Bad Lessons From My Family

“Stranger danger”

This one is bad for so many reasons, namely that most people are not out to kill you. I mentioned this once to a parent, and she (admittedly, to my surprise) agreed. Yes, kids should know not everyone is a kind person and some people will hurt them, but there must be a better way than teaching them to assume everybody outside of their family and schoolhouse is a murderer in waiting. For me, this got so bad, I feared walking down the street alone (not that I was allowed to begin with). In truth, most strangers couldn’t care less, and statistically, a child is in more danger with their own family than from a stranger. Abduction by strangers are the least common. Most kidnappers have a familial relationship with the child, or knows the child via friendship with the parents or other family. In other words, in most cases, the kidnapper isn’t a stranger to the kid.

“If you don’t behave, the police will arrest you.”

Bad police officers will do this (aka police brutality or profiling), and I know there are cases of children being arrested for temper tantrums and given charges. I won’t pretend there aren’t bullies out there in blue with a badge (I also believe if you work with kids and your solution to a tantrum is calling police, you need an immediate career change; on a different note, all of those cases happened in the south and every child was black, so I think that says enough). If you live in a community where the police are notorious for profiling, maybe this is a legitimate worry, but I didn’t grow up in any such area, so this was nothing more than a scare tactic. It failed spectacularly when I found the police to be a lot more helpful than my family. I know some officers went so far as to ask parents to stop doing this because if a child is in legitimate trouble, especially life-threatening trouble, the police will probably be the people you want involved. In fact, when I was growing up, one bit of advice I read is if you think someone is chasing you, run into a police station. A kid who’s scared of the police would probably assume they’ll be in more trouble if they do that.

In same vein, “that [lady/man] will kick you out if you don’t behave” when it comes to store workers. As I said several times in my posts, I work in retail. No, I will not kick your kid out. I can’t kick actual bad customers out. If I had the authority to kick anyone out, your kid would be very low on the list because as annoying as their screaming is, this person at my counter having a fit her receipt is invalid is much more annoying.

That everyone cares how you look

Just like most people aren’t out to kill me, I learned most people couldn’t care less what I look like either. In fact, the only people who did care were my family and the bullies at school. The passersby on the street have their own lives and problems, and a stranger’s appearance does not make the list. I confess I am self-conscious about how I look, but that insecurity came entirely from my family. Even my job, the people who pay me, don’t care how I look as long as it’s within their dress code. One of my jobs has a rule about hair: tie it up. Surprise, surprise. It’s a safety rule, not an “avoid being ugly” rule. And if any stranger is taking a huge issue with how I look, that’s on them. Interestingly, constantly belittling others and needing constant praise are signs of narcissism.

Similarly, “you don’t like to look pretty”. There’s totally nothing wrong with teaching girls they’re ugly if they’re not in a dress and jewelry, right? Yes, that’s sarcasm.

“You shouldn’t do what everyone else does” at the same time as “Don’t you want to be like the other girls?”

In case it’s not obvious, contradiction. Many times in my teens, my family told me not to do what other teenagers do until it came to attire and hobbies. Suddenly, I was questioned about why I wasn’t like the other teenagers. Normal teenagers spend every Saturday at the mall with their friends, going shopping, and dressing like fictional high school characters. Recall I said above my family was paranoid of letting me do so much as walk down the street, and they certainly weren’t willing to be my weekend ride or give me money for these supposed mall trips (before you ask why I didn’t get a job, this nonsense started when I was 12; 12-year-olds cannot legally be employed and I wasn’t interested in the mall anyway, nor were my friends). Ironically, nowadays, I shop a lot and go out frequently, and my family wants me to stop because I’m almost never home. Can’t win. Perhaps it’s not surprising I got into certain hobbies and likes when I stopped being told I should like those things.

Pressure about college

I understand this came from a place of good intentions, as this often does, but it turns out going to college for the sake of going to college is a really bad idea. To my family, specifically, it mostly had to do with bragging rights. The majority of them do not know anything about college besides it’s simply “the next step”. This was more annoying from my mom, however, because she went to college and nothing came of it. How the heck can you pressure someone to go to college to have a better future when the outcome was the very opposite for you?

