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Re-Evaluation, January 3, 1999 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

the soapbox @ benturner.com
archived soapbox: January 3, 1999
"Re-Evaluation" [permalink]
    keywords: personal, history
    soapbox #: 168
    written: January 3, 1999
    words: 2086

"Re-Evaluation", an Essay

Where's the pMac? The Mac geared specifically towards people who want to gain access to pornography in less than fifteen minutes? Think different(ly). A huge consumer segment still untapped...

Anyway. It's 1999, folks. It's the year we're going to get so fucking sick of 2000 by December that we'll be begging for mercy. It's the year our President is getting the shaft instead of giving it, the year the Internet goes worldwide (yeah yeah), the roller coaster car going up to the top of the climactic hill, the year 2000.

This is the first Soapbox I've written since Anna arrived to spend Christmas with me. I will probably speak my mind about the thrilling, wonderful, fulfilling Christmas I spent with my Swedish alskling in a later Soapbox. But now is the time when I name the next year of my development, and when I explain why I named it as such.

Last year's Soapboxes were collectively called the Materialization. I think I hit that one on the mark. It was the first year I actually made a decent sum of money on my own, without parental help or school ties or any of that. It was a year of maturing and growing up, becoming more of a responsible adult. The skills and education I had acquired in the past began paying off in the form of material compensation in 1998. I even got a system I could actually brag about, a nice 448MHz/128MB RAM Win98 box. (and I am still accepting donations for the Help Ben Upgrade to a High-Speed Connection Fund)

At the end of the year, as you can tell from some of the recent Soapboxes, I discovered new ways to look at myself, and I gained a better feel of how other people perceive me. It disturbed me. I ended the year alienated from everyone around me. I was hurting, and I didn't look at myself with such narcissism as I have in the past.

This year, 1999, is the year for a Re-evaluation of myself. By the end of this year, I will be a senior heading into my last semester at UT Austin. After that, I will be getting ready to graduate (hence, the next year's Soapboxes will be categorized as the Graduation), and looking to score the most interesting, well-paying job I can find. That's when my career officially begins, dammit! It will begin the journey I will undertake for the rest of my life! This year, I need to just take a break, look around myself, look in the mirror, and re-evaluate who I am and what makes me both powerful and weak.

I need to do this because I realize now that I have lived under many prejudices of youth, inexperience, and arrogance, and it has for too long harmed me. It has taken a toll on how I perceive myself, how others perceive me, and how receptive I am to learning.

I can't remember, but I think it was in Snow Crash that Hiro Protagonist (?) said that all teenagers at some point think they are invulnerable, that they are gods. And then one day they grow up and realize that they're not. I'm wavering between the two, already.

I have prided myself in thinking that my life is leading up to something extremely successful, where I am the talk of the town, the expert in my trade, the go-to guy for wisdom and success stories. But I've met a lot of different people this year, and I've thought a lot about what I've accomplished and what I'm likely to accomplish in the future, given my current status.

What if I won't turn out to be a success story? What if I lapse into mediocrity, not because of my own laziness, but just because I don't cut it? No one wants to be just another drone, but they often become one before they even realize it happened. I don't want that to happen to me. I want to remain fresh, passionate, and somewhat idealistic. I want to be human, and I want to be able to animate the hidden emotions of all humans into creatures that we all can admire and touch and play with and take care of. I want to inspire creativity and passion in other people -- teaching without necessarily being a teacher.

At the same time, I want to be financially successful. I don't want to be another loser who convinces himself he's a successful person when he's just some twit with a web site. Few things are more disappointing than reading the online journal of someone who doesn't understand that they haven't amounted to much. I want to defy the laws that say that you can't express yourself and still be filthy rich. I want to be rich, yet I don't want to act like the wealthy elite do. Do I ask for too much? Will I get there? Am I learning enough fast enough?

Do people really trust that I am different, and that I will turn into something great? Or do they pity me?

This is the year when I become realistic about what's in store for me. This is when I improve what I don't like about myself and get better in those problem areas. I have to identify my strengths and wear them on my chest. It's the art of war.

Master Sun says that "those who know martial arts do not wander when they move, and do not become exhausted when they rise up." Also, "when you know yourself and others, victory is not in danger; when you know sky and earth, victory is inexhaustible."

