I use my cell phone almost all day. I am constantly reading, searching, texting, communicating, and playing with it. I try to dedicate at least an hour a day where I am not within five feet of it. And that is hard. I want to play music out of it or do something at all times. I find it to be the most important gadget I have ever owned. The only thing that I don’t do on it is write. I go to my desktop computer for that as I find the keyboard and the large monitor refreshing.
I wake up with the phone feet from my face. I shower, watch WGN Morning News, and jump into my car where it speaks to my phone through Bluetooth technology to let me listen to a podcast or Pandora. When I get to work, I may text on occasion, but my eyes are glued on my two screen setup, unless I have to write on paper or I’m in a meeting. I jump back into the car where it resumes playing whatever I was listening to 8 hours earlier. I get home and turn my desktop computer on or the television on and have my phone in my hands or within a few feet of my fingers. And when I go to bed, I set my sleep app to track my movements. It’s a totalitarian device – from cradle to grave. Yet five years ago, I did not even have a Smartphone. Today, it is the thing I grab if I have a minute of downtime.
Her plays on this phenomenon. Within a course of a generation, we went from dial-up connections and chat rooms to constant Wi-Fi and apps. Spike Jonze envisions a world where we have a “friend.” The extent of that friend seems to depend on the needs of the individual and the person sets the limits. But as you see people walk around, everyone is talking to themselves. There is not a group of people who travel together in the entire movie. There are couples but they seem strange in the world. They are almost unsettling.
I posit that that is the point of the movie. Personal relationships are unsettling and we fear that reality in an age where we don’t have to interact that way. We can telecommute to the office, ask Siri questions, be rejected by a potential suitor with a computer screen between you, and IM/text all night long. If we didn’t have physical needs, I wonder how many people would explore the world.
We have all had the experience where we are at a restaurant and we notice a child playing with a device and someone will comment on how bad it is for the child. We have all had the experience where a group of people will sit down and immediately start playing with their devices instead of interacting with each other. We have all seen two people walk by us in what seems like a pairing but they are talking to two separate individuals through their phones or listening to separate music. Her shows us why we are uncomfortable with all of this when we see it but we don’t notice it when we live it. It is an uncomfortable movie, but within minutes of it ending, I saw three people turn their phones on.
Joaquin Phoenix’s character longs for his soon-to-be ex-wife and the past they shared, but at the same time, he has changed his entire perspective on what he needs based on this devastating event. He writes letters for other people for a living because everyone has disconnected from their feelings. He dreams of his wife but stays in his home playing video games, talking to strangers through his computer, and eventually falling in love with his OS. No matter how much you may have liked Windows XP, I will assume you didn’t have sexual feelings about it.
When I began dating, I used online programs and the first thing I noticed was that the same people seemed to have joined all of them. They seemed to not even want to move past the stage of chatting in emails. They would flirt with me and put butterflies in my belly but then disappear. A few months later, they may return. In some instances, they remembered talking to you but I assume that was because they didn’t delete their chat history. They lived online and continually looked for something more because the Internet provides you with a cornucopia of options. In theory, there is no end to what you can get or expect to get. There is always something coming around the corner. And perfection exists – and we must find it.
There is a subculture of digital personalities so we create our own image of perfection. We craft a persona on Facebook, Twitter, dating sites, and other online arenas. Many of us like to put positive feelings out there about our lives, children, houses, and jobs. We express all of the best of our lives. Others love to dwell on the negatives and use Facebook and Twitter as a release. But we craft what we want to say very carefully. We respond to certain people but not others. I think we love having such control in the image we put forward. We love having a group of people to commiserate with and to join in our joys.
Her gives us our own individual promise of what we perceive Facebook to give us. Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) gave Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) someone he felt he could trust unconditionally though he had no reason to believe that. She was created based on his desires and conditions. She was created for him just like we create our online persona for ourselves. I believe that is why Amy (Amy Adams) has an OS who is a best friend for her and someone that she was left by her husband who left her for a simpler life.
