Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beyond Labels: Reviewing Diagnoses

There is a widespread misunderstanding when it comes to depression; what it is and what it is not. This is because people will often label others' conditions without understanding their condition nor the label. What madness is this?

It seems that, if anyone questions or doubts existence and how humans typically go about it, it is suggested that they are depressed. If someone isn't radiating "positive energy", smiles, and optimism, this is assumed to be depression. The general public has such a great fear of those who are not faking bliss and joy that they prefer to make these people into outcasts and rejects from society. An "exception".

Meanwhile, autism has a spectrum. A lot of good that does, but at least it acknowledges all the nuanced differences between those who have the disorder. It's a huge spectrum, nearly everyone is included. The entire category of "anxiety" is on the spectrum. It does not get much broader than that. For everyone else, it's either "high-functioning" or "low-functioning". This means, either you're doing a good enough job at living or you're considered a total mess. You had one job, to function as a human, and you're messing it up.

That's not fair and it's not accurate.

With most mental disorders or illnesses, they're seen as 'on' or 'off'. Forget episodes and degrees of illness, you're just depressed or anxious or bipolar, or you're not those things. We forget that being depressed doesn't mean you have it. Just like, if your father's great-uncle's mother was Native American, it doesn't mean that you're Native American. We all have a little something in us, a little  something weird, a little "off".  We're just very quick to box these people up and ship them off.

When I look at my own feelings, I feel I am more confused or perplexed by the world than I am depressed by it. Occasionally, this causes me to retard. I slow down and reflect. By my own experience, I can tell you, I don't feel down until someone points out that I seem down. Until then, I am just turning down my senses to avoid unnecessary distractions and I am zoning in on what I would like to improve upon in my life and in the world.

The usual and deemed offensive understanding of retardation is when someone is intellectually challenged. That seems like a complete misnomer to me. When we say someone is slow or retarded, we are assuming that the information we are giving them is of any import to them or their lives. We are deciding what they need. Aside from some source of nutrition and remembering to inhale and exhale occasionally, there are very few things we must do in order to survive. We tell others what they need simply out of the assumption that they need what we need, when that is hardly ever the case.

Think about it, our brains decide which tidbits of information are worth retaining. While we may not always deem retained information as important, for some reason or other, our brains decided it was something worth holding onto. For people who are incapable of memorizing or learning the same skills the rest of us learn, I think it's entirely possible that the information was simply not included in their must-have list. Sure, it makes things more challenging for the rest of us. We have trouble communicating with them or teaching them things. Sometimes their family members and friends have to work a lot harder to get them going, but all those practical things don't mean anything when it comes to nature. Nature doesn't take into account that others will expect that person to function the same way as they do. Nature doesn't have a blueprint and a list of goals. It simply gives and we receive. Yet, it is only "retardation" when it comes to mental development. We expect others to think and learn as we do, but when it comes to the body's functionality, we are much less demanding.

Society is nit-picky. Mental illness is deemed bad. If you're displeased with the body or orientation society has deemed appropriate for you, or the religion that is popular, this is all deemed bad.  However, we sympathize when someone has something like cancer or diabetes. We are rooting for them and will try to give them all the resources they need to order to feel better. We assume that the body's needs and functionality is more important than that of the mind. The body seems less intimidating for some reason, so it's easier to understand. Even when it presents the most challenging problems, at least we can relate to them, see them, go through them with the individual. These are easier issues to swallow, so we can face them. With such little understanding of the mind, it tends to go ignored and under-served.

One doesn't have to look too far to see how we are mistreating our species. We expect the most obnoxious and boring things from one another. There is so much humans could do, so much more fun we could have, so much more knowledge we could attain... if we stopped being so scared. We are literally a huge group of potential friends released on a planet with no rules or expectations. We have the choice to do everything or nothing or whatever we please. What do we do? Let's put on suits and sit at a desk all day! Let's write reports so we can receive more green paper with which we can buy a house to sit inside and watch television. Maybe twice a year we'll go somewhere different. But most of our lives will be spent on one tiny part of the Earth, hating the same things, regretting what we don't do, and yet, wanting more. This is what healthy and normal looks like.

Everyday, people are labeled as depressed because they're not okay with this; they are not willing to accept these expectations. To want MORE and do MORE sounds more functional to me. We don't have the option to change the entire world's view on these issues, we only can change how we live our own lives, with whom we surround ourselves, and the everyday choices we make.




