The Swift Death of a Career

Sometimes One Bad Experience is all it Takes

 

As I was writing my response to yesterday’s Daily Prompt it reminded me of a strange incident I had that ended up changing the course of my life significantly. I made the horrible mistake of ignoring my gut reaction to someone, and the consequences shattered my enthusiasm for something I’ve loved since I was a child. In the end, my abandoning that prospect was for the best, but I still shudder with repulsion every time I think of the uncomfortable confrontation I had to go through for it.

 

Never Say “Full-Body Massage” Around Me

 

When I was about 10 years old I discovered that I had a natural affinity for seeking out tension in people’s’ backs, and I had a knack for creating a pattern that suited each of my ‘patients’ perfectly. I also had a firm sense of pressure (pun intended), and I was able to work huge knots out of my family members’ backs that usually took professional therapists a week to break up. I loved possessing the ability to help people feel better, but all it took was one creepy incident to turn me off on it entirely.

When I was 16 I dropped out of high school (so I could help in supporting my family, which I’ll explain another day), and shortly after that I decided to make some extra cash by using my abilities. I put an ad in the local paper, clearly stating that I wasn’t licensed, but offering a lower price than most professionals requested, and I ended up getting a few calls. My first customer, a very kind elderly man, was completely normal, and our session went well. I was a little afraid to work on him because it’s so easy to accidentally hurt someone in his sort of condition, but I paid close attention to his reactions and moved my hands as gently as I could. He was happy with my work, and we made plans for him to return.

A few days later my second client showed up, and as soon as I saw him a nervous feeling sank into the bottom of my belly. He just looked like the kind of person you couldn’t trust. I wasn’t afraid because everything was taking place in my home, with my capable step-dad never far away, and I really needed the cash. I ignored my initial instincts about him, invited him in, and got him set up.

The first sure sign that something was wrong was when he was making preparations. I gave him a towel, pointed him in the direction of the bathroom, and asked him to take off his shirt and pants (but NOT his underwear, which I was very clear about) because he’d asked for me to work on his extremities in addition to his back. I never ask anyone to take off more than is necessary. But when he returned to the living room it was clear, judging by the clothes he was holding in his hands, that he hadn’t listened to my instructions.

He verified my suspicions of his nudity just under the towel he wore when he settled himself on my makeshift massage table, telling me he was more comfortable that way. I wanted to run away right then and there, but I ignored the bad signs yet again in the interest of earning some much-needed income for my family. I started working on his back so he had to lay on his stomach, which felt like a less threatening position for him to be in, but it didn’t take long for him to roll over and request that I work on his chest.

My reticence should have been apparent to a toddler, but he still persisted in trying to pervert what should have been a clean, detached session for me. It took less than 10 minutes for the creepiness factor of the situation to reach critical mass, and just as I reached my limit and prepared to ask him to leave he escalated the inappropriateness far beyond any level I’d ever imagined.

 

This Isn’t a Strip Club, but the Same Rules Apply

 

As I pulled my hands away from him, fed up with his suggestively lewd behavior, he snatched my fingers in a strong grip and yanked them toward his crotch, telling me in a desperate tone that he’d pay me for the entire hour if I “just touch ‘it’ for a few seconds”. Luckily, my palms were still covered with oil, so I slipped away and scooted as far from him as I could. Harried and scared, I demanded that he leave in the kindest, least threatening tone I could muster. He begged for a while, pleading for my ‘assistance’, but eventually left, to my immense relief. I was so shocked by the incident that all I could do was sit there for a while.

Apparently, the man had disregarded the professional, serious tone I’d used throughout my entire ad, and had zeroed in on the term ‘full-body massage’, assuming it meant I was a hooker. I’m not positive, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only person he’s sexually assaulted in such a subtle manner. Luckily, he didn’t cause any severe mental damage, but he did take away my ability to give massages to strangers, so that was the end of that idea. I haven’t touched an unknown body part since.