I did eventually go to college – trade school – and I wish I didn’t because the jobs I got didn’t require college. They were jobs I could’ve succeeded at in high school. On top of that, the job I currently commit myself to pays higher than both jobs and involves more than sitting at a desk for the majority of a shift with nothing to do. I’m not against desk jobs. I would love to have one again. Just give me something to do besides talk endlessly until the phone rings. Getting paid to do nothing sounds fun until you realize it means almost literally nothing. Not fun at all.

Finances

Non-existent. My family is the absolute master of bad finances. From my mom spending her last bit of money to ensure I went to the hair stylist that month as a kid to my dad pressuring me to go into further debt to have a car, and considering a bus pass and education a waste of money (fun fact: Dad has never 100% supported himself; he can afford to trade in cars like candy). Unfortunately, this is very hard to learn on your own and spending impulses don’t make it easier, but I’m trying. At the very least, I can say I have more in savings than anyone in my immediate family does and I’m now trying to save at least $100 a month to continue growing it (after it being stagnate for a long time).

Family planning

Why does this seem to go hand-in-hand with the above? To my family’s credit, they never let me believe having a child is easy. The problem is they still went the paranoia route and discussions about sex were closed. I never dated until I was 19 anyway, but it still would’ve been nice to know pregnancy does not randomly happen and isn’t inevitable. I’m not fond of the whole “children will ruin your life” shtick either. First of all, no child deserves that. Second, that probably wouldn’t happen if any thought was given to having kids instead of parenthood being treated as something that happens outside of someone’s control. Speaking personally, yes, parenthood would destroy my life because I absolutely do not want to be a parent and I have no support (financially and emotionally) for that child. But if I wanted kids, the latter alone would stop me from having them until that situation changed. A common retort to this is “you make it work” or “you figure it out”. As the product of such, I can tell you my family definitely didn’t figure it out. They still haven’t.

“Don’t trust men.”

This came from women and men in my family. Unsurprisingly, the men it came from aren’t stellar themselves. Projection much? I had my fair share of bad relationships (and I wouldn’t call them even that) with men, but it taught me to be more careful and not to expect my profile to be read. And don’t sleep with anyone I’m prepared to kick out of my life the next day. Sadly, the only long-lasting relationships I grew up with turned out to be toxic, so they weren’t good models at all. This is another difficult thing to learn, and my own relationship is struggling at the moment.

So, what did my family do right? Well:

  • I’m incredibly far from perfect, but they did raise a person who works hard, tries to learn from their mistakes and her own, and is no longer ashamed to be herself (though I don’t think they’re happy about that last one).
  • They taught me to never be fully dependent on anyone, especially if you have kids. Before the stay-at-home parents stab me with their pitchforks, I’m simply talking from a place of practicality. Spouses leave, get sick, die, get fired, and so on. My point is anything could result in me suddenly needing to support myself (and my supposed child), so there must be a back-up plan. TV Tropes calls this “wisdom from the gutter”.
  • They showed me parenthood is not a cakewalk. I don’t like how they did it (making me paranoid of pregnancy, and that parenthood is always a disaster), but parenthood is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. There is so much more to it than cute clothes and photos, and helping someone grow into a functional adult is a huge, demanding job that takes everything you have and more than that.
  • Both of my parents called it quits after I was born. My mom had another child, but my sister’s father supposedly had a vasectomy. Either it failed or he lied, but either way, my mom really was trying to be careful. She’s had no more kids since then, despite she wanted at least one more, so that’s saying something. Neither of my parents pressure me for grandchildren either.
  • They were open-minded when I finally introduced my boyfriend. As much as I disagree with their teaching style (“don’t trust any man”), it still came from a place of concern and not wanting me to end up struggling to raise a child with a man who couldn’t care less. It probably helps I waited three years before letting my boyfriend meet them. Three years isn’t really long (I don’t think…), but it was long enough that it was obvious we weren’t a fling and he wasn’t knocking me up.