Monday, December 25, 2017

I Can't Even Christmas.

Hello, there! Just your local Jew here! Sitting in my pajamas on Christmas Day, being a curmudgeon about this silly holiday. Come on, even Chanukah, one of the least important Jewish holidays has a better story than Christmas. The Christians can market a holiday, but if the Jews can't come up with one impressive story....

I talk big about hating Christmas, it kinda becomes my shtick this time of year. But, honestly? I don't hate Christmas! Everyone seems extra happy and positive and kind. Imagine if we could have that all year long? We wouldn't make it a month, but it's a nice thought.

The problem with this time of year is the countless greetings of, "Merry Christmas!" I'm one those horrible people who prefers nice, politically correct snowflakes to Christmas trees and Jesus staring at me everywhere I go. I have no qualms with Jesus, I imagine he'd be pretty cool and pro-Israel. Albeit, a commie with a huge ego, but we could chill. The problem is seeing his empty eyes as he Jew-shames me from the comfort of his little cross. Then, there's also people like the one I overheard at the mall the other day yelling, "Like the Jews from Christ, your friend is GONE!" 
What the heck, lady? We don't need that kind of slander and propaganda making rounds again. 

To recap, Christmas is great, Jesus is cool, and everyone loves the holiday lights. The problem is, I don't celebrate Christmas! Neither do other Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Sikhs, Jains, and tons of other people. Of course, we don't expect you to know that, but we also don't need you to assume otherwise. Because we are SO over it. We are over being clumped into your religion and your holidays and your assumption that everyone lives the life you live. 

We get it, we're not like you. Our heritage and traditions aren't as big and bright and exciting as yours. We don't get you, you don't get us, that's okay. We're not as popular and we don't fit in quite as well. I mean, come on, you guys literally looked around nature, spotted the biggest, most space-consuming thing, brought it INTO YOUR HOME, and covered it in bright lights. You're the boss, the winner, good job!

When someone assumes I celebrate Christmas, I feel two things. First, I feel like that person is forcing themselves upon me. Not literally, obviously. It's just a feeling of being coerced into something without my consent, as though it's so important that every human being has to be involved. Meanwhile, my own interests and choices are meaningless to you. Maybe 5 people text me on Chanukah to wish me a good holiday. Meanwhile, everyone, their mother, and the pope text me on Christmas. Most of those people know I'm not Christian. This tells me that you know better and you just don't care. It's a complete disregard for a huge part of who I am. Is it spiteful merry wishes? Or do you think that if you make me feel included and welcome, I'll convert? What's the game plan here? Let me be clear, I will never choose an Italian sub over a bagel, I will never choose Coachella over a cousin's Bar Mitzvah, and I will always use my obnoxious "Jewish name" as an ice breaker. These are the things in which I firmly believe.

The second feeling is that of being identified incorrectly. Quite honestly, it's kind of racist/anti-Semitic. I mean, if you're Japanese and someone assumes you're Chinese or you're Bangladeshi and someone calls you Indian, that's not acceptable, right? This is the same situation. I'm proud of my heritage, even if I don't believe in its religious aspects. I believe in my traditions, I respect my ancestors, and I love my culture.

It's disrespectful, ignorant, and insensitive. I am not Christian, and there have always been people making me feel lesser for that. There's a lot of hatred out there, many people trying to end diversity! When someone assumes we ALL celebrate Christmas, all I see is someone who expects me to be just like them and assimilate. Do you know I couldn't find a single dreidel for sale this year? Wait, that's not true. I saw a SANTA CLAUSE DREIDEL

Sorry, friend, I'm a Jew. This Christmas, I'm gonna Jew so hard. Matter of fact, I'm gonna chat with Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu... heck, I'll bring in some Greek Gods, I don't care! All of us are going to be here and we aren't going to celebrate Christmas. No trees, no jingle bells, and no freaking reindeer! How do you stake claim on an entire species of animal!? 

This is not a war on Christmas, this is a plea. Until the day when my Google Calendar tells me when EVERY holiday is, and not just Christmas and Easter, I will still hold a grudge. When people stop asking me about the "Jewish language", then I'll be more sympathetic. If a time comes when Bible-thumpers stop going around trying convert or kill everyone, maybe I'll hear you guys out.