 

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

 

In retrospect, I probably should have called the police after that man left. I had some information on him, so it would have been easy for the authorities to track him down. The soliciting wasn’t that bad (it wasn’t the first time that had happened to me), but if he was bold enough to grab my hand when he knew there were others nearby what would he have done if we’d been alone? He could have full-on raped me, and there’s a chance he did just that to another girl after I wouldn’t comply. It sickens me to consider such what-if’s.

When my mother came into the living room and found me sitting there alone she asked me what happened, and didn’t like the answer. She was livid over the insult to me, and my step-father was so enraged he wanted to hop in the car and hunt the man down. I stopped him, thinking it was a waste of time, my mind down-playing everything so it could cope with the stress of the situation. I don’t think I can ever forgive myself for not taking action when I had the chance, and I sincerely hope the pervert didn’t hurt someone else.

 

And that is why I failed to become a massage therapist.

career day

Acceptable Failures

NOTE: Yes, I’m publishing this article a day late, but my schedule yesterday was bogged down, and I’d rather ensure quality then rush through the process. For what it’s worth, I apologize for my tardiness.

Sometimes Life Doesn’t Listen

 

No matter how hard you try, if your goals just aren’t meant to be you’ll end up doing nothing but treading metaphorical water. It’s amazing, really, how fate always seems to know which direction to point you in, how it leads you back to the track you’re supposed to be on. Whether you believe it’s destiny or just the power of your own will doesn’t matter; there’s still some sort of guiding force that helps you along.

In my experience, the best thing to do when you encounter one of the stubborn elements of Life is to just let it ride. To roll with the punches for a bit and see where it takes you. I’m not saying you should drift forever, but sometimes you just need to let it pull you along for a bit. Eventually, though, we must all face the ugly truth: just because you have a lot of passion for a profession doesn’t mean you have the attitude or aptitude to be successful in it. I love art, but the only things I can paint are child-like abstract wiggles. It’s when you find yourself trapped in a job you’re not meant for that failure becomes positive.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, here’s the Daily Prompt that inspired this article:

 

Today’s Daily Prompt is:

Futures Past

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?

 

One After Another, My Dreams Fell Like Dominoes

 

Because of the fact that just about anything in the world can draw my interest (I’m not kidding here) I went through a lot of different career plans throughout my childhood. After a while,  my focus would change for one reason or another, and eventually the practicality of such a profession would dissolve. I’d revisit those old goals occasionally, sometimes reviving them enough to work on them again, but it never went smoothly.

If I had succeeded in just one of the many jobs I’d yearned for when I was young I would be ‘sitting pretty’ right now. I’d be making large amounts of money (not only because I’d be good at those jobs, but also because they almost always pay well), have a bunch of fancy possessions, and would be able to afford buying a house and starting a family. Yes, I would have financial security, but the ‘other hand’ isn’t as pretty as this one. Every one of the fields I was enthusiastic about had at least one major stress factor involved. I might have made a lot of money in those jobs, but I’d be constantly working and have very little flexibility in my schedule. And what’s the point of having a family when you can’t spend any time with them?

It took me a while, but I finally figured out what I was meant to do. I’ve had a lot of false starts, too. I’ve attended (and failed) college twice (my grades had nothing to do with it, though), I’ve had a lot of entry-level jobs just stalemate on me, and even when I absolutely loved my position something still bottomed out somehow. It was frustrating, having so many professional issues and no idea what to do about it. But when I finally returned to the one job that holds me like a magnet, writing (of any kind), technology and the internet had given me more avenues for profit and success than the slim pickings that used to be available.

