Why Am I So Negative?

New York - probably my favorite picture of me.

Content Warning: I talk about suicide a tad.

Ayumi Hamasaki is a musician that has, in more ways than one, changed my life. She's inspired me artistically. She's held me up when the world felt like it wanted me down. She's written and sung words that kept me from taking a kitchen knife and slitting my wrists when I was thirteen. No writer, actor, singer, game designer, or anybody has personally affected my life in the same way Hamasaki has. The very person I am today, and in fact the very reason I'm alive, writing this, is due in large part to her and the music she's written and performed.

Which is why one of my most formative memories in high school revolves around her. In April 2010, just before my life started getting really fucked-up, Hamasaki's eleventh album dropped - Rock 'n' Roll Circus. To date, I think it's one of her most polished works - a stellar balance of her signature ballads, high-spirited pop numbers, and some rock influences thrown in a blender with her propensity for ambitious instrumental interludes. This was in the early days of having money of my own to spend on what I wanted, and at that time, I wanted nothing more than to import the deluxe copy of Rock 'n' Roll Circus. Multiple disks, a poster, and a photo book of Ayu-chan chilling around the UK... it was a dream come true for me, as until then I'd only pirated her music.

But this dream come true is always tainted by a particularly painful memory of mine. One day, about a month before class let out for the summer, I was hanging out with these girls I didn't particularly like. Two people who made my life hell at the time and reveled in it. Not that I blame them in retrospect, really, as I kind of did the same thing to them - and one of them turned out to be a really sweet, cool person. I digress. Because we were both in theatre, I kind of had to spend time around them. And because I'm a reluctant extrovert, I tried to talk with them. I tried talking to them about how excited I was for this album. How much it meant to me. How much Ayu herself meant to me.

Their response? To shit all over it.

One girl, being a low-key weeaboo (she was actually instrumental into getting me into Malice Mizer,) had heard of Ayu. She saw, in that moment, an opportunity to make me feel completely miserable about something that made me happy. Mocking Ayu's voice, ripping apart her music, et cetera, et cetera. It made me angry at the time, but in retrospect, it just really hurt me. Here was this musician who'd emotionally connected with me through a language that I don't even have a toddler's proficiency in, who'd given me a reason to stay alive, and this so-and-so was tearing her apart. I just couldn't understand it. Not liking something is one thing, but to be so ruthless? It felt unnecessary.

New York - I guess I'm raising my hand for something.
It felt hurtful. Why would anyone want to make anyone feel bad for something they like?

But to say that girl and her lackey (the high-school girl equivalent to Scut Farkus' sidekick in A Christmas Story) were the first people to do this to me would be a bold-faced lie. This has been a longer issue for me, going back to a key figure in my life - my dad.

See, my dad used to be kind of a bastard. He was, in fact, one throughout most of my life until I left for high school. I was homeschooled by him until then, and when I turned fourteen, it was like he stopped trying to relate to me nearly as much. Which to this day I'm kind of thankful for. High school was hell enough for me as it was, with an abusive relationship, an unrequited love that still stings to think about, and enough bullying to make up about ten Lifetime specials. My dad being thrown into the mix as a constant presence would've probably pushed me over the edge. When he did try, in fact, it did push me over the edge - things came to blows between me and him more than a few times.

On topic, though. Once I started taking interest in video games and anime at a young age, my dad saw a son who wasn't what he wanted. I didn't want to go on hikes, learn about the outdoors, do sports, engage in faux-spiritualist bullshit. And because he comes from a classical definition of an abusive, broken home, he coped with this unwanted child in the only way he knew how - abusing the shit out of them. Of me. Of everything I liked. Everything I held to as an identity.

Sure, he tried to help me indulge my interests. He was never, and still isn't, an actual bad person. But for every attempt to rent an anime VHS for me from Blockbuster, buy a volume of manga for me, play some rounds of Goldeneye: Rogue Agent or Mario Kart: Double Dash with me, came several other downsides. Smashed anime figures across the floor. Mocking me in a high-pitched, squealing voice while tearing up books I collected. The fucker needed some anger management classes and intensive therapy, that much was clear.

