Recently, I have been making a few changes here and there get a handle on the direction of my life. It’s not that I was never way off course with partying or doing drugs or anything of that nature, but even the simplest of lives can be filled with unimportant detours and pit stops. I like to think of the process as decluttering; simply removing any unneeded distractions and losing any deadweight, in order to progress toward your goals. You don’t always have to have a specific goal even; maybe you just want to be a better person. That will take some editing. Cutting the unneeded, pasting the needed, copying the good, and deleting the bad. It’s hard enough to do with an essay, but editing a life?! It can be a hassle!
While I was thinking about the small changes that I have to make, the few habits that I have to get better with, and the few influences that I have to deal with, I thought about people who have had to make major changes. I’m talking about people who have to literally reinvent themselves. I cannot even begin to imagine the struggle that it can be. After years of negative friendships, negative relationships, negative habits and maybe even addictions, you have to stop… and become a whole new person, separated from a lifestyle that may be the only one you know. That has to be extremely difficult.
I think the most difficult part will be separating from your reputation; not the actual acts or habits, but being known by people for the acts and habits. Often those who are familiar with you will not readily accept the fact that you want to improve, and will quickly remind you of who you “really are.” You have to be able to shake the past though, looking forward to who you are becoming instead of who you were.
Growing up in the inner-city of Southwest Atlanta, I have seen quite a few people come from backgrounds that would not have provided them the lives that they lead today. However, they did not let reminders of their pasts define their futures. I grew up in a church where people came from all walks of life and changed for the better. Nonetheless, ties had to be cut, friends had to be left, and routines had to be broken in order to attain the life they wanted. I am overwhelmed at how hard that must have been now that I have to make only a few minor changes. My life can stay pretty much the same, except trimming bad habits (mainly time wasters and extracurricular nothings), and focusing more on goals.
So how can people have so much influence over your desire to get better and improve at life? I think it can be something as simple as kindergarten name-calling.
Name-calling has had to have been the most efficient tactic for discouragement throughout all of history. It is easy to lose sight of a plan, or go ahead with the crowd, or fall back into a routine, simply based on the fear of what someone might call you. It takes hard work and focus to break routine and change for the better… and if someone close to you calls you “goody two-shoes”, you may be tempted to prove you are not that and fall back into something that you said you would quit. If good two-shoes means changing your life for the better and letting go of things that will prohibit you from that, then be a goody two-shoes.
Fake, phony, funny-acting and two-faced are other names that can definitely be hurtful if said by the right person. The name calling implies that you are intentionally setting yourself apart to make others look bad. Even though you know that it’s not the case, you will sit down, and converse, and laugh, and talk, and before long be in the same routine of complacency that you set out to break from. Those names are particular toward women. Men, on the other hand, will do anything to escape the label of B.A.N. or L.A.N. In a predominate Black-American public school, this was the last thing any guy wanted to be known as. To avoid being called either, a guy, with our pride and egos, would do just about anything. But if it’s just a name, why do we fight so hard to discredit them? Maybe because the person saying it matters too much. Those who really love you and want to see you improve will always encourage and push you towards the better routes in life. Discouragement will come from people who either do not want to see you do better, or do not believe that they can do better. Decide whether you can afford to carry that type of relationship and be big enough to handle the outcome of whatever decision you make. Often we fail at things, and don’t know how or when it happened. From now on, if you fail at anything, at least be able to look back and recognize the decision you made to get there. If you continue to surround yourself by complacency, recognize it, take credit for it and live with the outcome of the situation. If you decide that name-calling and bad-talking is not going to stop you, then you probably won’t fail. If you are a newly converted Christian or one with faults, don’t let the word “hypocrite” take the place of your willingness to attempt to live as a Christian. (Sidenote: Even so, don’t be a hypocrite either… Being at fault and living at fault are two completely different things!) Continue to grow and improve toward perfection. That way you can only go up.
The only thing I want to say is that goody two-shoes, fakes, phonies, two-face, hypocrites L.A.N.s/ B.A.N.s, alcoholics, druggies, or whatever you may be called do exist. There are plenty out here to choose from… But you don’t have to be one of them. Nor do you have to prove that you are not one of them by doing something you do not want to do. Don’t live based on a label that others can put on and take off of you. Live a life based on the label that you want, and before long, that’s what and who you will be.