You Don’t Owe Them Shit

About a year ago, I had a verbal alteraction with the bloke who was very soon to become the ex-keyboard player of the band I was in.

We were filming a promo video at The Greystones, and it had been a long, very frustrating day. The bloke in question had been getting more and more annoyed by one thing or another since his arrival at 9am sharp, and in his defence, I could see why. He’d acted like a professional, and certain other people hadn’t. They’d not shown up, then they’d been impossible to get hold of, then when they had shown up they hadn’t brought the right equipment… even I was a bit annoyed, and you know how chilled out I am all the time.

But it wasn’t til about 2pm that it all came to a head. He found that somebody had moved his keyboard case off the bench and onto the carpeted floor, and – perhaps for no reason other than convenience – I became the unfortunate target of this rather large man’s rage. He started screaming at me, accusing me of having no respect for other people, for not caring about his property, for not having a clue about the real world, and yada yada yada… (Incidentally, I still have no idea who moved his case, but it wasn’t me. Honestly. I wish it had been, but…)

Well, normally being confronted like that would knock me off-balance. I’d freeze. I wouldn’t quite know what to say. I’d try and wait it out, or hope that somebody came to my rescue. Not this time, though.

I got right in his face and I told him to fuck off and to never talk to me like that again. And then I walked slowly away, hearing him carry on at nobody in particular, whilst everybody else watched agasp from a distance.

I was proud of myself that day. For one, because this keyboard player was a very unpleasant person. He was rude. He was racist. And he had a chip on his shoulder the size of Pluto. It felt good to put him in his place, even in the very tiny way that I did.

But my feeling proud had absolutely nothing to do with him as an individual. No, it had to do with the fact that I had stared down a bitter enemy – I had confronted a type of person I have hated with a passion, and wanted to confront, ever since I was very small.

The type of person I’m talking about takes all kinds of forms. Growing up in Sheffield, I came across plenty of them, but I suspect they’re everywhere. The easiest way to sum them is with the attitude they appear to greet the world with:

“More bad things have happened to me than to you. So I win. I’m a “real” person and you’re not. You don’t have a clue about the world. So I’m going to do all that I can to make you feel small.”

To be cruder: “Bad things have happened to me so I’m allowed to be a cunt for the rest of my life.”

They’ve been there since I was very small. Teachers. Football coaches. Kids at school. Friends’ grandparents. The ex-keyboard player. No two ever looked the same, but I hated each and every one. I hated the way they made me feel, but that’s somewhat forgivable if you just stay out of their way. No, what was unforgivable was the way I had allowed them to dictate the terms of my behaviour.

I didn’t know I was doing it at first, but over the years I learnt to catch myself. People with that sort of attitude have always made me feel that being myself was somehow a mistake, and that it was better to pussyfoot around them and stay safe, even if it made me unhappy, rather than risk upsetting them.

Well, as you get older, you learn to let go of things. The day I told the keyboard player to fuck off was an important one for me, because it was the day I finally started to let the go of the idea that I owe anyone anything just because they think they’ve had a hard life. Lots of people have hard lives. Not all of them use it as a form of emotional terrorism.

I guess my message here today is to be careful who you let inside your head. If you find yourself constantly having to pretend to be something you’re not just to avoid getting on somebody’s “bad side”, ask yourself if that person is really worth sacrificing so much for. And more importantly, would they do the same for you?

If someone isn’t willing to meet you halfway, you dont owe them shit.

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