Self Destruction as a Means to an End
Stream of Consciousness #8
Up is like down when standing atop a building
One step forward, blink, and the lights go out
One step backward, blink, and the lights are still on
But are they really still on?
Because you may have avoided one death,
But at the same time you just faced yourself with thousands of other possible deaths
But yet you are alive
And you have the chance to elude those other deaths
Yet if you took that step forward
The lights would be out
And there would be no worries
But why would you give up so easily
Without even a fight
Without even thinking about it…
Up is like down when standing atop a building
The higher you go, the closer you get towards falling,
Hitting the ground
One of my old friends was in town this past weekend. Actually, relegating him to the term “old friend” would be doing him a disservice. The truth is that he is one of my closest friends, both in mind and spirit, despite meeting him at a later stage in life (by later, I mean my freshman year of college – to me, an old friend would be someone from my childhood). Although we have been operating our respective lives in different cities for a few years now, I still felt the same sense of warmness and camaraderie that you feel when connecting with someone you spent the formative years of your life with. A year of living under the same roof of a shitty, downtrodden campus house is a bonding experience that cannot be replicated in many other walks of life, for better or for worse.
Naturally, I was expecting us to have a vintage night on the town, drinking, smoking and whoring our way to an early grave, Robert Baratheon style, all starting with that first sip of the sweet nectar of the Gods. So you can expect that I was surprised when I saw him pass on that coveted first sip at our first stop of the night, opting for a soda instead. Immediately I knew something horrible had happened to him. This was the same person who I once witnessed steal the entire sweet tea dispenser from the campus McDonald’s after a long night of debauchery. Who once put a live earthworm inside of a Natural Light, who then proceeded to shotgun it, and shortly after piledrove a smashed car with his right elbow, WWE style. Who had the nerve to call a legitimate taxi to take him home after a failed date party, only to ditch the ride halfway through at a red light (as you can tell, this friend also has the innate ability to vividly recall specific details of events.)
What could possibly bring my friend to quit the bottle cold turkey? I knew the answer, but was hesitant to ask, as it (unfortunately) is a touchy subject in today’s world. But he did the deed of telling us himself as the rest of the crew indulged in the first round. Three months prior, my friend had received the proverbial wake-up call in the form of a DUI; I will not elaborate on the details, but it was not pretty to say the least. He went on to explain his sobriety, which in part was forced due to probational obligations, and in part was voluntary, as a form of self-atonement and flagellation for committing a crime that can cause an innocent bystander or passerby to pay the ultimate price. The look in his eye and tone in his voice was earnest and somber, and knowing him well, I sensed deeply that he was hurting, yet stumbling ahead in dealing with the consequences of his actions, something that him and I are more than used to at this point in our respective lives.
These next few sentences (or paragraphs, I have no idea how it will flow out at this point as I type out these words, which is the beauty of the stream of consciousness style of penmanship) are going to sound horrible, irresponsible, hypercritical, and borderline demeaning to the reader. And that is perfectly fine. I hope that if you judge myself or my friend, you come to forgive us both in your heart, despite not knowing us on a personal level. I could attempt to beat around the bush, to dodge the soul-crushing, blood-splattering bullet that is growing up, to skirt around the edges and speak in generalities, but I will not do that to you humble readers. You deserve to hear the truth.
And the truth is that when I heard my friend had picked up a DUI, I was not surprised in the least bit. In fact, I was slightly relieved that it was “just a DUI”. Because the number of times that his poor soul has eluded the calling of total annihilation is borderline unimaginable. To give you one deeply conflicting example; I will never forget the time when he drove two hours to see his girlfriend after a long night of drinking at the bars in an attempt to save his flatlined relationship. There is no doubt in my mind that he was well over the legal limit. Unfortunately, we did not have the ability to stop him, as he had managed to conceal his intentions from us until it was too late for us to stop him (he is still with the same girl to this date and will undoubtedly be sharing the gift of marriage with her in a few years).
What he did was irresponsible, dangerous, and outright stupid. My housemates and I did not hesitate to express those sentiments to him upon his return. And he did not try to justify his actions - he apologized. But he also insisted that if he did not make that ill-fated trip, his relationship would’ve ended right then and there. We had no choice but to believe him; he is one of those people you meet in your life that is trustworthy to a fault. Many of you redpilled readers may be wondering if there is a single female on the planet that is worth risking life and limb for in such a dramatic fashion such as this one; I will answer that by saying that I know my friend like a brother, and it is difficult to imagine another woman accepting him for who he is. But that is beyond the scope of this stream of consciousness.
It just goes to show you the type of person he is. A man willing to sacrifice everything, most notably his own life, for the sake of the mission. For something greater than his own flesh and bones. He is a character out of a Shakespearean tragedy. A bat out of hell. A loose cannon. I could dedicate an entire page to describing my dear friend with commonly used idioms.
That’s the thing about self-destructive personalities – they bury the emotions deep inside of them, and they fester, sometimes for months at a time, before one day the volcano finally erupts, and scorching hot lava is spewed in every direction. On the surface, everything seems fine. But they are one minor inconvenience away from an angry outburst, substance-induced poor decision, or even worse – an action that I will not mention by name but is referenced in the poem at the beginning of this stream of consciousness.
Sadly, I fear that I know the origin of his ruinous tendencies. My friend is a kid who spent his entire childhood and young adult years with the odds stacked against him. Growing up with an absent father and an unstable mother is a situation that no child should ever have to endure. To be honest, I do not know many details about his younger years beyond what some of his childhood friends have told me, but it is enough to draw conclusions that it was rough - food stamps, perpetual relocations to seedy neighborhoods, alcohol abuse, and constant anxiety from spiked cortisol levels.
