The Nostalgia Is Dead

Today, I found myself in my hometown.

I always thought revisiting the places I grew up in would overwhelm me with nostalgia, to the point I might get teary-eyed. Turns out my brain doesn’t care.

I was able to recognize several street names, I remember what the city looked like – I knew when I wasn’t in the town I work in anymore – and I could recall the inside of some buildings like the public library and the elementary school I attended. Some areas felt like they should be familiar, but I couldn’t place if I’d been there or not.

As strange as it sounds, I’m a little sad I didn’t have nostalgia. Ultimately, driving through my hometown didn’t feel much different than driving through other towns. The faint feeling of familiarity was the only difference.

Since I am nostalgic about some things from my childhood, I can’t help wondering why not even driving past my elementary school triggered feelings. Have too many years passed? Is it that I don’t remember most of my childhood? Is it because most of what I do remember is negative?

The things I’m nostalgic for are trivial; playing in the sandbox with my friends (whose full names I still remember) in kindergarten, cartoons and sitcoms I grew up watching that are off the air, playing on the playground without thinking it’s weird, my pet cat (I haven’t had another pet since he died), being able to climb and hoisting myself to the top of street signs, the many kid websites I used to play with (all but one – Neopets – no longer exist). The major things – like family and school – are experiences I’d prefer death to reliving. In fact, as I passed the other end of the sidewalk the school is on, I had one such thought: “Oh, there are the bushes my grandmother used to break switches off and beat me with.”

As I type that, another memory that immediately comes to my mind is my mother screaming at me “Have you been acting like that” and smacking me with a belt.

With those thoughts, maybe it isn’t so surprising nostalgia didn’t happen. Maybe the lack of nostalgia is my mind’s way of being protective. My very first childhood memory is a traumatic event. Maybe that shaped a part of me.

In my own mind, my life started at age four. The second memory after that first one is walking into preschool. I have more memories from kindergarten, but regardless, it’s hard to believe that small girl is now a centimeter shy of 5’4″. Though I can recall fragments of my childhood, I cannot recall being so small. I don’t feel like I was, despite I know I was.

Even my high school years have mostly faded from my mind, though again, I wonder if it’s a self-conscious protection because I hated my school years.

It’s said nostalgia makes the past seem better than it was. Perhaps that why I didn’t have any nostalgic feelings as I drove through my hometown. Because although I truly miss some things, I know the past was not better than the present, and nostalgia is not enough to filter it.

Or maybe it’s that nothing is really there for me anymore. I don’t have friends or family there to visit, I don’t work there, and any travel there would merely be passing through. Maybe I moved on without noticing. Maybe it’s that adulthood has uncovered family secrets I didn’t know during childhood.

Am I thinking too much about this? Most likely. I can’t say the past doesn’t matter because it built me into who I am. That past is part of why, for example, I don’t want to be a parent (although the present certainly tops the list of reasons!). The present is depressing and I believe the near and far future is dim. I’m unsure what does matter.

But since my attempts to part with this world never saw light outside of my head, my only choice is to see it.

It seems I will.

 

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.

Things Change, part 2

Four years later.

When I browse through my archives, I feel like I barely know the person who wrote those entries. I have a diary blog on Blogger I haven’t updated since December 2014, but keep around for the sake of looking back when I want to read my old stuff. I pity my younger self for a lot of the hopes and ideas she had, despite I had no way of knowing they’d become a disaster until they did. There have been a lot of changes, big and small. Of course, the one thing I want to change hasn’t and I’m not hopeful it will. But there are many things I couldn’t picture until they happened.

