“Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.”
I have to admit that I am a very judgemental person.
Occasionally, I attempt to comfort myself on this count with two thoughts; 1) I believe that I can and should accept people as they are, including all of those things I see and experience from them that I feel very activated by that may cause me to judge them, and 2) that I judge myself at least as fiercely as I do others.
Now that I write it out, that second one doesn’t seem all that comforting.
This is something I am constantly working on. I do not like judging others, or myself, but I do it all the time. I remember once thinking many years ago that if my friends knew some of the things I had thought about them that they would never talk to me again. I try, whenever I can, to be kind and soft with others, to realize that they are struggling too, and that there is no right or wrong way to be.
This softness, however, always fades over time. I need to be constantly reminded to be soft to others and, maybe even more importantly, to myself.
I recently spent some time in Bangkok. Being there always fills me with contrasting emotions, which is activating in both good and bad ways. During this trip I found myself in a particularly salty mood. In the interest of transparency and living my truth, I wanted to bare my soul a little bit here. The darker parts, the parts that I wish I didn’t have and I certainly hoped no one would ever discover. It’s all part of the journey and so I want to share all of it.
I wrote this the first day I was there;
Feeling judgemental. Comparing to home. Thinking about how selfish we all are.
Listening to a bunch of people act like just physically putting their body in a place is some kind of achievement. “Look at how much money and privilege I have,” they seem to say.
And I’m such a f–king hypocrite. I’m sitting in the same restaurant they are, waiting for my ฿250 plate of pasta so who the f–k am I to judge? I console myself by saying that I’m not like them, that I’m giving back, that I am somehow comparatively less selfish than they are. What a bunch of bullsh-t.
Why do I constantly find myself doing this?
When I overhear the spoiled white girl at the adjacent table complain to her spoiled white friends who have the privilege to come and earn college degrees in a foreign country complain about having to pay ฿40 per day to travel to and from school I just want to scream “What the f–k is wrong with you?”
I want to grab her by the hand and lead her to the house of my 12 year old student who doesn’t even have electricity, whose dad wants him to drop out of school to earn more money for the household so they don’t starve. I want to take her to school and show her the kids who wear the same unwashed government-issued white shirt and navy blue shorts/dress to school every day because they can’t afford to buy a second set or their parents don’t care enough to get it for them if they’re even around at all.
The saddest part is that even if I could it wouldn’t matter. She would point at the iPhone in my pocket, the Nike’s on my feet, and the Timbuk2 bag on my back and say, “F–k you, too, buddy!”
And she would be absolutely right.
It just fills me with so much sadness to see a $60,000 Mercedes barrel down the road past houses on stilts made of rotting wood and corrugated metal, to see people piss away thousands of dollars to go and see things that most people in the world could never even dream of seeing, to step inside a home where a single month’s rent could pay a teacher’s salary at one my schools for over 3 years.
How can people live so far above others? “Earned” or not, how do they do it? How do we do it? How do I?
This is the question that plagues me as I walk around this city and see tourists, foreigner and Thai alike, indulging themselves. This is the question that burns a hole in me as I sit and listen to backpackers speak proudly of all the places they have been, as if that actually means anything.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t ever had similar thoughts about other volunteers with regards to privilege and complaining, or if I said I had never judged myself for the same thing.
I thought a lot about this after I wrote it. I think about it often. So much bile. So much anger. So lacking in compassion and empathy for others. Why?
Partly because it makes me look at my own privilege, about how far above others I live, and that’s hard for me to accept.
Partly because it just feel so goddamn unfair, and unfairness is very activating for me.
I realized that perhaps the biggest part is that I feel just as lost as all of these people I judge for being so lost. Some days I still feel like I have no idea what I want or need to be happy and fear that I never will. By judging them I am also being unkind to myself.
The only difference between us is that I am full of hubris, and this idea that I am ascending to something greater, something beyond selfishness.
What a bunch of self-righteous bullsh-t.
In spite of it all, this lost feeling comes back again and again, like a hammer slamming into the side of my head, a stark reminder;
WE’RE NOT DONE YET.
There is beauty in this perpetual struggle. A big part of that beauty to me is that we share it. We are all lost together.