Jun 12, 2013

The Perks of Being an Outcast, Part I

It amazes me (and somehow I spend much of my life amazed) how many people tell me I have incredible communication skills. I do feel comfortable in most any situation, but I don't usually feel like I belong. In fact, I've spent much of my life feeling like an outcast.

When I was little, I had an prevailing desire to soak up facts from the encyclopedia and wring them out over everyone's head. This garnered me the title "know it all." I don't have an issue with that label, per se, but I have distinct memories of how those around me would confuse my knowing thousands of trivial geographical and statistical facts with me being a smart ass when I would legitimately not understand something they were talking about. This still happens, actually. I find many people expect you to just understand what they're saying even when they do not have the skills to explain. "Well, you knew what I meant!" they say. Oddly enough, this ties in with the "know it all" label--I'll say, "I really don't know what you mean here," but I usually get annoyance in response. This happened when I was younger, especially with my step-mom. I think she thought I was making fun of her for trying to nail down the actual meaning of what she was describing. This reoccurring circumstance led to me "play dumb", which I did for about fifteen years, and still exhibit for the briefest of moments.

It started when my brother killed himself. I was in 8th grade. I went from all A's, to a low-B's, high-C's student. I was finally able to mask my intelligence with real world failures. I vividly remember the relief that overcame me when I missed being bumped into 8th grade Advanced Math by two points. My teacher suggested I retake the placement exam and she'd help me study. I was so nervous that she was talking to me, I just muttered a "No, that's okay," and she went away. When my grades, and performance obviously, dipped in 8th grade, I was so glad no one noticed. My mother was numb, my dad was far away, and my siblings were in their own little worlds covered by storm clouds.

I skated through the last five years of my public education without reward and without intervention. The only thing I excelled at was foreign language.

When I was in my senior year, college seemed so far away--in distance and time. My dad and step-mom had a friend who worked as a translator for the city court. He brought me to Mexican restaurants and grocery stores where I could utilize my years of Spanish language training. I was good. The employees understood me, and even revered me. But it was too much for me. I began to resent that the only thing I was good at was speaking a foreign language--a language that very few of my friends and family gave a shit about. I was even more of an outcast at near fluency in Spanish than I was when I could list the capital city of every state in alphabetical order.

In my final year of my public school education, I no longer gave a shit about my grades. I didn't even care much about my future. I was working at the GAP and it was fun. I could just do that for the rest of my life. What I did care about was who I was, or rather, what I was. I spent much of my time stressing about my sexuality. I had already come out of the closet, by default--which I'll explain another time, but I was still attracted to girls in a way that is still difficult to explain. It took a few years (and thousands of hours of feeling like a guilty schmuck), but I finally decided that I could no longer have sex with girls. If I was gay, I had to be gay. Otherwise...what the fuck was I? Just an outcast.

I embraced my gayness by...I didn't really do anything. I just broke up with Kim, the girl I'd gone out with for a few months. She already knew I was attracted to guys. She was actually excited by that which freaked me out a little bit. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly accepted her acceptance of me.

So, I embraced my gayness by shutting out some of the people who had borne witness to the most vulnerable versions of me that ever existed. To this day, I feel like I betrayed Kim and our friends. And by doing so, I felt even more like an outcast.

To be continued...


  1. I didn't know about your brother, Jon. I'm so sorry.

    But ... when it comes to you being attracted to women, that finally explains why most of your Facebook photos are of you with hot girls.

  2. I used the encyclopedia to out-smart my mother. She called me stupid, so I soaked up facts to push in her face - since she only had a 6th grade education. To this day my head gets so filled up with useless trivia I hardly have room for important stuff. Like birthdays of my friends.

    You'll discover your true path someday Jon. Until then, just enjoy being unique.


  3. Waiting patiently for the next installment....