Apology

June 2, 2010

Every parent has such high hopes for their newborn child. I think they want to give birth to, raise, nurture a prodigy – the baby Einstein or Curie, Mozart’s second coming, maybe Jesus himself with bless the family with his triumphant return – all trumpets, skyfire, and angels. Look at her lying there, drooling and babbling softly… The child is brilliant, beautiful, perfect in every way, full of talent and promise – an embodiment of all that is good, hopeful, and possible in the world. What potential! And what a burden also, for that little bundle of flesh.

Woe to those who do not live to realize the dreams of their parents. Bad is failing in the attempt – being simply too dull, too plain, too mediocre to summit the lofty peaks of their imagination, stretching, failing, falling to lie in the dirt, never to climb higher. At least there is comfort there among the masses trying and failing at the same. Company, even in failure, makes loss more bearable. Worse than failing, far worse, is to give up – to abandon the dreams of the father, mother, family, and chase goals wholly one’s own – in this one commits the greatest sin, the harshest injustice against the family unit. To rip oneself from the whole, to set out alone and seek individual happiness, fulfillment on one’s private terms is to forever set self against family – the love may still be there, but the solidarity is fractured, belied by the precedence of the personal.

What makes this second choice so painful is not the confrontation, the arguing, the tears. The initial reactions cannot possibly hurt so badly as those of years later, when you aren’t a doctor and don’t live in a fancy mansion, when you don’t want to write for newspapers or whore yourself to pay the rent, but still want to be a part of your family. It’s the way mom can’t hide the disappointment flashing in her eyes as an old girlfriend marries someone richer, more handsome. It’s the catch in dad’s voice as you tell him how good it was to see your old friends – “those bums” he doesn’t say, but you can feel it just the slightest. When you could have been anything, perfect, the prodigal son and instead spend your life chasing happiness on your own terms, the rift is near bottomless if nigh invisible. Nobody speaks of it. Nobody dares mention how great you were in school, how everyone thought you’d be rich and successful, a power player in the groups that run the world. It’s all too painful, so we keep silent, keep living.

It’s that silence that hurts worst, eats us from within, divides, conquers each from behind the facade until we’re just shells wandering through the same spaces in different worlds. Perhaps that is at the heart of what drove my brother to the brink and then beyond – certainly he has fallen harder than I, harder than he deserves. Deserve… as if life truly was that just, simple, or fair. I think the dream of heaven is couched in the reality of life – utopia must be like life, but without the bad bits in it – a beautiful vision, but I can’t imagine the reality of it being anything except frightfully dull and devoid of purpose. What would be the point of existence without struggle? Why survive if not to raise a fist, throw a manic grin to the universe, and shout the words “I’m still here goddammit!” upon reaching another summit? I can’t imagine one, but then I’m not going to heaven anyhow. Neither are you, but this is getting muddy – I meant to talk about parents.

About disappointing parents.

About apologizing.

I’m not much for apologies, perhaps because I’m a self-centered, arrogant, and full of shit, or perhaps because I’m usually right enough in any apology-spawning stance I take that reconciliation would have to be mutual and the whole rest of the world is too self-centered, arrogant, and full of shit to realize the truth in that. Then again, I could just be overlooking the fact that the ease of any apology is inversely correlated with the passion and conviction that drove the fight. When I run into someone unexpectedly, elbow you in the side by sheer accident, don’t pay attention, to apologize is simple – a matter of course and culture. When I get into a screaming, lamp-throwing, passionate argument, to apologize then becomes a mountain of sand I must climb, force myself up until the end result is gasped – exhausted – from the mental peak.

It never comes out right.

I’m a product of my family and also of my world, but neither of those are particularly forgiving or submissive. We’re hardheaded, spirited fighters; play hard and fight dirty with equal zeal. We’re all right, unless someone beats wrong into us. When I feel I’m in the right, I’ll never apologize. I’ll try and console you , to find some satisfactory compromise perhaps, but the fact is this – if I’m right, that overrules your hurt feelings, and simply being angry doesn’t earn you an apology. When it comes to how I ought lead my life, I’m right – I know what is best for me, and what I’m willing to do to get there. You might have experience, education, opinion, a lifetime of learning to back you up, but the course of life comes in the end to only oneself. I know best when it comes to myself, about what I ought to be doing with my life just as you with yours. Not that they aren’t right in their own ways. I probably would have been a hell of a doctor. Will be – med school is another 8 or 10 or 14 years, and my alternate-universe self had better love obscenely long hours, bureaucracy, and school. I don’t, that’s why I’m not surrounding myself with those things!

We must make certain decisions for ourselves in life – at those key junctures, yes, but every day we make the choices that form our path. There have been so many opportunities to take myself another direction yet here I am in this place, going this way, and nothing explains my existence here more thoroughly than my own actions, thoughts, wants, choices. I choose to live as I do, not as my parents would have wanted – even as it hurts them and me both. “Hurts” is so damn relative. It makes them sad, makes them feel like failures and bad human beings. However, I like this life, have enjoyed some parts of it to the utmost, have struggled and fought, won my existence – that I still continue to act as I do speaks to my stubbornness perhaps, or my love of this lifestyle. Both, likely.

I disappointed my family when I grew up wild, impulsive, loving chaos over structure, desiring not stability but adventure. They will deny it of course, but there is that glimmer in the eyes, stutter in the voice – the telltales of any pride-hurt benefactor facing the fallen protégé – that hurts so much more than I can express. I crave the road and travel for this reason among many. I do not enjoy facing those whom I love, who love me in return, and knowing that my way of life causes them unhappiness. Weak as it seems, I would rather be a world away and know the same, just not deal with it, not face it day to day. I am glad to be here with them, but this place is not home any longer – it is but another stop in a journey without end. I cannot wait to leave here, but I must not without doing the things required of me. I will always love my family, for their imperfections and foibles more than in spite of them. I just find that I do my loving better from afar, as far as they are concerned.

All my parents ask of me now is that I don’t live so far away they won’t be able to see me.

All I want to do is travel far and wide, see the corners of the spinning sphere, and get lost in the glory of life.

I’m a disappointment to my family, and I don’t see that changing. It hurts. I can’t apologize for who I am.

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