Wednesday, January 30, 2019

ON BEING HUMAN

When I was growing up, as many millions other people would have when they were growing up, I heard the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I think this is definitely an inspiring question, but it also feels a lot like Disney. Disney tells you that if you are a good person, then at the end of the day, good things will always happen for you. If you are a pretty princess, you will always find your prince. If you work hard enough, then you get to be what you want to be. Outside of Disney movies, it isn't so simple. You can't just be an astronaut if your country doesn't have a space program. Love doesn't magically happen and continue happily ever after. Sometimes you fall in love and they live ten thousand miles away from you. If you're born in Asia, in a conservative religious family, sometimes what is expected of you is wildly different than what is expected of a person born in America. I have many close female friends in Singapore, but across all my social circles, I have never been able to discuss female masturbation. It is a taboo, and I wonder if any girls in Singapore have close friends that they talk about it with. I wonder if I just have to increase the variety and diversity of my social circles. I was walking on Union Sq/4th Ave, and I met a homeless black man. He pointed out my Marceline boots, and then he proceeded to have a 30-minute session telling me about James Jackson and Emmett Till. James Jackson is a white supremacist who used a sword to kill a homeless African-American man two years ago, and James Jackson is on trial now. James Jackson said himself, that he feels angry when he sees black men go out with white women. When James Jackson was growing up, I wonder if anyone had asked him what he wanted to be, and I wonder if he'd thought he wanted to be a white supremacist who kills black men. In the Hamilton musical, the theme of leaving a legacy is a strong recurring one, and Alexander Hamilton never saw the legacy he left behind, he died before receiving any real recognition. In Michelle Obama's Becoming, she highlights that even though she did work hard and stayed in school and was a planner and an exceptional lawyer, and became the first black First Lady of the United States, the work had been put in generations before her own efforts had started. Her great-great grandfather had been a slave, but her grandparents worked hard, and her parents worked incredibly tirelessly, to make sure Michelle Obama and her brother got everything they needed to climb out of the South Side of Chicago. The idea of a legacy unbalances me, I don't think I want kids, especially because of climate change, and I have no idea what kind of an Earth I would be bringing my children into. My parents didn't personally see me through a steady education, which I understand, because they had me when they were eighteen. I was ten when they were twenty-eight. I'm 28, and I don't even know what I'm doing with my life right now, let alone if I had a ten-year-old kid in tow. I think, what I'm trying to say is, what I'm trying to do is, somehow allow myself to feel better. Millions of people didn't become the things they wanted to be when they grew up. Millions of people aren't doing what makes them happy. Some people are happy because they wanted to have families and be good parents, and some of them have achieved that, at least. It's not what I want. What I want is to know that I have value in the world, even if I never achieved my ambitions, and even if I don't create a path for my kids to achieve what they want. I think the problem with Disney is it teaches you to crave positive outcomes by working hard, and sometimes that's not the case. I have been a good person, and I have lived bravely. If you ask me now what I want to be, I'll tell you I want to be an American. Yet the two are mutually exclusive. Even if I don't feel I belong in the country I was born in, even if the environment is not one that encourages and supports my happiness, I want to feel like a good person, that I have done enough to be human. And I think I have. Every time you feel a fear of failure, but take a step towards overcoming that fear, I believe it makes you human. Every time something bad happens to you, but you use it to understand other people and how they have been shaped, instead of allowing it to shape the person you are, you are human. Every time you recognise your behaviors have been problematic, and you look back on them and allow yourself time and space to learn and grow instead of never facing your issues, you are human. I have done enough to be human, and I can live with that.

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