Despite being dealt a poor hand in the poker game of life, he persisted, overachieved in high school, managed to graduate from a top Finance program in 3 years (even with changing majors), and is now a few years away from becoming a level III CFA and partner at his wealth management firm. And that is just his career, which is a small drop in the bucket of his success in the world.
It is this same friend who I owe a good portion of my recent success in the fitness world to, not because he was coaching me up and giving me specific workouts and diets to follow, but rather he showed me how to unlock my true physical potential. Five times a week for two years straight, him and I were in the rec center for 90 minutes at a time, screaming in each other’s ears, pushing each other to the best we could possibly be, and sharing plenty of funny and angry moments along the way. No doubt it was toxic; I recall a time when he refused to talk to me the rest of the workout after I helped him on a bench press personal record attempt when he insisted that he could have got the weight up by himself (he was wrong, but there is little room for sensibility in the world of powerlifting). Not a single teammate, coach, or friend had motivated me in the way he did, and I no longer need to seek external inspiration for physical achievement because he proved to me that it all came from within.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that him and I had an eerie amount of interests, beliefs, and personality traits in common. There was the surface level stuff, like a desire to move heavy metal objects around and emo music. But going even deeper, I realized that we both had an inclination to pull the floor out from underneath us and free fall until everything hit the pavement when things didn’t go our way. Of course my reason for being like that had nothing to do with my environment or upbringing; compared to him, I lived like a prince growing up.
Rather, I hypothesize that the reason I felt the need to self destruct is due to a combination of shortcomings - an unrelenting need to put unbearable amounts of pressure on myself, the feeling of anger when coming up short on performing due to inadequate preparation, and flat out being a spoiled, stubborn little brat at times (a trait that all first born children possess).
I had no business getting myself intentionally ejected from baseball games with my mid-inning outbursts after a questionable third strike call or ugly groundout. Yet I insisted on arguing with umps and deliberately taking out opposing 1st basemen when things didn’t go my way. Deep down, I knew that I had fallen short somewhere in my training. Those half-assed swings at the end of batting practice were coming back to bite me. That extra bucket of balls that I didn’t hit off the tee were haunting me as I rolled over on an inside fastball. There was no reason to self-destruct in those situations other than to externally project my anger and frustration on the people around me and hope for a mutual feeling of sympathy and understanding, which is uncomfortably delusional in hindsight.
And there are plenty of other scenarios in my past where I self-destructed with either an angry outburst or complete withdraw from society (the most recent one happening a year ago, where I excommunicated myself from my friends and family for a month straight in the midst of my unemployment spell, it all culminating with me blowing my entire tax return in a few weeks max betting on European basketball).
This stream of consciousness has turned deeply introspective despite having zero intention to do so. I do not wish to drag you through broken glass that is a therapy session, but being over 2000 words deep at this point, there is no turning back.
The poem I included at the beginning of this essay is from a larger project I completed during my freshman year English class. It is over a decade old at this point, and though I will admit it is poorly written and overdramatic, I find it interesting that those feelings of self-destruction and deep, dark introspection still existed in the past.
Which makes me think that for a long time, I have had this character trait. And I must admit that I have mellowed out in my older, more wiser and more mature years. Rarely do I feel the need to physically destroy something in a fit of destruction and ire. Or rather I do feel that emotion, but I have gained control over it to the point where it never manifests in the real world.
This is the final paragraph I will write on this topic because it has made me horribly uncomfortable. I took a break to re-read what has been written up to this point, and I vehemently despise it. However, it has already been manifested on this digital piece of paper, so it must stay - it’s like trying to suck a pat of toothpaste back into the tube after it has already been dispensed- simply not possible. This post will likely get deleted in a year’s time. The idea of attending church has never felt more relevant and needed than at this very second of my life. Self-destruction is an ugly, nasty personality trait that will lead you down more bad paths than good. Whether it is the urge to start dealing hard drugs with the hope of getting shot and killed in your own home one peaceful afternoon, or simply the temptation to throw a plasma TV off the balcony after a phone call with a coworker goes poorly, it likely will not end well, regardless of the medium of projection. Yet with the need to self-destruct comes the feeling of a general disgust in one’s life. And no self-improvement hack or motivational speaker will carry you as far as that feeling of disgust will. It is your one-way ticket out of personal hell. There are likely safer, more productive ways to hit rock bottom. And there is no guarantee that hitting rock bottom won’t leave you six feet under in a wooden box. But the feeling of clarity and realization that things can only get better is more addicting than the most intoxicating substances on the planet. Your personal devils want nothing more than to be employed. That negative energy is more powerful than you can even imagine, and projecting it onto positive endeavors will bring beauty and triumph into your life.
“In this moment of seemingly eternal darkness, I have come to see my own light shining bright through the shadows of my actions. I have been stripped down to my bare flesh and bones, and there is no longer a veil of repressed emotion to hide behind.”
- Tony Z, circa May 2021, via a recently discovered Word document
…She removed my shirt, revealing the silver Cross that hung between my pec muscles. It was a gift from my mother, and this thought was racing through my mind as I scrambled to remove it from my bare body. She asked me why I was taking it off. I told her it was sinful to wear it and that I wanted to stray from God. She looked at me with her devilish eyes, brown as the freshly tilled fields of the Great Plains, and told me not to worry - “I will bring you closer to God”.
Humble Wordsmith/Amateur Poet