By all accounts, my entire life has been characterized by a series of consecutive, completely unrealistic goals. One stacked up on top of the other. Some running out of road and never achieved. Some running on into infinity without any well-defined end goal or expiration date. This has always been my nature, as I have long had a contempt for the mundane and tangible. I always expected so much of myself, that which was easily in reach seemed like a waste of time and resources. I was better than that, I believed. I was capable of more.
That’s the reason why playing in the League, or being a great filmmaker or accomplished writer, or running my own multimedia company, never seemed too far-fetched, even if at the same time, I knew, to varying degrees, they were long shots of an inconceivable variety. In a strange, subconscious way, I believed I could expend my life-force chasing goals that could not be had, and in that futile process of thankless work, I would unearth greatness of the sort more realistic people would never know. Largely because they never considered it worth their while to try. Much of this mode of thinking about what was possible in life and what could be extracted from my potential, could be attributed to a simple fact. I didn’t know any better.
So when folks would tell me that sub-six-foot white kids from Brigantine don’t play in the NBA and that you can’t look like the dudes in Flex magazine without juice or that you don’t become Martin Scorsese shooting your own no-budget film, I just shrugged it off and laughed. Just because no one did it before, or because no one they know did it, or because their limited understanding of what is possible tells them so, why should I impose those same limits on myself? Even if they’re right–and in many cases I knew they certainly were, what right do they have to skew my path of self-discovery? I thought, if I am able to shed their measured expectations and move past their criticism and find my own way forward, who knows what the future could hold? I’d tell myself, shoot for the stars. Even if you come up short and land on the moon, you’ll still be 240,000 or so miles past a point just about anyone else has ever found themselves… In rarified air so thin you can’t breathe.
Much of this defiant opposition to “reality” is rooted in a youthful idealism that I never allowed myself to abandon. With time, the undeniable matters of fact and existence begin to erode the childish naivete and wonder with which we enter this world, and a man comes to lose faith in himself. Fuck that. I couldn’t allow that to happen to me. I have always believed in what I could be, in large part because I never bought into what I was told I couldn’t be—even when life did its best to discourage or dissuade. It was that simple. I didn’t know any better. I still don’t. And it is in this lack of “knowledge” that I find tremendous freedom and empowerment.
The truth is, society leans heavily on the status quo to maintain order. Compare yourself to your neighbor, measure yourself against your folks and grandparents, stay realistic with your prospects, and the social classes stay intact. Remain cloistered in the safety of your tight-knit community, only able to see to the stop sign at the end of your block, and life is a pretty straight-forward, easy ride.
The local village wise men will be happy to share the rules on how the game is played… How to get ahead without rocking the boat or making waves. Join the right teams. Say the right things. Voice the right opinions. Kiss the right asses. Keep your expectations low, and life will be gravy. We are programmed with this mode of operating from the time we can walk. They want you to understand their method and to buy their bill of goods, living in manner that suits their agenda. Because, after all, “that’s just the way it is”, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. Stand in line. Know your role. This is the indoctrination to which we are each subject daily.
I never believed what they said I couldn’t do, so I did. I never knew what I couldn’t be, so I am. In such a world, dangerous is the man who has the power of not knowing.