Super Saturday: An Incomplete List of Things I Don’t Understand

This post was originally published on January 29, 2012. Having to trust my parents as my ears, eyes, and voice has made me understand the process of growing up.

1. The process of growing up. How do I know when I am thinking like an adult? Is the fact that I am asking that question disqualify me from adulthood?

2. The chorus of “Racks.” This is not entirely relevant but it still bothers me.

3. Athens attractive. Only in Athens, as far as I know, do women find barefoot, unbathed men with long unkempt hair and beards universally attractive. This is not to rail against those men. I love them very much. It’s just that Ryan Gosling, Usher, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Justin Timberlake, and George Clooney are men I can admit to be attractive. I have no problem doing it. I can’t say the same for Athens attractive.

4. Why people “like to flirt.” That’s like liking to put your keys into the ignition or liking to use a fork to pick up your food or liking to put lids on cups. These are necessary things, but they aren’t the fun part. The fun part about human interaction is not the flirting. It’s intimacy. Intimacy is also scary, I know, I know. But seriously…

5. Who invented chain e-mails? Who was the first person to be like “I’m going to make my friends forward this useless message to their friends by threatening death by maniacal clown?

6. House parties. I can’t hear you when you are talking. All the girls are going to be gone by midnight with the tall, unbathed, bearded guys. And everything is going to be sticky in the morning.

7. People who use texting as if they were writing long, instantaneously-received letters to each other. If my thought to you can’t fit into 160 characters, I usually feel like I’m being annoying.

8. All human relationships. Why anyone would willingly yoke themselves to me is beyond my comprehension.

9. Analytic philosophy.

10. Rape jokes. Is the idea that if you tell enough of them, they magically become funny?

11. Engagement pictures. What do they do? I mean, they are fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun to dress up and go do cute things together  and pose without a camera? Think about all the funny looks!

12. Coffee. I drink it sometimes, but aren’t coffee-drinkers a more “sophisticated” form of the kid we used to make fun of in sixth grade for drinking a Mountain Dew every morning?

13. Pinterest. It’s like a mysterious universe filled with wedding dresses.

14. How people get invited to weddings. I am now in my 20s. I should be being invited to weddings of friends. That way I can show off my dance moves and woo women by telling them my theories on why liking to flirt is silly.

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What I Have Learned in Recovery

I have learned so much throughout my recovery.

My Fisher King Wound has been closed. I wrote about what mine was a long time ago. And I’m no longer going to try to impress people. I know that I impress people on a daily basis both before and after the accident. I know that plenty of cool people love me and care about me.

It’s tough to learn. This is going to make me an even better teacher. I never really struggled in school as a student. I’m not struggling in therapy when I re-learn things, but I am frustrated by it because my brain isn’t yet where it used to be.

I’m going to be much more gracious than I ever was. It blew me away when I went out shopping with my parents the first time after my accident because no one knew that I had just been in the hospital. I don’t know everyone’s stories. I don’t know what people are going through. If I perceive someone as being rude to me, I’m going to let it go.

My life is opening up. I remember telling people how hard it was to be a teacher because my students’ lives were blossoming and becoming great. What I didn’t get then was that I was young enough that my life could do something similar.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve asked my friends and family and therapists for things that I otherwise would have remembered. Asking someone for help used to scare me a little. It doesn’t anymore.

Celebrate more both in and out of the classroom. I started saying “boom” in therapy when I got something that I was working on correct. My therapist started saying it when she determined that I had gotten something right. It was like she was not only giving me permission to celebrate but helping me celebrate. I’ve made the decision that I should celebrate more of my friends’ small victories. When I get back into a classroom I’m going to celebrate and encourage students to do so as well when enough students reach a goal.

Standardized tests have just as much to do with following directions and memory as they do with subject material. In my therapy, I’m often given a practice standardized test to do. The thing I struggle with is not the subject that the test is over but my ability to follow directions and to remember things when I’m given a passage to read. When I have test prep in my classes, I’m going to frame it this way: “We’ve learned all of these things. You all are awesome at it. What this standardized test is going to do is ask you questions about things you already know. So pay attention and follow every direction.”

Take breaks both in and out of the classroom. Breaking up work or tasks is really important. Knowing the thing that gives you immediate happiness is a plus.

Everything that had ever happened to me before the accident has served a purpose. There were times when I thought I had failed, missed an opportunity, or made a mistake. All of it worked to put me in the place I was in before the accident. I’m never going to think about a failure or missed opportunity again.

Encouragement and goal-setting are keys to success. My therapist is sure to ask me what skills I’m missing, and what it would take to get to where I was. She then gives me tasks tailored around what I need. She’s then sure to remind me of how far I’ve come. She has even given me things that I’ve done when I first started therapy so that I can observe how far I’ve come. This is also something I can bring into the classroom.