At this point, even though I can barely survive financially, I’m happy with the work I do, and I’m glad I didn’t end up stuck in something I hated. Sometimes it takes a lot of backtracking, even starting over, to find the right path, and I’m so relived to finally be where I’m supposed to be. From what I’ve seen, it takes a long time, and a lot of trial and error, for most people to figure out what they really want to do with their lives. That’s why I think it’s unfair when a parent or teacher puts so much pressure on the kids they care for, expecting them to have it all figured out before they’ve graduated high school. How can someone know, without a doubt, what they want to do for the rest of their life when they aren’t even old enough to drink yet?

career day

“Career Day” (http://tythecooldude06.deviantart.com/art/Career-Day-49394575) by tythecooldude06 (http://tythecooldude06.deviantart.com/) in its unaltered form. Used under a Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/legalcode)

 

I Get to Eat My Cake Every Day

 

The three most notable careers I was interested in was neurological surgery, law (starting as prosecutor, then working my way to judge), and massage therapy. I’m still a little bummed about missing out on two of them, but the upside to ending up where I am professionally is that I actually can “have my cake, and eat it, too”. I may never cut open someone’s brain, but I’ve picked up enough about medical science (and can learn even more on my own) to at least write about it. I’m not an expert, of course, but I can create articles geared for the public about every field I ever aspired to join.

All things considered, I ended up in the perfect career for me. It’s always been hard for me to completely focus on a single topic or interest, so being able to write about anything I want suits me well. The only regret I have is that it took me so long to get here.

How I Beat My Bullies (Literally)

NOTE: Before I begin, I’d like to point out that physically fighting your bully should always be reserved as a last resort. It never ends well, it causes trouble for everyone, and it makes you look just as guilty as the bully to the authorities. In some cases, fighting them isn’t even feasible, and it could get you into a situation that changes your life (in a very bad way). Despite that, being demure isn’t the solution, either. Deflecting a bully is a delicate process that I can’t fully explain here. This article is only about a few of my interactions with bullies and isn’t meant as direct advice in handling your own adversaries. This article is only meant to demonstrate the consequences in tense situations. 

You’ll Never Find A Bully Free Zone

 

By Eddie~S (Bully Free Zone  Uploaded by Doktory) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eddie~S (Bully Free Zone Uploaded by Doktory) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a good chance that there’s at least one bully near you in every public place you go. For some, the same applies to their home life as well. The bullies may be quiet then, or might be distracted by someone else or something that interests them, but the fact still remains that they’re there. Just because they aren’t pushing you to the ground right then and there doesn’t mean they won’t try to do it as soon as you step outside.

Just about everyone ends up having a run-in with some sort of bully at some point. Some of them are pretty mild, resorting to scathing words or calling attention to something embarrassing, but others take things too far by getting physical. Just like pretty much everyone else, I’ve had to deal with a few bullies, either because they directly focused on me or victimized my friends.

I may not have handled the situation with maturity, but I caused several of them to think twice before employing their scare tactics again, especially if I was present. Sometimes it took more than one altercation to dissuade them, but eventually I’d get the peace I’d wanted. Here’s the two most notable times when I’ve taken a stand.

 

If David and Goliath had Attended Elementary School Together

 

This demonstration of my loyalty actually caused the most apprehension for my mother, but it wasn’t that I’d gotten into a fight or that she’d had to leave work early that bothered here. No, it was something much worse that had caused her entire body to quake when she’d embraced me in the school office.

When I was in the 1st grade I lived in the mountains of eastern Washington, in an area that was known to have harsh winters. The plummeting temperatures meant the teachers wouldn’t allow us to go outside for recess unless we were wearing thick, heavy jackets because the danger of frost bite and hypothermia was too great. It was that sort of winter coat that both proved my ferocity and protected me from unpleasant repercussions. The jacket of my ‘victim’ was stuffed with poly fiber, giving it a thickness of about an inch and a half, and it’s the only thing that stopped me from doing some serious damage.

The school I attended at that time had precise methods we all had to follow at the end of recess. We had to all line up, I’m guessing to the teachers could take a count and make sure none of us had wandered off into the woods that were just beyond the fields, and once we got the permission to enter the school we stayed in our lines. The line I was in always ended up next to a 6th grade class, and one day a boy who was known to push around children that were a lot younger than him ended up standing near myself and my friends. Bored from waiting, the bully decided to turn toward us and intimidate one of the members of my group. At first, it was simple verbal abuse, but it quickly escalated to physical assault. It mostly involved pushing and pulling, but I’d always had a hard time making true friends so I developed a fierce sense of loyalty at an early age. As soon as the 6th grader put his hands on my friend I saw red (a term I’ll use a lot when I talk of my pre-teen years).

