Saturday, May 25, 2013

The REAL Reason Behind The Recent Frustration

Disclaimer: I hope this does not offend anyone, as it is not my intent to do that. If you have any problem with anything I have said, please let me know, and I will resolve it somehow. Thank you.

Over the past eight or nine months, my Facebook friend list has been bombarded with news of engagements and/or upcoming weddings. I have at least three or four friends who are set to be married this summer, including one female friend--whom I never considered a potential significant other, though she is a nice young lady--who I've known since the seventh grade. At least two other friends aren't getting married that soon, but, barring some tragedy or Jesus' return, they're still going to marry their sweethearts in the near future. I'm really the only mutual friend all of those people would have, as they came from different places: my middle/high school, my church, a small group I attended outside of my church, etc.
You may be thinking, "Oh, no; here he goes again bashing those in relationships. I better get ready to click the 'unfriend' button." I'm not going to do that, though; seriously, if God blessed you with a great significant other, and he/she makes you happy, who am I to bash you for talking about that online or elsewhere? I realize that I did that in the past, and paid the price for it; I know now how wrong that was. So, then, is there a problem with others being in serious relationships? Well...sort of.
You probably already know that I believe that--for the time being, at least--romance likely isn't in my future. My belief is, as I've said before countless times, that living that way is what God wants, regardless of what society might say about it. If I've convinced you of that, great; I need friends who understand me and why I do what I do instead of ones who constantly badger me to "stick to the status quo," as the High School Musical song says. The problem is...I have yet to convince myself.
Let's go back into my history for a bit: Though I was known in school--for good or for ill--as someone who smiled a lot, I actually had a lot of pent-up anger. I wanted to travel, but my family situation prevented that. I wanted my obsessions/addictions fed, but didn't want to work to satiate them, and then got upset when my mom did the best she could to support me, because it was never enough; I always wanted more. Though I really had a pretty good life, I made it sound like I had it worse than anyone else, just because I didn't get everything I wanted. Many kids across the planet never got even a tenth of what I was given, but I didn't care; I was treated unfairly because I had to eat food for dinner I didn't like, or because I didn't have as many Beanie Babies as my friends did.
I hate to say it, but that attitude it still going strong.  Just yesterday, I discovered on the way home from work that the belt clip on Danielle's (that is, my iPod Touch's) case was busted, and neither my dad nor I were able to fix it properly.  I was so mad that I was insulting myself and threatening to jump off the roof.  After taking a walk around the block, I realized that there are much worse things than an iPod belt clip breaking; just look at the recent devastation in Oklahoma, or those three ladies who were held captive for about a decade.  Still, for that moment, there was no one who had it any worse than me.
Such feelings apply to relationships, too: Though I know and have said that there are good reasons for my current lack of a significant other, there has always been a voice in my head--perhaps that of Satan or one of his minions?--that says, "Oh, please; do you really believe that tripe? The reason you're sans girlfriend right now is simple: You're an idiot.  You're the same worthless individual you have always been, and you will always continue to be that way.  You are who you are, and you cannot change; therefore, you are hopeless." I know what that voice says isn't true; I've said the opposite for a while now.  Still, sometimes, the voices plague me and send me into a fury.
I'm sure most of you reading this could come up with some Scripture or inspirational quotation that would tell me not to worry, and that I am valuable and worthy of being loved.  It's not that I would disagree with you; I believe in everything the Bible says, and even most secular motivational sayings apply to me, despite me being different from most people.  The problem is that, though I believe all that, I don't know how to put it into practice.  As someone who grew up in the church, I've been getting encouragement from friends and family all my life; there's really nothing any of you could tell me that I haven't already heard.  Still, that demon of low self-esteem and unhappiness that has been plaguing me all my life just won't go away.  Some time ago, a comment was made in a Sunday morning class on Matthew that demon possession in Bible times is what we would call mental illness today.  I honestly wonder if the Asperger Syndrome isn't what's causing these feelings...but I do know that no amount of K-Love or Scripture reading is going to take it away.  I've been listening to Christian music since 1999, and I've done a daily Bible reading for well over a year, yet those negative emotions--wherever they come from--are still just as present as they were prior to that.  I want them to go away--I know that, if they did, I would be a much happier person--but they just won't, which makes me all the more frustrated.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Gotta Buy 'Em All"? No...Gotta Buy What I WANT!

