Operating under the premise that we are all born with blank intellectual slates, our thoughts/feelings/opinions are therefore shaped by a variety of factors. And while scientists continue the nature v. nurture merry-go-round, I am content to baldly state (with no offer of supporting evidence) that at least some of our beliefs are based on life experiences.
So if your life experiences suck - and most of us can boast a charming handful of "life suck" - then it's a pretty safe leap to say we garner some personal suck from the fallout.
"Bootstrap" folk will tell you to emerge like a phoenix from these hardships. To grow stronger. To persevere. To benefit from life's blows builds character, they say.
Well I say: SCREW. THEM.
To some degree, "bootstrappers" are right, but the premise that every incidence of life suck is an opportunity for life lemonade is horse hockey. And I'm calling it so.
In my decades thrice, I've seen myself, my friends and my family grow in some amazing ways. But - like an elm faced with obstruction - we've grown rather wonky and sort of to the left (me) or to the right (my parents, for example). And yes, that was, in part, a political reference.
But I'm mixing my metaphors. We are trees and life is a beverage and now we are all confused. So let me get simple. Examples.
I was a naive kid. As such, I believed everyone could be a friend and that everyone had my best interest at heart.
That my mother wailed on me and that my father allowed it -- well, let's just say these events "complicated" my innate belief. 'Cause these people loved me, but they hurt me all the time. The result? Complete confusion of boundaries and a series of unhealthy relationships. Awesome.
I went from a trusting soul that wouldn't harm a bug (Oooh! Pretty!) to someone who, in many ways, ended up hurting other people. Life? Made me a shittier person.
And guess what? YOU'RE SHITTIER TOO.
**Alright. Calm down my little elms! No sense barking at me over what - to everyone else - is easy to see. Just sit and drink your lemonade and listen for a while.**
Let's pick on someone else first.
He's gorgeous. He's talented. He's from Atlanta. So naturally, we hate on him. It's only fair.
But while we're hating on the singing, dancing, hometown hero, he's busy hating on someone else. Namely, his ex and some poor, innocent lovely that never did him a stitch of wrong.
In his song, "You Remind Me," Usher openly admits that he won't give said lovely a chance. Why? Is she a puppy-hating, Sandusky-supporting, card-carrying member of the Communist Party?
She just has the misfortune of resembling a woman who, in the past, broke his heart.
Life experience? Screwed Lovely out of weeks of posh dates, stares from envious friends and sex on 1-million-count bedsheets.
Life? Fucked with Usher.
Now let's get back to you.
Weren't born with preconceived notions of what it meant to be masculine or feminine. What it meant to be beautiful or ugly. What it meant to be black or white. You weren't born knowing Mexicans came here to steal our jobs, or that Asian kids were smarter than everyone else, or that Muslims are all terrorists, or that the France was for pussies, or that driving a German car made you better than everyone else.
You LEARNED this. And you suck for it.
Growing up, my brother's best friend was Titus Wimbish. Titus was black, but I doubt, if asked to describe Titus, my brother could have or would have told you that. He may have described him as funny or fun or "he likes to ride bikes." But race wouldn't have come up unless asked directly. Why? It certainly wasn't because my pre-kindergarten brother was plying politically correct. My friends, it was because race simply wasn't a factor to a 4 year old kid.
Life somehow sees fit to make it a factor.
Like when race plays a role in the break up of your (admittedly) already-fucked family.
Life experience? It' a bitch.
And let's go with "bitch" for a moment.
Dogs will shy away from all men, once they have been beaten by one. To repair the damage takes years of patience and giving. Melvin? Now greets most men who walk into my house. But it took 9 years of a safe home with consistent care for him to do so.
And are we so very different?
Our Justice System doesn't think so.
When called to jury duty, we are asked a series of questions to determine our underlying prejudice. Among them, if we've "ever been the victim of a violent crime" or whether or not we attend a house of faith.
In jury duty selection, it's not a question of whether or not one has prejudices - it's just a process of attempting to weed out which ones we possess. Because the sad fact remains that, if you were robbed at gun point by a burly black man, you're likely to shy away from ALL burly black men you encounter. It's guilt by association. And we all do it.
Whether you burn men because one man scorned you, whether you see all fat people as lazy because your mother was fat and lazy, whether you get a pit in your stomach every time you see and Asian woman because Frank left you for an Asian woman, or whether a lovely who might have graced your 1 million count sheets is a 'definite no' because she reminds you of a girl that you once knew...
Well, Usher...life's made you shitty.
Welcome to the club.
Here's your badge.
My name is Erin, and my life experiences have shaped me into a monster elm...
Therapists will tell you that - as with dogs - the solution for human beings is the same as the cause.
If one guy or gal screwed ya (and subsequently screwed ya up), the solution to the fallout is prolonged exposure to many guys or gals that won't screw ya. (Metaphorically).
And I am certain this works. Because the power to change is not only a negative power. And countless people have learned to love more and suck less.
But it takes time. It takes effort.
Like 9 years of petting, walks, brushing, baths, and puppy chow.
Some of us would just rather suck.