October 1998

It is the middle of week three. And I'm moving at full steam, fighting the enervating forces that are already beginning to attack me. I've achieved perpetual motion. "How?", you might ask? It's really quite simple. I run away from myself constantly. That's what my whole life is about now. That's how I survive high school. It's the third year, and I get better at it with the passing of every season. I have achieved new levels of busyness. Every club, every extra-curricular activity, every sport, every class. Every overachieving moment. My mind is overloaded by information, overstimulated by ideas, overstretched with reaction. Until I sleep. Then all is quiet. My thoughts are quiet. My dreams are quiet. My fears are quiet. And yet, there is so much going on, that I wonder if I really affect anyone, anything.

Of course, my objective mind tells me I do. The reason why I couldn't commit suicide at this stage in the game is that I know that I would hurt so many people in such terrible ways. I think that we all have times when our daydreams render the results of fantastic hypotheticals, one of which is the aftermath of suicide. What would it really be like to blow everything away in the middle of school? The instant screams of fear and bewilderment, echoing years of restrained reality being released from your mind in the form of crimson blood. And then there would be the week of shock; the moments where people would think, "I wish I had known;" the moments where people question mortality at an obsessive-compulsive level. There would be the literary shock-wave of the suicide note, the most real words anyone could ever write, as they come at a moment that few get to live: the moment of real strength, engendered by the knowledge of when you're going to die.

And then everyone forgets about you.

It was Salinger who said, "It is better to live for a cause than to die for one." It's also harder. But with every action, with every word you speak, with every revelation you invoke in others, whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not, you're making a much more powerful difference than death ever could. In two legalistic words for the language-obsessed crowd: constructive engagement. It's undeniably one of the hardest paths, because it is often thankless and without empathy. But, I think, when it all comes down to it, life is like that for everyone. The gold is in the process.

But the main thing that I, and I would presume, most young people, are wresting with now, is identity. Somehow, I get the idea that in the past month, an uncountable number of people and a variety of organizations have asked me that pusillanimous question, "What team are you on?" Sometimes it's verbal. Sometimes it's nonverbal. The questions come with direct denotations. The questions come with multitudes of creepy, covert, connotations. But when it comes down to it, it's just a reaction from people who have to define themselves by who they are not. They can look at you and say, "I am not you," and feel defined. What an awful feeling it would be if they really knew what they were doing to themselves. For if you must define yourself by who you are not, then who ARE you? Nobody, I guess. There are too many people who don't choose to be anybody.

Chinua Achebe once said, "Identity has a meaning, a penalty, and a responsibility." We all know what the penalty for being who we are is. But the meaning? The responsibility? I'm still working on that one. I think that I might be forever. But you can take one iota of instant gratification from that thought: Meaning and responsibility define importance. You are important. I am important. Somebody relies on us, because of our identity, just like we rely on others, because of their identities. And if you can believe that, then you could state that it is really our identities that have the potential to bring us together more than they currently drive us apart.


P.S. Kudos to NBC for creating Will and Grace, a hella-funny sitcom with a main character who just happens to be gay.


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