Friday, January 19, 2018

Rewriting With Kindness


There's this guy I knew as a teenager. I loathed him. In fact, for most of my life, I referred to him as an a**hole. 

We knew each other from high school, but when we met again and moved in the same circles during our early college days, we never fully acknowledged each other, let alone have a conversation. It didn't matter whether we were left by ourselves in the same room, or walked past the other in the hallways, we simply ignored each other as if we were complete strangers. I waited for him to make the first move but he never did. He's not a shy person by any stretch and since I observed that he spoke with practically everyone but me, it was easy for me to conclude that he was simply a first class a**hole. 

There's another important piece to this story: I had a crush on him. No one understood why and all my friends knew I deserved so much better in terms of looks. But all I saw was that he was intelligent and confident. And now he was being mysterious by not talking to me, fueling my imagination and the pen as he became the perfect inspiration for countless essays and poems in my mid-teens. He became indispensable to my psyche. 

After a while, I realized I was getting tired of our script. Him ignoring me moved from being mysterious to boring, until I rationalized everything by one label—'a**shole'.

Boredom turned to anger, and then indifference. Before anyone knew it, I had replaced him as my muse and moved on to other intelligent, confident and (some) better looking objects of affection. My taste in men eventually improved. I grew older, but my narrative of him and all my convenient labels never changed.

But what would happen if I changed my mind? 

Recently, from out of nowhere, I had a dream about him. We were the same young people but what was different was that we spoke to each other. There was no suggestion of any romantic sentiments between us, just more maturity and peace. 

That's when the thought hit me: What if I rewrote this story? What if I just consider the alternative and approach the narrative with more kindness? 

As soon as I started doing that, I saw the possibility that he might have seen me as the a**hole. Why didn't I initiate conversation? Why wasn't I the one who just said 'hello' and smiled? I was so preoccupied with hiding my feelings—making sure I never gave any indication that I had a crush on him—that I went to the other extreme of acting so indifferently, maybe even rudely. I probably struck him as a hostile snob, for all I know. 

But I simply didn't know any better. I was too uptight and immature. And just as I can be kinder with him now and decide to free him of my odious label, I know I also need to be kind to myself. I could have been more mature, less uptight, but I wasn't and I have to respect that part of my evolution. However, it's quite liberating to realize my role in a deeply-entrenched story where I've always accepted my part as the martyred victim. Now I see that I could very well have been an aggressor myself. 

It's so easy for us to create convenient narratives where we're always the heroes, or the virtuous underdogs who eventually rise from the ashes. But plots and characters are never black or white. Our complex biographies shape equally complex motives that always lead to imperfect outcomes. We may find ourselves focused on the pains we endure, but the truth is that we wield that same power that causes others pain whether we intend it or not. None of us is ever an unstained hero. To me, what's important is that we find peace when our mind combs through our narratives. And what I know is that any story, no matter how bitter, can be digested easier and offer that sense of peace, when laced with kindness.












4 comments:

  1. This made me think of a guy that I couldn't stand in high school. Many years later I met my husband...guess who is best friend is! Luckily, we made up and became quite good friends.

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    Replies
    1. That's funny, Rena! And it must've been uncomfortable in the beginning. Life really has a way of teaching us, hehehe....Thanks again my friend! xoxo

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