Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: A Friday night lesson in humility

I am typing this column on my cell phone, which is a first for me and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I appreciate the technological advances that allow me to do so, but pecking out a lengthy essay on a handheld device feels like another falling rock in what thus far has been a crumbling 2016.

A few weeks ago my laptop stopped taking a charge, so I bought a new power cord, then a new battery, and learned that the problem is beyond either of those components. Until I get that issue fixed, I’ve been using my outdated desktop computer, whose hardware is too old to handle the hi-def. porn that I watch, and the machine has started overheating and shutting down after about 15 minutes.

My technological woes arose while I was in the middle of a health crisis that had me prone on my sofa for the better part of a month. “Crisis” may be a dramatic word for the minor, outpatient surgery I had; but the procedure itself was sandwiched by major pain and discomfort, and the news I watched from my couch – a parade of celebrity deaths, the Georgia legislature’s orgy of anti-LGBT proposals and the growing possibility of a fascist reaching the White House – added to my misery during the first two months of the year.

“Crisis” is a mild description for my most recent challenge of 2016, which culminated this past Friday night with one of the most intensely humbling episodes of my life. I found myself overconfident and underprepared in a chaotic scene that played out over two hours in the streets of Midtown, with appearances by Atlanta police and mental health workers from Grady Hospital.

Regular readers might recall one of my nephews and his girlfriend moving in with me this past fall, and getting their own apartment at the start of February. I was opposed to their plan to bring my oldest nephew, his girlfriend and their infant daughter to live with them in their new apartment, and I nearly cried when, on the day of the latter’s arrival in town, I learned that my 15-year-old nephew had also made the trip from Chicago to Atlanta. 

Less than two weeks into their experiment, my older nephew discovered how ill-prepared they were to serve as guardian for the 15-year-old, and so I recommended to my family that he come stay with me instead of returning to “Chi-Raq.” I understood my young nephew had an angry temper and emotional outbursts, but I thought my Zen nature and way with words could guide him to a new understanding of himself and his potential.

Within 10 seconds of stepping into my apartment, my nephew proved me wrong. My serene approach was instantly overpowered by a transcendental temper tantrum from a 15-year-old whose only currency is rage, and a few hours later my youngest nephew was on an airplane to Chicago. 

It was a stinging repudiation of my sense of gay-savior-uncle, and an important reminder that someone without children (such as myself) has little ground to stand on when critiquing and second-guessing the parenting of those who do (such as my sister). As disappointing as the unsuccessful intervention was, there was also liberation in being reminded that I don’t have the world figured out.

There is value in being wrong – whether about family, relationships or politics – and sifting through the crumblings to search for lessons and humility.