It was preplanned that I would only be there for a week- so I knew I was leaving the 8th. Where did I go? Well, I can’t disclose my exact whereabouts seeing as how I am a celebrity and all… :) But I can tell you my parents moved across the country the second I left for college. So I’m in my new home for the first time, far away from the place I grew up and lived for nearly 18 years. But that’s ok. I’m with my parents, my brother (though he just left to see his best friend who happens to attend the same college I do, *** you mark, you were supposed to teach me guitar) and last but not least, my little puppy monkey; Sparky. I haven’t seen Sparky in like 5 months. 5 months without my puppy!!! How did I survive? I must be magical…
On a heavier note, (true to my nature) Why do teenagers hate their parents and honor their social group? Well I sort of know the answer. When you’re an adolescent you become aware that there is a whole world out there- and you somewhat resent your parents for not showing you. You think in a way that it’s their fault you were sheltered from life’s obstacles, it’s their fault you were a naïve little child. But it has much more to do with mental development. As you grow older you become more aware and more to do= more to freak out about. We rebel against our parents because we take this foreign anxiety and direct toward something specific. We transfer the uncontrollable into a plain where it can be controlled. But I am so glad that I’m over this phase. It takes a while to realize your social group cares little about your true needs as a human. Most are concerned with excelling in whatever field of life they determine is most important. To acquaintances you are rarely more than a pawn- a power personality to latch on to or a servant to be stepped on. I was the same way- I truly cared about few in my social group. I was more concerned with being the biggest baddest bad-ass on the planet. But underneath our selfish exteriors, we are all just children who want to be understood and accepted. Remember this and you will be intimidated by few, perhaps none.
You have to seek out the few special people who are really interested in caring and being cared about. The ones who truly do not give a *** about social status and see it all for what it really is- a shallow fallacy. In the real world, you become a hero by sticking to your tasks, by contributing to society, and by honoring your individuality. Not by conforming to a crowd; be they heroes or anti-heroes. Until you find those people, you have your family if you’re lucky. They are hopefully wonderful people who respect your opinions and love you unconditionally. They care about you enough to not let you live in your own bullshit, they challenge your beliefs, and they teach you all they know. Maybe your brother entertains you and tests your thinking, like mine does. Maybe your mother serves as a role model for competence, like mine does. And maybe your father pushes the envelope of intellectual curiosity. And your dog- maybe he wags his tail when you walk through the door and lies at your feet during slumber. Maybe your home is a safe haven you can escape to free from the insecurity of isolation. Mine is. And it strikes me as ironic that the very place I detested as a prison restricting me from my lawful freedoms, is now the only place I can turn to shield me from this over-complicated over-simplified abyss known as existence.
G-d it’s good to be at child-like ease once again, even if it is only short-lived. Here I am accepted, here I am respected, I don’t fit in here but it doesn’t matter. I love it.
Most people at my school are superbly functional- I miss the air of dysfunction that I grew up in. The second I walked into my grandma’s apartment after leaving school (the first time), I was greeted by my retarded brother sawing off scissor loops that were stuck securely to his fingers like stiff constricting rings. And only moments later I spotted a flowery night gown yelling in a distinct Jewish grandmother accent “How could you be so stupid?” Home sweet home.
But still, that was nothing compared to the soothing dysfunction I am greeted with here. Of course, first by my tenacious brother.
Mark: “Sam, why does Tigger smell so bad?
Sam: (Thinks hard) I don’t know ‘cuz… I have no idea.
Mark: Because he’s always playing with pooh.
Sam: (giggles) That’s funny.
O but it’s not over…
Mark: Ok, ok I got another one. What kind of bee produces milk?
Sam: I don’t know a milk be.
Mark: No. A boo-bee.
Sam: (laughs) What are you, five?
Ellen (Sam’s mother): I’d say about six.
Mwa ha ha ha ha.
Do you see what I mean? There are no boundaries in my family largely in part to my brother’s lack of social filter (due to his mental retardation). Now that I have out-grown my immature discomfort; my juvenile denial of my parents’ human-experience, no topics are off limits. Not sex, not drugs, not bodily functions… And that is amazing. Knowing I can reveal the extent of my insanity and I will still be loved and respected. No matter how different I am, here there is no reason to be insecure. That is certainly not true for my social environments.
