Thursday, May 28, 2015

You're NEVER Gonna Keep Me Down!

All the way back in January 1998, I joined a local Cub Scout pack thanks to a friend from church and his father's involvement with it.  (You may think you know this story, but, keep reading.) I participated in the Pinewood Derbies, the various cheers, "Boom Chicka Boom", summer day camp, and several other activities during my time there.  Two years later, it became time for me to transition to Boy Scouting...but I almost didn't do it, and I would have quit after finishing Cub Scouting if it hadn't been for my sister's insistence that I keep going.

What happened? Some of you may remember me saying that I never planned on being a Boy Scout; honestly, I used to think that was the case, but, I had a bit of doubt about that fact, and another memory from that time told me exactly what happened: I got discouraged.  No, it wasn't a product of bullying or anything; in fact, the thought of it still breaks my heart to this day.  I remember it like it was yesterday: My brother-in-law--a Scout leader--and I were just starting to head home, and I was in a very happy and chatty mood; I was talking about a fake cassette-playing jukebox that my fourth grade teacher had, when he delivered some news that shocked me to the core.  Long story short, there were two fellow Scouts who were younger than I was, but were moving up to Boy Scouting despite not being old enough...yet, I was old enough to transition, but I was nonetheless going to spend the next year being the only middle schooler in the country still in Cub Scouting.  This news was very disheartening to me; in fact, when I got home and told my mom, I cried, and was still lamenting it well after that.  I had fought against not being in the right group in Scouting for my age, but, the powers that be wouldn't do anything about it.  It became ten times as disheartening when I discovered that becoming a Boy Scout at a later age than normal gave me a year and a half less to earn Eagle, and right around the time I found out I had Asperger Syndrome, whereas those other two guys--who were good Scouts; otherwise, they wouldn't have transitioned early--didn't even need any extra time...but still got it.  Another disheartening detail was that my brother-in-law wanted to buy some knives for those new Boy Scouts, but, when my sister found out about it, she didn't feel it was appropriate for them due to their age, which led to my sister and brother-in-law getting in a huge fight the whole way to church one Wednesday night.  Looking back, I can kind of see both sides: Part of Boy Scouting is learning wilderness survival, which means learning how to use a knife as a tool, and I'm pretty sure that my brother-in-law wouldn't have bought something like that for those guys if they didn't need it...but that's still a bit much for kids who are young enough to be Cub Scouts.

That entire situation just really discouraged me, which is why, even during the thirteen months I was in Boy Scouting, I rarely participated, much to my sister and brother-in-law's chagrin.  I went on a total of two camping trips--well, three if you count the one that was in a heated/air conditioned gym; I wouldn't--and used to hide in the bathroom and elsewhere during parts of the weekly meetings.  After just over a year, my mom finally pulled the plug, which was only because I kept going back and forth about attending the monthly trips...because I didn't want to go in the first place.  My brother-in-law said of two different leaders, "He does not want to give up on you!"; me jumping ship probably broke their hearts, and others' as well.

By now, you're probably wondering what the point of that story was...and I do have one: I let the circumstances discourage me...but I shouldn't have.  Even if I got the short end of the stick from the Scout leaders, I could have used that as an opportunity to triumph despite my circumstances...but, instead, I wussed out and left Scouting first chance I got.  True, the hand they dealt me wasn't exactly fair, but, they would have been remarking about what I'd done if I'd just stuck to it instead of letting the circumstances bring me down...which is why I'm starting to regret giving up as early as I did.

It applies to more than just Scouting, though.  You probably know the familiar story of Sparky, the family dog whom I despised from day one, even though he was intended to be not only my pet, but my friend as well.  Before we got him, my mom had talked about getting another canine companion...but I argued against it the entire way.  The example I always used was something that happened with the dog we had before Sparky: One Sunday, I was very tired because I had just gotten back from a youth retreat to Raleigh, NC, but my mom asked me to feed the dog anyway.  I went and did it, but, I was so tired that even just walking to the backyard hurt...yet, as soon as I set foot in the house again, my mom immediately asked me, "Jerry, why didn't you run with him?" I couldn't believe she had the audacity to ask me that; did she not realize how tired I was? After that dog died later that year, I never wanted one again, because I was afraid of a repeat of that same incident; when my mom adopted Sparky, I was positively livid.  Looking back, my mom probably wasn't thinking; she had just started working nights, so, she was probably tired.  Regardless of why my mom did it, it wasn't the dog's fault, and Sparky didn't deserve to pay for it on his first night at our house.  While that circumstance was discouraging, it was my fault for letting it bring me down that badly.

