Perception and its Inevitability to an Extent
There was one day when I was chatting with my friend Josh. The topic of suicide was somehow brought up. My roommate expressed his strong opposition. He said, and he would later repeat, that he had seen a family crying over a picture of a dead spouse by suicide 40 years after. And she barely even loved him. He said that the damage suicide would cause to others was horrifying.
I was rather surprised. “I haven’t really thought of it that way.” I was like.
I knew that my friend’s opinion was inevitable. The way he grew up in his family, the culture. Sure, there’s already more than enough misfortune in his family already, and he’s seen more darkness and reality in a family than his age probably would deserve, but nonetheless. His parents were together, no matter the misfortune.
So, simply growing up in a family where a regular household was a concrete ground. Relatively speaking, I can understand how that’s perception shaping, speaking from the other end of the spectrum. Like, the far opposite end.
I’ve always told one of my family stores as if it had shaped my perception that family is generally bad. I have to clarify that that’s not entirely true. The story went like this: it was late at night. My mom and I came back home. We used the key that looked like a screwdriver to open the blue-green secure door to our third floor apartment house, to discover that my father laid just on the other side of the door. He was drunk and passed out. He was wearing formal pants, dressy jacket, shirt and tie. He had a black briefcase, which was lying on the floor. He was lying sideways, both legs curved as if he was running. From something.
Now I recall that a few months earlier than that, my birth parents were trying to make things up. I made a chart, a calendar on the inside of the blue-green secure door to record whether my father came home early at night or not. I gave him stars, big and small, that were marked on the hand-drawn calendar to reward him. It worked, for a while. Then things got worse. Then that.
And later he would move out, my mom would complain that he wasn’t giving alimony, and they would divorce, and my mom would give him willingly two out of three real estates the marriage owned just so that she could get the divorce sealed. Then my mom and I would move here with the money from selling the house, and she’d still vociferate that I sounded like him when we argued.
Going back to the thought that the incident shaped my negative perception of family. No, it’s not true that it was traumatic to my view of family, that I somehow had a wonderful, unicorn like idea of a family then was disillusioned and traumatized by this. No. That’s not the case. There was in total like a few months, maybe shorter than that, during which we tried to look like a family. And it ended before I was even rooted with a unicorn like ideal family image. I wasn’t even as shocked as my mom at the moment. I’ve been with my drunk father a lot, for God’s sake.
We moved him to the bed, and I don’t recall the rest.
To further clarify, I knew it was pretty bad, but I never thought that was anything related to the family. Or anything of that being a bad “Family”. It was my drunk dad passed out on the floor and my upset mom, simple and objective as that. There was nothing broken that night, because nothing was ever connected. I never saw or felt anything connected.
So, in my case, the far opposite end of the spectrum is not even hating the idea of a married household, but not even having an idea of what it’s like. Never felt it might be happy or sad. Never felt it. Even the opposite side of a happy family wasn’t interpreted in that way by me.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I knew that family was supposed to be good, but I just didn’t relate any of this to that.
And then much later, on valedictorian/salutatorian breakfast when I was graduating from high school, an important gentlemen from board of education, Southern, Georgian, White, formally dressed like a gentlemen with an appropriate Southern accent, gave us three advices. One of which was, “take time to build a family. It’s an amazing thing.”
I was like, Woah. Okay, really? Woah. You hold on right there. Is this thing even appropriate to say?
Now perhaps with more understanding of the culture, I understand more of what he meant. What Josh meant. What generally people who got married and wanted to have kids together meant.
It’s a spectrum, like a lot of things. Inevitably, our experiences relentlessly and forcefully place us somewhere on it. It’s inevitable, to an extent. Someone grew out of a household, and that person would take what’s seen as whether family is desirable or not. And this opinion will influence the family they go on to form. You can’t make someone who grew up from a deeply rooted, happily married family to have no idea about a family or to hate it, and neither can you give someone who didn’t any idea of it. Our experiences dictate our thinking to an extent, and if I want to piss off more people I’d say completely, despite me trying to be a “free thinker” or whatnot. And the extent is pretty extreme in terms of family.
There’s always an inevitability to anything, and the catch phrase is, “to an extent”.
Later I replied, “It’s great that you think that way, Josh. It’s great, and I feel sorry for myself that I can’t.”
I said, “I grew up with my mom. She’s a person who gave me life and mind. But she’s not a household or a family.”
I said, “Perhaps if I wanna kill myself, which I have plenty of personal reasons not to, the only person I’d worry about is her.”
And I said, “When she’s no longer alive, I guess I am free to go.”
A few days after that, Josh would see me and tell me, “Martin, I still care about you. Don’t kill yourself, okay.”
I’d smile and say, “Okay. Of course. I wouldn’t kill myself. Duh.”
I knew why he’d say that, and I knew why I’d say what I had said. It’s inevitable to an extent, isn’t it.