Monday, December 28, 2015

100 Facts About Me

100 Facts About Me!!

001. Real name:

002. Nickname:
Jerr, Jerr-Bear

003. Favorite color:
Green, especially neon green

004. Male or Female:

005. Elementary school:
Jenkins and McIntosh

006. Middle school:

007. High school:

008. College:

009. Hair color:

010. Tall or Short:
Tall, as in over six feet.

011. Sweats or jeans:
Well, I usually wear jeans, so...

012. Phone or camera:
Definitely phone.  I love talking to people, but I hate having my picture taken.

013. Health freak:
Never really have been one.

014. Orange or apple:
Definitely apple.

015. Do you have a crush on someone:
I think nobody would be surprised by this answer: Yes.

016. Guy friends or girl friends:
Female friends are awesome when it comes to giving advice and listening, but guys tend to know more about technology, superheroes, and other topics I'm interested in.

017. Piercings:
None, and there never will be any.

018. Pepsi or Coke:
I like pretty much all sodas.

019. Have you been in a airplane:
Never, but I've always wanted to try it, especially after having a computer game as a kid that let you take a virtual tour of an airport.  Maybe someday...

020. Have you been in a relationship:
No, and, as you probably know, I probably never will.

021. Have you been in a car accident:
I was in one before I was born.  I was also in another minor one, where nobody got hurt and the damage was minimal.

022. Have you been in a fist fight:
No way! I don't believe in violence!

023. First piercing:
See the answer to number seventeen above.

024. Best friend:
I currently don't have just one singular best friend, but, among my good friends are: Lorie, Laura and Krystal A., Tanya, Pat and Gary, and the Garcia and Johnson families.

025. First award:
Probably the one I got for speaking on the announcements in first or second grade.

026. First crush:
The Pink Power Ranger; yes, the very first one.

027. First word:
According to my mom, it was "cheese".

028. Any talent:
Writing, Mac OS X, putting things in alphabetical or numerical order, memorization, etc.

029. Last person you talked to:
My mom.

030. Last person you texted:
I haven't texted anyone in years.

031. Last person(s) you watched a movie with:
My parents.

032. Last thing you ate:
A Red Robin cheeseburger and fries.

033. Last movie/TV show you watched:
Austin & Ally.

034. Last song you listened to:
"You Drive, I'll Ride" by FFH.

035. Last thing you bought:
A CD/DVD drive for my Mac, and The Flash on DVD.

036. Last person you hugged:
My friend Tanya.

037. Food:

038. Drink:
Dr. Pepper.

039. Bottoms:

040. Flower:
Not really into flowers.

041. Animal(s):
Garfield, Scooby-Doo, and my cat Roberta.

042. Color:
See above.

043. Movie:
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars.

044. Subject:
Math and science.

Have You Ever? (Put An X In The Brackets If YES.)
045. [X] Fallen in love with someone?
046. [X] Celebrated Halloween?
047. [X] Had your heart broken?
048. [] Went over the minutes/texts on your phone?
049. [] Had someone like you?
050. [X] Hated the way someone changed?
051. [] Broken a bone?
052. [X] Have/Had a phobia?
053. [X] Did something you regret?
054. [X] Broken a promise?
055. [X] Hide a secret?
056. [X] Pretend to be happy?
057. [X] Met someone who has changed your life?
058. [X]Pretended to be sick?
059. [] Left the country?
060. [X] Tried something you normally wouldn't try and liked it?
061. [X] Cried over the silliest thing?
062. [X] Ran a mile?
063. [] Gone to the beach with your best friend?
064. [X] Gotten into an argument with your friends?
065. [X] Disliked someone?
066. [X] Stayed single for two years since the first time you had a bf/gf or been single forever?

067. Eating:
068. Drinking:
069. Listening to:
"I Won't Stay Long" by Sixpence None the Richer! (Wait, it just changed to "Why Did I Let You Go?" by V*Enna!)
070. Sitting or laying:
071. Plans for today:
Well, my plans for earlier today were to go to the bank, have lunch with a friend, buy my new disc drive, and make my lunch for work tomorrow.  Now that those are done, all I need to do is finish my laundry, and then I can fulfill my reading and TV watching quotient for the day.

072. Waiting for:
2016! I'm curious to see what it brings.

073. Want kids:
No, and I never really have.

074. Want to get married:
It'd be nice, but, I don't see it happening.

075. Want to travel:
Yes, very much so.

076. Lips or eyes:

077. Shorter or taller:

078. Younger or older.
I've always liked older women, but, I could go for someone younger as well.

079. Romantic or spontaneous:
Depends on the person.

080. Trouble-maker or hesitant:
The last thing I need is to get involved with a troublemaker.

081. Hook up or relationship:
Definitely the latter.

082. Looks or personality:
Definitely the latter.

083. Lost glasses:
Yes, several times.

084. Snuck out of the house:
Once, when I was really little.

085. Held a gun/knife in self defense:
No; I don't believe in violence.
086. Killed somebody:
See the above answer.

087. Broke someone's heart:
I'm sure I have at some point.

088. Been in love:
Yes...but it wasn't reciprocated.

089. Cried when someone died:
Not in a long time; I grieve in other ways.

090. Yourself:
I believe I exist, but I also believe in a higher power.

091. Miracles:
Yes; I believe God still performs miracles to this day.

092. Love at first sight:
I used to...but, not anymore.

093. Heaven:
​Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!

094. Santa Claus:
No, but movies featuring him can be fun.

095. Aliens:
I believe there must be intelligent life somewhere in the universe...because there isn't too much on Earth.

096. Ghosts/Angels:
Ghosts, no; angels, yes.

097. The one person you really want to be with right now:
No one, really.

098. Do you know who your real friends are:

099. Do you believe in God:

100. Music or art:
Music is art!
I will add a question, then you add one when you do it ((;

Added question by the previous poster:
101. What you do pray you can attain in this life?
To make this world a better place.

Added question by me:
102. What kind of device are you using to do this?
A flat-screen iMac.

I nominate anyone who reads this to do this challenge...and add a question of your own when you do! Thanks to Mary Kate for nominating me for this!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

All Of My Best Friends Are...Technological Devices?

As a Millennial growing up in America, I can't imagine a life without technology.  Between computers, video games, television, home video, telephones, Internet, and portable music, my life has been forever affected by the various devices I used, whether just once or a thousand times.  I also tended to show a bit of attachment to technology, whether mine or someone else's.  You probably know the story of the friend of mine who said of his family's Nintendo 64, "We wish we never got it, because people who don't have it would get addicted to it!" What you may not know is that, back in 1998, a fellow Apple guru was attempting to fix a problem with our Mac by installing a system upgrade...only for us to get an error message which broke my heart so much, my mom said I literally went pale.  While that guy did get our computer back to the way it was, that still stands as an example of how important my technology is to me.  My reaction to last year's incident with my Mac was a step in the right direction: Despite one setback after another, I didn't throw a temper tantrum, and I only slightly lost my cool once.  Still, I wasn't too happy about losing my Mac...but, then again, who would be? Those things are expensive!

Over the years, I've had various friends.  Many people my age or sometimes older that I enjoyed hanging out with ended up moving; that's just the way it is in a military neighborhood like mine.  Then again, sometimes losing contact with friends had nothing to do with any transfers or any branch of the armed forces; the guy I considered my best friend in the youth group from my old church abruptly moved in 2001, without any going away celebration by the congregation, because his parents were having marital issues.  Much to my chagrin, I haven't heard from the guy since; I can't even find him on Facebook because his name is way too common.  You probably also know that I've had some friends I lost thanks to my own dumb actions; I won't open up old wounds by rehashing those dark times in my life, which I seriously do regret.

Sometimes, I have to wonder: What exactly is a friend? Webster defines the word as: "One attached to another by affection or esteem." Some would venture to say that friends do things with each other; I remember an episode of Good Luck Charlie where the two older sons, inept P.J. and troublemaker Gabe, are trying to find a way out of the annual fishing trip their father always insists on taking with them.  Their first thought was to find a friend for Daddy-O to go with...only to realize that he has no friends; as Gabe told P.J., "When was the last time you answered the door and said, 'Dad, your friends are here'?" By that standard, I don't really have any friends; most of the time, if I'm out and about, it's either by myself or with family members.  Sometimes, fellow church members or other people I know will go somewhere with me--usually out to eat--but, even then, my parents almost always come along, and the people who I'm there with are usually much older; at least old enough to be my parents.  When it comes to folks that are around my age, my interaction is very limited.

