The Survivor Gene?


There are days where it feels like I’m walking a mile long tightrope over shark-infested waters, trying to make it across in time to catch a train to the future I’ve dreamed of. And then there are the bad days.

My mother has commented several times in my life that I have the “survivor gene”, that no matter what happens in my life, I’ll survive and endure. I think it’s important to note that I didn’t say “prosper”, because that isn’t always guaranteed. But survive? Not a problem. My totem animal is the cockroach, and I’ll get through just about anything.

It didn’t always seem that way. Without unpacking all of my childhood damage for the reading public, there was some not insignificant abuse in my youth. It lingered with me, and from the moment I learned about the ‘cycle of abuse’, I was terrified that a monster lived in my DNA, just waiting to come out and fuck with somebody else’s life. I went through much of high school desperately afraid of becoming my father. In hindsight, it’s kind of amazing that I made it through those years without exploding from that sort of self-imposed pressure.

But I did. I’ve survived abuse, homelessness, attempted muggings, broken hearts, financial distress, and more. Somewhere along the lines, I began to realize that this is simply what I do. I survive.

I’d like to think that everyone has it in them, that it isn’t a “gene”, and we’re all capable of surviving crazy, terrible things in our lives. But then I read about someone who punched his own ticket on an N Train track in Astoria, raining gore on the street below. I’m struck by the fragility of life, and how many people choose to find escape rather than continue. It puts the things I’m currently struggling with in my life in perspective. I’d be lying if I said I’d never had those same impulses in the course of my life. I think, to one extent or another, far more people do than will ever admit it.

I don’t know if what I have is a gene or if it’s teachable. But, in those tough moments where I can’t see the clear way through obstacles ahead, or when I feel like I’ve been tasting my own teeth more often than not, I have a mantra. I repeat this to myself to remind me to get my head back in the game and press on.

I stole it from a San Shou school in Boston eons ago:

I am a fighter.
I will get hit.
I will hit back.

If it helps you in the slightest, steal it from me and pass it on. We need you in the fight, too.

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone, remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt, and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.


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