I love the Internet. I love that I have a place to post what I write. I love that I can then post this to Facebook. I know I am walking into a trap though. I know what is new and exciting today will be useless tomorrow. One day, Facebook will be a deserted island with all of these pictures and posts looking like the remnants of the Minoan culture. And I will want to write and be apart of the next thing. I would buy an OS to be my friend. I just hope I don’t lose sight of my real friends. I just hope I don’t lose sight in the reality of life and not the perfection that we have come to expect from the Internet and our online personas. Because even what you think is perfect today may not be tomorrow. And shockingly, there is nothing wrong with that flux.
Horrible things happen to people and they can happen to them without 100 people seeing the melancholy and expecting cheering up. Great things will happen to you in your life where there will be no one to celebrate or “like” it. You will fall in love. You will lose love. You will regain love. But most of all you will grow. You will fail and you will be hurt by people.
But if you want to live in a world where no one is hurt, then online is perfect for you because you can choose to ignore the hurt and the loneliness. You can try to find a little perfect corner where you will succeed – but it isn’t real. It isn’t life and it will never be perfect. It will shift and it will change. And you will need to know how to honestly react to it. It won’t just be logging off.
I didn’t watch the Grammys last night but I was assuming that today I would have watched a tribute to one of the pioneers of modern Rock and Roll, Lou Reed. But as usual, the music industry let me down. I can’t be too upset by the whole thing, but it made me decide that I never wrote about how important his music was to me in many of the hardest times of my life.
I was not very adventurous with my musical tastes. Growing up, I listened to Oldies 104.3 because that was what my mom liked and my cassette tape of the Canadian cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which was the version with Donny Osmond. When I got to college, however, I had no radio. I couldn’t even get the college radio station in my dorm room, which shows the strength of the signal in Ripon, WI. Instead, I found Rhapsody, a streaming music site, which cost $10 per month. I had the whole world of music to listen to. All of the musicals I loved and a whole world of music I only knew some songs from.
My brother introduced me to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground when he found out I was listening to a lot of David Bowie. I was having a bit of a rough year as I knew most of my friends were graduating and I would be left in college on my own. The isolation that one feels when everyone else seems to have nothing but a social life is a strange phenomenon, but I seem to have it in spades. Dave gave me a copy of The Velvet Undergound and Nico. From the first chimes that ring when the CD starts, I was mesmerized. Every Sunday, I would listen to Sunday Morning when I awoke around 7am. I would start my day with Lou Reed and that haunting voice. The celesta awoke my spirit in a way that I needed at the start of each week after a solitary night when the rest of campus was entertaining each other. I would take my Discman and walk around campus when it was quiet. I knew when the disc would skip in the middle of I’m Waiting for My Man. And it would bring me calm.
Dave noticed that most of the songs I loved on the album were sung by Nico. I have never been a fan of abrasive music. I always fall for the softness. My favorite songs on London Calling are the Mick Jones songs. There is definitely a similarity to the pleasant sounds of Nico’s voice to the harmonies that The Clash reach in I’m Not Down. Don’t get me wrong. Heroin is one of my foundation songs, but we will get there in a bit.
I would listen to the album when I ran, just in my head. I memorized it to the point where I had a song for each occasion. When I needed a pick me up, I would go for a Run Run Run. When I wanted to mellow out, I would hum There She Goes Again. But Heroin was my race song. I needed to power up and power down in races. It relaxed me. For those of you who don’t know the song, here is a link to a YouTube video.
But it starts slow and ramps up for a few minutes and then slows back down, just like a Fartlek run. Lou Reed provided me with the perfect song to run my best. And I shared this with Dave. I knew he liked the song as well and when he was very nervous his junior year before Sectionals, I gave him the only advice I could give him (again, this story will follow a bit later). I told him to imagine Lou Reed singing Heroin. It would calm him down to settle into the right pace in the pack he was in and then when it began to ramp up in his head, it was time to leave that pack and bust it open to get to the next pack in time to settle down into that rhythm. For a seven minute song, it goes and goes and goes until it just goes off the rail. I’m assuming it is how heroin feels but since I have never done any sort of drug, running a cross country race was as close as I could get. He said it worked after he qualified for nationals. May be the best coaching advice I ever gave anyone.