But why do those actual difficult things when there's a smaller person to take it all out on? A person who can't fight back no matter how hard he tries?

Thing is, I take after my dad in one key way - I'm stubborn. Every attempt to break me, change me, demoralize and shame me into being a different person... it just made me double down on what made me happy. I retreated further into anime and games, wishing I could have Goku as a mentor and Asuka Langley-Soryu as a girlfriend. This came at the expense, unfortunately, of me being a goddamned social wreck. My early days of high school consisted of me making people feel awkward every time I opened my mouth and not understanding that maybe the computer lab wasn't the best place to look at smutty manga. By beating me into submission, my dad had accidentally reinforced years and years of bad social habits that I'm still struggling to break.

So, then, let's recap. I got bullied in high school, my dad was an abusive fuck, and I was a prototypical 4Chan user before I even knew what 4Chan was (I'd go through that phase in my later teens.) Where is this going?

There was a point where I thought fedoras looked good.
It's going to me admitting that, as a person, I'm prone to expecting the worst from people. My dad mocked me and my peers mocked me. By proxy, when I started getting in relationships and serious friendships, I had very low expectations for people. Not only that, but I had years of unspent anger and resentment boiling underneath the surface, just ready to come out at the drop of a hat.

These lowered expectations led me into getting close to two of the most formative people in my life - my ex-girlfriend and a cool girl who I'll call, erm, Cool Girl.

My ex-girlfriend was, by many of my standards at the time, nobody I really wanted to date. But I did. For two and a half years. Most of that time, I hated myself for staying, and a lot of that hatred got directed at her - sometimes rightfully, sometimes not. On the one hand, she was patently abusive and manipulative. She constantly attempted to emotionally demean me, use me as an emotional scratching post for issues I had no idea how to navigate, use sex to make me stay when I wanted to break up. Much like my father, most of my existence to this girl was to be somebody put in their place and used when convenient. On the other hand, I did a lot of wrong to her. I took out a lot of pent-up anger on her. I lusted after other girls when I'd already promised to be monogamous and not, y'know, a flaming asshole. I shat on her family, when it was never my place to do so. In short? We were kind of awful to each other, and me moving away was the best thing that happened to that relationship - I dumped in her in less than a week.

I can only hope she's worked through her own issues, and whatever awful shit I inflicted on her, and found happiness.

On the other end of the spectrum was Cool Girl. The first time I saw her, she was hanging out in front of the school, staring at flowers, gazing up at the sunset through the trees. She was pretty. She was kind of aloof. She wanted to talk to me. We became fast friends, and throughout a few years of knowing her, we had probably the weirdest friendships I've ever been a part of. On some days, she was the kindest, most supportive human beings I've ever met. On others, she spit venom and teased the fuck of me because... I dunno, she was bored, I guess? But despite the bad days, I remember her fondly. We had a lot of chats about anime, music, movies. We hung out outside of school a few lot. She leaned on me during a screening of Inglourious Basterds, which is probably one of my least uncomfortable and most fond memories of spending time with a girl during high school. Despite me being an emotionally crippled heap, she wanted to spend time with me. However, it was through lowered expectations (see: my dad's sustained abuse) that I was able to ride out the bad times. She did, in some ways, use me in the same way everyone else used me - a convienient tool to take out aggression on. Yet as much as she got under my skin whenever she did that, it never made me hate her - it just made me wish I could be nicer so I could take it and get back to the good times.

Circa 2011-12 with my favorite doggy. Yeah, that's an "engagement" ring.
When she stopped talking to me after I unceremoniously dumped my ex (they were best friends and everybody liked my girlfriend more than they liked me,) though, I questioned what the hell our friendship meant to her anyway. I still wonder that, really. Yet I still think of her fondly. In retrospect, I think I had a huge crush on her, but never had the courage to follow through on that. And in retrospect, where she and I were emotionally would've led to a lot of hurt feelings. Maybe it's better that I never tried to pursue that. Hurting my ex somehow fills me with less guilt than the idea of hurting this person.

