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.

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.