Law school didn’t get off to a great start either but I would visit a Tower Records often. I know…at some point, no one will know what that means, but I loved walking in there to see the new CDs. Ironically, one day when I was at my worst, a re-release of Loaded had just come out. I was unfamiliar with the album, but I knew Lou Reed would not let me down. Within a few hours, it became the only CD I listened to. With the same Discman, I popped in Loaded and would jump on the Green Line to get to Kent.
Around this time, I was seeing a psychiatrist who liked to give me drugs. I didn’t do well with drugs. I became very depressed and lethargic. I hated how I felt on them and wanted to feel something. I am supposing that much of Lou Reed’s music had a similar sense as he was on lots of drugs through much of this time and I wonder if these songs were what woke him up and moved him through the day. That is what they did for me. I would dance down the street listening to Rock and Roll. These songs had a 1960s Rock sound in them. There was a Motown taste in Lou Reed’s mind. Songs like I Found A Reason just would make me smile in a time when nothing made me smile.
Eventually, my psychiatrist took me off the pills since they were making things worst. The week he did this was the week before Dave’s Sectionals race and I had to turn in a research project for my legal writing class. I was feeling very cold and very sick because I was no longer taking anti-depressants. I wore a sweatshirt and a wool hat to school and could barely talk. I was going through a withdrawal that I was not expecting. I had never been more scared in my life and did not know what was going to happen next. But I had to turn in the project: a binder full of all of my research. That afternoon, I got on the train to go home and had to call my parents to help me get off the train. I was scared to walk as I was losing my motor skills. I couldn’t hold anything and kept shaking. I went to the hospital that evening and they told me it was withdrawal and that I would be okay but that I needed to ween myself off of the pills. Thanks, Doc…
The next day, I got to Iowa and gave Dave the advice about Heroin. It scared him to hear the advice but he knew it was important because it was all I said in between shaking fits. I had listened to The Velvet Underground and Nico on the way to Iowa and the song was on my head. I knew I was going to be okay and I wanted to help my brother out.
When I got back to law school, I got my binder back. I didn’t do very well on the assignment as I didn’t remember some of the documents that were sitting on my desk. But I did remember one specific sheet of paper to put in the front cover of the binder. I had lots of song lyrics laying around my room. Somehow, after sitting in the back of the room with a sweatshirt and wool hat pull over my head, I included the lyrics to Heroin for the professor to see. Thanks, Lou Reed.
But I got through law school, got my degree, and continued to listen to The Velvet Underground. And over time, I moved into Lou Reed’s solo work. This past Christmas, Brian bought me Transformer. I put it in the record player often just to hear Hangin’ Around. There are so many perfect songs on the album and it always makes me happy to hear. All of his music was with me in a lot of troubling times and unlike some of the music, I don’t have bad memories of it. I can really never listen to After the Gold Rush again as it became my depression album, but I can still put in any of his records and just feel free.
I’m a pretty straight laced kid. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. Never was very risky at all. But I love so many of these Lou Reed anthems that probably have a risky story tied to them. He spoke to me in a way that very few musicians ever have. I will always have his music to listen to and I feel blessed because of that. Thanks, Lou.
I always get nervous about the Jeopardy quiz. For the past four years, I have taken the Jeopardy online test to qualify for a possible random selection for an interview and a practice game to possibly appear on my favorite game show. I take it because I love games and want to test my knowledge on so many fields. I have a few wholes in my knowledge – geography, liquor, and classical music. Last year, I read Othello and part of Wuthering Heights to prepare for Jeopardy. No questions on either of those this Jeopardy quiz. There was one on King Lear. I think I got it right. But I would love to appear on the show. I think it would be amazing to meet other people who love trivia and have little nerdy qualities. I would love to compete against them in fun categories about minerals and TV theme songs. Not just look at the JBoard.tv website after the Jeopardy Quiz and make small talk with a few other contestant hopefuls.
I used to show up late for cross country practice to see Final Jeopardy. I have taped it every day since law school started. I watched every episode of Ken Jennings‘ long run on the show. I had a Jeopardy! handheld game. I had the computer game. I had the Super Nintendo game. I just love trivia. I love the game and I feel lucky to just take the Jeopardy quiz each year.