Before the older boy could realize what I was planing (because I was coming at him from an angle) I rushed forward, grabbed his arm, and bit him as hard as I possibly could. He screeched in pain, which summoned a teacher, but that didn’t convince me to let go. I stayed on him, like a pit bull with his jaws locked tight, until an adult grabbed me by the waist and pulled me backward. The boy continued to cry as we were quickly ushered inside and taken to the principal’s office.

Once we were in a private area and the teacher reported what little she knew about the incident to the principle they took us into separate rooms and questioned us about the fight. As expected, the boy claimed that he’d been doing nothing, and that my offensive behavior was entirely unwarranted, but the adults knew better than that. Despite their sympathy for me, they had no choice but to call my mother and request that she leave work and come to the school immediately. While I waited, which seemed forever because she was over an hour away and I was only six years old, they had me sit quietly at a secluded desk. It was torture for me since I hated causing my mom distress.

As soon as she arrived she rushed to me. As the administrators explained everything to her she hugged me tightly, her worry easily transferring to me and causing me to weep. When the story was finished she pulled away from me and commenced the scariest lesson she ever gave me: a detailed explanation of what AIDS was and how I’d risked contracting it. We’d both seen the distinct teeth marks on the boy’s forearm, and it was obvious that I’d been millimeters away from breaking the skin. My mother knew it was unlikely that I’d catch an STD from another child (this was in the early 90’s, so usually it was only promiscuous people and drug users that spread the disease), but she also knew that if she didn’t teach me the danger of such actions at an early age that I might end up getting into trouble at a later date. So she gave me a vivid description of how my life would alter if I ever caught AIDS or HIV, and it was enough to prevent me from biting others ever again. Well, at least it was enough to keep me from biting strangers.

On the plus side, the entire ordeal was worth it because that jerk never messed with anyone he noticed around me ever again.

 

When Push Comes to Shove

 

A few years later, when I was in the 3rd grade, and after we’d moved to a new small town in North Idaho, I had another significant run-in with a bully, and that time the damage I inflicted actually caused me to feel a little guilt. While I can be rather hateful, I don’t like resorting to violence, so it’s common for me to blame myself even though I wasn’t the one who initiated the problem.

Some Things I Just Can’t Ignore

On a fall morning I’d gathered with the other children that lived in the trailer park my family had moved into some time before at the bus stop, quickly seeking out the few friends I’d made. I was acquainted with everyone around my age in and around the park, and I’d join in when they all congregated for fun, but I was never really treated well by most of them. In some ways, they all bullied me almost as much as the real bully did. But there were two boys, the grandsons of the elderly couple that owned the park, who never exhibited even a smidgen of cruel behavior.

Bobby and Markie were good, kind kids, and Markie had no trouble interacting with the myriad children that lived in the area, but Bobby wasn’t so lucky. He had a learning disability, not severe enough to force him into special ed classes, but enough to make him noticeably slower than most of the other kids. Some of us were raised right (like myself and my neighbors), so we knew better than to treat him poorly, and I always enjoyed hanging out with him because he never searched for reasons to pick on me like the others. Unfortunately, those of us who didn’t single him out were in a minority, and many of the children in school felt no remorse for the malicious things they’d say to him. But even with his near-constant mistreatment by our peers, most of them didn’t dare lay a hand on him. At least, until that morning .

Waiting for the bus always seemed to take forever, so we’d always initiate group games like Tag and Mother May I to pass the time. That morning the dozen or so of us decided that a rousing game a Tag would help us overcome the chill in the air, and everyone was invited to play. The game went well until a particular kid was tagged, making him the next to be “it”. Once again, this male child was known to be unpleasant, and he’d antagonized every other kid present with his rude behavior and ridiculous claims. It seemed every time we were kind to him he took advantage of it, making us regret his inclusion. Well, that morning he took out his aggression on the wrong target.