It's the same story with other things as well.  I spent years refusing to drive was because of some people's remarks which I saw as discouraging, which I actually later realized were misinterpreted.  Sure, they said it would be difficult, but they didn't say it wouldn't happen! It's also the same with theme parks; after years of not being able to go to them with anyone outside the family, I started to lose interest, even though my mom's rule about them was not only for the sake of my friends and their parents, but also eventually rescinded.  In every case, I let circumstances keep me from things that I really could have enjoyed if only I'd given them the chance.

The only exception to that rule is entertainment.  Since I've always worn my favorite shows and such on my sleeve, I ended up enduring a lot of criticism...and not just from kids.  Many adults--including my mom--got tired of hearing or reading about the same topics again and again, and sometimes reacted in ways they normally wouldn't have because of it.  Despite that, though, I kept watching my favorite shows until I either decided that it was time to move on or couldn't do so anymore.  It seems that I was just determined to consume that audiovisual entertainment, no matter what anyone else thought...but that determination didn't seem to apply to anything else.

People often knew me for being unwilling to do quite a few things; in fact, that led to some serious arguments.  One of my teachers in high school thought it was unthinkable that I refused to go to Busch Gardens; she insisted that I'd have fun if I went, but I staunchly denied it...though without a legitimate reason.  Other people had the same issue; my sister even once told me, "You need to do things that do not involve your computer or CD player!" I think the message was clear: While consuming and researching audiovisual entertainment is fun, it's a problem when I don't want to do anything else.  Such people wanted me to get up and get out, not waste away doing the same things again and again.  Though I do attend social events at my church and elsewhere, entertainment has long taken precedence; a former friend mistakenly thought that I spent all my time reading books and watching TV shows because I never seemed to post about anything but those topics.  Even before that, my mom used to say that people probably thought I did nothing but sit around and watch TV because of the way I bandied about the names of my favorite shows and TV characters.

I've always said that I post about entertainment because it makes me happy...but does it really? It's largely a solitary pursuit; I rarely have someone watch my shows with me.  Even when I try to discuss movies I've recently watched, most of my friends have never seen them, even if they got a major theatrical release.  Plus, sitting around reading books isn't likely to get me a girlfriend; you have to be out meeting people to find the right match, not plopped down in your living room with your face glued to your iPad.  I think my entertainment addiction has really led to frustration.

So, what's to be done? First off: I think I need to abandon these rules about what I don't do.  If I want to have friends, I need to be willing to do things with them that they enjoy, which would include trips to Busch and similar places.  Past circumstances only have a hold on me when I let them.  Second off: When the seemingly unthinkable happens--and it tends to--I need to keep James 1:2-3 in mind: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (NIV) I had something terrible happen to me before I was even two years old: my biological father walked out on me and my family for another woman.  Though I've been emotionally hurt by others, nothing anyone has ever done since has been more terrible than that...but, I know some of you have been through much worse.  You've been in abusive relationships; you've faced divorce or other romantic heartbreak; you've lost loved ones at the hands of someone else.  I may think what happened in Scouting was bad, but, I'll likely end up facing much worse; in fact, I kind of already have.  Such circumstances are tests to see how I'll react; if I keep my cool and don't lash out, I pass...but, if I lose my temper, I fail, and I've done just that too many times in the past, so, it's time to stop.

In conclusion, I'll say this: You probably know that I've discussed my hesitancy to get in a relationship because of all the married couples I've known who have eventually divorced.  I don't need to tell the stories again; in fact, if you have ever gone to school or church with me, you probably already know the people whose failed marriages I've referenced.  It's tragic what happened to them, and statistics show the the divorce rate is at an all-time high...but, that doesn't necessarily spell doom for a potential relationship in the future.  When I was contemplating leaving Boy Scouting, I was telling my mom of all the boys who had left my troop...but she told me that the only thing that mattered was what I wanted to do.  Many Scouts do end up chickening out; out of over 83.4 million boys who have been part of the program, only about two percent end up earning Eagle...but, their decisions don't affect mine.  It's the same with marriages: We all know someone who has been through some sort of romantic tragedy...but, that's no reason to give up on it completely.  Even if you are the recipient of the romantic raw deal, you just have to move on; like the old song says: "I get knocked down...but I get up again! You're never gonna keep me down!"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Give It a Go...Or Throw in the Towel?

