some thoughts on arrogance
for anyone who happens to stumble by, let me put this in context. i wrote a blog a week or so ago after a conversation in which i was insulted and put down for my life choices–the latest in a semi-regular percolation of judgment directed at me for, among other perceived faults, my frequent moves and desire to find a job i like. it was also the latest in a similar line of thinking directed at people i love very much who, like me, have opted to travel with no money, be in non-paying bands, work a side job to finish a novel, etc. i’m not exaggerating when i say that people have been demonstrably judgmental toward me and my friends for our life choices. censure might actually be a better term. in some cases, outright disgust. so it was in that context that i ranted.
you’re welcome to go read the post. a commenter (i edited her name out of the post to give her some privacy) wrote that my blog was “amusingly arrogant.” i responded to her comment in depth, but it got me to thinking.
a lot of people just browse blogs. one of the reasons i don’t comment on other people’s blogs is because i really don’t know anything about them. i’ve never been called arrogant before, and it’s a bit perplexing. at first i felt offended. then i thought about it, re-read the blog, saw where she was coming from, and now i feel the need to defend myself.
i’m a pretty sensitive person most of the time. sometimes overly sensitive. when i lived in poland, i’d often walk around with standing tears in my eyes because i could look around and see the remnants of the second world war. see the memorials to those who died, talk to people my age for whom the reality of the war is still very real, because their grandparents remember what it was like to walk the streets of krakow and know that a nazi officer could round them up and force them to watch as someone was brutally beaten or shot, some remember seeing the barbed wire of auschwitz or birkenau or treblinka or majdanek from inside the fence.
i study history. one day, i walked onto the main market square in krakow, the rynek, and there were swastika banners draped across the beautiful, colorful buildings. there were soldiers in uniform with the same symbol around their arms. my heart turned over in my chest and tears filled my eyes. i couldn’t believe what i was seeing–the shock was extraordinary and painful. for the briefest of moments, i forgot that the year was 2007. for a moment i felt physical terror. for a moment, it was 1943, and the poland, the poland i loved, was filled with death.
they were shooting a movie. it wasn’t real. but even the memory of how i felt at that moment, knowing that millions of people truly experienced for years what i felt for the briefest of moments, knowing that millions of people around the world still know what it feels like to fear imminent death on a daily basis brings literal tears to my eyes.
i grew up in a family that moved a lot. i’m 24, and i’ve moved 27 times. soon to be 28. i’ve lived all around the country. we weren’t in the army–i don’t really know why we moved so much. but it gave me an odd perspective. the world feels small to me. i don’t think anything of a seven hour drive–people in montana drive that for a high school football game. the atlantic doesn’t faze me. the world feels…approachable, i guess. i can get out there and see it for the price of a plane ticket. the vast, vast majority of americans don’t even own a passport–but that’s a subject for another day.
i grew up in a family that makes half the amount of the poverty line. lowest ten percent of earners in the nation. my mother has a debilitating condition or three. my step-father has worked tirelessly ever since their wedding to even keep a roof above their heads.
i have worked since i was 14. i paid for all my own clothes, gas, everything. my mother is bisexual, and before she met my step-dad, she was involved with women for most of my childhood. this is not a bad thing to me. i grew up with very loving, supportive people, but i also grew up exposed to a huge amount of prejudice and cruelty directed at my mother and, by extension, me. i was awkward in junior high as it was, but the frequent moves and a lot of other factors forced me into a shell. i was one of the lowest kids on the totem pole in my small montana school. i was ridiculed and tormented, sexually harassed and publicly humiliated. i was afraid to even speak for years. i studied. i read avidly. i worked very hard.
over the past six years since leaving high school, i have paid my own way through a private university while working full time to support myself, learned two languages other than english, lived abroad for two years, been to 14 different countries, volunteered with churches, non-profits, and just random people simply because i wanted to give of myself. i finished my first novel six months ago, and i’m halfway through my second, as well as starting a third. in the past six years, because i plunked myself so decidedly outside my comfort zone over and over again, i learned to love myself. i learned that i am not deserving of ridicule and cruelty. i learned that i am fully capable of doing anything i set my mind out to do.
i don’t think i’m better or worse than anyone else. we only get one shot here. my life has been extraordinary thus far. i’ve stepped out upon limb after shaky limb when people told me it was reckless or crazy, but i had to do it. and i’ve made it through. we all do our best with the hand we’re dealt. this is what i’m doing with mine.
i do see how someone, randomly reading the blogs of strangers and specifically only reading a single post written in an hour of venting and frustration, would take my post as insulting. i am sorry for that, but if there’s anything i’ve learned through studying history, it’s that everything must be taken in its proper context if it’s to be understood. this includes the random blog entries that pop up here, there, and wherever in search results across this website.
i don’t purport to know better than anyone else how to do life. i haven’t the faintest idea how i would react in someone else’s shoes, if i woke up one morning and had been freaky fridayed into another world. but i do know that i am far from being an arrogant person. i’m sure i have arrogant moments, but i also have moments where i feel like i don’t measure up even compared to plankton. i have moments where i’m angry or scared, brave or exultant. i’m human. just like the rest of the world. being called arrogant hurt me. even though i’m confident enough to dance in a raging thunderstorm (like i did saturday) without a care to what people think, i still do care and get hurt when people make judgments based on limited information about me.
i’ll close this with a quote by marilyn monroe–one i like a whole lot. and another, by eleanor roosevelt. probably her most famous.
“i’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. i make mistakes, i’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. but if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
and from eleanor,
“no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”