Then again, it always has been, and for more than one reason: First off, "young adults" are still young, and, therefore, possibly immature.  I know I'm not exactly the paragon of maturity, but, I can't stand bratty or otherwise inappropriate behavior from others; if I know I would have gotten punished for it when I was younger, then, I won't tolerate it...yet, coeval folks, including Christians, act in such a way all the time.  I remember towards the end of my high school years when a homeschooling family place membership at my church.  They were nice kids, but, the problem was that they were the only homeschooling family in the group, which meant they weren't used to the other teens' rowdy behavior; the associate minister even sternly warned the rest of the group about that fact, but, I doubt they cared.  I was never really homeschooled, but, I feel the same way: I find the actions of many people I know disturbing...yet, they make no apologies for the way they act; if I have a problem with it, then, it's on me, not them.  Years ago, I was upset with the entire youth group at my old church because of an incident that I won't go into; what I will say is that it affected me so severely that I sent an angry e-mail to the youth leader, which said many things that I still agree with to this day.  One of them was: "Whatever happened to edification or spurring one another on to good works? [...] Maybe, if I was shown some love, I'd give some back." Instead of taking my words to heart, the leader simply turned the question back on me, saying, "[One guy] likes you and you don't even know it.  Your responses to him and [another guy] are as rude as anything I've heard from the young group." Well, Guy A said he didn't like me, so, what else was I supposed to think? Even beyond those two individuals, the only reason for my "rude" responses was because I had to stand up for myself because no one else would.  Instead of blaming the person who was being persecuted, the "leader" should have taken the ones to task who were knowingly attacking a handicapped person with their words...but, he never did, and the same thing happened in other scenarios as well: The people who wanted to do something couldn't, and those who could do something just wouldn't.  Now that I can't get an adult to intervene anymore--as if I ever could anyway--it's likely to be even worse.

Second off: People around my age are into things that I'm just not.  You probably have rules about what you will and won't do.  I've known numerous people who won't watch certain movies--ranging from Finding Nemo to the Mission: Impossible flicks--because of their disdain for one person who stars in them.  You also probably know about my content rules: no "R" films, no "PG-13" films unless they fall into the superhero, sci-fi/fantasy, or Christian genres, no television shows or books with excessive profanity, horrific violence, graphic sexual scenes/nudity, etc. The problem is: As far as I know, I'm the only one I know who has those rules.  Most people I know--of all ages, I should add--will watch anything that isn't outright pornography, if they even are that discerning...and that includes my Christian friends.

By now, most of you know that I spent thirteen months in Boy Scouting, which was not a very good experience for various reasons, some of which I still haven't divulged publicly.  Anyway, during my time in the troop, I made friends with a kid in my patrol who was a bit different, and was known as "the crazy man" of the troop.  I actually felt a connection to him because he resembled an old neighborhood friend who had moved to Florida a year prior to me joining the troop.  When my time in Scouting came to an end, I never heard from that guy again...but, a few years later, I found out something about him during a family dinner that shocked me.  It started out as a conversation about accents; in my high school English class, we were reading Pygmalion, which is about a girl with a speech impediment who seeks out what we'd call today a speech therapist to help her out.  (If that sounds familiar, it's because said play was the basis for My Fair Lady.) After I talked about how my English teacher had illustrated how people judge others by their manner of speech, I mentioned how said Scouting buddy and his mother--who, despite being a woman, was an active leader in the troop--were difficult to understand.  My brother-in-law, who knew pretty much all the same people from Scouting I did, said, "That's because they both had very thick Boston accents." When my sister heard that, she asked who I was talking about, to which my mom answered, "Remember that guy in Scouting who you didn't think he should be hanging out with?" Looking back, I kind of agree with my sibling; that guy wasn't the best of influences, so, maybe it was divine intervention that I got out of Scouting when I did.  However, I was also a bit surprised to hear her say that, for two reasons: Not only was she very instrumental in getting me into Scouting--and, believe me, she was very disappointed when I left--but, in all honesty, most of the people around my age I knew, including the entire youth group at the time, were into pretty much the same objectionable media he was.  It may not have been exactly the same stuff--for example, he liked hard rock music, whereas some other kids I knew detested that genre--but, to me, obscenity is obscenity; the genre or medium doesn't matter.

It goes beyond just books, music, movies, and television, though.  If you know me, you know that I don't do sports, theme parks, or anything involving large bodies of water, which has caused much criticism.  While most of the people I know respect those preferences of mine, it means I can't usually do things with them, because what they like to do often involves one or more of those things...which everyone seems to like but me.  I also can't seem to get very many of my friends interested in bargain hunting or the Disney Channel; whereas those are among my favorite activities, most people I know just couldn't care less.  It's been years since I went to a garage sale with someone besides a family member.  My lack of common ground with others, which has always been present, has prevented close friendships from happening...which is why my technological devices seem to be my sole companions.

There are other issues as well--such as my lack of transportation--but, I won't go into those in detail; you probably already know all about them, anyway.  Instead, I'll say this: I'm generally a well-liked person.  Most of the people at my church or whom I work with seem to have a positive opinion of me.  Jesus even said, "Whoever is not against you is for you"...but, does everyone whose opinion of me is positive qualify as my friend? I may chit-chat with them, but, for someone to be more than just an acquaintance, there has to be a closeness there...and I just seem to lack that.  Then again, maybe I'm wrong; I've never been the best judge of, what do you think?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why I Am Making a New Year's Resolution...And You Should, Too!

When this time of year rolls around, much discussion is made regarding New Year's resolutions.  I can remember two different teachers who made that our journal topic upon returning to school after Christmas break.  The problem back then was: I was convinced that I was just fine the way I was, and that I didn't need to make any changes.  So, the first time, I told my teacher that I wasn't making any resolutions, and she said, "Then, make some up!", which I proceeded to do; I actually made some good ones--for example, "I resolve to be nicer to my cat"--but I had no intent on following through...because they were just made up.  The second time, I spent my required fifteen lines explaining why I wasn't going to make any resolutions, even alluding to what a cynical columnist had recently written on the same topic in the Daily Press.

That was a long time ago, and I have done much thinking about my ways since then, which has caused me to realize how wrong I have been about nearly everything pretty much my entire life.  While a lot of it may be due to my "condition," the sinful nature is something that is present in all of us.  Unfortunately, though, it seems that many people have the same mentality I used to; when talking about New Year's resolutions with someone a couple of years ago, he told me that he didn't make any because, to quote him, "I don't want to make promises I know I'm not going to keep." To me, that just sounds like a bad attitude, and it reminds me of the infamous saying attributed to Henry Ford: "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." Still, it seems like nobody makes them anymore...which is just sad.  Seriously, you can make a change for the better if you just put your mind to it; I'm living proof of that!

I said a week or two ago on Facebook that my resolution for 2016 was to do away with the excess in all areas: eating, consumption of entertainment, spending of money, library checkouts, etc.  I actually came up with a set of rules, though I'm still working on them; they won't become official until 2016.  After the New Year starts, I won't modify them unless absolutely necessary.  I also won't be posting them on Facebook; so far, my mom is the only other one who has seen them, and she only saw an early draft, though I will show her the finished rules soon.  While I don't know what your home life is like, I'm sure you probably have some changes you need to make in your lifestyle; you're human just like the rest of us.  If you have trouble assessing your own ways, ask someone whom you live with, or see or talk to pretty much every day; they'll tell you what you should do.

Change is hard; it's true.  People are creatures of habit, which makes it difficult for us to change our ways.  Still, as Frederick Douglass once said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."  I would suggest not biting off more than you can chew when making a resolution; the aforementioned Daily Press column described how the writer would go to the Noland Trail and watch as all those who vowed to run a mile or two every day would sweat it out on January 1st...only to come back a few months later and see that most of them had called it quits.  Of course if you go from being a non-runner to trying a strenuous athletic feat every single day, it'll be too tough; I may not know much about physical health, but one thing I do know is that you have to work your way up to it.  That's why I'm preparing for next year's resolution right now: I can see what works, what doesn't, and how it will affect me in the near future.

In conclusion, I will say this: While I want to be happy--and who doesn't?--one thing I don't want to be is complacent; I know that I'm not fine the way I am...because nobody is.  Motivational speaker and author Andy Andrews once decried the common belief that good friends accept you just the way you are; in his live performance of The Seven Decisions, he said, "Good friends challenge you to be better." Far too many people are complacent, because the culture tells us: "It's okay; you're just fine the way you are, no matter what you do." That's not true, though; I actually detest that mentality.  My hope is that my friends will challenge me to be better and do the right thing, always; isn't that what God would want all of us to do?

Any comments?