One of the biggest changes is my desire to own a house. On my diary blog, I mention wanting no less than a three-bedroom house, and no less than a five-bedroom house if I have a partner. I even entertained the thought of having a six-bedroom house! Much like my childhood dream of being a veterinarian sputtered out because I grew up to realize how much schooling is needed, my dream of owning a house died because I learned about mortgage, loans, household repairs, property taxes, and most annoyingly, HOAs. Actually, this opinion is seven years old, but at the time, I only knew about HOAs. I am not buying a house, only to be told what I can and can’t do with it! People argue renting is bad because “you’ll have nothing to show for it at the end of your life except a bunch of rent receipts”, but I don’t care about having “to show” for strangers. If how I live my life bothers you that much, that’s your problem. I’d rather not take out a loan for the sake of having a boring house to show off either. If I buy a house, I should be able to do what I please with it. If HOAs make that impossible, home ownership isn’t worth it. And no, I wouldn’t care what the neighbors think. They wouldn’t be the ones paying the mortgage or living there. If I want to paint my house with rainbow polka-dots, there should be rainbow polka-dots on the outside paneling! No arguments! I wouldn’t paint my house with polka-dots, but the point is I should have that freedom.

So, yeah, I’m cool with renting for life. May as well with all the restrictions HOAs have.

Something funny I came across in one of my early 2015 posts is referring to my boyfriend as a friend, and insisting I won’t let any more relationships go beyond friend. I sure failed at that! In my defense, I had good reasons. Nevertheless, I have no regrets, but should we ever break up, I will not enter the dating world again. As I said in that linked post, dating sucks.

On my diary blog, I claimed I wouldn’t return to college if I had to take out loans, and when I did return to college, I wouldn’t study IT. Do I really need to say that proved to be a huge falsehood? It goes without saying! No regrets about that one being wrong either. I hate I have loans, but $12,000 is manageable. It was worth that certificate.

Above all, I think what makes me really different from the person who started this blog and my old diary one is I don’t feel so hopeless anymore. Perhaps not here, but many of the diary posts and Tumblr posts are about how I constantly feel depressed, hopeless, and want to kill myself. I think that’s what’s really unrecognizable. Of course, I still have bad days and bad times, but I no longer wake up to wish I had died overnight. I travel when I need to, I work, I spend time with people I love when I can, I stay out late, I have money, and I now have a certificate. All of that probably makes a big difference.

Among the smaller changes: I gave up drawing to focus on writing because I never was passionate about the former, I’ve had Cities: Skylines for four years and don’t play it anymore, I don’t care for Pokemon anymore (I didn’t enjoy the Let’s Go games, and the price jump from $40 to $60 didn’t help; I like Pokemon, but the games aren’t worth $60, and I don’t like the eighth generation starters either, meaning the last generation I liked was the seventh), and I refuse to allow my retail job to take over my life anymore. Maybe that last one isn’t a small change, but for me, it was as simple as not going in extra every time I’m asked. I remember when I was so excited to have my first job. Now, I’m yearning to leave it for a higher-paying one that isn’t retail.

I can’t think far ahead, but I look forward to the next changes that will happen over the years, assuming they are positive. I mentioned in a recent post I’m studying to finally get my driver’s license, so that’s one change I have my hopes up for. It’ll still be a long time before I can get a car, but having the license is the first step. I think at the moment, that’s the change I’m most looking forward to.

Follow the Timeline

Way back in 2013, I made a timeline starting from 1999 (as far back as I could somewhat remember) of how my life had gone so far. It’s not happy. I can’t remember why I made it, but I suppose it was something that crept into my head during nighttime, when many of my deepest thoughts tend to surface.

With 2013 here, it’s been four years and my life certainly didn’t pause, though I had more moments than I can count of wishing it had. I mistakenly believed things would finally be good at the end of 2013. They weren’t. I don’t want to post the whole timeline here, so I’ll link it, but I will start from the very last one.