Lately, among my friends and other people I know, it seems that love is in the air.  Relationships have started; people have gotten engaged and/or married; even friends who have been married for quite a while have had serious landmark moments, such as their first kid or a big anniversary.  All the while, I'm sitting here with no ring on my finger and no one to call my sweetheart.

At this point in my life--remember, I'm twenty-seven years old, and have never even been on a date--I'm wondering if a relationship will ever be in my future; part of me hopes for it, but another part of me seriously doubts it.  It's one thing when some teenager laments that she is doomed to remain single, even though she isn't even old enough to get married, but, in my case, I think I have a valid point.  Since I graduated from high school, I have been bombarded with news of engagements and weddings from not only longtime friends, but also friends of friends and former friends.  It's true that I do know some single adults, but, the number is lessening all the time.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Just like pretty much anything, marriage isn't for everyone.  Some people go into a relationship, only to end up regretting it and/or paying for it the rest of their lives.  You've heard the stories of the various married couples I've known who have ended up divorcing, including some within my church.  Though we can't be sure exactly what happened, I wonder if, in some cases, said people were just incompatible; not with each other, but with marriage in general.  Despite what the media would have you believe, marriage isn't some fairy tale; it takes serious work, and some people just aren't up to it...but they don't know it until it's too late.

You've probably heard or seen me talk about the relationship issue; most of my recent posts on the topic have been saying why I'm not really interested in being in one.  I have to admit that it's not really that I have no desire to get married; it's that I've just accepted that it most likely isn't in my future.  Sure, well-meaning people have told me that I will find a wife one day, and, while I don't doubt their intentions, sometimes I wonder if they just don't want to see me go through life without a mate.  It's sort of like the driving issue: Yes, it's tough not having your own transportation, especially around here...but, that doesn't change the fact that some people just weren't meant to be drivers.  With my current relationship status, I kind of feel like the only kid in the class who isn't allowed to watch the new, popular TV show that all his classmates are raving about.  It seems like nothing I do will bring about a relationship; then again, it's been ages since I last asked a girl out.  My lack of a significant other often makes it hard to hang around my coeval fellow church members, as pretty much all of them are in committed relationships; they're either already married, or will be soon.  That's why I tend to gravitate towards the folks that are at least old enough to be my parents; even if they're married, they tend to see me as one of their kids, not a third wheel.

Still another part of me, however, believes that I really do need to get married.  I mean that in the most literal sense; sometimes it feels like I just won't make it on my own.  That may sound like a cry of desperation, but, think about it: If you're married--and most of you reading this are--would you be where you are today if you'd never said, "I do"? However, that part of me is warring against the other part that is shouting, "Absolutely not!" It's an internal conflict that I can't, maybe you can for me.

Why do I feel I need to get married? Here's one reason: The thought of being alone scares me.  I'm not talking about being left alone for a few hours; even at work, though there are other people around, I spend much of my time doing my job solo.  It's actually nice to have some time alone; I think you'd agree with me on that.  My fear is of being completely alone: no friends and no family; at least, none that care about me.  Right now, I've got parents and other family members, as well as many friends, who have gone above the call of duty to help me out...but, some friends who have done just that are gone from my life, probably for good, because I didn't treat them like I should have.  It's probably partly a product of my biological father walking out on me at a young age; still, I know my true family--which isn't entirely biological--and real friends would never do that.  It's also partly because of the issue of me talking out loud to myself, which has always existed, but was made worse by being left alone or essentially alone constantly during my preteen and teenage years.  Still, I take every unfriending on Facebook seriously for that and other reasons; every friend I lose is one step closer to being alone.

Here's another reason: I'm pretty sure I'll need someone to look after me.  Before you get all up in arms, I'm not looking for a babysitter or a nanny or even another mother; in a way, I kind of already have more than one mom.  Still, God said after creating Adam, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him," and proceeded to make Eve.  I have known some single guys, but, I honestly wonder how they do it, even without kids.  If it weren't for the women in my life--my mom, my sister, my late grandmother, and my numerous female friends--I don't know what I'd do.  Sure, I do what I can, but nobody can do it all, as much as they try to.  I hate it when people think they can do everything by themselves, and refuse to let anyone help them; seriously, if you need the assistance, why not take it?

When this issue comes up, I'm reminded of the scene in Aladdin where the Sultan tells his daughter, Princess Jasmine, "I'm not going to be around forever, and I just want to make sure you're taken care of; provided for." I think my parents feel the same way; they're not getting any younger, and I think they want to make sure I'm good to go after they leave this earth for good.  Both of my siblings are already secured; one is already in heaven, and the other has been married for nearly two decades.  I'm the only one left for them to worry about...but I don't want them to worry about me.  Though I know I can handle some things alone--I kind of already have--without a mate, being on my own could be a difficult road to travel.  Still, the pickings are slim, as many of my female friends that I'd considered asking out either despise me or are already spoken for, if not both.  It may sound like desperation, but, seriously: Who wants to face life alone?