As all of us scattered to avoid the bully and lightheartedly taunted him when we were far enough away, so he zeroed in on the equivalent of the weak gazelle of our herd: Bobby. With his slightly distorted cognitive skills and the few extra pounds of weight that slowed him down, it was easy for the bully to catch up to him. As he drew near Bobby found himself running over wood chips, which only hampered his scrambling escape even more.

The bully closed the space, and he knew he could simply tap Bobby on the shoulder and be done with it, but he chose to turn a friendly game into an opportunity to hurt an innocent child. The bully only quickened his pace, then used the force of his motion to slam into Bobby’s side. Bobby crashed to the ground, receiving scrapes and cuts everywhere, and even ended up with splinters from the wood chips. He couldn’t restrain his distress, and began crying until his brother, Markie, ran to his side and helped him up. I wasn’t far behind Markie as I ran to help, but my attention was centered on the on the bully, his enjoyment of Bobby’s pain infuriating me.

Lying in Wait

Once he was righted and reassured, Bobby got over his minor injuries, but he didn’t resume his participation in the game. In fact, all of us stopped playing, the incident destroying the happy environment we’d enjoyed a few moments before. As time passed everyone began to find small distractions to help pass the time, splintering off into little groups.

I watched as the bully joined the most popular of us, laughing along with them and having a wonderful time. I seethed at the idea that he’d escape punishment, that everyone allowed him to join them after what he’d done even though they never liked him. I kicked a rock on the ground in frustration, which inspired me to devise a solid for of retribution.

Nonchalantly, so as not to draw too much attention to myself, I began to gather small rocks from the ground, most of them about half the size of a golf ball. When the bully wasn’t looking in my direction I’d gently throw one of them, testing my aim but allowing them to fall short on purpose. I knew I’d only get one shot to make him pay, so I wanted to warm up my arm and ensure precision. As more and more rocks landed near him, the bully would hear them and look in my direction, his suspicion clear, so as soon as I exhausted my initial handful I scouted for one with a little more bulk.

After a few minutes of searching I found the perfect projectile, its shape making it ideal for lobbing. I hefted the rock in my hand, which was twice the size of my practice stones, taking the extra weight into account so I could hit the mark. I returned to my vantage point, the ground slightly higher and a good distance away, and swallowing my nervousness, I chucked the rock through the air. It sailed through the air, arcing high just as I’d wanted it to, and hit its mark, my throw displaying the efficacy of a major league baseball player. As soon as I heard the sickening thud of the rock striking the back of the bully’s head regret flooded me.

You Get What You Give

To this day, I’ve never done more damage to another human being as I did to that boy. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he deserved a taste of his own medicine, but I’d never intended to inflict so much pain, to injure him so seriously. My anger had overridden common sense, causing me to overlook the fact that a rock to the head could seriously harm him, even kill him. It was lucky that his skull was hard enough to withstand the impact, that he didn’t even lose consciousness, and every time I think of how that scenario could have ended up much worse than it had I hate myself a little more. In the end, I can’t change the past, and my actions, rash as they were, did actually do some good. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Shortly after my malicious assault the bus we were waiting for showed up and everyone filed into it, not a single person mentioning the incident to the bus driver. I saw that as a good sign, and relaxed enough to enjoy the ride. At that point the injury I’d caused wasn’t very apparent, so I began to wonder if I’d somehow avoided actually hurting him. I couldn’t find any serious marks on him during the bus ride, so I shrugged off the matter and focused on the other children around me.

