A friend and I were rescuing a kitten from a tree the other day when he asks me, “dude, you ever felt empty on the inside?”
I waited a moment to build tension before returning, “Yeah, when I haven’t eaten.”
He peered down at me, being the one up in the tree, and persisted, “No, seriously, you of all people who think you have it all figure out–“
“I don’t,” I said.
“ANYWAYS,” he interrupted back, “what makes you feel empty?”
I gave a pause, looking up the tree with my arms outstretched for catching duties and answered, “I’ll go with where it all started to answer this one.”
“No,” I said. “I’m talking about being born for one. I mean, is it just me or should that make someone feel empty on the inside to not remember the first few years of their life? If you think about it, that’s the only time we ever got any amount of pure adoration in our lives, unless you end up being famous, I guess.”
He looked down from the branch he was laid across. “Parents didn’t give you much love did they,” he asked, grinning with a look only a true friend could have during a moment like this.
“No,” I replied. “I’m an orphan, remember?”
“-Oh, dude, I didn’t mean to—–wait, you’re not an orphan,” he exclaimed.
“Sometimes, when I’m feeling — empty, perhaps,” I said, looking back and giving back the same grin in return. “I think I would’ve made a great orphan.”
“The best orphan,” he said, smiling back, reaching for the kitten. “So, what else?”
“Well, I guess I’d have to really glaze over childhood with wondering what qualifies our parents to raise us. One day their biological functions kicked in and boom, nine months later they have a human being to take care of. You’d think if there’s a god he would have patched our hard wiring by now to rid the world of bad ones. Parents, I mean. Then again, I guess the world needs comparably bad things so we know when something’s good.”
“Listen to you, figuring things out like a responsible young adult,” he said mockingly.
“You telling me you know for a fact your parents did everything to make your upbringing as good as possible,” I asked.
“Don’t even get me started. Mine were awful at times, but, like you said, compared to all of the other parents out there, they weren’t so bad,” he said.
“It just gives me that empty feeling thinking about how I may not even exist if my parents hadn’t met, or dated, or–.”
“I get it,” he interrupted. “Drop the parent act and get on with the here and now; you’re an adult so what gives you the empty feeling now?”
“Hmm, that’s a good one. I guess if I had to pick one of many things past driving in downtown traffic, quitting smoking, or having to pay bills it would be the people that really make me feel empty.”
“How,” he asked.
“I just see most people lying down and waving the white flag when they get to a certain point, and, to me, it’s too soon. Just think of how many people we went to high school with that already have families of their own now. I’m not saying they’re completely giving up, but think of all the people that are single and only want to stay just comfortable enough their entire life. They’re thinking they have to find a job when, in reality, you only have one life to live anyway.
“So, there you are, a twenty-something who’s finally found your place in this world doing what you were told by others, who’ve done the same thing for their entire life and nothing else, would make you happy. You’re boxed inside a society filled with all kinds of ‘imminent danger’ that only they can keep you safe with the swipe of a card, click of a button, or gulping of a pill until you wake up one day and realize that the entirety of your life has been spent chasing the same dream your parents chased before realizing it doesn’t exist. It’s a never-ending loop and the only ones that can break the cycles are the people living their lives like this.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “By the way, what do we do with it now that it’s down,” he asked, holding the kitten.
“I’ll take her home for now,” I said.
“Wait, you getting soft now? Going to start settling for a mediocre existence because you found a kitten?”
“Nope,” I said. “You asked what makes me feel empty. You never asked what fills me back up.”
“Which is,” he asked.
“Spreading the love,” I said, walking away with the kitten in tow.