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, but...it 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.

1 comment:

Katy Rochelle said...

Such a wonderful entry! On the age issue, I'm 24 and still get asked at restaurants if I want a children's menu. That in itself makes me think I'll never land that special somebody if I don't look mature enough. My hobbies are mostly writing and watching movies, but my school life makes it hard to have offline friends. I know where you're coming from on a lot of points. Even the social maturity part - I'm quite introverted and awkward, so it takes me a while to get acquainted with my peers. I try to work with it though and not against it. It seems to me that you are a very self-aware person and try to be conscious of your faults and positive qualities. That and in time, you'll find that someone special too. :)