Most people, whether they know it or not, wouldn't argue against an organized society full of enrichment; enrichment of favorable chances. How you set yourself apart from the normal perception of your culture, your ethnicity, and the tragic pitfall of the illusional ruthless perception of life- the idea that you are a victim of failure if you don't succeed on the first or second try- will define your destiny. It is not society that sets anyone up for failure, it's the mindset that society controls your drive to be ambitious and successful. I can't imagine looking back on life and saying, "Dear Society, thank you for ruining my life..."
It had to be 1998 when I really understood the power of societal influence. I'd never seen so much control exerted over someone simply on the premises of acceptance and pity. I dare not call a family member out; that's not the intention or purpose of this post. However, the illustration is very real. The probability of meeting someone that can impact your livelihood for better or for worse, is very high. Moreover, the probability of meeting someone in the criminal institution we call "prison" and presuming that they will somehow influence your life in a positive way is more doomed for failure and problematic than any of the later.
When I was younger, I experienced what criminals are truly like for a brief time; please forgive me for the term if it offends you. I've watched the co-habitation of mindsets that are completely stuck in "plotting" for the quick fix to get ahead. Watching the life of criminals within my family taught me what distruction truly means. I witnessed deception, violence, and panic playout in one solitary picture that never once lead to anything positive but somehow always lead to a lot of blame. It's a fascinatingly devastating reality to realize that some people truly can look beyond their own destructive actions and place responsibility on anything and anyone but themselves.
The disturbing behaviors of a criminal-mind play-out in the most destructive ways. A criminal continues to seek felonious acts to satisfy their sickness to conform to taking what they feel society owes them. It's a mindset foolish enough to believe that the only forgiveness for shortcomings or failure is to take and ruin what anyone else has that they envy. Society doesn't create criminals, circumstance and influence does; those are not people they are actions.
A couple of weeks ago I was working at the gym, and a mother was riding the bike in front of me, while talking on the phone. I tried not to listen to her conversation, but it was difficult not to. She was talking about her son; telling the person on the other line that he wasn't going to be anything but a criminal like his father before he even turned fifteen. I listened to the disgust and certainty in her voice as she talked about the reasons her fourteen year old son was failing to be a prosperous young man with the potential for a bright future. She pointed the finger at his father and then his schooling; from there she blamed rappers and "his ignorant hood friends", as she distastefully put it. I begin to shake my head as I walked away. That mother labeled her son a criminal; she set his potential at fourteen to nothing more than an orange jumpsuit. I could be wrong, but I imagined that she talked the same in his presence because she felt no shame talking that way in the public eye. What a shame to give-up on less than two decades of living, on a life you created; what a shame to face such a vast amount of potential problems vs potential opportunities in society without hope.
I thought back to my family members who'd been labeled criminals; thought back to why someone would mate with an inmate and then bring them home knowing that it is likely a futile relationship. After many years of knowing them, I realized somewhere along the way they lost hope. They lost hope that anyone saw them as anything differently than that label that they should've shed or left back in some locked file cabinet with tarnished sheets and fading ink.
I'm not sure that we can rehabilitate the mind of some criminals, but I do believe that a mindset without the belief that society has just as much good as bad will forever remained chained to the label of criminal. Not just the actual criminal defined by law, but the criminal that steals their own opportunities or the opportunities of others simply by degrading their possibility at living a quality life.
Each and every one of us deserves a chance at bettering ourselves. Not through a production of excuses and expected obligation because of race, sexuality, or status- but because we are fortunate enough to live in a society that holds valuable opportunities. Surround yourself with people that help you grow. We live in a society of more than criminal-minds.
Many people play on weakness; in fact, all of us have used the weakness of others to get what we want at some point in our life. Our motives are not always bad. There are times when the intentions of persuasion are for the betterment of others, not just ourselves. However, in society- whether in business or any type of relationships- you must have leverage earned by value. If you don't, you will be a China Doll: easily breakable; delicate. China Dolls can only sustain so many falls. If you're a lucky or a well built China Doll you can be dropped and sustain the cracks, but if you're not, one fall can ruin your entire livelihood.
