙂 Mostly through self-example, so, forgive me for being me-centric?

    My life choices frustrate, confuse, or simply surprise most people. I graduated from highschool in the top 2% of my class, with a full scholarship to any university in the state, and didn’t go for even a full semester. I left my home state, my S.O., and my steady job as a personal banker to drive cross-country, by myself, to interview for a start-up-company job 1500 miles away. And then moved, and signed a lease, in a city where I knew one person (courtesy of The Internet), before I knew I got the job.

    The job rocked, for the record. 🙂

    I was doing the preliminary paperwork to put myself through a two-year college program, to get hands-on experience and an associate’s degree doing what I love (zoology!), when I dropped everything and moved two states over. I was tired of my long-distance relationship being, well, long-distance, and after a year, I was sure that changing my entire life around to move to a freaking desert would work.

    My partner is the love of my life, for the record. 🙂

    I have a fantastic job right now. My boss is generous, my coworkers are hilarious and competent, my work is interesting without being gray-hair-inducing, and I get paid well. I live ten minutes from the office and can work from home whenever I need to (bad weather, etc). I’m becoming more and more important on the team just by doing what I’m assigned.

    And sometime late in this year, I will leave this job and move. No idea what state yet, but my partner and I want to be a little closer to his kids back east.

    I’m not worried about finding a new job and a new home at all, for the record. 🙂

    And I’ve gotten varying reactions from people on this. Some are indignant that I’m wasting my… assets, I guess?… by just working a 9-5 job, not going back to school, not trying to build a career. But I don’t want to live to work; I work to live, and I’d be just as happy as a convenience store clerk, so long as I can pay the bills and keep the animals fed. I’m not going back to school, at least as of right now, because I can teach myself. I’m not maintaining a social life or sense of community because I move, seemingly at random, to entirely different states. But I keep in touch with folks online.

    And then, some people seem to be envious of this freedom I’ve cultivated for myself. Instead of me wasting my life, they seem to think I’m living it up.

    I tend to agree with those ones. 🙂

    I love my life. I love that I have no social commitments outside of work; I love that my evenings are free to be spent however I feel like; I love that I’m not tied to any place or job.

    It takes all kinds. For some, I’m a shining example of what they Do Not Want, ever, for themselves; for others, maybe I encourage them to break away from traditional expectations of “go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have 2.5 kids and a dog.”

    What’s important, to me, is happiness and fulfillment, whatever that means to each individual. I think about the existential things, absolutely, but I’m also not worried about figuring out the purpose of life or why I’m here – to me, the purpose of life is to live, and I am certainly doing that.

    • Well, since you’re on record… 🙂

      Good for you. Most people lack the basic self confidence to do what you do (although, man, doesn’t it ever get tiring being…. I don’t know… well, does it ever seem hard to differentiate when you’re doing things because they’re YOU, and being really sure it’s not just reaction against society? Not being judgy, but I’m just wondering… If it were me, I think I’d be checking my reactions all the time.)

      I know where you’re coming from on the purpose of life (will be updating my about page to reflect that, in fact). Never had ANY kind of existential crisis, but people look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them my main thing is to never be bored with what I’m doing

      • Does it get tiring? Not really. I am inherently lazy (er, I mean, I conserve my energy for when it really matters! right.) and huge changes like moving states and such don’t take as big a toll on me as they probably should. It’s the little things that get me all riled up. (Working on that…)

        The reaction against society bit? Two-part answer! Yes, I always check myself. By default, in all things ever, always. (That part gets tiring sometimes.)

        But no, it’s not rebellion. I do what I feel, what fits me, what makes me happy and healthy.

        See, for things like gender expression, I do care what society thinks and expects, and I will occasionally find myself rebelling or conforming, rather than just Being Me. (Which is why my genderfunky post came up in the first place; I slipped up and needed a time-out to reset.) But the stuff like going to college, getting a degree, buying a house, The American Dream and associated expectations? Yeah, don’t care at all, so there’s nothing to rebel -against- for me. Just a blank space to be filled by my own hopes and goals.

