Thursday, January 12, 2017

...And You Are Not Me

All the way back in 2006, it was time for that rite of passage: my senior prom.  Just like every other year, people paid big bucks for suits, dresses, limos, and what-not, and probably every member of my graduating class was there...except for me.  In fact, I never went to any of my school dances, neither in middle school nor in high school.  My friends back then thought I was crazy for not going to my prom--they told me I'd regret it one day, and that such an occasion would never come around again--but, over a decade later, I still don't; in fact, I'm all the more proud of the fact that I didn't go.  Why? Simply because I am now 100% sure of something I kind of knew all along, even before my senior year: Such a thing was/is not appropriate for me.

You may think, "But...everyone goes to their prom!" Many of you probably have fond memories of yours; you may still look back at pictures of it from time to time and reminisce.  Maybe you even married the person you went to prom with.  If so, great; I'm happy for you...but, you have to remember something: I'm not you, and you're not me.  Just because you had a blast at yours doesn't mean I wouldn't have suffered at mine.  In the years since graduating, some people have even agreed with me that I wouldn't have enjoyed it.

You probably know that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been one of my heroes for a while.  So have others who dared to think different, such as Nintendo bigwig Shigeru Miyamoto, Christian singer Kevin Max, American Idol contestant Siobhan Magnus, and, more importantly than anyone else who ever lived, Jesus Christ.  Jobs himself once said, "Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world...are the ones who do." I don't know if I'm capable of changing the world, but, I have always been one to think differently about things.  So, when people are telling me that I just have to do whatever--i.e., go to my senior prom--I would ask, "Why? Is this really necessary?" In my case, it wasn't.

People want to look for a one-size-fits-all solution.  You've probably seen advertisements that say that everyone should see some movie, or that all young males should join Boy Scouting, or that all women should check out some news story.  The problem is: You can't make such a statement, because all people are different.  What if somebody hates cinema with a passion? What if your young son despises camping? What if your wife couldn't care less about the subject of the report? If you make a blanket statement such as, "Everyone should _______," you're no doubt going to find someone that it doesn't apply to...and I would be a likely candidate.  You may think your solution is for everyone, but it probably won't be for me.

In the past, I did many activities that were inappropriate for me: Scouting, AVID, Camp Idlewild, playing football in my friends' backyard, swimming lessons, roller skating lessons, watching Hollywood Squares and Diff'rent Strokes, attending an assessment at Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center (which is not quite what it sounds like,) etc.  Most of those went against my better judgment, but, I did them because I was forced to or to keep someone else happy.  The problem was: The people who told me or encouraged me to do whatever meant completely well; they thought that, because I was a regular guy, I'd like it...but, I'm not, so, I didn't.  Over time, I learned that myself and refused to engage in activities that I knew weren't good for me, such as anything to do with sports.  I faced serious criticism, but, I didn't care; I knew what was good for me and what wasn't, and it wasn't for my peers to make that determination.

When I was in high school, the church I attended at the time took two trips every summer: a week-long retreat at Harding University in Searcy, AR, and a mission trip to Mexico.  I was the only kid in the group who wasn't allowed to go; everyone else in the group went every year and seemed to have a blast...but, I knew nothing of it, because my mom didn't think it was a good idea.  Many people disagreed with my mother; individuals ranging from extended family members to even some of the youth sponsors didn't understand why she would make me miss out on such an opportunity, and I didn't either...but, now, I do.  In fact, I now think it was ridiculous for those people to question my mom's judgment; who would know what's best for me better than the one who gave birth to me and raised me? Part of my problem was because I didn't really know what the trips were all about; I just wanted to travel, and didn't want to be the odd one out.  When it came to the Searcy trip, my mom asked me, "What is it?," and I couldn't answer her simple question.  My sister tried to explain to me why the Mexico trip wasn't appropriate for me, and I bashed her for it, accusing her of "twisting around the truth"...which was another mistake.  Looking back, it makes me feel dumb to have been so insistent about doing something when I didn't even know what that something was; then again, maybe I wouldn't have felt that way if everyone and their mother hadn't been begging me to go.

So, what does all this mean right now? Simply this: Over the past few months, I have been bombarded with news that coeval friends of mine have children on the way.  While I don't want kids, and never really have, it makes me feel like I'm being left in the dust; their big news is that they're bringing new life into the world, and my big news is that I'm having a marathon of Disney media during the last week of 2016.  The more friends of mine who get married and/or have kids, the more I feel like the odd one out for being single...but, I shouldn't feel that way.  If I can be different by not going to my prom, or refusing to watch sports, why not also by lacking a significant other? Just like the other things I mentioned, dating and relationships may work well for you...but, I'm not you, and you're not me! You say, "Look at what a happy family we are!", while I say, "Look at all these things I can do because I don't have to worry about keeping a significant other happy or chasing a kid around the house!" Seriously, with a relationship and kids, the things I do just wouldn't be, I'm staying single; call me crazy if you want.

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