I'm a writer from New Jersey, now living in Chicago. Journalist/production manager for a news site, aspiring to become an author of fantasy novels. In the meantime, I'm blogging.

I like nature, black metal, the occult, cats, and good wine.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Grimace, and the whole world grimaces with you

Why can’t people just smile and be happy? This is a question I increasingly find myself asking as I walk through the neighborhood in which I live, and as I travel through other parts of the city. I don’t notice this as much, say, on the far North Side of Chicago, but I do see it almost everywhere else: a frown, a grimace, a glower, a dirty look. There’s one expression in particular that I call “the constipated look,” where the person’s face just kind of looks inflated with this maladjusted, permanent visage of outrage over nothing in particular. And then there’s the unmistakable venomous glance passersby will throw at you for no specific reason, as though you shit in their corn flakes.

What is wrong with people? I’ve been to plenty of other cities, even - at this point - another country - and I haven’t encountered this bizarre behavior anywhere else. It’s like everyone is miserable and wants the whole world to know about it. When I go to a grocery store and say, “Hello, how are you?” the response I get from the cashier is a blank stare with a mouth hanging open. You know, the kind of look you’d get if you walked into the store wearing a purple pinstripe suit, a bowtie, and a clown nose. But with my appearance looking decidedly un-clownlike, I had to wonder: Why am I getting these strange looks from everyone? Is there something on my face? But no. It’s not me. Everyone glares at one another, too, or else looks at one another as if they’re aliens. Perhaps they’ve gotten so accustomed to staring into their phones that it’s an actual surprise to see other real human beings walking around? But again, no. People aren’t like this in other cities.

While it’s a sad conclusion to arrive at, I have arrived at this one, nevertheless: People are just unhappy. And you know what? Part of me understands. Working low wage jobs, having to worry about gun violence (which is more common in Chicago than other cities), having to deal with shitty weather, etc. There are myriad problems that could affix a large frown to someone’s face. But to be miserable, angry, and confrontational all the time? That is not healthy. Not one bit.

I hear and see so many people around here, arguing in the streets, swearing and threatening one another, over literally nothing. Someone bumps into someone on a bus; a screaming match ensues. Someone accidentally cuts someone off in a line at the store; that person is threatened and cursed out (often in a crude, loud manner for everyone else - children included - to hear). Domestic disputes spill out of apartments and into the street, and the funny thing is, nothing is actually being said! I honestly hear people bellowing the same words over and over again at one another, as if they’re both deaf and not hearing what the other person is saying. Whatever happened to civilized working out of personal problems - or, at the very least, raised-voice arguments that are actually composed of intelligible sentences or points of debate?

Everyone is just so filled with anger, and hate, and disgust for one another. As someone who is a metalhead, an anti-Christian, and a major introvert (even if I do a good job at making it seem otherwise), even I care about other people, and always try and be friendly and personable. I’ve had struggles in my life that some people can’t imagine - homelessness, poverty, being shunned by my family for my beliefs - but despite all of that, and even during all of it, I always find/found happiness, somewhere, somehow. When I truly did not have a dollar to my name, and had to rely on a shelter and a soup kitchen for food, I found happiness with my friends, and from the woods/nature that I enjoyed. Now, as I’m stuck in a city (which is not my best environment) and sometimes feel buried beneath personal responsibilities, I could very easily give in to frustration and dissatisfaction - sometimes I do. But I still try to smile, and be decent to people, and help people. It’s not that hard. And after years of experience with people who seem deliberately nasty, sneering, and unpleasant, I’ve come to realize that it takes more work to exhibit negative behavior than it does to generate positive energy.

Though there are surely exceptions, I’ve come to generally believe that unpleasant people are that way for a reason. Whatever their personal circumstances have made them or done to them, I think that you have to be a not-good person from the start, in order to actually go out of your way to make someone else’s day worse. Given that conclusion, I have limited sympathy for these sorts of people. I am someone who was raised to be blunt, honest, and fair. My policy is that I will be nice to someone if they’re decent to me - I will even try being nice when they’re frowning or glaring at me as though they wish me a most painful death; or, for that matter, if they’re looking at me with mouths in the shape of a perfect ‘O,’ like I just landed on this planet from Mars. However, if they continue to go out of their way to be assholes, I will treat them accordingly. I have too much pride and too pure a heart to let anyone trample me or take any joy out of my day. Shit-disturbers will be dealt with swiftly, and in all probability, cursed out in a much more eloquent manner than they would do to me.

My point, however, is - and this is for anyone who is a good person, but who has let their problems turn them into a hateful being - putting out negative energy is like throwing a boomerang; it comes right back at you. If you treat someone nicely, you will feel better about yourself, and your day may even get just a little bit better. You know what they say: ‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you.’ Well, the reverse is also true. No one is impressed that you can get super angry and get in people’s faces. No one is going to be friendly with you if you’re so condescending and/or neurotic that you look at others as if they have some sort of disease. And nothing is going to make your life better if you yourself are the problem.

Shit, people. Smile a little. Be happy. You only get one life. Carpe diem! Or, my personal mantra: Carpe noctem! Seize the day, seize the night, seize some fucking thing. SMILE! Your face won’t crack, I promise!

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