“These are times that try men’s souls”-Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (1776)
A few years ago, I felt like I was on top of the world; I had everything a young man finishing high school could dream of: great grades, recognition for talent, specifically in the area of film-making, and most of all a girlfriend. We had been together for the last 4 years, I had been smitten with her ever since the moment we were paired together in our foreign language class. While this may sound cliched, it had been the beautiful smile she gave me when I suggested my idea for the project that had made 14 year old me’s heart flutter. This is where the story begins. The day our fate was set in motion.
Shortly after the project, we became good friends, and I would spend the next two years conceiving ways to win her over. Now, I had taken a film production course in Freshman year, and I decided to put those skills to the test by creating my own project. Alas, a love-struck teenager doesn’t think through things as if I recall correctly, I decided to single handedly do a project more ambitious and time consuming than I ever realized at the time. Nevertheless, I worked my ass off on my goal, conceiving a script, recruiting my friends as voice actors, and requesting my school’s film studio to be set aside for my group after hours, a few weeks in advance. With all my preparations in order, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, as Murphy’s Law dictates “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” On the day of the shoot, my entire cast called in unavailable. Naturally, I was livid, as I had given them a week’s notice in advance, even reminding them the day before that we have a shoot that day, and none of them thought to tell me in advance they wouldn’t be able to make it on time! Despite all hope seeming to be lost, one cast member remained: that girl. Out of all my friends, she had been the only one who cared enough to stand by my side and help me to create my work. I was overjoyed by this turn of events, and not long after I revealed my feelings to her and we began dating.
Three wondrous and joy filled years have come and gone, with our tenure as high school students coming to an end. In the time that had passed, we discovered we had shared similar interests: Star Wars, snarky jokes, LEGO, etc. The future was looking bright and well, all until he came and ruined it all. Unfortunately, humans are inherently flawed creatures, with myself being no exception. In the span of three years, I had become arrogant, acting like a ‘big man’ or a stereotypical ‘jock’ archetype towards my fellow peers, often belittling them or hurting their feelings without a care in the world, for I had someone who loved me. Well, all the crap I had done came back to bite me, with some kid I had considered a friend discovering my relationship with that girl, and he told her the truth of what monster I was behind the veil she saw. It was promptly over; the dream had ended and I was now once again facing reality.
Fear. Anger. Sorrow. Pain. Darkness. All of these emotions came flooding into me at once when she told me our relationship was over. Left alone to wallow in my pain and misery, I sought ways to find and to lash out at those I felt were responsible for my fall. My friends didn’t notice much of a change, other than the fact I seemed more neutral rather than outgoing, as I had concealed the broken shards of my soul behind a mask of snark and sarcasm. But, with some prodding from my semi-estranged younger sister, who was concerned with my increasingly uneasy behavior, I underwent a journey of self discovery, realizing for the first time how much of a colossal jackass I had been to everyone else. With anger, self pity, and bitterness subsiding into immense regret and shame, I was no longer blind, seeing for the first time the monster in the mirror.
There is grace in one’s failings however; It is never too late to repent and make up for your past misdoings. Not long after, I made an effort to change my ways, patched up my relationship with my friends and my sister who I had, regrettably, been a terrible person to for the longest time, not giving a damn about her feelings or talking to her when she needed help. By the end of senior year, the jackass kid who had been blinded by his lust and pride, was dead. I was now a new man, so to speak, and that man lives on today.
Looking back, I realize how much of a jackass I had been, putting others down just because I could. While I am still tinged with a bit of sadness as I remember her, I push that aside as I recall the brighter moments we had shared together; I must honestly thank that kid who had told her the truth. As if it weren’t for him, I would’ve still been an unrepentant asshole. The past does not control us or define who we are; it shapes our future and paves the way for us to choose the path ahead.