I always have to wonder who I really am, whenever I take a moment to think about describing myself. I guess maybe it’s something that’s always getting shaped and re-invented, though…who we even are, I mean. Let’s stick with just facts, then.
I was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan. My parents had met while at MSU, back in the Seventies. They worked hard and put themselves through college, back when that was economically possible, and eventually they both got jobs in Lansing, working for the state government. Then they built a house, and then they had me, and this all happened in precisely this order, just as they’d planned it. My folks are that kind of people.
They really were the best parents I could’ve hoped to have had, but they weren’t around much, and as a consequence I was raised in daycare, mostly, until I was about nine years old.
The lady who watched me for most of that time was a little bit crazy, I think. I’ve often wondered in years since whether perhaps she was kind of drunk or something that whole time. She would grab you and just start spanking you. You wouldn’t have any idea what you’d done wrong until afterwards, when you were told to sit with your nose exactly in the corner and think about it for the next half an hour, or whatever. So, from age three until about nine, I walked on eggshells, mostly.
This type of treatment is probably what preceded a lot of the social anxiety and awkwardness, which led to me having a particularly difficult time in school. Don’t get me wrong, I think I was kind of a weird kid to begin with, but that weirdness was horribly exacerbated by something, and I’ve never been able to put my finger on precisely what.
I was originally very positive and outgoing as a child. Very confident, too. My parents have a story about them losing track of me at a national park or something…it was a very big place, and they were terribly worried…but some time later, I came marching out of the woods between two teenage girls who had found me “adventuring” on my own, and to whom I refused to issue any other information other than the fact that I was, indeed, the real Superman.
Time changed this, though, and I became terribly awkward and insecure after I was about seven or so. After about the first grade. Part of this was due to my being relentlessly bullied and teased about absolutely anything that would serve as a means of making me feel bad about myself. It was strange how intense it was. I remember every day on the bus ride to school turning into a nightmare as I would be punched, kicked, and thumped on the ears by the other kids. I don’t think I really ever gave anyone a reason to do this kind of stuff to me. It just kind of happened.
Middle school and junior high were no better, and I eventually learned to find my identity in a sort of spiteful resilience that took the form of me getting very excited about things like Metallica and Slayer, and about artistic pursuits like carving pentagrams and skulls into just about everything (including my own body) and painting with my own blood. I became famous for embracing violent confrontation, no matter what the odds, and these types of behaviors earned me respect in the punk-and-metal scene. This would have been about 1993 or so.
A big part of what made me so miserable and angry was this…overwhelming sense of being alone, abandoned, and rejected. I could speculate as to the possible sources of this core belief, but there really doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation for how intense it was. It was really bad. In addition to motivating all this terrible extroversion and attention-seeking self harm, it created this insatiable need for intimacy and affection from girls. I needed to be seen as attractive, or I hated myself all the more, and it seemed like no matter what, I perceived myself as being the very opposite of what I needed to be. I thought I was incredibly ugly. Looking back, at pictures of myself when I was young, for example, there is no real evidence of anything like this being actually true. I was a pretty normal looking kid. It was, nonetheless, my incontrovertible conviction that I was altogether unloveable, and nothing could change this perception.
I’d had crushes on a couple of different girls while I was growing up, though I never made any effort to communicate this to them (on account of this preconceived certainty of imminent rejection). In the ninth grade, though, my friend Tim took it upon himself to play matchmaker. He was only trying to help. He saw the state that I was in, and figured I just needed to experience reciprocated romantic desire in order to get over these issues. Unfortunately, the girl he set me up with was something of a pathological…I don’t know what the word is…she would go out with a guy until they fell in love with her, and then she would dump them and run away.
We went out for like exactly a month before she broke up with me, and the whole experience was like probably the absolute worst thing that possibly could have happened to me at the time (with the exception of being kidnapped and tortured, or something like that — trying to stay within the confines of feasible reality here). Whatever pre existing psychological aberrations were in play, they combined with typical teenage hormone chaos and the normal, human response to spontaneous rejection. It all came together into a perfect storm, and I completely went off the rails.
Drugs had been making their way into my social circles, and I embraced them full force. I saw it as the only possible means of escape from the pain that I was experiencing, and the confusion and self-loathing that had been going on basically for as long as I could remember.
[Still working on this…]