My Life as a Social Creature, Environment

OK, enough of this bullshit. Part of the reason I haven’t been posting much, and I’ve had a LOT to say over the past year, is that if I’m gonna start jabbering on about anything of substance, it’s important you are at least on the road toward understanding me as a person. I’ve spent most of my life being wildly misunderstood for completely obvious reasons to everyone but me. I used to whine about being misunderstood, but after 5+ decades on this planet, I’ve eventually come to understand why – for the most part. So if you choose to continue reading my ramblings, should there be a “WTF” moment, this would be the first post to read again. TL;DR? My mind doesn’t, and has never worked like most folks, so just chill the fuck out. Otherwise, let’s get this rolling:

Of all the introspective questions, “Who Am I?” has been my albatross and the question behind the follow-up question of “Why have I struggled with social interaction my entire life?”. Our social nature is one of, if not THE reason for our success as a species. Why the hell do I still find social interaction so difficult? As I’ve been poking through the crevasses of my mind, just like most folks, there are two major factors that have sculpted that person I know as “me.” First factor is environment.

If you’ve read my backgrounder, you already have an idea that my childhood environment wasn’t exactly fuzzy puppies and happy rainbows. Things were pretty good for my first few years on this planet, but quickly and drastically changed somewhere between the ages of 3 and 4, about the time my grandfather died and my parents divorced. Thanks to childhood amnesia, I can’t speak much about what my social life, if any, was like, but I do know things turned sour rather quickly once I got into school.

I don’t recall kindergarten being unusual socially, but I do recall having some behavior issues by the time I was in first or second grade. This is not at all surprising considering my environment at the time. Grandpa’s dead, I only see dad on the occasional weekend, grandma is always liquored-up, there is a new “dad” in the picture who is distant and angry, my parents get into semi-frequent loud & violent fights late at night, I get screamed at and/or spanked for things that no rational person should expect of a child of that age, ad nauseam. I recall having a few friends, but a vast majority of my energy was focused on dealing with shitstorm happening behind closed doors.

Here’s a story that I always felt painted a decent picture of child-rearing in the early 70’s, at least in my experience. During that first couple years of school, we lived way out in the boonies in a farm that had been converted into a bunch of apartments and home was a barn which was converted to a number of apartments. School was many miles away in a city that had nothing but a local grocery store and run-down train track. My parents worked at a bar just outside city limits. This was because the city was what we called “dry,” meaning no alcohol sales allowed. You could see the city from the bar. It was stupid, but I digress.

So one day at school, I have some kind of issue during recess. Remember, this is the early 70’s, so the playground equipment comprised of swings that would pinch your fingers, metal slides that would give you second degree burns in the summer, and a number of concrete “tubes” (basically the same thing you’d see in a large sewer, minus the sewage). While not certain, I think I was sitting in one of those tubes doing my own thing when a bunch of kids basically kicked me out. This pisses me off, so I grab the nearest giant rock I could lift, carry it over the tube I was just kicked out of and threw it in the tube. Nobody was hit by the rock (that sucker was heavy and didn’t bounce much), but if you’ve ever been in an enclosed space when a very loud noise happens, you know it can be a physically painful experience. Not cool. For the record, none of this occurred to me in the moment.

The news of this incident quickly makes its way to the principal. Considering my rep as a well-known “troublemaker,” he makes a call to my parents to ask permission to spank me. Yup, that was a thing, and he got permission, so I got a spanking by a complete stranger at school. Then I got home, and got another one. I don’t know if anyone bothered to explain why I was being punished, not that it mattered. There’s something about physical and emotional abuse that, even if you literally don’t know that’s what it is, becomes the central focus of the scenario. I truly hope you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I realize that modern-day society would hear that story and recoil in horror. I could go on a rant about “context,” but to keep it short, that’s just how things worked back then, in my life anyway. Getting spanked by a stranger was a bit odd, though not unheard of. Being spanked by your parents was, well, duh. “Normal” is truly just a state of being, subject to change at any given moment. This is something I wish many folks these days would keep in mind, but I really need to stay focused!

We also moved around a lot. I think at one point the number of times we moved by my 18th birthday averaged out to about once per year. Granted, most of those moves were relatively “small,” yet far enough away where I bounced a lot between school systems. Having not a the greatest foundation, training, or examples of proper social skills, this made things incrementally worse with each move. I went from “the kid with issues,” to “the new kid with issues,” to “that kid with issues who used to go here but is now a new kid and even more issues,” to “the new kid with issues,” and so on. I quickly stopped unpacking my toys after each move.

From a very high level, that was my environment growing up. I never really learned how to socialize from the beginning, and the roadblocks to learning piled up faster than I could get over them.

While I hate to do this to you, I’m tired of talking about myself and have more ground to cover than I have the energy for, so I’m concluding this section. Stay tuned for “Genetics.”

~ Z ~