Saturday, February 8, 2014

I'm the Only Person I Can Be

This time of year, love is in the air.  The holiday smack-dab in the middle of this short month causes couples everywhere to spend money on their significant others...or friends whom they wish were their significant others.  It's not just Valentine's Day; I've gotten wind of people who had abstained from dating for a while, only to just recently find a relationship.  They might not come out and say, "I'm dating _____," but the signs are there.  Despite that, I find myself just as unattached as I've always been.  Of course, we all already know about how my technological devices are my "best friends" and that entertainment is my "significant other," but, that's more of a metaphor for a relationship.  If you didn't know me, and you heard me say that I'm "in a relationship" with an abstract entity...well, you'd likely think I'm a weirdo.

When I get bombarded with news of new relationships, engagements, and/or marriages, I often begin to wonder: Am I ever going to have a significant other, besides some abstract entity? Yes, I realize that I have mostly female friends, which means that I interact with more women than most married guys do; still, I can't have a close relationship with a married woman, because that's just asking for trouble.  Even if it never turns sexual, getting emotionally involved causes problems of which I want no part.  So, that leaves me to stick with friendship, and I'm likely going to be doing that for a while.

Do I now hold his former title?
Many people have tried to come up with various reasons as to why I'm sans a significant other right now, some of which are either no longer true or never were.  I've heard everything from, "No job," which hasn't been the case for over two years, to "You need to find someone with like interests," which is what I did in the past, and those ladies still turned me down, to the ever-popular "You don't love you, so, how can you expect someone else to?" Even I myself have attempted to come up with ideas, such as saying that my female friends only like me as a friend because they subconsciously see me as one of their "girlfriends," only because I lack the usual "guy" interests, to the fact that I treat people like technological devices, expecting them to give me exactly what I want, when I want it, and getting upset when they don't.  Still, I think the main reason is something completely different, and it's a bit complicated: Most of the people who are reading this are old enough to remember Dick Clark before he suffered a stroke, and how he was called "America's Oldest Teenager," only because he managed to always look quite young, despite being advanced in age.  That was probably at least partly thanks to lighting and/or stage makeup, but it was something that was the fodder of many a joke during his heyday.  You probably know someone--or are someone--who others erroneously believe is older or younger than he/she really is.  A high school teacher friend who is several years older than me once got mistaken for a student; a former friend was asked if she was a teen mom at her daughter's high school graduation, because people just didn't think she looked old enough to have a kid that old at a legitimate age; a misinterpretation of a friend's license plate led some random guy to think said friend was eighty years old, when he wasn't; and, there are countless other similar stories.  Some people can't help the fact that they look younger; that's just the way it is.  However, in right many cases, it seems like people's misconceptions of age are because of the way the person is question comports himself/herself.  I know that's the case with me; I'm nearly twenty-six years old, and, for years, people have thought I was much younger than I actually was.  Even when walking past a high school on the way to the library where I currently work, the school's resource officer thought that I was leaving school early.  I was thankful I didn't have to pull out my ID to prove who I really was.  It's to be expected, though, when my favorite topic of conversation is media that is generally intended for and/or popular with the younger set.

It's not just my favorite shows, movies, music, and books, though; there's yet another detail that many of you may not know.  The condition I have--which we all know isn't a disability!--falls under the category of developmental delays, which, in a nutshell, means that I am behind in some ways for my age.  That doesn't mean that I'm behind in every way; I was the only kid in my third grade class to be reading at an eighth grade reading level.  Still, socially, I have always been behind.  It's hard to say what my exact social age is; the last assessment I got on that was my mom telling me some years ago, "You don't act like you're nineteen; you act like you're nine!" Yes, I was nineteen at the time; still, if my social age was roughly half of my actual age, that means that I'm only about thirteen years old socially at the moment.  Yes, I have shown some recent maturity, but it still seems that I have a lot of growing to do, mostly based on some things most of you know nothing about.

