Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Is, What Was, and What Is Again

I'm in a bad mood. So what's new? I'm always in a bad mood, well almost always. But, now I know why. And that makes all the difference. All I ever have are intentions. All I ever make are plans. And day after day and night after night I do nothing because something seems to be too much work. I have passion for nothing. I have drive for nothing. I don't want to do anything and yet want to do everything.

It's a battle between being sedentary and being active, doing something - anything - and doing nothing. It's, contrarily, not about some sort of fear of a particular or general something. I'm not afraid of doing something. In many ways I'm afraid of not doing something. The problem is that I don't know what I want to do, never mind what I and going to do. I just sit here and do nothing and the need to so something, ANYTHING grows greater and greater.

I know why I feel what I do. Most people I know and all of those whose opinions matter to me are moving on to new things. I am not. Not really at any rate. I know that such a feeling is foolish and that such a fact is some level of true and untrue. I know that I am too harsh on myself in such an assessment. But, nothing stops it from surfacing. In reality, I am moving on too, but the same old negatives of my life will remain and many of the positives which I am heretofore extremely grateful for, will disappear.

I don't really know what I'm doing with my life. I've set a proscribed course which seems on paper to make sense and seems in action to be acceptable. But I don't want to do anything. I don't want to put in the effort I will need to. I don't have any passion for what I will be doing next year at this point. At the same time, I both want to and don't want to do anything at all. I'm stuck in between the old and the new.

It seems like much of my life is set out before me now. Preplanned. Rigid. I finish grad school, get my masters degree. Get a job. Get a better job. And pay off my skyrocketing student loans. At the end of my undergraduate career I owed $27,000 but for each of the next two years I will be taking on an additional $20,000. $67,000 plus interest. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find that intimidating. Especially considering that starting salary is between 34-42K.

It's almost as if I'm tied to my current path simply by the debts that I have to pay. They overshadow all other reasons why I chose my current path and their repayment robs me of the next decade of my life. They rob me of my life.

But it's more than that too. There's a part of me that I don't like. It's a part that I put aside when I began dealing with being gay. But as I've become more and more comfortable with that, this older issue has begun to crop up again. It seems as if after I steady myself after Round 1 that Round 2 is just a bell's ring away. Round 2 is my father and ever little paranoid thought that he has buried in my head over the past 22 years. He is a cancer and he is eating away at me. It's gotten to the point where just the sound of his voice makes me feel like I've died a little.

How fucked up is that. He almost makes me physically sick. His influence on me as a child has made me sick to my stomach. He is an intensely paranoid man who sees only the negative in others or in situations. He is an immensely bigoted man who's vocalizations are nothing short of embarrassing to me. Many of the biggest regrets of my life tie directly into his own personality flaws, which over time have seeped into me to one extent or another.

When I was a little boy I lived two separate lives. One at school and one at home. Never did the two meet, at least for several years. In so many ways, even at that age, I was completely embarrassed of my father. If you did something wrong in my house you got beaten. Almost always, if not always, within the letter of the law... even if the law belongs to Alabama. Likewise, he was verbally abusive, which is never right regardless of the situation. He was not supportive. He was not encouraging. The only time I (or my brother or sister) would be directed at would be if I (they) did something wrong. He never did anything with me or for me. Never a kind word. Never praise. Never any emotional response that can be misconstrued as anything but anger.

When I was a young boy he didn't want anyone in "his house" that would do anything that could possibly irritate him. He didn't want to have anything to do with other people's kids. Likewise, it wouldn't seem unlikely that other people's kids wouldn't want to have anything to do with him. Well, at any rate, his own kids didn't want to have anything to do with him. Times when he was at work were much happier than times when he was at home, or worse on a long stretch of unemployment (at any job he worked, eventually he would screw up and get himself fired).

I remember one time as I had just entered Kindergarten or 1st Grade (I believe it the former instead of the latter). For what ever reason at the dinner table one night came up the topic of phone numbers. The conversation, or rather edict decried by my father, was that I was to under no circumstances give out our home phone number to any other person for any reason. He was talking about kids my age. Why you ask? Because he believed that some how his phone number would make it's way onto telemarketer calling lists. I'm not even coming close to kidding.

I knew that if I did give it out and someone then did call, like that would be a crime or anything, that I would be punished for it. And regardless of whether the premise was wrong or right (and it was wrong), at that age, I tried very hard to gain the attention of adults. Doing the right or "right" thing was one way to do so. To no success with him and to a lot of success with teachers. Yeah, through elementary school I was "that" kid. I knew all the answers and I didn't mind giving them. I could read very well and would do so instantly. I was polite and kind and never talked out of turn. So hey, at least to teachers, I was popular.