I have met so many people who are either naturally competitive, or who are jealous of me, who try to one-up me and show off to me. I know there are people out there who are working their butts off for degrees and doctorates and such without really knowing why they are doing it. I am sure they will live financially comfortable lives this way. That is successful, in some respects. But these people usually lack passion. The people I keep close to me have passion for life and the way they live it. The people who try to one-up me have no passion (and no compassion, I might add), and they have no goals to change anything, or make life better. It is all about them and their pathetic existences. They will grow old with a void inside them, with a feeling like they didn't accomplish anything grand in their lifetimes. It makes me disgusted, having to deal with those people, because they live a lie that what they do is actually important, when it's the most mundane thing in the human experience.

Of course, I guess the same could be said about me and my pursuits. :)

"I don't talk so loud...and I don't walk so proud...anymore...and what for?" sings one of my favorite bands. I hope I didn't quote that in a previous Soapbox. I think I might have. Anyway, I gained something from looking at myself and how I portray myself to others last year. I don't know quite what to make of it, but it certainly has made me more aware of my faults. That's a good thing.

For one, I know that all that I have learned is very little in comparison to those around me. I've crooned and crowed about how far I've come, when all these other people did it long before me. I'm behind. I have a lot to learn before I can even stand with intellectual pride in myself again. What I consider intelligent is often shallow and foolish, untempered by the wisdom that age gradually grants us. What I think is important may not be.

I look at people I know differently now. I wonder how they really perceive me. Do they look at me in a condescending way? Like... "Oh, he's so gifted, and he has potential, but he's young and unlearned. I remember being like that once. I was like that five years ago." I hate hearing that, but it's time to accept it. I really don't know why people who are close to me continue to want to remain so -- my friends and family are superior to me in so many ways, and I wonder what I have to offer them. I'd like to think that there is something they see in me that they wish they had, but I then wonder how much responsibility and guilt weigh into it.

All of this isn't to say that I'm now insecure, lacking in confidence, and uncertain about my future. But I'm trying to prune away the outdated and naive prejudices I've held up to this point, in an effort to make myself stronger for when it's my turn to shine.

And shine I will, somehow. I truly believe that I have a rare passion, and I do understand that what makes people different is the degree of passion they hold for things. Material worth and experience do not measure up to the passion that some people possess. I must hold on to my passion, because if I don't, I will become like all the rest of them, lifeless and cold, boring and bored, inhuman.

I am approaching a major turning point in my life, and it's important that of everything I know by then, I know who I am. I cannot doubt myself at all, and I cannot carry on long-held deceptions and denials that will come back to hurt me later on. I need to sort things out in my life and find what's most important and least important. After that is done, I need to study and learn based on those findings, and then solidify everything. At that point, I can emerge, stronger than ever and ready to make my mark on the world. Some people should say that, as a young person, you should charge ahead and just do it. When it comes to forming a life and a career, though, I think patience is the key, mixed with just the right amount of introspection.

So please forgive me if the Re-evaluation is not the kind of stuff you like to read when you come here. I will continue to voice my opinion on the injustices of the day, and compliment those who have done excellent jobs, but I think this is the year when I'll be far less deceived and disillusioned when talking about myself. This is not going to be a year of action for me, but a year of planning and preparing.

And no, I'm not giving up the goddamn rant. I am so fucking tired of rants being labeled puerile and immature. People impatiently and unabashedly continue to assume that anyone who speaks his mind in the tradition of the rant must be an immature, insecure little teen, when the truth is that those are the people who do not prefer to sit idly by. Those are the people who are looking at the situation and using their amazing ability to use communicative language to express their feelings to other people. Those are the people who are passionate about what they like and don't like. If my ranting about politics and societal convention is immature and not the behavior of an adult, then so fucking be it. I don't want to be an "adult" if being one means that you have to sit on your hands and be neutral towards everything. Flowery language is unfortunately often associated with valid arguments.

Yeah, it's 1999, and I'm writing again. It feels good. I want to thank all the fucks out there who made me feel like shit last year, because it was partly because of them that made me decide to restructure the way I do things. I guarantee you they'll find it much harder to find chinks in my armor in the future. I also want to thank those who are close to me, like Anna and my parents, for making me happy and keeping me sane. It was a sweet Christmas. Now I'm ready to go back into the fray.


 
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