I know everyone feels different to some extent; which is perfectly rational in the way that everyone’s experiences are in some way unique. But it appears that I have, for the most part, been wildly different from my social surroundings. And as a result I have often felt wildly insecure. In camp I started out as Isolated by shyness, and then I became outlandish and perverse. In public art school I felt isolated by my sheltered experience, and so I became a pathetic druggie bad-ass. In rehab, I didn’t give a ***. My priorities did not involve fitting in, they involved mostly getting the *** out of rehab; an overwhelmingly imposing reality. So I worked, I worked my ass off, and discovered slowly but surely that it was ok to be the real me. On top of that, every resident was forced to show compassion, it was serious. Talking behind a resident’s back was strictly prohibited, and we followed that statute simply because we never knew which of our peers would betray our trust in the name of staff’s approval. We played by the rules because we were afraid of getting caught, receiving punishment, and in turn having to stay an extra day, week, or month. O, the horror. And though the “kindness and consideration” extended by my peers felt repulsively insincere, it still provided grounds for security. They were restrained from making my life miserable, they were forced to accept me, and so I had no social anxiety.
And then I ventured into real high school once again. Well it wasn’t really real. The school was centered on a progressive education; in other words, it was just another artsy-fartsy love your neighbor kind of environment. But luckily, no matter how hard the school tried, the students were still as superficial and judgmental as people tend to be in the real world. And in a class of 36, that doesn’t leave many options. I was also going through a rough transition. I still longed to be accepted but was brainwashed with values counter intuitive to City-teenage life. The result: I tried to present my identity with the concreteness that the cool kids presented theirs. I over-exposed my opinions and my history because I felt the need to protect my identity, to explain to people why I could not be like them. I was hoping they would honor me for my past fearless attempts at sheer hard-coreness. I thought at the very least they would accept my otherness if they knew how I came to be this way. But they didn’t. And I say that this is lucky because I had to face reality sometime. I had to learn that in the real world, compassion and understanding are seldom shown.
Accepting that Truth was painful, it still is, but it’s an important lesson to learn. It made me realize how lucky I really am to have this brain, this body, and this circumstance. It made me really value my individuality and find comfort in my own skin. Pretty soon life revealed itself to be my oyster, and what other people thought of my self-directed path was out of my control.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”- A favorite quote.
And though I will always be curious and always try to read people- I know that their judgment is due only to their own ignorance. They need to look down at people in order to justify their worthiness as a human being, and that makes me feel sorry them. I’m sorry that their world and circumstances and identity do not permit them to be more open minded. But I understand that, for now they need to be that way in order to feel adequate.
As for me, I still feel wildly different. I know I am hard to get for most people, and I know most rarely have the patience to try. In my college now, it seems that I grew up rather differently. I had more freedom to raise myself, to be myself, to make my own mistakes, to correct them on my own. Being a product of a dysfunctional family with a past burdened by tremendous loss, immigration, poverty, death, and mental disorders but blessed with intellect, love, money, freedom of expression, honesty, understanding, support, kindness, gratitude, and awe; seems to make me stand out among many who were driven by structure and societal standards. I am a result of Jewish school, hippie camp, then Jewish camp, then art school, followed by rehab, hippie school, and art school once again- I don’t really have your standard set of experiences. I don’t feel the standard pressure most do from their families. But it doesn’t matter. Today, I am pursuing self esteem. Nothing external can tell me whether I’m adequate or not. I was born, I live, and therefore I have a right to pursue my dreams, and channel my opinions toward a writing and art career. I don’t have to shout who I am at the top of my lungs anymore. I can remind myself where my perceptions lie silently in my work, or to the people who care.
And as for the people who judge. It’s ok, go ahead and judge. The way I see it I have the capacity to be open minded. I have room to let the possibilities in reality overwhelm me, drive me a little crazy. I don’t have to protect my ideals rigidly and condescendingly because I can always respond to anxiety by writing or drawing about it. Others may not have an outlet for their anxiety and so they will protect themselves from feeling it. I feel sorry for you but I also don’t. Whoever you are, you will believe that you are better because you are different from me. I’m a little jealous because only my accomplishments contain enough power to boost my ego. You are simply lucky that you can feel self-esteem more easily. I don’t take it personally, just don’t bother me. I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.
- Gestalt Prayer p.s. I’m going to stop taking these sleep meds, they make me completely disoriented. And I still have to write about my new house, my boy problems, and my writing from wilderness; how Native American’s inspire me .