Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Debate III: On Deaf Ears

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In The Debate, our young, idealistic but morbidly depressed author – less than a month away from going to Marine Corps boot camp – is responding to careless statements made about his favorite movie (Fight Club) and his decision to enlist. On Deaf Ears is a rare moment of introspection and reflection on the part of the author, which never garners a response from the recipient. Such things, our nonexistant audience will soon learn, happen often.
Understand that I’m not trying to be negative, just telling you how it’s been (most people don’t seem to realize that I do try to improve my situation, and instead just judge me…):
I’ve had ample opportunity to meet people in Utah. I’ve introduced myself, tried to focus on manifesting only the attractive parts of myself (humor, intelligence, etc), tried to remain in a good mood, been outgoing… but I have not made a single friend outside of my boss. I’ve gotten plenty of phone numbers (from cute girls, even!) and for various reasons, each endeavor has proven unsuccessful. Sometimes it’s because, try as I might, my inner demons bubble up to the surface and I admit too early on that I’m not as happy as I may seem… sometimes it’s because I come on too strong… sometimes it’s because I don’t come on strong enough… sometimes it’s because we just aren’t compatible… and other times, I really don’t know. There was this one girl, RF, that seemed like a great match for me, but… long story.
I didn’t leave school, per se. High school was boring – there wasn’t enough challenge for me. I would pretend to be sick just to let the homework build up and create enough stress to motivate me to get it done. And my home life was absolutely fucking terrible. And try as I might, I couldn’t make any fucking friends. So I applied to St. John’s and was accepted. But my parents did not finish their end of the financial aid application process, and I was unable to go (tuition is like $40,000/yr, which I can’t afford). I’d been dreaming and scheming of leaving home ever since I was in the 7th grade and I literally may have killed myself if I had to stay any longer (this is not a joke or exaggeration, I was suicidal). I’d been talking to my friend about the possibility of going to Utah, and it turned out that I could, so I did. 
When I got here I found that I didn’t have enough money to go to school. After wasting a year I realized I needed to get back on track. So, the military seemed to be the only way to get back to school – there you have it, one of the reasons I joined the Marines! All of the opportunities that they will give me to go to school.
But there’s more to the school story than that – I disagree that school is a great place to meet interesting and intelligent people. Especially if you paid attention to my Protest Project, you’d realize that the educational system is completely flawed. Even if it weren’t being retooled to be unfriendly to males (at current trends, the last male will receive his college degree sometime around 2050 or 2070 – can’t remember exactly, but it was within our lifetime) it is still massively flawed. For example, when I took this screening exam for the Marine Corps, I scored in the 91st percentile [edit: it was a practice test; on my actual test I scored in the 98th]. To be eligible you need to score in the 30th at least. The Marines have seen A LOT of kids, with diplomas, fail out. They’ve seen a kid with a diploma score in the 5th percentile! School doesn’t TEACH you anything anymore. 
Yes, I sometimes look at the world from [your] perspective – that today is the first day of the rest of my life – and it helps. But every time that the same thing happens – every time somebody fails to call me back, or is evasive about it, or just won’t tell me if they like me or not, it becomes harder to adopt that attitude. You have to realize that these patterns I am talking about – people abandoning me, being dishonest with me, not loving me, being untrustworthy, disloyal – have been occurring my ENTIRE life, not just recently. I do all that I can to combat it, but sometimes I just can’t maintain the illusion that it’ll get better. Trust me, I have tried my best, and sometimes I am surprised. I’ll be honest with you (when I was still in Bham) – I tried my best with you, and when I couldn’t reach you the first few months after being down here, I figured that what had always happened to me happened again and I’d written you off completely. As stated, I really like(d) you, and when I got down here I actually wrote a letter to you (that I still have!). I never sent it when I never received anything from you, and… well, I just had to cope with the fact that you were probably gone, like so many others. I added you on a whim on Facebook – trying, yet again, despite the voice in my head telling me it was futile – and it turned out to work. That same part of me wonders for how much longer, but, like I said – I am trying. [edit: turns out it wouldn’t last ANY longer]
I have also invested a lot of my time trying to help other people. Remember those late nights where, on top of all my homework, I’d edit your essays for you and give you feedback? I was once a peer mediator in school – students who helped other students resolve conflicts. I tutored people in debate, in math, in essay writing, in whatever they wanted to be tutored in… hell, being better at videogames, even! Heh. But people tend to be shallow, and ultimately they would just try to surpass me and turn it into a game of one-upsmanship (a game I didn’t want to play) and I grew tired of it. 
