I am in at the Paratrooper Pub with a friend on official business. He’s a professor at the university and we often get together to discuss ideas, compare tidbits, and gripe from our different corners of its hallowed halls. (read: gossip)
As most people can elongate their imagination to comprehend, the discussions at times become heated. Not that we are annoyed with each other, but rather the motivation and justification behind a particular element, policy, or memorandum can be a bit difficult to grasp.
It’s while discussing an exceptionally baffling directive that my friend surprises me. The discussion has gained steam in the form of aggravation and annoyance. When things reach a head and something really unpleasant is about to be said, my friend softens his tone and in a silly manner exclaims: “I am glad that happened!”
I am confused mostly because I expected the continuance of the vituperative tone we usually take, and epithets such as “fucking bollocks!” or “This is fucking crazy!” or any other colorful vulgarity we employ. But it hasn’t, my friend has defused it with his off-catching declaration, and then further instills that tone by lightening up the mood and changing topic to something more pleasant.
As I follow along with my friend’s redirection of the conversation, I try to figure out what happened. My friend is a bit younger than me, but he is rather level-headed and wiser than his years might suggest. I think he has come to the conclusion at a relatively young age not to let the small stuff get to him. And this is his way of doing that.
Like many of you who have made it into your forties, I am far mellower now than I once was. My late teens and twenties are a mishmash of embarrassing memories revolving around me being very stupid out loud. For one, I was far more sure of my opinions, so completely sure of every aspect of them, except why I held them and where the justification for my support resided. Perhaps in tandem, I used to get way more worked up over things undeserving of my attentive anger. Rounding out this trifecta of critical thinking and moderate intelligence, I used to fling the word “hate” around with the same carefree attitude with which monkeys treat their poop.
Oh, I can certainly get worked up. A frustrating situation at the university can draw it out of me before I stifle it and get over it. A lost internet connection, a Bjork song, stuff Mitch McConnell says, extra work out of the blue, or a delayed flight can turn me into a knuckle dragging troglodyte employing the vulgarity systems of two languages. This hair-trigger to rage is surely a genetic gift, as an hour of watching TV with my dad is to be witness to an endless flurry of angry remarks and observations on everything that happens on the television screen. Time infractions from an umpire, a pitcher’s inability to pitch strikes, a shampoo commercial, Samuel L. Jackson or the Olive Garden’s pasta sauce. God help us all if there’s an instant replay.
Though I can lose it time to time, there has undeniably been a leap in my development in perspective and self-awareness. This makes me happy when I reflect on it at times. The conversation with my friend works as a reminder that losing that perspective happens easier than developing it did, so I feel a bit ashamed to let it get me again. I decide during our conversation that I need a phrase (like my friend’s) to brush off those non-vital things without letting them in, a code word to myself to let me know to move on. I go with “I don’t advocate this.” And I try it out a few times after its mental inception.
Him: “Have you seen the signs for Alien the musical in the metros?”
Me: “Yeah, I don’t advocate that.”
Him: “Have you seen the one of Rocky the Musical?”
Me: “I don’t advocate that either.” I am sweating; change is hard.
Him: “Let’s do a shot,” he suggests.
Me: “Oh I advocate that. Big time.”