To 18yo Me
The one where I step quite firmly on my own toes... These are not things I am proud of.
3. Humor at someone else's expense provides a satisfaction that lasts about 10 seconds. It is never worth the months of guilt that follow.
4. Who you spend your time with influences the person you are, so choose your friends wisely. If there is a quality you'd like to develop in yourself, find someone who exhibits it well, befriend them, and hope to God they haven't already learned this lesson.
A lifetime love of reading has left me with a vocabulary that likes to be used. A small talent for writing and a sense of humor has always combined to result in an ability to use that vocabulary to come quickly with cracks and jokes. Not a bad thing, inherently. I've always enjoyed being able to bring a smile or a laugh through something I've said or written. And there is inherent good in this... being able to use my own talents to make someone's hour a little brighter. But, there is a flipside of the coin, too.
I'm impatient. And I'm really impatient with stupid... or even just with whatever thing is bugging me. I can take deep breaths and determinedly resolve to ignore it for awhile. But there often comes a time when I snap. I don't think through what is about to come out of my mouth, and I quip. I do so knowing my audience. Knowing that there are people there who feel the same way I do, and that what is about to come out of me WILL be met with laughter. But it's laced with sarcasm, and it draws its humor from poking not-well-meant-fun at whoever is being stupid, whoever is bugging the crap out of me. THIS is not inherently good.
I will be honest... when I do it, there is a momentary relief. Hours or days or weeks or months of not saying what I really think... and there is a feeling of release. Of not holding it in anymore. On top of that, there is the satisfaction of the laugh. There is a community camaraderie amongst people who feel the same way, even if the same way is just plain mean. And there is a satisfaction, and perhaps too a smugness, in finally giving voice to what a group of people think.
But it doesn't last. Because this kind of humor always draws its humor from criticizing a person. From putting them down, from calling attention to where they lack. And it always results in hurt to them. When the satisfaction fades (and it always does), the only thing that is left behind is their pain and the guilty knowledge that I am responsible for it. At that point, there is nothing really that I can do to fix it. I can apologize. I can try to change how I relate too them. But it changes nothing about what I've done. It changes nothing about their hurt. And it changes nothing about my responsibility and culpability in that.
And this is why I've combined #3 and #4 together... for me, they are linked. I have learned that I often allow myself to be influenced by those around me in not-positive ways.
When I was in middle school, I was good friends with this one girl for a long time. Smart, very involved, clever, we were friends for a long time and she really pushed me to excel in school (in a good way). But, she was not nice to her mom or sister. Ever. I would often spend the night or the weekend at her house, and when I came home, that tendency would follow me home. I would spend the next few days being generally nasty to my sisters and mom, until I sort of got it out of my system and would revert back to normal. Though I think my mom saw it for what it was very early on, it took me a really long time to understand the connection and to see how the friendship affected my other relationships.
This has followed me into adulthood, as well. People who tend to exhibit a lot of snark are bad people for me to be in relationship with. Please let me be clear... they are not bad PEOPLE. My actions are my own choices, not theirs. And what I do after spending time with them is NOT their fault. But I understand my natural tendencies better now, and see that when I am around people who are naturally snarky, I am encouraged to be the same way. It gives me encouragement and confidence to exhibit it. At the time, I will think it's funny... but it's in retrospect that I realize that truly being snarky isn't funny. It's mean, and that isn't who I want to be.
On the other side of the coin, seeking out relationships with people who are good and kind encourage me to be more like them... I need and want that. I have a dear sweet friend who I have loved for years and years. We met online when my children were yet very young... and I am blessed to still have Stacey in my life today. She has always personified kindness to me. Maybe she works at it harder than it seems, but she's always exhibited a natural grace and kindness to those around her that I have envied. I look at her and think "I want to be more like that." And the more I am around her, the more I see things through a lens of understanding and compassion. She is my friend because she's funny and sweet and... well, because we love each other. But, she is also my teacher and someone I look to for how I can be a kinder person.
I find myself looking for people like Stacey now. Understanding the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people that help to bring me closer to that person. People who bring out the best in me, and not the opposite. If you are one of those people (and if you're reading this, the chances are good that you are), thank you for taking me on. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for teaching me.