However, the counterpoint is just as convincing.  You probably already know about issues such as demanding respect yet not showing it, being stuck in the fifth grade mentally, and others that I've talked about at length fairly recently.  Here's a point you probably don't know: I have a tendency to drive people crazy.  I've always had friends, but, there's always been someone--maybe more than one person--who complained about me being annoying.  You may think such a person is just being a jerk, but, honestly, Facebook would prove them right.  I've been a fan of comic strips for quite a while, and they still continue to be popular, they also have gotten a drubbing from various critics, especially when it comes to the longtime mainstays.  A random online commentator derided Garfield by saying, "How many jokes about lasagna can you make?" A Daily Press reader also dissed The Family Circus in a comics survey, saying, "How many times do we have to see Billy walking home from school in circuitous fashion?" Much like sitcoms, comic strips tend to be repetitive...yet they also tend to go on for decades.  I tend to be repetitive as well, and that's the thing that has most likely led to all my unfriendings that were for unspecified reasons.  People just got tired of hearing about the Disney Channel, celebrity crushes, bargain hunting, my entertainment history, Apple technology, my lack of a relationship, etc., day in and day, they decided to jump ship completely, probably because they felt they had no choice.

What does that have to do with relationships? Easy: If you think being my Facebook friend is hard...try living with me! I'm reminded of the scene in an episode of Monk where police chief Stottlemeyer ends up staying with the defective detective after getting into a marital spat...but Monk's OCD habits drive him so crazy, he ends up saying, "First thing tomorrow, I am calling the Vatican, and I am nominating your late wife, Trudy, for sainthood, because you are impossible! [...] You know what you are? Do you know what you are? You're the world's best marriage counselor! You could save every marriage in California! All people would have to do is live with you for two days--two days!--and they'd never complain about their spouse again!" I've always identified with the character of Monk, because he and I have similar habits...which could drive anyone bonkers.

As a Christian, I don't believe in engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage, which also means I would never "shack up" with someone.  However, I've heard advocates of such a practice defend it by saying that you can't know what it's like to live under the same roof with someone unless you actually do it.  I once saw an e-mail from Focus on the Family that talked about one of the hard truths of marriage: once the honeymoon is over, reality sets in.  I know many of you reading this think I'm great, and you love talking to me at church or wherever else...but have you actually tried living with me? If you did, you'd probably change your tune; my habits have driven my entire immediate family, including even our pets, crazy, and it did the same to others as well.  If my habits drove my wife crazy, she could walk out on me and never come back.  I know some of you would say that a Christian woman would never do that, but, Christians do the wrong thing all the time and think nothing of it.

Here's another similar issue: I have a tendency to get historical.  If you go to my church, you probably know this joke, but, I'll post it for those who don't:
Two guys at a convention with their wives. They were long lost friends. They sat in the lobby all night talking. They knew they would be in trouble with their wives. They went back to their rooms. The next day they happened to see each other.
"What did your wife think?"
"I walked in the door and my wife got historical."
"Don’t you mean hysterical?"
"No, historical. She told me everything I ever did wrong."
Some years ago, my mom heard of a mother who had just lost a child; my mother had suffered the same loss already, so, she told a brother of the deceased, "That pain never goes away."  I've never lost a child, but I have suffered loss...but, with any bad memory, the pain never goes away.  Incidents involving people I haven't seen or places I haven't set foot into in years still plague me left and right, especially when I'm trying to sleep.  It also makes me start to feel disdain for the people responsible, some of whom are still my friends and would be rather offended if I lobbied such accusations at them.  Not only that, but, some of the people who did me wrong also did me right, but, my mind focuses on what they did wrong.  For some reason, I find it easy to be a jerk; you all already know the story of how I treated my dog like dirt for the entire four years we had him, and was overjoyed when my mistreatment of him led to him being taken back to the SPCA.  People criticized me for doing that, saying, "That dog never did anything to you!" I knew that...but I didn't care; I simply didn't want a canine companion, only because I didn't want the responsibility of looking after one.  It's also shocking how quickly I went from singing the praises of my friends to dissing them; one supposed misstep, and I used them as target practice for my angry words.  In those and other cases, it just came naturally; still, Jesus commands us to go beyond human nature.  I now realize my mistake on that front...but that realization came much too late.

