“Your past is not your potential.” – Marilyn Ferguson
“Do you really believe that there’s some stored up conflict that exists between us? There is no us. We don’t exist. ” – Martin Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank
I learned a very valuable lesson not too long ago.
Well, to be honest…I didn’t really “learn” anything…but I did have something that I’ve been telling people all along confirmed like mad. And it was both refreshing and a little gut-wrenching at the same time.
The lesson? You have to own your past so that it never threatens your present or future. You can’t lie about who you are. You can’t pretend to be something that you’re not.
Because if you try and lock your past behind a wall…eventually…somewhere…at some point in time…the mortar between the bricks will crack…
Most of the people who have been to an event I’ve attended will find nothing shocking here. A few of you already know this whole story.
And I debated sharing it, because it gets into some of the darker corners of my past…but, well, if anyone wants to judge me based on events more than 20 years ago, they can go screw themselves.
Social media is an awesome, truly incredible thing.
However, as we discussed with The Ivory Tower Syndrome, sometimes it can be a very scary place.
Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Tumblr. So many different ways to share bits and pieces of ourselves and our lives. Make connections. Stay in touch. Put yourself “out there”.
In Fallen Angel, we talked about why putting yourself out there is fine…as long as you are who you say you are.
I’m going to take a step backward in order to get this where it needs to be…a big step, more than 20 years…but you need the context in order to fully understand where I’m going with this entry.
My mother died when I was still in high school. She and I were very close – she was the parent that I could tell anything to, and would honestly and candidly tell me how life really worked, as opposed to the usual parental nonsensical fluff and platitudes that children get. She knew about my experimentation with drugs. She knew when I started having sex. We talked about life like friends, particularly as her cancer became more progressed. In hindsight, I’m certain she knew that she wouldn’t be around to have those conversations with me when I was an adult, and so she tried to cram as much into my head as she could while she had the opportunity to do so.
So, needless to say…her deterioration and eventually her death hit me extremely hard. Were it not for my friend Flick, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the night she died. To put it mildly, I began an incredible spiral out of control. I pushed my good friends like Flick away, and started running with what one could easily call “the wrong crowd”. Granted, this was still middle of nowhere New England, so it’s not like they were running a major criminal enterprise or anything…but I still made a lot of bad decisions after I started hanging with them. Drugs…oh, lots and lots of drugs. If it was something that could be inhaled, snorted, licked..basically anything that didn’t involve a needle I was down to put into my system. Usually to an excessive level. And alcohol…oh man did I drink.
And yet the numbness never stayed long enough. I kept remembering. Kept feeling. Kept hurting.
So I kept chasing the next numbing agent. The next ingredient to the cocktail that would push me into the state where I couldn’t remember any more. The next dose. The next “just one more…”
Also needless to say…much of the next couple of years is something of a blur to me. I know I hurt a lot of people. I know I did a lot of stupid things. I know I pushed a lot of people away from me that I would have been much better off had I kept them around and listened to them trying to pull me out of my self-dug pit of despair instead of raging at them and doing anything and everything I could to just make them go away and stop judging me. I have flashes of memories from time to time of the things I did and the people I was with at the time, and the stupid stuff we were doing. Oh, I’m not saying I have wholesale memory loss, or a fugue state, or anything soap opera dramatic like that…and I’m sure some of it is my own mind protecting me from myself and simply pushing things as far down as they’ll go…but I just really don’t remember or think about that time of my life all that often.
They’re not really happy memories. I’m not particularly proud of who I was back then.
[shrug] But I still own it. That is who I was. There are an awful lot of “lessons learned” moments from back then, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t shy away from it – I use those lessons and tell those stories in order to help others make better decisions than I did. I’m the crazy Uncle with a sketchy past that can have candid conversations with his younger nieces and nephews to try and steer them in the right direction. I’m the friend that’s been down that road before and can tell you that the bridge is out and you’ll never know it until you’re already in the ditch. It didn’t happen overnight, and it took me many, many years to overcome the bad behaviors that I picked up during that time of my life. I’m sure that some of them stayed long enough to be a contributing factor to why my first marriage didn’t work out. It had been years (even at that point) since I’d touched any drugs that weren’t over the counter…well, except drinking now and again…but I realized along the way that learned emotional behaviors are much harder to overcome than nearly anything else. It’s very easy for me to be distrustful of people. Even easier to assume they’re trying to take advantage of me or play me. It takes no effort at all for me to throw up a wall and shut anyone and everyone around me out. I can be extremely petty and vindictive if I feel that I’ve been wronged in some way.
But since I know and accept all of this about myself, and share it far and wide so that there are no surprises to anyone in my life…it doesn’t own me.
If you tell someone that you’re calling them because there’s a body in your living room, well, at least they can’t be surprised if there’s a body in your living room when they get there, right?
(note: there are not now, nor have there ever been, bodies in my living room. or any other room…let’s just get that clear)
And so I own my past. I’m open and honest about it with my friends and family…and now you, the casual reader who hits our site. Even if we’ve never met before…now you know all about Dave’s Deep, Dark Past.
But it is also just my past. It’s not who I am today, although it helped shape my core personality. I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years trying to make myself a better person after that period of my life, and burning off the bad karma that I earned. Yes, this group is one way that I do that.
Which brings us back to the current timeline.
Somewhat laughably, the events I’m about to describe happened right around the time I wrote Ivory Tower Syndrome, which talked about locking down your various social media profiles properly, particularly Facebook. Not too long ago, I opened up a new Facebook profile apart from the one that had basically gotten overwhelmed by my obsession with Mafia Wars so that I could stop annoying my real life friends with the chatter, banter, and pop-ups from my gaming in general. I transferred all of my “real” friends over to this new profile, and kept it blatantly separate from my gaming one. A few old friends from high school made the transition, and one or two more were added in the following weeks as they discovered me through mutual connections and wanted to catch up.