Pretty much anyone who was around during the time of Y2K remembers Pokémon, which started as a set of two Game Boy RPGs, but turned into everything from an anime cartoon to a movie series to a collectable card game.  The whole premise of the franchise was summed up in its tagline: "Gotta catch 'em all!" In other words, the point was to collect all of the various monsters, which came in all shapes and sizes, and had varying abilities.  Though there were only 151 Pokémon in the original games, there were even more collectable cards, not only due to some of the monsters having multiple versions, but also because some of the cards were simply power-ups.
The cards weren't just ones to collect, like baseball cards; there was a game you could play with them, albeit a complicated one with various rules.  Though there were some standard decks available that had some good cards, the most powerful--and the rarest--ones were only available in booster packs.  Unless you had X-ray vision, though, you wouldn't know what was in each booster pack until you opened it.  Kids nonetheless stopped at nothing to get the best cards, even spending their allowance only on booster packs, as a New York Post story from 1999 said:
Two Pokemon [sic] pack rats are suing the maker of the wildly popular trading cards, charging that the pocket monsters are turning them into pint-sized gamblers.
Alex Silverman and Andrew Imber, two 9-year- old friends from Merrick, L.I., say they were forced to empty their piggy banks to buy endless packs of low-value cards in the hope of buying a rare one.
The suit says the cards' maker, Nintendo, randomly includes a rare one in the 11-card packages that sell for $3 to $11.
Thus, the lawsuit says, kids are forced to empty their pockets to get the rare cards, which can be resold for $30 to $100. [...]
Alex, who used to be a frenzied collector, said "I spent lots of money on it. It's like gambling, kind of."
He and fellow fourth-grader Andrew said they spent thousands of dollars trying to get the scarce cards that are a big status symbol with their friends.
"People are stealing them and trading them," said Alex.
Andrew said, "Sometimes I used to get too into it and I wouldn't think about anything else."
 It's no surprise that Nintendo and Wizards of the Coast raked in oodles of money from the franchise, is it?  Still, that serves as an analogy for me recently: Though I gave up on those "pocket monsters" years ago, recently, as probably everyone reading this knows, I have become a bargain hunter, or, as some would say, a shopaholic or even "a hoarder".  Thanks to various yard sales in my area, as well as library sales, thrift stores, and such, I've brought home numerous books, DVDs, and CDs, and other items, also.  When there are bargains around, I just can't help myself.
Recently, I was thinking: There are certain items that I have been looking to own for quite a while.  Instead of going to yard sales on the off chance that they might have that specific item, why not use the Internet to find those items? That ended up being just what I did this past Friday; I ordered twelve items from Barnes and Noble's Marketplace--which is much like Amazon's same-name service--and they are all currently en route to my house from various parts of the country.
You may wonder: Does that mean I will give up on yard sales and similar places, now that I have found what I want after all that searching? In a As an article in AARP Magazine said, "Stores are for things you know you want.  Yard sales are for things you didn't know you wanted."  You could also make the same statement about thrift stores, library sales, and even used bookstores and MovieStop; many times, the best "finds" are media that you either hadn't heard of before, or about which you had just had simply forgotten.  Garage sales and similar places have been the genesis of many of my recent interests, ranging from Star Wars books to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I will end by saying this: James 1:17 (NIV) says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights."  No matter how much media I bring home after a day of bargain hunting, I must remember one thing: Without God, it wouldn't be possible.  Even if this world and everything on it were here by chance--which isn't the case--it would take planning for things to have fallen into place they way they have for me.  Think about it: I live in an area where yard sales pop up all over during the spring, summer, and fall; I have a job, so I can pay for my own finds; there are two used bookstores and a MovieStop quite close to my house; and, I've been good with computers all my life, which makes using eBay and other e-stores, as well as online classifieds, a snap.  That couldn't just happen by chance; Someone planned it, and I think I know who He is.