If you're married, your spouse has probably done you wrong at some point; when you're dealing with family, you get to see them both at their best and at their worst.  There's been times when my mom was very proud of me...and there were also times when she was rather upset with me.  You would probably never use a family member's past mistakes against him/her unless you were really upset with him/her...but, I tend to do it all the time, without even realizing it.  I know I shouldn't keep a record of wrongs, but, that's just the way my mind has always worked.  Rarely a day goes by when I don't bring up a past incident of some sort.

It goes beyond just that, though.  Some of you reading this may have gone through emotional heartbreak when it comes to romance.  Maybe your first spouse died; maybe you went through a terrible divorce; maybe you were engaged and hoped to be married, only for the wedding to be called off.  If that was a long time ago, you've probably moved on with your life and have found a new mate.  That's great for you...but that would never happen to me.  In the classic Dickens novel Great Expectations, there's a character named Miss Havisham, who, as SparkNotes puts it, "She is manic and often seems insane, flitting around her house in a faded wedding dress, keeping a decaying feast on her table, and surrounding herself with clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine. As a young woman, Miss Havisham was jilted by her fiancé minutes before her wedding, and now she has a vendetta against all men." If I went through a bad romance, then, that would be me.

You have no idea how bad experiences have made me hesitant to do certain things.  When I was in Cub Scouting, we visited a Boy Scout meeting, and they played a game that I decided to join...only for things to get so rough that I ended up getting physically hurt.  The injury wasn't that bad--all I did was skin my elbows--but, it made me never want to join in on the games again, even after joining that troop.  A Scout leader was very upset with me for refusing to participate, and told me I had to do the after-meeting cleanup even though my patrol wasn't assigned to do it...and I would have taken the punishment if he hadn't later come up to me and said, "I was wrong." To some, that would sound ridiculous; why would I want to clean up? Just play the game! Still, I just wanted to avoid it after that traumatic experience.  So, if I went through a similar time with romance...I would never recover.

I recently watched the last of two seasons of Sonny With a Chance, a Disney Channel sitcom starring Demi Lovato.  Though it's usual happy, cutesy Mouse network fare, it actually ends on a depressing note.  In the penultimate episode, Sonny (Lovato) has broken up with her actor boyfriend Chad after an awards show fiasco; when her show beats his at the Tween Choice Awards, he just can't handle, he asks for a recount, which shows that his show won after all.  Sonny hands him the award, but is heartbroken by his actions; she tells him, "I can't be in a relationship with someone who always puts himself first. [...] The only us there is now is between you and this award. I hope you two will be very happy together." In the show's final episode, they still don't get back together, which makes it all the more depressing.  It actually wasn't supposed to end that way--it got canceled prematurely because of Demi Lovato's health issues--but it still makes a good point, especially for my situation.  Part of why certain former friends have left me is because I didn't respect them; I held my favorite celebrities--people I'll probably never meet--in much higher regard than those who actually cared about me.  One actually said, "That's just great! Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real life friend! Yes, I'm being sarcastic!" I'd much rather have the friendship than the celebrity crushes, but I ignored an age-old truth: In order to have a friend, you must be a friend.

Here's my conclusion: Can you see why I can't decide whether or not a relationship is for me? It seems that, either way, I'm doomed; I either suffer due to being alone, or end up breaking someone's heart inadvertently.  That just leaves me not knowing what to do...which drives me crazy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

There's No Time For (Puppy) Love

When I was in fifth grade, a classmate ended up mortified when the teacher read a note the kid had written about his secret admiration for two female classmates; it reportedly ended with, "Oh, how I love _______ and ________!" He actually got off easy; word around the school was that, a previous year, another fifth grade teacher had read a similar note over the intercom, presumably to the entire student body.  After my teacher finished reading my classmate's note, he said, "The reason I do this is: This is fifth grade.  We don't have time for this..."--and then he "thumped" his chest three times--"...puppy love."

Despite the fact that it occurred over 1.5 decades ago, that incident has been bouncing around in my head over the past few days.  Why? Only because I seemingly still engage in puppy love, despite being twenty-seven years old.  This was actually a point I was going to make in the previous post, but forgot to; however, it's complex enough that it deserves its own post.  I may have talked about this a while ago, but, I've had some new insights that give me a better view of the issue.

