Grab The Wheel
By RJ Harrigan
Let’s start with a few truths:
1: You have no control over where, when, or to whom you were born.
2: You don’t have the mental capacity to take control of your life as a child.
3: Some things are just NOT YOUR FAULT.
Now, what does that mean?
If you have no control over your past, and if you aren’t to blame for your upbringing, then what is in your control?
That’s right, NOW. Right now. Your life, your choices, and everything you do despite your circumstances is all in your control.
You have to look at two truths. The first being, what should be, and then the other truth is the harsh reality of what is.
For example. You should be allowed to dress however you want. You should be judged by your character and not by your appearance. You should be treated as an equal member of society regardless of apparel. Sure, I agree with that. However, the harsh reality is that you can’t in most cases. If you want to work in a corporate setting, you have to dress the part. If you want to dress like a street kid (which is how I was, 90’s baggy-to-the-ankles jeans), then you are going to be followed in the convenient store. You’re going to be profiled by the police. You are going to be assumed a lower member of society.
YOU HAVE A CHOICE. You can stick your middle finger to the man and keep it real, wear whatever you want, and for some of you, that will work. For most, probably not. The other choice is that you can dress for success and remove one obstacle from your journey, because let’s face it, you’ll have plenty of those on the way as it is.
You can blame your circumstances on your past, on your poverty, on your race, on your gender, etc. You can point the finger in so many directions, and EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, you are relinquishing control of your own life. Why would you want to do that? Do you want society to dictate your short comings? Do you want society to tell you that you are disadvantaged? Do you want pity, or do you want glory?
The two truths apply here. It isn’t fair that you are disadvantaged because of your living situation, or your race, or your gender, or whatever, and I AGREE! It shouldn’t be that way. But, what is the harsh reality? You are judged. You are disadvantaged. You were born into a shitty situation. That’s just what it is, and no amount of Facebook statuses or supportive profile pictures are going to help you out.
What can you do?
Well, the first step is to OWN IT! Take full responsibility. That’s right. Take the “blame” for things that aren’t your fault. Why on earth would you do that? Because, it puts you in the driver seat. It gives you the power!
Owning your life is the first step to changing it. I was born to a single mother who had no guidance and made terrible financial decisions, which meant we lived poor and moved around a lot. I didn’t have many friends, I had zero confidence, and I grew to repeat the cycle of barely getting by because that’s what I saw. You know what I did once I was on my own? I blamed my mother for everything she did that disadvantaged me. I blamed her for her bad decisions, which I wasn’t wrong about, but I used that as an excuse to not make my own life better. I basically convinced myself that my mother was broken, and therefore I was broken.
My friends were the same way. They had broken households, and they had no idea how to get out of it and blamed the world for their situations.
I let this be my narrative for too long.
Finally, I realized that my upbringing doesn’t have to define my future. I took ownership of my past. I admitted to myself that it wasn’t my fault for how I was raised, but it is 100% my fault how I chose to live. Living in housing projects wasn’t my choice, but the friends I associated with was. Even though I was too young to make good life decisions, that only allows me to forgive myself for my choices, not deflect responsibility.
I chose to break the law. I chose to skip school. I chose not to pay attention and learn. I chose to smoke. I chose to drink. I chose to have sex. I chose to rebel. I chose to refuse to live by my father’s rules when I moved in with him at 17, and then I chose to live on the street instead of giving in. I chose to pursue a rap career, and I chose not to invest back in the business. I chose to party instead. I chose to go out to California with no plan. I chose not to work hard when I got there. I chose to take pills that led to my overdose. I chose to make a change in my life right then and there. Then I chose to call my dad, come home, and join the Navy. I made all of those decisions, but I only took credit for the last few that were good decisions.
Nothing is going to get better until you accept FULL responsibility for your actions, past and present. You must forgive yourself for the past decisions you’ve made that were during the times you didn’t have control over your life. You must forgive yourself, but you CAN NOT EXCUSE yourself. You just do your best from now on. You get in the driver’s seat, you grab the wheel, and you steer yourself to the life that YOU choose. It isn’t easy, and the road may be long and windy, but would you rather sit back seat to someone else’s adventure?