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Opinion

Life’s reality hidden by lack of challenges

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October 30, 2008

You know, it’s a real shame I’ve never been shot or stabbed. I’ve never had a life-threatening addiction or even gotten in a legitimate fight. I’ve never broken my nose or been in a car accident. I’ve never been hit in the teeth with a lead pipe and nobody has ever run over my legs with a John Deere. This bro has never been tased.

I’ve never disappeared completely or run away or faced my fears.

I’ve always been just a middle-class Midwesterner. Safe, bland and risk-free.

And herein lays my painful realization: this absolute lack of street cred undermines some of what I would like to pass off as my “personal identity.” Nothing bad has ever really happened to me, yet here I am listening to the melodies of the Bobs Dylan and Bob Marley, pretending to commiserate with the struggles of past generations, pretending to fight against all the politicians and bankers and businessmen, going down and taking The Man with me. I read dangerous books and listen to dangerous songs but, man, I don’t do dangerous things.

I wish I’d been shot nine times like 50 Cent. It just sounds so damn dramatic and sexy. If getting gunned down in the street is what it takes to give me some shred of credibility, so be it. Please use a Super Soaker-with warm water, not too hot, not too cold. Actually Kool-Aid’s even better.

I’d like to pretend I’ve lived a hard knock life, like perhaps having done so would somehow cast my life’s utterly average achievements in a more impressive light. I’d like for people to believe that I’ve struggled heroically to get where I am, but that’s not the truth. Sure, I’ve had my moments of crisis, but no bullets flying through my window or broken teeth in my mouth.

The truth is I come from Woodbury, the land of safety, shopping centers and sport utility vehicles. It was a wonderful place to grow up, but now I wonder at its long-term effect on me. On one hand, this suburban Eden has afforded me all sorts of chances at success including the ability to attend a 5-star public high school for free (couldn’t do it without taxes!). But has the safety of Woodbury irreversibly weakened my resolve? Have the plush comforts and indulgent amenities of life in the land of McMansions conquered my tenacity and caused me to slip into an eternal cycle of complacency and instant gratification?

I want to scrap and yell and struggle and fight to figure out what life is supposed to be about. I want a challenge bigger and more significant than all the other tiny challenges that have come to occupy my daily brain space. Pay the rent, read this chapter, write this analysis, do the laundry-do you realize what percentage of your daily life is busywork? Maybe I’m just wishing for some big, terrible struggle to befall me, to test my mettle, to unearth meaning in all of my life’s meaningless little things.

Whatever my struggle is, I just hope it doesn’t leave me with some long-term disability like post-traumatic stress disorder. Fear Factor eating contests and prison rape come to mind-fuck that. If by chance I do ever end up in prison, I hope the worst they do to me is to make me eat 50 hardboiled eggs in an hour, like Cool Hand Luke. Only with an experience like that will I ever make sense of all this crap.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.