Keep singing and being merry, but I want nothing to do with your glazed ham, and don't even mention a Chanukah bush! Unless it's an olive tree and it's going to light my Hanukia, I don't want it.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Porpoise of a Purpose

Ugh. The age old question about meaning and purpose, it's so overdone and so futile to attempt an explanation. Life just is. I've accepted that, French cats have accepted that, why can't we all?

Well, maybe because it is a really difficult thing with which to come to terms. That was also a really difficult sentence to write, did I do it correctly? GRAMMAR!!

Let's think about this. The "purpose and meaning" issue, not the grammatical accuracy of my sentence. We are on Earth because of atoms and cells and sciencey-science and whatnot, yah? Yah. Now, why, or better yet, how would anything possibly give meaning to that? That would require thought, and thought requires a functioning brain, and that requires humans. Humans which are too small and insignificant to create anything... or, are we? We create more humans! And by doing so, we create an entire new universe upon which we assign meaning as it best fits our own needs and desires. This is why so many children grow up to do just what their parents do, with the same morals, ethics, politics, and priorities. Yes, "rebellion" may lead them astray, but in there, there is still a parental figure guiding them. As opposed to someone who doesn't have a parental figure or guardian offering them their wisdom and leadership, who then end up without a path, without a sense of purpose. A child without proper guidance is a dangerous thing. It must rely on instinct; survival.

****
I watched two videos of children being let loose in a house for a week and saw this in action.
I'm obsessed and fascinated. 
Boys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCePbRdQmbE
Girls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAfZqXqMGF0          
*****

Maybe it is not how you let your kids dress that determines their overall success and your parenting skills, but more so how well you give your child purpose. This may be the very reason parents stress about math class and dance class and hockey practice and "never giving up". Why fitting in and being normal are so imperative. These are things that help a child to adjust and settle into their individual worth, awareness, and presence. Without the stable and sturdy stepping stones and really good alliteration, children are led astray, on the wrong path, a confusing path, or no path at all. This may lead to failure to launch. After all, what sense does it make for a child to launch without any clue where they are headed? If absolutely necessary, said child will most likely go whichever way instinct leads the poor, confused kid.

This also reminds us that what we say to kids matters. When it comes to their goals and dreams, there's no benefit in telling them at what they're bad. Believe me, they have enough people doing that, especially themselves. Don't tell them what they are bad at, they'll figure it out. It's what they're good at- that's of what they need reminders. Mediocrity is only mediocre if you present it as such. Which is not to say you should coddle your kid, sugarcoat everything, and act like barely passing classes is good enough. Instead, let the difficult subjects counterbalance the good ones, even if it's just making paper airplanes. Who knows, maybe one day, they'll build metal ones or get really good at physics! Encouragement is key. Telling someone else that the thing about which they care and put work and thought into matters!

I believe that, at a very young age, children start searching for their place in the world. Once they recognize it, they can thrive in it or they can easily be discouraged. If you don't like their choices, don't worry that it will determine their entire future, but remember that you have a big influence. You have more power than you think, so let your kid share some of it.

If you are looking for your own purpose, stop searching for it. Whatever you're doing, whatever matters to you, whatever convinces you to get out of bed, get out of the hot shower, get out of your comfortable pajamas, and get out of the door- that's all you need. Whether it's your pets, your passion for coffee, your grumbling stomach, your fear of upsetting loved ones, or a job that means a lot to you, that is it. Like it, love it, or hate it- that's you. There's more to you, of course, and it will always be changing, but even when you don't feel and see it, it's there, happening. It's absolutely frackin' magic!

As the song goes (the song I wrote that no one knows) :



I’ve been leaning on these lies, praying heavily towards the skies
Making wishes overtime, looking all around for signs
Gotta make things happen, Aching wings are flapping
Make it over one more fence, don’t wanna fall from lack of strength
But I know I’ve gotta try and try   
Tell self-hatred and doubt, goodbye

Thursday, November 9, 2017

What I Think vs. What I Know

Unfortunately, many of us tend to be a lot more critical of ourselves than we are of others. For example, if someone else does something embarrassing, most of us let it go and do our best to make them feel better about it, right? We don't obsess over it, think less of them, or treat them differently. However, if you, yourself make a mistake, whether it's large or small, you do ALL those things. To the point of extreme anger and disappointment, at times.

