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03 December 2010

What a thread this was. Through some series of links I stumbled across this AskMe thread from 2005. It's taken me a few sittings over a couple of days to get through it all. Now I'm thinking about what experience(s) most shaped who I am. Care to share yours?
When I was in nursery school my mom was in a car accident and suffered a badly sprained neck that changed all our lives; that's not necessarily a life-shaping experience but here's how it affected me: I was a snuggly little kid, lots of hugs up until then, and suddenly my every display of affection made my mom wince in pain. So I grew up extremely aware of my capacity to hurt. I love nothing more than a good hug but I am also terrified of human contact. I want people to be close to me, I love opening up to people, I love letting them in and being let in, but I really don't trust that it will last, I know it's doomed, it will end with a wince. I am very careful of other people's feelings and physical space (in person, at least) and I am overprotective of women who resemble my mom in any way.

Who knows? Without the accident I might have turned out exactly as I have. My life has only taken one course (it's been great!), and the cumulative effect of every day I've lived probably has had more effect on me than any one incident. But that accident changed the behavior of everyone in my family, and probably me (as the youngest kid) most of all.
posted by Hugh Janus 03 December | 15:29
I'm having a hard time pinning one thing down...

Being picked on for years in grade school and junior high made me introverted, insecure, and ashamed of who I (was told) I was - ugly, weird, unlovable. But that's when I started writing and reading nonstop. They're hobbies that have carried me through high school, into college and still help me out now.

My freshman year of high school, I serendipitously met my first boyfriend. The relationship lasted for five years. He shattered the image I held of myself, showing me that I was lovable, being weird isn't bad (it's awesome), and that I wasn't ugly. He and his family taught me about love and religion, saw me through my parents' divorce, and saved me from a severe allergic reaction to penicillin. I don't know where I'd be without him. I do know wouldn't be YG44, as 44 was his football number up until college.

During a two week 'off' period from the high school BF, I was sexually attacked by a guy I was interested in dating. I wasn't wholly aware of the implications of that night until a couple of months ago. Still a lot of things to work through there, but I guess that's part of me too.

Taking a drawing class in college. I always thought you needed to be a natural at something like drawing, that it couldn't be taught. But I did it. And I did it well. It may have taken me three hours to draw one pine cone, but damnit, that pine cone was PERFECT. And it seems that I can still pick up a pencil from time to time and produce recognizable images.

Although I don't remember specifics, whenever I learned that honesty really is the best policy. Still one of my most used life lessons, I think.
posted by youngergirl44 03 December | 15:31
Already shared mine.
posted by mrmoonpie 03 December | 17:25
Attempting Zoloft last year, which made me sicker than I've ever been in my entire life (included suicidal thoughts *), made me realize that I've never been as crazy as other people have suggested I might be. (Myself included, after a while.) It was them projecting their own feelings onto me, wanting me to be more like them so they could see a mirror of themselves and feel better. And it made me realize my own shortcomings, that I need to work on not listening to other people and stop putting so much damn pressure on myself. It's a fault that I will have to battle for the rest of my life, but that is manageable compared to the crazy thing.

* It actually wasn't so much feeling suicidal (i.e., I'm going to off myself) as it was I am never moving from this couch again, ever, because I will be dead soon, damn, I need to sell my violin to someone who wants it but I can't do research into who might want it because I can't move from this couch damn how am I going to sell the violin?
posted by Melismata 03 December | 17:35
Here's what I said in that thread.
posted by deborah 03 December | 18:02
My father touched my butthole.
posted by Eideteker 03 December | 18:06
My parents moved around a bit between 5th-7th grades, and as a new, strange, nerdy, glasses-wearing, bluejeans eschewing, not very masculine, slightly chubby kid, you can bet I was the one-stop shopping location for multiple sets of bullies. Looking back, I guess I was a hard kid to get a read on, but even back then I knew that people somehow sensed that I didn't fit in an easy category, and that the way the decided to treat me often said more about them than it did about me. Continues to this day, really.

Anyway, believe it or not, I liked to play sports, and in 6th grade I played basketball since I was tall and healthy despite all the rest. I was still weird though. When I was playing and going around under the basket—you know, through traffic and having to make a lot of moves and quick decisions—I would make random mouth noises like "doodle-deedly-doodly-noonoo-biddly", like you might make if you're playing any kind of game and having fun navigating through a complex situation. When I shot free throws I would try different parts of the free throw line. I even got good at shooting them backwards, with my back to the basket, leaning back to look at it upside down. I decided I liked my own shooting style, not this "set shot" crap. I toned it down in games (some), but even in games I would skip down the court after our team made a basket. (It was probably the skipping in games that was too much.)