  • Age 19 (Birthday-October 2013) – Graduation; move back in with my mom and sis, therapy continues, attendance to college starts, tries to start dating
  • Age 20 (2014-2015) – Move back in with grandparents, drop out from college, job searching
  • Age 21 (2015-2016) – Still job searching, suicidal ideas return, meet my boyfriend
  • Age 22 (Late 2016 to early 2017) – Found a job, begin building my accounts
  • Age 23 (Birthday-Now) – Holding down my job, searching for a second job, continuing to save money, creating plans to move out

Hopefully, I can add I have moved by age 24. I must admit besides a desire to write things out, I’m not sure what the point of this timeline is, but it is nice to look over it and know I’ve lived this far. That’s not to say I’d be willing to do it again. Surviving once feels more than enough because aside from the typical transition to adulthood, no one should have to deal with that. But I’m glad to say I’m getting closer to where I want to be. With a lot of planning and some luck, I may be there by early 2018. That’s still a long time, but we’re already in May of 2017. In another month, the year will be half over. If I can control my spending urges, I shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

To My Younger Self

Every so often when I browse Facebook or Tumblr, I see a post that goes along the lines of “If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?”

I think if I went back in time to meet my younger self, even by as few as three years or so, she’d slap me back into my current age. I wouldn’t blame her. As little as one year ago, if someone told me I’d be doing the things I do now, I would’ve assumed they were out of their minds.

However, when I see that question, it’s myself as a child I think of. I usually picture myself back around age 7 or 10. There are a lot of things I would go back and tell my child self because I very much needed to hear them, but no one ever told me. Hearing them probably wouldn’t have made life back then any easier, but in the moments I needed it, it probably would’ve helped. Had I any artistic skill, I’d create a comic about it.

I want to keep this list fairly short, so I’ll stick to what I think are the most important things.

  • You’re going to be happy to be alive (sometimes). The very first time I thought about suicide, I was ten years old. Before that, my thoughts were often of running away from home and not returning. When things got especially bad and I was crying myself to sleep, I spent the time until I finally wore out hoping someone would break into my house and snatch me away. If I could go back and speak to my child self, I’d tell her she’ll be happy those thoughts were never a reality. She probably wouldn’t believe me and, again, I wouldn’t blame her. But I’d still say it.
  • Love does not hurt. Well, not the way I learned it did as a child. To be totally honest, this is something I’m struggling with as an adult. I prefer to just be grateful and not dwell, but in the back of my mind, I question why someone loves me or why they care to help me or why they want to know me. This is something I’d probably say over and over to my child self until I was certain she understood. No, your loved ones are not supposed to hurt you and no, being family does not justify them doing so.
  • You’re the cutest child ever, but that’s not what matters. No, I don’t think I was the cutest child ever when I look back at my childhood pictures, but “ugly” was the most common insult I heard growing up. It wasn’t only by the school bullies. My family’s vanity and obsession with looks also pushed me to believe I looked horrid when, in actuality, nothing was wrong with me. I spent my entire childhood hating how I look because I believed my looks weren’t good enough and that was all anyone cared about. I would tell my child self she is an adorable person, but it’s not the most important thing about her and most people really don’t care.
  • Friendships aren’t like the cartoons. I’m certain this one speaks for itself. I had trouble keeping friends because of how often I moved and my mother didn’t like friends visiting or letting me visit them. I would tell her it’s not completely abnormal and she’ll not only find her own friends in due time, but learn who’s a friend and who’s not.
  • 2010 will be the worst year of your life. As awful as it sounds, I’d tell her this as a warning. 2010 is the year everything began to crash and burn. My life was ripped apart from the inside out and this is the year my suicidal emotions were at their worst. The only thing that kept me from acting on those emotions was the cowardice to cause myself pain, and I regularly kicked myself for that. I’d tell her she, unfortunately, doesn’t have a choice and she’ll get through it, but it’s going to be painful. Very painful.
  • Your family will fall apart, but you won’t. This is the final one and arguably the most important after love doesn’t hurt. My family indeed has fallen apart. It’s ripped up more than I could’ve ever imagined as a kid. I’d tell my child self this is going to happen and she can’t stop it, but it’s not her job to stop it in the first place. I won’t lie and pretend it doesn’t hurt. It hurts a lot! However, what hurts more is when you’re trying as hard as you can to keep it together and your efforts are failing. I’d tell her she’s not a failure for being unable to hold her family together and it really is alright for her to worry about keeping herself together first and foremost. I’d tell her it’s their choices and their actions that are making them fall apart, and she’s not at fault for what they do.