9. Lonely wolf
Throughout my life, a number of influential persons have told me that I am a diamond in need of polishing, or a solitary wolf, or both.
The first that I remember was one teacher at secondary school. He was a lefty, progressive, cynical, down-to-earth loser. He knew a lot but had not been able to stand for his ideals, apparently. Why would he be teaching in a catholic school? I am not judging him, how could I?
He told me one day that I was a leader who refused to act like one. He told me I was a solitary wolf. He told me he would choose me among all the other students in the class to have a coffee and talk about the world and life. I was 13 years old and was right in the middle of the torture of a full year of bullying in that school. Pretending I could or wanted to be a leader sounded like a surreal thought to me. Only 30 years after, I understood why he said that and what information he lacked (because I did not share it with him), and what a pity it is that I managed to block most of the people who could actually have been able to help me in that crucial period of my life.
I did not listen much to him. I was going through my own rebellion phase, exorcising all the pain by asking for attention the way a catholic raised child asks for attention: through self-destruction, guilt, and blame. I did stupid things, I did desperate things, I lost track in certain ways, and yet I managed to never cross any really dangerous red line, both personally and in terms of academic performance. But, seen with perspective, I obviously wasted a considerable amount of my energy, I build the foundations for a resentful sense of social belonging, and I lost a great opportunity to find help.
As I said, it was not the last time I was reminded that I needed to be polished to freed my personal potential. It sounds familiar. All my life I have had this feeling of not being yet ready for something. Like my life will start one day when I manage to sort out a certain number of details. A bit of fine-tuning and voila. But it never happens, I am getting old, and I have not managed to get rid of that feeling of a perpetual wait. I am my own Godot.
On another occasion, I must have been 22 or 23. I was in my second job, in a newspaper. I was quite young, and talented, and had impressed my direct boss. The first assignment he gave to me was writing a number of brief texts, all with headlines. It is actually quite a difficult task when you are a beginner (and even when you are not). I did it brilliantly. Because I liked what I did. He could not believe it. And I remember him asking the attention of everybody in the newsroom and say: “Guys, this new boy has just written a perfect piece of micro-journalism in less than 20 minutes. And he works in my section”. Less than two months later, I was writing reviews of rock gigs, putting together my two life-saving passions: music and writing.
One day, the director of the newspaper came to me and said: you are a diamond that needs to be polished, and etc.
Unfortunately, I got burn out pretty young, for quite a dreadful reason: I had to do the compulsory military service, and it meant 13 months of wasted time in the mornings since I requested the alternative of social service (longer, but the last thing someone who has been bullied needs is to be in the military). Combining that service with full-time work at the newspaper, 6 o 7 days a week, was too much for me. But, as I always do, I continued, I stayed, I did not leave, I kept going, sinking, breaking inside.
The diamond is getting old. I know they were right. All those people who told me I was a leader, that I needed to let myself go. I knew they were right, but I never managed to let myself be myself.
Still today, I know, inside me, that I have not yet started living my life.
When I see my daughter doing things, saying things, being herself, I would give my life for her to keep being herself all her life long. No matter what.