One of my most important life philosophies starts with: “Don’t be an asshole”. It’s such a great concept because it really encapsulates many tenets of the positive aspects of world religions, humanism, etc. (i.e. don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t kill, etc). It is a simple philosophy, easy to remember, and it can make life around people much easier to live. However, it can be difficult to follow when you are flawed human being equipped with an ego, no matter what size. None of us are immune to being an asshole from time to time and sometimes we don’t even realize that we are doing it until someone is brave enough to point it out to us. When they do, it can be disconcerting, ego-bruising, but illuminating, if we let it change us into better people.
My most distinct memory of this was from high school during a sophomore biology class. We were paired up with people in class that we hadn’t worked with in the past and this super sweet, squeaky-voiced girl came up to me and said, “I remember you! You were so mean to me during freshman orientation!”
I was taken aback; I had no recollection of this event. She noticed my confusion and explained, “You know, the day we met our ‘Big Sisters’”. I went to an all-girls preparatory Catholic high school and one of the aspects of freshman orientation was being assigned to a “big sister” who would welcome you to the school and show you the ropes. I had been assigned to one big sister with another girl because our incoming class was too large for people to have one-on-one assignments. And apparently, I didn’t like to share. I saw this sweet, squeaky girl sitting next to my big sister and I told her, according to her retelling of the event, to, “Get the fuck out of my seat.”
I didn’t come from the roughest neighborhood in San Antonio, but there was a small presence of violence that rippled through my early childhood and adolescence. My aunt’s house was damaged in a drive-by shooting, my neighbors had a S.W.A.T. team breaking into their house one day after middle school, and there were mild threats of gang violence at my school. I had some frenemies that I had left behind as well as any friends and familiar faces that I had accumulated over that time. This high school was a new experience for me, in a higher income neighborhood, and I was surrounded by total strangers. I didn’t react well to being outside of my element.
Looking back on the person that I was and the way that I had changed from that one year in a completely different environment, I realized that there are going to be times in my life when I am a total and complete asshole without thinking about it first or without remembering it later. I think back to that moment and hope that I am never same person with the same flaws being an asshole to the people around me who definitely do not deserve it and this is a philosophy that I hope other people will adopt as well. From that day forward, I vowed to be an open person to positive critique (as hard as that is to hear of oneself) and try my absolute best not to be an asshole.