When you think about the word “if,” say “when” instead. I used to say “if I get better,” but I will get better, and “if” creates all kinds of doubt in my mind. “When” is the better, more positive word.

Be patient. A therapist once walked me through what happens if someone breaks a limb. They get a cast until they are completely healed and ready to use the limb. There are not any casts for the brain, she said. So I need to rest my brain so that it fully heals.

I don’t want the crash and surviving it to define my life. I am so much more than this. I’m intelligent, articulate, and funny. I bring people together. I stand up for people who aren’t being listened to.

An Incomplete List of Things I’m Not Okay With

1. When people, typically men, use the word “cunt.”

2. When people, typically men, use the word “bitch.”

3. When people, typically white people, use the word “nigger.”

4. When people, typically heterosexual people, use the word “gay” to mean stupid.

5. When people, typically men, use the word “slut.”

6. When people say that racism is over.

7. When people say “I’m not racist, but…”

8. When people try to explain to me why their offensive joke is actually funny, and I’m just not cultured or nuanced enough to understand it.

9. When people say that being mean is protected under free speech. It is. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it.

10. When anyone anywhere in any way implies that rape was the victim’s fault.

11. When people, typically white men, complain about affirmative action. Some people estimate that if we were to pay African Americans reparations for all of the economic disadvantage while we enslaved them and discriminated against them, the total sum would be greater than the amount of wealth that currently exists in America. I think we can take affirmative action.

12. When someone assumes that children don’t learn because they are “lazy.”

13. When someone says that poor people are poor because they are “lazy.”

14. When people do or say any of these things ironically. Irony belongs in literature, theater, and film. It doesn’t belong in real, intimate human interaction. Just because you’ve taken a Women and Gender Studies class, you do not have permission to use the word “cunt” ironically.

An Incomplete List of Things That Are Making Me Angry Today

1. The idea that there is somehow no good music being made today.

There is. You are just too busy fawning over Biggie to find it.

2. I don’t have any ice cream.

I don’t have any ice cream.

3. Debates over what’s godly and what’s not.

Unless I am your accountability partner, let’s not argue about what God does or does not want us to do. You do what you think is godly and I’ll do what I think is godly, and we can be happy.

4. My thirst for drama.

I desperately crave villains in my life narrative. There are no villains. Just a bunch of people trying to figure out how to live the good life.

5. The American dream.

I am teaching 9th graders this summer. And I love every minute of it. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to develop this fear. What am I educating these students for? So they can be successful in a dream that should have never been a dream in the first place? If all of these students become lawyers, will they be happier than their non-lawyer peers? Will they be more content? Will they be closer to God?

6. Every last thing that has distorted my view of life, love and happiness.

Between John Cusack movies and 50 Shades of Gray and rap music and pop music and Nicholas Sparks novels and Facebook status updates I don’t know what I’m supposed to want.

7. The idea that life is about me and my enjoyment.

How many hours have I spent “blowing off steam” or “taking a break?” These ideas are lies. We need breaks, but we don’t need those breaks to be watching three hours of Youtube videos.

8. I don’t get to visit my friend in New York this summer.

I miss him.

3 Things I Have Learned From My Brother

1. Surround yourself with people whom you love and who love you unconditionally. I was on my brother’s computer this weekend, configuring our iTunes libraries. My brother has had his computer for a couple of weeks, but already it is full of pictures of people who are important to him. The screen saver, the wallpaper, any picture icon – it’s all of people whom he cares about. I have had my computer for over three years, and I have never personalized anything with my friends and family.

I think that’s why if I don’t see my family for a while, I get really tired and start avoiding people. I don’t constantly recharge my battery by reminding myself that there are people in the world who will care about me even if I decide to start living in a sewer. My brother is good about that.

2. The only people’s opinions who are important are the those that you decide are important. My brother does not care if you dislike him. Because he doesn’t know you. It’s so incredibly simple and relieves so much stress.

I am constantly trying to maximize who likes me. I don’t post anything on this blog that’s too controversial because I want people to think I’m an alright guy. I have full faith that if my brother was of the blogging variety, his blog would be one of the most conversation-generating on the internet. Because he wouldn’t be afraid to post something that was unpopular.

3. Never like anything you don’t like. A lot of my friends at school are horrible about this. They have things they actually like and things they ironically like. This concept is foreign to my brother. If he likes something, he likes it. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t.

My brother also refuses to “like” things he’s “supposed” to. I am constantly trying to make myself like classics, whether in literature, film, or music. And this is just so that I can seem cultured. How self-serving. My brother is better than that.