God, I'm kind of an asshole, aren't I? Moving on.

With two crucial relationships in my life being dictated by my abuse, and informed by the emotional mechanisms I learned from said abuse, I was left a person used to being shit on by everyone and everything around me. That's not even getting into all the emotional abuse my relatives piled on me - tearing down my ambitions to write and mocking my eating disorder to the point of making it worse. I can only take small solace in the face that one of them is dead. I think. I hope she is, anyway.

The consequence of all of this is me and all my fucked-up tendencies. My tendency to settle for the worst situations. My tendency to shoot myself and all my ambitions down. My tendency to retreat instead of face my problems. My tendency to surround myself with people who are bad for me. Tendencies that, admittedly, I'm still unlearning. And beneath those tendencies is anger, but below that anger (as anger is a secondary emotion) is a hurt. A hurt that my dad hurt me like he did. A hurt that my girlfriend burned me the closer I got to her. A hurt that my own emotional complexes fucked me out of a relationship with a girl in New York who felt like the one thing to go right in my life.

Ah, yes. That last one. Let's use it as an example. In the infancy of my relationship with my ex, I took a trip to New York for an acting class, which was really just a glorified excuse for parents to spend a few grand on their kids for a summer camp. It was there that I met this girl who I'll call... Hazel Eyes, I guess. The first day I got there, I saw this girl. Way out of my league. My mom was with me, as we were in the check-in line, and remarked how pretty this girl was. I agreed, silently, and knew that I was probably going to be awkwardly gawking at her from a distance. But the funniest thing happened - we became friends the next day. At an icebreaker, I started talking to her and her group of friends, and she didn't immediately seem to hate me. In fact, she seemed to think I was pretty nice.

That kicked off one of the best weeks of my life. On the third day of being there, I lost my phone, and was accidentally cut off from my girlfriend.. This gave me and Hazel Eyes the opportunity to get to know each other, without one of our significant others being a distraction. We... hit it off pretty well, actually. Sooner than later, we were laying on each other's lap. Making promises to see each other again. Hugging each other. You know those cheesy movies where people fall in love at an unusually fast pace and it seems like the perfect alligning of planets? Where the people seem meant for each other? That was what this felt like, except for the first time in my life, I was the protagonist - not the gawky comic relief. Everything felt so perfect. We were... both dating other people, sure. But there was this mutual acknowledgement that we felt something we'd never really felt before. And that was incredible. Unreal. For the first fucking time in my life, it felt like somebody actually cared about me, and didn't just want to use me for something. Like they didn't just see somebody to tear down.

Saying goodbye to her is a memory that still makes my stomach knot up. We were both sobbing. I never wanted to let go.

Another New York pic - and an appropriate one for this passage.
Of course, there were phone calls and Facebook. Which we used liberally, on top of AIM - remember that? She was a lot more reluctant to jump into something serious, because of the distance and, oh right, we were dating other people. I was overzealous in all my attempts to solidify what I perceived as romance, and what she told me was romance. Because of my years and years of negative reinforcement, I found a way to get overeager, bitter, and impatient at what was perhaps the only true love I'd ever felt for another human being in any capacity. Without getting into too much detail, my abuse informed a series of bad decisions which led me to pushing her away from me. Destroying any chances of true friendship, let alone a relationship. At one point, she remarked that we were kindred spirits.

We haven't talked in a few years, and my current girlfriend is deathly afraid of me ever talking to her again. So I don't.

She's also married now, I think - happily, I'd imagine. And hope. I hope she's happy. Because she deserves happiness.

This is all a very roundabout way of talking about why I'm a negative asshole, isn't it? I'll cut to the chase, but first - another recap. My dad abused me, my peers hated me, I was a bitter jerk, my girlfriend and I abused each other in different capacities, and I drove away somebody that I felt all John Hughes-y about.

