I got mad yesterday—like ear steaming, red hot, high-pitched, erratic kind of yelling mad.
And, you know, I don't get mad often. I'm generally very level-headed, very calm. Unless, of course, I'm drinking wine, in which case, “level-headed” might not be the best choice of words. Just ask the guy who filed a bogus chargeback on his credit card recently. I don't play games. LET'S DO THIS, SON.
But yesterday I got mad for a different reason—nary a fermented grape in sight.
It all started when I was scrolling through Facebook, because don't all fucked up stories start that way?
Baby photo. Awwwww.
Birthday photo. Lookin' good!
Status update about weight loss. FML for that cheese quesadilla.
And that's when I saw it.
At first, it seemed innocent enough.
It was an enthusiastic comment from one of my old college friends to another college friend about a book that had just been released, coincidentally, by an author friend of mine. One friend asked the other to get it for him for his birthday. The other friend agreed, and mentioned she wanted a copy, too.
Naturally, I was delighted for my friend, the author. What a great feeling that must be! I popped an enthusiastic comment down below, remembering that all three of these people had, in fact, met one another at one point in time. How lovely, that my college friends were still supporting my author friend. Isn't it amazing, the impact you can have on people?
Some more comments were exchanged, and soon, I realized something ugly.
My old college friends weren't being supportive. They were being condescending.
They were mocking my author friend with their mutual exchanges of faked, fabricated, eye-rolling enthusiasm.
This was not genuine, but jealousy. And this made me incredibly angry.
I lost control over every cell in my body that urged me to be graceful, and instead, fired back a strong remark, which may or may have included the word, “asshole.”
My remark was met with a litany of apologies, and I soon closed Facebook, vowing to forget about it and move on.
But…their actions stayed with me for the rest of the night, poisoning my mood. For some reason, I couldn't seem to shake the bad taste in my mouth the exchange had left.
The entire thing seemed so transparent; wasn't this the kind of typical scenario in which most would reply, “they're just jealous?” Wasn't this the kind of immature, silly kind of juvenile behavior you saw happening among less intellectual crowds?
Yet, I found that difficult to reconcile in my head, because these folks were not of less achievement—these folks were intellectuals. These folks knew what it was like to grow up with relatively nothing, and then make their own path to success in New York City. These folks were people I had looked up to for a very long time. And these folks were passively aggressively tearing down someone I also look up to…all because he chose to make art.
And in that moment, that one little action, as simple as it was, struck me as a form of quiet, artistic terrorism.
Not the kind that physically harms people, perhaps, but the kind that mentally does. Even if my author friend would never know about their comments, I knew about them. And I knew their intention. And it was enough to spread a dark cloud on top of my own writing that day—not because their opinion would stop me from working, but because it reminded me of the dangers of putting your work out there. It reminded me of the quiet moments in between when we all self-doubt. It reminded me of every sentence I had deleted thinking, not good enough. And it reminded me that there will always be people out there saying that you aren't good enough.
And, you know, to some extent, I get it. They were sharing an inside joke together they had, for whatever reason. I can appreciate that.
But it also forced me to stick my flag pole a little deeper in the sand, make a big ass X in the dirt, and renew my own vow to keep creating, no matter who has something to say about it.
Because that's the thing—no matter who you are, and no matter who they are, someone will always have something to say.
Yet, I think we can take comfort in knowing that.
And I think we should take comfort in knowing that.
Because no matter what comes out of their mouths, it doesn't have to stop you from publishing your book; no matter what's whispered, it doesn't have to stop you from building your million dollar empire; no matter what secret opinions strangers have, it doesn't have to stop you from traveling the globe; and no matter what anyone says, it doesn't have to stop you from creating.
All is does is remind you to be proud of yourself.
Because while they're busy talking?
You're busy doing.
And I think we all know which outcome really gets the last laugh.