In the song Million Dollar Houses I use the word Loser only twice but it really resonated with a few people (including Big Jim who wrote about it) and when I explain I’m always explaining to myself to myself as well. Loser is such a loaded word and sometimes it cuts a lonely guy right to the bone while other times it can make a group of guys proud to be outsiders, mocking the supposed winners with their ulcers, debt, bratty kids, and completely scripted lives.
Sometimes I feel like a terrible loser. I think I’m needy and skill-less, I always seem to the one’s who broke, I need help 800 times more than I’m able to help others, I’m barely scraping by in all aspects of my life, just getting things good enough to not get fired or dumped, or estranged, while people around me seem to be so good at getting good at things, self-motivated and positive. I have to beat myself up to get anything done while others rack up accomplishments so quickly they never break their stride up life’s great staircase.
There are other times though when I look around and I’m surrounded by friends and we’re laughing about how little we sleep, how often we’re hungover, and what people must think of us at work or even on the street. The looks on the faces of morning joggers when they see us stumbling home were excellent evidence that we had carpe’d the fucking diem. It feels great to be part of an ephemeral tribe of unpredictables who will come and go in our own way without leaving a mark and the memories we pass on are so much more important because there are no monuments to hold them for us.
That’s just it though, it’s a group thing. In the individualistic North American mindset it seems default to say that who you are when you’re alone is more the real you than the sides brought out by other people. Which is an idea that has warped us into a culture of 500 million narcissists vying to convince themselves they’re the top of the pile. Maybe that’s all this is too. Sometimes I’m beating myself up and sometimes I’m building myself up and every sane person goes through life like that.
Loser isn’t really an accurate word. We all lose sometimes and we have to lose before we can get better at something. Loser usually implies material comparison and that’s not what I’m talking about at all. A long time ago when I had a mohawk a native guy asked me if I knew what it used to represent. I knew the punk rock affiliation with mohawks comes from the movie Taxi Driver which got it from soldiers in Vietnam, but he enlightened me that in native cultures it meant you were a provider. And that word really stuck with me all these years later. I suppose there is a material component to that and I’ll acknowledge that I would love to be a material provider for my closest people but my idea about losers is not just about failing to provide. It’s about being a net loss in someone else’s life, whether they’re close to you or not but especially if they are. Whether they’ve lost money, time, physical and emotion health, or whatever. You are a loser if you cause others loss.
Another word with a lot of significance is Burden. No one wants to be a burden. Society hates someone is an unashamed burden, it’s why working class people go on frothing rants about welfare. It’s why Kurt Cobain killed himself after he had a kid, not because he couldn’t provide material things, he obviously could, but because in his mind he’d be a burden, a loser, a net loss on Francis’ life that would just keep going into the red the longer he was a part of her life.
I guess that’s the crux of why I wonder about this so often. Am I a loser who gets depressed because he’s a loser or a depressed person convincing himself he’s a loser because he’s depressed? Is someone who’s happy in a bad situation just lying to themselves or are they enlightened? I still don’t have those answers but I pride myself on always looking.