Tuesday, August 4, 2015

From 5th Grade to Decades

The present author is under no pretense that this blog, in all its mediocrity - indeed, to call it mediocre is perhaps a stretch - creates more than very minimal traffic and little presence of other readers. This is, in a way, freeing, as it allows said author to be brutally open and honest without fear of any sort of response or commentary from the peanut gallery, so to speak. That this exact realization allows the following post to amalgamate on these very poorly-travelled and even more poorly-constituted pages is something that any and all readers may feel slighted by, nonchalant about, or, ultimately, completely and entirely unaffected, as this blog does well to impart.

I can recall being sad as early as 5th grade. I had just transferred to a new school, from one private school in which peace, co-operation, and anti-bullying was an ethos, to one in which everyone was spoiled, arrogant, had inflated feelings of self-importance, and were frequently verbally and physically violent. I was not prepared for the culture shock. I remember one day, walking in our local neighborhood after school, and going to a nearby park, where I sat up against a tree and cried all evening, finally returning home and confessing to my mom that my peers were relentless towards me; my name, my clothing, my manner of speech (it wasn't until 6th grade that I learned to pronounce the "th" sound in words like "three"), and I was wilting under it all.

I did not change schools.

I certainly learned, at times, to be more aggressive. It was in 6th grade that I started swearing vociferously. It was in 7th grade that I got caught making fun of another kid's looks. It was how I tried to defend myself. If there was someone lower than me, then I would not be picked on. But it didn't work. My name from 6th - 8th grade in some circles was "Chode Scrotum" and I did my best to hide it from my parents. They assumed, I am sure, that I did not know what either word meant, such was the discussion of sex in the house that there was no discussion of sex in the house. At times, one of my supposed friends would come up behind me, like he did to others he perceived as targets, and choke us until we begged him to stop. I saw one boy bite off part of another boy's breast as they fought. I saw endless recesses spent playing "Smear the Queer," a game in which the boys got together, picked one to be a target, and threw things at the target's head as hard as possible. At times, this "game" turned into loose brawls, with fists and feet careening wildly off of one another. I saw one kid get punched in the stomach so hard, he immediately keeled over and puked out his lunch. You could see the chunks of the orange he had just eaten 20 minutes ago in the vomit.

I stuck with the friends I had from that school into public high school, warts and all, for they were my only friends. My freshman year, one gave me a bloody nose slamming my face into a bookshelf. Another punched me in the arm as hard as he could, leaving me with a swollen green and purple welt that didn't go away for weeks. He was testing to see if I was "French." I did not cry, and ergo I wasn't. To cry was to admit defeat. Or to be French, apparently.

I confessed to a friend my freshman year, amidst the first rotten grades of my life, amidst teachers calling me a "loner" to my parents, amidst near constant bullying, that I was thinking about ending my life. He did not take it seriously. I did not take my life seriously. It seems we weren't far apart on some things.

By my sophomore year, I started to drift apart from these friends, and their calculated cruelty. This, of course, created new challenges, for now I truly was alone. Sitting in a cafeteria in high school, hundreds of kids around, and I being the one and only one sitting alone at a table elicited fear in me. It made me an easy target. It made me an easy source of ridicule. So after many awkward, solitary lunches, I simply started skipping lunch and spent the lunch break in the library, sometimes doing homework, other times idly browsing the web. The quietness appealed to me.

By my senior year of high school, my social life was in ruins, and I was simply existing as a person who went to school during the week and worked 16 hours at McDonalds during the weekend and slept or played WoW the rest of the time. At times, I would lie in bed at night thinking that college would be a fresh start for me, that things would be different, that the nights of lying on my floor self-harming, crying, and listening to the most depressing music I could find would be over. That I would find something I love. That I would make new friends who were good people. That I would do better in school. That I would be away from parents.

I was wrong, of course. College was, as I quickly learned, even worse.