Due to this natural and unhealthy habit, we tend to hurt ourselves even more. For me, I'll either put myself in situations where I know I'll suffer and struggle, thereby confirming the negative things I've decided about myself or, I'll self-sabotage and end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy of things not working out. Once again, confirming all the things about which I was angry and disappointed. Not giving myself a chance and not giving myself any room to grow or improve. All that's left is self-doubt and fear. Before my boss or friend has the chance to tell me how awful I am, it's already been decided in my head, so I run for the hills. All the motivational quotes in the world about believing in yourself and not giving up won't change that.

The latest inspirational poster phrase is, "Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways." First of all, can I get a comma? Second of all, this is just buying into the whole "adulting is hard", "I'm awkward", "being a hot mess is cool" thing. And, let's be real... no. The world doesn't need anymore of that. I don't want job ads telling me that I can wear a tank top to work and drink beer and play ping pong all day. Don't the "Under 40" people want any respect? Or, is that too old fashioned? As hard as it is to earn respect and do the work that typically earns the respect of others, I personally would appreciate a job and what I was doing within that job if people expected things of me; if the bar was raised a touch higher. Then again, I was that kid who liked the strict teachers. At least they taught me stuff and I respected them. Respecting someone and treating someone with respect are different things, by the way. I treat everyone respectfully and kindly, but that doesn't necessarily mean I look at just anyone and feel respect for them.

When I show up to work, I aim to be confident and prepared for my role. Thus, I am picky with my role. That may also be a mistake. Maybe survival ($$) comes first, then comes satisfaction with the position, but I never claimed to be so put-together. I'm figuring this thing out as I go along. Point being, those are my goals when going into a job. If I feel as though I am not completing my tasks as necessary and to my own best standards, then what makes me deserving of someone's time and money?

Now, if someone else were telling me these things about themselves, I'd tell them to put aside pride and all the tough guy talk and just get the job done. Believe in themselves and the process and "no one is perfect right away" and blaaahh blahhh... that's just how it works. Not because I don't think they are capable of achieving greatness, but there is nothing wrong with being average or learning as you go. There's no shame in failure or tripping up. It's a necessary part of the process. Still, I will be the first to admit that, it's SO HARD to face failure.

Mediocrity just seems so exhausting to me. Being as good as I need to be or should be is just not enough, it takes away the thrill and my control. If someone is superior or better at something, they have the opportunity to overpower me and make me feel inferior - I don't need more of that, thank you. I aim to be the best, whether there's recognition for it or not, I'll know it when it's happening. Just knowing that fact is all I seek in a job; that is fulfilling to me. The question is, if you never begin from the bottom, how will you ever reach the top? Well, world, that's my conundrum. That's what keeps me up at night. I do not know how to look beyond my needs being met instantly and see what I can accomplish given time and a period of vulnerability. Fear, fear, fear, it'll get ya. It always finds a way. Maybe us control freaks will eventually learn how to stop running away from our weaknesses, but until then, it may just start with self-kindness and forgiveness. Be gentle to yourselves, we're all sensitive, especially when you're your own worst enemy!

Friday, September 29, 2017

From the drunken side of life

Last night I went rooftop bar hopping with a friend. I just had dental surgery yesterday, so I couldn't eat or drink anything, but I wanted to dress up and go out... so I did.

It felt glamorous and exciting, as it's supposed to feel. This is why we go out, right? This is how these fancy schmancy places remain open! I also figured this was my chance to ask some "real" adults what it's like working the white-collar life. How they get by, why they get by, and what it will be like for me.

There weren't many mixed or varied responses. Most were brief and empty, involving the joys of alcohol making it all worthwhile. Many answers were just, "I don't know why or how, but I fell into it and just kept doing it."

Finally, one woman who was slightly less drunk, or perhaps more drunk, gave me a more detailed response. She told me, to paraphrase but not weaken her lengthy response, that we all start out starry-eyed. We come out of high school or college or postgraduate and we have this idea that we're going to be special. That something great will be thrust upon us because we did our time, we worked hard, we spent our parents money. Now we will make it worth their time and our time. We all plan to be millionaires.

