On Youthful Transgression

There were times when the nights seemed longer than days. We would walk for hours down the darkened paths, deliberate yet tentative, roaming like wild animals through the streets of the city. Deliberating, planning, and articulating what was wrong with the world. Elders would accuse us of trying to solve the world's problems. Joe's dad commended us for our forethought, yet tried to insinuate his ideas about life and how to live it into our framework. He was helpful and insightful at times. At others, we thought his observations a nuisance.

What did we know? We were young, hanging out in schoolyards, behind houses, walking and walking, thinking and thinking. Young minds never at rest. The fulcrum of our existence resting on our discussions. The life experience would come later. A hard punch in the gut, better than a hard slug in the chest, it carried a force that brought me to my knees, staggered, bleeding, and ready for more. Lessons that I learned did not necessarily rest on philosophical, youthful quandary.

Shift the scene to 1996, a watershed year for me, when I learned the hard way that my thoughts did not keep me from action. But the actions I chose were the wrong ones, chosen from inexperience and anger. All the philosophizing in the world would never make up for the hard lessons I had yet to learn. A childish dispute with a friend left me laying bleeding on the floor, not from the friend's action, but with my father standing over me. I had foolishly punched my friend in the gut over some petty argument and my father saw red and acted. Before I knew it, I was on the floor bleeding. This was a moment when I didn't think. My father didn't think either. Usually a gentle soft spoken man, he had enough of my irresponsible behavior. I had stopped thinking and deliberating. All my life I had talked and thought trying to solve other problems and not realizing that I had some of my own.

I needed help, and I eventually got it -- I was the wrong one. I was lucky I didn't lose that friendship, lucky that I had the story to tell, lucky that the world shapes us even as we shape it. The fulcrum of our existence does rest on our discussions, but it also rests on the wisdom of others, the notions that resonate deep in our upbringing, the places that we called home. The caring actions of a few individuals that help shape us. I felt the bruises of my poor decisions that day. I realized the variance of life, the quarrels and inconsistencies of my own mind, the connection between body and reality. The lessons that I learned have taken years to comprehend, and I make no excuses. I don't have the answers, but I will keep searching.

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