The Only Thing That Matters

A story of hate, resentment and the journey within

Early in my 20s, there was someone I once hated.

We both graduated from the same high school, but I didn’t know him well at the time — except for where he lived, having knocked on his door once in an attempt to fundraise.

At school, he was quiet, even reserved — the sort of person you’d likely forget, until years later, when rediscovered within a yearbook. So I wasn’t exactly surprised several years later, when I realized I had indeed forgotten him when being reacquainted as his coworker.

At work, we were amicable but couldn’t be considered friends, given the disparity of our interests in all things other than each other’s purchases — which, while surely could’ve been the common ground for a great friendship, wasn’t and was instead the reason behind such misguided resentment.

Because having grown up in a family that while wasn’t poor, but would still often struggle to make ends meet, you’re taught to be frugal and prudent. You make sacrifices and anything that wasn’t immediately beneficial for survival or unable to improve quality of life drastically — like all of the toys and games you wanted, were immediately rejected.

And when you’ve worked hard, because you detest the helplessness that comes from an inability to purchase that of what you desire, yet still always seem to be one step behind, it hurts.

And therein, was why I might’ve resented him: everything I ever mentioned wanting — even just in passing, he’d buy first, as if out of spite and mockery. It didn’t help pretending not to care either, because he’d just flaunt it in my face regardless:“Hey, look at my new sneakers! Aren’t they dope? I remember you wanted something similar right?”

In retrospect, perhaps what I hated wasn’t him, but rather the feelings of the very helplessness I had tried so hard to escape from; and having evoked those feelings within me, along with a self doubt in and of my ability to ever catch up, he became the bullseye for my resentment.

One of the days I remember clearest was of him walking, even swaggering perhaps, in the hallway towards our office. I see him because he called ahead to let me know his keys were forgotten and for me to buzz him in, and even though I suspected it to be yet againanother power play of sorts, when he approached, my heart sank — because he had bought the one thing I had truly desired: a 2002 Suzuki GSX-R, the motorcycle of my dreams.

It feels silly now to ruminate on such a past being almost a full decade later, but it makes me wonder: had he not flaunted his purchases so obtusely and had I not been so self-deprecatingly jealous, could we have instead been friends? Though I doubt it — it’s too difficult, even now to have imagined the same scenario without any conflict.

The conflict consumed me. I constantly felt the need to retaliate, so whatever he bought, I’d buy — except better. I did so, at the expense of selling everything I could (I no longer even had a couch) and had even given up money saved for a place of my own — just to defend my ego from his.

As much as I’d like to paint this story as an eventual success with me outworking and overcoming him, it isn’t. I never did beat him — not in terms of what he purchased anyhow, and it wasn’t until years later at my going-away party that I understood his intentions.

He had confessed, in an admittedly stuporous state, that he had always been envious of me — of my popularity with the other coworkers. The reason why he bought what he did was because he thought by doing so, he’d be more like me.

The idea of it was so preposterous at the time that I couldn’t help but disregard it, but what really surprised me was hearing how he afforded his purchases. It was so…simple.

To the one job I held, he had held three, working overtime whenever he could, whilesimultaneously studying to become an engineer because not only was his family circumstances worse than mine, he also knew intimately well — the helplessness that comes from the inability to purchase that of what you desire.

Oftentimes, what we really see are only end results to someone’s hard work — the money they’ve made, the awards they’ve won or the influence they’ve built, but rarely do we see their actual toil in progress.

The two years I knew him, I never knew him at all. I assumed him to be more fortunate simply based on the fact he was able to afford more than I could, when in fact considering circumstances, things might’ve taken him nearly twice as much effort as it would’ve me; yet, there I was, retaliating relentlessly all the while making assumptions.

I wish I hadn’t.

While the moral of this story may very well be interpreted as never making assumptions, the crux of it is to realize that despite appearances, despite all the successes from people we know in person or through social media — Facebook, Instagram and the like, we’re not alone in our journey.

The people we see with all their successes are mostly just like us, having at some point experienced the same helplessness and self-doubt as we have. They just don’t show it because it’s contradictory to the appearances we taught to uphold, but everyone starts at the same place; even the greatest of experts was once a beginner.

It is inevitable that the journeys we take will feel lonely and desolate at times, because they’re often more mental than they are physical, but knowing that we’re not alone and that success can be possible in even the most dubious of circumstances, is enough to give us hope.

And that’s really all that matters, because where there’s hope, there’s life.

A Story of Ironclad Persistence

And Why It's Not Always About Winning.

It’s summer, of 2012. My phone vibrates beside me, but I ignore it.

I’m in my parent’s garage, eyes glued to the TV. The garage is sweltering hot, like the insides of a sunbathed car, my only solace the dusty old fan dug out from the attic — but, I don’t care.

Because my attention at that moment, is on the screen, in London, on Kieran Behan — the first athlete I’ve ever been truly inspired by, participating in the 2012 London Olympics.

I don’t follow Behan because he’s talented or famous (although he does hold the title of being the first Irish gymnast to ever qualify for the Olympics), nor do I follow him because he’s particularly good-looking; I follow him because of his ironclad persistence — persistence that’s earned him the right to compete as an Olympic athlete, despite having had not one, but several injuries that left him immobilized for years at a time, including his very first injury when the doctor’s diagnosis was that he would never walk again.

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The Ordinary’s Guide to Becoming Extraordinary

The secret to unlocking your potential.

It’s 2:00AM and I’m sitting in the dark, typing furiously, having rewritten this post at least a hundred times now— possibly more, but I’ve long lost count.

The once imagined sentences — formed gloriously in my mind, are now on paper — sporadic and unwilling, a mere whisper of the post I had wanted to write.

I ask myself:

Is writing supposed to be this difficult?
Am I destined to forever be a mediocre writer?

These questions, along with many others, fill up my mind as I struggle not to fall asleep:

How is it that great writers are able to write so effortlessly?
How is it that the people we look up to and admire, especially those we recognize as
extraordinary, are able to achieve all that they wish?

Because if anything, the question I really want to ask most is:

How do ordinary folks, like you and I, become extraordinary?

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