All the way back in 2002, we had a new addition to our household. Was it a younger sibling? No...it was a dog; a collie/husky mix named Sparky. Though intended for the whole family, my mom put his crate next to my bed, because she wanted him to be my dog. My sister and brother-in-law even came over and brought some snacks for both me and our new canine companion as a gift. Sounds like a joyous occasion, right? For them, maybe...but not for me. Instead of being eager to play with and train the new family pet, I was infuriated by the fact that he was there and wanted him gone...pronto! Throughout the four years we had him--and even well after he was gone--I picked on him every chance I got, even doing so when the topic of discussion had nothing to do with pets. One such incident was when my mom was talking about renovating our house, and I said, "Sell Sparky and put the money you get towards the renovation." I didn't care about funding the renovation; I just wanted the dog gone! My mom also constantly asked me, "Why don't you love him?", and told several people--mostly extended family members--about it, saying, "He doesn't love his dog! Have you ever heard of a boy not loving his dog?" I actually had; a few years prior, a coeval former fellow church member complained about how "annoying" his family's dog was because of his constant barking. I knew that dog, and I defended him...but, my unfortunate experience with Sparky made me want to eat my words. Eventually, after four years, my mom took Sparky back to the SPCA, which is what I'd said she needed to do from day one. She thought it was tragic; I considered it a personal victory. She never seemed to understand why I didn't appreciate him, even though I had made it clear well before we got Sparky that I loathed the canine kind.
That right there should tell you something: If my own mother can't understand why I feel the way I feel about something...how can I expect anyone else to? I'd imagine most of you reading this would be overjoyed at the prospect of a new pet, and most of your friends would be as well...but, it only enraged me. It's more than just pets, though; it's nearly everything. In recent years, some people have been bothered enough by it to unfriend me on Facebook; that's their choice, but, I would hope that people would have the decency to try and understand why I feel the way I do about whoever or whatever instead of just considering me an idiot or a jerk and essentially abandoning me.
One of the many definitions of the word "freak" is "an ardent enthusiast". What does that mean? Well, "ardent" is defined as "characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity," and, I'm pretty sure we all know what an enthusiast is. Though I wouldn't go around calling myself a freak--that word also has many negative connotations--I consider myself an ardent enthusiast of many things: the Disney Channel, Christian music, family-friendly entertainment, Apple products, the Bible, garage sales, bargain hunting, libraries, etc. I've always been that way; when I was about six or seven, I told my sister I didn't like a daycare program I had to attend during spring break, and my reason was, "They don't have computers there." My sister quickly replied, "It can't be bad just because they don't have computers there; what's the real reason?" The "real reason" was what I had just told her; seriously, if it didn't have to do with computers, television, or reading, it just wasn't fun. Though my tastes have broadened since then--just look at the above list!--I'm still just as ardently enthused about what I like as I always have been. About a year ago, when I made Demi Lovato my number one celebrity crush, I practically shouted it from the rooftops; I told my friends first chance I got. No matter how long you've known me, my topic(s) of interest were likely one of the first things you found out about me...and, when it/they changed, you found out about it rather quickly. That may sound like a Facebook thing, but, it was happening well before the dawn of social networking.
The same is true when it comes to what I don't like; seriously, how many of you reading this don't already know how I feel about sports, theme parks, pets, "R" films, and anything to do with large bodies of water? For some people, that's unthinkable: What guy doesn't like sports? Who wouldn't want to attend a theme park? Unless someone is allergic or has had a traumatic experience with one, why would he or she not want to own a member of the canine kind? Who can honestly say they've never willingly watched a film that was branded with the "Restricted" label? What kind of person doesn't enjoy beaches, pools, or water parks? Despite the drubbing I've gotten over the years, I've stuck to my guns and outright refused to participate in such activities...and, at times, it's been hard. In 2004, the high school group at my church was taking a trip to a nearby beach, and all of my fellow members as well as all of the adult leaders/sponsors really wanted me to attend. I tried to decline politely, but, they became rather insistent; some of them, rudely so. They asked me why, and I tried to explain my reasons to them, but all they did was refute everything I said. What they didn't seem to understand was that my dislike for anything involving large bodies of water--including beaches!--was so strong that I did everything possible to avoid such outings. That actually had to do with why I left Boy Scouting; when my brother-in-law insisted that I earn the swimming merit badge, even though the official handbook said I didn't have to, it became one of the many factors behind my departure after a mere thirteen months. Even in recent years, the downtown bus route I used to take to work passed by the YMCA where I was forced to take swimming lessons nearly two decades ago, and the mere sight of it made me cringe. I was thankful when I was so immersed in the pages of a book or a movie or TV show on my iPad that I didn't see it. When it comes to my dislikes, you could say that I'm ardently non-enthused; I avoid them like the plague.
Regardless of who you are--friend, enemy, random Internet user, or anyone else--I don't expect you to feel the same way I do about anything. If you don't like the Disney Channel...fine! If you love the beach...that's okay! You are entitled to your own opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine, and I'm not going to debate the issue with you. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul warned, "Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights." (MSG) Debating the good and bad aspects of garage sales or owning a dog won't get us anywhere, so, it's best that we avoid it. It would only turn into a debate if you tried to make me give up what I like, or attempted to get me to join in an activity that isn't my thing; if I say I like or don't like something, that's my final answer, and nothing you can say can convince me otherwise. If I do decide to give whatever a chance--or give whatever up, as the case may be--it has to be my choice, not anyone else's. Instead of branding me as a loser or a doofus, try asking why I feel the way I do about it; you might find that my reasoning actually makes perfect sense!