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Time to Put a Rest to This...Once And For All

Ever since I started doing public online postings on places such as Facebook, Xanga, and, of course, here, relationships have often been the topic of discussion.  I've talked about my attempts at finding a date that went wrong; I've discussed the kind of relationship I hoped to have one day; I've described the attributes of certain women that made them more attractive, whether they be older ones or Disney actresses; I've made more than one hypothesis as to why my relationship status just won't seem to change; I've used television characters such as Lizzie McGuire or Mindy McConnell (the latter half of Mork & Mindy, that is) as archetypes of the wife I would like to have; and, I've gone back and forth about whether a relationship is or isn't in my future.  Well, after nearly a decade of this--seriously, I joined Facebook and got my first blog back in 2006!--I've simply had enough...and I think you have, too.  If a relationship is in my future, great; I'll enjoy the benefits whenever it happens.  If not, though, I can be perfectly happy without one; after all, if I've made it this far without a significant other...why do I need one now? She could end up holding me back or leading me astray, and I don't think any of us want that (unless you despise me, though I don't know why on earth you'd bother reading this if you did.)

There are some ideas I've had about relationships that I've shared with a couple of people, and I'd like to make them public...but, after this, that's it.  I may still write on this blog, but, unless I find myself in a relationship--which the writing on the wall deems unlikely--I'm not going to make such a post like this again.  If I'm going to make 2016 my best year yet--and I hope to--I don't need this baggage weighing me down. 

So, what are my ideas? First off: Why would an outlier of my generation such as myself believe that someone of my generation could be my mate for life? Let's face it: Most people of my generation--including Christians--have fallen under the spell of modern culture.  Instead of taking Peter's advice in Acts 2:40 ("Save yourselves from this corrupt generation") they embrace modern "values," many of which are staunchly against Biblical teachings.  You may think that this is about entertainment, and, to a degree, it is; far too often, Christians meet together and watch movies/shows, listen to songs, or play games that would cause Jesus to overturn some tables...but, they don't find it inconsistent with their faith.  Still, millenials in general--regardless of faith or lack thereof--often act in ways that even secular morality would deem wrong...but consider themselves innocent of any wrongdoing.  When they're confronted with their sin, they're quick to quote the verse that says, "Do not judge," not realizing--or are they?--that they're taking Jesus' words out of context.  It astounds me coeval Christians have taken such a lackadaisical attitude towards everything from immodest dress to extramarital affairs.  Sure, I'm a sinner as well, and I've messed up this year alone in ways that would shock you...but, I am not proud of what I did; in fact, I'm rather ashamed.  The more I think about my past mistakes, the lower and lower I feel.  While I know that Jesus' blood washes away all sins, those memories still hurt because of the other people I sinned against, such as family members or once-good friends.

When I was in seventh grade, I was rather frustrated with my classmates' behavior; it went against my moral code.  My mom told me that maybe I'd find someone who agreed with me...but, nobody did; even my Christian friends were find with such sinful acts.  It's the same way now: I'm very unhappy with the way my generation is...but, nobody else seems to care.  I'm reminded of an incident from several years ago: Long story short, a friend of my mom's said that her two-or-three-year-old son hit his older, disabled brother in the head with a chair, and ended up cracking his skull; the older brother was taken to the hospital as a result.  My mom, who had much more parenting experience under her belt, told her friend, "When he does things like this and you think it's cute, you're just encouraging him to keep doing these things." I have no idea how that kid turned out, but, I do know that many people of my generation had authority figures--maybe parents, maybe not--who were just the same way; instead of taking action when the kids they were responsible for acted out, they brushed it off and acted like it was nothing at all.  The high school youth group at my old church once did the unthinkable to me, and, when I complained to the youth leader/associate minister in an e-mail, all I got was defensiveness (such as calling the whole thing "good-natured fun," which is bullfunky if I've ever heard it) instead of forcing them to make it up to me or even apologizing on their behalf.  Unfortunately, things like this are commonplace, which is why my generation is in the sad state that it's in; nobody was willing to take them to task for their inappropriate behavior.

Second off: When people interact with me, whether for good or for ill, they don't see somebody like me.  Some years ago, I made a rather long post that described how, because of my interests, my female friends subconsciously see me as another girl instead of a guy.  That's partially true, but, upon some thinking, I realize that my favorite things are all over the map when it comes to the usual interest demographic.  Disney Channel shows and superhero cartoons appeal to younger kids; shopping aka "bargain hunting" appeals more to the fairer sex; garage sales appeal more to retired people and other older folks; most people think of an older woman when they think of a "librarian" (which, despite popular belief, is not simply someone who works at a library); the old-school shows are more popular with the people who grew up with them, which is usually older folks; many people of my generation read as little as possible; and, much of the music I listen to is largely "out of style" with pretty much everyone.  So, I'm a weird hodgepodge of a "tween" and someone much older than myself, both of which would be unappealing to a potential significant other.  (Seriously, what twenty-something girl would want to date a twelve-year-old or a guy old enough to be her father? It's creepy either way!)  Still, my interests are what they are, and I'm not going to change them just to make someone else happy.

My last point before my conclusion: While I have my convictions, I can't let them ruin things for someone else...including a significant other.  Let's say--and this is purely hypothetical--that your spouse or other significant other wants to see something on TV; he/she was talking about it a week in advance.  So, you sit down together, turn on your television set and cable box or whatever...and your TV service is completely out, which means you can't watch it or record it.  It ends up staying out for a while, so, you call your provider, and it turns out that the outage was caused by something you did; that is, you inadvertently caused your spouse/significant other to miss that big event he/she was really looking forward to watching.  You'd probably feel terrible, right?

Well, that's how I would feel if I caused someone--anyone, really--to miss out on something like that they wanted to see because I wasn't comfortable with its content.  While my spectrum of entertainment is rather broad, it still doesn't include what's popular with most people, especially those around my age.  Still, for most folks, their favorite shows and movies are as important to them as the Disney Channel and superhero cartoons are to me; they just don't want to do without them.  Some people have serious rules about what they will and won't watch; I remember an incident where a usually easy-going friend got rather upset when I mentioned Finding Nemo, which he refused to watch because of Ellen DeGeneres' voice role as Dory.  Other people won't watch anything with Tom Cruise in it because of the whole "jumping the couch"/Katie Holmes thing.  I really have no room to talk, because my rules are just as strict...but, nobody else has those rules.  So, if my significant other wanted to watch something, and I wasn't comfortable with it...what would I do? Of course, one would hope she would respect my convictions...but, there's no guarantees there; with the whole "female superiority" thing going on right now, she'd probably tell me that I was going to watch it with her whether I liked it or not.  I can't have that...which likely means no relationship for me.

Here's my conclusion: Ever since joining Facebook in 2006--and, to a degree, even before that--I've been bombarded with relationship news from my friends and even friends of friends: engagement announcements, wedding photos, mushy statuses, breakups, divorces, etc.  Most of the posts fall into the category of the former three, especially back in the early days, when most of my friends were still in the dating or newlywed phase.  I know their intent was for their friends to share in their happiness...but, those posts actually served as advertisements for a relationship, which made me all the more frustrated that I didn't have one.  Recent developments, however, have shown that they're not all they're cracked up to be; right now, I have two different friends around my age who are in the midst of filing for divorce, which is just heartbreaking.  Still, back in the day--that is, before all this relationship madness--I was perfectly happy being single; in fact, when I was much younger, I didn't even want to get married...and I still kind of don't.  However, that would be easier to accept if people weren't constantly gushing about how great their significant others are; too much of that gives me a big jolt in the other direction...which is not what I need.

All right, that's it; no more on this topic.  I will not be replying to any comments on this post; be warned.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

When Will This Cruel War Be Over?

Before I start: If you do not consider yourself a Christian, please do not read any further.  Thank you.

Way back in early 2007, I heard a story about a then-friend, referred to in previous posts as "Rewind," that kind of shocked me...but not for the reasons you may think.  While home from college, Rewind had a party at her house that was only for the girls--why, I'm not exactly sure--which meant her then-boyfriend wasn't invited.  He did know about it, though, and proceeded to ruin it for everyone involved; he got together with two guys--one of whom was the one who told me this--and went to Rewind's neighborhood, parked at a neighbor's house, and proceeded to "knock on the door like madmen," according to the guy who told me of the incident.  At first, the girls inside wondered if it was the guy who was telling me about this, but Rewind said he couldn't be, because he was in another city; however, said city wasn't that far away.  They suggested it might be another guy, who was actually responsible...but Rewind denied it again.  When they said that maybe it was her boyfriend, she said he "wouldn't do that," even though he was the mastermind behind the whole plan.  Eventually, all the guests were so worried that they left, and I can't say I blame them.

