Friday, February 2, 2018

When Life Knocks You Down, It's Not Because You're Weak

My father and I are very similar people with one major difference: I self-reflect a lot. He hits life fast and hard.

Dad is ambitious, driven, and tunnel-visioned. He doesn’t care about what people think, but does exactly what he wants to with no concern about impressing others or how he might unwittingly make someone an enemy. He taught himself guitar from a young age, constantly organizes bands, starts businesses, and goes after what he wants.

However, he’s a target.

I despised college. To sum up why, I direct you back to the day when freshmen were touring the theatre department and as I sat there minding my own business, my professor pulled me in and said, “You can do your own projects! This little lady’s is premiering next week!”

He had actively been trying to sabotage it since day one.

I did several productions during that time, being like my dad and going after what I wanted. I saw the resources at hand, and I figured out how to get them. But competition for resources inherently yields hostility, even if those resources weren’t being used in the first place.

I learned that there’s a type of person who likes control even when they don’t have the desire for anything to change. It’s not that they care what anyone else is doing, but that they need to be the ones to dictate it. They need to feel like they have the authority to say no, and unfairly exercise that right when it’s freely given. But my professors were anti-confrontational, so if you didn’t give them the permission to say no, if you acted like it wasn’t even an option, they would begrudgingly allow you to do whatever you wanted, just secretly try to ruin you as you went along. I had to fight them the entire three and half years it took me to get my bachelor’s degree.

I claim that college didn’t teach me much—it was the same classes I took in high school with a little more apathetic teachers—but I actually had some hands on learning experience that you can’t buy. I learned how to deal with jackasses and I learned the importance of playing nice with others.

At one point, I encouraged my shy, kind friend to produce something with me, but when we discussed it with the professors, they directed all of their comments to her and started to apply their passive-aggressiveness into convincing her to make the project they wanted her to do, not what she had first envisioned. I realized quickly that I’d be taking on the lion’s share of the load without any respect while having to fight my co-producer the entire way. I abandoned the project right after that meeting.

After that, I had learned the need to stand your ground while simultaneously knowing how to play the game. It’s a balancing act I’ve fallen down from many times, but I have always been able to take in a saboteur’s attacks with a grain of salt.

One thing that surprises me is that even though my dad is forty years older than me, he seems to not recognize when someone is acting ridiculously.

When you go out of your way to do something, something that doesn’t make you money, something that requires herding cats, something that most people don’t have the motivation or dedication to do, you will encounter people who try to destroy your hard work, push you out of your own project, and just get needlessly involved in your life.

I see my dad do great things. He is a master musician, a retired green beret and Vietnam War vet. He builds houses from scratch, starts business and bands out of nothing, and has been a wonderful father to two children. Yet he gets screwed over by people more vicious than him and seems to think it’s because he’s not good enough, because he’s not a valuable contributor.

I may be a pompous windbag, and at times I induce the competition for the sake of my pride, but I want to say that I know many people who are talented, hardworking, and insecure, and I can only offer that if someone is actively trying to push you down it’s simply the price of going after what you want. Jealousy and control issues are common amongst the human race. Sometimes conflict arises and it’s not because you were a douche or weren’t doing your job well enough, it was because you attracted the attention of someone who wanted what you had. They’re not your problem.

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