Man of the People

For the longest time, I could have sworn I was an introvert. I loved spending free time by myself because I was free to do what I wanted to do. I could go for a walk and listen to music, grab a coffee, read a book, write, do whatever struck me at that particular moment. I liked the idea of not having to ask someone if I could do something. I didn’t have to ask permission from my significant other, I simply had to ask myself, and Adam usually said yes. Business was good.

I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the course of my twenties. Part of that is attributable to experiences, while the other part is the time I’ve spent alone with my thoughts. I spent a lot of time alone at my apartment when I lived in Brooklyn, while my roommates were either off at work or busy with school. More recently, at the job I just left, I spent a lot of time alone behind the wheel of a mini van. I had so much time to myself: time to listen to music, or podcasts, or books on tape. I had so much time to think and just be with myself. I had time to mull things over, to think things through. As nice as that time can be, I’ve realized that spending too much time with myself was a double-edged sword, that there’s a breaking point, and at some point I need to be around people.

I remember sitting on the couch with my roommate in Brooklyn and having a particularly deep conversation. I told him about my fantasy of moving to a remote locale, living in a cabin by myself, and not having to be hurt by any more loss. In this scenario, all I had to worry about was myself, and when my eyes closed for good, my existence would end. There was an odd sort of comfort that those thoughts offered. I couldn’t stand to lose anyone else I loved, but more than that, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to keep being a part of the human race. I’d seen so much of the ugly side of people over the last quarter century, and I wasn’t sure that society was something I wanted to continue to be a part of. Maybe it’d be better off for both of us if I just got up and left. I was sure that everyone in my life would get over my leaving, and that everyone would move on.

I remember making my social media status something like, “A career in public service is contradictory since I don’t like people.” I also remember being at a bar when someone asked me to give the human race a rating on a 1-10 scale. I said something like, “A soft 7.” I had a good laugh about that, but I’m not sure I was being honest with the strangers at the bar. I no longer feel that way, and I’m pretty thrilled about that. During that time in my life, I was still reeling. I was cynical and I was bitter. I was so bitter, so fed up with the hand that life had dealt me. Again, I felt like I’d seen the worst of human nature, and I just didn’t trust people. I didn’t like knowing what people could do to each other.

I’ve never had my heart broken, but I’ve seen relationships crash and burn because people stopped caring. I’ve been lied to. I’ve witnessed greed. I’ve seen people make themselves scarce when times have gotten tough. I have trust issues because I’ve put my trust and people and they’ve sent it right back in a body bag. I’ve had people withdraw from my life without having the common decency to tell me why. I always want to know why. I’ve had people withhold the truth from me, even though I’ve always made it explicit that I want honesty, no matter how much it hurts to hear.

There are moments I’ve wanted to curl into a ball and shut out the world, but after working for two nonprofits over the past year and a half, my mind is beginning to shift. Rather than focusing on the negatives and being consumed by them, I’m realizing how good people can be to one another. I’m realizing that these negatives are just part of the human experience, and I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with people who are selfless, who’d do anything for another person, possibly someone they don’t even know. I’ve been thanked for dropping off a piece of equipment by patients with tears in their eyes, and been so uncomfortable but felt so blessed. It makes me think of my Dad, not the man with ALS, but the doctor who always put his patients over the business side of things. Even though my Dad dealt with so many hardships in his life, he still saw the good in people.

I do want to be a part of this world. After a long break, I told my therapist that I don’t think anything is a waste of time if you end up helping people in the process. If I can help a single person, then maybe they’ll be compelled to help someone else, and so on and so forth, in some sort of ultra-positive butterfly effect. Anyone can be that person that changes the tides of negativity, that does something nice for someone whose had an awful day, without even being aware of it, without expecting anything in return. I’m starting to see the good side of humanity, and I’ve started to accept them and all their faults. Maybe I’m finally coming to terms with myself and who I’ve become.

I’ve always thought that I hated small talk, but you can find me in the supermarket, chatting up a cashier, wishing them a pleasant day and actually meaning it. We’re all people at the end of the day. We’re all born, we all live, and we all die. We all want so many of the same things in life, like a decent place to live, a family, happiness, the list goes on. No matter what color or religion or socioeconomic status, I think it’s incumbent on us as human beings that we treat others as fellow people because we are fellow people. I guess the overarching point would be that there is good in this world, good people, if you should choose to seek them out, and you could be one of them if you so choose.

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