Yet, I could shoot okay, and with the right kind of coach I might have made a decent shooting forward in high school. The coach I got, though, was sure that 6th grade boys basketball was Serious Business, and furthermore that the point of the team was to create opportunities for the coach's son to score points, and WIN WIN WIN KILL KILL FROWN SUFFER. As you can imagine, he did not take too kindly to me. Most of his attitude rolled off my back, until I noticed that he was playing me the minimum number of minutes required by the league—even if we were winning the game, even when I was playing well.

Then, after a loss, he had the team sit down for a talk after the next practice, and he was giving some frowny speech about focus and blah blah, and he said we were a good team except for a couple of "bozos", and as he said it he stared hard at me. I guess since I barely played in games, I must have made the team lose by my attitude in practice! I laughed and asked him right back to his face if he was calling me a bozo, and he backpedaled and said he didn't say anyone in particular. So I asked then why the hell was he looking right at me when he said it? He didn't have an answer, and after that practice I quit.

That's probably where I learned to despise passive-aggressive authority figures, and solidified on my attitude of, "I'm going to be myself, and if you disapprove, then fuck you I'm done with you", which I guess I'm proud of, though it led to weird confrontations with authority later on in school.

Shorter version.
posted by fleacircus 03 December | 18:15
Fragmented thoughts, because I can't really think of any singular experiences that shaped me. I think it's been a gradual process of pushing, prodding, luring and leading.

I used to skip a lot in high school, and somewhat in college. I don't think of my self as being all that tall, but at 6'-2" and skipping, I'm really tall, which makes me stand out, which made me more comfortable with who I was - a tall, weird guy, who used to carry around a lunch box with two astronauts, one adjusting the belt of the fellow in front of him. Well, the lunch box came after I was OK with skipping around high school.

Then in college, I got comfortable in that setting, and decided wearing shoes was a drag, so I'd wander the halls shoeless, skipping when the pavement wasn't too rough, or there were long stretches of grass. Or I'd wear shoes, and skip down the long hills. I was comfortable in that setting, and in no real hurry. It'll all get done in good time.

Now I work. I rarely skip, only wear shorts in the evenings or on weekends (pants are for squares, which it seems I am). I like wandering the office halls on the weekend when no one is around, when I can wear shorts and a t-shirt, and even flip-flops if I so choose. But work is usually a dull grind, so I've gotten stuck on the notion of future corpses (source comic), nothing really mattering all that much. Back to the notion of everything in due time. But now I need to remind myself that these things mean something to someone, or they wouldn't be asking for them (right?).

Luckily, my wife is pushing me to think about what I really want to be when I grow up. I might find out one of these days.
posted by filthy light thief 03 December | 19:24
Wow I totally missed that thread when it came out. What a beautiful thread. A few of mine:

We'd make miniature neighborhoods in the dirt, including roads & little houses w/ landscaping. We had a bunch of tonka jeeps & trucks- the small ones, die-cast metal with REAL rubber wheels. I spent hours & hours of my life rolling those tonkas over our tiny roads, up & down the hills & through the curves. I loved the feel of following the undulations of the earth. Still do, & still love the smell of dirt.

I made a path for my bike with chalk on the street that had a really sweeping curve on one side & a really wiggly section after it, because I thought it would be cool to swerve back & forth on my bike. Except when I rode it through my path, the big curve was perfect but there was no way in hell I could follow those wiggles because they were too tight. I was insanely hard on myself, expecting what I make to be perfect the first time, not realizing that designers go through lots of tries.

3 older sisters plus my parents made me feel like I had to race to catch up with everyone at all times. Except I didn't know I was racing. I walked at 9 months, started school a year early, & college at 17. It wasn't until the last 10 years or so that I realized I was racing! What would happen was, I'd have an idea & research the hell out of everything & tell someone about my idea, they'd either look at me blankly or tell me it was impossible, so I'd believe them. It was a very lonely feeling, and I realized that I was alone because I was racing way ahead, not because I was way behind. I learned to find positive people to accompany me when I kicked around ideas.

About 5 years ago I learned that I could love a cat. Before, cats were just good for throwing to see them land on their feet. My dad hated cats because the neighbor's got into our garage once & peed in it. Fast forward to 2005ish: mrs chewie & I were at petsmart picking up food for our cats & dogs (they all came w/ mrs chewie) & we walked by the windows where they have the cats for adoption. I immediately saw this cool one with dots instead of stripes & said, "Look at that cat!!" We went in & met with him, he was in my lap immediately, purring. Turned out he'd been adopted an hour earlier by a woman who wanted a cat but was allergic, so they were letting her have a test run. I was so bummed. We looked at other similar cats, but they just weren't the same. A week later they called & said the woman had brought him back b/c of allergies & wanted to know if we still wanted him! We picked him up that night and he has been "my" cat ever since. I totally appreciate his grounding, mellow, cool catness. He is in my lap more often than not, & he sleeps next to me! I love him to bits.
posted by chewatadistance 03 December | 20:17
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