Any comments?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Addendum to "The REAL Reason for the Whole Celebrity Deal"

As usual, there were some points that I wanted to mention in the last blog post, but didn't get the chance to do it.  So, I will express some other thoughts that will augment what I said a few days ago; maybe it'll help you to understand my reasoning even further.  If you haven't already read the previous post, please do so; you likely won't be able to understand this one otherwise.  Still with me? Then, here we go.
First off: I have a tendency to look at undertakings only as how they will benefit me.  We all know that I established about a decade ago that it's a better idea for everyone if I don't get my driver's license; as I've said for a while, me behind the wheel of a car is simply an accident waiting to happen.  What you may not know is that, at one point, I actually planned on driving.  I was going to have a neon orange car; I was going to give people rides, returning the favor that so many people had done for me in the past; and, at some point, I was going to head down to Florida to see some friends who used to live in my area.  Why did that get shot down? Simply because a trusted friend informed me that a friend of hers knew a kid who was thought to have Asperger Syndrome as well, and he--that is, the son himself--believed that driving wasn't "in the cards" for him, mainly because of the concentration required.  Up to that point, I had never thought about that being required of me in order to be able to drive; I had what you might call a "big realization" at that moment.  When I thought about how horrible my concentration had been up to that point--and, yes, it's still just as bad, if not worse--I realized that cruising the planet just wasn't for me.
That wasn't the only case; around spring 2002, I considered going to church camp for the first time since 1998.  What stopped me was another trusted friend informing me that doing so would require me spending an entire week outdoors, which just isn't for me.  That should have been obvious, but my focus on the potential positives obscured the easily apparent, egregious negative.  I'm sure that other cases would come to mind if I had the time to think of them.  My point is: With relationships, I looked at it only from the standpoint of, "How will it benefit me?" Yes, a wife would be a best friend, a lifelong companion, someone to keep me accountable, etc.,....but what could I provide for her? I doubt any woman would like being treated like a piece of technology; that is, one who only lives to serve me.  Victoria, Danielle, and Jade (that is, my iMac, iPod, and iPad) are very helpful; they have assisted me with countless pursuits, whether leisurely, important, or otherwise...but no woman wants to be treated like an electronic device.
You may be saying, "Well, then, treat her like a human being instead!" There's something you're missing, though: I don't really know how, and I may never know how.  Throughout my life, the emotions and actions of other people--mostly without any sort of syndrome or mental illness--have stymied me.  I'm not going to do it right now, but, I could tell numerous stories where someone said or did something that still doesn't make sense to me, even as a twenty-five-year-old.  In many of those cases, people have tried to explain it to me, but it still proves incomprehensible.  I have little experience with other people with A.S., but, based on what I have had, I don't fit in with them any better than I do with those without it; during the brief time I was in a group with such people, I always felt like the odd one out, which made me eventually decide to jump ship.
My point is: I'm not really capable of showing the kind of emotion that would be required for a serious relationship.  Frankly, I've even put my immediate family through the wringer several times, simply because I expected them to give me what I wanted, while being largely unwilling to do the same for them.  Though I have improved to a degree in that regard, I could still do better.  At this point, I'm afraid that, if I was ever to learn to give enough to have a relationship, I would have done it by now.
Second off: What works for others likely won't work for me.  One of our tendencies as humans is to take a rule and apply it to everyone.  That especially applies to those in authority; I remember hearing of a clash between the lead English teacher at my high school and someone/some people at the school system's administration.  Long story short, the summer reading list, which was put out by the administration, had Of Mice and Men listed for rising sophomores who were going into Honors English.  Though the summer reading itself wasn't optional--unless you wanted an "F" at the start of the year--there were seven or eight books on the list, and each student only had to read two.  However, the lead English teacher at my high school felt that all high school sophomores should read that classic Steinbeck novel; according to the teacher I had that year, she (that is, the lead) had tried to get it taken off of the list, and had all of us read it not long after the year started, regardless of whether or not we read it during the summer.
