by Carlos Antonio Piñón
May 31, 2013
I was born against my will and have been a prisoner ever since. It wasn't all bad, not at all. As a child, my parents raised me under a permissive style and for the most part, I feel as if I had complete freedom to become who I want to be. Yet as I grow older, my life appears to grow increasingly passive. While I had freedom to do as I please, I never really acted upon many of the things I could only have imagined. In a way, I was prisoner to my own thoughts. However, this doesn't concern my parents. They were not the reason why it would be unsafe for me to play out in front. Despite feeling trapped, it is perhaps sublimation the cause of how I became to be. I can't tell whether all of those years playing Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda were for my enjoyment or for a lost boy, too disturbed to have an imagination of my own. It's possible I used these games to live in brand new worlds where I would be the hero, not just a boy trapped in a cage.
I was always indifferent to school. As far as I was concerned, I just had to do what I had to, and when I got home, I'd be traveling these fantasies and what I did in the outside world didn't really matter. The social hierarchy meant nothing to me, but I still performed my duty. I suppose I followed through my expectations because there was no reason not to. As long as I wasn't the trapped boy, I was the hero. That was what mattered to me, but even now, I still haven't found out the consequences of this. My entire childhood consisted of saving people who can't save themselves. It pains me to know that this was all just a game. I was never really the hero; I was the sheep, unaware of what's going on. As children, we never know what our parents go through to try to support us, to make us better than they were, to grow up to be happy with ourselves. In our detached society, the only thing we can receive is a detached nurture.
We are millions of dreams, millions of possibilities, millions of aspirations when we are born, and as we grow older and learn of what will always be, they die. We die. Even so, I will never support pre-determinism. At the same time, I don't fully support free will. To me, it's a perfect balance of the two. For example, provided to each of us are certain traits, as if destined, that we cannot change. At the same time, it is our choice to take advantage of these things that make up who we become. While we may never determine which is more frequently present in the development of people, both nature and nurture together define those details.
I don't recall very much from elementary school, so I cannot give any sort of indication as to whether or not anything influenced me there much at all. Be it genetics or social learning, it didn't matter. Regardless of my upbringing, in high school, I found myself in a stage, identity versus role. I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what I was supposed to do, I didn't know anything at all. Most importantly, I hated myself. Whether I self-prophesied myself into obtaining learned helplessness or not, there was no way I could deal with my troubled thoughts anymore. I had stopped playing games. I hated the idea that some view life as a game. By now, I was no longer the hero to my story, but the villain. I was behind my own demise, and I thought I could do nothing about it. I thought that no matter what I do, I would still be a failure. I was destined to fail.
I no longer think this. I learned by accident the things I had repressed. I was aware that my dad had a drinking problem, but I wasn't aware of his bipolar disorder. I didn't know he had to spend a few days in a hospital, or why we went to Mexico, I thought it was just a trip. I never thought about how it was in the middle of the year. I wasn't aware. I thought my cat and dog had run away, that gunshots were normal, and that it was normal to play video games for hours straight the whole day. I thought it was from enjoyment, not because I was running away, being sheltered. In a way, I never had to deal with any of this. Now that I'm aware, I now see the fault of life. I am claustrophobic because I don't like feeling trapped. I want to help others because I don't want anyone to hide behind a mask as I did.
My whole life, I was on a journey to self-actualize, to find out who I was, am, and will be. After all these years of searching, this is it, this is the real Carlos. This is my manifesto: on June 19th, I will be graduating from Lane Tech High School. I have made so many great friends along the way, I owe so much to my parents and my teachers, but I have a secret. I always thought that I was the worst person alive, and that I was lacking courage, I had no soul, I was never going to be anything, and that my life had no meaning. But this is not true. I know who I am, I know what my purpose is. I am an apathetic agnostic, humanist, existentialist, and I am bisexual. I am an artist, a writer, a singer, a photographer. All of these things I am, they are just labels, but the satisfaction of being able to put words into how I see myself is amazing. So many times, I have thought of ending the story there. And each time I found out more about myself, I fought against cognitive dissonance. There's an internal drive to conform, but the truth is, it is better to be happy.
It's all about steps. It took me years to understand my bisexuality. I've only ever accepted it this year, but I suspect it goes back to 2004 when I lived in Mexico for a while. And life isn't one giant event, it's a bundle. At first, I told strangers anonymously on the internet. With more and more support, I told a few people I grew to trust on social networking websites. And only just recently, I told someone who I had just talked to in my chorus class. Together, we talked about the feeling of being alone and trapped, and how people may never understand. I have not been diagnosed with depression, but I show symptoms, and he told me that he knew I wasn't like anyone else in the class, and we understood each other. That sexuality is not really such a huge matter. That feeling of relief when I told him something I've never told my closest friends, it didn't feel like much at the time, but I've kept it bottled inside. And I will continue to take every step carefully. This is my first time openly writing about it, but since, I went on to tell Moises and Goldie, two of the most understanding individuals I have ever met. This is also the first time I will write about the pressure of being agnostic. My parents are Catholic and my brother is Christian, and while they appear to be similar, they sometimes don't agree. And I am forever thankful for everything that my mom and dad did for me, but I don't believe. I just want to be happy, and sometimes I hurt physically because I cannot. These two things that make me who I am, my parents will never understand. They say they'll love me no matter what, but I'm still scared to say. I'm still afraid.
I'm not a lost little boy anymore, but I still like to think of myself as a hero. I hope in someone's eyes that I am a hero. Everyone says that I will be an excellent teacher, or an excellent artist. That I'm a good listener, understanding, charismatic, reliable, that my sympathy and care for others help validate my aspirations. That I am an inspiration and I should treat myself better, I am aware. I want to be there for someone like the people who were there for me were because I know life isn't easy. In a second, you could be killed by a stray bullet because you sat by the window. I know. I am tired of telling the same old stories, the same old feelings. It's time to start something new, accept what you have and make the best of it. Because we're all stories ourselves. We are the authors and the narrators and the main characters. We have to take control of what happens in our story. It's okay to fall down as long as you get up because that's courage. And it's perhaps strength to change being a prisoner to being yourself.