AMERICAN GOTHIC — THE FACE OF REBELLION
Ayo Akindele, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s2d2

Humans are broken creatures. The darkest aspects of life— anguish, grief, and terror— plague us all. From the depths of unrequited love to the heights of unrelenting war, the spark that ignites the flames of torment that burden each human being is something as unavoidable as air— it is conflict. Conflict is a fundamental part of life. It’s everywhere, from Newton’s third law regarding the foundations of physics, upon which the Earth operates, to the forces of friction that dictate our movements, physical and otherwise. It is in the human attempt to avoid conflict that our yearning for connection is born. However, connection is fleeting and in its truest forms, it is almost entirely unattainable. The physical connection of touch that we desire, which increases our oxytocin levels and makes us more liable to trust and ease, is simply a sensation of the repelling atomic forces that act as a barrier between us and others. On a basal level, physical connection is impossible. Emotional and mental connections, however, wax and wane with emotional and mental seasons, and we always reach a point where we are unable to accurately express our feelings, our cravings— our human angst. At our core, we are all isolated. It is in rebellion against this isolation that our transient moments of connection are formed. In sooth, it is in rebellion against the schismatic nature of life that a person would seek to correct a mistake, to mend a broken bridge— to travel back in time.

I would be remiss to say that I would never change anything about my past, but there is very little that I would change. As a child, I was physically disciplined by my parents and my teachers, in lieu of verbal communication. This spurred violent reactions in me, against other children, which simply perpetuated the cycle of punishment that I was subject to. That is, until I moved to Canada. There, the teachers never responded with violence, so the reaction of violence within me was mitigated until it eventually stopped, at about the age of nine. In retreating from violence, however, I lost my immediate means of communication with the external world. And, in losing the language that I knew best, I grew quiet. I delved heavily into reading during my formative years, avoiding human interaction in favor of the security of emotional escape. Because of this, I’ve become relatively incapable of a few things— namely, trust and grief. My relationships are oft segregated and the anxieties that I have developed, over the years, complicate regular human interactions. My father lives in another country and I used to cry whenever he left, after a visit, but I don’t anymore. Although I used to sob incessantly, as a child, my first memory of being unable to cry occurred after I was beaten by a school principal for weeping about my parents not being around. Since then, the tears have been few and far between, and it’s been a while since I was last able to cry emotionally, even though I want to on a semi-regular basis.

Basically, I’m a casualty of my childhood— but, who isn’t? If I were to go back in time to change everything about my adolescence that I deemed negative, what would be the result? Would I be happy? No. I wouldn’t be, and that’s because of the nature of life. Since life is essentially conflict, in getting rid of my issues of isolation and abandonment, I wouldn’t be transformed into a problem-free individual. Instead, I would have to deal with new issues. Perhaps, these would be the issues of being too transparent in my social life or being too ready to fall in love. Nevertheless, if my reason for travelling back in time was to fix all my problems, then I would have to go back in time to fix these too, and then to fix whichever problems arose from fixing these and so on, perpetually. In that whirlwind of time travel and problem solving, I’d be missing the key ingredient of a successful life: satisfaction.

Satisfaction is the balance between acceptance and ambition. In accepting the nature of life, while disregarding any ambition of rebellion against it, an individual loses the hope that spurs beauty and connection in the world. However, in embracing rebellion, while entirely disregarding acceptance, an individual becomes incapable of enjoying the good that is present in life and condemns themself to a cycle of saving their past, with no hope of true happiness. It is in seeking to rebel against our human isolation, with the understanding that life will never be perfect, that one can truly achieve the satisfaction that makes life worth living. This is the reason that I’d occasionally travel into the past, if I had the ability. I would not do so in an attempt to cure the human condition of conflict and suffering, as this can never be cured. Instead, I would do so to shape the flaws of existence into something that I could accept and come to terms with.

The greatest people are not those that are entirely consumed by an overactive god-complex. They seldom wear capes or possess the ability to travel back in time. At their core, they are flawed, just like regular people, and just like great heroes. The factor that defines the greatest people and makes them the subject of our aspirations, even above the great heroes, is simple— the greatest people can save themselves. In the darkest times, they are capable of moving beyond their situation and creating the future that they desire for themselves. In the darkest times, they are human. They bleed, they hurt— but they rebel, they connect— and they live. In the broken system of life, we are all vitiated creatures. We are all damaged, we are all hurt, and we are all broken. But, in that brokenness, there is the hope of connection. This is something worth fighting for.
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