seven years

According to the “on this day” function on FB (which is so strangely addictive if only as an archive of my questionable fashion choices and that one year I tried to communicate almost exclusively in song lyrics), tomorrow marks seven years since an unexpectedly life-changing event.

I write about the person I refer to on here as Vulcan a lot because that whole mess was one of the turning points in my life. It made me realize a lot of things that wouldn’t have become apparent otherwise a bit earlier than might’ve been ideal, and my entire life changed because of that one moment seven years ago.

Okay, fine, that story spanned over the course of a year and a half. Maybe two and a half if you count the ACTUAL first time I met that boy, but I don’t because the person I wanted to chewtoy and the person who showed me unexpected kindness and caused a lot of unexpected problems… were quite different, honestly. But like all great almost-love-stories, this one had a beginning point, and this one occurred on a cold November Saturday when a boy I’d met exactly once before – and at the time, REALLY did not like based on that previous experience – suggested that I might want to do a content warning at the beginning of my interp.

Look, there were a lot of shitty experiences that came along with being midrange-conservative-Christian homeschooled through high school, but speech tournaments were not one of them. That’s the one part of my adolescence I can look back on and say was solidly GOOD. Maybe in part because the structure of the beast required a level of human decency a lot of us weren’t otherwise capable of, and the dress codes and strict scheduling prevented a lot of the behavior that otherwise went down when more than half a dozen homeschooled teenage girls were in the same space for more than ten minutes, but… whatever the causes, that activity WORKED for me. It got me out of the house and around other human beings, it gave me a valid excuse to cause a little lowkey drama without fallout (pretty sure a few moms reconsidered whether sheltering was such a good thing after watching my senior-year interp)… total win.

But again, back to that one unexpected turning point.

How the hell an 18-year-old male who’d grown up in that culture had ANY concept about content warnings, I will never know. There were a lot of questions I didn’t ask back then, when it mattered, ’cause I was too busy trying to get him to LIKE me. Or, well, assuming he did but also kinda wondering why he didn’t do anything about it. (There are still a lot of unasked questions, but people change and I’ve stopped actively wondering.)

And then a couple months later, another moment my brain goes back to when I need some kind of validation. Different competition, not a particularly good weekend for me ’cause I’d read a book over the holidays that had really screwed me up. Perfect timing on the part of one of two genuine friends I had among the three hundred or so of us… led to a near-death experience and what I realized a couple years later was my first-ever panic attack. And again, Vulcan was inhumanly chill. Calmed me down, made sure I was okay, and made sure I got safely inside before frostbite fully got through my floral fishnets. Again, no reason why someone with those origins and those brackets should’ve been THAT GOOD, and yet.

I’m realizing, as I write this, that all the people I’ve seriously fallen in love with have had that effect on me. They’ve been people who, with their very presence, can either make me melt or make me contemplate how they’d look spread out on the hood of my car. (Or both at once.) It’s pretty freaking rare that people can do that to me, but it has aftershocks that last for years. Pretty undying loyalty, for one thing.

It’s been… guh, I wanna say five years since I physically crossed paths with Vulcan. Dunno if I ever will again, or how awkward that would be. We’re still friends and occasionally talk about random stuff (I’ve accepted that one of my life’s purposes is to make sure that boy listens to decent music once in a while, and that’s a good conversation starter). My tendency to hang onto former crushes is a little weird – when I was talking to one of my female friends a couple weeks ago, I realized that like half the people I trust // go to in a crisis are guys I once thought I was gonna marry – but it works.

I mean, if nothing else… if someone ever seriously screws me over, they could end up facing down an Avengers worth of my sort-of-almost-exes. That’s pretty darn awesome.

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manifested nightmare

I’ve been realizing lately that I used to be a really shitty person.

Not that I’m doing all that much better now or anything, but at least over the last few years I’ve become aware of my flaws and my tendencies and I am slowly but surely putting leashes on them and teaching them how to sit and shut up. I make no claims about being a Good Human Being, but damn, at least I’m willing to admit I’m human.

Baby!me did not have that ability. Much to her peril. And it’s taken me almost a decade to admit it.

Blame an old friend for this, if you will. Beautiful thing about social media is sometimes people reappear out of nowhere after two years of awkward silence and it’s like the distance never existed at all. This one, he’s special. I’ve blogged about him in the past because he’s slightly more notable as the first love whose lack of interest in me led to me leaving the Bubble and ending up on antidepressants for the first time (wow, boy did a lot for me), but before that… before that, he was the only person who knew me in high school who did not want to fix me, let alone try.

I think I scared him. It’s been eight years since it happened, a third of my life, and I still vividly remember the cold November weekend our paths first crossed. Rarely do I have primal reactions to new people, and negative ones even less so, but I took one look at that boy and I wanted to bring him down. Over the two days and several hallway encounters that followed, I almost hit him several times – and not always by accident either. I’m pretty sure everyone has vague sociopathic tendencies at age sixteen or so, but I was something else entirely and I picked a pretty good victim.

Or so I thought. But in my chaotic brilliance, I’d picked the one Bubble boy in our region who could not only keep up with me but actually chose to. Chose to explain to me, a year and a lifetime later, that sometimes content warnings make life easier. (Not that I listened, but seventeen-year-old me was not good at following instructions.) Chose to reach out to me and treat me like a damn person, something I did not know how to respond to at the time (and still don’t, honestly). Chose to, in sweet Bubble-boy fashion, become the first real friend I managed to keep.

