I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I remember waking up and my mom rushing into my room and sitting down and saying, “Listen, I know you don’t think I know what I’m talking about but I want you to do something for me.”
I was annoyed that she had woken me up before noon so I wiped the sleep from my eyes and blurted out, “What now?”
“Well they just opened the list for the Chicago firefighter test.”
“So that hasn’t happened in 15 years and you only have a small window to sign up.”
“I don’t want to be a fireman.” I scowled.
“I know but it is a really secure and honorable profession. You would only have to work 24 hours on and have 48 off. You would make decent money and you could have all the tattoos you want.”
This was the 90s so that last part slightly piqued my interest, but I still had no desire in becoming a firefighter, or having any job with even the slightest bit of responsibility then or possibly ever.
“Yeah, okay. Whatever, mom.” I said, pulling the covers over my head.
“I just know how difficult the job market is right now and you’re not in school and you would have great insurance and a pension and… ”
“Mom! Stop.” I shouted. “Can you please close the door behind you?”
Twenty years later, I find myself on the phone with a good friend who is telling me about her dating problems. She tells me about how all the men in her life are superficial and only want to date her because of her looks or lose interest when she refuses to have sex with them and she just can’t figure out why all of the guys in bands who are in their 20s continually want the same thing.
“They can’t all be like that, right?” She asked.
“No, of course not.” I said, “But the problem is, you keep dating guys who are in the middle of their adventurous era of their lives and you expect them to want to settle down when they meet you. While that would be nice, it’s not realistic.”
“I know.” She said. Then proceeded to continue to go out and date the same guys in bands in their 20s who continued to disappoint her, month after month, year after year.
One of the few things that I have learned through this process is that money, looks, security, and spontaneity are all fragile and can, and often will, fall apart. If you find yourself attracted to people because they possess the same superficial attributes, you are only setting yourself up for failure. This is probably something you’ve heard before. Something you have seen hundreds of memes telling you to love people for “who they truly are and not what things they possess”. And probably most of the adults in your life have told you over and over because they have been on their own journey of falling in love with guitar players and hot guys in college bars. But the sad truth is, one day that guitar player will lose his waistline and his hairline. His band will break up and he will be the guy loading and unloading trucks at the local Home Depot. And while that is all good and fine, you won’t see him as Robbie from Final Warning, he will just be Robbie the wedding singer.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I have lived enough years since my mom woke me up to put my name on a list that I can now realize just how right she was. I should have rolled my lazy ass out of bed and listened to her because it would have been amazing to have become a Chicago firefighter. She knew more about me than I did because she had lived enough years to know what would make my life easier in the long run. But you can’t tell a 19 year old kid about shit because they seem to have everything figured out – careers and relationships alike.
Listen to the people who came before you. Not just the people who have been through the dirt, but the ones who have managed to survive and thrive. Look to the people who are happy and find out everything you can about what they know. And I can tell you for a fact the almost every single person you have ever met that has been in a happy and healthy relationship has not been one based upon possessions, what band they’re in, and if they can get you backstage. Sure, those are nice perks but they amount to nothing more than the garnish and plates that your food is served upon. The only way any of us can expect to thrive and survive in a healthy relationship is to recognize the difference between what looks pretty the table and what feeds our soul.