Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Think I Might Secretly Be Fifty Years Old

I've noticed that I've become uncharacteristically open recently. For most of my life, I was that guy who people confided in, but never really knew anything about; the kind that was always there to lend an ear or a hand, but never a mouth. Sure, I'd talk, but I'd never really share that much about myself. I was there more to listen.

I've never really been fond of talking about myself. This blog might tell you otherwise, but you’d see what I mean if you met me in real life. I always thought that one socialized to get to know people, and you only really get to know people if you shut up and listen. How else are you going to know your girlfriend’s dream city (San Francisco), your brother’s occupational frustrations (he hates his job and wants to write for a living), or your buddy’s religious views (a personal mix of his own beliefs, including some Eastern philosophies that my college classes failed to bring up; PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITY PHILOSOPHY FAIL) if you don’t shut your yap and listen up? And what kind of selfish jackass would you have to be to not get to know the people you choose to surround yourself with?

And yet, here I am, suddenly pouring my heart out to those people I just mentioned. I'm no longer just the guy who was there to listen to you, but the guy who needs you to listen from time to time. I have no idea what brought this change about me. Could it be that I'm happier these days? That I'm enjoying life so much that I just have to share it? Maybe it’s because for the first time in God knows how many years, I feel like myself, and that finally gives me license to talk about myself. I've opened up about life, love, and the joys and tragedies that come along with them, and I have to say, it feels pretty damn good to get things off your chest.

It also made me realize just how selfish I was in being just a listener. Here I was, keeping my mouth shut because I wanted get to know my loved ones, but I was denying them the chance to get to know me in return. Socializing is about getting to know other people, but I failed to acknowledge that it works both ways. People want to get to know me, no matter how mundane I think I am. Heck, it’s what they learn about me that makes me a lot more interesting as a person.

Case in point – the incident that occurred shortly after last Sunday morning’s Basketballapalooza. After a very satisfying series of games (read: 6), my brother and I found ourselves stranded in the Valle Verde II covered court. We were supposed to walk our way out of the village and find a cab, but the schizophrenic weather we’ve been having stopped us from doing so. We decided to wait it out by cooling down and shooting a few casual hoops.

(Aside – I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I played shirtless while waiting for the rain to subside. Lauren, if you’re reading this, it’s not as alluring as you might think. Imagine my tiny little man-boobies jiggling along as I ran. Yeah. Grampa was balling.)

Somewhere along the line, I decide to talk to my brother about one goal I've had in my head ever since I can remember it’s that before I die, I want to make a positive imprint in at least one person’s life. I've always figured that if I could do just that, I could die feeling fulfilled.

See, I was a weird little kid. While other boys my age were either formulating grand schemes to save the world or wondering what was for dessert that night, I was thinking about how one person could possibly make the world a better place. Sure, there are those who start movements that enrich the lives of others, and revolutionaries who initiate campaigns to improve the world as we know it, but for every person who does so in a benevolent manner, there is a Hitler. If we hold sway over masses and convince them that our way is right, we gain the power to control them. With that power, we have the potential to oppress. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of merit to uniting people under a good cause, but mob mentality can cloud your perceptions. You might not be able to see that though your intentions are noble, your methods aren’t. It’s happened way too often in history for people to ignore that.

And so, at an age way too early to do so, I decided that I wanted to remain one of the little people. Instead of putting all my efforts into one of mankind’s greatest movements, I wanted to focus on the people around me. I knew that it was unrealistic to think that someone like me could change the world without majorly fucking it up (I know this might be my lack of self-esteem talking, but bear with me), but I did know that it was possible to improve the experience of life for one person. I can at least change that person’s world for the better.

So what does this have to do with my death? As I told my brother that afternoon, I've always thought that there wouldn’t be a lot of people crying at my funeral. There wouldn’t be so many souls distraught enough to break down in tears. I... just don’t see myself as that significant of a person. Let’s face it – most people I know (at least in my childhood to teenage years) think that I'm some selfish prick who’s way too deep inside his head to be worth shedding tears over. I've never been the charming one, or the funny one (not too many people share my sense of humor), or the one fawned over by legions of classmates and co-workers (that would be my brother). What I'm not is the guy you’re just plain happy to see. I'm not the one people call out to the moment he walks into the room (again, that would be my brother).

Which is why I suspect that if I ever become a disembodied spirit and have a chance to eavesdrop on my own funeral, I'll be hearing a bunch of things I wouldn’t like. For one thing, I'm pretty sure my mother will utter the word “sayang” when talking about me. “Marco was such a smart boy. It’s too bad he never went to med school.” I also know that my mother isn’t the only one who would think so. Others would just mourn the fact that I was gone, and nothing else. I'm not going to be terribly missed by those people because A) They never really got to know the real me; and B) I just wasn’t that likeable. If that’s the case, then I'd have lived a sad experience and probably deserved to die. Maybe that’s why I've always envisioned myself getting run over – at least the tragedy would magnify the impact of my passing and give people something to talk about.

All that, though, would be fine with me if there was someone out there I'd be sure was thankful that they met me; that I made a positive enough imprint on them that their life was actually better for having known me. I want to at least know that there will be at least one person out there who will both shed tears and smile at my funeral. At least then, there’d be substantial evidence that I was loved.

Of course, I know now that there will be a few people like that at my funeral. I know that several people will mourn the loss of someone they truly loved. I know I should be satisfied, but I'm not. I'm young. I can still make a positive imprint on other people’s lives, so why stop now? Why not keep spreading the love, little by little, person by person, until the day you just can’t? I may never become significant for my achievements, but I can make myself significant to other people by loving them.

And so we have the current meaning of my life – to make a positive imprint on the lives of the people I love. No need for grandiose movements, nor for the adulation of masses; I just want to live my life the best I can, by making the lives of those I care about better.

I think that’s worth being open about.

Oh, and about the title – my brother’s reaction to the Sunday talk: “Why are you having a midlife crisis now?”

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