The Golden Fool
I would like to think that everyday life consists of sunshine, smiles, cupcakes, and butterflies, but sadly, I know better. When I was little, I learned quickly that people can be mean, rude, and even sick in the head. I was a quiet child; I had one or two friends but was too shy to associate with many others. I was raised to be polite and if I forgot my manners, I was scolded in such a way that I wouldn’t forget them again. I was a compassionate and sensitive child. I cared deeply for others and never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I thought that others would feel the same. Surely they practiced the precious “Golden Rule” that I was intended to follow? We were all supposed to treat others like we wanted to be treated, right?
I remember taking ballet classes when I was about four or five years old. There were quite a few children in that class and we would wait in line to take turns practicing different moves in front of the teacher. One day, another little girl came up to me and pushed me to the floor. She wanted to go next and evidently didn’t feel that she needed to ask. All I thought was, “Why was she mean to me? I wasn’t mean to her. I was just standing there.” That was the last day I attended that class. I didn’t want to worry about being hurt again by that little bully. If I didn’t go back there, I wouldn’t have to encounter anything like that again. All of the kids I would meet in the future would be nice to me because I would be nice to them.
I held onto that disillusionment all through grade school and into middle school even though I should have known better. Time after time my optimistic expectations were torn apart. I kept holding on to the hope that things would get better. I couldn’t judge the rest of humanity by one little girl in a ballet class, or by five kids in my kindergarten class, or the bully in third grade, or by the whole sixth grade class that laughed at me. The list continued to get longer and I continued to be more beaten down. I reached a point where I was better friends with adults than I was with my peers. Adults knew the correct way to treat others; I was sure I could depend on them.
One day when I was at the boardwalk with my family, I was to learn another lesson. We split up in the arcade so each of us could play our favorite games. I was playing air hockey with my little brother when the disc was stuck out of my reach. A man had been standing there watching us and seeing that I couldn’t reach, he was nice enough to help. Or so I thought. Unfortunately he didn’t just touch the disc. The lesson? I couldn’t trust adults to treat me like I deserved to be treated either. Kids could be bullies, but adults could be sick and twisted and both could get away with it! This couldn’t be true. So I held onto my fanciful ideas of the world being a beautiful place to live. This was just a way to fool myself into continuing on with my life. If the world was full of sick, hateful people, then why keep going?
Over twenty-five years have passed since I was pushed to the ground that day in ballet, and I have been figuratively pushed to the ground every year since. I don’t write that to gain pity or to be dramatic, but rather to let others know they’re not alone. Sometimes it feels that all of the horrible things are isolated and everyone else has better luck.
Now I am witnessing my twelve year old daughter learning how humanity is not welcoming or sweet. I guess I will now reluctantly and regretfully give into the harsh realization. Rude comments, physical attacks, and rumors will never go away. Every generation will be plagued with it. So what is the root of all of the negative things that we experience day to day? Jealousy? Bigotry? Rage?
I think those are all effects to the cause- hate. You’ve heard, “Love makes the world go round.”, but I think what it does specifically is give us enough hope to make us keep pushing forward. It’s scary to think that one person, in a bad mood for any reason at all, can completely ruin someone’s day. Just as a consumer is more likely to talk about a horrible experience rather than a great one, a person will pass on a bad mood rather than a good one. It seems the mentality today isn’t led by the “Golden Rule”, but instead is rallied on with “Treat others any way you want!” So I admit that humanity, the way it is today, is the evil twin of the humanity I so naively expected to see as I grew older. That is not going to keep me from teaching my daughter to respect others. I want her to see the best in people, but at the same time, I want her to be prepared for the worst.
My daughter had one of her friends call her a bitch one night, and came to me distraught because she didn’t know why her friend would say such a thing. She came to me to make things better. I rummaged through my head for what to tell her. I consoled her, but ended with, “This kind of thing happens with friends, and it doesn’t change.” Why did I tell her that? I was being honest. I can’t dish out clichés for advice when she is witnessing me go through the same things with my friends, and I’m in my thirties!
There’s the act of being hopeful and then there’s being realistic. The trick is to find the right mixture of the two. I will just deal with the fact that there will always be hatred in this world. I will personally try not to add to it. I will smile at everyone, I will always have a kind word, and I will not talk about others. Leading by example is all I can do. I guess the only thing that is okay to hate, is hate, but that makes me sound hypocritical, so I’ll just say that I dislike it very much.