Of course, even by Kindergarten I lacked the social skills that the average 5 year old has. At least while at school. I did have friends who lived on my street. 5 or 6 in all. And I did talk on the phone with them, at least to set up what we were going to do that day. I did interact with them in a perfectly natural and fluid way. We were friends. Not great friends. Probably not even close friends. But at least people to do stuff with when there was nothing else to do. And never in my house if my father was home. Almost never in my house ever, as if our presence would some how attract my father's bad mood. My mother was not immune to it either, after all. In the end it occurs to me that I was likely friends with the people on my street because my mom was friends with their moms. They interacted from time to time, and I, of course, tagged along. It grew from there.

School of course was a different story. There was no one forcing me to do anything socially. I could be as sociable or as quiet as I wanted, in theory. Of course, lacking the aforementioned social skills, the latter was chosen for me. I now suppose that I did reach out for approval in the only way I knew how -- by being smart. I was incredibly intelligent after all (modesty aside). To this day I have a phenomenal memory, and elementary school is basically just memory-based learning. So, as I said I was popular to teachers.

Throughout elementary school I wasn't a popular kid to other students. But I wasn't picked on or secluded or anything else either. Granted I was consistently the tallest member of my class and was quite a bit burlier than I am now. Over the six years from Kindergarten to 5th grade I did have a variety of acquaintances and a few light friends at school. But they did not, but for two exceptions, break the school-home barrier, as I said first that my father embarrassed me, second that he discouraged it, and third that I didn't have the tools for it. I had gone to two birthday parties of two male students of whom I really didn't have that much contact anyways. Again it was because my mom knew their mom and grandmother. I didn't really even like their sons. I had nothing against them, but I rarely, if ever, talked to them either. Both were in my 1st Grade year.

During social times at school (i.e. recess) I would stick around one or two other people. At first a guy. Then he fades from the picture. A girl, and two other girls. With a few others flitting in and out. I'm "Facebook friends" with three of them today. The others I don't know anymore and couldn't find even if I wanted to. I was sort of close with one of the girls. But, at that age, and granted my later sexual revelation, we weren't truly close by any means. We didn't really do stuff or share secrets or any of those little kiddie things. We only hung out during recess and to be frank, I didn't really miss her as I moved on to middle school. It was sort of like having a book as a friend. Nice in theory, but not really missed in the end.

Even in those years I found I preferred solitude. Or at least that I enjoyed it too. I never played sports with the boys during recess. Ever. Partially because I didn't know how to play football (which was the sport of choice at our school recesses), still to this day can't throw one, and again lacked the social skills to approach them. I doubt I even realized that I lacked that ability.

Moving onto middle school brings about a whole new chance at life. And, by this point, I realized that I wasn't happy. Yet I did not know how to fix the problem. If I was honest with myself I may have realized that the problem lied within my social skills, even if I didn't know what to call it. Sexuality was interesting, but I'll continue with social skills and pick that up later.

I knew that a new school would mean a new opportunity to become "popular". I saw that other "popular" people always seemed happy. And I wanted to be happy; so I wanted to be popular as well. Over the summer there was an orientation which parents brought their kids to. It was held in the cafeteria and there was some sort of "ice breaker" exercise that we were supposed to do. It was a sheet of paper with a bunch of things on it that you had to find people for which it described. (Perhaps, for instance, "likes ice cream" or "plays baseball" or something like that.)

Students began milling around and parents did too. But I did nothing. I stood there because I didn't have a fucking clue what to do. As if by talking to someone else would imply a non-existent friendship and thus also set me up for a blow off or something. At the end of the day I didn't get one person to fill out one blank because there was no one there (a majority of which went to my elementary school) who I considered a friend. The friends I did have numbered only those who lived on my street, and which number was about to drop as three of them were about to move away.

I remember middle school for one defining moment in my life. Granted, other things happened as well. It was the point when I decided that I didn't care any more. I didn't care what people thought about me. I didn't care about being smart or answering questions or anything. I just didn't care anymore, because I made a conscious decision that not caring was better than being made fun of. There were no real build up of incidences or anything. I just remember one day standing outside a classroom, before being let into the room, and having someone who he himself was picked on for being rather nerdy make some sort of comment about the acne that was bringing to show on my face. (Oddly enough, another genetic marvel donated by my father's sperm.) It hurt because I didn't do anything to him and because his comment wasn't normal for him either. We had gotten along in the past. Not friends or even acquaintances. But certainly not enemies.

