The Llama intends to break this out into two posts, but I’m on a bit of a time crunch this week so, sorry folks, no extra posts from me. Though definitely check hers out because they’ll probably be a lot more interesting.
Today’s question is in two parts: “What was the best thing about your youth? What was the worst?”
I don’t want to go into too much detail about this because a lot of it is kind of hard to explain. But the best thing about my youth in my mind was the environment in which I was raised. Despite my parents being religious, one of their most deeply held beliefs is that it’s not your religion that matters, only whether or not you’re a good person. I was raised with that belief at the very core of my morality, and my parents only associated with people who they considered good people. Didn’t matter your race, religion, or sexual orientation, your political orientation or income level. Everyone was held to the same standard. Do you treat people with respect? Do you give new people in your life the benefit of the doubt? Do you stand up for the people you care about? These are the things that matter in friendship and life in general, and if you can live by them then everything else just makes you interesting. Gives you a different perspective from us that we want to learn from.
This is how I was raised, and it’s how I live to this day. It made me the person I am now, and I’m grateful for having been surrounded by so many various types of peoples growing up with so many varying points of view.
The worst part about growing up was that I got picked on. A lot. I was the skinny nerdy looking kid who was good in school and the teachers loved. I had the thick glasses and used the big words and everything. If I had had a pocket protector I would have been a walking sitcom character. The fact that I also suffered from depression and issues with anger, not only was I an easy target, but one they found particularly entertaining to pick on. Over the summer between junior high and high school I gained nearly a foot in height and finally inherited my dad’s miraculous ability to grow and maintain muscle with little to no effort on my part, and the taunts stopped after that for some totally inexplicable reason.
But before then? For years I was the loser that was picked on so much other kids didn’t even like to be around in case they started getting picked on for associating with me. I grew angrier and more depressed, developed trust issues and kept things bottled up until I would explode like a land mine you didn’t know was there until you stepped on it and lost a leg by no fault of your own. The fact that this conflicted so much with my morality, that people in general deserve respect, created a severe conflict in my brain that left me with major issues with guilt that I still struggle with to this day.
I don’t look back on my youth fondly. I’m glad to have grown up with the morals that I did, and getting to experience as wide a variety of places to live and surrounded by so many different lifestyles and cultures, but there was a lot of negatives. My family wasn’t terribly supportive of emotional issues, and they expected me to live up to the legacy of the family which on both sides is full of doctorates, entrepreneurs, high ranking public servants of the saving lives varieties (firemen, federal police, military). Friends of family added to the high expectations, most being successful and highly educated. All of them had to struggle and fight the odds to get to where they were, so when I encountered issues they were always to simply be overcome on my own. Suicidal depression at the age of 8 was just to be kept to myself and pushed past because my life was good so I couldn’t possibly understand what it meant to have problems, and there was nothing that I couldn’t deal with on my own because they had it tougher. And yeah, they did.
I would never argue that my life wasn’t privileged. But when an 8 year old is contemplating suicide there is clearly something wrong that I needed help with and no one would help me. I had to push through it on my own. I started to get picked on while I was already bottling up severe emotional issues and I was already feeling that isolated and frustrated. I wanted to hurt them. I wanted so badly to beat them to a pulp. And despite how I looked, I could have. But I never did, because it went against my moral code. As my mother told me ‘never throw the first punch, but if someone hits you, hit them back harder.’ (My dad believes violence should only occur if there are zero alternatives, my mom believes you get what you give, even if that’s a punch to the face.) But no one ever hit me, so I never got to hit them back (The one time I did shove a kid it was because he sat his ass on my desk and refused to move while I was trying to get ready for class. All I did was shove him off my desk. Probably a little harder than I should have, but he didn’t get hurt.) That’s probably for the best, I’m sure I would have regretted it if I had. Especially since I’ve spent most of my life since then attempting to be in control of my anger to specifically avoid escalating fights so no one gets physically or emotionally hurt.
Anyway, my childhood was a long time ago and a really long story. It’s not something I’m particularly fond of talking about. I wasn’t a great person when I was younger, and in some ways my circumstances made it worse, in others they made it better. So overall, I am who I am now because of it, and despite all of my many, many issues, I don’t hate who I am, so, net positive? Yeah, let’s go with that.
Feel free to tell your own stories, I’d love to hear them and QA is a judgement free zone! But even if you’re not open to sharing give The Llama’s answer a read!