Crimes and Punishments

It’s a weird place to find yourself in, to be sure, trying to figure out what was the worst thing you’ve done in your life.

To be fair, it’s not something we’re inclined to think about and for good reason. We’ve spent centuries teaching ourselves that there’s nothing really to be gained by looking back at the mistakes we made, while simultaneously propping up the cliche that Those who fail to learn the errors of history are doomed to repeat them.

One of the things I’ve had to accept about myself is that as unpleasant as it may often be, it’s impossible to not be always looking over my shoulder at the path I’ve traveled from where I started to now…and I don’t always find that to be a bad thing, either.

Considering how much time I was made to spend dissecting my history and the person I’ve become as the result of it with doctors and other supposedly learned and informed people, I suppose it’s only natural for that to have carried over to now through nothing more than good ol’ Pavlovian conditioning.

For me, the answer to the question of what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done is way too easy because it’s so blatantly obvious. However, that also comes with the factual reality that I was a child at the time, so depending on your particular attitudes, that can either be excused under some degree of rationale, or it makes no difference at all.

So taking that off the table for the sake of this argument, the question then becomes, what’s the worst thing I’ve ever done as an adult?

For most people, I would expect responses along the lines of perhaps cheating on their taxes or being unfaithful in a relationship or maybe being too promiscuous at some point or another. Maybe you experimented with drugs a few times in college or drank too much, or you wrecked your car, or you ran over someone’s pet, or a million other things which you carry as a regret, but on the whole, it’s not something which has had an overwhelming impact on the life you have now.

If being alone and relatively isolated for six-plus years gave me anything, it was time and space to take a long, hard look at myself and figure out where things started running off the tracks.

And as best I can tell from as objective a standpoint as I can take, the worst things I’ve done as an adult, crazy as it’s going to sound…is trying to make a better life for myself and letting myself fall in love.

Now I know what you’re going to say. ‘Hang on…how can you think that that’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? That’s what life is about!”

While I would agree with that observation, I would add that that is how it works for most people. And as I am constantly reminded with each passing year…I’m not now, I never have been and I’m probably not ever going to get in the same ballpark as most people.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pursuing goals or aspirations. To the contrary, it’s an intrinsic part of who we are as a species to be driven and ambitious as it’s part of our innate self-evolutionary process that spans our lives from the time we’re born to the moment we die. That process is also perpetually fluid and morphing as our interests change.

But the primary objectives for each of us has always been both universal and consistent. We all want a better life for ourselves and we want someone to share that life with.

For me, the unpleasant realities of my childhood and adolescence only made my desire and drive to meet those two objectives all the more intense and by the time I was out of high school, I understood that it was up to me to make them happen.

So I did, or at least I tried to, but what I wasn’t prepared for and really couldn’t anticipate was the amount of both passive and active resistance put up in my way by people who, for reasons I’ve never really understood, simply did not want me to get there.

To say that’s frustrating is a gross understatement. Battling with the Culture of No everyday just to get a step further down the line from where you were the day before takes a lot out of you. It saps your ambition and pushes your work ethic both to and often beyond its limits. It also leaves you wondering just what the hell you have to do to convince someone that you are worth their investment, whether that be professional or personal.

And I guess that’s where things started going awry, especially when it came to trying to tether my heart to someone.

In the interest of transparency, let me be so here. I fully recognize that I’ve always looked beyond my particular strata of humanity for potential lovers and I was reminded many a time that because they were out of my league, the likelihood of a relationship being cultivated into something that could span an indeterminate amount of time was on the downside of nil.

So when the opportunity presented itself to finally stop and have a chance to have that relationship with someone who somehow managed to find me attractive enough to want to be with, which was a complete rarity given how my life’s gone, both before and since, how could I have realistically been expected to turn that down when it’s what I’d been building up to the whole time?

Well…if you know me at all, then you know how it eventually went. I settled for being someone else’s trophy for close to 20 years, at the expense of the avenues of opportunities I’d had yet to explore. Worse, by the time it was over, the damage was severe enough that it destroyed any real chance for a possible relationship that kind of came out of the blue, but I found myself very much wanting.

Of course, it’s hard to not be subjective and biased about this because, after all, it’s my life and I’m looking at it through a lens which is designed to shroud the more negative parts of me that other people can identify more easily. Even so, I’d like to think that in spite of those uglier aspects of my personality, there’s enough remaining decency balancing it out to make me someone worth caring about.

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that I wanted those two things so badly that doing so seems to have guaranteed that I’m probably never going to have them.

If I’m truly guilty of anything resembling a crime at this point, it’s wanting to be happy, to which the punishment that was handed down is a life spent trying to get by without it.

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