And How That Helps Me Now
My childhood was one of constant change. I attended a new school each grade, lost my only-living grandparent and my father, dealt with divorce, and was put into foster care all by middle school. I chose to reconnect with my birth family my senior year of high school, though we’ve gone separate ways.
I get to say something that very few people get to say when they have families: There is no one person alive who has known me my whole life. I grew up in a world where relationships are all temporary.
This isn’t a big deal. I don’t like change much more than the next guy, but I am not quite as adverse to it as most people tend to be. I never got to a position where a system being steady for a long period of time became a coping mechanism that I couldn’t live without.
Different systems came into my life at the appropriate time for me. But, nothing is permanent. Some people, places, and things are only meant to be in our lives for but a season. There is something we’re meant to get out of the encounter, then it’s time for other encounters.
What did I get from mine? Why did I let go of them? Let’s look at what some of them were, how they entered my life, and why they left.
Nintendo Entertainment System
I was an unathletic, closeted gay boy growing up in the rural cornfields in the 80s. I was terrible at sports, with sports being the only reason farming communities send their kids to any school. (The boys, anyway; daughters are sent to school to find a husband.) Since rural PE classes center around baseball, basketball, and football, and I got the joy of publicly being awful at each of those things on a daily basis, I wound up with a deep hatred of sports.
My first coping system, my first love, even has “system” in its name. This thing I plugged into the TV took an already magical box – the TV – and made it even BETTER! You could control the things on the TV. It was like watching a movie that you could play. The best part – it came easy to me. For the first time in my life, I found something that I was actually good at doing. Of course I fell in love with it.
Why We Split
Video games were great, but getting bigger as the 90s went on. I was entering my working years, which didn’t leave me a lot of downtime for video games. I will still pick up and play some classics on my old systems, but it was difficult to keep up with gaming as an adult with other responsibilities.
We ended on good terms. We occasionally get together for some fun, but know it’ll never be serious again.
Tae Kwon Do
A case worker was able to get a sponsor to enroll me into martial arts based on my love of ninja movies at the time. This was the first physical activity that I did and turned out to be good at doing. Might have been all that Mortal Kombat?
During my two years of junior high (yes, I’m that old), I managed to become a Level 3 Judge, Trainee Instructor, and get my Black Belt.
In addition to giving me the first real sense of self-esteem I ever had, I made friendships that followed me into high school.
Why We Split
Along came high school. I was intending to only take the summer off, but as the realities of my new high school schedule kicked in, I realized that my TKD time was over. I still talk to many of those friends.
I still practice some of the techniques. TKD taught me that I had much more control over my body than I imagined and that I can finish tasks when I’m dedicated. These lessons have never left.
This is an awkward one. My mother was taken from her family by the state when she was two. She was found by her birth family at 50. They found us around the time my father died, so they moved us to their part of the cornfield to be closer.
While in this town, I was taken by the state and placed with the family that adopted me as a teen. They were great, but I was so unique of a child that they didn’t know how to best deal with my differences. I was kicked out at 16 and have been on my own since.
My senior year of high school, I got back in touch with my dad’s side of the family to see how everyone was and to announce that I was going to be joining the Navy.
Why We Split
In order to move forward in life, you need to tether yourself to people going in the same direction. As much as I loved my family and friends from this era, they were staying put. I wanted so much more out of life than just working, drinking, and church. That’s really all rural life has to offer. This meant that I had to leave home and find people with similar goals and equally lofty ambitions.
I still maintain a relationship with my family. They’re great people and I do love them. But, our differences would likely not keep things cordial if we tried to be closer. I keep my distance so that we can stay as close as we are.
I was born into an atheist family. The law of chaos ruled. I had heard of gods, but treated them all with the same regard that I give the gods in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
My adoptive family was Christian. This exposed me to the inside-the-walls look at being religious. I got to watch it make people better, but to a limit. I noticed that despite the main deity preaching non-judgment, the followers found ways to be among the most judgmental people I ever met.
This motivated me to look into other religions. I stumbled upon Wicca, which served me much better. As someone who wasn’t what Americans consider masculine (American masculinity was hijacked by machismo decades ago because it is easier for weak men to fake), it spoke to me about finding the balance between masculine and feminine in all aspects of life.
Much how coming out of the closet made me less feminine, bringing me closer to balance, Wicca made me spiritual and open to appreciating life as a creation while Christianity was about to cement my atheism.
Why We Split
I didn’t return to atheism. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. Wicca was great in how it offered me the information I needed at the time I needed it most. It was my gateway to learning how other spiritual practices and systems work, particularly the common lines.
It served its purpose. It helped guide me to the perspectives that I use today.
Oh, the times we had. From pissing off of overpasses onto the interstate to taking off my shirt at the bowling alley, alcohol made sure that if there wasn’t currently a good time, I became one.
Why We Split
Well, I found myself pissing off of overpasses and taking my shirt off in bowling alleys. Time to dial it back.
I will occasionally have a beer or a couple of glasses of wine, but it’s best that the party monster stay passed out.
I don’t regret any of the systems I let become a part of my life. I got to learn a lot from each of them. It also introduced me to some of the greatest people I’ve ever met from across the globe.
Certain systems are better for some than for others. Just because something worked great for one person, there is no guarantee it’ll work for another. That’s where we have to be cautious about the advice we take as well as the advice we give.
I have had such great luck with alternative solutions to issues that I often encourage others to give them a try. Not necessarily to attempt to replicate a result I got with a method I used, but to deconstruct their situation enough to figure out what options are available to them and to go from there.
Has someone else’s advice bombed when you tried it? This could be the issue – their situation was FAR different from yours, but nobody focused on those differences as much as the similarities.
Mind your circumstances. Be honest about them. It’s easier to rig a game when you know the rules.
Related Journaling Prompts: What systems have helped me the most? Do they still serve me or are they holding me back? What systems could I benefit from implementing?