Unfortunately, it seems like many of us have a similar standard.  If you're a guy, you're expected to like sports.  If you're well into your twenties, you should be in a serious relationship.  If you're a heterosexual male, your best friends should be of the same gender.  You may think no one believes that, but I see people reacting in an unkind way to me being "different" more often than anyone should ever have to.  That right there is the meaning of the title of this blog: I simply don't think like others do.
Maya Angelou, a famous author, once wrote, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  That may be true for most people, but I've been known by many to remember exactly what someone said or did, even if he/she has absolutely zero recollection of it.  That right there makes advice from friends or other caring individuals a dicey prospect.  Throughout my struggle to find a life mate, I was told by numerous individuals, "You will find someone." Not "You might...", or "You could...", but "You will..." One well-meaning teacher at my high school even told me that I'd likely find my soulmate in college...but there wasn't one young lady at that school who I was even remotely interested in dating; most of the friends I had there were guys, no joke! Though such advice was meant to make me feel better--and, at the time, it did--it went on to upset me, as I watched friend after friend post news of their engagement or wedding, while my relationship status only changed when April Fools' Day came around.  Their well-intentioned advice began to become a source of irritation, because, when they said that it "will" happen, I held them to it, and was rather infuriated when it never did.  You may be thinking, "Well, it still could," but, these days, I'm not so sure.
Third off: My lifestyle is not what you think it is.  Many times, what happens in pretty much any sort of group is not what an outsider would think.  A joke among those who work at libraries--such as myself--is that people think we just sit around and read books all day.  Though I handle plenty of literature every workday, it's not even that often that I can do more than glance at the back cover!  Still, that's supposedly the assumption others have.
If you think that's dumb, you should hear the things people have assumed about me.  Instead of knowing that I living a well-rounded life and spending time doing various activities--including ones that involve housework--people assume that I pretty much eat, sleep, and consume media intended for young people.  First off, the assumed media diet is incorrect; I read, watch, and listen to plenty of entertainment that the Austin & Ally crowd wouldn't even want to try.  Second off, I'm not a hermit who only leaves his house to go to church or to work.  I go to yard/garage sales; I go out to dinner with friends and family members; I attend social functions.  In fact, much of the time I spend consuming entertainment is while I am en route to and from somewhere outside my house.  Unfortunately, those who don't know the truth probably aren't even reading this post.
Here is my final point: Starting in 2007, there was a time where I was really focused on finding myself a significant other.  There were multiple reasons, but the main two were that others I knew were getting married or engaged, and--the biggest reason--I knew that my parents weren't going to be around forever, and I was going to need someone to take care of me when they were gone.  The unfortunate truth that I was sans job at the time was pretty much an impasse for any female friend, regardless of my attitude; however, the real problem was that I was pretty much looking for a second mother instead of a wife.  Though spouses do look after each other, each one should be able to function independently, unless one or both of them has a disability (which Asperger Syndrome is not; remember?) In other words, I was only actively looking for a girlfriend--oh, how I hate that term!--for my own selfish reasons.
Now that I am mature enough to realize the error of my ways, I now have come to accept that a relationship is most likely not in my future, as I have said more than once.  Though I'm not ruling it out completely--after all, all things are possible with God--I don't expect it to happen anytime soon.  So, what will I do when my parents are gone? To be frank...I don't know. At the moment, I am trying to build up a savings so that I'll have money for any future expenses; I refuse to tell anyone outside my household how much money I have in the bank, but, by my own judgment, I think I am doing pretty well.  Other than that, I'm just going to have to trust God.  Maybe I will be off and married in the next five years.  Maybe Jesus will return while my parents are still alive, and I won't have to worry about what to do after they're gone.  I don't really know, but I do know that God has looked out for me throughout my life, so, why wouldn't He continue to do so?  In the meantime, I still have some things to work on, one of which is choosing to be happy.  Andy Andrews said that being happy is a choice, and he is right; now, I just need to apply that to my life.  How can I be happy with someone else in my life if I'm a wreck by myself?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The REAL Reason for The Whole Celebrity Deal

By now, I'm sure that everyone knows how my life changed in 2002 thanks to discovering Lizzie McGuire and its leading lady, Hilary Duff.  I've said more than once that I have no idea where I would be today without that show.  Pretty much, it woke me up to a whole world of entertainment that I had been purposefully avoiding for years, which made me a happier person overall.
