What might have been, pt.2

Continuing from yesterday:

I worked at McDonald’s my junior and senior years. My class rank (out of about 200) went from 4th in my freshmen year to not even ranked my senior year. I always resented that I had to work while others didn’t and pulled way ahead of me academically.  Of course, some of the top ten must have worked. I probably just wasn’t aware of it. It’s a self pity thing.

Then there’s the social life in junior and senior high. (We didn’t have middle school in Bangor at that time.) I had a couple of friends that I did things with some weekends before I worked. Once I started working, I didn’t have much of a life at all.

I did meet my only girlfriend of my adolescence when people at McDonald’s set us up. It didn’t last long. We made a cute couple but had little in common. There was also the constant anxiety, and on top of that, being gay but not being fully aware of it.  And, while there was opportunity, the short-lived romance did not include any physical relations.

My anxiety was probably compounded by the deeply buried truth of my sexual orientation and the fear of facing it. So, I “opted out” of dating to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps work wasn’t just about the needed money. It also gave me an escape from the social situations I both craved and feared.

I commuted to a nearby university after high school for 3 semesters. I changed my major in that short time, but still had no clue what I was doing or where I was going. I took time off to figure things out. I sometimes wonder if going away to school would have forced me to adapt and “catch up” emotionally and socially with other people my age, and find direction. I could also have had a nervous break down. Only God knows.

In the meantime, I left McDonald’s, of which I had been sick and tired for quite a while. After an unsuccessful search, I wound up working a small amount of hours at the hardware store where my dad worked for years, then wound up delivering pizzas. I became the manager of the privately owned pizza and sub shop when the former manager was caught stealing money.

I got my associate’s degree from community college while working there, but was too burned out to go right on to more college. Months turned into years and I never did get that bachelor’s degree. Another regret.

It was when I finally got out of the pizza shop to a Mon. through Fri. job that I finally started to see a lot of these things to which I was oblivious to that point. It was a mundane repetitive job and I had a lot of time to think and listen to talk radio. I finally saw the light about my bipolar depression and anxiety. Then I saw a shrink. And it was good.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what might have been. It matters what is yet to come. Besides, who’s to say things would have been so great if I’d have had more support, or privilege or popularity. Maybe it would have just caused more stress and anxiety.

I’m a stronger and more well-balanced person and a more insightful writer. I’m more spiritual and grounded. I don’t know what may yet be, but knowing where I’ve been, and being ok with it all, clears the way for good things to happen.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well, I’m here. Bring it on, future. I’m ready.

 

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.