“It’s your responsibility.”
“You’re the eldest and must be mature and set an example.”
“You just/must try harder.”
“Just shut up and do your work!”
“Don’t cry. It’s shameful and you’re making a fool of yourself.”
These are a few variations of the commands/rules lashed out at me as far back as my memory goes. I wasn’t given the opportunity to play or be child-like within my household/extended family and culture. I was six when I was saddled with watching my sister, two younger cousins and children of my parents’ friends. I did get to play but not freely; I always had to be on watch for any disappearances, accidents, signs of hunger, fights and bathroom breaks. I had to learn how to prepare simple meals, feed/change babies, soothe and carry the same babies, protect those younger and weaker from those much larger and stronger than even myself, to provide for and shelter my younger sister in the absence of my parents, to keep plowing ahead no matter how tired, confused and lonely I was. I accepted this as my inherited duty and rarely complained because there was no one to hear them and guide me. As I got older, the responsibilities grew with heavier consequences. Clean the apartment/house, head out into the wild of early 1990’s LES of Manhattan with a 8, 6 and 5 year old in tow to shop for groceries or whatever task. When I was nine and one of my greatest obstacles was beginning to darken my innocence, I realized with stark terror that there was nobody to help me! I cried out in agony to my ancestors to God to hear my plea and save my body from the brutality inflicted. Nobody heard and nobody answered.
I’ve always always been handed a burden, a responsibility much greater than my years and experience. I knew I was simultaneously the black sheep and a leader-in-training but with no master to advise me. It didn’t matter to my parents or relatives how much I strained to uphold and carry out my duties to their standards and if I cracked, my only option was to continue on: there were too many depending on me that a moment’s respite was unfathomable. It’s one of the worst feelings to be taken for granted and whipped harshly when you drop the ball in confusion, hurt or simple exhaustion. Bereft of kindness and genuine concern, I taught myself how to forge white hot anger and pain into a fortress that would allow me to take every and anything thrown my way: whether it was a duty, chore, challenge, criticism, unjust punishment, I had the tools of quick intelligence, astute observation and lightening quick response. I took my heart that wasn’t nurtured but was repeatedly tested with cruelty and crushed under disappointment and indifference, placed it inside a diamond solid vessel and knew that I would forever have for a heart, only the hardest of stone. I didn’t need anyone any longer: I had myself, my mind and my pleasures. I would never again rely on a another person for emotional comfort or stability (until the time came when I realized how incomplete I was w/o emotional growth). The essence of me would never be violated against my will ever again. Only those I deemed worthy would ever be allowed past the stony countenance and the best of luck to those seeking to capture a heart buried deep within a labyrinth of challenges demanding one to look deep into one’s self. I ask nothing of my friends except that they understand I will not put up with bullshit and that they strive to be someone they can love, to be better than the rabble overpopulating this Earth. Of my lovers, well that is another post for another day but in short, it is nothing less than what I seek in my friendships but a hell of lot more and then some…
The point of this entry is to illustrate the beauty of resolving to endure those personal trials that should serve to make you better, stronger. The reason people rely so heavily on you is because you are capable but you do not have to bear their burdens with your own against your volition; especially if they do not fully appreciate your ability, dedication and work. DO NOT sacrifice your happiness for someone else, ever!!! That is the first step to self-immolation – it shouldn’t be that way, don’t allow it. When that whip cracks and you struggle to pull that oppressive cart of overloaded duties, only do it for you, because you seek to gain something. When people seek you out to watch you break or worse, inadvertently encumber you with troubles because they do not value you, you can do one of two things. Endure until the pressure is relieved or impossible made possible so that you can triumphantly stand and face your opponent/oppressor and tell em to fuck off. OR tell them to fuck off and just walk away without ever tormenting yourself with inevitable failure. It’s at odds with what we are told starting from infancy: to give of ourselves to those weaker, less capable. But I believe that people who are “incapable” aren’t trying hard enough or at all because they are relying on your sense of guilt and duty to carry them around like an unrequited king. A little effort goes a long way and when people complain about not being given a chance, they want something given to them that they did not earn because just working towards a goal is a chance to change your situation.
Rejoice because you are not insane for feeling so wildly conflicted between your happiness and responsibilities: the two should never be in competition. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Rejoice because you now have a big piece of the puzzle to a relatively small question. Do you have to sacrifice your time, your joys, your very life for that of others? No, never =o)