Still, over the years, numerous people--including myself--have wondered: Why the celebrities? Why not seek out a real-life relationship? Wouldn't I rather have a girl I could kiss and hug instead of some woman I'm not likely to see except on a TV, movie, or computer/iPad screen?  To be fair, from 2003 to 2008, I was actively seeking out a relationship; I tried to start one with five different coeval ladies, but, every time, they just weren't interested.  Since then, I've considered asking some of my single female friends out, but past failures and my own current living situation make me quite hesitant to try that again.
Even though I'm not really seeking a significant other right now, the celebrity thing is still going just as strong as it was back when I actually was asking out girls.  It seems like it has some sort of grasp on me that just can't be lifted; even trying to give it up for a former crush was pointless, because I just couldn't stay away from the actresses' websites and other media, not to mention that the one who it was done in honor of thought nothing of it.  I'd like to think that I have throttled it back recently; as my tastes in entertainment has expanded, the focus on Disney Channel or similar media with a lovely young leading lady has gone down a bit...though I still do enjoy Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, and Austin & Ally.  Still, without question, the celebrities are still there.
Why are they? I wondered the same thing...until I read the book pictured above, Eyes of Justice by Lis Wiehl and April Henry.  I'm going to have to spoil the plot a bit, but, I still need to make my point: When a local TV crime reporter is murdered, her friends seek out a suspect.  Though many signs seem to point to her ex-significant other, it is questioned if she had an admirer who fell in love with her because she was on television.  Here is what one of the characters had to say on the matter:
These guys can't have normal personal relationships, so, they resort to fantasy ones.  [...] So, you take a guy who's unbalanced and lonely.  He turns on his TV; suddenly, he's looking at a beautiful young woman.  She's warm, she's talking to him, and she's looking him right in the eye.  Maybe he's the kind of guy who goes through his whole day--his whole week--and no one looks at him...but this girl on TV? She comes on every day at the same time and says hello and good-bye to him. [...] It's not even really sexual; it's romantic, idealized.
Does that not sound like me? I've always been a bit unbalanced, as anyone who has seen me during times of crisis knows very well.  Loneliness has been a longtime problem for me, too; I rarely get invited to social functions, especially ones intended for people around my age.  When it comes to Hilary Duff, even a New York Times article said of her best-known character, "Lizzie is the luminous and loyal friend any kid would want to have at a stage of adolescence when the world just begins to seem very dark."  Entertainment is commonly used as an escape from the real world; were Hilary, as well as her successors Anne Hathaway and Victoria Justice, a way to forget the reality of being a lonely, single homebody?
When people talk about Asperger Syndrome--which I have, but I do not consider it a disability anymore--one of the things people tend to ask people with it is, "What is your special interest?"  Right now, you could say family-friendly and Christian entertainment.  Still, I've known others who have had a special interest of sorts--ranging from history to medical science--without being one bit autistic.  It was just their "thing"; they have theirs, and I have mine.
You don't get involved in the entertainment industry without becoming familiar with the names, faces, and works of certain people.  I remember hearing a story about a little girl who was being tested in order to enter kindergarten, and the guy doing the testing asked her to name as many animals as she could in five minutes.  What he didn't know was that she adored animals; she named them so quickly, he ended up saying, "Okay; I can't write that fast!"  Though I'm sure that most of you could easily name ten living famous people in less than two minutes, they'd likely be big-name ones like President Obama, Tim Tebow, or Angelina Jolie.  Yet, if you asked me to name as many living famous people as I could in five minutes, I bet you anything you would be saying, "Who is that?", after right many of the names I would mention.  (Ever heard of Jade Ramsey, Lonni Paul, Jeffrey Jacquet, Erin Cottrell, Danielle Panabaker, or Kiely Williams? Didn't think so.)
