Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learning to exist in society and still be batshit crazy

To say I grew up socially inept would be like saying, “Electricity makes stuff do things.” It’s true, but just the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t know how much a part my parents’ divorce played, but jogging my memory back to when I was seven, I find it to be the general time when I began to withdraw from regular social activity at school. I believe it also stemmed from mental illness that was long overdue in being diagnosed. (You mean, not everyone is sad all the time? And who knew ADHD could mean more than just rambunctious boys jumping on desks? I had a hard time paying attention in school but I thought I was just bored and lazy.) Regardless, it meant I spoke to people my age less and less, and this made for very long days at school.

The only thing that made me more adorable
in second grade was being on a Polaroid.

By sixth grade, I spent every day at lunch by myself. Walking around the playground, waiting for recess to end so I could go back inside. I didn’t do anything particularly productive during this time, unless you count teaching myself how to burp on command – a skill that really charms the guys today but only served to further ostracize myself at the time. It was boring and miserable and the only thing I hated more than being so bored and miserable was the majority of the people I was stuck with at school.

I think it was in fifth grade that I befriended a girl in my classroom and we hung out every day at recess for a time. It could have been a couple weeks or a couple months, I really don’t remember. But I do vividly remember her turning to me one day and asking why I was “always following” her. Mortified, I walked away and returned to my solitary lunch periods, walking laps around the playground and avoiding eye contact.

Middle school was an improvement and high school even better because the pool of people with whom I could associate grew larger. I slowly felt more in my element because everyone else was awkward too. But not to be outdone, I developed my own little techniques for retaining a degree of social strangeness. My struggle with depression was constant and gradually increasing. I was never goth but my morbidity knew no bounds. I kept a binder filled with poems and short stories where unexpected deaths were very much expected. I even brought Harold and Maude into school to show people during lunch breaks in our English teacher’s classroom over the course of a week. (It’s a lovely movie that I still show to people now, but for completely different reasons than when I was 15.)

I still stayed relatively quiet, but when I had something to say, it was generally fucking weird. The best way I can find to justify it was that it was my way of reminding others that they didn’t like me and I didn’t like them, but I was still there and they’d have to deal with my existence the way I had to put up with theirs. It sounds angsty and rebellious as any teenager, but it was my peers I was giving the middle finger to, not my teachers or parents or any kind of authority figure. In some circumstances, I went out of my way to piss people off because they’d may as well have an actual reason to treat me like I was inferior. It didn’t go down well when I told girls in middle school that the Beatles were way better than Ricky Martin and I know I irritated the crap out of people by writing the box score of each Red Wings game on the whiteboard of every class I had. I started bringing my guitar to school and sang nonsense songs about Jesus or The Doctor, a song I wrote about Jack Kevorkian and his career in assisted suicide.

My junior year of high school, I discovered photography and it not only became a creative outlet that continues to this very day but a way for me to get in someone’s face without them being able to do much about it. I was the photo editor of my senior yearbook and even now, I wish I had abused that position with horrible pictures of horrible people. (Bitter? I barely know her!) But it was enough that I could take pictures whenever I wanted to and no one could say shit. I’ve been compared to Mark from RENT, always following people with my camera and living life through a lens. But you know what? I don’t have AIDS.

Obviously, a lot of this is still with me, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. It’s been eight years since I left high school and they’ve absolutely been better than the eight years prior. Some of that is just the process of growing older and maturing, I’m sure. Some of it is because I’m in more control over my mental illness with therapy and medication. A lot of it is I no longer have to see the same assholes day in, day out.

A girl who bullied me relentlessly in elementary and middle school lived in a house a couple blocks away from me. She moved away and some years afterward, the house she lived in burned down. No one was hurt but I once lamented to my mom that I wish this girl was still living there and that she had been in the house when it caught on fire. I sincerely, unapologetically meant it when I said it. I don’t feel that way anymore and it’s not because I’ve had a change of heart or we made up. I’ve just finally been able to let go. This girl doesn’t even live in the state anymore. She added me on Facebook and I only accepted her request because I thought it was so she could apologize to me. Yeah, no. I doubt she even remembers or realizes how she treated me. And instead of getting angry about that epiphany, it gave me a release. Here is someone who genuinely doesn’t give me a second thought. And not out of malice, just… she has no reason to think about me. Now I can do the same for her.

I’ll have the occasional pity party if I’ve had a particularly bad day, but I don’t feel sorry for myself the way I once did. When I realized there was a difference between feeling down and out and bringing people down with me, a new world opened up to me. Because people get tired of feeling sorry for you pretty effing fast. Legitimate reasons are a death in the family or suffering an injury. Someone saying mean things to you 15 years ago doesn’t hold much water. Learning to differentiate between truly sucky stuff and, what is affectionately called on Twitter, “first world problems,” has helped me come a long way in maintaining healthier social relationships.

Haters gonna hate. 

I’m still goofy as hell, though.


  1. I'm with ya on this one for sure. Loved the part about telling girls the Beatles were much better than Ricky Martin...that's totally me, too! Guess as we get older, we realize there are actually people out in the world that are as effed up as we are! And I think we have it easier later in life than those stuck ups we grew up with. We already knew we weren't the center of the world. I've seen some of the "popular kids" have a hard time dealing with that fact once they got out of highschool. So, I guess we're not that bad off afterall. Great blog and thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh god this hit home! I don't know what I would have done without Jamie in middle and high school. Before that, I had 'friends' (my parents made me go outside and socialize, but the kids all thought I was strange. Thank god for little brothers and potato guns).

    I STILL remember being friends with you in kindergarden. I will find pictures dammit! I am also bummed that we didn't hangout in high school more. I know that Freshman and Sophmore year I spent most of my time with Jamie, by Junior year I started skipping school a lot, and I barely remeber senior year due to Cross country and working at McD's. But I remember hanging out with you at practice and trying to 'run pretty' for the camera :P

  3. What an amazing, honest and brave post. I love it -- and it makes me adore you.

    Your blog is fascinating. Please keep up the good work.

  4. Oh, and "Harold and Maude" is my favorite film. Anyone who appreciates that film has an attractive subversive streak.

  5. @MelJoy Creations That's actually a really good point that I'd never thought about before. I would hate for my high school years to have been the best of my life.

    @She is Sara I laughed so hard at little brothers and potato guns! What matters is that we're hanging out now!

    @Shybiker :D Thank you thank you thank you!