When we first arrived at the elementary school it was business as usual for me, but shortly after the bell summoned all of us inside for the start of our day my routine was derailed. This nice, caring woman from the office showed up in the middle of my teacher’s math spiel and led me away immediately. I had been so certain that my run-in with the bully wouldn’t amount to anything that I was completely confused during the entire walk. It wasn’t until we entered the office and I saw the bully sitting in a corner that the purpose of our spontaneous meeting was clear. And all it took was a single glance in his direction to know that I had really hurt him.

As it turned out, most of the damage I’d done to him had taken almost an hour to become visible. The bully always kept his hair shaved almost clean, so it was easy to examine my nasty handy-work. The rock hadn’t broken the skin on his head, but the deep purple, blue, and black bruises that covered almost half of the boy’s head were gruesome on their own. His altered appearance had shocked me so much that I didn’t even hear the adults as they started berating me. I’d never thought myself capable of causing so much harm to someone, but the evidence was clear.

Mom Saves the Day (Again)

Once again, my rash, angry actions forced my mother to leave work significantly earlier that she should. Of course, this wouldn’t have been such an issue under normal circumstances, but she was the only adult with a job in my family. But even though she was annoyed with me, as well as scared out of her mind (she was very protective), she immediately jumped to my defense as soon as she walked through the door.

Once the truth of the matter was sorted out and apologies were shyly mumbled the principle told my mother to take me home for the day. I’m not sure what happened to the bully, but more than likely his mother (who oddly didn’t seem surprised at all that a girl had wreaked such havoc on her son) hauled him to the hospital to make sure he didn’t have brain damage. Beyond going home I wasn’t punished in any other way. No suspension, no detention, no nothing, not even from my mom. Because I was always the silent type and never started fights the principle knew there was no need to crack down on me, so he didn’t bother. But shortly after my mom took me home the situation got very strange.

More Than I Deserved

Although I know the bully didn’t sustain any lasting harm because I saw him often after the incident (and even ended up getting into another fight with him) I still hurt him pretty bad, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t have gotten off so easy. I know that kid was always hurting whoever he could, but that still didn’t excuse my own poor decisions. It seemed I was the only one that felt remorseful, that felt sorry for him.

A few hours after I returned home the news of my little ‘curve ball’ had spread from ear to ear (as any news does in a small town), but instead of scorn and disappointment, most of the adults seemed pleased by my actions, and two in particular were absolutely thrilled. An unexpected knock on the door turned out to be the elderly owners of the trailer park, Dave and D.J., but their reason for the visit wasn’t what I had anticipated.

I’d always enjoyed spending time with people much older than myself when I was a child, so I was well acquainted with our landlords. They were good, fair people who worked hard to provide a pleasant environment for the many children who lived there. They were always paying attention, and they never tolerated fighting anywhere, so I’d witnessed them reprimanding children for such acts on numerous occasions. I’d expected a similar tongue lashing, but there wasn’t a single trace of rebuke on their faces.

Ever since Bobby had started going to school he had been ridiculed and mercilessly teased by every child he came into contact with, even the ones that were supposedly his friends. Dave and D.J. had seen their grandson come home upset almost every day, and the constant abuse was beginning to take a toll on Bobby mentally. Their situation was getting so tense that they were considering pulling him out of public school entirely, and no one, aside from his brother, Markie, had ever stood up for him.

They were so thrilled to hear about my actions that they actually rewarded me. Dave and D.J. had built that trailer park themselves, and they’d been very clever in every aspect of it, so it was a great place to live. It had beautiful, lush lawns, large yards, and was situated on a lake so it had a wide beach, dock, and a miniature park. But the smartest addition they made was the small general store they’d built at the entrance, which all the kids loved because it had a good variety of candy and toys. I was known to make at least one trip every day to that store, typically to buy some of the several types of penny candies they carried, so it wasn’t a secret that I had a sweet tooth.

