The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Joneses

It's funny how dreams have a way of making your biggest concerns and insecurities seem absolutely irrelevant and childish. The other night, clear as day, a friend of mine from college appeared to me in a dream. Dressed in a powerful business suit with designer sunglasses, she began to make her way toward me-- with perfectly coiffed bangs that she gracefully tossed back and forth. She smiled and said, "Long time no see. I'm an important banker and living in the city. What do you do?"

I gulped loudly, but I couldn't stop her from entering the door that lead the way to my life. Much to my dismay, she saw children running around with the characters from Mario Kart and several unicorns chasing them. I tried to stop the whole scene, wave the unicorns away and get the children under control. I began to ramble about what I did, trying to make it sound prestigious. But, by the look on her face, I soon realized that the mask was off. She now knew that my education led me to a playground of madness and imaginary figures.

I woke up and suddenly realized that, as bizarre as that dream may seem, it was just as ridiculous as my recent behavior.

You see, the other day I had a mini-breakdown. I opened up Facebook, like I often do, but this time something was different. Everywhere I scrolled someone my age had bought a new big house, had a baby, was getting ready to have a baby, was planning a wedding or got the job of their dreams.

By the 30th status or so, I began to cry. Like give me a bowl of ice cream so I can stick my head in it cry. It was then that I began to see my keeping-up-with-the-Joneses was beginning to take its toll. That I have been apologizing for my life for years now, hoping that one day I will have something to back it up.

So here's the truth: I live in a very small apartment. Parts of it are cinderblock. Whereas before I may have said, "Don't judge it by the outside, it's a little shady," I now say-- judge it all you want. It may seem scary to you, but I have a redneck guy with a gun above me and a lady who looks like Madea across from me so I feel safe.

As far as my current employment, I don't "accumulate the financial reports for food services and assist the Principal in administrative tasks." I help check the kids into the cafeteria. I file papers and run errands. I mop slush off the floor after school. I barely make ends meet. I may joke about why I don't wear a hairnet, but then I go in the bathroom and cry.

I've had my car since high school. The steering wheel squeaks, my brakes squeak and my driver's seat looks like someone slashed it with a knife (no, it did not happen at my apartment complex!) But I love that thing. It has been ever faithful to me and seen me through many wrong turns, poor decisions and close calls with death.

This has been immensely therapeutic. Why? Because I'm tired of trying to keep up. I'm tired of being envious of things that I don't have. I'm tired of trying to impress people who wouldn't even be impressed with better answers. The problem is not theirs-- it's mine. I am responsible for my happiness and for where I find my joy. And it's obvious that houses, cars, and careers are not where it's at.

Truthfully, no one has been a harsher critic than I have been. I put thoughts of scrutiny and disappointment in your head that probably weren't even there. I felt like I was ranking in below my potential and have carefully avoided favorite professors and mentors, their expressions of disgust an illusion depicting my own face. Instead of being happy for you, I secretly coveted your blessings.

People who so routinely say, "Ya gotta start somewhere" to people dealing with this problem don't quite grasp the severity of the issue. Instead, at first, I would say: Quit apologizing for your life. Stop putting yourself and everything you own down before you even give other people the chance to. Don't wait for everything to line up before you start your life. It will pass you by before you do.

So here's me saying I'm NOT sorry. I don't want to be here forever-- actually, I want to be out say...tomorrow. But I can't. But I'm not going to hibernate until I have something that the world says is presentable. So, feel free to join me in my old Toyota, meet my new neighborhood and visit my place of work.

And I can breathe easily knowing I don't have to put on a show anymore, complete with unicorns and Mario Kart characters.


Blogger HannahKey said...

Really liked this post, Ashton. I often find myself playing the same game, and it's just... stupid. You and I have countless things to be grateful for, and our material possessions are not what make us who we are. I love you :)

October 15, 2011 at 7:35 AM  

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