On Thursday, September 17, 2015 I will turn 44 years old.
Over the years, I have had no trouble expressing my opinions and sharing my views in this space. Occasionally, I have written very personal, introspective pieces and those always seem to garner the biggest response and the most attention; this, despite my disdain for sharing much of anything personal. I’ve tried to guess what the appeal truly is and have decided it’s partly my own doing as a result of my introversion and partly the nature of the world we live in which has no more boundaries at all and always assumes and demands that everyone’s life should be on display at all times a la social media.
Either way, as Maximus taught us in “Gladiator,” (Google it), the key to victory is winning the crowd. Thus, I shall share yet again, as we expand on a topic from last week’s showgram.
My father always said to me that every day he was alive he realized that he learned that he knew less. By the way, my father is still alive and well but since I am not a loser Millennial American, I don’t live with him and haven’t since I was 18 because I am a real man. Therefore, he doesn’t get the chance to impart his wisdom on me daily any longer, hence the use of past tense. On with the show…
For the record, I don’t believe in age. I understand the concept of time passage, but age is one of those things that really pisses me off because seemingly everyone uses it as a crutch. When someone under the age of 30 does something stupid we slough it off to their youth as if to say no one aged 31 or older ever does anything idiotic. When a person over the age of 40 has an opinion on anything “hip,” they are deemed out of touch when, in fact, plenty of 25 year olds share the very same opinion. On and on it goes, right down to fat, lazy, losers using their age as the reason their bones creek and they have no energy. NO, your bone creeks because of the extra 75 pounds you’re carrying and your lack of energy may have to do with the 93 Big Macs you consumed this week, fatso.
So this is not a column about aging, but rather wisdom, courage, conviction and confidence, all things that can be gathered and harnessed at any time in life if you’re willing to receive and accept them.
Specifically, we were asked last week about toxic people and how seemingly, as people age, they lose their “fun.”
The letter writer in question was a 29 year old female desperately afraid to become a bitter, un-fun 35 year old hag, yet she is feeling herself slipping in that exact direction. According to her, she lacks many of the usual causes of such tendencies to become dour about life; she has no children, she has lots of friends and a great family life, and a rewarding career. Yet, the more she interacts with the world, the more she finds herself having less zest for life, being less positive, and generally becoming more negative.
This is an interesting case study given her circumstance. Many of us erroneously believe that it’s life’s pressures, like juggling a family and a career, for example, which suck the lives out of us, when the truth is that happy, engaged, motivated people can do so without becoming Cruella De Vil (Google it).
The reason most people who have children, for example, become miserable is because they were already disconnected from their own happiness and thought that having kids was the answer to them feeling fulfilled; a fool’s errand if there ever was one. Someday, I pray, we’ll all stop treating children as solutions to our own voids, unhappy relationships, and needs for legacies. Were that day ever to come, we’d have fewer children, raised by better adults, and a more glowing and prosperous society. No chance.
While it is easy to point to all of the reasons that aren’t the cause of increased negativity by some as they age, it is harder to pinpoint the actual, legitimate cause. In today’s society it seems as though the rottenness and meanness of most people in general just drags so many others down with them but that begs the chicken and egg question of which came first? There is no doubt negative people have always existed, but it sure seems like there’s more of them than ever before, a totally anecdotal observation on my part but one I stand solidly behind.
Everywhere you turn there’s a family member discouraging you against bettering yourself, an alleged friend telling you your goals are stupid, and countless others vomiting their negativity on you and soiling your soul. At some point, that takes its toll on almost all of us, and at some point, we will become them if we can’t figure out a way to fight them.
I expressed on air last week that my solution works for very few of you for it is based in the foundation of being willing to have literally no friends and very little interpersonal contact. Upon further review, however, I realized that somewhere within that solution lies the ultimate secret to almost every situation of negotiation in life. That’s what most of life is; negotiating with yourself to find true happiness. When you decide to fall in love, for example, you negotiate what degree of independence you are willing to give up in exchange for the company of a human being you love. When you take up a hobby, you must decide what level of time, energy and money you’re willing to invest in exchange for the enjoyment. Almost everything in life is a negotiation and the key to all of them has always been the same; the willingness to lose everything in exchange for everything.
I’ve negotiated a lot of contracts in my professional life and it was only recently that I finally realized what so many had told me previously; if you’re truly willing to walk away, you have all of the leverage. In the business world we call it having “fuck you money,” but it’s more than a financial equation. You have to have so much confidence in yourself that you truly, honestly believe that if you walked out of the negotiations and never looked back, you’d be better for it in the end. Once that sort of true, honest personal faith exists, it is amazing what other people are suddenly willing to give you.
So let’s apply the principle to people. If you can ever truly get to place where you acknowledge that you can be happy with yourself and no one else, you may be amazed at how people treat you.
Don’t fool yourself, however. You are not going to fix the world, nor rid it of assholes. You will, however, for the most part, rid your life of such. Along the way, you will, necessarily, have fewer people you call friends, fewer family member who speak to you (and who you want to speak to), and most amazingly, better relationships with those few people than you ever could have imagined. You will also find that an invisible shield is formed around you and your inner circle to where toxic people are automatically ignored or drowned out.
This is far from fool-proof. You will still encounter and even, perhaps choose relationships with, negative toxic people. But it will be on your terms and you’ll be better for it; and a much happier, more confident, self-assured person. Anyone can learn this lesson at any age. As for when I learned it, I have no idea; all I know is that every day I’m alive I learn that I know less.