The Marines still help people, too, LW. This country would not exist, were it not for war, and even after being established in the furnace of war, it has been tested many more times in that same furnace. If WW2 had not played out the way it did, you would not be enjoying your status of living the easy life. America was the only industrialized country in the world that did not see an invasion by an enemy force – and that is a huge part of the reason why we are as “advanced” as we are today. Also, as the military learns that it can’t win counterinsurgency wars with bullets, they have looked at making soldiers better nation builders (because the civilian establishments that are skilled at it refuse to go to war zones to do it). So I actually will be helping out – not just myself, not just my country, but potentially other countries as well. We could get derailed on an endless political tangent here, but let me pre-empt that by also saying: I have no qualms with killing people right now, either. For whatever reason. But this is because morality is relative – not objective – and there is no true good or evil. I will fight to defend my country in whatever way is possible, and should I see that my country is heading down the wrong course, I will do what is in my power to right it – the military is a lot more intelligent than most liberals give it credit for.
I do not think I am too intelligent for the world. I think that, perhaps, I may be too intelligent for most people – you yourself admitted that you did not feel comfortable debating with me, that you ego was threatened, when that was not at all my intent. I was just trying to debate as well as I could – following the rules of logic I hold dear and defending the beliefs I’ve established for myself as best I could. I was not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, but I realize that that is what I do to people. I decided a long time ago that I feel much better remaining true to my beliefs and my ideals (honesty, integrity, logic) than I do conceding them to others just so that they may like me a little bit more. Furthermore, I tend to be able to handle the nastier parts of reality better than other people can, and this too alienates me. As stated, any time I try to talk about the life I’ve lived, people just try to shut me up and judge me as a pessimist or a negative person or overly cynical or what have you – completely dismissing my experiences and feelings.
I’m glad you’re sick of hearing atheists talk about their beliefs. That’s pretty much how I felt the entire time in Bellingham about most things – like I said before, Bellingham is full of some of the most intolerant people I’ve ever met in my whole life. The ends don’t matter to me – whether you are Christian or atheist or whatever in between, whether you are liberal or conservative, whether you are an abstract or pragmatic thinker – what matters to me is if you have rationale behind your reasoning. If you can stand your ground and logically defend your opinions or beliefs. If you acknowledge the fact that religious systems are often a matter of blind faith, and that you truly do have that faith, good for you! What matters to me is the rationale behind your stances, not the stance itself. Any point of view, any perspective, can have merit.
I want, so badly, LW, to start over. I ache to start over. It was my greatest dream for a long time. And the military can provide me with that. I could disappear, LW. All I have to do is not give people my contact info, not stay in touch, maybe change my name… tell my mother she is dead to me… but… that’s just running away.
I don’t laugh at morality and virtue. I find it sad that the majority of people don’t have any. Although, my morals are a bit different. I am somewhat amoral – I don’t color the world in good and evil – but I do believe in virtue. Really, the most important thing to me when it comes to virtues is honesty. So, I try always to be honest. And that is what turns people off to me.
I realize that people don’t like to hear about my experiences. I realize that they don’t like to hear about my amoral views, about my minor cynicism, about other things. But damn it, that’s what’s honest. That’s what I really think. And I’m not about to compromise my honesty just to curry favor with somebody I barely know. LW, I’m a smart guy. I know how to act should I want someone to like me. Hell, my brother is the master of getting people to like him (and have sex with him) but… I don’t find relationships built upon a bed of lies and a lack of trust to be emotionally satisfying. I would rather die alone than be surrounded by people I can’t trust with my feelings. Which is, right now, why I’m pretty alone. I seem to be able to trust you with my feelings – at least, you haven’t written them off or dismissed them… But everyone else, except Kai, judges me for them. What kind of twisted, cold, terrible person judges you for the way you’re feeling!? If you were to tell me that you were sad, my first response would not be to BERATE you for it! I would try to find out why, and if there is sufficient reason for your sadness, I would try to help you cope with it! (If, on the other hand, you were just overreacting, I might help you get some perspective on your feelings. But never would I simply dismiss your feelings and judge you for having them!) Why is empathy so hard to come by?
I am truly touched that you are concerned about my death. Again, I honestly thought that there was not a soul in this would that would be all that affected by my passing. I know that people would be sad, initially, you know what I mean? But I did not think that there was anyone who would be truly affected by my death. I figured I would be forgotten. It does not seem that way with you, and so it may seem selfish when I say this, but I am not really concerned with my own life. I care enough not to kill myself, for instance, but dangerous situations do not affect me. My death will come when it will come – I could die tomorrow crossing the street – and being a soldier doesn’t really scare me that way. To be honest with you… I think sometimes, why am I even alive right now? I have no goal in life. The goals I have tried to pursue seem to be outside my reach – nobody wants to read my novel, nobody wants to connect with me meaningfully – so what am I doing? When it comes to the Marines and the danger involved, it is not a question of why. For me, it is a question of why not.
I must not have painted my dying alone in a clear enough light. I did not reach this conclusion because of my girlfriend. I reached this conclusion long before my girlfriend, and was in fact surprised to meet someone who was interested in me – who would take the risk and tell me that they loved me (which, I would argue, turned out untrue, but then again… I have no frame of reference when it comes to love). If anything, she almost changed that conclusion for me. But after I got out of the relationship, I looked back on it, rationally and objectively, and I saw the ways that she had used me and lied to me, and it was just confirmation for what I had already known to be true.