Of course, I would love to appear on the show one day or at least meet Alex Trebek and tell him how much I enjoy the show. But if that never happens, I’ll survive. Most people don’t get to appear on the show. And the quiz really makes me realize where I am in my knowledge and what I’m missing. I know my television and musicals. But hard knowledge – not so strong. I generally guess my way through with basic knowledge. But I always forget about Mt. Etna and have no idea where any desert besides the Sahara is. I think I got 33/50. I probably should have paid more attention to The Hunger Games…
Here is a YouTube video of the Jeopardy quiz for an idea of what you missed out on:
I remember in high school that I was once on a run with some teammates and they were talking about marijuana. Because they knew I liked politics, they asked me if I was for legalization. I was never a popular kid and I did want people to like me. I honestly had no thoughts on the matter because I didn’t even really know what it was besides what I learned from after school specials. I had never encountered it. I had never encountered any drug outside of the time this girl would hide her cigarettes in my locker in middle school because she knew that no one would search my locker. I went through all of high school without seeing anyone with a red Solo cup or tasting a beer. I definitely never saw pot.
So, I said, yes. I did support legalization. I believed them when they told me it was no worse than alcohol. I believed them that it was a way to relax. And if nothing else, I didn’t need to seem even more square than I already was. It didn’t mean I was going to try it. But I wanted to show that my liberal credentials were solid.
Unfortunately, I still feel I need to do that on this topic.
After Colorado and Washington legalized small amounts of pot, it has become a hot topic. And strangely enough, the only real connection to marijuana use happened in 2013. A few days ago, I wrote to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish the whole story.
I don’t know if it is worse than alcohol. And as someone who doesn’t drink, I have no frame of reference. I have never been drunk. I have never wanted to be drunk. I had only one drug in my past – antidepressants. And I never want to have that loss of control feeling again. I hated it because I lost myself. And as hard as I am on myself, I like myself. Maybe I am not supposed to be relaxed. I might be tense and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may not be very social and maybe a drink would calm my nerves but I have made the decision to not do that to myself. It isn’t good for my social life, but I am content with being the guy who reads and writes.
I understand why people want to use drugs. I understand the want to relax and basically shut your mind down. I do the same thing with reality television and superhero comics. But there is one thing that reality television and superhero comics don’t do: create addiction. Yes, alcohol is legal and creates addiction. And maybe pot should be legalized with the same thing. But to just write it off as a given and a good thing ignores one big problem. And I have not seen anyone pointing this out. I don’t know if it is a gateway drug and honestly, I don’t care. My biggest concern about marijuana legalization is that addiction is forgotten. Marijuana is addictive.
People addicted to things aren’t bad people. People are addicted to lots of things – good and bad. But addiction creates a dependency on something that seems to extend past boundaries. And that was how it affected me in 2013. I don’t know how to talk about this without going into the details and I don’t want to get into the details, but it hurt more than I can really say. I saw someone on marijuana say and do things that I couldn’t comprehend. It is why I am torn about legalization.
I understand the tax arguments. I presume the “no worse than alcohol” argument. I presume the crime statistics are true and that there are lots of individuals arrested for marijuana possession. But there are going to be people hurt by legalization, just as there are people hurt by alcohol legalization. And that will be something I will never understand. I don’t think I’m meant to.
I don’t see this as some big civil liberty win. I see this in the same category as abortion. It is something I wish never happened. I wish no one got high. There are so many beautiful things in the world to see and explore. I will never understand why it is more fun to sit in a room and get high, just like I don’t get why it is fun to get together with friends, get drunk, and then forget what happened the night before. I honestly believe I only have so many hours on this Earth and I want to be aware of as many as I can. I need my sleep but otherwise, I want to be alert and ready to go.
Lots of productive people smoke marijuana. Lots of smart people drink. Lots of amazing people do both. I will never be one of them. Just like abortion, I understand why people want it to be legal. But just like abortion, I wish that we lived in a world where it didn’t have to be. So, if it is to be legalized, I won’t celebrate it. I don’t think it will be the end of society or the beginning of some sort of US crash as the Chinese become more productive than us. But I will continue to wonder why people need something to escape.