Just before my "best friend" Emily and I called it quits, we had a discussion about me potentially dating a female friend who was about two decades my senior.  Prior to asking Emily about it, I'd had an overwhelmingly positive response from my other friends, so, I expected her to agree with them.  Instead, she called it an "absolutely horrible idea" for multiple reasons, one of which was, "You are so far apart socially, it'd be like her dating a child!" I wasn't very happy with her when she said that, but, now, I realize what she was saying.  I remember reading an advice column in the Christian magazine Guideposts for Teens where a sixteen-year-old guy asked the columnist what she thought about him dating a thirteen-year-old girl, and the columnist replied by talking about how, at those ages, the difference in priorities is so big, it could cause serious problems.  Sure, when one becomes an adult, three years is no big deal; I'm sure many of you married folks who are reading this have at least that much of an age difference with your spouse.  Still, when someone is as behind socially as I am, the priorities are completely different than others my age.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that trying to find a date wouldn't even be a concern if it weren't for this romance-obsessed world in which we live.  Honestly, even if I were to date a coeval young lady--or, for that matter, one a few years younger--she would probably end up feeling as if she were dating a child, because, socially, I'm just not at that level.

You may think that I can simply choose to be older socially, but, it doesn't work that way.  It's kind of like an old computer trying to run a new piece of software; if it even can start the application, it runs sluggishly most of the time, and eventually ends up crashing.  Unless I die young or Jesus returns in the next decade or so, I'll likely reach psychological maturity at some point...but it's something that's going to come on its own, not something that can be forced by anyone.  The only thing I can do is embrace the way I am.  Does that mean I have an excuse to act recklessly or do what I know I shouldn't? Of course not! Still, it does mean that, for the time being, relationships are a no-no for me.

As usual, I have a few points I would like to make.  First off: When someone has different priorities--like I do--you have to work with him/her, not try to convince him/her of what you feel is "important".  From 2002 to 2006, our household had a dog named Sparky, who I despised from day one.  Even before we got him, I had said how much I didn't like dogs--and, therefore, didn't want one--but he was still there nonetheless, and I told anyone who would listen, as well as the dog himself, how much I didn't appreciate him being there.  When my mom would hear me call him names and otherwise insult him, she always asked, "Why don't you love him?" Maybe that was just different than my sister, who never met an animal she didn't like, but, it should have been obvious why I didn't care for that dog: I just didn't like dogs in general, and no amount of pleading or defenses from my mom or anyone else was going to change my feelings.  Most people who have dogs adore them, and would be rather upset if they lost their canine companion; when my mom finally did take Sparky back to the SPCA--which I knew all along she would have to do--I was happy, and considered it a personal victory.  The dog just wasn't important to me, despite the feelings of others.

It isn't just about pets, though; it's everything.  Most people around my age--at least, in my experience--have jobs, relationships, classes, and/or kids to worry about.  They may not have all four, but their time is dominated by at least one or two.  Sure, I do have a job, but I only work nineteen hours a week, and I almost always have Mondays and Wednesdays off.  Without a significant other nor any classes or kids, I have much more time on my hands than most coeval folks.  That's why I can read five books in a week's time, or watch at least one television episode every day; I don't have a girlfriend, a son/daughter, or loads of homework to take up all my spare waking hours.  Honestly, it's better that way; it makes it easier to get done what I need and/or want to get done.

Second off: Just because my "way" is different doesn't make me any better than anyone else.  I used to have a edutainment computer game called Math Workshop, which had a young lady named Poly Gonzalez as its main character.  The game's manual described Poly as a wunderkind and mathematical genius, and talked about her graduating from a school where the motto was: "No one is greater than or less than...everyone is equal to...each other." It's a true statement; the Declaration of Independence, as well as Galatians 3:28, say the same thing.  Still, I've always had a tendency to look down--often unintentionally--on those who didn't know something that I did, or who did the "common" thing: watch/play sports, go to school dances, etc.  That usually meant I was looking down on everyone but myself, even if I had no intention of doing that.  There's been times where people have accused me of thinking I was "better than" they were, when I wasn't even trying to imply any such thing.  Of course, I want to stand for what I believe in, and I don't want to completely avoid conversation, but discussing my "way" without an air of superiority has proven rather difficult, and likely always will.