First question is: What exactly is puppy love?  Webster defines it as "transitory love or affection felt by a child or adolescent"; when I asked my friends, they had these responses:
  • "In my opinion, it is that love of innocence when there is no real depth to the emotion."
  • "You love something unconditionally."
  • "I feel like puppy love is mostly when younger children are 'dating'. There aren't thoughts of marriage; it's more like they are best friends and just happen to be male and female."
  • "When young kids have their first boyfriend or girlfriend, and there is only a crush, not real, deep feelings."
  • "When you think you love someone, but are actually too young and/or immature to know what 'real' love is." 
I'd say all of those definitions are correct...because that describes the "romantic" feelings I've had over the years, with celebrities or anyone else.

How exactly? First off: My crushes tended to be innocent.  You've probably known an elementary school kid who had a crush on someone older; maybe a high schooler, a teacher, or even a celebrity who was old enough to be his/her parent.  In most cases, such admirations are innocent; it isn't like with the typical teenage boy, who wants nothing more than to undress any attractive female he sees.  Well, all of my crushes were like that of a third grader; maybe I dreamed of marriage--in fact, I used to tell people I was going to marry Hilary Duff one day--but I would never have looked at a woman I admired as a sex object, regardless of celebrity status or lack thereof.  As someone who was raised by women, I know how much the opposite sex hates being objectified.  It's one thing to tell a lady she is pretty--I do that to my female friends all the time--but, lascivious comments, especially to a moral woman--i.e., a Christian--could get you in serious trouble.  Even though plenty of people may be making inappropriate comments about the ladies in the entertainment world--even on the Disney Channel--I wouldn't stoop to those levels.  (If you're thinking of a certain incident, as I've said before, that comment was meant as a complete joke; I never actually wanted her to do what I said, though she seemed to think otherwise.)  I've pretty much always known that women are divinely created individuals, and deserve to be treated as such, even if the world seems to think otherwise.

Second off: I didn't always expect it to lead to marriage.  You may remember when I talked about
"Mrs. Russo," a teacher I had in high school who many male students--including me--found rather attractive.  For a while, I couldn't stop talking about her; my classmates and even people outside my school got tired of hearing about her.  One guy at my lunch table even said, "What is it with you and Ms. Russo?" However, I knew full well that Mrs. Russo was just that; a Mrs., aka a married woman (at the time, anyway).  I had no intention of stealing her from her husband; I knew such a thing was immoral.  When I heard about the "Russos" divorcing within less than two years after I graduated from high school--and less than four years since they said, "I do"--I was a bit shocked; a Facebook friend tried to tell me, "She's all yours!", but I didn't necessarily think that.  Though I did find the former Mrs. Russo on Facebook and add her as a friend--only to be rather dismayed when she denied my request--I wasn't even thinking about asking her out.  Though I admired her, I didn't want to marry or even date her...and that goes for many of my crushes, and not just real-life female friends who were married or otherwise taken.  When Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice was my number one favorite celebrity, I used to say that I hoped she never proposed marriage to me.  Yes, you read that right; I wanted no part of that.  Why? Simply this: Victoria may have been a wonderful actress, a talented singer, a great dancer, and a beautiful young lady...but, as her later career proved, our religious beliefs are incompatible.  Not only that, do we know if we have anything in common? Does she listen to music from the Disney Channel? Is she an avid bargain hunter? (Given her Hollywood elite status, probably not.) That's why I didn't want her to ask me to marry her; if she did, I'd have to turn her down, and then would likely end up publicly shamed.  It was the same with Demi Lovato, Olivia Holt, or pretty much any of the rest of them; in fact, I stopped telling people that I was going to marry Hilary Duff well before I switched to Anne Hathaway.

Third off: I tended to love things unconditionally.  No, I'm not talking about any people; didn't I just discuss about how women were not to be objectified? Instead, what I mean is this: I've always had a tendency to fixate on certain things: maybe a word, maybe a place, maybe a device, or maybe something else entirely.  Back in the late '90's, one of my friends who was going to be moving away very soon was worried because of my addiction to his Nintendo 64; he went as far as saying, "We wish we never got it, because people who don't have it would end up addicted to it!" He could only have been talking about me; the other kids in the neighborhood either had their own or rarely played his.  He didn't know about my tendency to fixate, and neither did I; in fact, I probably denied such an addiction, as I usually did back then, because I knew such a thing was not good.  I never got to play their console again, but I still remembered it and talked about it for years to come.  Such fondness smacks of infatuation, aka a crush.