Why did this story shock me? For a couple of reasons: One, if that's the way that guy was going to treat his girlfriend, I'd hate to see what he would do to his worst enemy.  Even if he was upset because he couldn't spend time with her, that's no way to react; that was actually very immature, as I'm sure you'd agree.  Two, that guy claimed to be a Christian, and so did Rewind...but, where is the love in that? If he was going to act that way, why did she even date him? Three, how could she believe that he wouldn't do something like that when he was the one doing it? Did he put up a facade when he was with her to make her think he was something he wasn't? Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

By now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with any war...but it does, though not a war in the typical sense.  Instead, what I'm talking about is a rather disturbing trend I've noticed: a civil war among Christians.  When I was in high school and college, I was persecuted sometimes for my faith, but Jesus said that would happen (John 15:20).  However, since then, even though everyone knows I'm a Christian, nobody has made fun of me for it, even after entering the workforce.  While several of my co-workers admit they're not Christians, they've still shown respect for my beliefs.  However, what's been going on for a long time--both back in high school and still in recent years--is persecution from other Christians.  They call me out on my supposed "mistakes," say and do things just to "get my goat," badger me about doing things that I've told them repeatedly I'm simply not going to do...and that's not all of it!

It's sickening to me that I would be treated that way by my own kind.  When I was a kid, I had a Spider-Man game for my original Nintendo, and my friends and I were playing the second level and were fighting what appeared to be spiders...but, my brother-in-law, who had also played the game, said, "They're rats; why would Spider-Man be fighting his own kind?" The same is true with people on the same side; when an Avenger or a Power Ranger starts attacking his/her fellow heroes, it's a sign something is wrong.  Maybe an enemy shape-shifted into said hero, or maybe said hero has been put under a spell by one of the villains.  However, when it comes to my fellow Christians, some of them think nothing of dissing me, and then try to excuse it; instead of giving me an apology when they know I'm upset, they justify themselves by making a lame excuse, usually that they were only joking.  To me, that's no excuse at all; if I feel like I'm being persecuted, attacked, harassed, or whatever...then your "good intentions" don't matter worth a hill of beans! If someone burned your house down with good intentions, would you be happy about it? Of course not!

One longtime problem I've had with many Christians--especially ones around my age, though not all of them--is that they're too worldly.  Back in 1995, dc Talk's hit album Jesus Freak came out, which revolutionized Christian music as we know it.  One thing it did was turn the term "Jesus freak" from an insult to a compliment, partly because one definition of "freak" is "ardent enthusiast," and Christians should be ardently enthused about their Savior.  However, it also has another meaning: "One that is markedly unusual or abnormal."  Christians should be that, too; 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV) calls us "a peculiar people," and that's just what we are.  We're not supposed to do the same things everybody else does; we're supposed to be different.  Of course, that's always come easy to me, because I'd be different even if I weren't raised in a Christian home; still, Jesus calls us to a higher standard than that of the world.  However, too many people who claim Jesus as their Savior will nonetheless do anything the rest of the world does without another thought, which is why the world considers them one of their own.  Seriously, if the world doesn't think you're any different from them, you're not doing it right.

I think everyone reading this is familiar with commandments such as, "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Let all that you do be done in love," or, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Those are so simple to understand, kids in elementary school Bible classes learn them...but, too many people well beyond that age flagrantly violate them without another thought.  They think that they have the right to do it, not realizing that they will have to account for everything they say or do on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36).  Even after they do and say such terrible things, they feel no remorse, failing to realize that an unrepentant heart will cause God's wrath (Romans 2:5).

Speaking of love: When I was a kid, I often heard it said in Bible classes, "You have to love everyone, but you don't have to like them." Of course, all of us have people who rub us the wrong way; maybe, for you, I am one of those people.  However, we have to treat those we come into contact with with respect, even if we think they're "weird" or "annoying".  Unfortunately, some people who consider themselves Christians flagrantly show they don't like me by the way they treat me, such as walking away from me when I'm talking to them...which is not what Jesus would do.  Seriously, do people think that our Savior hung on a cross so we could be jerks to one another? That kind of behavior would make Jesus overturn some tables!

Longtime readers of my blog likely know the story of Sparky, the dog we got in 2002 that I despised from day one.  I'll admit that I do regret that now, but, one thing that always sticks in my mind is what my mom and at least one other person used to tell me: "That dog never did anything to you!" It's true; he didn't...but, I loathed him anyway, and was ready to jump for joy when my mom had no choice but to take him back to the S.P.C.A., like I had said we needed to do from the beginning.  It actually disturbs me greatly that I treated such an innocent animal in such a way...but, now I know how Sparky felt, because people do the same thing to me, even when I've meant them absolutely no harm.  In my nine years on Facebook, I've been unfriended or had my friend requests staunchly denied countless times and for various reasons, many of them unknown to me; the problem was that many of the people responsible were Christians, some of whom I met behind the doors of my church! Mutual friends of those people and others have tried to excuse their actions, but, I counter with the words of Jesus in Luke 9:50: "Whoever is not against you is for you." So, if I mean fellow Christians absolutely no harm, which is always the case...why is it okay for them to condemn our friendship before it even starts? Isn't that a sign of a bad attitude? I say it is...but it still happens far too often.

A year or two ago, I was in a class on the Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The teacher--a younger guy, and very good with technology--supplemented his lessons with YouTube videos, which he showed via projector.  He told us that while looking for material for the class, he did searches for "I am a Jew" and "I am a Muslim," and found all kinds of videos of people from said faiths explaining why they believe what they believe and such...but, when he typed in, "I am a Christian," he found one video after another with titles such as, "Why I Am No Longer a Christian," or, "Why I Am Ashamed to Be a Christian".  For some people, hearing that may be rather alarming...but, honestly, I'm not surprised.  When people who claim Jesus as their Savior bicker and fight and overall act like jerks, of course we're going to be criticized...because everybody knows that isn't what Christ would do.  If people of the Way don't shape up soon, our faith could end up extinct.

Everybody has roles in life.  I'm not talking about high school stereotypes, like the jocks, the cheerleaders, and the geeks; I'm talking about positions that one holds, such as a job--teacher, doctor, police officer, etc.--or even a familial or role: parent, grandparent, older sibling, best friend, and the like.  When working with people in such positions, I expect them to act like they should in such a position...and it's very frustrating when they don't.  My mom and I were rather aggravated with a psychiatrist I used to see because of his lack of compassion, even after hearing of my sister's death.  Even when it comes to TV characters, I was never a big fan of Carey, the mom on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, because she didn't behave much like I would expect a mom on such a show to most of the time.

I mention that for one reason: When working with Christians, especially Christian adults, I expect them to behave according to their faith.  Of course, Christian teenagers are still teenagers, which means they're very immature; still, most of the Christians I currently interact with are at least young adults, which means it's time to put such behaviors away for good.  That doesn't always happen, though; if you went to my old church, you may have seen or heard about the incident where a young adult threw a milkshake at someone.  In the years since, it's even been talked about on Facebook; when someone brought it up in a comment on a status from the wife of the guy responsible, she said, "He will never live that down!" While some people might laugh about it now, that doesn't change the fact that it was sin, and I can imagine God wasn't too happy with that guy when it happened.  More to the point: I was raised in the church, so, I've spent my whole life hearing about Christian values: love, compassion, kindness, etc.  The problem is: That's not what I'm seeing from other Christians; instead, I'm seeing far too much hatefulness and just flat-out being jerks.  That's not what Jesus would want, but, nobody else seems to realize that.

I've used this story as an analogy before, but, now I'm using it for a different purpose: During summer of 2004, I was essentially forced to take an Outdoor P.E. class against my will.  I had wanted to take Chemistry instead, but, the lead special education teacher lied to me and said that it wasn't available.  While I was in the gym class, I was complaining about what we had to do, and the teacher was reprimanding me, saying, "You signed up for this class..." When I tried to tell her that I hadn't willingly agreed to take it, I don't think she believed me.  The same thing happened when I was in Boy Scouting; after several months of suffering through that program, I eventually had enough and wanted to leave the troop for good...but, I was stopped by someone who said, "You said you were going to do it, so, you have to give the troop a year!" What he didn't seem to understand was: The only reason I said I was going to do it was because someone manipulated me into doing so, despite the fact that he/she actually had no right to.  In both cases, it was wrong to say it was my choice...because, if I'd had my way, I wouldn't have been part of those programs.

Here's why I mention that: As Christians, we don't have that excuse.  Regardless of how you believe one becomes a Christian, I think we can agree that it's a choice; you don't just wake up one morning and find a note on your bedside table saying, "Congratulations on becoming a Christian!" If you chose to become a Christian, then, you agreed to either live by the commandments found within the Bible or face the consequences.  Of course, grace is part of this; nobody lives a sinless life, even after becoming a Christian...but, as I mentioned before, Romans 2:5 says that your heart must be repentant, or else you'll face God's wrath.  Instead of getting apologies from the people responsible or their friends, though, almost all I've gotten is staunch defense and condoning of such behavior.  I know that we Christians can do better than this...but, the question is, will we?