On one bleary-eyed morning, the typical weekday pattern played out. The alarm on my phone did its job and I staggered out of bed. I made my way into the kitchen and grabbed that vital first cup of coffee. I roamed into the living room and plopped down on the couch, turned on the local morning news, and fired up my laptop to start checking my email and see what had evolved overnight.
As I logged into Facebook, I saw that I had an email waiting for me. So, I clicked in and went to read it.
The “from” name…was vaguely familiar, but wasn’t really ringing any bells. I was certain that I knew the name from somewhere…but couldn’t really put my finger on where.
As I began reading though…it became all too clear who it was.
Way down deep, I always knew that making connections of any kind from my past might be a bad idea. That there would probably some worm crawling out from under a digital rock who wanted to try and treat me as if I were the same person I was back then, or who was looking forward to giving me a hard time about something from back in the day. Like I’ve already mentioned, I don’t really shy from my past, but I don’t exactly love it, either. But I own who I was, and so I’m always open to admitting fault and talking through it. I’ve actually had a decent amount of closure take place this way, and healed some old wounds that should have never been there in the first place.
Well, the worm was sitting in my inbox. Awesome.
And the worm was attempting extortion. Even more awesome.
Essentially, a guy who once sat in the living room of my apartment at the time (again, remember – we’re talking 20 years ago here) with a couple of big black hefty bags full of weed dividing them up for sale sends me an email via Facebook demanding $1,000 along with the threat that if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to find all of my connections on LinkedIn, all of my friends on Facebook, and anyone and everyone I know in my life and basically tell them what I’ve just told you earlier in this entry because he’s looked around online and on this site and I’ve, quote, “obviously gotten really lucky” to be where I am today.
There was an insane pit forming in my stomach…when something clicked and I started quite literally laughing out loud.
What was he possibly going to tell people that I haven’t already told them myself? How pathetic must his life be that he thought that reaching out to me like this would accomplish anything? What stories does he think he has that I haven’t already told over beers in a bar at least twice?
And so…as I sat there and laughed, I composed a simple, straight-forward message relaying all of that…pointedly. Along with a cheerful “GFY, go crawl back under your rock…and this wasn’t luck, I made something of myself…”
And then, after waiting a week for a reply and getting none…I went back and locked my Facebook profile down so that only friends could send me messages, which is how it should have been all along.
Lesson learned – practice what you preach.
I almost went through a spree of unfriending anyone and everyone I knew from that time period…but, laughably, a friend that I had shared this story with put it all in perspective for me a couple of days later with a simple post to my wall that read:
“If you don’t give me a thousand dollars, I’m going to tell everyone you like Star Wars…”
…and I laughed. A lot. Almost hysterically so. And it gave me the perspective to realize that it was about on the same level – for crying out loud, everyone knows what a Star Wars freak I am…just like everyone in my life that matters knows some, most, or all of these stories already as well.
Lesson confirmed – you can only be embarrassed by things that you let embarrass you. You can only be controlled by that which you let control you. You only have to be afraid of the monsters in the closet if you’ve never turned on the light and walked into it to see that it’s just a creaky wall on a windy night.
And you have to own your past…so that it can never threaten your present or future.
If only more politicians and celebrities realized this, maybe the TMZ’s of the world would fade away. Maybe the reporters of the world could focus on actual stories instead of whether or not our President still sneaks a cigarette in the Rose Garden now and then. Maybe we’d have fewer Fallen Angels.
So to any old high school acquaintances that read this…if all you were curious about was whether or not I’m still that same douchebag that went through some really rough times 20 years ago…the answer is “no”, and so you can unfriend me now. The one thing this whole experience did teach me was that I was falling victim to the spell of nostalgia, and so I’ve accepted friend requests from people that I haven’t thought of in at least a decade if not more…and how are they “friends”? I’m all grown up now…wife, kids, friends, a nice support structure around me…I’m nowhere close to who I was back then…thankfully. I probably would’ve been dead by 20 if I were.
Some old habits die harder though. I still wear long black trenchcoats…and I’m still brutally honest and direct. So the lesson for you is that if you want to reach out and maybe talk about what happened back then…sure, you might get an apology out of me if I wronged you…and if we can get past what was, then maybe we can get around to sharing what is in each other’s lives these days. But if all you want to do is dwell…piss off. I have far better things to do with my life these days…regardless of whether or not you do.
To those of you who know me now, having only met me in the past decade or so…again, none of this except the recent email events are going to come as any shock to you…but please take this to heart: you don’t get to judge who I am now based on who I was then, either. Sure, you might understand the knowing looks that my older friends who still float around give me when I talk about having “an addictive personality”…but that’s about it. You might also now understand why I am like I am…and why I’m so dedicated about this group helping people and doing good, and why I’m willing to spend so much time doing things for this group and the people in it. You’re sort of my path to redemption, I guess. 🙂
But even though I view this as a way of working off my bad karma…I’m still no Fallen Angel…because the only wings I wear have a wheel and are on hockey jerseys.
Phew. That actually feels pretty good to have written down and gotten out there. Now that that’s out of the way, feel free to go check out our latest news & announcements over at http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/news/, or a Don’t Be That Guy out at http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/dbtg/, or a How Not To Suck by going here http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/hints/, or maybe even just another random thoughts entry if you’re wanting to keep crawling around the dusty corners of my mind by checking out http://www.ITinTheD.com/category/random/