After effusively thanking my parents for raising me to defend others, Dave and D.J. escorted me to their store themselves and told me to pick out whatever I wanted. Unlike some children, I was always the type to never take advantage of someone’s kindness, so I chose a single candy bar as my reward. The landlords seemed to only find my behavior more endearing, and insisted that I take more. The process continued a few more times until I finally ended up with enough snacks to fill a small paper bag, and even though I was thrilled to receive a bunch of candy for free (I love chocolate) I still felt a little odd about accepting the gift. But my parents had taught me the different ways one could accidentally cause offense, so I knew turning down their generosity wasn’t right.

Dave and D.J. never forgot what I’d done, but they thankfully didn’t continue their praise for long. The other children, who had always thought of me as a pushover and had never taken me seriously, began to view me in a different light after that. Seeing my assault with their own eyes only reinforced the image, and they started to think twice before making me the butt of their jokes like they had before I threw that rock. In many ways, my life and the general atmosphere in the park had improved because of what I’d done, but I’ll never forgive myself for it no matter what justification is presented to me.

 

So, What’s the Point?

 

I have many reasons for writing out these snippets of my past, but as far as identifying the lesson behind them goes, you’re on your own. The moral of this story will be different for everyone, and it’s up to you to figure out what you want to take with you from it. In the end, it’s the act of finding the moral right for you that I was trying to inspire.

 

The Value of Stupidity

Good Morning!

 

If you poke around my blog a little you’ll probably deduce that it’s: a) fairly new, and b) a little sparse in terms of content. I’ve tried to work on this, but all I’ve ended up with so far is a bunch of posts in draft and not enough time to actually finish them. It’s all a result of me taking on a lot of work, which I won’t get into here since it’ll just end up sounding like I’m bragging or something. I’ve looked in all sorts of places for advice on blogging, and I’ve discovered both good and bad sources, but I found the most comprehensive instructions on The Daily Post (Figures!), which lead to me finding their Daily Prompts.

In an attempt to get some decent, worthwhile content written (and actually published) I’ve decided to take advantage of the Daily Prompts for a while, and I plan to respond at least twice a week. So, here we go.

 

Today’s Daily Prompt is:

Pride and Joy

What’s your most prized possession?

 

My Answer

 

If I’d faced this question several years ago I would have had a hard time coming up with a single answer. I’ve always been the type of person that sees the advantages in pretty much anything (probably because both my parents were hoarders), so I never could choose a definite favorite among any particular category, let alone in general. Fortunately, one of the best characteristics of life is the adjustments we go through as we live it.

Given enough time, just about anything about our personalities can bend, shift, or even completely reverse, especially when life is experienced to its full extent. Our opinions become more refined, our tastes become widened or honed, our perspectives undergo major revisions. Even someone who’s determined to coast through life goes through such modifications. It’s inevitable, really. These transitions aren’t always positive, but sometimes it’s our faults that lead us to even greater revelations.

Sometimes, our most idiotic decisions and actions bring us to a pivotal moment that contains the most important of lessons. If I hadn’t endured the violent results of my own moronic choices I wouldn’t be able to answer this question clearly today, but before I get to that I should clarify a few things with a short note on my history.

 

More than Simple Angst

 

When I was 11 years old my mother moved in with her boyfriend, Duane. Over the next four years he tortured me and treated me like a slave, but he did contribute one good event in my life: he convinced my mother to send me to a counselor. I’d always had a temper that rivaled my father’s own volatile nature, but my mother had always believed it was just hereditary. It didn’t take long for the counselor to realize that I was too advanced for her to treat, and she referred us to a child psychiatrists that, over the years, almost became a second father to me. We found out just before I started to fully freak out that I’m Bi-Polar, and not even a year later the problems really started.

The cruelty I exhibited in my childhood (which involved a few fights that scared the pants off my mom) was nothing compared to the rage that roiled in me later, but instead of getting into more fights I ended up turning that negativity on myself. Eventually it became unbearable, and I got to the point where I attempted suicide frequently. At one point, I tried to take my life every day, as soon as I got home from school. Obviously I was unsuccessful, and my psychiatrist worked with me to dampen the desire to kill myself, but for years after that the urge remained, buried deep within me. I became resigned to the fact that I’d never get rid of my distaste for living, but I worked hard to repress it once I realized the effect my reckless behavior was having on those I loved. I buckled down and tried to ignore that darkness in me as best I could.

