“I’m in a program, and I’m supposed to go to people and make certain statements.”
“You mean like Alcoholics Anonymous?”
“Yeah, but not.”
“Ok, shoot,” said my best friend. I was best man at his wedding, and then he was best man at my wedding. We met our freshman year in college and have been friends twenty six years since, though we see less of each other now. I flew up North from my home in the South to see him. He wasn’t expecting what I was about to say.
“It’s your fault I became an accountant. Let me finish. All my life I’ve blamed myself for my own failings, my own choices. We are told that it is good to take responsibility for ourselves and that we shouldn’t blame others for how our life turns out, but that’s a lie. The problem with that is that if it’s always our fault, then we end up believing we cannot succeed, simply because we have always failed before, a reasonable assumption if it is indeed our fault. The truth of the matter is that it isn’t. We are all born with potential, me more than most. Potential, and talent and intelligence, I had it all, and I still do. But people throughout my life have failed me, either stifled me or led me down the wrong path. I allowed it, because I didn’t recognize that they were doing this to me. But it’s not the victim of an assault’s fault just because he was out late all by himself. It’s not a victim of rape’s fault just because she made herself vulnerable. That’s not to say that we don’t learn to protect ourselves, but we have to know who to blame, if we are to discover how to play defense.”
“So what is this program, you go around blaming people?”
“Yes. First we figure out who to blame, and then as part of the program we have to go tell them what was their fault.”
“What’s the point?”
“It empowers us to reclaim our lives.”
“It seems like an excuse for failure to me.”
“Just the opposite. If I were to say, for example, that I’m not acheiving something because my wife doesn’t let me, that’s present tense, see, then that’s making excuses. Once you realize someone is to blame, you have no excuse for letting them continue to influence you, but it’s still necessary to know who to blame, or you can’t assert yourself. And as far as the past is concerned, it is immensely helpful to know that I, the young inexperienced me that wasn’t yet self aware enough to blame others, was not at fault for all of the mistakes that I made.”
“That’s very funny. What if I don’t accept responsibility?”
“You don’t have to. It’s enough that I know it, and it helps me to tell you and to put you on notice that I’m onto you.”
“And what now? You hate me?”
“Not at all. I believe in blame, and forgiveness.”
“Y’know, I didn’t tell you what to do.”
“Do you remember when you were in that student club, and you convinced me to join, and then I was keeping track of the money, I was essentially treasurer of the club. And then you wanted me to come to a student body meeting to help elect you to the student fund committee? And there was a spacey girl that was running unopposed for the student treasurer position, and she made a speech, she said, ‘I like numbers’ and giggled and you elbowed me in the ribs and told me to run, and so I did, and I got it?”
“You liked that position. It made you feel important.”
“I later quit that band I was in cause the treasurer position was too time consuming. And then from there I decided to take accounting courses and became an accountant.”
“I haven’t been happy since.”
After that I visited my dad.
“Remember how you used to tell me that I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up?”
“I probably did. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“I wish you’d stop saying that. It’s not funny anymore.”
“But it’s true.”
“You’re seventy years old! Maybe you should be a baseball player.”
“The Mets could use me.”
“It wasn’t good advice, dad. I don’t have time anymore.”
“But you did then.”
“It was always bad advice to wait. I’m still waiting.”
“I didn’t tell you to wait forever.”
“You never told me to stop waiting.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“That’s true, and you’re certainly no exception.”
“Is there anything else?”
“Yes.” I pulled out my list.
I was supposed to find five key people. I settled on my best friend, my dad, my older brother, who ruled me when we were young, a teacher in college, who instead of encouraging me actually discouraged me because he wanted me to prove how much I “wanted it.” It worked. He proved I didn’t want it badly enough. I left my wife out of it, not because she’s not to blame for anything, but because I have to live with her. So for the fifth I chose my first girlfriend. We were fifteen at the time and she was very critical of me: I didn’t treat her like a lady, I had bad breath, I wasn’t a good kisser, I was such a nerd. She made me feel like I didn’t know anything about women. She made me nervous. I was still suffering from some of the insecurities she instilled in me up until the point, only recently, when I realized it was all her fault. It wasn’t hard to find her, thanks to facebook.
“Wow,” she said. “Hi. Long time.” She was friendly when we first met up. We exchanged a couple of how are yous, what are you doing nows, are you married (she wasn’t), then I got into it.
I told her how uncomfortable I was with girls all my life because of her. Totally not comfortable as a guy, always thought it was normal for girls to criticize me, and I believed them. Talking to my best friend and my dad was tough. I thought my older brother would beat me up again, like he used to, but talking to her was tougher than them all. It was just like old times.
“You have a lot of nerve coming to me and blaming me for shit. You guys think you can just do whatever the hell you want. What about me? I’ve never been married, I can’t trust men. You were my first boyfriend, and what did you do, you wooed me until we had sex, and then you just left me,” she said.
“But we never had sex,” I said. She acted like she didn’t hear me.
“Before I met you, I was happy go lucky, and nice, and happy, and you made me the nasty vengeful hateful person no one can love. I trusted you, and you betrayed me. All you were interested in was getting into my pants, and you put up with me until you got there, and then you discarded me like a piece of trash.”
“but that’s not true,” I said. She stared at me for a good 10 seconds. Then she screamed, “DID I SAY IT WAS TRUE?!” We glared into each other’s eyes.
“I think I know of a program that can help you,” I said.