May 27, 2017

Growing up, even though I had the same angsts and self confidence issues as most kids do, somewhere along the line, and I think that my parents, especially my mother, instilled in me a sense that I was great: I was smart, smarter than most, and capable. I did have the insecurities that come with growing up, shyness and fear amongst my peers, but some core of me knew I was amazing.

When I drew pictures, they were the best in the world while I was drawing them or writing or almost anything. It is the three year old mentality, and gratefully I never grew out of it. While I was working on something I was amazing. Of course, the next day I could look with more realistic eyes that what I had done was not exactly a work of a virtuoso, but in the moment I was amazing.

What this did for me was it gave me a confidence in presenting, creating, helping and so on. Erin, my wife, said of me early in our relationship, “you speak as if it is the truth,” and that served me well. It also cultivated an arrogance in my interactions that was either endearing to those who liked me or loathsome to those who didn’t. While I was in my whiz-kid, up-and-coming portion of my life, I looked to Boris Becker who said something like, “it isn’t arrogance if it is true.” Which, of course is terribly arrogant.

As I grew older, I realized self-effacing humor and humility would serve me better in fitting in society and I embarked on a re-examination of my interactions. I tried to be less intense in my interactions, admit when I was wrong if I could, say I didn’t know when I didn’t, and most importantly, not correct people, even if they were wrong.

Still, as the soul polishing went on, I worked on my anger (poorly) and frustration with “stupid people.” I tried to write about my frustration with people who reinforced their negative stereotype. But it wasn’t until I was laid off and had to apply for jobs in earnest for the first time at age 45 that I hit upon a thread that went through my frustration with people, my road rage, and my lack of patience. My problem was not just arrogance and frustration, it was disdain.

Disdain, looking down on others, feeling superior to others, engaging in schadenfreude, disdain was fundamental in my world view. Not necessarily blatantly, but pervasively, and subtly so.