But oh, that doesn’t change how much of a bitch I was.

If it moved, I hated it. I was undiagnosed depressive, not to mention aforementioned sociopath-adjacent tendencies, and I’d been left in a perfect playground. A quick glance at the national news will inform any outsider of how succeptible such communities are to semi-outsider predators, but the young who aren’t eaten frequently grow up to be just as monstrous. I was merely more open and aiming in a slightly different direction than my peers. All of us were a bit feral, I think. I stood out as a lone wolf amidst the shifting pack of our homeschool group, but nobody survived unscathed.

Still, someone saw light in me. Someone my age, someone I never would’ve expected kindness from until it was shown. And that, more than anything else, is probably why I’m still alive.

(I’m gonna message this post to the person in question, for the record. I do follow the “if you write about them and you’re still on speaking terms, make sure they see it” rule. So… this could get awkward and lead to a follow-up post about how I’ve set my life on fire THIS month.)

I still have a lot of reflection to do, but at least I’m admitting it. That’s the first step.

mid-case scenario

As of this past Saturday, all my contact with the Bubble going forward will be completely of my own free will. My little sister officially graduated high school the second time (it’s a long story and not mine to tell in detail but mostly features her primal concept of loyalty), my family survived some awkward conversations in a bizarrely small church gym, and it’s over. We’re done.

I know, I know – I myself graduated six years ago, so technically the past six years have been voluntary, but… it’s hard to run when you’ve got younger siblings. Especially when one of said younger siblings is friends with everyone. (Bean, if you’re reading this, I love how outgoing you are but sometimes I wonder how your brain handles it. Maybe with the space I would have if I’d stop obsessing about questionable genre shows??) So while I was out of the heart of the fire, I was still on the edges.

And now I am not. And that’s weird as hell and, like everything else, it’s got me brooding.

I am not the perfect Bubble girl, that much is obvious from my colorful vocabulary and the fact that, at almost 24, there’s no ring on my finger and my uterus has yet to have an occupant. But nor am I what they thought I’d become either. Sure, I’ve got a few more tattoos than would be considered ideal (okay fine I only have four SO FAR), but I don’t have bizarre piercings, my sexual orientation is only a relevant detail of my existence when I feel like hissing about that one girl I had a crush on two autumns back (one of those fabulously no-win crushes no less), I don’t have a criminal record or a child born out of wedlock, and I’m pretty harmless when I remember to take my meds.

So, I’m something else. A grayscale daughter of a black-and-white world. Weird, huh.

I got the chance to talk to an old friend last weekend who I hadn’t had any direct contact with in a year and a half (thank you Facebook chat for reminding me of the last time we’d both been broody enough to deal with each other) and it was the weirdest freaking thing. Six years ago, I thought I was gonna marry that boy. Mind you, I thought a lot of other shit then that also ended up being completely wrong, but… there’s a part of me that’s always gonna have a soft spot for Vulcan. Like most of the people I’ve loved, he sees right through people to their very cores. Even from the other side of the world, having noticed that I’d liked one too many of his vacation photos (which are AWESOME btw and I’m kinda jealous) and deciding to check in on me ’cause why the hell not, he saw through me.

God, I’d probably be miserable right now if he’d liked me back. If we’d been one of those Bubble couples – if you’ve ever dealt with the Bubble, you know the type, the ones that get married after six months of their version of dating ’cause it’d be a mortal sin to make out before marriage. We easily could’ve been. I’m sure there’s an alternate universe where Vulcan would’ve fallen for me because of how many feathers it would’ve ruffled for the golden boy to settle down with the bitchy black sheep. (And now that’s a story idea. Frack.) But we didn’t, and I can finally see how that was a good thing.

In the end, turned out neither of us did Perfect Bubble Young Adult that well. And it feels awesome to know stuff about a whole range of things that are perfect gibberish to someone whose mind used to amaze me (and to an extent still does). It feels awesome to know that that boy’s out there doing his thing, in his own orbit, keeping his head above water and finding happy moments here and there. I’m definitely one of those people who likes to keep an eye on former objects of affection – given that I’ve gone after some Real Winners, it’s almost necessary – but at least I don’t have to worry about Vulcan. Never have, never will.

I mean, my first instinct upon meeting that boy almost eight years ago was that I wanted to punch him. Even considering the Bubble doctrine of Universal Compatibility, there was no way that was gonna end well for me.

I feel like I’m in another transformative phase of my life. I know, I know, I’m in my twenties so like this entire decade is supposed to be transformative, but like… this current moment more so than usual. This summer, just beginning, like it could totally reshape everything I am and believe in.

Idk. I got a tattoo of a moon on my wrist two weeks ago because werewolves are the perfect analogy for everything about me, I’m attempting to plow through the works of CS Lewis in an effort to sort out my spirituality completely separate from my environment of origin (or the megachurches it seems like everyone my age goes to), and today I learned not to wear my super-modest dress when I’m going to a particular location ’cause that is how one gets harassed by drunk homeless people. It’s a weird week and I’m just shutting up and running with it.