I am an ironically dominant personality type. That is, when I am myself. The person you probably know the best, or the John you remember the best, wasn’t really me. I am not me when I sit in class and say nothing. I am not me when I reveal nothing about my experiences, my feelings, my passions. When I am animated – when I am talking about something that matters to me, when I am debating over something I believe in or am concerned about, I can be very dominant. I tend to be unyielding, as well, so it is not a charismatic dominance, but the kind of dominance that reflects inner insecurities and weaknesses in others – something unpleasant, as you may attest to. People don’t like being wrong, and it takes a very strong person to admit as much. And I don’t back down when I know I am right – a combination that leads me all too often into isolation. I can’t stand ignorance, for instance, and sometimes try to do everything in my power to give people a reality check… not a very attractive tactic.
What I’m getting at is this. In order to coexist peacefully with people, I must suppress myself. I can’t combat their ignorance, can’t expose their flawed reasoning, can’t be honest with them. But the most important thing to me is honesty! So in order to get along with people I have to give up that which I alue most about myself, which is of course painful. In order to be content with myself, I must accept solitude, it seems. I don’t like to be alone, LW – even after a solid 16 years of experience (or so) with it (in varying degrees), I don’t like it. But I like it better than I like to compromise myself.
Perhaps I will meet someone who can tolerate my quirks. And perhaps I will be lucky enough that I like them. And luckier still, they will be female. And even luckier, available. And luckier (how much luck is involved at this point) they will like me as much as I like them! Then perhaps, LW, I will get married and settle down. It is not as if I want to be alone. I would just rather be myself, which pretty much, in my experience, guarantees my solitude.
I could, of course, attempt to change myself, right? The thing is… I don’t see the flaws in my preferences. We could talk at length about this, but for now, suffice to say that I feel as though my position – remaining honest, looking to improve rationality and logic in others, combating ignorance – are genuinely GOOD things. I try to go about it as tactfully as possible (as I tried with you) but the fact of the matter is that most people are not ready to be confronted with their own flaws.
I realize that tenderness, joy, love and all of those things are reality, too. And should I be blessed enough to enjoy them – truly, and not just some sham of them attained by compromising my own morals and virtues – then rest assured I will enjoy them to the fullest extent. I do not willingly seep myself in hatred and violence, LW. Hatred is just something I have become used to. Violence is something I want to experience for myself before I pass judgment on it.
About killing… Yes, some people kill for the machine. Some people kill because they are told. Some people kill because they will be killed if they don’t. This is because they have not, in my opinion, considered the situation with enough depth to find another reason to kill. And I’m not just talking about “for your country,” though that is a valid reason. There is a lot of depth to the situation in Iraq, so much so that the average person misses a lot of it. I want to be there myself, sift through the layers and the “fog of war,” before I make any judgments. And ultimately, LW, I intend to become an officer, so that, should I determine our boys are killing for the wrong reasons, I can do my part to steer us back on course. 
People do a lot to discredit war and violence. But think of this LW… aside from ideas, can you think of a more important and long lasting catalyst of change in the history of mankind? Virtually every event, every circumstance, every person, can be traced back to the outcome of a war. I already talked about WW2 – but we would not have grown up the same way – or may not have been born! – had America not come out of WW2 the way it did. There’s obvious wars, too, like the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War… 
Often times, of course, ideas themselves are what lead to war. 
Conflict, I think, is the basic unifying experience of humanity. Conflict of ideas, conflict of goals, conflict of nations, conflict of self… everyone experiences conflict, and it provides the universal common framework for empathy… and it is through conflict that we better ourselves. Conflict allows the superior side to survive and the weak side to fade away. If your beliefs have never been tested – are never in conflict – how can you be sure that they are any good? Like I said, I must constantly defend my position and belief system from all sides all the time… and each time I do, I become more convinced of certain aspects of it. Or I become convinced that certain beliefs were wrong… 
I have few regrets, LW. I wish that I knew what love was, for instance. I have thought before that I have loved people, but have been too afraid and too scared to tell them. Sometimes, when I do, it ironically pushes them away from me, because they feel uncomfortable with my love. Heh… I am convinced that there is no worse feeling in the world than to feel that someone won’t associate with you because you love them. I am SURE of that, as sure as I am that I will be taxed and that I will eventually die. 😉
Thank you.
[Sent as a separate message some thirty minutes later:]
Haha… so many words, and as I read back, there is so much to add… I’ll drown you in a sea of my miseries, I am sure.
That’s the other thing, that keeps me alone. I carry around with me a significant amount of pain and unpleasant experience, that I often must keep to myself. Then somebody tries to be nice to me and look at what they get? Me dumping it out all over them.
Sorry 🙁

Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Debate II: Clarify

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In The Debate, our young, idealistic but morbidly depressed author – less than a month away from going to Marine Corps boot camp – is responding to careless statements made about his favorite movie (Fight Club) and his decision to enlist. Clarify is a clarification of the prior correspondence as well as an acceptance of a peace offering (and hopeful attempt to turn the discussion into a dialog).
Don’t get the impression that you’ve offended or hurt me on any deep, personal level. I am just so used to arguing and so used to shutting people down as effectively, efficiently and quickly as I can that I come across as a huge asshole. I was giving you some perspective into my head about the comments you were making – but at the same time I realize that you weren’t just trying to be mean for being mean’s sake.
I’m just a scared little boy who had to recede inside himself and replace his public persona with that of a tactiturn asshole to survive. Had to numb myself to the world and to my emotions – what do you think I’d be like if I actually DWELLED on my life and my past all the time? – to get by. And I steep myself in reality. I don’t shy away from things just because they are ugly or unpleasant.
Apology accepted. I’m glad you took the time and effort to not only try to change the debate into a dialogue, but to actually read and respond to my feelings. Pretty much nobody does that. Anytime I start to try and explain my upbringing, I instantly get nailed as being pessimistic and all that other nonsense. People are always trying to negate or diminish or write-off my feelings, often with a line of optmistic bullshit that won’t solve anything. (Please tell me how being blind and delusional about one’s problems leads to efficacy?) 
I’m not very good – anymore – at this whole expression thing. Like I said, it’s been two full years since I’ve talked to anyone about how I feel, and even before then, I was rusty. It’s been six years since I’ve freely and openly trusted others. And it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I had any real friends. 
I held off on responding immediately because you said you had more to say, and I didn’t want to interrupt your train of thought. But like I said, I’m not mad at YOU. Just mad in general 😉

Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Debate I: Elucidate

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In The Debate, our young, idealistic but morbidly depressed author – less than a month away from going to Marine Corps boot camp – is responding to careless statements made about his favorite movie (Fight Club) and his decision to enlist. Elucidate is an attempt to explain to the unfortunate opponent why our author’s venom was unleashed.
Disclaimer: this is going to be long. :shrug: It is no longer or shorter than it needs to be.