Still, it isn't right for something that I enjoy to be taken away from me for no good reason.  Most of you reading this either love sports or love someone (e.g., your husband?) who does.  Would you want someone to go into your/his/her cable box or satellite dish's settings and block every single football game of the season, including the Super Bowl? Of course not; that would be rather mean, right? Well, so would taking my Disney/Nickelodeon shows and their related media away from me; I find them as important as sports nuts do the NFL.
Still, I think it's telling that I haven't asked a lady out since 2008; maybe that shows acceptance of my situation.  Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I realize that a relationship most likely isn't for me; at least, not right now.  From what I've seen elsewhere, dating takes up a lot of your time, and requires a lot of you.  I've said before that I don't want anyone taking my interests away from me, and that includes a potential significant other.  No matter how sweet and beautiful some coeval Christian woman may be, if she wants me to give up Austin & Ally and/or bargain hunting, I'm ending it right then and there.
That's probably an impasse for pretty much any possible date; I've always wondered if my single female friends think, "Maybe, if I got my own show on the Disney Channel, or magically transformed into Victoria Justice or Bridgit Mendler, then, and only then, would he ever love me."  For some, a life without romance is unimaginable; for me, it's all I've ever known.  Even as a kid, there wasn't any romance in my house, since my biological father was gone when I was a mere six weeks old.  Having celebrity "girlfriends" may sound crazy to you, but, I'm all for it.
Of course, with any interest, you have to keep it from being an obsession.  I'm reminded of the time when Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin was caught on camera feeding a crocodile with one hand while holding his baby son in the other.  He probably regretted it afterwards; I think it was a simple case of his love for animals overtaking his love for his family.  I'm just as guilty; in the past, I let my love for whoever/whatever--including some non-celebrity-related entities--overtake what should have been more important: God, my friends, and my family.  Recently, I've been trying to change that, and done my best to make sure that what should be truly important to me is; though I may love my entertainment and the people involved in it, they should never be more important than my friends, my family, and, most importantly, my Creator.
I will end by saying this: Some of you may be scoffing, and wondering why I don't use the technology at my disposal to join a site such as eHarmony or ChristianMingle to find "the one" for me.  Three things I want to point out: One, though I know sites such as that one work for some people, in my experience, they're not all they're cracked up to be.  I've known at least three people who were/have been on such a site for quite a while, and either still remain single or met their mate outside of the Internet.  Just because so-and-so met such-and-such online, and now they're happily married, doesn't mean that I would be if I joined; frankly, I think it would just be another frustration, because even online dating likely wouldn't change my relationship status.  You call that being pessimistic; I call it being realistic and say that you are being unrealistically optimistic, not to mention disturbingly naive.  Two, I've thought for a while that I'm a bit of a wild card; I have a diverse set of friends because my interests range so widely that I don't fit in perfectly anywhere or with anyone.  Some of my friends talk with me about bargain hunting; others about our recent reads; still others, the latest technology; and there are even others who will talk with me about the most recent Good Luck Charlie.  If I don't fit in perfectly with one single group of people, why would I "fit together" with just one woman? I think that's why I have so many female friends; I was meant to be a light to multiple ladies, not just be tied down to one.  Lastly, I have chosen to remain single for the time being because I'm pretty sure that not only is it better for everyone, but it's also what God wants; however, even a small amount of people badgering me about doing otherwise is likely to make me wonder, "Am I doing the right thing?"  It's like an object lesson I once saw during a retreat at a nearby church: When the kid was sure that the blue bar on the graph was the longest, he lost a bit of certainty when everyone else said the orange one was.  It turned out that he was right--the whole thing was a trick, and everyone but that kid was in on it--but it made a good point: You can't give up what you know to be right just because whoever or whatever says it isn't.  As my friends, you either have to respect what I'm doing or cease being my friend; if you make me choose another path, it's very likely could make me go down a road I'll end up wishing I never traveled.  You call that stubbornness; I call it being sure in the faith.
Any comments?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

No Protesting? No Complaining? Why? It's REALLY Easy!

