Go Against the Grain

Chicago Theatre
Image courtesy of Leon Macapagal via Pexels.com

Lemme tell ya a story ’bout a man named–wait, wrong story. Did I ever tell you the one about how setting a my day around a rather lackluster movie may have saved my bacon? Well, queue up the stock footage, ‘cuz heeeeeere we go…

Fresh out of basic training, I often found myself, like most young military types, drawn to the abstract fever-dream-come-to-life that was also known as Horton Plaza. Most of the guys with whom I was attending school had also gone to boot camp with me. However, James and I had actually become running buddies, taking us all over San Diego together. However, that day was different and it was an entire gaggle of cats who claimed they wanted to hit the mall before heading to the beach. We went along, having little else to do on a Saturday.

Stallone was still riding the wave between his Rocky and Rambo franchises. Though a ticket to see the third installment of the tortured, bandana-wearing, machine-gun-toting hero wasn’t exactly the ideal way I wanted to kill two hours and a few brain cells, I knew it would put some distance between me and our crew of classmates. They were going to the beach, while James, Weber, and I decided to hang around for the movie to start.

Of course, like most sequels, it’d only been a cash grab and I immediately regretted wasting my money–at first. The fellas had headed toward Mission Beach hours before. We figured we’d find all of them just chilling out as the sun began to set over the Pacific. Well, some of them were still there. A few others had mysteriously gone different directions. I assumed they’d been picked up by some pretty girls and were getting laid, which was–following the drought of boot camp and being in a new city–was a great thing.

We hung around for awhile before deciding to just head back to the barracks. Turns out this was another good choice. The guys who’d wandered off had actually gone to score some crystal meth. James and I departed just before they returned and the everyone else there got high.

Most people’s first introduction to NCIS is through the popular TV show that stars Mark Harmon. Back when I first heard of them, they were just called NIS and one of their special agents kept popping up to interview members of our class and some of the guys from our sister class. When the dust all settled, several careers were ruined.

Getting high was never my thing. And, though I grew up with friends sipping malt liquor and puffing weed, and heroin zombies in our apartment stairway, I made an early decision to stay straight. So, smoking meth wouldn’t have even been a real temptation for me, had I been on the beach when they’d brought it back. Still, it felt good to not have to have even been presented with it.

Here are some points to consider:

– Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. Always reserve the right to decide what’s best for you.

– Who you spend your time with eventually becomes a reflection of the person you are. Just as I had to put a distance between me and some of my old neighborhood pals, I’ve had to do many other times in life.

– Keep in mind that the majority are disgruntled, unfulfilled, and aimless. Make the decision to go against that grain and map a different course for your life.

– Look for the long game and not just the small victories. See the traps for what they are and strategize ways to avoid them altogether. Also, be sure you limit your time with folks who are determined to remain in those traps.

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