The other day, I was having a drink with a good buddy of mine. He’s the same Jewish dude dating that Asian gal I mentioned in another entry and he brought up a pretty delicate topic that he hasn’t really brought up in all the years I’ve known him. And that was that he “cuts” himself to feel something, you know what I mean? Granted, this was past history that he was bringing up to me but you may likely know about someone who does something like this. This seems to be a thing within the Millenial generation and especially so for the new generation that are coming of age. These partially suicidal but not fully suicidal folks who cut themselves to signify to the world that they are crying out to the world for attention, love, and what have you.
Don’t get me wrong when I say that though. I’m not trying to downplay why he did it or to belittle him into silence. I love my buddy. He’s been there for me in more ways than I can count throughout my first job and we’ve remained good friends after that job ended. And for him to want to share a private story, the more darker aspects of his life history, about him cutting himself back in the day is something that I’m honored to hear about, ya know? I would never share the darker aspects of my life history nor the darker aspects of my personality, for that matter, to any of my present friends because, well, most can’t relate to my unique situation. So for most people (and unfortunately, including my friends with the exception of my childhood friend who has literally grown up with me and saw why I was the way I was), I feel like they won’t be able to handle those darker aspects of my life’s history or my personality. It’s hard to say but it’s like one of those things where unless you’ve seen how far I’ve hit rock bottom as a kid (I’m speaking about my middle school years here), you won’t really understand where I’m coming from when I talk about it. As a result, I don’t really share those aspects about myself except with my childhood friend who does know about my past history and who does understand where I was at that specific moment in my life, where I’ve been, where I’ve sunken, as well as where I’ve just utterly given up on the possibility of happiness at such a young age, you know what I mean? That’s me, as a kid. And having dark thoughts, suicidal one’s at that and in utter misery and despair with no hope left in life even though I was, what? 11? Your life has to suck that bad to be having those kinds of thoughts at that age. And for me at the time, it was that bad.
My mom passed away when I was 8 and very abruptly without warning. My dad passed away when I was 11 and also very suddenly. We, as a family, struggled to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on the table. There was nothing I could have done at age 8 and 11 respectively to help my family bring some money in to pay for bills and food (because ‘Murica, understandably, has strict rules against employing children for paid labor). It fucking sucked major donkey balls to say the least and all the while, I had no real emotional support system because each of my older siblings were dealing with the death of our mother in their own way with no guidance on how to cope whatsoever so I was pretty much left to “fend for myself” in what little way I knew how.
And so when I hear about my buddy’s situation that he used to cut himself back in the day, it’s like, I get it. I understand why you would do that. I do. I really do. And again, not to downplay his miserable situation at the time, but it did not once cross my mind that I would want to cut myself for attention or for someone to give me pity. Not once. Back then, kids my age did not resort to cutting for attention. Back then, kids resorted to more traditional means like joining gangs and doing drugs. Yes, doing drugs at ages 11, 12, and 13. And not the weak stuff like ecstasy or weed. Rather the hard stuff like crack, crystal meth, or heroin. Thankfully, I never got into doing drugs but I did join a gang. And contrary to what many people would like to believe, I didn’t do it for the attention (because, well, it wasn’t like any of my family members were around to see it anyway). I did it because the gang provided me a sense of belonging, a family (outside of my blood family), and a safe space where the gang protected me where my blood family couldn’t (and for good reason too). It was survival of the fittest and since none of my older siblings could be there with me in school because 1) my sister was much older than me so she went to a different school, 2) my 3rd brother was also older thus even though we went to the same school, we had different classes, and 3) my 2nd bro was busy working to make ends meet so he was never really home much, if at all. Our eldest was not in the picture and remained so to this day. So effectively, there was no one that I could have been doing it for so I did it for the reasons mentioned above. Mainly, survival. You can imagine what it was like for me. It may not have been a war-torn African apartheid situation but it may as well have been because it felt that way when I was growing up.
Getting back to my buddy’s “cutting” story though, relatively speaking, he had it better, all things considered. Yes, he’s the middle child so effectively, he was that child that no one paid attention to because he technically had older siblings to look up to for guidance except that in his situation, it didn’t work out like that. His older siblings would beat him, bully him, and just make his life a living hell growing up as a kid. His parents would pay all their attention to the oldest (because they were suppose to pave the way for the family) and the youngest (because they can’t fend for themselves yet) and forgot about the middle child. I get it. It would have been just dandy if mom and pops had paid more attention to you because you were an overachiever just to get a sliver of attention from someone, anyone, within the family. But all things considered: his parents were still alive. Both of them. He had a house that he could live in, food on the table, and clothes on his back. And if nothing else, his father had a lot of connections if by some act of God, their financial situation went down to the tubes. It never did but they came close. Sure, his siblings may have made his life a living hell but what older sibling doesn’t do that to the younger one’s? I went through it myself and I’m the baby in my family. Relatively speaking, my buddy actually had it good, even though for him growing up, he felt like he had it really, really bad.
If I had to sum it up, I would liken his “growing up” experience with that of a rich family whose kid didn’t get an iPad for Christmas. And I would liken my “growing up” experience with that of an African kid in a war-torn country trying to survive the African apartheid. It’s basically the difference between first world problems and third world problems, even though technically, both of us were living in a first world country. They were definitely problems, albeit, different. His was more of a lack of attention of parental love while mine was more about survival. I didn’t even have time to think about whether I was getting love from anyone. The fact that he had the time of day to formulate that feeling into a cohesive thought speaks volumes between our respective family situations growing up. But this isn’t a game of Oppression Olympics that I’m trying to win here.
If I had to put it bluntly though, it’s just that I can’t relate to his situation. But I do feel for him and I do understand why he would do what he did. It’s just that, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t take that path. And I didn’t take that path.