My final point, which sort of ties in with the previous one: There's a very good reason why I appear to lack confidence.  Back in 2008, I posted a note on Facebook--some of you will remember those--that discussed the reasons I didn't have a driver's license in brutally honest detail.  I started off by saying that driving was an issue where "I am right and pretty much everyone else is wrong." I got a bunch of comments, one from an old friend, who said, "Driving is not the issue, [Siobhan]; a lot of people don't drive.  The real issue is pride: 'I am right and pretty much everyone else is wrong.'"  I was rather offended by his comment; if I was sure of something I knew to be true, regardless of what everyone else thought, did that make me prideful? Not only that, hadn't been all that long since said friend and some people associated with him were rather critical of me for putting myself down.  So, I'm self-deprecating, yet...I'm problematically exhibiting pride? Those two seem to seriously contradict.

One of the things I have noticed about myself is that I tend to work in extremes.  I either adore something, or I despise it; I either do something too much, or don't do it enough; I either go too far, or don't go far enough.  In most cases, there's no middle ground, and that's true of my self-esteem.  Either I go around thinking I'm better than everyone else, or I think of myself in a negative way.  Since Proverbs 16:18 tells of the folly of pride, I choose the lesser of two evils, and have low self-esteem.  You may be quick to quote David's exclamation in Psalm 139:14, but, I counter with Paul calling himself "the worst" (NIV) of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15.  Seriously, who would want to be known as "the worst of sinners"? Isn't that a rather negative thing to call yourself? Yet, the Apostle Paul did just that, because he wasn't going to sit there and act like his sinful past never happened.  It's the same way with me; I know most of you do things that I could never do.  Yes, I know; all it would take is practice, but, to succeed at pretty much anything, you have to have the willpower to keep at it...and, for most of what you all are talented at, I just don't.  Therefore, thinking of myself as a wonderful, amazing person just isn't right.  I may have my great tendencies, but, I can't gloss over or ignore my faults.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is There ANY Future in the Past? Oh, Yes...And More Than You Might Think.

When I was in school, I always considered history my worst subject.  I just couldn't wrap my head around Jamestown, the Declaration of Independence, or the Civil War the way I could the nine planets, multiplication, or English grammar.  Sure, I was good enough at it to get honor roll almost every marking period of elementary school from third grade onward, and here and there in middle and high school, but history just wasn't my thing.  All of the high school students in my state have to take standardized tests on world geography, world history, and US history, along with English and various maths and sciences.  I ended up surprising even myself by doing better on the social studies ones than the ones on any other subject, save for the two English ones, on one of which I got the highest possible score.  To this day, I'm not sure how I did that, or even how I managed a grade higher than a "C" in fourth grade history class.  My mom and brother-in-law are both big fans of history--in fact, my brother-in-law studied it in college--which kind of puts me at odds with them.  Once, he and I were debating whether or not I should study history, and I quoted an old Vince Gill song in my defense: "There ain't no future in the past." He countered with an age-old George Santayana maxim: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." There was no way I could argue with that logic.

Even though social studies wasn't my best thing in school--well, okay, only in some ways!--my own past is one thing that I seem to know better than anybody else.  I often surprise people when I tell them of things that I saw them do and/or heard them say a while back; the responses I've gotten have ranged from the usual, "I don't remember that!", to even calling me "the one who remembers everything I ever did." (I'm not the only one who has ever had someone tell him that; see John 4:28-29 for proof.) Sometimes, people even don't believe me, saying that not only did what I spoke of not occur, it couldn't have, for whatever reason(s).  They don't seem to realize that, if I didn't know it to be true, I wouldn't say it.