        I think never being bored is a great purpose in life. 😀

  7. @Ty,

    Yeah, I was wondering about that and I couldn’t quite come up with a politick way to ask. I only say this because I have a tendency to be…hhmm. Contrary. And I used to do stuff (a lot) just because someone told me I couldn’t.

    It took me a long time to train myself out of that reactivity. And it was hard. It turns out my default setting is not too far off median, and so seeing you, being rather intellexual about the whole thing, I wondered about your process and how you found your sweet spot.

  8. Oooh!
    One’s core motivations is a really important thing to be aware of. Doesn’t have to ‘be a loud part of’ every decision ya make, but it’s a great piece of the puzzle to recognize as a possible factor.

    (phonus interruptus – ‘Hi there, Shanna!’) – – –
    (okay, back now… 😉 )

    @Ty ~ Hello! How very cool, to meet you out here in the middle of the prairie! I’m in the suburbs of Chicago, just fer da record… 😉

    Your “….don’t take as big a toll on me as they probably should.” sentence was kindof a big trigger for me (not about any trauma of my own, but as shorthand for ‘jumped off the page at me’), as really important to talk about!
    Anyway, I feel “Should” as a code-word for “*they* get to tell *me*, what my action/reaction will be to X”! (and it’s converse: “*I* get to tell *you* what to feel, do, be, say”) Yikes! ‘Tis a word I try to use verrrry carefully, anymore!

    And if I may get a little me-centric too, and maybe over-sharey for a minute, it’s been really vital for me to let go of. I really know /feel in my gut and my heart, that the words we use have a huge influence on what we feel and what we experience and what we actually find in Life. (Probably way more influence than most folks give ’em credit for, or they wouldn’t be so often lazy sloppy with their word choices.) So, I’m being very sensitive to the *language* I use, and thus, that other people use, too.

    One of my next self-exam focuses (focusii? oh, yeah – foci ~ blyech!) is to spot my own bigotries (see S’s original post, teehee) and not let them tromp all over other peoples’ Worlds.

    Good grief! It’s taken me 4 hours to get this to a point where I’m ready to set it free – sparkle-brain meets deliberate word-smithing, oh my!

    Bright Blesssings y’all – K

    • Oh, Karen, you make me laugh. I LIKE watching the process happen for you. Don’t ever change. Unless you want to.


    • Hi Karen!

      *grin* You have a keen eye! I did, in fact, use “should” deliberately there – to indicate the expectations of other people, rather than my own wishes/expectations. I’ve been eyeballing that word when I have the urge to use it, and watching how others use it, as well. So, it becomes sort of a shorthand for something like “these events don’t take as big a toll on me as most people expect they would.”

      I’d best be careful, though, or my shorthand will become as subconscious a meta-translation as the original implications of the word!

      I agree with you – the vocabulary we use is hugely influential, both internally and externally. And interpersonally. I try to be aware of how I’m saying it, and the potential filters it may go through before it reaches another brain (including another part of my own).

      (Also, that totally wasn’t too you-centric or over-sharey. I like hearing about people’s views and experiences on the topic/concept at hand!)

  9. @Ty ~ Cool! I have the feeling I’ll like you and yours, too!

    Gotta sign-out for the nonce – starting what promises to be a hugely transformative teleclass tonight:
    Ken Bechtel’s Permission Masters
    (affiliate link 😉 : )
    (push past the slightly sales-y writing, I really believe in the information! He knows the marketing has room to improve.)
    I’m really psyched! Later! K

  10. Shanna – my last comment is prolly in your SpamTrap ‘cuz I included a 1shoppingcart link for Ken’s thing. OOps!

    Hi, Ty! gotta make this a drive-by – teleclass starts in 1 minute-thirty.

    Bright Blessings, catch ya later! K

  11. Here’s his site, uncoded – FYI.

    Ken Bechtel – “Finding You in the Goo”. Good stuff!

    • Nope, seems to be working fine. I think once you’re approved I have to manually put you on the No-Fly List. Use your powers only for good….

  12. […] again, Shanna, for “…wherein I discover that I’m a bigot…”) GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  13. […] those of you that have been paying attention, yes, that is where my epiphany with Xris arose from. ) Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share […]

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