This was me!
Throughout my life, I have had various convictions.  That word may make you think of my Christian beliefs, but, that wasn't the case.  Instead, my convictions were about me being right in doing whatever I did, and not doing whatever I refused to do.  At first glance, it sounds okay...but it became a problem when I started applying it to everyone else, and told others they were "wrong" for not following my standards.  When you're dealing with an eccentric like me, you know the standards are going to be weird:
  • Everyone must watch the Disney Channel.
  • No one is to watch sports; they are to be outlawed in the USA and banished from the face of the earth.
  • Everyone must play Nintendo GameCube.
  • No one is to go to any place involving large bodies of water, including a beach, pool, or water park.
How many of you reading this could live like that? If you even like video games, would you play any GameCube game other than Super Smash Bros. Melee? Would you want your sports taken away from you by the federal government? Do you want every channel taken from your cable or satellite TV service except for the Mouse network, or your privilege of cooling off poolside or in the sand stolen from you?
As inane as it sounds, that was how I lived.  It's one thing to like things that others don't, or find something that is supposedly "popular" to be overrated; however, trying to make others do as you do is just wrong.  Still, I regularly protested and complained about the fact that no one else was doing as I was; I simply felt that they should.
The complaints and protests didn't stop there, though.  Many times, I would make it sound like I had the worst living situation of anyone on the planet, just because I didn't get exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it.  Sure, I had plenty of computer games...but I wanted more!  I had the chance to do household chores or run laps around the backyard to earn Beanie Babies...but I refused to put forth any effort, and then regularly lamented because I didn't have as many as my fellow-collector friends.  I was regularly shedding tears over anything and everything, without realizing how good I had it.  Some of my friends and associates back then had parents who were abusive, dead, imprisoned, destitute, or just simply didn't care about their kids.  The fact that I had a loving family, with food to eat and clothes to wear, meant I was plenty blessed, no matter how many CD-ROMs or stuffed dolls with heart tags I owned...but good luck explaining that to my greedy former self.  Back then, it was all about me, me, and me.
For the past week or two, I have been feeling the effects of chronic frustration.  It just seems like I want to lash out at someone, though I've restrained myself from doing that so far.  Still, I think that this perpetual frustration is nothing new; a psychiatric report that was done on me as a kid even said, "As a baby, he was fine, though notably fussy."  I've always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder; it was just easier to complain or protest whatever I didn't like instead of letting it go.
However, such an attitude is wrong: Philippians 2:14 and James 5:9 warn about the sin of complaining, aka grumbling.  Though that may be a big part of my past, it's not something that can't be overcome.  It doesn't really matter what kind of technology or job or relationship some friend or acquaintance might have; after all, since I "think differently," what "everyone else" has probably wouldn't work for me, anyway.  It may be easier to lament about what or who I don't have, but not only does that make me unhappy, it also causes me to be unable to see what/who I really do have.
So, it's time to stop having a complaining, protesting attitude.  It doesn't do me or anyone else any good; in fact, all it causes is strife, more so for me than others.  If I'm going to make my life better for myself, I need to start by accepting my situation in life, which isn't as bad as I have made it seem.
I will end by saying this: Some of you reading this may have been part of actual protest marches, whether on one political side or another.  No matter which side you were/are on, you probably are of the belief that, if your protest worked, it would be better for the general public, and who is to judge you for that? My protests were a little bit different: Instead of being better for many people, what I wanted would have just improved things for me, while causing everyone else to suffer.  If some super-hacker made all the TVs in the United States show nothing but the Disney Channel, our entire nation would be in a rage, and the one responsible, if he/she ever got caught, would be the most hated individual in the history of our nation, if not the world...yet, that's exactly what I wanted to happen.  People don't deserve to have their favorite things taken away just because somebody else doesn't care for them; I wouldn't want to be unable to watch Austin & Ally any more than you would want to give up your sports or whatever hobby you might have.  No matter how you slice it, my "protests" were for all the wrong reasons...and I know that fully now.