I headed into the classroom. I remember that my teacher was sick that day and we had been given busy work by the sub. I think it was math or maybe science. I forget. But I remember sitting in the front desk third row from the right and deciding consciously that I wasn't going to give a damn anymore. I shut up. I didn't answer questions as often, if at all outside of jeopardy games or team competitions where intelligence was lauded in victory. Hell, in my 8th grade Social Studies class I could almost own the entire class in Jeopardy by myself. It actually got to the point where I could answer questions before he even finished reading them... sometimes they were impossibly unfinished. I still remember the greatest one I had ever done. The category was Geography and the question was "This is called the island..." and I cut him off with the answer, which I did so by almost screaming "Right here!" signaling my hand in the air to make sure that no one would get it before me because the teacher hadn't looked up from the paper in time to see who was first. And I knew the answer. "The plateau of Tibet." The whole question having been "This is called the Island on Top of the World." I pretty much left everyone on the other team awestruck, including the Chinese kid who had his hand up second and couldn't believe he didn't get it up first. Hehe. For that brief period from the end of that game until the end of that class period, I was able to compensate for a lack of social skills because for that short period of time intelligence was as important to the rest of the students.

Otherwise, I kept to myself and a core group of three friends. They really were friends too. None of them were all that smart (though one of them was not dumb either). But they were all outcasts for one reason or another. One because he was gross looking. One because he acted gross. And one because he was a year younger than the rest of us and pretty small and came from a sheltered home. In the end, it would only be him who I am still in contact with, if only as "Facebook friends."

Around middle school my father comes up again for a new reason. Sports. He hates sports and he thinks it's entirely impossible for a person to be both good at academics and good at sports at the same time. Well, what he didn't realize is that until I reached AP Chemistry in my junior year of high school and then in college, NEVER did I study for anything and NEVER did I not get good grades with ABSOLUTELY no effort whatsoever. Of course, had he been in better touch with his own son, something might have been different.

Anways, sports. What I knew of sports came from my mother and one friend from my street. I could play baseball and was pretty good at it for my age. I had quick hands and in a backyard game I could easily rout even my sports-crazed street friend. I was offered the catcher's position on my middle school baseball team, for lack of someone applying for it. I quickly denied it however simply because I knew that my father would not allow it. I would be in for an incredible amount of verbal abuse if I had accepted. I knew that. And I'd long since been resigned to it. The same would ring true throughout high school too. My mom would constantly beg me to join a club or something as a "resume booster". But I couldn't draw. I didn't like chess. I hated foreign languages. I wasn't popular enough to be on student council (and I hated them anyways). So then too I would do nothing.

It's funny though, looking back at middle school. Of course, just about everyone goes through puberty during this time, and I was no different. It's funny because, now it's so obvious that I liked guys even back then. But, then I was completely clueless. It almost makes me laugh if it weren't so sad. There are a good half dozen guys in my middle school who I would stare at or even have some sort of crush on. Granted I didn't know what to do about it, or care at that point. Also, there wasn't a single girl for whom I felt the same way. Go figure. Hell, it was a Catholic school; I would have probably been thrown out for making a pass at a guy or something. Detention at least! They never did talk about homosexuality in sex-ed come to think of it. But they did talk about masturbation in religion class... go figure. Ha ha.

As high school rolled around, again I knew it was another chance to change myself. The high school in my city encompasses all of the middle school students who go public, so there would be a lot of new kids there. Most of the people I went to Catholic middle school with went to the private Catholic high school. So in reality, I would be making almost a clean break. Which I throughly needed. I realized that pushing everyone away who could hurt me wouldn't lead to happiness. Although, I maintained my classroom silence so that I wouldn't seem too intelligent. Although grades would prove otherwise, as would Honors and AP classes. But I didn't show off regardless.

The difference at this time involved learning social skills. Despite my father's stupidity, I had realized that this was what I needed to work on as well as how I would need to do that.

It's insane to me to realize that inside I am not the man he comes across as but that in many ways and in many instances I know that I come across in exactly the same way. So then what's to say that he hasn't tried to fight the same demons that I now do? Who's to say that he wasn't impacted by another in the same way that I was impacted by him? And that's fucking frightening, that I know with every ounce of my being that I am not the man that he seems to me to be and that maybe every ounce isn't enough.

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