Now, for my conclusion: If I sent you a link to this, don't think that I'm pointing the finger at you, because you likely aren't guilty of what I'm talking about.  Most of you reading this already know all of this, and feel the same way I do.  That's great...but, the people who really need to read this are the ones who would rather sit through an episode of Barney and Friends than bother to listen to anything I have to say.  It reminds me of a lyric from one of my favorite songs from when I was younger: "I'm singin' you little boys and girls spoofs; all you do is ignore me, though I have been sent here to inform you!" I could get up in front of my entire church and preach this same message, but, it probably wouldn't do any good; the guilty parties would tune me out, and probably wouldn't even show up on Sunday morning if they knew I was the one preaching the sermon.  It's so frustrating to me that it makes me want to exclaim the Italian phrase, "E buona notte al secchio!" Literally translated, it means, "And good night to the pail!"; figuratively translated, it means, "That's that; there's nothing more I can do!" Most of my fellow Christians seem to have gone to sleep on this matter...which is exactly why I'm hot about it.  If we want our faith to survive, we have to stop destroying ourselves from within.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Who Am I? You Sure You Want to Know?

Fans of superhero flicks will likely recognize the title as the opening line to the very first Spider-Man movie, but, asking yourself who you are is a very valid question.  Are you who you want to be? Do you like who you are? Do you have achievements of which to be proud, or are they overshadowed by your mistakes? I know who I am, and it turns out I'm many things...all at once: a Christian, a library employee, a bookworm, a Disney Channel fan, a Republican, a calendar lover, a bargain hunter, a geek of sorts, a comic book reader, a fan of Apple products, a writer, a blogger, a chatterbox...and plenty more! Of course, if you're among my friends, you already knew all of that.  Those who truly know me--among whom are probably most of the people reading this--know what I like, what I don't like, and why...and they respect it. They know there's nobody else like me, but they love me all the more for it.

Unfortunately, some people have problems with my unique traits...and they kind of always have.  When I was in kindergarten, it became obvious from the get-go that I was the smartest one in the class.  I could read very well and do basic addition and subtraction...whereas my classmates didn't even know their numbers or letters.  My teacher that year told my mom during a conference, "I just don't know what to do with him," and that was one of the things that made my first year of school rather tough.  Since then, countless other people have done the same; it's telling when they unfriend you on Facebook for no apparent reason or keep your friend request pending despite claiming they'll eventually confirm it...yet, it was happening well before the dawn of social networking.  While the ages of such folks vary, it's often been people my own age or younger, no matter what age I was.  Some people just couldn't deal with my different ways, and decided to jump ship as a result.

If you're reading this, though, you're probably not among those people.  You've stuck with me for quite a while, maybe even my whole life.  I'm thankful for people like you, and it saddens me that others couldn't do the same.  As I make new friends, I hope they'll stick around like you have...but, I can't be certain; they could be gone before I even know it.

One of the things that I would hope anyone who cares about me would do is respect my tastes.  You all know what I can't stand: dogs, theme parks, sports, anything to do with large bodies of water, etc.  You also know that I have numerous reasons for not getting my driver's license or seeking out a relationship; if you don't, you should read up on me by checking some of the other most recent posts on this blog.  While some would think less of me for not doing those things because "everyone else" seems to be doing them, if you know me, you know that I'm not one to do the popular thing, and trying to get me to will get you nowhere.

Despite that, though, some people over the years have been infuriatingly insistent that I do what they knew very well was contrary to my tastes.  Back in 2004, the high school youth group at the church I was attending took a trip to the beach...which turned into a big fiasco because nobody else involved wanted to accept the fact that I wasn't interested.  When I shared my reasons for not being willing to attend, everything I said was laughed at or refuted.  I was trying to help them out by not going, because I remembered a couple of Cub Scout outings that were ruined because of one person not wanting to be there, but, my fellow youth group members never seemed to realize that, nor did the sponsors; even the youth leader discussed with me about the concept of going to an outing for the sake of someone else, not considering the fact that, to me, anything involving a large body of water, including a beach, is an earthly hell.  It wasn't just them; a teacher at my high school was bound and determined to get me to go to Busch Gardens, even though I had made it perfectly clear I wasn't interested.  She simply found it unthinkable that I didn't like theme parks...but, that's no different from someone not liking the Disney Channel; we all have our likes and our dislikes.

Though it's been a while since I've faced that, I know I will likely see it again and again...and again.  Most people just aren't used to dealing with people like me; some have known me a while, and yet don't know me at all.  While I'm open to suggestions about things to try, what people have to realize is that what I do is still my decision.  Most of you probably already know this, but, I'm sharing this for those who don't: I grew up with an older sister who had severe cerebral palsy and wasn't able to do much of anything, including walk, talk, or hear.  Having an immediate family member like her put us in some unique situations, which people on the outside didn't quite understand.  My mom had such trouble finding someone to take care of my sister that she had no choice but to open up a day care center in her house...but, people were still showing their lack of understanding of our situation by asking questions such as, "Why don't you go get a job as a substitute nurse?" Sometimes, however, there were suggestions that my mom could have acted on, but she didn't.  Many years ago, a "friend" (notice the quotes?) of my mom's found out that my other sister--who was not disabled in any way--had been taught how to change my disabled sister's diaper, but that my mom wouldn't allow me to do it...and spent about thirty minutes haranguing my poor mother as a result, accusing her of sexism and playing favorites.  After that half-hour lambasting session, my mom could have immediately decided to do as her "friend" suggested...but she didn't; regardless of anyone else's opinion or how adamant he/she was about it, it was solely up to my mom, and, to this day, I still say she made the right decision on that front.

Though said disabled sibling has been deceased for just over a decade, I still find myself in similar scenarios.  People just can't understand why I love the Disney Channel as much as I do, or why bargain hunting is a favorite pastime, or how I could have avoided Busch Gardens for over 1.5 decades when it's practically in my own backyard.  Whether or not they agree with my reasoning, I expect those who respect me to also respect my tastes...but, just like in the aforementioned situation with my mom, plenty of people don't, including those who are supposed to be my friends.  To be honest, it makes me question their friendship; do I really need such negativity in my life?

In conclusion, I will say this: Though many of us grew up hearing that everyone is special and unique, some people argue that if everyone is unique, then no one is.  While God made everyone different, he made some people more different than others...and I am one of those people.  You can love me for it and be my friend, or despise me for it and be my enemy; it's your choice.  Just don't do something you'll regret one day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two Different Issues...One Big Reason Why: An Addendum

About two months ago, I did a post on driving and relationships, and how, with me, they have a lot in common.  Since then, some thoughts on those same topics have been bouncing around in my head, and it's time I got them out.  I started this while on Facebook hiatus; it has taken me a while to finish it...which may be a good thing.

Since I've already done my opening arguments in the previous post, let's get right to the main points.  First off: It's not that I don't like the thought of driving or being in a relationship; it's actually that I like it a little too much.  If you went to a traditional high school--or even if you didn't--you likely studied Dante's Inferno, an epic poem about a journey through seven circles of hell.  It actually is the first of a trilogy of sorts titled The Divine Comedy; after Dante's trip through hell, he also journeys through purgatory and eventually heaven to be reunited with his one true love.  At my high school, all sophomore honors English students were required to study Inferno, in all its brutality.  The teacher I had was fascinated by it; he said he had read the sequels, and found them to be "very boring".  While nobody had an issue with his treatment of that seriously long poem, another English teacher was notorious for being obsessed with it.  She had other issues as well--she reportedly made the students take notes and tests on the morning and afternoon announcements--but, even on, a random commentator said, "She's [sic] obsessed with dark, depressing subjects." While it was okay to find something interesting, the problem was that she liked an epic poem all about pain and suffering entirely too much.

Most of you reading this know that I used to be notorious for being obsessed with whatever; everything from shows to comic strips to video games to celebrities to even a real-life crush.  While it was fine that I liked those entities, it disturbed people that I liked them too much, and tended to bandy about the names of my favorite fictional characters or famous people as if they were my best friends.  I've never been obsessed with something as dark as Dante's Inferno--in fact, most of my obsessions have been rather cutesy and happy--but, it bothered people because I just didn't know when to quit.  Even when it came to people I actually knew, I tended to force myself on them; I remember one time a friend in fifth grade asked me to refrain from sitting with him, because I had simply been following him around too much.  Another time, my mom restricted me from going over to my friends' house one day--which was something I did every day--and I was none too happy about it; I begged her to let me go, saying, "I'll do anything!", to which she simply replied, "The only thing you can do is not go."  It took me years to understand that my constant presence at my friends' house was probably driving them and their parents crazy, especially since some others seemed to think that I was only friends with them because of their Nintendo 64.  Whatever the case, the fact that I liked whoever or whatever too much was disturbing to others.

