We grow up on fairy tales of good versus evil. Most of the time, good wins. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Regardless of the outcome, the sides are clearly defined. There is no gray area. No morally ambiguous zone where right and wrong see each other like looking in a mirror.
The bad guys know they’re bad. Their actions are for obviously evil reasons like taking over the world, killing everyone or forcing everyone to listen to Packer fans tell you why Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback of all time.
In the real world, almost everyone thinks they’re doing the right thing, for themselves, for their families, communities, heck — the world.
You’d think living in a world full of good intentions would be easier.
I frequently write in this space about being more open. Let people help you, don’t withdraw into isolation, keep fighting regardless of how much it hurts and try to find happiness in places you might not expect.
Most of the time, I think these maxims are fantastic ways to live. I hesitate on calling it a life philosophy because that sounds pretentious. But it’s not always your best bet.
When I say it can get crazy for all of us, I mean it. Life breaks everyone in different ways, into different people-sized pieces full of problems, shame and unfulfilled dreams. The world is a tempest and we only ever really survive in it. Regardless of their means, no one but endures the storm.
That’s a problem with having problems. You might be going through something, reach out and attempt to get help only to have your hand bitten. Your support system might be weathering its own storm. Maybe it wasn’t as strong as you thought. Or maybe, and this is important, no matter how much someone cares for you, no matter how much they love you, they will not always be there. Sometimes you have to handle your problems on your own.
“No man is an island,” is an old proverbial expression that gained popularity in the 20th century. The phrase has inspired books, movies, probably some really bad poetry and at least one column in the southern Pennyrile — which coincidentally has been voted by its peers as one of the best in the state, but I digress.
On occasion though, man must be an island. These land masses don’t weather storms as well as the mainland, but I would wager they offer better shelter than a weathered dinghy on the open sea.
It’s not like you’ve never been here before. You’re born alone, you’re certainly going to die alone. Own that space. There’s a dignity in self-sustainability, of self-reliability that is almost a necessity in living. If you have shown you can fight your own battles, you’re far more likely to be taken seriously when you break down and really ask for help.
But what’s the best way to really help yourself when you’ve got nowhere to turn? For me, it’s the little things. The everyday “Small Victories” if you will (sorry). Work on improving yourself, and honestly? Give yourself a break. Be as nice to yourself as you are to others. You’re human, and that means messing up. Let it go.
Look, this isn’t a primer on how to be a rugged individualist who don’t need no man. I know people that will tell you being an island is the only way to earn respect as a person. It’s the siren call of the bitter and the naïve. Trust me, suffering alone is one of the worst feelings in the world. You can get through it, though, if you have to, and that’s this week’s small victory. Just don’t stay on that island forever.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of his free SoundCloud mixtape.)