Then, reality hits. But, that's okay! There's no shame in living the 9-5 life in a nice blouse for 'okay' money and not living our dreams. Because we're told that we need to pay the bills and we need to start somewhere. We're told that it will open doors and eventually lead us to what we really want. Because of this, our eyes and hearts remain starry, our passion and fiery drive pushes us forward through the tough times. The times we want to give up, we don't. The times we want to run away, we can't. Everyone has these moments, she tells me. Everyone feels downtrodden and useless and hopeless. Not always, but often. Life just does that, but we get through it because we have hope that it will turn around and be worth it. We each tell ourselves (and others reinforce the idea) that things will work out. If we just apply ourselves and push ourselves into the things we don't want to do, we will eventually be able to do all the things we do want to do. Everything happens eventually!

You're in your 20s with this attitude, then your 30s... then your 40s. Then, you find that you're in your 50s and you don't have time to think about being special or worry about being "more" or "better". You're just trying to maintain a lifestyle that's like everyone else's lifestyle. You're surviving. Around your mid-30s, you also discover that alcohol convinces you that it will be okay. She says to me, "You will notice that there are many bars in this area. This area where the cool, wealthy people work and live. I live over here and I've been to every bar. My expensive home doesn't make the job worth it, the alcohol does."

She told me that she drinks to get by, that her friends and bosses and co-workers all drink because there is no other way they would survive otherwise. Her first drink was at 32 years old. Her first well-paying job, her first meaningful relationship, her first look into the rest of her life, all after turning 30.

Today, she wishes she hadn't settled, she shares this information with the growing group of listeners. But she knows she can't turn back now. So, she'll work, smile, nod, then die. That's her plan. Her friends smile and nod. One man listening in smiles and nods. It felt like the room turned to smile and nod at this woman's life. To agree and acknowledge the same path they followed.

This is when I wondered if this is what lies ahead for me. I don't particularly enjoy drinking alcohol and I don't plan to work mindlessly and resentfully for the rest of my life, what other choices do I get? It's like they say, if everyone is always telling you the same thing and everyone agrees with that same thing, maybe they're right...?

Perhaps I won't smile and nod or drink and die. Maybe I'll grow to love the mundane life that everyone leads. It seems so odd to me, that with all the things happening in the world, how are so many people doing those things and still feeling empty inside? I suppose there's that whole existential reasoning thing that keeps us awake at night. That whole recognition that it's all without purpose, all goodness is fleeting and all badness is stuck to us for life. As humans, we cherish the bad, so it is only human to constantly come to that realization that a single moment of joy is worth savouring, but impossible to hold onto.

Is the best option, then, to just embrace the bizarre nature of humans, humanity, and existence? To accept the inevitable emptiness and meaningless, but go on anyway because death is supposedly selfish and the unknown is too scary to bear? Should I maintain my ignorant and naive optimism despite warnings? Only to then cower and cringe at those moments when I must face the open window?

What now stands out to me about last night was that in this lavish, beautiful rooftop bar overflowing with $20 cocktails, at some point, they opened the windows. It was surprisingly cold for such an otherwise toasty day. The chilly breeze was relentless, no matter where you stood. This is how I ended up amidst the crowds at this packed funeral of hopes and dreams, because no amount of high-quality makeup or exploding champagne could protect us from the changing weather. I suppose there is a reason they call it the 'little black dress'. These women have their safe, funereal wear to go out and mourn their fantasies, whilst men hang themselves with tightly wound silk around their necks. Constant reminders that it's only Thursday, which leads to another early morning at the office, so they can go out on Friday night and drink more. To return Saturday and maybe even Sunday, only to begin it all again on Monday.

Then they can joke about their fears and tears and hatred of Mondays with their co-workers whose red eyes and heavy eyelids reveal their shameful truths. But this weight spills into Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. They'll wisely lecture others that life is too short and it's moving too fast, so we must enjoy! That is, enjoy two days of the week, two days of alcohol, two days of questioning one's will to live, and put up with another 5 days of self-doubt and self-loathing. Life continuing forward without affirmation or approval.

I hope to never turn quite so bitter and jaded as these white-collar drunkards. My blind optimism and ongoing need to pick myself up and lift my own spirits is what has always been my guiding light. But no one plans to fall to their knees and get beaten up by the world, do they? No one decides that the best life is one lived with regrets and a stock of anger and tears ready to expel at any moment.

Some get mad, some go mad, and some just live for the sake of living. I don't know if these are the only options, but they seem to be the popular choices.

On my way home, a man in his 30s invites me to have a drink with his friends. I asked what they're doing and he responds, "I dunno. Just hanging out, drinking too much for a Thursday, and complaining about work...."
I declined his offer. Enough of that for one evening, thank you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I rock.