I promise that I will stop with the mushy brother posts for a while.

Two Terms I Wish I Had Never Said

Over the years, I’ve created some terms. And I don’t say this to be conceited, or something. It’s just I like creating theories. And sometimes my theories need names. And every once in a while I discuss these named theories with my friends, and they like them, or whatever. Before I know it, people I don’t talk to are hashtagging my terms on Twitter.

If I’m being completely honest, then I need to tell you that I really like that terms I create catch on. It makes me very happy. And it makes me feel important. So I’m probably going to keep doing it.

But there are two terms I regret creating. I want to talk about those for a bit.

Super Ex. I think this theory was collaborative, but I can’t remember who helped me come up with it. I’m pretty sure I came up with the term. And if I didn’t, then I’m definitely the one who spread it around. So I’m taking responsibility for it.

The super ex is a shorthand way of talking about this theory I had for a while that everyone had one major past relationship by which they judge all following relationships. I formed this theory early on in college because all of the people I was befriending seemed to have had similar experiences: serious relationship in high school leads to serious breakup before college leads to serious hangup for all college relationships.

But the theory only made that cycle worse. By giving a name to it, I was normalizing it, saying it was okay to judge all of your relationships off of that one big one. I think that’s a really childish way to think about love, now.

There are a lot of people in this world. There are some people we like, some people we dislike, and some people we love. But every time we form a relationship with someone new, we form something completely new. We shouldn’t stand around comparing it to whatever came before. Apples to oranges, and all that.

Athens Attractive. I feel the worst about this one. This one is born out of my insecurities with the world. And that’s why I feel bad about it. At first, I thought it was funny. It could have been part of a comedy routine, for instance. And I think some people are still using it that way, which is nice. But some people, following my lead, are using it as a negative term. And that’s not okay. I want to take that back.

I created it because I was tired of all of the girls I was interested in going for the guys who are more free-spirited than I am. I’m a clean cut soul. I like pop music and I watch trashy television. I like to imagine that makes me into a regular Prince Charming. But it doesn’t and so I’m moving on and because I’m moving on, I’d rather not use Athens Attractive negatively anymore.

A friend of mine asked me if she was Athens Attractive the other day. And my mind immediately went down this checklist I had created for it. And then I realized that she didn’t want to be Athens Attractive because Athens Attractive in my head is negative, and she knew that. I’m a firm believer that no one should ever be called something they don’t want to be called. Everyone should have the opportunity to pick their own name. And that’s why Athens Attractive is wrong. It pigeonholes people.

So, if you all don’t mind too much, I am personally going to kill it.

An Incomplete List of Things I Don’t Understand

1. The process of growing up. How do I know when I am thinking like an adult? Is the fact that I am asking that question disqualify me from adulthood?

2. The chorus of “Racks.” This is not entirely relevant but it still bothers me.

3. Athens attractive. Only in Athens, as far as I know, do women find barefoot, unbathed men with long unkempt hair and beards universally attractive. This is not to rail against those men. I love them very much. It’s just that Ryan Gosling, Usher, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Justin Timberlake, and George Clooney are men I can admit to be attractive. I have no problem doing it. I can’t say the same for Athens attractive.

4. Why people “like to flirt.” That’s like liking to put your keys into the ignition or liking to use a fork to pick up your food or liking to put lids on cups. These are necessary things, but they aren’t the fun part. The fun part about human interaction is not the flirting. It’s intimacy. Intimacy is also scary, I know, I know. But seriously…

5. Who invented chain e-mails? Who was the first person to be like “I’m going to make my friends forward this useless message to their friends by threatening death by maniacal clown?

6. Women.

7. House parties. I can’t hear you when you are talking. All the girls are going to be gone by midnight with the tall, unbathed, bearded guys. And everything is going to be sticky in the morning.

8. People who use texting as if they were writing long, instantaneously-received letters to each other. If my thought to you can’t fit into 160 characters, I usually feel like I’m being annoying.

9. All human relationships. Why anyone would willingly yoke themselves to me is beyond my comprehension.

10. Analytic philosophy.

11. Rape jokes. Is the idea that if you tell enough of them, they magically become funny?

12. Engagement pictures. What do they do? I mean, they are fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun to dress up and go do cute things together  and pose without a camera? Think about all the funny looks!

13. Coffee. I drink it sometimes, but aren’t coffee-drinkers a more “sophisticated” form of the kid we used to make fun of in sixth grade for drinking a Mountain Dew every morning?

14. Pinterest. It’s like a mysterious universe filled with wedding dresses.

15. How people get invited to weddings. I am now in my 20s. I should be being invited to weddings of friends. That way I can show off my dance moves and woo women by telling them my theories on why liking to flirt is silly.