Being The Proverbial Black Sheep As A Kid

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Even before I became mentally ill, I had problems with fitting in with others and making friends.  It has caused me so many problems with others over the years.  When I was a child in grade school, I got in so much trouble with teachers, classmates, and family alike whenever I said anything sounding like it had no earthly reason to come from the mouth of a child.  For example, as a seven year old if I joked about how slow someone was speaking, I would try to make a joke because I saw that children and adults enjoyed humor, and say something like “Speak any slower and we could time you with a sun dial,” I would find myself in major trouble.  I was told I had “attitude problems” among other things.  Yet I would see adults joke with each other with similar humor, and worse. I couldn’t figure it out.  I was often told by adults to “grow up” and yet when I tried to act, joke, and talk like the adults I saw I got in trouble.

Even as I child I valued my freedom and privacy.  I would often go into the large backyard of my home and pace and think for hours on end.  I often did this to dream up stories, dream up new twists on old games, make up new slants on old children’s stories, and think of ways to do things better.  My classmates would ridicule me for wanting to be alone all the time and I probably concerned my parents for not wanting to socialize more with family and classmates.  I didn’t do it to be anti-social or draw attention.  I just got a lot more mileage out of socializing for short times than most people.  I didn’t do it for attention because I really didn’t want attention once I became old enough to figure out I was a running joke because I was smart and actually enjoying learning how to do new things.  I might not have spent so much time outside if I had a chemistry set.  I’d probably accidentally burned down the house instead.

My real saving grace as a kid was having two friends just as smart and eccentric as I.  My first true friend, a kid named Ben who moved to my town when we were 11, was as interested in music, dry humor, and history as I was in science.  We would often do inexpensive science experiments in the storage room of his parents’ grocery store.  One time we took some old Micro Machine cars, taped magnets to the bottom of the cars, weighted the top of the cars with pennies and dimes, and got them to run along a track of magnets at least three feet long.  We didn’t realize that we made a very crude version of Mag Lev transportation.  Ben and I also joked that we would eat nothing but meat, cheese, and milk for a month to “protest the wholesale slaughter of defenseless plants.”  Yeah, the Atkins Diet as designed by 12 year olds.  Needless to say our sixth grade classmates didn’t get the humor.

I never did enjoy the toilet and locker room style of humor that my classmates did.  Even in high school, I really liked the comedy of people ranging from George Carlin to Jeff Foxworthy to Bill Hicks.  While most of my classmates were listening to Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and George Strait, my two core friends and I were listening to groups like Metallica, AC/DC, and the Seattle grunge groups that were around in the 90s (much to the chagrin of my parents).

We didn’t win many style points with our classmates because we were contrarian thinkers, often asked questions in class, didn’t just ‘go along to get along’, openly questioned policies and practices of adults that were counter productive and senseless, and we didn’t particularly like sports.

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I was often chided for preferring to spend my weekends and summer days reading books, namely non fiction.  To me, the things that occurred naturally in the world and universe was far more interesting than fairy tales and fantasy books.  To this day I have never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K Rowling.  Reading books about science, biology, astronomy, chemistry, military history, etc. were interesting enough without the magical Disney nonsense.

I also didn’t do well dating as a kid.  My other quirky best friend, a girl named Shaunna, and I would often hang out on weekends watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 on SyFy channel if there weren’t any high school dances nearby.  It wasn’t until the last five years did it dawn on me that the reason I did so poor in the numbers of girls I dated was precisely because of my best friend that was a girl.  I was probably shot down by most other girls because they thought I was a player or swinger.  But as a clueless seventeen year old that thought never once entered my mind.  If only I knew then even half of what I know now.

One thing I do know now is that normal is boring.  Normal is mundane.  Normal does not change the world or even a neighborhood for the better.  Far too many people over the centuries have died fulfilling only a fraction of their potential because they feared being abnormal.  I never had, I still don’t, have a fear of standing out and going against the tide of acceptable public opinion.  As far as I can tell, my old friends Ben and Shaunna are still the same way.   Sure it is frustrating to prove a point and still not sway normal people.  But I don’t want to lose the intelligence, empathy, and creativity that were the tools God gave me to try to make my small mark in my corner of existence.  It causes me frustration but it doesn’t cause me fear.  I got over that a very long time ago.  My older brother, being the typical tormenting brother who’d try to whip his younger sibling back into line, would often ask me things like ‘Why can’t you be normal?’  My answer, years later, is something like ‘I tried being normal once but didn’t like it.’  😀

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Start of Baseball Season and Spectator Sports With Mental Illness

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Today is Easter Sunday, one of the major events and celebrations of the Christian religion. For baseball fans in America, like myself, it is also the start of the Major League baseball season.  Hope springs eternal for the fans of all teams, even for Rockies fans like myself.  While I am hopeful that we can put up a better showing, especially after two disaster seasons, the logical part of my brain tells me it will be a typical Rockies season: Be competitive until Memorial Day, have a lousy June and July, and start thinking about Broncos football after the All Star Break.  But I got hooked on the Colorado Rockies after going to a few games with college friends and my family over the years.  I became a die hard after going to a World Series game in Denver in 2007.  Even though we lost to the Red Sox in a four game sweep, it seemed that fans in Denver were so psyched to have made it that far that it was Christmas before they realized they were swept in the Series.  In all fairness and respect, the Red Sox had such a great team in those years that almost no one would have had a chance.

As much as I like watching live sports, especially baseball and college football, in many cases I prefer to watch at home or a friend’s place on a HDTV as opposed to watch games in person.  As a life long Nebraskan, I’ve been to several Husker football games over the years.  My family has season tickets and my dad graduated from the University.  Haven’t been to many since my mental illness problems really set in.  Part of this is due to I don’t handle large crowds in small spaces well.  And 90,000 people in a football stadium qualifies as large crowd in a small space.  As tough as I find large crowds in open air arenas, enclosed crowds like basketball games and music concerts are even tougher.  I get overwhelmed easy and I have fears of heights and enclosed spaces.  I get air sick climbing a ladder, let alone sitting in the third tier of the cheap seats.

So to get my fix of live entertainment without the stresses of dealing with large crowds, I go to things like open air concerts in the city parks, minor league baseball games in Omaha (go Storm Chasers!), and high school football games on Friday nights.  My friends and I can get seats right behind the dugouts for a minor league game in Omaha for only 12 dollars apiece.  Parking isn’t pricey either.  If you watch yourself at the concession stands, you can have a real good time at a minor league ball game for less than 25 dollars per person.  And you might even able to say ‘I saw such-and-such hot shot pitcher/outfielder before he was a star.’

I am glad to see the start of baseball season.  Many no doubt think it’s a boring game where things happen only when you’re not paying attention.  But I like it because it’s played every day, so it’s a more relaxed mentality than football or soccer.  Some may be upset because of the high salaries the players make.  All I can say is if I was one of the top 1,000 people in the world at blogging or any profession, I’d be making ridiculous amounts of money too.  Some of top people on youtube make over a million dollars per year.  I’d be making a lot of money too if thousands of people paid to see me work or if I had millions of viewers and got a few advertisers.  But I’m digressing.  I enjoy the relaxed nature of baseball, I enjoy the history, and I enjoy the uniqueness of the game.  For all I know, this could be the Rockies year.  If not, Wait ’till Next Year!