It doesn't even have to be a certain physical object.  Most of you know that my hobbies are bargain hunting, technology, and, of course, entertainment; what some of you may not know is that I take them beyond hobby status, to where they're pretty much a lifestyle.  It's easy to do when you don't have children, relationships, classes, or other time-consuming things that many people my age have; though I do have a job, I only work nineteen hours a week...which gives me even more time to feed my passions.  It's not like I do nothing but shop, go online, and watch movies and TV shows.   I go to church; I work; I talk with friends, and go places with them sometimes; I study the Bible every day; and, I've even been taking a Spanish class via iTunes U.  Still, though many people enjoy the same things I do, they usually don't take it to the levels that I do.

That kind of "love" is problematic for two reasons, though: First off, that can be idolatry.  An idol doesn't have to be a celebrity or even a person of any sort; it could even be an abstract entity...such as entertainment.  Second off, and much more importantly, such "love" could seriously turn off a significant other, or even a potential one.  Many of you who are reading this are married or otherwise taken, and I'm sure you love the person you're with, and he/she loves you back...but, is he/she obsessed with you, or vice versa? Are you all he/she talks about? Is he/she all you talk about? It may seem less problematic when another person isn't involved--after all, around Y2K, Nintendo made billions from kids' obsessions with Pokémon--but, if you're obsessed with someone else, the object of your affection will likely exit stage left.  Even in the case of an elementary schooler admiring someone older, it could start off cute and funny, but, after a while, it'll likely get annoying; I know from experience.

Fourth off: It wasn't really love because it ended too quickly.  If you're married, and your spouse starts to show signs of age, you're not going to divorce him/her for some fresh-faced college kid, are you? Of course not; you're in it until the end! I once saw an episode of TalkBack Live on CNN where they asked the on-set audience about whether newspapers should allow people to submit obituaries for pets, and the answer was largely a resounding no.  One guy commented that, if you lose a pet, you'd just go out and get another one the next day...but, you wouldn't do that with a spouse or a child or a parent.  In our family, we didn't even do that with pets; when we tragically lost a dog to a car accident in September 1997, it wasn't until the end of the school year that we ended up getting another one.  When we lost that one in December 2001, a friend gave us hers soon after...but my mom couldn't take it; getting another dog that soon was just way too sad for her, so, she ended up giving it back.  As you can tell, she has always loved her pets.

However, when it comes to my supposed "crushes," I sometimes have been too quick to turn on them.  I used to brag about how my thing for Hilary Duff lasted 2.5 years, which was an eternity compared to most high school relationships...but, some people told me that if my heart was really in it, I wouldn't have ditched her for Anne Hathaway or anyone else.  Even with real life crushes, I've sometimes gone from singing their praises to seemingly despising them, sometimes over absolutely nothing! So what if one of my female friends gets engaged or happens to one-up me? If I truly care about them...that shouldn't matter!  In an actual relationship, such behavior could lead to heartbreak; seriously, how sad would you all be if your spouse or significant other walked out on you over something completely paltry? It's time to put such behaviors behind me.

Okay, now for my conclusion: Though I know my readers vary in age, I'm pretty sure that most of you are well past elementary school.  So, let me ask you this: If you were the same age you are now, but were single--if you aren't already--would you want to date a fifth grader? Of course not; that probably sounds as appealing as a Barney and Friends marathon.  However, that right there is the most likely reason why I can't get a date; I may be twenty-seven years old, but, in right many ways, I'm still in elementary school.  If a single person was looking to adopt a kid, he or she would contact an adoption agency, not go out on a date.  One thing I've learned about my condition is that, though my psychological changed are delayed, they're just like others' in that they happen on their own.  At some point, I may be an adult socially...but, since I'm nearly thirty and am only about a third of that socially, it could be a long time before that ever happens.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Did I Ever Truly Grow Up?

Around the year 2000, the world started to seem like a very dark place, for more than one reason.  After starting middle school, I had to deal with kids who were much worse than anything I ever faced previously, and the teachers and other authority figures refused to do anything, even though their actions were flagrantly defiant of school rules; my mom started a daycare in her own house, and I was shocked to see little kids uttering unfit-for-TV profanities, not to mention the serious immaturity of some of the parents; family problems became much worse, in more than one way; and, all in all, I was much less happy both during and after that time, because I just didn't care for what the world had to offer.  It wasn't that elementary school was perfect--it wasn't--but, the problems I faced back then were generally rectified in a much easier way.

