I have two friends who do the same personal project: actively trying to be a better person every day. Let’s call these two friends Marie and Paul. They are both college students living in the Bay Area. They reflect a lot on what they do, how it affects other people and sometimes seek other people’s opinions as well. They have a list of things they want to improve about themselves and practice these every day. I was having dinner with Marie the other day when the waiter asked us if he could take our plates away. We hadn’t finished our meal yet. It was a busy night at the restaurant and we had been sitting there for a while.
Marie gave him a piercing i-will-murder-your-family look, and said:
“We are still eating.”
The poor waiter immediately apologized and backed off. I was a little surprised because Marie I knew was a sweet and shy person.
“I’m trying to be better at communicating what I want,” Marie said. “I have learned to have a better posture, how to be more rational and now I’m learning this.”
At that time, I had shrugged it off as one of those things New Age people do, like making kale snacks, eating artichoke pizzas and going to Burning Man. I was still a big believer in “be yourself.” I mean, how boring the world must be if everyone just acts the way we expect them to act? As an aspiring writer, I’m always on the lookout for interesting characters, people with big flaws, people who see the world in a peculiar way, people who are ready to fuck shit up.
For a long time, I knew I had some huge flaws, flaws so massive that every kind of assholery around just naturally gravitates toward me. For a long time, I was okay with it. I was moving around frequently enough that I never had to stay and deal with the consequences of any shitty thing that I did. I lost some friends–no problem, I could just find new ones in another country. I pissed some people off–that’s fine too, I would probably never see them again anyway.
But last night, after two years of staying in one city and seeing the same people every day, I had one epiphany. Being myself sucks. I keep hurting people and letting people hurt me. I need to become a better person. So I turned to Paul for advice. I chose Paul for three reasons:
- We had been good friends for the whole two years that I’m in the US. We had been living next to each other, traveling together and commiserating together. He had watched me trying to adjust to a sedentary life, and failing at it.
- He knows exactly how hurtful I can be. Two weeks into our trip to Cuba, I was trying to poke around his insecurity which led him to tell me that I was an asshole and I, upon hearing that, walked away without a word, abandoning him in the middle of the road. Paul didn’t speak a word in Spanish at that time.
- Paul is constantly trying to be a better person and it works. I had watched him grow from a cold, cut-and-dried kid to one of the kindest and most considerate people I know. When I first met Paul, I never thought I would want to be his friend. And now, I love this kid and I can’t imagine my life without him.
So I hit him up on Facebook.
Talking to him gave me an idea: every day I will spend 20 minutes thinking about shitty things I have done and write about it on my blog. Paul thinks that making it public will make me less honest about what do, as I will likely try to find a way to justify it. But I think, making it public means people involved will also be able to read it, therefore I will be more conscious about how they perceive the situation. It’s a risky business, but I’m curious to see how far I can push it.
So friends and family, if there is something I did or didn’t do that bothers you, please let me know. Please help me become a better person.