People who have encouraged me to attempt driving and/or dating have mentioned the benefits: having my own transportation with the former, and having companionship and someone to come home to with the latter.  However, the problem there is: If I had those privileges, I would take them entirely too far.  If I had my own car, I'd drive to every single garage sale, used bookstore, fast food joint, thrift shop, library sale, etc., I wanted, and spend too much money, especially when you factor in gas prices and vehicle upkeep.  My parents have enough issues with me spending money like crazy as it is; can you imagine if I could get to my favorite stores and the bank any time I wanted? When it comes to relationships, while most people want someone to love, they don't want someone who is going to smother them and constantly obsess over them; that could be grounds for a breakup, even after marriage.  Most of you reading this are married, and have been for a while...but, is your spouse all you talk about? Didn't think so.

Second off: I have a serious issue with lack of focus...and not just when it comes to the task at hand.  In recent years, much discussion has been made about distracted driving; the "W82TXT" campaign has started in an effort to save lives.  While I agree that texting while driving is a big risk, other things could be just as distracting: the radio, your kid screaming in the backseat because he wants to go to McDonald's, or even a preoccupation over something that happened earlier in the day.  Those can cause accidents even when you're not behind the wheel; a month or two ago, I tripped and fell while walking into the library where I work because I was too focused on getting online when I got inside and not paying attention to where I was going.  I ended up busting the knee of my pants, and had to go home and change clothes; thank goodness I got there early.  As easily distracted as I am--remember, I got distracted by my own thoughts while watching Attack of the IMAX!--I just don't belong behind the wheel; who knows what could happen if I lost focus at the wrong moment?

It's a different sort of focus issue when it comes to relationships: For you married folks who are reading this, I'm sure you'd say that your spouse is more important to you than any other human being other than Jesus.  While you have other people whom you care about--and if I'm not one of them, I'm not sure why you're reading this, unless you're a random Internet user--your spouse is simply irreplaceable; there's no one else like him/her, and there never will be...because he/she is yours, and will be for the rest of your life.  My problem is: I can't say something of mine is better just because it's mine.  I never was much for school spirit because I could never see what made my school better than the other schools out there.  During my first year at my second elementary school, it won the "prestigious" Blue Ribbon award...and I was infuriated; that school was no better than my first elementary school! It's the same with friends: I have plenty of them, and some are better than others...but, I don't exactly have a best friend; the last person who I bestowed that title upon couldn't figure why she even deserved it, which proves that I don't even know what makes someone my best friend.  My understanding of relationship rules is: When you're "going steady" with someone, you don't hang out with people of the opposite gender...but, I can't refrain from doing that; most of my best friends are women, and that's probably never going to change.  As weird and wrong as it may sound, I can't stick to just one woman...and that's exactly what marriage would require of me.  If some girl saw me talking to every woman I saw at church, that would likely be a major turn-off.

Third off: Both driving and relationships tend to bring out the worst in people...which is something I can't deal with.  You probably know that I've struggled to get along with numerous people over the years, especially my immediate family members.  It's not really their fault, though; when you're dealing with someone close to you, you're going to see them at their best as well as at their absolute worst.  While I would hope for a mate that would be able to properly handle me during my low points--which happen all the time--I don't know if I could do the same, because others' negative moments tend to stick with me.  For a few days, I've been haunted by something someone said--it's so ugly, I won't repeat it here--all the way back in 2003.  I haven't even seen the guy who said it in ages, which is a good thing; he was no friend of mine.  That likely will pass...and be replaced by something else someone shouldn't have said to me at some point in my life; maybe last week, maybe 1995.  While I'm not going to bash the person online publicly or even privately for what he did, it's still haunting me.  When you live with someone--i.e., a spouse--that's all the more chance that he/she could say something ugly to you, especially if he/she is tired, in a bad mood, or whatever.

It's kind of the same with driving: Most of you reading this are Christians, so, I'd think you wouldn't willingly and knowingly break the law...yet, people get tickets for speeding, running red lights, etc., all the time.  Some people can be total jerks behind the wheel...which plants seeds of rage in normally good people.  I, for one, don't want to deal with other drivers flipping me off or honking at me for no reason; with my memory, it would still be haunting me five years from now.

Fourth off: If I'm not ready for driving or a relationship now--which is definitely the case, as far as I'm concerned--I probably never will be.  All the way back in 1999, my neighborhood friends were all about seeing Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace in theaters.  Those friends moved later that year, and I didn't see it until spring of 2000...on video, no less.  Around Christmas 2002, I was talking with one of those friends on the phone, and telling him about a Star Wars game I had recently gotten for my Super Nintendo...but he didn't want to hear about it.  He told me he and his brothers--who were also my friends--didn't like it anymore; his exact words were, "We grew out of it!" While that may be the case for many kids, it was never that way with me.  Aside from one computer game that had some moral issues, I still view many of my former favorite entertainment entities--even ones that weren't exactly "obsessions," such as Wheel 2000 or Judy Blume's Fudge series--in an at least somewhat positive light.  Some of them I used to say I despised, but, that was usually because of a bad memory associated with it: thinking it was real and being made fun of as a result, a dumb crush on one of the stars who was washed up by that point, etc.  When it comes to the show, game, book, comic, etc., itself, though, I still like it...and, in most cases, I still consume it.  I got into Scooby-Doo just before I finished fourth grade, a whopping seventeen years ago...yet, I've watched several episodes of it just this year alone.  I've also considered checking out or buying DVDs or iTunes volumes of my old-school favorites: Pokémon, Lizzie McGuire, etc.  I probably will always enjoy them.

What's my point there? Simply this: Despite some changes in recent years, I'm still largely the same I've always been...which makes driving or a relationship not an option.  Some would say that it could be an option in the future...but, by now, I'm doubting it.  If I'm still largely a kid at the age of twenty-seven, I doubt I will ever be able to be adult in my thinking, no matter how hard I try; you can't force me to act my age any more than you can force an elementary school kid to act like he is my age.

I've talked about "Mrs. Russo," my junior English teacher, before on here.  Here's another part of her story I haven't shared in a while: Despite her impact on my life, she was only a teacher for one year.  Though I'm sure she had more than one reason for leaving that soon, she told our class that she was jumping ship because she didn't like that one thing that comes with being a teacher: When you get home...your job is not done! That's especially true when you're teaching Honors English like Mrs. Russo did; she told us that she started grading our essays on The Great Gatsby at 4:30...only for it to be 10:30, and she still wasn't finished.  I can't say I blame her; one of the things I like about my job is that, when I'm off work, I can do pretty much whatever I want.  Of course, I can't do anything that would besmirch the name of the library system, but, still: I can shop wherever, I can watch whatever, I can eat out if I want...and, I don't have to worry about work until it's time to be there.  Still, that's not the way it works in a relationship.  From my understanding of the way relationships work, you don't have time while in one, especially during the dating phase, for "trivial" matters such as television or reading books.  However, to me, those activities aren't just hobbies; they're very influential, and very important to me.  If anyone--a significant other or anyone else--were to get in the way of them, I would definitely be unhappy; you just don't get between me and my favorite activities, just like you don't get between rabid sports fans and Monday Night Football.

My final point: I'm simply too impatient--or maybe too stubborn--for a relationship or driving to work.  On my first Mac, I had all sorts of fun features--known as extensions and control panels--installed; they did everything from color the menus to make Oscar the Grouch come out every time you emptied the Trash.  Usually, all you had to do to get it to work was copy the file to the right folder and restart; two simple steps that could cause dramatic changes.  Even now, most installations on my Mac don't take that long...but the changes they bring are huge! Unfortunately, you don't go from dating to marriage or novice driver to the next Dale Earnhardt in all of fifteen minutes; with either topic, it takes time for things to progress.  Unfortunately, if I don't see results immediately, I'm tempted to jump ship quickly...because, if nothing happens at first, I begin to doubt anything ever will.

Some years ago, I had an older friend tell me that the quickest end to a relationship she ever had was when a guy proposed to her on the third date.  While many of you would agree that is taking things too quickly, for me, that isn't quick enough.  I've never liked the thought of dating; I had a discussion with a friend earlier today about how I don't like terms such as "boyfriend" and "girlfriend", and she agreed.  (Before you ask: There's nothing going on between us; we're just friends, and we're staying that way.  If you knew her, you'd know why.)  When my mom and my (step)dad were dating, I was hesitant to refer to him as my mom's boyfriend...because the term was repugnant to me.  You might have noticed that, in other posts, I've used terms such as "significant other" or "beau," which has caused me to endure some criticism.  Even one post that I made while positively furious still kept to that rule.  I don't want a girlfriend; I want a wife...and only a wife.  Unfortunately, it seems you just can't have one without the other.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Two Different Issues...One Big Reason Why

There is something that I've been debating about doing for a while.  Many of my friends have done it, and some have had success, whereas others have suffered tragedy as a result of it.  In the past, I've taken steps towards it...but, there always seemed to be hindrances of some sort, such as those who could help me do it not being able to for any number of reasons.  At one point, I was completely happy without this thing...but, eventually, peer pressure caused me to give in, if only because I thought I needed it; now, however, I'm not all that sure that's true, if only because I've known people without it who are doing just fine nonetheless.  Some people would call me a "loser" or a "wimp" because I refuse to subscribe to the mass mentality that would tell me that I need it, but I know it's for the greater good that I don't bother with it, because of the potential problems it could cause not only myself, but others as well.

