Monday, September 29, 2014

You Can't Change Who You Really Are.

Louis Shalako

You can’t change who you really are, right?

Especially if you have some challenges, especially if you’re always behind the eight-ball.

Especially if luck is against you, and especially if you’ve had a few bad breaks, right?

Well, I don’t know, ladies and gentlemen.

God created you this way, right?


Is that what you really think?


A person could certainly be excused for thinking that way—after all, if you’re like me, you might have dropped out of high school halfway through grade 10.

You might have suffered an accident, an injury. You might have been afflicted with any one of a thousand afflictions. You might have made your own bad luck, too, just as I did.

And it’s so easy to just accept it, isn’t it?

This is who I am.

It’s so easy to let it define you, isn’t it?

You can just settle for the way things are. You can get used to yourself, and settle in for the long haul.

Try to get through life without too much trouble.

This is my life, and it’s not going to get any better, so why try?


You can sit there in your geared-to-income housing. You can get your welfare or disability or mother’s allowance cheque, which, taken along with the cheque from your part-time job pumping coffees at Tim Horton’s, is almost enough if you’re careful and lucky…and you can just try to get by.

You can chain-smoke cheap native brands. You can get drunk as a skunk once a week, more if your friends drink. You can steal or con money off your folks, get a gram of crack or meth and you can get really high if you want to, and the truth is that nobody cares. Least of all you—deep down inside you know exactly what you are worth in the grand scheme of things.

It’s just the way things are, right?

You can’t change who you really are, right?

And some day, you might pick up a newspaper, or turn on the TV and see some guy who started off in life exactly where you did.

He’s holding up his new book like some proud grand-pappy and he’s looking you right in the eye off that screen or page and it makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable.

Because something’s not right here and you damned well know it.                 

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it’s there all right.

And yet he’s made it, somehow.

And it doesn’t seem fair, because obviously that man had something you didn’t. Let’s call it guts, or merely a dream. Call it what you want.

Maybe he’s just nuts, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe that guy caught a few breaks, right, like you never did…right?

See, like the big fucking fool that he was, that guy might have quit a pretty good job, as long ago as 1983. 

He might have gone back to school because he just wanted someone to teach him how to write.

That guy might have been hacking away at a stray dog story in Delhi, population 1,400; way back then. He might have had an electronic typewriter, the kind with a two-inch strip of readout, with the ability to go back and correct a few characters, living in the back bedroom of his old lady’s condo in Oakville, circa 1988. He might have been tapping away for a year or two in some crummy attic apartment in Hamilton in 1990, and he might have been madly smashing away at five-thirty in the morning on Savoy Street in Sarnia-fucking-Ontario, way back in 1999.

That man might have gone hungry, or homeless, and lived for years on welfare or some microscopic disability pension, sometimes going without a friend in the world. That man did things you couldn’t bring yourself to do.

Right? Why suffer when you don’t have to.


That’s the spirit.

He might have had six not-very-good novel manuscripts in hand when his mother—getting on a bit in years now, but still supportive, offered to pay for the frickin’ internet for three months, just so the guy could see if he liked it, and maybe try and learn a little bit about how all of that worked. He might be entirely self-taught. 

He might have been on welfare or disability or struggling along for ten bucks an hour, just like you. He might have fucked up every opportunity along the way, squandered every dollar and lost every friend he ever had. 

Let’s hope he learned something along the way, as he took every dead-end turn and every wrong trail…right?

And yeah, maybe that son of a bitch is driving a shitty old car, thirteen years old. Maybe he ain’t even got a TV, or a stereo system, and that most cardinal of modern sins, he doesn’t even have a cell phone. The poor guy doesn’t have fucking Kindle or a Nook, but then he don’t even have a winter coat, ladies and gentlemen.

Can you believe that?

And maybe, just maybe, that guy also wasted a lot of time along the way. It’s been thirty years, after all. 

Maybe he could have been a lot further on by now, but this is where he is now.

Now, ladies and gentlemen.


And maybe, just maybe, where others succumbed, or some others gave up, and others knuckled under, and said Uncle, and simply accepted themselves, that guy was still trying.

Hey, maybe the poor guy didn’t like himself or something. Right?

That could be it.


It’s not so much about changing the life either—that comes about almost by accident. And let’s be honest. 

When you have a dream, everyone hinders you.

They just want what’s best for you, right?

But it’s not up to them to decide.

And it ain’t over until he says it’s over.

That’s how crazy he is, ladies and gentlemen.


The boy I was thirty years ago was incapable of succeeding at anything, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s not like other folks didn’t try to change him, either—because they did. He might have even allowed himself to be swayed, and he might have even tried to do like they said. And maybe it wasn’t a good fit, or whatever.

Maybe he hated himself, because he couldn’t be the way they said he should be. And he always failed, ladies and gentlemen.

That could eat away at a person, couldn’t it?

And maybe he grew up one day and decided that he had the right, ladies and gentlemen, because he was willing to take a punch for it.

Did you ever think of that, ladies and gentlemen?

Well, fuck, take a second and have a go.

We’ll wait.

The one thing you regret, once you find your way, is just how much time you have wasted.

That crazy son of a bitch, holy fuck. He stood up for himself. He didn’t take no shit from anybody. He made every sacrifice, to retain his sense of who he was, and he knew, somehow, deep down inside that formidable iron gut of his, which is insensible to fear…(Louis. – ed.)…ah, okay, ed. He does get scared once in a while—I’ll grant you that, but holy—look at the goddamned competition.

Jesus H. Christ, look at the fucking competition.

Look at who—and what, I’m up against, eh?

Ah, well, eh.

Here at last, eh.

And it seems that changing your life takes a fuck of a lot of work.    

But just pursuing that mad, miserable goal, that fucking shibboleth, that chimera of a dream, well, it does something to you. The more you work on a dream, the more you change yourself.

It’s the opposite of a vicious circle.

It’s a circle of reinforcement.

It’s a kind of power.                                            

I’m a completely different person now. That’s not to say that there aren’t tougher people out there in the world, hell, there are better people in the world, but at least now I know it.

There are smarter people, and there are people with power, and money and all the shit I never had.

(Some of them have some real talent, don’t they? – ed.)

And that’s okay too.

Because I don’t answer to you.

Get used to it, or get over it, or whatever.

The thing to remember is, ladies and gentlemen, is that I at least knew what I wanted.

Somehow, deep, deep in the guts, I also knew that I was capable of doing this—if I was willing to put in the work.


It’s a place to start.

I guess we all have to start somewhere.


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