I tried to enter into the debate kindly, tried to warn you you didn’t want me to enter into it, in fact… then I feel attacked when you say things like “if the director had wanted to make a more thoughtful commentary” about a movie that has given me more food for thought than pretty much any other media I’ve ever experienced… or “i hate to be frank but I doubt you’ll change the system much” implying that I will lack efficacy in my goals… or “i don’t like tearing you down” implying that you think I look like a fool or a weak debater… or “as I’m sure you know, marines have a higher death toll than any other branch” implying that I must not have done my research or something… then of course I am going to respond in kind.

But I don’t debate for debating sake. This might come off arrogant, but I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve only ever met one person who is able to hold their own in real debate with me (a real debate being one in which both debaters were well informed but had differing opinions) – and he is my friend Kai. The only other time I engage in debate is when I think the other person could have something to gain – if maybe I could teach them something. 

Otherwise, like I said, I don’t like to get involved… I am apathetic. And what did you have to say about that? Another dig: “and by the way, being apathetic and correct (assuming your correct) is worse than going out on a limb in persuit of a cause or the truth.” So what does that mean? If I enter into debate with you, I’m an asshole, and if I don’t, I’m worse than being misguided? Okay, cool. So how exactly do I win here? Fucked if I do, fucked if I don’t.

I’d love to just talk, too, but I feel that you need to take some accountability for the less-than-careful words you put out there. This all probably relates to our differences in the way we were raised – I imagine that you are used to support for the decisions you make (do correct me if I am wrong, baseless assumption is not a practice I like to engage in). Every single fucking decision I’ve ever made ALWAYS gets criticized BY EVERYONE. I never receive ANY god damn support from anyone, and must constantly defend myself from others. I get tired of it, I get tired of repeating myself, and I prefer to mostly just be silent. There was only ONE person out of the 30+ I’ve told at this point who didn’t flip me an hour of shit about joining the Marines and try to criticize every little thing about it. 

This is how it’s been for the entirety of my life. Another great example was my protest project [edit for blog: on feminism, presented in liberal Bellingham, WA], who even teachers that liked me and generally respected me derided as misguided. Well, I don’t care to do things the easy way. The system was fucked, I hoped to open some eyes, but people are so slow to throw off comfortable thoughts… eh. It’s all so futile. I couldn’t even talk to you about it – do you remember? – because before I’d even get to finish a thought, you or one of the three friends behind you would cut me off and spout off some bullshit. I’d try to answer that, and more interruption.

And yes, one can just “pick” things to argue about. I generally don’t do that. When we’re talking about an organization that I’ll be giving 8 years of my life to, it kind of matters to me. And when you try to find holes my position, you can bet I’m gonna defend myself and try to correct flawed thinking in your position.

Even here you say things that I would like do disagree with. Hatred is every bit as tangible and potent a force as love. I have thought about this for a very long time and I do not think that there is a single person who can truly and fully comprehend both love and hatred at the same time. 

You want to know what goes in inside this head? I grew up my entire life without love. My mother did not love me – she emotionally abused me my entire childhood and told me I was a worthless piece of shit embarrassment. As my weight approached 150 pounds (at height 6’6), she called me a greedy son of a bitch every time I asked for food. I had to work a part time job – on top of debate, on top of three AP classes – just to fucking eat. My dad was never around, my brother was an alcoholic. Do you understand how hard it is to love an alcoholic? The emotional roller coaster that results? 

I have no god damn idea what love is or was. All I ever saw was hatred – the hatred my mother inflicted on everyone around her, the hatred we all had for her. The only time she ever told me she loved me was when she was trying to get something from me – trying to appease her own guilt, trying to secure her future because she realized that despite her influence, I was the only child that would make it on my own. (Even though she once said “you’ll never be able to fucking make it out there in the real world, you whining sniveling spoiled piece of shit worthless fuck!”) 

And all the people I’ve ever thought I had feelings for – even just kind of liked – betray me. I have an easy time forgetting and moving on, because it has happened so often to me that it’s become like catching the cold. Before I left Bellingham, I had trusted you with the most personal writing I had ever done, and you said we would stay in touch. It takes an entire year to hear back from you? 

