I’m highly suggestible, and also tend towards being high on life when I’m sober/aware, taking in great input and don’t have too much stress.
When I was a child I quickly learned that in public I would be ridiculed for being high on life. It was overtly suggested to me (mostly by my mom) that poverty and pain were everywhere and I’d better pay strict attention to it, and covertly suggested to me (by my school mates, and certain family friends and relatives) that alcohol, cigarettes and even certain drugs were “cool.” I had a desperate covert urge to be thought of as “cool,” since I covertly saw that being “cool” apparently got you “liked.” But what I really wanted was to love and be loved.
Being an empathic type of person I soon felt deeply the poverty and pain that existed in some parts of the world, including in pockets of our own little bit of suburbia, and at the same time learned that if I drank, smoked and even did certain drugs then it was perfectly “okay” to seem high. So I replaced my natural “high on life” systems with ones that were suggested to me, ones of pain and suffering and then wallowing in toxic or chemical substances to connect with others and seem high again. Once I had that figured out (and it didn’t take me long) I was accepted, as one of them/us.
Until that time I had been, alongside my best friend Alema, one of the two top students in our little suburban classroom and much admired and hated for it. It was also very irritating that, like Alema, thanks to the common-enough privilege I’d been born to, I knew how to dance and sew and play piano and draw and had neat handwriting which the teachers praised. I was a master at the humble-brag and also terrible at anything that wasn’t learned from text or diagrams or in a classroom setting (for example, baseball), neither of which made me more popular. Alema was popular by reason of her sweet nature and good looks and lack of any firmly-expressed opinion.
All that would have been acceptable, but there were other weirdnesses like believing in the theory of evolution, and not realizing that the majority of kids in the class thought Adam and Eve were not metaphorical creation symbols but actual historical figures, and that the same kids had been brought up to believe that it had been curious Eve (rather than some white-bearded “God”) who had “sinned”; yet at the same time being too ignorant to know where on the map the birthplace (India) of my best friend’s father was.
These were the days in Canada when every class in that secular public school still recited the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each day. My best friend’s parents were deeply religious (Christian), though their daughters (including my best friend) weren’t. Later their father would try to exercise the devil out of my best friend’s head — or at least that was the way my rebellious friend told it. I was a bit jealous when she told me, only wishing I could have been there to see how it was done. Soon after the attempted devil eviction my friend was forbidden from seeing me and the rest of our friends anymore and her family moved away. That was the end of the only nearly-lifelong friendship I’d had till that time. But I suppose that’s normal for a kid.
I loved “them” (the “cool” kids in the school smoke pit — yes smoking on school grounds was allowed back then—) dearly, including Ruth who’d managed to get “in” before me, her sister Susan, being four years older, having paved the way. From Susan, who could also play classical piano, Ruth and I would learn a devoted love of “devil music” such as that by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. This common bond of love for music, and an eagerness to tease our hair three inches high and wear poured-on acid-wash jeans, was our ultimate pass to the smoke pit and its daily dose of smoke-and-mirrors intrigue.
The smoke-pit kids were mostly kind and good at heart and they too had been stifled in their creativity by the vague weight of their accepted suggestions. We became good friends.
Well, as good friends as any people can be, who are all seeking outside themselves that which can only be found within.