I stayed in the dorms when I first went off to our in-town university. My roommate in college was a violent mam; he would walk down the dormitory halls in his steel-toed boots, kicking everyone's door, hoping to catch someone opening it so that the door would open and "bust their face in." He stole, frequently, from our suitemate. He shot airsoft guns at people from our 3rd floor room as they walked on the sidewalk below. One morning, he came back at 3am with two other guys, shirtless and laughing; they had dropped acid and robbed a convenience store, than ran all the way back to the dorms. I don't know why they all lost their shirts. He would smoke weed in the room frequently, during which times I would excuse myself, hoping that the RA, who was quite literally right next door to us, wouldn't bust him and get me in trouble too. He would blast his music throughout the day, even when I asked him to turn it down. It did not matter to him. Humorously, there were many weird ironies about him that I now laugh about. He was a Jewish anti-Semite who blamed Jews for 9/11. He was spoiled, so much so, that after spending thousands of dollars one day at Best Buy on a sound system, video games, and other assorted gadgets, he called his mom up and demanded she increase the limit on the credit card they had given him. That he was such a gross consumer of material goods was made ironic by the fact that he was a rabid anarchist.

So once again, I was going to the library during the day, hiding form my roommate and finding a secluded corner where I could use my laptop, and eating at the cafeteria by myself when I was hungry. I learned to eat at non-peak hours. 2:00pm lunch was much less busy than 12:00pm. 7:30pm dinner was much less busy than 6:00pm. It was less awkward to eat alone then. And if I always scheduled an 8am class each day, I could eat breakfast during the very quiet 7:00am hour. Still, I had tricks for when I had to eat when it was busy because of my class schedule. I became very good at pretending to be on the phone; holding my Blackberry up to my ear and feigning conversation, so that if someone saw me eating alone, they could at least operate under the pretense that I did know people, as I was talking to one on the phone, apparently. I became very natural at the pauses and nuances of simulated phone conversation.

By the weekend, I was driving hurriedly home to my parent's house, enjoying the 48 hours in which I was completely free of my roommate's existence and no longer rendered hopelessly anxious as to what violent or criminal act he would do next. The thought of NARCing occurred to me, many times, but he was a popular weed dealer, and to do so would be extremely easy to trace to me - his quiet and non-weed using roommate. He knew everyone in the dorms it seemed, and it was easy to see a situation in which, if he got in trouble, I would be a target of retribution. So I simply tucked my head down and hoped to get through the year unscathed.
I went to therapy a couple times, it being free to students and all, but eventually drifted away from that. By my second semester of college, my anxiety, particularly that of the social kind, was so high that I was scared of walking outside and being seen by other people, or of being in a classroom with other people. I looked hideous, my voice was boring, I had nothing to offer, and I was convinced that everyone could see me for the loser I was the second I went out in public; so I simply stopped going out at all, spending now entire days in isolation in the farthest corner of the library, where nobody ever went, and nobody could ever see me. I walked to and from it with my head down, hunched over, hoping to attract as little attention as possible. The very idea of being around people made me sweat and shake in fear. When I would see old classmates on my path to the library, I would quickly divert and try to find a way to avoid them, so that they would not notice me. Anything to do with people became a stressful event.

Of course, this all affected my grades... poorly, I might add. And so after just two semesters, my college experiment, my fresh start, ended in failure.

There have been many years since then, since 2008; hundreds of hours of therapy and psychiatry, many different drugs and drug combinations, some prescribed, some simply bought online in shady corners of the internet. further attempts at college. A 10 day stay in a mental hospital that became one of the most formative experiences of my life. Perhaps one day I shall write about them, too. But for now, I simply realize, that having spent 16 years of my 26 on this planet dealing with sadness, dealing with the reality that I do not like myself, much less love myself, that this is part of who I am, a part of me, and that I will be living with it forever.

I suspect, also, that some of my deep-seated hatred of men derives from the behavior I saw from them first hand, and the anger at times embarrasses me and blinds me, but it remains all the same. I suspect, also, that I will never truly get over some of these experiences, forever clinging to their damage as a way to absolve myself of my sins. Perhaps one day I will grow a spine and move forward in life. Or perhaps, as I suspect, I will be continually rendered inept by my own failings and insecurities, razor blade in hand, listening to whatever music will get me sad as fast as possible, and swallowing whatever pills my doctor tells me to take.

That the present author decided to share this post relating to the fact of perpetual sadness, one which could have been succinctly expressed in less than 1/10th of the length of this post, is not a fact lost at all.

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