I think about the preparation I've put into interviews in my life; the amount of thought, practice, and planning I put myself through because I didn't want anyone to see me as weak or incompetent in my abilities. When I was 15, I wanted to work for CiCi's Pizza as a hostess; the true aspirations of a 15 year old. I was determined to prove that I had the endurance and humility to work in a place where many of my classmates went to hangout, frequently trashed tables, and order absurd combinations of "specialty" pizza they knew they wouldn't eat. I wanted to serve them and not feel a bit of shame for it, because I had a job.
It just so happens that a year before I turned 15, we lived in an apartment complex right behind CiCi's so we would go there quite often. There was a young girl, likely 16 or 17, that worked as the hostess. I thought her job was cool because she got the opportunity to deal directly with the customers, and not behind the buffet counter making pizzas. She was a intricate part of the business limelight, in my eyes. I would watch what she did closely, critique her interactions with customers. If she didn't smile enough, I noted that; if she didn't greet every customer with the same enthusiasm, I noted that; if she missed giving one kid in the room a balloon; I noted that. I was convinced that I could do her job, and not only that, I could do it better. That was just the way I thought.
The day I went to apply for the position, the managers happened to be having a meeting. One came over to check me out to the buffet, and I told him I was actually there to apply for the hostess position. He looked at me, surely thinking I looked like a 12 year old, and said, "The hostess position isn't open for hire." I told him I knew it wasn't, but I wanted to apply early in case it opened. He looked puzzled, but he asked, "Why do you want to work at CiCi's?" I still remember my response word for word, "Because, I like making people smile and meeting new people excites me." He then said, "But, people can be rude and mean sometimes; especially when you make a mistake. How are you going to handle that being so young?" I responded, "Everybody has bad days and everybody makes mistakes. I would still treat that person kindly and do my job." It may have been the most immature and naive answer in the world, but he smiled at me and told me to fill out the application. He called me the next day, and I became a hostess at CiCi's Pizza.
I think about how getting the job at CiCi's Pizza, working only 15 hours a week making $5.15 an hour, had an impact on my life. I realize I didn't have a traditional interview to get the job at CiCi's, but what I did have was a genuine moment of a first impression. I thought about what the manager saw in me, and I can think of four traits: enthusiasm, ambition, confidence, and fearlessness. I wasn't a China Doll. I wasn't intimidated by the fact the position wasn't even open, or that he was a manager, or even that I was only 15 years old- I knew what I wanted and I went for it. I wasn't going to be broken or defeated by obstacles.
It's extremely difficult to watch people advance when you know they are truly China Dolls. When you recognize their weaknesses in character and their limitations in ability, or even more so- their lack of passion. Their title is tarnished when these areas are exposed; that is a difficult aspect to recover. However, even if you are a China Doll you can re-invent or create a stronger reputation and advancement for yourself by the effort that you put into your ambition, being enthusiastic, showing genuine confidence, and being fearless in the face of disappointment; the revamping of failure lies in your passion in these traits. We all have China in our character; those delicate spots of weakness. But, the armor that you place around those delicacies is what strengthens your potential to surpass true China Dolls.
There's a sickness in self-pity. Pity is a decision to accept misfortune as an answer to failure. Failure is not necessarily a final decision; it's a part of life- a large part of growth. Misfortunes can be the death of progression if you're weak. Complaining about what's already occurred wont change the outcome, but it will dull the present.
I see China Dolls everyday. I wonder if they recognize their weaknesses as I do theirs and my own. I don't waste time dwelling on their flaws or position in life. I focus on my own China spots, and I try to strengthen my armor by gaining more knowledge in what I seek and making myself visible through the efforts of my work. If your investments are predicated on others performance, positions, or lack there of- then you've lost site of YOUR potential. If you feel you work with or for China Dolls, just remember that it's not the work you do for them or that they don't do- it's the work you do for yourself and the motivation you put into others to maximize their true potential by showing them how to grow. Build YOUR armor and don't worry yourself with China Dolls.
My China has never failed to empower me.