What might have been, pt.1

I film newspapers for preservation on microfilm at my job. I’m currently working on a project from Missouri which includes various titles (newspapers) from pretty much every county in the state. Most of them small town or rural areas. The batch I’m working on is all recent dates. I have to move quickly, but one catches headlines and photos while filming.

There were a lot of high school sports, band events, concerts and such in many titles and issues, especially one I worked on yesterday. It made me start thinking about my own high school years and even earlier childhood.

I thought about how different my life could have been if I had been good at, or even interested in sports. I was popular for the first couple years in grade school, but when the other boys started joining Farm Team (baseball, if you don’t have that where you’re from) and playing kickball at recess, I stayed away. I think it was my anxiety that made me not want to give them a try. Or, maybe it was because my dad never played ball with my brother or me. I feel like I’m kind of whining now, but it’s true, I guess.

Also, no encouragement from either parent. to join in athletic endeavors or try different things. As mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t even learn to swim. That left me out of a lot of time that could have been spent with other kids in the summer. I remember feeling so lonely in the sunny days of August after a couple months of limited contact with others. I did see my best friend about every day, but somehow, it wasn’t enough.

I can remember my fifth grade teacher trying to get me to join wrestling. He must have seen that it would do me good, and as a short but scrappy kid, it probably would have been good. He pleaded with me over and over to join, but I didn’t even think about it. I just thought that was for other boys. I was no good at that sort of thing.  I can only imagine how different my life might have been if I had joined in all the “normal” activities.

So, that left me with academics and arts.

I was an excellent student and played clarinet in concert, jazz and marching band. I had perfect pitch, but lacked dexterity. I could never seem to get the fast parts down. In retrospect, I don’t know why I stayed in band the whole time, except that I made some really good friends and a lot of acquaintances that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. That was very important for a shy, anxious, depressed, fatigued misfit.

Still, I wish I had stayed in photography club my junior year instead of joining jazz band at the band director’s suggestion. I’m pretty good at photography and had gotten a nice 35mm camera over the summer with my McD’s money. Developing (pardon the pun) that skill would have been far more valuable.

I could’ve used some guidance, but I didn’t get that from home  or school. But then, I really didn’t share my thoughts or decision-making with anyone. Actually, I didn’t really think about things. I just stumbled along doing what I thought was expected of me and looking for acceptance.

 

I’m going to wrap this up tomorrow. Trust me, it’s going somewhere, somewhere good. I’m happy with how things are going now.

Til next time.

Things I learned from my cats

What matters most is how you see yourself. That’s the lesson in a nutshell.  I touched on this a little in my post titled, “A Better Day”.

I’m coming at the topic from a different angle, observing my cats.  My five year old cat, Smokey doesn’t know how big he is.  He’s a bit skittish and shy. He climbs up on my chest to cuddle.  (A lap isn’t good enough.) When he does that, I have to put down my laptop, or else he walks on the keyboard and, invariably, messes things up.  (For example, he once deactivated the keyboard. It took till the next day to figure out that you could still hit shift + enter to get it back, though it seemed like nothing on the keyboard was working. Another time, he turned the screen display 90°.  I didn’t even know you could do that.  I was able to go into the display menu and turn it back from portrait to landscape, though it remains a mystery how he did it with just the keyboard.)  Also, I can barely see the TV over him when he’s sitting on me.

Enter Rex the much smaller, younger little guy my brother and I adopted about a year ago.  Rex is a sweetheart and after about ten days, Smokey accepted him and they get along nicely now.  However, Rex is a little troublemaker at times, picking on the gentle giant, Smokey.  It’s only in play, but he gets a little carried away and makes his house mate squeal sometimes.  Then we have to separate them and scold Rex, sometimes even close him in a room for a while.  The thing is, Smokey could easily kick Rex’s ass.  He has learned to assert himself, and the problem has slowly gotten better.  So, I guess Smokey gets to a point where he’s had enough.

I share these feline antics as a way of relating my own experiences.  I was shy and timid in school, and socially awkward.  Add to that my rather small stature, and you’ve got an easy target for teasing.

Like Smokey, I didn’t realize how big I was.  Not physically, but intellectually, emotionally, and personality speaking. I was blessed with a brilliant mind, a bright and generous heart, and a lovable, witty, fun spirit.  None of this came out until young adulthood.  I started coming out of my shell somewhat the last two years of high school, but was still kind of a lost puppy.  (Awww)  It’s okay. It got better.

Today, I still come across as reserved, and social anxiety does hold me back until I get to know people better, but the shyness and the fear are gone.  Physical lack of energy is a problem at times too, with sleep apnea and Crohn’s disease, but caffeine helps.  ha ha

I don’t resent any of the teasing I took in school because it actually did help push me to change. I realized after getting my associate’s degree in my early 20’s that I had played right into the teasing, making it all to easy. (Not saying it was my own fault.  Just saying I could have changed things.) I was also very alone in my two years at community college, for all the same reasons.  I had no problems with the intellectual aspects at all, but yet was completely burned out at the end.  It made me start analyzing.  Why was it so hard? To quote John Donne, “No man is an island”. I needed a support system. How does one build something you’ve never known? Where to start….

An epiphany came one day at the mall.  Maybe some of you remember the mall store called Deck the Walls.  They sold art and photo prints and the like.  I saw a small matted picture of a kitten looking into a mirror.  The text read “What matters most is how you see yourself”.  Reflected in the mirror, is a lion.  It really struck home, so I took it home.  I mean, after I paid for it, of course. I still have it as a reminder.

It made me see more clearly than ever how one’s persona is perceived by others as a reflection of your own inner image.  Confidence, satisfaction, contentment, happiness.  All things I lacked, therefore did not project.  What I got back from others was a direct correlation to what I was carrying and exuding, or not.

I was just coming into my own in my late 20’s when I hit some health problems.  Getting to work became all-consuming and I eventually had to take a break from it.  Then, I didn’t get much social contact, but things are going much better now.  I sometimes feel like I end up being put in that old “box”, where he’s the shy, quiet guy.  Or, my anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and pushes people away.  (Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable.) The good news is, I feel like I’m ready to Bust That Box! (I believe I found the topic of my next post.)

Til then, keep going and keep growing!