As 2013 was derailed early, I didn’t get much of what I wanted accomplished done. Well, not this year. I’m going to make a few changes and actually get things on track. So far, 2014 has started
- Write 4 short stories (at least).
- Return to my novel, The Release.
- Write on this blog at least once a week and write at least once a week on my comics blog, comics.rockthewesternworld.com.
- Continue going to the gym and running. I want to run a 10K this summer and be under 8 min per mile pace. It isn’t an insane goal, but I want to shoot for doable.
- Just enjoy life. Sounds easy. It usually isn”t.
- Redesign the blog. Make it more of a personal page with blog outlets. I just need to think of a good homepage!
I am currently taking the class Comic Books and Graphic Novels taught by Professor William Ruskin of the University of Colorado on Coursera.org. Our final project was to create our own four page comic book.
I have read thousands of comic books but never tried to make my own, so I was a little excited about this project, even though my drawing skills are below par. I think it turned out well.
This is a link to the PDF: Run
Any time I read an article about Facebook etiquette, it states never to write about politics. You hear the same thing about parties or dates. Never bring up politics. It only will divide people.
I hate that rationale. It only divides people because we allow it to divide us, and honestly, that is what our leaders prefer. It is easy to demonize an argument or a side you don’t agree with if you don’t have to interact with someone who believes it.
I spend a lot of time reading about politics, commenting about politics, and thinking about politics. I am sure many of you wish I would stop. I am sure many of you have decided not to pay attention to any more of my posts. And that is fine. You have that prerogative. But I never will.
Politics is about people. We all have different belief structures and have different images of how the world should work. We get these ideas from many places: our parents, our faith, our education process, our friends, our jobs, and a multitude of other sources. But they come together to create our belief structure. And the way that we shift our belief structures are by living and learning from other people.
For example, I will never own a gun. I will never hold a gun. I want nothing to do with a gun. I don’t believe that I should have anything in my hands that can be triggered to kill anything. I have no interest in hunting for sport or for food and if it came down to that, I would probably just die. But I understand that my opinion is not held by many people. I have read many articles about gun owners. People who have had a tradition of owning guns, hunting with their fathers, and it gives them an identity. I may never understand that – but that may not understand why I love comic books so much. When I read about people who have that emotional attachment to guns, I understand why they want one. When I read about someone who has a gun for protection, though I may not believe it is the best decision, I understand why they want it. But I also believe that a gun owner who does respect the weapon they hold should understand the need for regulation of something that they revere, because there are people who don’t have that same feeling about it. They are people who treat the gun as a toy. It is children who get a hold of it and pretend it is like something they saw in a movie or a television program. But the difference is if you shoot a zombie in a video game or if you shoot a friend in a video game, that friend can come back into the game. So, I do believe there is a discussion there that can be had if both sides take a respectful look at why the other side is concerned.
I have a similar attachment to the First Amendment as many have with the Second Amendment. The ability to say what you want and print it wherever you want is important. But I understand the limitations. You can’t slander someone. You can’t yell obscenities at three in the morning outside of your apartment building. But for example, I believe that someone should have the right to burn the American flag. I don’t want to do it myself and would never stoop to that behavior, but I don’t believe that people should not have that right if they so desire. I understand why it upsets so many people and why they might want to ban it, but just like banning guns doesn’t solve the crime problems in the United States, banning the burning of a flag does not solve the problems of discontent in a political structure.
But if two people can’t sit down and discuss this without resorting to names, then we don’t actually live in a democratic republic. We don’t have control over the issues or what matters to us. Instead, we allows groups of people dictate what we should think. We allow the parties to define themselves and we vote for them in a parliamentary-like system. We allow money handling organizations to put on commercials and force us to believe something that generally is only half true and not be concerned with it – but we love to quote them.