I rock back and forth in my seat, trying to tame the electricity in my stomach. I rock, and sometimes I lower my head between my knees, and sometimes I cover my ears. I sit down in the middle of the crowded sidewalk and I cry and rock and lower my head and cover my ears.

Because the world overwhelms me. It's the world surrounding me, the people getting too close to me. It's the overstimulating sounds of screaming and honking and elbows in my face and sides. Even with my ears covered, I hear the judgmental comments by passersby. I hear when they say I'm a mess or a weirdo or having a bad trip. It is a bad trip, one which I can't turn on or off.

There are times when my head begins to flail back and forth, too. It starts with my knee bouncing, my cuticles raw from being ripped and torn, the skin on my lips bright pink and scabbed. This isn't enough, the energy and raucous inside isn't at ease. It spreads to my eyes, darting back and forth, my neck jolting my head around and around and around like I'm possessed. I am possessed by the hurricane inside me.

Without time to eat or sleep or even fantasize, all my efforts are put into the task of senseless ticks, tacks, taps, and tones. The kind that forces strangers to place a hand on my knee. "Please stop." The kind that drives any sane man insane. To the point where I begin holding my own knee down and I look utterly bizarre as I struggle with my own inner willpower. A will to fidget and an opposing will to slow down, to rest, to make it stop. I am standing and bouncing and my calves are getting a work out, but there are no headphones on my ears, there is no tune to incite such enthusiasm. It is just my mind coaxing me- play, play, play.

Picking up a guitar requires too much focus and I certainly don't have the attention span for reading a book. Movies and television and even listening to a song is too dull and slow and precise for me. I crave speed and action, to gnaw and suck out the blood of an ocean crashing against plated glass. That CRASH, that is me pounding without rhyme or reason at the wooden table. Knock on wood if you simply can't sit still.

Seconds turn to days to weeks, and it all feels like one moment that cannot keep up with me. We are racing to infinity and I am in the lead. Without a sense of accomplishment or victory, just with deprivation and dilapidation; disintegration.

One's body begins to fail when it lacks basic human needs. When the sugar dwindles, the fats and carbohydrates and proteins have been used to keep my leg bouncing to a silent song, then everything begins to weaken. If only this put things on hold. Despite the weakness and fatigue, my nerves are still on fire, aching to react to fight and flight and leaps and bounds.

And when I am down there, on the ground in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, I close my eyes. Because if I open my eyes, I may realize that this is real. That I can't escape.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Not romantic, not broken

Like every other teenager, at 14 or so I started exploring my sexuality. Whatever that means. Most "normal" girls started dating boys at this age. Some girls even dated other girls! Not me, though. I wasn't dating anyone. I experienced a crush now and then, sure. I wanted to look good for the guys....

But looking back, I can't help but wonder if those were really crushes at all. If I thought someone was nice, society told me I should want to kiss them and date them. So, I wrote sweet letters to the funny guy in my English class. I told the guy I knew since kindergarten that I wanted to date him. I giggled and blushed and got rejected (every time), but I didn't really care. Those guys were still in my life and I felt just the same about them as I did about the girls. They were my peers and we were all together in school trying to figure out how to survive math class.

Eventually, the other girls and boys were matching up. They were teasing each other until asking the other to dance at a party. They were trying to get alone time and getting in trouble with their parents. That's when I started to wonder. Maybe if I dated these boys, they wouldn't kick the ball so hard in gym class? Then my nose might not bleed so hard when it hit me in the face.... Or maybe if I dated these boys, they would look the other way when I inexplicably vomited on the lunch table everyday. MAYBE if I dated these boys, they'd be so in love that they wouldn't laugh at me when I bought them a carnation on Valentine's Day. But I didn't date these boys, and I didn't particularly want to. Even when every other girl, including the lanky one with bad pigtails and a worse attitude had a boyfriend, I still didn't want to be in a relationship. I didn't want to devote a Saturday to meeting him at the mall for french fries. Nor did I want to wear his hoodie in 90 degree weather just so everyone knew we were a couple. I had no interest in dating boys.

"So... am I a lesbian?" I wondered this often. Later in life, when bisexuality was a hot word, I wondered if that was the label for me. Those terms didn't fit, either. As little interest as I had in getting boy slobber on me, the thought of girl slobber was even worse. Girls like gossip and they don't grow beards. Not for me.