But I only have myself to blame. I ruined my one good shot at connecting with someone in a meaningful way via cowardice, via buying into my mom’s bullshit about being worthless and unlovable. But I’m done regretting that time.

And the one girlfriend I had was just enough of an experiment for me to verify my forgone conclusion that I will, in all likelihood, end up dying alone. Despite best efforts, despite intentions otherwise, I end up pushing away anyone that tries to draw close to me. I used to welcome this isolation; now I tolerate it while trying and failing to minimize or reverse it.

So when you tell me hatred isn’t a real emotion, when you tell me that it isn’t pure, isn’t somehow worthy of your concern, that’s like telling me my whole life isn’t worthy of your attention. You would not enjoy a movie about my life – it seems to me that you would call it somehow less than thoughtful.

You commentary on optimism and pessimism leaves out the only perspective worth talking about: realism. The thing about reality is, it tends to suck. The thing about our society is, most people build up illusions to shield themselves from the ugliness. For elaboration, see this article:

When I say that the average person in retail isn’t decent, I mean they lack decency. They are rude, selfish, and total assholes to the employees. If they are not these things, they are quite literally completely stupid. Like I said, work in retail for a year and see if you disagree. When you actually meet a decent person, you go out of your way to do any and EVERY thing for them, if only to spend less time with the scum of the earth.

If you just want to talk to me, that’s fine. Talk to me. But don’t tell me the things I’ve lived are somehow not worthwhile – are worth less than the things you’ve lived. Don’t treat me like I haven’t thought about my decisions. Don’t trap me in a double bind of being an asshole if I engage in your debate or worse than misguided if I do not. If you want to know how I am feeling, ask how I’m doing. If you want to know what I think, ask me what I think. If you want to know why I joined the Marine Corps… oh, you did 😉 (I was just waiting til the end to get to this stuff.)

The reasons I joined the Corps are many. Maybe that’s better left for another time – the more I tell people about myself the more they shy away from me. While I have accepted that I will die alone, it’s not something I particularly look forward to. I am so tired of being alone, LW. This entire year I have spent living alone in my apartment with virtually zero friends. I have not really told anyone how I’ve FELT for two full years. This is the closest I’ve ever come to that, in these past two years. And I like you. I even had a crush on you for a little bit! The last thing I’d want to have happen is to completely lose contact with you, but that happens to me all the time. It is something I am sure I will need to endure eventually.

To be honest with you, I’ve never been much of an appreciator of art. I’ve not understood it – same goes for poetry. I’m more of a music, novel, and movie kinda guy. But some art does resonate with me. I’ve always liked that painting of the frail old man playing guitar – rendered in drab colors. To be honest, that’s the only picture that stands out for me on your profile.

Dead Men Tell No Tales: Utah: Not the Greatest Time In My Life (Unsent Letter)