I recently got involved on a Daily Herald message board discussing the deficit. I put out arguments that both sides were at fault and dismissing the claims that President Obama owns all of the fiscal problems we are currently having. I was being honest with my beliefs, but most people believed I was defending the President and at one point called me a communist because I argued that we aren’t discussing the real problems with our budget: Social Security, Medicare, and the military. And I know I am not going to change minds on a message board, but I like the activity. I like having someone push back at my beliefs and I like to be challenged.
When I was a freshman in college, I worked for Illinois PIRG. I went door-to-door raising money to shut down the coal-fired power plants in Illinois. I would annoy people during dinner to tell them of the woes of plants that are still open today. I hated the job. But I didn’t hate it because people closed the door on me. The only people I hated in that regard were those that had Sierra Club stickers on their doors and told me to scram without giving me a second breath. I hated the people who pretended to care but wouldn’t even spend a second listening to my argument. I loved the people who disagreed with me. And I would argue with them why it was problematic. I would discuss the asthma levels and cancer epidemics near the plants. I would talk about other forms of energy that were better for the environment – even nuclear (even though that wasn’t in my pamphlet). I remember one man who I talked to for over ten minutes who didn’t want to hear a word I had to say when I first opened my mouth, but he saw a kid who was doing something he believed in and wanted to hear him out. He argued with me and I argued back. We didn’t raise our voices or call each other names like we were supposed to if we were on the set of a cable news program. And in the end, he looked at me and said, I’m gonna give you five dollars, but you can’t donate it to your cause. I don’t support that, but I’m impressed with you. I smiled and thanked him. And donated the money to my cause against his wishes – but I’m sure he knew I would.
I have many conservative friends. I love my conservative friends. I will listen to their arguments any day of the week. But I want to hear them. And I want to be able to discuss them.
Our political structure is only as good as we are. It is designed as a marketplace of ideas. But we are strapped for ideas because the people in charge don’t want us discussing them and figuring things out on our own. It is far easier to divide us into red and blue states and into liberals and conservatives. We are all Americans. We were given a voice by our Founding Fathers. Use it.
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six
I am not writing this for pity or sympathy or for anything besides as a reaction to a book. I cannot express how important this short book was to me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I did not grow up wrong or as a monster like I have always assumed. My mindset was not unique. It is easy to say that I was and still am confused, but when you’re growing up different from everyone else and you can just feel the difference, you have no one to talk to. You just assume that you will get to the place where everyone else resides. I didn’t know how it felt to love someone or to have a crush on someone. I had crushes on lots of people over the years but they didn’t make any sense to me. I would hear guys talk about the girls that they liked and it wasn’t how I thought, so I assumed that I was just different. I have no idea if that is truth or what I could have done differently. And in truth, it doesn’t matter. All that I can do now is live the best life I can live.
I had to accept this fact: “What I was in the dark about was something which in fact much or most of the world still misunderstands: homosexuality is not about what you may or may not do for sex, it is about who you fall in love with.” My life does not have to be the sexualized version of homosexuality that Hollywood and the media like to portray. I have never been to a gay bar, I have never gone dancing, I have never gone to a parade, I have never walked around even with my shirt off. Ask my old teammates – I never ran without at least a t-shirt on. There is nothing wrong with any of those traits, but at my core, they aren’t me. But I thought, just like I thought that a heterosexual has to talk about girls the way I heard guys talk about them on runs or while riding a bus. I assumed if I was a homosexual, I needed to like those things that I am told to like and that those qualities define who I am. I hate parades. I hate crowds. I hate bars. I hate dance music. But I want to fall in love. And I want to be loved.
It is still incredibly difficult. I still cannot have all of those things I imagined I would have. Getting married is not a reality yet. I am sure it will be, but as of this writing, it is not. Finding someone to marry will still be difficult, just like it is for everyone else. Having a family – that may be where it gets harder than normal. It is expensive, time consuming, spirit crushing, but, in the end, rewarding. I suppose it is why I get upset when I hear parents complaining about their children or how hard raising kids are. I suppose it is why I get upset when I see people treating their children like crap. I suppose it is why I want to be a father. I listen to people talk about their children or grandchildren and I want to be kept up at night by a child. I want to bring a grandchild over to my parents’ house for them to enjoy. I want to see the joy in their eyes when they see something new and the hate in their eyes when I won’t buy it for them.
