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December 18th, 2011

Dear Abby…What Do You Call A Friend Who Resents It When Life Sends Good Fortune Your Way?

To Whom It May Concern…


It’s always grade school all over again with us isn’t it, when one week we would be the best friends ever and the next you’re cutting me out.   One week I’m one of the few people you know who can give you Intelligent Conversation.   The week after that I’m not fabulous enough or I’m too nerdy or it’s why is Glenn hanging around with that queer and then I’m not someone you want to be seen with or even admit knowing.

I was the kid who wasn’t supposed to amount to anything.   People in school thought so, people in my own goddamned family thought so.   But I did amount to something after all.   Somehow, I did.   Maybe it’s because there always was more to me then everyone who kept putting me down told me there was.   Maybe they didn’t want me to know I had some good stuff inside me. The scapegoat, the cheap punching bag is not allowed to think thoughts like that is he?

Some folks who used to know me back in the day are happy for me now.   And some seem to just get all resentful.   You for instance.   Whatever.   I wasn’t just handed the life I have now. Yes, I got lucky.   So amazingly lucky.   Yes, some people never get a break like the one I got.   But when I got that break, I did something with it.   So I guess I must have been able to so something with it.   So I guess that Something was always inside of me after all.   If I was the scrawny little looser some people kept telling me I was way back in the day, I’d have blown it.   I didn’t.   Maybe I should just stop letting people cut me up just for their own amusement.

I work at the Space Telescope Science Institute.   We operate and administer the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA.   Lately I’ve been assigned to the team that is developing a test and integration laboratory for systems to be used on the James Webb Space Telescope.   A couple months ago I was sent to Boulder Colorado for a JWST Partners Conference hosted by Ball.   My security clearance got me into ITAR restricted seminars to learn what the other partners are doing to get this thing launched and sending back science data from L2.   Oh…and I got a glowing performance review and a nice raise.   But that’s less important to me, less thrilling by far, then the fact that every day I get to work in a place that harvests light from near the dawn of time and gives it to the world to study.

I am a part of that.   Every fucking day at work I am told in word and in deed that I am not simply capable of intelligent, logical, and creative thinking, but that my talents and skills are Needed.   Needed.   Perhaps it’s time I started believing it deep down in my gut.

I’m too old for this.   We’re done.   I’m 58 years old now…why has believing in myself always been so goddamned hard.   Well…one reason is the family I grew up in. They hated dad, and I got static from nearly everyone on mom’s side for having his face and his name.   Then there was grade school.   From the moment I entered grade school, being as I was the son of a single divorced working mother, I was immediately tossed into the problem child bin and never mind that I was actually a very well behaved kid. That single divorced working mother set a good example for her son. I’m 58 years old and my police record is cleaner then your kitchen floor.   But in the stifling social prejudices of the late 1950s and early 60s, single divorced women were tainted, and that meant their children could be tossed into the gutter with a clear conscience. I know Exactly how it is that a teacher’s low expectations, placed upon a kid at that age, can work their way like rust into their heart.

But here’s another reason. Friends like you. A few beautiful popular kids who took me into their circle, I guess because they thought I’d make a good sidekick.   A little raggedy puppy that would wag its tail at the slightest sign of approval.   So I was allowed to tag along.

Some kids from those days who made friends with me really liked me. I guess they saw something inside of me even back then that I didn’t.   I remember how Bob used to keep telling me I should go into computer work because I had a good head for it.   I remember thinking how nice encouragement like that was, but I just couldn’t believe that someone like me could have that kind of a job. No, no…I was meant to be a stock boy or a burger flipper for the rest of my life.   I know who those friends are. They’re the ones who are happy that I’ve made good at this late stage of my life, and occasionally give me an exasperated See…we told you so!

But not you. I remember how every time I tried to show you something good in me, capable in me, creative in me, you’d always smack it down. I was a little shutter bug long before I met you, but I never thought I could go the step further and set up my own darkroom until you showed me the simple one you’d set up in your basement. You showed me step by step how to develop film and make prints. So I thought, hey…I can do that…   And I gathered the things together I needed and did my first roll of film and it was one of those moments in life that you look back on as a revelation, a turning point, where something deep inside of you awakens. I wanted to thank you for that. And for the next year or so I showed you the best of what I was doing. But it just made you resentful. So after a while I just stopped showing my photography to you.