In spite of the above, I still think my parents were better off not being parents because it was all too obvious they didn’t want to. My dad was involved from age two, but didn’t care for fatherhood (I was more like a tiny roommate) and while my mom tried her best, it was obvious to me as a child motherhood wasn’t her forte. And I don’t say that as a kid who was a terror because even she says I was an overall good kid. Kids don’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean everyone can “get into the swing of it”. Some people never do and merely deal with the cards as they’re tossed.

My parents are not good parents, but they are good people. Close enough.

“Ex” Them Out

Something I subconsciously do on occasion is compare my relationship with my boyfriend to my “exes”.

I don’t like to refer to them as that because none of them were real relationships, but it’s the simplest to say. I say I subconsciously compare because these thoughts, like several, are random and usually pop up late at night when I can’t sleep for one reason or another.

At the time, I felt like I wouldn’t move on, that I’d keep wondering “what if”, that I’d never get anything better out of dating. You get the idea. Now, I genuinely feel like it doesn’t matter at all they once crossed my path and, to an extent, it feels like I never did meet them. On top of that, I feel like I would’ve been miserable if any of them had lasted.

The best example I can give is the one who came right before my boyfriend. To sum it up, even if he didn’t make me miserable, his lifestyle would have. Long story short, his time schedule was so constantly full, in the year we spoke to each other, we never once met in person. Going by what he told me, his life was full of business, constant travel, a lot of people, and very little down time. Nothing wrong with that lifestyle, but I hate traveling and I am not a people person. I’d only be going along with it because I’d have nothing better to do and didn’t want to be alone constantly. There’s no way I’d be happy.

In somewhat of an inverse, I’m the busy one while my boyfriend is often free, but I still make time when I can. Really says something that we live in different states, and can still manage to see each other every week or every other week, but that’s besides the point (my ex lived in the next county over!). I am a lot happier with him than I was with my ex, and he’s told me more than once he’s happy to be my girlfriend.

The other exes either only wanted sex and no real relationship, never made it off the dating website, and in one case, wanted kids later on.

I used to think of my exes as stepping stones I just had to take to get to my boyfriend, but now, I don’t even feel like that. If someone asked, the truest thing I could probably say is I dated around, found my boyfriend, and that’s it. Maybe it’s somewhat cold to say, but it does feel like they never existed to me, or never entered my life. That’s probably the very best way to feel about exes.

If my boyfriend ever becomes an ex, which I hope to high heaven never happens, he’ll probably be the one I consider “got away”. Unlike the others, I would’ve actually had something meaningful with him, and thus, a reason to really be heartbroken about. Of course, simply wanting a long relationship isn’t a good reason to keep it going if it’s failing, so letting go would be for the best. But in a way, I still feel like we’re in the “honeymoon phase” (how long do people say that lasts?). Early this morning, when we were discussing these thoughts I have, I told him, “Half my soul would die without you.” Dramatic? Maybe. True? Yes.

When I lost the first ex, my heart was broken for a week. When I lost the others, I was sad for a day. If I lose my boyfriend? That’s a pain I only want to know in my nightmares. And not even then.

In truth, I shouldn’t make these comparisons to begin with and I feel upset with myself that I do. My exes aren’t bad people. They just had ways of living that didn’t work well with me, and vice versa. This isn’t a rant about how evil my exes were because they weren’t. But I’m happy and very relieved they’re little more than distant memories. I don’t care about “what could’ve been”. I care that I have a loving boyfriend, and I’m happy now.

 

He’s also the reason I now believe in this quote. ❤

 

Don’t Be A Judge

I’m not talking about the career path. I mean being judgmental in general.

Nearly two years ago, I wrote out a post on things I’ll never do in my life. At the top of the list was drugs and for good reason. Even without knowing just how bad drugs like tobacco and alcohol are, having people in my family who do them tells me enough. However, lately, I feel like I’ve started understanding just why people turn to drugs.