Now what?

Years went by, college came. At 18 years old, I finally found a guy online who was pretty neat. He had a cool beard and cool thoughts on political stuff. He went to college for music, which was so cool! Plus, he was really into me, so I was like, "Oh. This is normal. I found normal!"

Then we met in person and he was cool, but he wanted to kiss me and put his hands on me. Immediately, this didn't feel cool. Not that it was wrong or bad, but those weren't my hands and lips, why were they near my skin? Ew.

Oh, yes, that was my reaction to being touched: ew. Every single time. I didn't like it. I didn't like the germs and someone else's saliva near me. I didn't like being touched or complimented or even holding hands. Flirting was uncomfortable, too. I simply detested everything about this new thing I was experiencing. He would also ask me questions about my habits and my body that sounded absolutely rude and gross. Would I like WHAT WHERE!? Do I want HOW WHEN!?

No, sir. NO to everything.

The only thing I could think to do was to stop everything. Stop dating, stop talking to new people, stop whatever was causing this displeasure. If I could just turn off that faucet, that'd be great, thanks. But I couldn't make it stop! Everywhere I went, there were men, and sometimes women who were asking for my number or offering me a drink. And, truth be told, I loved connecting with strangers. Going out to a new bar or restaurant or even traveling with someone I would otherwise never have met was so much fun! Usually, the guy would pay, so I wouldn't even have to worry about money!

Why would I stop this? Everyone else was doing it and everyone was telling me I should do it, so... clearly, this is what I should be doing, whether I liked it or not.

This worked for me until the inevitable moment would come: he would expect the next thing that normal people expect on or after a date- he'd want to get close to me. He'd want to kiss and touch and possibly even start a relationship. Oh, right... that. Ew.

Problem is, if I rejected him, I was told I was just leading him on and taking advantage of him. That's what normal people told me. Taking advantage of people is not something I do, so I went on a second date, and a third, and my resentment would grow. Eventually, everything about this person seemed horrible. They were no longer nice or friendly or funny or kind. They had no positive traits, they were just evil people sucking me into their lair of hot, sticky, disgusting saliva baths.

I wish I could say there were positive influences telling me what was so clear. I wish I could say that my support system was wise enough to inform me that I wasn't required to date. That I didn't have to get married and have babies and make a family to be happy or complete. If someone had just taken a moment to tell me that it's OKAY to not be normal, my life would have been so much easier. Maybe I wouldn't have hated college, maybe I wouldn't have hated socializing, maybe I wouldn't have even hated myself for being abnormal. Surviving my teens and my college years and 6 years of my 20s have been made unnecessarily stressful because everyone thinks I will find "the one" and that I will find my sexuality when I fall in love, because I WILL fall in love. Apparently.

In the meantime, I'm the poor, unfortunate girl who has never had a romantic relationship or been mature enough for one. I am faulty because romance is not something I want, and a mate for life or for tonight are of no interest to me. If I can't publicly display my affection, what use am I to humanity as a whole?

The world has told me I am useless.

But, really? I'm super fine with that. There are days when it bugs me, but I am lucky to be free of that pressure! I don't have to make anyone happy but myself and the people I so choose. I can do and go and be as I please. Without worrying about a jealous or abusive boyfriend. I've never wondered why the guy I love hasn't texted me in 2 days. There are no strings attached to me and I don't have to get approval from anyone but my teachers in graduate school, while there's no boyfriend to distract me from my professional goals. No boyfriend to break up with when I go traveling for a month. My dog doesn't have to approve or disapprove of a guy who comes in and tries to interrupt our happy family of two. I get to live alone, keep the toilet cover down, and never worry about a messy guy trying to ruin my organized lifestyle.

Now, that's what I call a success. With the freedom to protest injustice, foster homeless animals, give unto others, and take the last bite, I have no one to face at the end of the day but myself and my ethics and morals. This romance with myself has its ups and downs, and sometimes I need to buy myself a box of chocolates and beg for forgiveness, but I know just how to get it. Whether it's cheering myself up or calming myself down, the answer is always inside me without an ounce of falsity, passive aggressiveness, or concern that I'll leave at any moment. The trust is unconditional, the love is never-ending, and the memories together are priceless.

I'm not aromantic or asexual, I'm all I have, and that's everything to me.