What’s craziest about the story of the young man who killed six people and himself at UC Santa Barbara over the weekend is not that he was obsessed with sex, or even that he thought he was entitled to it. Reading his 141-page “manifesto” — and the series of YouTube videos he filmed and posted online — what was most surprising was how ordinary his complaint seemed.
Elliot Rodger had never kissed a girl. In a culture of casual sex, he was a virgin — at 22. He was lonely, angry, humiliated, depressed, and also likely struggling with mental illness. He couldn’t understand why others got to have what he didn’t; why girls always seemed to go after the “obnoxious jocks,” not the nice guys like him; why he had to see it all around him — from porn to campus party culture — as if taunting him…
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When I was in the third grade and got a junior chemistry set for my birthday, I expected that when I grew up I would be a Rocket Scientist – whatever that is. When I was in fifth grade I was given the opportunity to compose an essay in hopes that it would be selected to be the “Valedictorian Speech” at fifth grade graduation. Well that essay won, and I was subsequently given the opportunity to read my essay to the graduating class and everyone who attended the ceremony. As I was walking off of the stage, my teacher told me that, based on my essay, I could be a lawyer or a politician. And so a new dream was implanted into my mind.
I went through middle and high school, conquering puberty and all of my classes in one broad sweep. I took advanced government and law classes along the way, further reinforcing in me this idea that I had that I would one day become a successful lawyer so that I would, in turn, become a successful politician. But then I had to choose a major when I got into the University. I did some research. Instead of choosing the obvious route and becoming a Political Science major (or Economics, or Business, or History, or any of the other typical majors one might select with that path in mind) I chose to become a Philosophy major. I’m sure you know where this is going by now…
As time went on, I realized that studying philosophy was one of my dearest passions. I realized that I was a thinker at heart and in mind. So I “decided” that I would pursue graduate education in philosophy and become a professor of philosophy.
But then I got an internship in sales. And then I became interested in computer programming. And then law again, and then social issues and then…I took a step back. I paused. It was then that I reflected on all of the possible career options I had available to me. It became clear to me that there was no need to decide on a fixed career path – I could have it all!
I subsequently made it my business to study the programming languages I thought most useful to me, continued with my formal philosophical inquiries, started writing so that I could nail-down all of the ideas floating around in my head and continued teaching others in every way that I could about everything that I could. Why? Because I realized that I would never actually finish “growing up”. To become a “grown-up” implies that one has finished growing. But I would never dream of ever stopping my quest for truth and knowledge. That’s when I realized that I would never become a grown up. I am, fundamentally, still a kid trying to decide what I want to do when I “grow up”.
My name is Tony, and I’m a queer, Hispanic, first-generation college student. Before I became Tony, though, I was “Anthony”, a mindless puppet controlled by the beliefs and motives of others. The following is a brief tale of these two very different people and how one was born of the ashes of the other. The following is a brief tale of self-discovery, and I share it with you in hopes that you come to understand the import of self and self-acceptance.
Anthony had an award-winning smile and a finely-honed sense of humor. He knew how to brighten anyone’s day, was one of the nicest and most helpful people you’d ever meet and he was especially good at catering to everyone’s individual needs and desires. These traits all made him quite popular – in the short-run anyway. But the last and certainly least of these traits was also Anthony’s greatest, most-crippling weakness. Anthony was a people-pleaser.
People-pleasers go through life never having truly lived. They try to derive happiness from fixating on and attempting to address the wants of others. The problem is that in doing so, people pleasers tend to neglect themselves – their own needs, interests and desires. This might even reflect a potential lack of understanding on the people-pleaser’s part of what his or her needs, interest and desires are. Don’t be a people-pleaser.
It took Anthony his entire freshman year to conquer his insatiable compulsion to please. It took the loss of two best friends (it’s complicated), a nasty breakup (even more complicated), an arduous internship (don’t even get me started), and a few near-death experiences involving alcohol, toxic mold and a shot gun, to truly start living. The first three experiences all led up to the near-death experiences. Though he learned his lesson in the long-run, if he’d known what he was earlier he’d have spared himself the trouble…
Death seemed inescapable. As he lay upon his bed coughing up blood, distraught with anxiety, fatigued and defeated, Anthony began to think about his “life” and what it had been lacking all along. He realized that he had been living his life inauthentically up to that point. The deeper he dug into his past the more it dawned on him that he’d been living a lie. He felt cheated. He felt manipulated. He felt robbed of himself. He realized that he was a mere fabrication. That’s when I awoke.
I’d been asleep all of this time waiting for the day on which I might be allowed to take my place in the world. I approached his bed – I’d been with him his whole life. Anthony, after many years, noticed me at last and smiled. He slowly faded away. I took his place.
In those moments, Anthony realized the importance of self. He realized that he’d sold his soul to those he’d tried to please and that that was his greatest mistake. That’s when he stole it back and began to be. That’s when he became Tony.