Why, then, am I such a jerk? Why, throughout high school, did I often revel in getting under people's skin whenever I could? Why do I shit on other people's opinions, when people doing that to me hurts me so, so fucking much? Why do I surround myself with negative people?

Because I'm terrified.

I'm terrified of being positive, because I'm terrified of the pain that comes with liking something. So instead, I shit all over everything. It's a self-defense mechanism, carefully sculpted in the form of all my abusers.

Among my friends, I'm the guy that'll be the first to call something garbage. To my bosses at CGM, I'm the guy who doesn't hold back his opinions, and have often had talks about my negativity coming across as cruel and mean-spirited instead of constructive. It gets to the point where I live in constant fear of my friends hating me and my bosses firing me because I'm just too overbearing. I'm too much of a cynical, snarky asshole. Recently, after recording the third episode of Rocketto Punchi, I had a conversation with my co-hosts in which I called an anime one of their wives liked "bad, for bad people," to her face. I then went on a follow-up act of saying that Persona 5 being accessible to newcomers was an awful thing.

After I got off the mic, I wanted to cry.

I also thought this hair looked good at some point. Actually, I still do.
I know these people probably didn't think anything of it. But to me, I realized that, in some capacity, I've become the person who made my past self miserable. My friend's wife is one of the sweetest people I've interacted with, and she seemed to really like this show. Yet to her face, I joked that she was a bad person for liking it. Sure, it was in jest. But what kind of joke is that? What's the punchline in telling somebody that the things they like suck, and by proxy, they suck as a human being? What kind of friendship can ever grown when one party is sabotaging the other one? Speaking as somebody who was on the receiving end of one of those friendships with this jerk who lived across the street from me, I'll tell you - a bad one.

It was my friend's wife response that really got to me. "Do you think I'm a bad person?"

I realized, in that moment, what a horrible person I'm turning into. Because even if it was a joke, even if her feelings weren't really hurt... where did I get off telling people that they're bad because of something that makes them happy? I'm no different, in that case, than those two girls in high school. Than my father. Than everyone I surround myself with who seems to delight in snarking at anything and everything whenever they get the chance.

I get some kind of catharsis in making other people feel bad. That's wrong.

And it all stems from the fact that, my whole life, I've been shit on. By family, friends, girlfriends. By my own baggage sabotaging a chance at what could've wound up being an amazing relationship, and sabotaging opportunities to go places other than North fucking Carolina for college. I've constantly clipped my own wings and lashed out in anger at anything I can. More often than not, those things were video games, anime, movies - things I reviewed for fun.When I started out, I took delight in shitting on things, because I could take out anger out on these things. That's why I started this blog - to be an asshole. I'm not alone either - so many gaming personalities have made a career out of being bitter assholes. Maybe they're emotionally stunted fucks like me, too. Who knows?

I do know something, though. I'm not sure I can go on like this. I live in an atmosphere where my negativity is reinforced, too - my girlfriend has routinely triggered past trauma by openly and proudly ripping into things I like, for... I mean, I don't know why. I guess it's an easy way for her to take out stress, too. But in our dynamic, I'm often the positive one, the kinder one, the one more willing to give things a chance. Me, the miserable bitter fuck, is the more positive one out of the two of us. While that's something that'll continue to change over time on her end, I need to change on my end too.

In this week's podcast, talking with my co-hosts Lane, Russell and Preston, I realized something. I love these guys. Their friendship means a lot to me. And I hope to God, if there is one, that I don't lose it. But if I keep going my current trajectory, I know I will. Nobody likes a miserable, bitter asshole, especially one that actively shits on their interests. I've lost more friends than I can count because of my bitterness, my ability to recreate abuse inflicted on me.

I can't do that anymore.

I'm going to try to be a better person.

So if I've hurt your feelings, I'm sorry.

If I've pushed you away, I'm sorry.

It's time for me to be a better person. I hope you'll have the patience to stick around.


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