In the years since Y2K, while others around me seem to have grown up, I'm twenty-seven years old...but I still feel like a kid.  It's more than just my entertainment diet, though that does consist of many kid shows, and not just ones from the Disney Channel.  Rather, I simply don't feel like a young adult; though I graduated from high school nearly a decade ago, I feel like I should still be in school.  In fact, you've probably seen or heard me talk about incidents from ages ago in such detail, it sounds as if they happened last week.

My condition falls into the category of "developmental delays"; for those who don't know, that pretty much means that you're behind in some way--in my case, socially--for your age.  Just like with everyone else, development--of any kind--happens in its own time, but, in my situation, the literature says "late could be by several decades." When I was nineteen, my mom told me I acted like I was nine; in the eight years since, I don't seem to have progressed all that much.  Sure, I've become much more introspective, and I've done great things like doing away with the celebrity crushes...but, I'm still very much a kid at heart.

Sometimes, I feel like being an adult is overrated.  When most people think of maturity, they think of adults, but, in this day and age, "grown-ups" can be anything but mature.  I've known too many grown men and women who acted like they were in middle school.  In fact, I sometimes think that elementary schoolers are actually more mature than older kids; when I was in sixth grade, I was good friends with two brothers--one in fourth grade, the other in third--who were not only smart kids, but much more mature than my middle school classmates.

More to the point: You probably know someone who is commonly thought to be older or younger than he/she truly is.  Some of that is because of physical appearance, but it's also due to how one comports himself/herself.  I sometimes wonder if people think I'm younger than I truly am because of my love for kid-friendly media, such as superhero cartoons and "tween" sitcoms.  That is what I like, but it's not exactly the most popular thing with my age group.

At a certain time in every kid's life--usually around the time they start middle school--they put supposedly "childish" things behind them and attempt to be adults, even though they're quite far from true adulthood.  That actually never happened with me, though; when I started sixth grade, I was a die-hard fan of Scooby-Doo and Pokémon, two franchises which were made with children in mind.  Though I did know some kids who liked one or both of those, most of my sixth grade classmates either despised "those meddling kids" and those pocket monsters from the start of the year, or liked one or both at the start of the year only to give it up well before summer break started.  My childish tastes continued in high school, when I was known as the Disney Channel guy, for good or for ill, by pretty much anyone who knew me.  It's still the case, and not just with the Mouse network; I still enjoy many of the things I did when I was in elementary school, including not only Scooby-Doo, but Power Rangers as well.  I find that I can't deal with most secular non-kiddie entertainment; it either upsets me or bores me.  The only exception is old-school sitcoms, and even many of the ones I like or have liked had episodes I didn't care for due to their subject matter.

One of the reasons elementary school seems as idyllic as it does is because, back then, people were expected to own up for their mistakes.  Back then, if any kids said or did the wrong thing, there usually were consequences of some sort...but, from middle school onward, when my feelings were hurt by others, I was just expected to suck it up and move on...which is something I've never been comfortable with.  Seriously, no one deserves to be essentially bullied or harassed, but it's happened to me for ages, and no one seems to care; why can't someone take people to task for being jerks?

If you grew up in the '90's like I did--or even if you didn't--you probably have seen Casper, the big-screen remake of the old-school "friendly ghost" cartoon.  It's kind of a depressing movie to me now, because it's all about death, and, over the past decade or so, I've learned that such a thing is no joke.  Anyway, one scene I remember is when main villainess Carrigan Crittenden, who inadvertently caused her own demise and came back as a ghost, is vanquished by the film's heroes Kat and Casper through trickery.  When they tell her that the only reason she is a ghost is because she has "unfinished business," she denies it...and immediately begins to "cross over" into...well, what seems to be the afterlife.  That film has some serious spiritual issues, but, the reason I mention it is because I feel like part of why I still feel like a kid is because of my unfinished business.  In my younger years, I messed up a lot of things; I had potential to do much more than I actually did, especially in school.  I also missed out on quite a bit of good entertainment because of dumb rules I had about what I would and wouldn't watch, read, listen to, or play.  That's why I've spent much of the past few years playing catch-up; if it weren't for modern technology--season sets on DVD, the iTunes Store, our Verizon DVR, etc.--I'd still be missing out on such media.

Here is my concluding point: Jesus was known for caring for and praising children.  In Matthew 11:25, He said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." Most people would think that Biblical concepts are too difficult for kids to understand, but, when it comes to the really important ones, they could really comprehend them just fine.  What I wonder is: When the Bible talks praises that including adults who, for one reason or another, think like children? I've been praised for my knowledge of the Bible and my dedication to morality; maybe other people should try digging into the Word instead of trying to defend everything they do, because it's not really that hard to understand.