In 1994, I was a freshman in college and discovering who I was as a person. Although I enjoyed that time, it was not without its potholes. After a week of being on campus for soccer’s preseason, I started hanging out with a junior from the women’s team pretty regularly. In my mind I was en route to my first college relationship. After going out to see the movie “Forrest Gump” together, I finally got up the courage to ask the question that I had in my head. “So what’s going on between us?” Her response was something that I did not anticipate, “Nothing, I have a boyfriend.” At the time I was confused and a little hurt but now I realize that I was just collateral damage.
Each of us is making it through our own life as best we can. Life is not a spectator sport, it is battled out in the trenches. At times during that struggle, we will all hurt someone without any intention. That is life’s collateral damage. However because we view our lives in the first person, we tend to think that the world is happening to us. Therefore all damage is personal because it means more to us. The question is not whether or not you will be collateral damage. It is whether you will be a victim or survivor.
Victims have the distinguishing factor that they were targeted. It does not particularly matter if that targeting is real or imagined. The victim feels it as if it were real. The teacher, boss, girlfriend, boyfriend, town, society or world is against them and they know it. Even worse, they think they deserve it. The mindset of being a victim is a choice.
Survivors often have scars but they are a sign of life, not betrayal. The survivor can move past the damage because it wasn’t particularly about them. The focus is also on the future rather than the past. Each moment is another opportunity for the survivor to get stronger.
There is no completely safe passage through life. At some point, you are bound to be hurt by someone or something. Are you a victim or a survivor? The choice is yours!