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.


One swim forward

I work at a place that does digital scanning and microfilming of materials such as books, newspapers, documents, photos, slides, negatives, etc.  Almost a year ago, I switched from digital to the film department, where most of the material is newspapers. (Yes they still do microfilm, but it’s just for preservation, whereas digital is for access.) I don’t think I’m allowed to mention clients, projects or titles, but I’ll just say I was working on a project today that involves a variety of local papers from just the last couple of years. There was a lot of high school sports coverage.

It got me to thinking about my very un-athletic school days. In particular, some articles triggered my thinking about swimming, and the fact that I didn’t learn until my mid-20’s. Even at that time, it was just kind of learning on my own and not very well.

My sister had swim lessons when we were kids. She was the oldest, and she did nothing but complain about having to take the lessons. I guess that’s why my brother and I didn’t get them. My mom gave up.

There were many times over the years, when it became an awkward and embarrassing issue for me.  We were invited to friends of the family who had pools, and there were the pool party invitations, camp, school trips and such. Seemed like everybody knew but me.

I resented my parents for things like that for a long time. Then, I forgave them and learned to swim, even going pretty far out from the beach when I was at the shore one year. In fact, I got the whistle blown at me by the lifeguard to head back in.

Why didn’t I just do that as a kid, you might wonder? Well, I was very inhibited, shy, meek, and as mentioned, not at all athletic. I needed help. I was able to do it as an adult because I had overcome a lot of my issues. Not all, mind you, but a lot.

I feel blessed to have an independent and tenacious spirit. That helped me to conquer swimming, and many other things. With all of them, the first step was to put aside issues like self-pity, jealousy, and resentment. You have to take a good hard look at yourself sometimes and see your own part in things. Sure, it wasn’t my fault as a young kid, that I couldn’t swim, but couldn’t I have done something about it sooner than I did?

Maybe I shouldn’t have had to, but “shouldn’t have to” is the most useless phrase in the English language.

I’d be lying if I said I have no resentment left toward my parents about any issue. I still think about how little guidance I received as a clueless teen.  I’ll continue with that in another post.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing my best and try to keep looking forward, not back.