After grade school you eventually dropped out of my life, and I was sorry to see you go. But it was like that. Especially after I started coming out of the closet. I never once heard a bigoted or even slightly prejudiced word from you about gays but there were times I wondered if that wasn’t part of it. You worked your way into the sound business and let me tag along for a while as a sometimes roadie. But we would cross paths less and less, especially after I started dinking around with the first micro computers that came to the market. Did you notice how adept I suddenly became with those things? Bob did. That’s probably why he kept nagging me to pursue it more seriously for its job potential. You started dinking around with them yourself but it was another photography thing where I shot ahead and you just lost interest and we saw each other even less after that.   You moved west and got yourself a nice position at a big Vegas hotel.   Then something happened…I don’t know what…and you vanished from sight for about a decade.

Then you popped back into my life, told me how fine it was to have me back again because I was such an intelligent conversationalist. You’d moved back to the east coast and invited me up to see you at the theater where you were working now. Somehow your situation had changed. You were living in a room over top of that theater. I guess you expected to see the same old Bruce who couldn’t afford much more then a room in someone’s basement himself.   Then you learned I had a house of my own and you were fine with that. Then you learned I was a part of the Hubble Space Telescope team and you were fine with that. Your dad after all, had been part of the Apollo Moon program team. Then I drove up in a nice Honda Accord and you were fine with that. We had a good first meeting after so long apart. The next time I came to visit I drove up in a new Mercedes-Benz and it went downhill with us pretty rapidly after that.

What did you think? That this kid who was raised by a single working mother, who wore hand-me-down clothes she would get from the church for most of his childhood, would judge Anyone by their economic circumstances, let alone a friend? What the fuck? Don’t you think my entire life has taught me better then that? All through grade school, until I got diverted to Woodward ironically enough, I was judged by the low budget single parent household I was raised in. By teachers, by the other kids. And inside my own family I was constantly being judged by the fact that I was my father’s son. A stinking rotten good for nothing Garrett just like my pap.That’s what I was always supposed to be.

Now look at me. What the fuck? You think I didn’t learn something from that life?

No. Just…no. This isn’t about that. You know damn well I am not like that. This is you. This is you being as resentful as always, whenever the sidekick showed signs of being his own person.

There have been others like you in my life from my grade school years.   Relationships I held onto for way too long, because deep down inside I thought I was lucky they even knew my name, because someone like me wasn’t really worthy of their company. So…Yes…I’m a moron. In some ways. I suppose we all in some ways. But we can learn from our mistakes too, and I’ve been making this one for far too long. I’m not the worthless good for nothing destined for abject failure all his life, if not a prison cell one day, that people kept telling me I was when I was a kid.

I’m 58 years old. I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University, have had a successful career as an IT professional, and that has brought me some economic freedoms I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever have one day. I have a nice little Baltimore rowhouse within walking distance of my place of work, and close to two nice grocery stores, drugstores, and lots of other good things. I drive a little Mercedes-Benz C class, and I have plans currently to trade it in for an E class diesel. I have a regular spot in Baltimore OUTLoud as a political cartoonist and sometimes photographer, my cartoons have also appeared in Family and Friends of Memphis, and Stonewall News Northwest. This has allowed me to get membership in the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists. Professionally, I am also a member of The Association for Computing Machinery, and the Project Management Institute. I have my own web site and a running cartoon series, A Coming Out Story, that gets hits from all over the world.

They say living well is the best revenge. Sort of. It’s not about having things, it’s about doing things. It’s about letting the spirit that was always within you shine. As bright as it can. As bright as it must. That is living well. Then you don’t need revenge. Revenge is for chickenshits.

So is hanging onto toxic relationships.   Never love yourself less then you love someone else.

Goodbye, good luck…have a great life of your own.   I really mean that.   Whatever horrible thing it was that happened to you back in Las Vegas I hope you have found your path to rise above it and have a good life.   Now go away.


One Response to “Dear Abby…What Do You Call A Friend Who Resents It When Life Sends Good Fortune Your Way?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Good job! I am proud of you.

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