I end many nights thinking that if I wasn’t built this way, I would have those things. I think about how much simpler life would have been and would continue to be if I could just be like the majority of people. It isn’t a self-hatred or because I believe I can change who I am. I don’t hate who I am – I am sometimes not fond of myself or my behavior – but at the same time, I think it is easy to forget how difficult being different is. However, this sense of difference is not like being a comic book nerd or being a little smarter than the average kid. At the end of the day, love is central to life. Almost every song that is written is about love. Almost every book that is written is about love. Almost every day, you think about who you love and how you want to be loved. And on those nights when I wish I wasn’t built this way, I do what I did back in junior high when I couldn’t take the bullying anymore. I grab my stuffed dog puppet, Wrinkles, and question why I was dealt this hand and what I can do differently.
Yet each day, I wake up in the morning believing that life will come together. I have always been a goal-orientated person who does my best to achieve what I want to accomplished. I don’t need a 100% success rate, but I do have to feel like each day I’m moving a step forward towards my end goal. And I am going to be happy that day when it all comes together. I know it will be a hard road and there always will be bumps – there have been bumps already. But as Rauch ended the book: “I am the man who is grateful to fall down because he once believed he would never walk.”
Buy this book: Denial by Jonathan Rauch
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five
When It Began To Bother Me
In your mid-twenties, your friends and family start getting married. Your life is supposed to get started. Just like how I assumed that one day I would be as built as a professional wrestler without doing anything, I assumed that in my twenties, I would meet the girl of my dreams and we would get married like my parents and their parents and their parents before.
I was almost done with law school and ready to set out on a career path. All of the hard work that I put towards my goals instead of worrying about who I was going to date was going to come to a culmination. At the ripe age of 24 years old, I had graduated from law school.
Most of my family were there and I couldn’t have been happier. But it was really difficult. Most of my friends had wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, or at least a significant other who watched them cross the stage. Nothing against my family – my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – but it was hard to not have someone like that at that event. Or any event.
I began to question myself. I began to wonder exactly who I was. The hardest part was that I began to understand who I was and I never had a feeling that my parents were going to hate me or that anyone in my family would treat me different. But I just kept thinking that same thing: that isn’t me. I’m not that person. And if nothing else, I feared being differing in another regard.
My therapist and I began talking about it. She would ask questions about work and my job hunt. But the stresses there lessened, especially after I found work. She began to ask about dating. She asked why I didn’t think I could do that. And I explained that it just didn’t seem for me. I explained that I wanted to just be happy on my own – that I never imagined someone else being in my life. I would discuss how content I was. I almost wrote off happiness seconds after saying I would be happy by saying that I would be content in my life by myself. But in reality, I knew I wouldn’t. I built up a circular logic that any first year philosophy student could poke a dozen holes into.
I wanted all those things that all my friends and family were having. I wanted to walk down the aisle. I wanted children. I wanted to have a good job. I wanted to be just like everyone else – for once. And I would go home pleading that I would be normal – that I would just fit in with everyone else.
It took one event for me to really sit down with myself and be honest. It was New Year’s Eve. My parents were with my grandmother but I didn’t want to go. And my sister and her boyfriend were in town. I sat at home watching Veronica Mars on DVD and they came home to announce their engagement. My younger sister was now on the same road that my friends were on. I was happy for her, but I was also jealous. I felt like I was doing something wrong and that I was cursed. “By now I had grown used to knowing that I was the strangest creature in the world, one whose wiring was seemingly random.” But it was time for me to determine if I was as strange as I assumed that I was.
I began talking to my therapist and she told me that I had to figure that out. She told me that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I would have to put myself out there to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to love. It took almost two years of prodding and discussion. For anyone who knows me, this is a short amount of time for me to commit to do anything. I have a difficult time putting myself out there , but I did. In 2009, I went on my first date.