Okay, now that you've read that, take a guess: What is the "it" I'm speaking of? I'll give you a hint: It has nothing to do with entertainment.  Do you know now? You're probably thinking it's either driving or being in a relationship...and, you're right; it's both.  Believe it or not, my views on myself operating a motor vehicle are quite similar to my views about myself getting married one day.  Though I've debated about these issues for years, I now realize that the fact I can't seem to get involved in them is because of divine intervention; God is keeping me from doing what everybody and their mother seems to think I should have done a long time ago.

As usual, I'll explain with a few different points.  First off: Nobody has the right to do absolutely anything they want! When I was in school, we had to get a form signed that allowed us to use the Internet on the school's computers, and one of the statements it made was, "Usage of the Internet is a privilege and not a right." I could say the same thing about driving or being in a relationship.  As a bonus page in an old teen Bible of mine said, "At age 16 [sic], most kids feel it's their God-given right to buckle up, start the engine and cruise the planet.  From somewhere deep within, they discover the drive to drive." However, just because you want to do something doesn't mean you should.  How often do we hear about fatal automobile accidents? I understand that accidents of any kind happen to everyone, but, some people just shouldn't be allowed to operate a motor vehicle...yet, they are, and lives have been lost as a result.

That aforementioned Bible page used driving as an analogy for sex, and compared getting a driver's license to a marriage license...but, just like operating a motor vehicle, sex and relationships in general aren't for everyone either.  Today's culture is so saturated with sex, you can hardly shop anywhere without seeing a magazine, DVD cover, or poster that doesn't objectify a human being, usually a woman.  Christians know that sex is only for married people; as an old children's Bible described the seventh commandment, "Keep your actions and thoughts pure.  Sex is God's gift to married couples." While I agree with that statement, I also think that people everywhere--including Christians--are desiring sex because of what they see in the media; how many times have we seen movies, television shows, and books that glorify tawdry affairs? Abstinence advocates will tell you that if you wait to have sex, it's a blast...but, I once saw an article in Christianity Today that argued that such indoctrination has led to divorces among Christians; when they discover that sex with their spouse isn't "all that and a bag of chips," it causes a rift between them that often leads to divorce.  I know that all of us have a "sex drive," but we also have a desire for revenge, and that's always wrong to act on (Romans 12:19).

Just like with driving, there are plenty of people who are or have been married but shouldn't have been...and they didn't or won't realize it until it was or is too late.  While some of my friends are still happily married, some others probably consider saying, "I do," to be the biggest mistake they've ever made, or will eventually do just that.  I'm reminded of an incident that happened back in 2004, when I was complaining about what I had to do during a summer school P.E. class.  My teacher was reprimanding me, saying, "You signed up for this class!"...but, I actually didn't.  I needed to get a class out of the way to prepare for the next school year, but I had wanted to take chemistry instead...yet, the lead special education teacher told me it wasn't available, which I later found out was a lie.  I tried telling that P.E. instructor that I was lied to; I don't know if she believed me, but, regardless of what she thought, it was not my choice to be in that class.  That summer was easily the worst one I ever had, and that stupid class was a big part of the reason why.  However, when it comes to marriage these days, no one is forcing people to say, "I do"; they do it when they choose, with whom they choose.  I know many cases of divorce are because of adultery and/or abuse...but, that's still a problem; seriously, if you can't stay true to your spouse and treat him/her with respect, why even bother getting married in the first place? Such incidents are so commonplace that it makes me afraid to even go on a date; seriously, why would I want to bother with something that was seemingly doomed from the start with way too many of my friends and family members?

Second off: The system has failed everyone! I once saw a walkthrough for an old-school computer game that said, "The game doesn't check that you SHOULD know the answers, only that you DO know the answers. [...] Consequently, the walkthrough can be EXTREMELY brief." That actually mirrors a big problem with today's education system: It focuses too much on standardized testing and not enough on actually applying the knowledge.  Sure, pretty much anybody can fill in the right bubbles on a test sheet...but, can they put what they've learned to good use? While pretty much every system--not just education--has failed people left and right, no one feels it more than millenials, aka people of my generation.  People my age were told to go to college and get a degree in order to get a high-paying job someday...only to graduate and find nothing of the sort, having to take a "McJob" just to pay the bills.  They also didn't seem to learn very much in school; I've heard that most high schoolers graduate with only a sixth grade education.  That's why many parents are pulling their kids out of the public schools, and either putting them in private schools or homeschooling them; honestly, I can't say I blame them.

More to the point: Too many "professionals" have no clue what they're doing.  I've sat in many a doctor's office only to be told something absolutely ridiculous; seriously, if they can't come up with a diagnosis easily found on Google, how did they even graduate from medical school?  It's the same with pretty much any profession; even many high-paid Hollywood actors and actresses often deliver notoriously wooden performances.  It's just saddening when you think about it; if people can't do what they're supposed to do, why on earth are we paying them? Even if they have the training, it's not worth anything if they don't utilize it correctly.

For a while, I've been afraid to pursue a driver's license because I'm afraid I'll be allowed to pass when I really shouldn't be.  You may say that couldn't happen, but, just look at what I said above; have you never been done wrong by a supposed trained professional? The same is true of marriage: I could get married, and all my friends could approve of what I was doing...but, it could still end in disaster.  I've seen too many people who went from gushing about their significant other to despising him/her.  True, that's a Facebook thing, but, I'm sure it's been happening since well before social networking; you just don't know what happens behind closed doors.  In either case, it would be a mistake from which I'd never recover.

Third off: I don't even understand the principles behind those things! Most of you know that, just before my senior year ended, I confessed to my crush how I felt about her, and that she told me she wasn't interested in dating.  What you probably don't know is what was going through my mind when she said that: "Dating?!! Who said anything about dating??!" I don't know exactly what I was picturing in my mind, but, it definitely wasn't dating; I think it was more hanging out together and eventually getting married.  Some would say that isn't how it works...but some people have been married to someone for a long time whom they never dated.  The rules of dating and relationships are sketchy, and there seems to be no constant; what some people would tell you that you just "have" to do, other people would staunchly disagree.  While Christians would tell you not to engage in sexual activity before marriage, there are plenty of other things to worry about: How long should the guy wait before he proposes...or should the guy even be the one to propose? How long should the engagement be? Should you try to be friends before you date, or should you leap right into the relationship? The answers to those questions depend on who you ask.

The same is true with driving: While behind the wheel, you're bound to encounter some strange things.  My parents are both good drivers, but they've had to do some extreme maneuvers because of other people on the road who seem to have gotten their license from Toys "R" Us.  While behind the wheel training is helpful, there are some occurrences that no Driver's Ed class can prepare you for; they're just snap decisions that you have to make without even thinking about them.  Unfortunately, when it comes to split-second decisions, I tend to do the wrong thing...and, behind the wheel, the consequences could be deadly.

Fourth off: What's a kid like me need to be driving or dating for anyway? This is purely hypothetical, because I don't think anyone would bother with this: If someone who didn't know anything about me came in my room and tried to guess who it belonged to, I guarantee they'd come up with the wrong idea.  The Disney Channel calendars and posters would probably make them think it belonged to a ten-year-old.  I know most of you wouldn't trust a fifth grader behind the wheel, and nobody takes elementary school relationships seriously...yet, it seems that is where I am in many respects.  Though I have progressed on some fronts, I'm still very much a kid...and probably always will be.  Seriously, would you want an eleven-year-old as your significant other or chauffeur? Didn't think so.