To L –

I don’t know that you’ll ever get this, but I’m writing it anyway. I’ve always been a bit shut-in…normally a thing like this wouldn’t even get written, it’d just stay locked away eternally in my head. I’m really rather terrible at expressing myself – a learned habit, I’ll tell you – but there’s always been something about you that invited confession.
So I’ll start by confessing that…well, there are lots of things to confess, now that I get right down to it! Perhaps, most succinctly, I should tell you I’m a coward. This has many meanings. Primarily, I could never tell Sara how I felt – not in person, and not even in a written letter. So many times I’ve thought that I was over her – like after I saw her the last time. But the night before I left, I was talking to my friend Mark about her, and suddenly I couldn’t stop crying. Pathetic, I know – hardly the stoic John everyone knows, expects, and loves. Or half-loves. Mark had no idea – that’s the magic of the written word and the internet.
In so many ways, all I’ve done by coming here is run away. No one knows me here. I don’t have to face the relationships I’ve ruined, the people I’ve hurt, the dreams I’ll never have, the mother I’ll never love, the step-dads that’ll never fix it, the people that’ll never be my friends. I don’t have to face the guilt for the mistakes I’ve made.
All I ever wanted was to touch someone in such a way that they’d never forget me – always think well of me, even if they only knew me for but a short time. But somewhere along the way, I became lost…cynical, jaded, untrusting…I couldn’t help anyone. No one helped me. Was that how life should be lived?
I thought I had found God again, once. As a child, I prayed each and every night, read my bible diligently, and I was even baptized. I invited Jesus into my heart and I thought everything would be okay. Like m brother, I found no peace. My dad and I were in a car wreck on our way to church – the other people died, I think. A year or two later my parents split up (ultimately divorcing, with my dad moving to California) and my brother began to “medicate” himself with hard alcohol and drugs. He would attempt suicide. I would lose many close friends, my dad, and for a time, my brother. I lost God.
I was completely alone, save for Sara.
Years later, sometime before, during, or after 9th grade, I went to a church youth group for a period. I thought I’d found God again, but my most important virtue is honesty. I can’t lie very well. I can hide things, be secretive…but lying is tough and toxic. I can’t lie to myself and say I believe in God when I don’t. I wish I did. I wish I could feel His love. Who am I kidding? I’d take anyone’s love. All the love I’ve ever received (and it hasn’t been much) has been completely conditional. Even when I tried to love others unconditionally – like Haley…
I am a bad friend. I’ve only had three friendships last beyond three years, and only one of those friendships – the one I share with my brother – is still viable. Why am I so terrible? Why can’t I love, and in turn, be loved?
Everyone thinks I turned out fine, because I’m so “smart” and because of things like Student of the Quarter/Semester and Saint John’s. Yet every time I open up to someone, they turn their back on me and abandon me. I bet you would…will?…too. It’s just what happens. I can’t even open up to my brother…
Sorry if this letter hasn’t been too uplifting. My last year in Bellingham, I really did try to be a nicer person. But I still haven’t healed from my breakup – my trust was so completely abused, I have trouble trusting even my brother. I had trust issues before anyway, and now…and the thing I don’t get is, I loved her so much and treated her the best I knew how to treat another human. Now I feel nothing for her. There’s just a big emptiness. We broke up on September 9th, a day before my birthday. It’s been almost a year and I’m still a failure, trying to pick up the broken pieces of my heart.
I wish I had someone to talk to. I expected to be lonely here in Utah, but it’s even lonelier than I thought. Nate’s family does not like me much – despite best efforts – and he (understandably) does not have much time for me. Worse still…I have to move out on my own soon. I have no way to meet new people, and even if I did, all the easy ice-breakers are gone…I like weird music, odd movies, I’m not Mormon, not exactly conservative, and I’ve never been stunningly handsome.
I’m a little boy in a big city with no aim and few friends. I have no confidants – no emotional support – and no love to fall back on. Yet, I will pull through. I always do. It’s just, sometimes, I wonder…why do I bother? What’s at the end of all this agony and struggle?
I want simple things, I think. I don’t want to be rich. I just want someone to love. If they love me, great. That’s all I need to be happy.
Truth is, I’ve always cared about other people far more than I’ve cared about myself. I’d rather see the ones I love happy than happiness for myself. That’s why I pushed people away…to protect myself. That’s why even now I feel guilty telling you all this. That’s why I never tell people these things…I don’t want them to be sad because of me. I try to make it on my own. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.
If you ever read this…thank you. I somehow don’t think you will. I’m too…afraid. And even now, I keep things from you. I am so stupid.
Please forgive –
J. Durden
P. S. I think that you are, perhaps, the best person I met in my 17 years and 10 months in Bellingham. I wish I had known you better. I wish I had seen more of you – been less afraid to talk with you, approach you. Even in 9th grade – broken leg and all – there was something about you. Your disposition – often warm, compassionate, strong, and intelligent, is so counter to what I likely emanate: weakness, cynicism, stoicism, frost. I’m torn between trying to be more like you and trying to survive. I hope you have more success in life than I have had. I hope you ignore my pitiful wailing and listen to this advice: don’t bother with me. I am a trap. Live your life and enjoy the happiness you deserve and that you’ve earned. Bathe others in the friendship you briefly shared with me – others more deserving, less wretched. Above all, go where your heart takes you. Whatever you choose to do will be amazing, I’m sure. Thank you for everything. It has and still does mean a lot to me. I won’t forget you. Really, how could I? I still can’t say…