About a month later, I told the first person. My brother and I were watching TV and we began the news on an issue I don’t remember, but it involved homosexuality. He said something along the lines of: I guess I don’t know for sure what I think about being around a gay person cause I really don’t know any. He wasn’t saying it to be biased because he isn’t. He was saying it because in our little suburban world, it was foreign. Not something to hate or dislike, but just foreign. In response, I said, you kinda do. He said, “I do?” And I said, yes, me. I told him that I was trying to figure things out and we didn’t talk much about it otherwise. A little while later, I told my sister when she was home for spring break, she was a bit more animated and cried because she assumed I was struggling with this for a long time and that it had hurt me.
It did hurt me, but not in a sense that deserves tears. Rauch put it perfectly: “I never did recover from the loss of my adolescence: from the vacuum where my awakening to love and sexuality and self ought to have been.” But I knew I would survive. I then told my parents and we were off to the races.
Concluded in Part Seven
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
Surprisingly, all of this had an affect on my mental well-being. I was always a bit of a depressive. I was not a strong person who had a big social net to fall back on. I had me. But I cracked. First, in college. Then, before law school started.
One morning, I believe it was the fall, which was the hardest time of year for me because cross country season ended. I woke up early on a Sunday morning like I usually did. I would go for a walk outside and just enjoy the stillness as my roommate slept. When I opened the door, on our whiteboard, someone wrote FAGGOT and there was a rope that looked like a noose tied around my door handle. I flipped out and got very scared. I erased the board and pulled the rope off the door as fast as I could. At this point, I was wondering if that was what I was anyways since I didn’t seem to have any feelings for a member of the opposite sex during a time where everyone was trying to get into someone’s pants. I wondered who knew this about me or if it was true or what it was. But I went for my walk. When I returned, I sat at my computer and I didn’t move.
I remember being like a statue – with hands on the keyboard, readied to write whatever paper I was going to write that afternoon. But I could not move. My roommate eventually awoke and tried to get me to respond. Much of this is very foggy to me and is pieced together from what other people told me. He called our RA down, who was a mutual friend, because he didn’t know what to do. They tried to get me to respond and I wouldn’t. Eventually, they called my brother, who was a freshman at the time, and got me to the hospital. I had a panic attack. And they called my parents who took me home to take me to a doctor and try to get straightened out in the head. I was put on a lot of pills but none of them helped. I later found out that the rope on the door was not a noose. As a prank, someone tied our door handle to the door across the hall, which would make exiting impossible without cutting the rope. It was just a coincidence that it looks like a noose once someone else cut it. I’m also assuming the word on the white board was not directed at me. It was just the actions of a drunk idiot.
I had a lot of bad days between then and the end of college. I had another panic attack where I felt crippled in my basement a month before I started law school. Eventually, my dad carried me up the stairs after yelling and screaming to get me to move. FYI: if you have a family member who is having a panic attack, don’t yell at the person panicking because it doesn’t help. But again I went to the doctor and was given the name of a therapist. This guy ruined my first semester of law school by putting me on a lot of anti-depressants and social anxiety pills. When it didn’t seem like they were working, he told me to stop taking them, but didn’t wean me off of them correctly. Instead of studying for finals, I watched The OC on DVD. I couldn’t focus as my head was a mess.
Hulk Gets Help
But that December, I met my current therapist, who helped me get as prepared as I could for finals and how to deal with the stresses. She has been with me for almost 8.5 years. We dealt mainly with social anxiety and my fears. And then we got to relationships. Rauch wrote, “I saw that no one noticed me, no one desired me, that my position in life was always to be admiring and never admired.” I don’t remember getting hit on. I knew there were a few girls who liked me, but overall, I have never felt desired. But I admired so many people. Strangely, it was not in a sexual nature, which is why I was so confused by it. I admired the ability to love. I wanted to have someone to talk to on an intimate level, someone to hold their hand, tell them that things will be okay, share all the good and bad moments with. I admired everyone around me who had that.
“I could not love, I could not kiss, I had no passion, only resentment and a kind of childish longing and a fetishistic fascination, and I knew that other people did not suffer those disabilities.” I kissed two girls before I turned 27 years old. Once when I was 18 and once when I was 21. For the years that followed, again, while many are trying to kiss as many people as possible, I was untouched. It didn’t bother me one bit though.
Continued in Part Six