You've probably noticed from my previous posts that I tend to look backwards to find the solutions to my problems.  Almost every time something happens, I'll say it's similar to something that happened in the past; it's to be expected from someone who can recall instances from years ago as clearly as if they happened last week.  My sister and I were meeting with someone back in 2003, and I brought up an instance that took place in 1999, to which my sister replied, "[Siobhan], I don't even remember that!" I quickly countered with, "I don't know how you can't; it wasn't even half a decade ago!" She and the individual whom we were meeting with laughed, but, to me, it wasn't a joke; the feelings I had about said instance when it happened didn't just remain with me for four years, but are still there today.  More recently, a Facebook friend had this to say:
I understand you have a great memory, and often look to the past for understanding and such, but I am blessed to not have a great memory and look only to the future.  I do not spend time on the past.  There is no point in looking on it, for there is nothing you can do about it.  So, though your posts are good, I cannot relate for that reason.  Sometimes, I feel sorry for you; that you cannot let go of the past and move on.
It's true that looking back on "the good old days" is unwise--Ecclesiastes 7:10 even says so!--but, it seems like I do it quite often, probably way too much.  If I'm going to spend time looking back--and we all know I will--then, the least I could do is apply that knowledge.  I can look back at what I and others did right, and emulate those actions; when I remember that someone--whether me, a family member, a friend, or even a famous person--messed up, I can ask myself, "Why did _____ mess up? What did _____ do wrong?" That can serve as what I call a Tim Taylor example: it shows me what not to do.  Not only have I had teachers show my entire class--or just tell us--the mistakes that previous students have made, but the Bible is full of mistakes of people just like us:
  • Two people's desire for what they couldn't have brought sin into the world. (Genesis 3)
  • The wisest earthly king who ever lived was led astray by a thousand women, and his mistakes led the nation he ruled astray. (1 Kings 3:3)
  • A man promises his friend he will never betray him, only to do just that and not realize it until it's too late. (Matthew 26:69-75)
With the mistakes of anybody, we can't let them just be a simple story, and just say, "It happened." We must learn from those mistakes, as mentioned in the George Santayana quotation above: If we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it.  It doesn't matter if it's Biblical history, family history, American history, world history, or our own personal history; if we don't learn from it, it's useless.  James 1:22-24 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." (NIV) The same is true of history of any kind; knowing what happened at a certain time and place doesn't do you any good if you don't understand the meaning.

Monday, February 3, 2014

...But In the End, You Could Not Deliver

More like Super Dull, from what I hear!
I'll be honest: I didn't watch the Super Bowl this year.  After my church's Super Bowl party was canceled--which I was going to attend--I had planned to watch some movies and/or read some books the night it was on, but, ended up calling it a night early; after eating dinner and doing a movie review, I hit the hay, and ended up being out of bed before 6 AM, over an hour before my iPod alarm was set to go off.  From what I hear, though, other than the cute puppy/pony commercial, I wasn't missing anything; the game was a shut-out, and, therefore, not all that exciting.  Sure, it was great that the Seattle Seahawks won the first Super Bowl they ever made it to, but who wants to sit through an insanely long game where one team is the obvious winner almost from the outset?

You may think that I'm going to scoff at you sports fans for eagerly anticipating a game that allegedly ended up being dull.  Various Super Bowls have had their missteps, from the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" to a certain singer forgetting the lyrics to the national anthem, but I understand that faithful fans will stick to your sport(s), team(s), and/or player(s) no matter what.  In fact, I think most people who have a vested interest in some sort of entertainment--whether it be sports, video/computer games, television shows, movies, books, or whatever else--will tell you of much-hyped entities that ended up being big disappointments to most fans.  An old gamer friend told me of the mess that was the video game Superman 64, and how the fact that developer Titus had promoted it heavily before it came out made gamers everywhere all the more upset.  Superhero fans will likely point to the example of Batman & Robin, the fourth movie in Tim Burton's film series about the Caped Crusader.  It actually was a financial success when it released--it made $42,872,605 in its first week--but theater attendance quickly dropped, because word got out about what dreck the movie really was.  I myself have been disappointed in various Disney Channel and Nickelodeon "big events," ranging from the iCarly/VICTORiOUS crossover "iParty with VICTORiOUS," which even featured All That's Kenan Thompson to You Wish!, a Disney Channel Original Movie that starred A.J. Trauth (Even Stevens) and Lalaine (Lizzie McGuire).  Though they garnered much hubbub, they ended up being big-time duds, and I likely won't be sitting through them ever again.  Even some regular episodes were terrible; one iCarly episode was mostly sans Carly--the title character!--and the "Brain Squeezers" episode of VICTORiOUS was just too weird to be funny.  Still, that didn't mean I gave up on the shows or their stars; it would take a big mess-up, like what they did on The X Factor this past season, to cause me to do that.  That right there is why I completely respect those who stay true to their favorite sport(s), team(s), or player(s), no matter what; I've done the same thing with my favorite shows over the years, despite their missteps!

Any comments?