I’m stressed out and that’s a way I’ve been feeling often, as of late. For the most part, I manage to handle it, but every now and then, there’s a day where my thoughts turn to drinking. Not only having one drink either. These thoughts are usually binging on alcohol until I pass out and there have been times where the only thing that stops me from doing it is not wanting to deal with a hangover later on. To compensate, I binge on soda when I’m very stressed out, which isn’t healthy either, but won’t get me drunk. Unfortunately, soda doesn’t always work.

If that’s how I feel within a day, it’s not so hard for me to see what leads other people down that path. Before I go any further, let me stress I am not condoning alcoholism or other drug addictions. They’re still terrible. I’m only explaining I’m beginning to understand why people turn to drugs to cope. If you told me I could have something that’d block out my senses, and make me forget every single thing that’s plaguing my mind right now, and the only side effect was falling unconscious some time later, I would take it. I just don’t want to risk addiction, so I don’t do it because I know if I start using those as a way of handling stress, I won’t stop.

My problems are far from the worst there could be. If I’m having thoughts of drinking myself into unconsciousness from the stress I’m feeling, how must some people who have it worse than me feel? I’m not surprised someone would decide they’d rather put up with the bad effects later on to feel good now for a while. What about the people who feel like they have nothing else to lose? Truthfully, that’s one of my reasons sometimes. I feel like I’m at the bottom as it is and I can’t get any lower, so what’s the worst that could happen if I got drunk for a day or night? I know what’s the worst, but on my worst days, I feel like the risk would be worth it.

I’m aware addiction hurts more than the person with it and that’s another reason I try my hardest not to give in to the thoughts of binge drinking I have. Despite how much they’ve hurt me, I don’t want to hurt my family. I especially don’t want to hurt my best friend and boyfriend, who have never hurt me. I don’t want to lose being able to see my clinician, who’s become somewhat more of my friend now since I’m out of high school, and going to the events she hosts and as open-minded as she is, I’m certain she wouldn’t want someone with a drug addiction around her family, especially her niece and niece’s friends. I don’t want to lose me.

In short, I’m trying to stop a bad habit before it starts. Yes, I know there’s such a thing as moderation, but that’s not something I feel I can trust myself to maintain.

While that resolve of never using drugs hasn’t changed, my perspective of people with those addictions certainly has. I have no room to judge someone about binging on alcohol when I’m having thoughts of doing the same. If nothing else, the stress I’m dealing with and the thoughts I’m having are teaching me two things: 1) I’m not above anything and 2) this is why it’s critically important to never judge someone. People are different and you have no idea.

Game Over

Let’s run down the list of men I’ve had the pleasure of meeting from OKC. None will be named.

  • Three who I met once and never heard from again, one of whom I had a very unpleasant experience with and I will never engage in that particular activity.
  • One who wanted me for literally nothing more than sex, the one who I cut off, reconciled with months later, and was dumped by for being too nervous and twitchy.
  • One who I had a one month long relationship with that he ended because he wanted to solely focus on school.
  • One who I never met in person because it seemed there was never a good time, and arranging even one meet-up for a day was apparently complicated.
  • Finally, one who I’ve been seeing regularly since March and still am. I’ll talk more about him later.

Now, I won’t pretend I didn’t get good times out of the ones in the middle. When the problems were aside for a while, I genuinely was glad to know them and have them in my life for the period of time they were. However, all of the above, with the exception of the last one, brings me to this conclusion: Dating sucks!

I would not repeat any of those experiences if I had the chance, but the upside of having them is I’ve learned a couple of things from each. Really, the unpleasant activity I mentioned probably had the strongest lesson, which was do not let your curiosity get the better of you! That’s literally the only reason I did it. Yes, stupid, I know.

I’m glad I waited until I was an adult to jump into this game, however. I really can’t say any of these are experiences I would’ve wanted to have when I was still in my teens, even if I was 16 or 17. While I don’t believe I would’ve been more easily influenced, I do believe they would’ve had a greater negative impact than they did. Not to mention I would’ve given up much sooner and probably wouldn’t have met who I’m with now due to age difference (18yrs w/ 16yrs = jail time!). Sure, I wouldn’t have known him, but since I do, I’m happy I stayed out of the game until later.