Any comments?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How "Star Wars" Changed My Life

Today is May 4, known by fans across the world as Star Wars day, based on a play of the iconic space opera catchphrase: "May the Fourth (Force) be with you." All over the planet, the saga of the deeply flawed Anakin Skywalker who eventually gets redeemed by his twin children, Luke and Leia, is well-recognized; television shows, popular songs, novels, and even other movies have made more allusions to that Lucasfilm production than probably any other media franchise in existence.
Love it or hate it, you can't deny the lasting influence of A New Hope and its sequels and prequels. Most of you who are reading this probably have a favorable opinion of the saga, but can any of you say that it changed your life? I can; just like Lizzie McGuire, Star Wars helped wake me up to something that was missing in my life...something that has since become a big part of who I am.
Let's start at the beginning: In 2000, I had my official introduction to Star Wars when I watched The Phantom Menace with my brother-in-law around Easter.  Before that, my experience with it was limited: a TIE fighter shooting game and an app that could play the theme song on my Commodore 64, a RoseArt art set that had coloring pages with scenes from the films, and, of course, the allusions in countless different pieces of entertainment.  Still, prior to seeing the first prequel, it all meant nothing to me.
In fact, I was a bit hesitant to try the franchise, only because I saw a Star Wars video game in a catalog that was rated "T," which--I assumed--meant that it was in the style of GoldenEye for Nintendo 64, which freaked me out so much, I never wanted to play it, even though my friends adored it.  When a kid in my neighborhood told me that the only human death in TPM was Darth Maul being cut in half--which, as fans know, isn't quite true--I imagined a creepy scene that made me even less willing to try it.  It wasn't until I actually experienced it that I found out my assumptions were quite off. 
In 2002, again thanks to my brother-in-law, I saw the original trilogy on video, as well as Attack of the Clones in IMAX.  It wasn't until seeing Return of the Jedi that I knew how everyone else already knew Anakin Skywalker would become Darth Vader before any of the prequels even came out.  As you'd expect, I saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater, this time with some people from my church's high school group.
Now, let me get into a completely different realm of my life.  Most people know that I'm a longtime lover of computers and television--well, certain shows, anyway--and that I am currently an avid reader.  What you may not know is that, during my middle and high school years, I was a bit rebellious and chose to read as little as possible, despite reading anything I could get my hands on throughout elementary school.  My favorite video/computer games, television shows, and the Internet were all I needed; I hardly even cracked open God's Word outside of a church service or Bible class.  My mom even once wanted me to read a book she had checked out of the library for me, and I chose to take a punishment instead of doing so, because I just didn't want to bother with that book.
That really doesn't sound like me, does it? It did happen, though.  What changed? Why did I become a bookworm again? I'll tell you what and why: In June 2005, I was at a yard sale in my neighborhood, and some guy had a bunch of Star Wars books for sale.  I'd tried my hand at them before; I once attempted to listen to a SW audiobook and quickly gave up, not to mention buying a bunch of kiddie novels--that is, the Jedi Apprentice series--and didn't get that far before quitting.  Still, they called me, so I bought two of them, just to see if I would like them.  The first one of the two I happened to read was I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole.  Did I like it? Well, let's just say: I was BLOWN AWAY! An original story, great writing, enthralling plot...what wasn't to like? After that, I read quite a few other SW novels, and, after a while, it lead to me discovering other books as well.  Suffice it to say: I would not have rediscovered reading if it hadn't been for I, Jedi at that yard sale.
I will end by saying this: Most of you probably already know that Disney bought Lucasfilm, and they are planning a seventh episode of Star Wars.  Numerous fans of the series have wondered what the Mouse House is going to do with the series; some are fearing the worst.  However, as usual, I think differently: As a longtime fan of various Disney productions, I think they're going to do the franchise justice.  The Mouse House has given me fun throughout the years, ranging from George of the Jungle to reruns of Growing Pains to Monsters, Inc. to Lizzie McGuire to Austin & Ally, so, frankly, I don't know of any major movie corporation who would be better suited to the job.  We'll see how the movie actually is when it comes out, though; still, I think even the naysayers will be surprised.
Any comments?