I sit here pondering, a day after the announcement that Washington Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor is dead from a gunshot wound. By most accounts, he was a vivid, rash young man. By all accounts, he was twenty-four years old.
And no, while I have some very definite views on gun control, that’s not what I’m thinking about.
Rather, I’m thinking about something my mother said to me many times when I was younger. She told me that I would, in life and by many people, be judged by the company I keep. Now, I never thought that was judicious, because it’s entirely possible that I could hang around with several people who are inveterate jerks, but I could be a pretty decent person myself. So for someone to think that I was a shit-heel just because some of my friends fit that classification, well, that’s ignorant on their part.
Then, as I got older, and hopefully somewhat wiser, I understood that this adage was not about reality, but about perception. It’s not about what kind of person I am, how decent and considerate I might be, but about how those who knew of my less than desirable associates would perceive me as a consequence of that association. So now I hear about Sean Taylor, shot in the leg and dead from the wound after a battle for his life. He has a spotty past, with associates who might be looked upon as lower echelon. Despite the contention that he was maturing and attempting to distance himself from the stain of a somewhat questionable past, the circumstances of his attack and subsequent demise point toward, if not a familiarity, then a nodding acquaintance with his assailants.
This brings me to a different, but not new realization. I’ve swung back around and can now acknowledge that it’s not just a matter of perception. The friends you choose, or the associates you allow into your life, can not only determine how others see you as person, but they can also have very real and dire consequences.
In the end, once you’ve sullied yourself, there’s no guarantee that you can leave your past behind. And if life, and specifically, Sean Taylor’s life, is any indicator, that past can rear up and take one huge chunk out of your ass.
Or, it can kill you.