My last point before my conclusion: If I were to achieve those things at some point in my life...wouldn't I have done so by now? I once saw a saying on a female friend's Facebook profile that said, "Guys' rejection is God's protection." I'm sure most of you would agree that goes the other way as well...but, I believe it applies to more than just relationships.  When I played Pokémon Red, which was kind of my introduction to video games, I was surprised at how the makers put hints and tips in various parts of the game, including some that weren't even in the official Nintendo Power player's guide.  For a long time, I've believed God does the same thing: He tells you what to do; not just through the Bible, but through events that others would believe happen only by chance.  When it comes to dating, I've been hindered several times, from rejection of dating offers from female friends to being "set up" with a woman with whom I had absolutely nothing in common.  The same is true of driving; from inadvertently failing the driver's test twice to an allegedly great driving instructor telling me he couldn't give me lessons because of a new law that didn't turn up in online research or even make much sense, I've been hindered more than once.  I've ignored divine hindrance before, and paid the price for it; I once was writing a Facebook message to someone that I knew I wasn't supposed to write...when my iPad crashed in the middle of it.  I kind of knew the reason why that happened, but, I pressed on and ended up sending it...and I regret it to this day.  I know everyone wants me to drive and get married someday, but, who knows better: God, or mere mortals? The best intentions in the world aren't going to save me from a vehicular accident or serious heartbreak.  Just like before, I think it would be wise to heed God's guidance; after all, I've had my doubts about both of those things since the beginning.

In conclusion, I will say this: I tend to wear my preferences on my sleeve; in fact, I kind of always have.  Unless you've never met me, I imagine all of you reading this know that I love the Disney Channel and despise sports; that wouldn't even be news those who don't like me.  It's more than just about entertainment, though; when I staunchly refused to get my driver's license in years past, everyone knew about it...and they debated it with me left and right.  Well, in all honesty, I'm tired of the debating.  This is not the first time I've explained why I choose to not date or not drive; you've seen it multiple times before.  You don't have to agree with it, but, I do ask that, as my friends, you respect it, not turn it into a point of contention.  The various debates I had on this topic in years past got me and the opposing parties nowhere; I wasn't convinced of their opinion, and vice versa.

Most of you have things you wear on your sleeves, too, such as your favorite sports team or your beloved pets.  I'm not knocking that; I would never unfriend you for posts on those topics.  What I ask is that you do the same for me.  Some people just don't have what it takes to be friends with me; I've been unfriended countless times, usually by people who didn't know me all that well pre-Facebook.  I'd say it takes a special person to be my friend...but, I think you already knew that.  Much like a canine devotee would say, "Love me; love my dogs!", I would say that, if you don't respect why I do what I do...then you don't respect me at all, and I have no need for such negativity in my life.  I know why I'm doing this, and, even if it seems inexplicable to you, you just need to do an Elsa and let it go.  Anything else could spell the end of our friendship.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Search for the Real Lizzie McGuire

By now, I think everyone knows that Hilary Duff was my main girl during my first 2.5 years of high school, thanks to me discovering Lizzie McGuire right after the start of freshman year.  While the show had its share of detractors--and which one doesn't?--it catapulted Miss Duff into super stardom, and has a cultural impact that is still felt today, especially by people who grew up with it, much like I did.  Lizzie herself was a likable character; a New York Times article called her "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." Looking back, I think part of the reason I revered her as highly as I did was because I didn't have an actual best friend; sure, there were people I talked to often at school, church, and elsewhere, but I rarely did things with them outside of those places.  It was true that a kid that my mom was taking care of introduced me to the show, but, to this day, I question whether or not he was my friend, only because he acted like a jerk half the time.

I don't watch Lizzie near as much as I used to, though it does make for some nice nostalgia material now and then.  Still, just like with other previous favorite entertainment entities of mine, its impact is still felt to this day...but, in this case, more than any of the rest of them.  You probably already know how Hilary Duff and her show changed my life forever, and woke me up to a whole world of entertainment I'd be missing out on otherwise; I doubt I would have ever discovered my later celebrity crushes or pretty much any show I've enjoyed in the past decade or so if it hadn't been for Lizzie.  What you may not know is how it has also impacted my views on friendship, though whether that's for good or for ill is up for debate.

If you're unfamiliar with the show, you probably don't know this, but, despite its title, it wasn't only about Lizzie.  She had a family, of course--mom, dad, and pesky little brother--but she also had two best friends, Miranda Sanchez and David "Gordo" Gordon.  From the outset, the three of them did pretty much everything together.  Not only did they have all of the same classes--which is actually possible in middle school; I know from experience--but they attended functions together and often got in trouble together as well.  They were pretty much three peas in a pod, until Miranda made an exit towards the end of the show for reasons I never did quite understand.  Together, they braved evil cheerleaders, family drama, school dances, the struggles of growing up, and plenty more.  The same could be said for the main cast of other similar shows, ranging from Austin & Ally to even Nickelodeon's iCarly; even when there was enmity between some of the main characters, they ended up doing the right thing for each other, and, sometimes, became friends before the series finale.

When I think of these shows, I have to ask myself: Where is my Lizzie, or my Miranda, or my Ally? (Yes, the last one was intended as a pun.) I'm not saying that I'm searching for some lovely young single blonde, brunette, or Latina to marry me; if you think that's my focus, you're sorely mistaken.  In fact, the person who could fill that role could be already married, older than I am, or maybe even (gasp!) a guy; what I'm saying is, I'm looking for a best friend.  In the past, I used to have some good friends who took me to the movies and such...but they're all gone now.  Two of them won't talk to me anymore thanks to my own dumb actions, while others have passed away or moved away, if not both.  While it's great to keep in contact with old friends via Facebook or even old-school style--i.e., on the phone--you can't deny that distance and time puts a strain on any relationship, even if it's completely platonic.  Still, I get along with pretty much everyone at my church...but, other than one older couple and my family members, I hardly ever see them outside church events.  I'm not sure I'd call most of them close friends, and I'm sure they'd say the same about me.

Friendship is a concept that has always proved rather enigmatic to me.  I've had bad experiences with people who laid me out--sometimes in public--over nothing, or generally acted in a rather ugly fashion, yet others said of those folks, "They are your biggest advocates!", "They're the best friends you've ever had!", "She is your biggest fan!", or "He likes you and you don't even know it!" If I'm going to have friends, I expect them to treat me with respect, not constantly make me feel like I'm back in seventh grade, dealing with middle school bullies again.  Seriously, when someone comes over to your table only to blast you over something completely innocent you said on is that not persecution? Where is the Christian love in that? I would say that a true friend wouldn't do such a thing...but others would say I'd be wrong about that.

To use another television analogy: I've been a fan of Mork & Mindy ever since my mom first introduced me to it in 1999, and a big part of that is because I identify with the character of Mork.  Just like him, I continue to struggle to understand human ways; after twenty-seven years on this planet, I'm still at a loss to explain some people's actions.  True, sometimes, nobody can explain why someone said or did whatever; my mom has said more than once, "I don't know why _______ said that!", and, depending on the incident, the person in question was anyone from my sister to my elementary school principal.  Still, more often than not, others seem to "get" what people are saying...whereas, I just don't.  It's not that I intend to misunderstand or do the wrong thing; I try my best, but it usually isn't good enough.  Mork needed someone to explain Earth concepts to him, and, as a college student, Mindy was a perfect fit.  I know they eventually married, but, this isn't about a relationship; in fact, in the first season, Mindy's father and grandmother also helped Mork out.  What I want is just someone to look out for me; someone who will help me out if I mess up, not make me feel like an idiot.

Unfortunately, that just seems hard to come by; even people who I should have been able to trust did me seriously wrong.  I found many teachers in school hard to respect because they acted like jerks; even my kindergarten teacher was rather cold and aloof.  I had two different principals at my high school, and hardly anyone respected either of them; the first one got booed at a pep rally, while the second was complained about by many teachers, all because of their overreactions to certain situations.  My family and I ended up leaving our home church of nearly three decades because of corruption within the leadership; they were doing whatever they wanted without regards to how the congregation felt, and many longtime members departed as a result.  My parents often try their best, but, due to their age and everything they've had on their plate over the years--even just this year alone--they often don't have the time or energy to deal with situations as they'd like.  I'd say I need a true best friend...but, I wouldn't know where to find one.

I will conclude by saying this: While I believe that anyone who wants to be my friend can be (Luke 9:50), in my experience, women seem to "get" me better than guys do.  It's not that every female human I've known has had the utmost respect for me--I currently know a few who pay me absolutely no mind, though, in more than one case, I have no idea why--but, in most cases, the women seem to understand me while the guys just sit there flummoxed.  I recall an incident at a high school youth retreat where we were discussing media discernment, and I proudly proclaimed that the only "R" film I'd ever seen was Vision Quest; when one of the girls heard that, she was shocked and quickly replied, "That was bad! You shouldn't have watched that!"...but, one of the guys thought it was no big deal.  I have to say, I agree with the member of the fairer sex; in fact, I only saw that dumb flick because another guy in the group lied to me about its content.  You might say that was just immaturity, but I've had the exact same problem since then countless times.  That's why I'm more inclined to think that I would need a female best friend like Lizzie McGuire, Mindy McConnell, or Ally Dawson; then again, maybe I'm totally wrong.