During his last visit, Jorge mentioned that he felt another attack on civil liberties building up in the US. Although he pays scant attention to the negativity of the mainstream news media sources, he cannot help but pick up on current trends. He mentioned the recent efforts by some powerful people to harm seniors and disabled individuals by trying to erode Social Security.
I replied that I’ve been following the numerous reports regarding Social Security, too. I have concerns about my elderly father, my aging friends, and myself. The political schemes are very troubling and unethical.
Jorge said he has confidence in his instincts about current events because of the oppression he’s felt as an Hispanic gay man in America. The degree of prejudice and organized force against and between the two groups has fortified him in his struggles to remain calm and strong in his life.
I reminded my friend that what he has built up in his character is also known as resilience. In the face of those who would oppress and discriminate against minorities, he has maintained a positive attitude. I told Jorge that one of the qualities I most admire about him is his ability to remain resilient.
Jorge said he has given up at the last minute, too many times to remember. He’s learned through the “school of hard knocks” that a person just needs to hang on a little bit longer to get what he needs. Most everyone will face challenges and setbacks in their lives. We have to learn that giving up at the last minute is a poor strategy for life. He determined that what seems impossible at the time isn’t necessarily so. Just at the moment you feel like throwing in the towel, you have to risk one more final push forward.
I smiled and told Jorge he’d make a good motivational speaker. His line of thinking falls in line with some of the people I’ve heard on audio-books and podcasts.
He laughed back and said that a lot of folks read and hear positive thinking celebrities, but only a few take the advice. We tend to believe that simply developing a pollyanna attitude will give us a leg up on life. In his experience, Jorge says such a notion will actually cause more setbacks because you can lull yourself into a false sense of accomplishment. Jorge said he discarded most of the self-help courses he had accumulated. He says he’s become more practical and realistic about life.
Jorge says that he realized that he will continue to encounter strong anti-gay and racist adversaries as long as he’s alive. As in the past, he will feel bruised and under seige. Again and again he knows to face the harsh opposition and then use the adversaries’ energy to his own advantage. He visualizes a martial arts master converting an offensive move into a defensive throw to the ground–a Judo flip.
He said that as a youth he witnessed many young men in his Los Angeles neighborhood fall into negative circumstances. Most of them ended up at the wrong end of America’s booming prison-industrial complex. Jorge believes he absorbed street smarts by “osmosis” and never felt compelled to fall into the temptations of crime and violence. As a high schooler, he knew he only had to hold out for a few more years and he could escape the barrio into the freedom to finally be himself.
I asked how he found the strength to accomplish the wait. I remembered how impatient I was during my youthful years.
Jorge said he was just as impatient as any other kid, he wasn’t special. He learned to channel his energy into reading and studying. Because Jorge never really “fit in”, most of his peers were his enemies. Many of them threatened him with physical violence. This is why he vowed to never give in and become resentful and mean. Jorge knew that if he became like his enemies, he stood a good chance of getting killed. He learned to use his disadvantages to his ultimate advantage.
He said there were many times that he felt that his life was too hard and there was nobody to turn to and there was little time to play with friends. His family was poor, so he had to deal with that “enemy”, too. Eventually, he found a mentoring program and became the protege’ of some wise adults who gave him love and encouraged his dreams. They showed him that his boundaries could become an emotional cage that could enclose him with more frustrations. He hadn’t really reigned in his resentments.
His mentors taught him not to make assumptions and quick judgements. They encouraged him to lean on his sense of humor and look at other aspects of his neighborhood. He was able to get away from the barrio once in awhile to rejuvinate his dream of moving to a new area of the country. When his mentors invited him to share their vacation to the Colorado Rockies, his mother insisted that he accept their offer. Jorge fell in love with the Colorado mountains during the two weeks of his visit. That’s when he decided to attend college in Denver.
I observed that Jorge apparently “channeled” his stubborness and found encouragement from a few people. The Colorado vacation enabled him to formulate an actual, realistic goal. He affirmed my interpretation and added that the temporary escape from the barrio into the “paradise” of the mountains was a deeply emotional experience. It was the memory of the powerfully uplifting emotions that gave him the energy to follow through on his plans. He said he felt like a space rocket achieving escape velocity to leave the gravitational field of Earth.
I laughed at his analogy. I said he was able to escape “Planet Hollywood”.
He grinned back and said that he was very fortunate to find “Planet Denver”. At the end of his trucking runs, he has the comfort of a domestic relationship. The couple often goes camping and hiking in the great outdoors. He says there are still many challenges and struggles, but he remembers his past struggles. The bad and good memories give him strength.
I said, that his story is a textbook case of resilience.