 

You Never Realize What You Have Until It’s Gone

 

Now that you know about my ingrained contempt for life you’ll be able to understand just how strong a change one mistake wrought in me. As the years went by every aspect of my life degraded until I finally ended up homeless. I’d sustained severe injuries to my back and one of my hips, forcing me into physical therapy. Being prescribed pain medication was necessary since exercising is impossible when faced with constant agony, but the level of addiction one experiences to those pills is unpredictable. I ended up in a vicious cycle, the consequences of not taking those pills a lot more complex for me than the usual worries of an addict (those who start using pain killers or heroine for recreation have plenty to worry about since going through withdrawals for opiates, aka becoming ‘dope sick’, is a horrid, disgusting, and lengthy process, but people like me are also plagued by immense amounts of extra pain on top of that from our injuries).

Everything kept escalating. When my tolerance grew beyond what the pills could offer I had no choice (at least, I thought I had no choice at that time) but to move on to illegal means for alleviating my pain and addiction. It didn’t take long for my life to crumble, putting me on the street and pushing me into acts I would have never performed had I been sober. It got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore, but I had no insurance or resources for paying for an addiction program. So I tried the next best option (once again, my reasoning was a little strange then): replacing one drug for another.

I won’t reveal which drug I decided to use (no, it wasn’t pot), but it was a lot cheaper and did a fair job of covering up the detox symptoms that would have otherwise drove me insane. It was the type of drug that, when smoked, gave you an immediate jolting rush, but wound down quickly. Although that rush departed after a few minutes the amount of active chemicals in your blood stayed the same for hours, making it especially dangerous and deceptive. I’d figured out a way to gauge just how high I was by keeping track of how large my pupils were, which would sometimes grow so large they’d almost cover my irises entirely. I kept close watch on my eyes, was aware that my body couldn’t handle much more, but all it took was one hit too many to throw me over the edge.

Before I’d even released the smoke from my lungs I knew something was wrong. The rush that was normally quite enjoyable became overwhelming, making me feel like my body was the worst place in the world to be at that moment. I flailed about without thinking, almost as if my mind was attempting to escape the hell I’d turned myself into. A few moments later my heart sped up dramatically, feeling like it would burst from my chest, then suddenly slowed to a crawl that almost made me pass out. This process continued to worsen with every minute that passed as I was taken to a hospital by a friend, the extremes so strong that I couldn’t stop hyperventilating. Whenever my heartbeat slowed I had to force myself to breath, feeling like my lungs hard turned to stone, and my heart completely stopped three times during that trip, remaining still for the time it would take for three or four normal beats to pass, then springing back to life and immediately cranking up to the rapid tempo again.

I honestly can’t tell you what the scariest part of that experience was, but every time my heart stopped I could feel myself slipping away, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I was on the verge, the very precipice, of having a full-blown heart attack and dying, and I hadn’t even been alive 30 years yet.

 

My Most Prize Possession?

 

In the past most of my attempts at suicide had been thwarted by someone before I could do severe damage. Sometimes I’d down a handful of powerful prescription sleeping pills, but they’d make me unaware of my surroundings by the time I was in danger. I’d gotten myself into trouble before, but nothing compares to the one time I actually wasn’t trying to kill myself. My conclusion? Death is freaking scary!

It’s because of that one moment that my greatest possession is life itself. I now cherish what I used to take for granted every single day, and although that mistake is one I never wish to repeat I’m kind of glad it happened. If it hadn’t I wouldn’t have learned just how precious every breath is, or how meaningful the next minute from now can be. The combination of the panic I felt that night and the PTSD I suffer from (yet another ‘gift’ from Duane) won’t allow me to use any drugs now, so I had no choice but to get my life on track after that.

And that is why stupidity can be valuable.

 

Other Notable Answers to Today’s Prompt: