In junior high one time, I had the first party I can recall hosting.
I don’t remember many details
But I remember that I was so excited to invite all my Best Friends
I don’t remember who all attended
What I do remember – was that it went terribly
Maybe even fights
In high school, then, every so often (like every year or two, maybe every six months at most- not that often). I would take a moment to try to come up with a word that I thought best described the thing I liked about all my favorite people; maybe not the most in each person- but the factor that all of them had in common.
Because it seemed strange to me, an unexpected thing- that if I liked all those people in junior high so much, that they did not like one another, too. I had realized I could not think of one word that could be used to describe – all of them.
The first time I did this successfully, the first time I was able to think of something all my favorite people had in common with one another-was in early high school
After I had begun the process of intentionally changing my identity group
If I am remembering correctly, that first word was ‘intelligent.’
In junior high, I told my parents at one point (they’ve since told me this; I do not remember doing this, nor telling them about it) that I was trying to use smaller words
Because the other kids either didn’t understand what I was saying, or would make fun of me for using bigger ones
So then, I had tried to be less intelligent, in order to fit in.
Ultimately, I decided I did not want to fit in with the popular kids, after all.
And my best friend during this time was probably the biggest factor in this, honestly.
She was always so…free. So….herself.
I wanted so much to be like her.
And she was always so smart.
So, I tried becoming smart. Well, it was more like I started befriending people who were smart. I didn’t think of myself as smart, at all – not for quite some time after that point in my life. Like, years.
I had this thing I would do, back then, that was not always successful (though I use that word with some hesitation, because even when it was, it still wasn’t- in that it never actually filled the hole in my soul I was unaware that I had even been trying to fill)
I would pick out the guy that I thought best exemplified the thing I most admired in Others.
And try to get him to like me.
That, I think, was an attempt to take a short cut, though it wasn’t until today I put it into words like that in my mind.
To take intelligence as an example
Another friend of mine reminded me of this the other day- I had forgotten
But she and I were calculated enough, back in freshman year of high school
To actually talk about which one of us should “get” this classmate of ours, who was really smart
Holy shit, am I embarrassed to share that now!
That is not a Nice way to be a human, I believe now
But I wasn’t trying to be nice, then
I thought it was best to be smart, because all the people I admired most had that, and that alone, or so I thought-as the connection between them.
And that classmate was smart
So I think on some level, I thought if I could get this super intelligent person to like me, I could somehow gain Worth, as a human being, by proxy
That backfired, of course, and pretty explosively.
But that is another channel.
The next time I tried thinking about what all my favorite people had in common with one another, a year or two later, to my surprise – I realized it was not intelligence, anymore
I think the word might have been ‘liberal’
But if it was, that was not even accurate
Because when I think back to that time, I definitely had some friends I thought highly of that did not fit in that categorization.
I just wanted it to be true, because I didn’t like the way some conservatives had made me feel, and I thought therefore that I did not like conservatives, as a general statement, and that therefore I must like liberals.
This is also edging into a whole other channels’ worth of discussion, but-
Eventually, as I kept repeating that process, of trying to identify what connected all my favorite people, that one word kept evolving
From ‘liberal’ to ‘awake’ to ‘considerate’ to ‘compassionate,’ or something like that!
And, each time it did, my favorite people became less groups of such polar opposites, as they were in junior high
Until eventually, I was confident that I could get any number of my favorite people together, who had never met each other- and they would not hate each other
But would actually frequently become friends themselves!
Concurrently, perhaps as a direct result of this habit I’d sort of begun as a whim (before I thought about my brain using that word as a descriptor) – I began identifying the things that I liked most in life experiences, sort of.
I’ll have to think about this more; it’s been over a decade since I’ve revisited the early stages of this thought.
Honestly, I don’t think I remember, right now
But I know what it became, after a couple initial transformations in thought.
Through this process and some particular experiences I had
One of which was that best friend of mine, later – in college, telling me a particular story, about herself and one of her past partners. She told me, once, about a time she and him had been riding a city bus in Santa Cruz, together.
It was a brutally hot day
And the bus ride was miserable!
But ever after, she told me –
They would say to one another, every so often:
“Hey! You remember that one time on the bus?? God, that was awful, wasn’t it?!”
And they bonded over it
And in so doing
This event that had seemed All Bad, at the time
Became an integral part of them growing closer to one another
And therefore not just Not Bad
But actually – really good
That story has always stuck with me
And totally transformed my perception of experience, in a broad manner
I stopped seeing the value in a given life experience as so concrete, so black and white and permanent
And, somewhere along the way, I decided that I would begin rating the value of my own experiences in terms of how good of a story it later made
Or would later make
I can think of way too many pretty funny examples of how this has shaped my life to give them all here, right now
But perhaps now that I’ve made this channel, I will start to later
Actually. I think I remember the event that triggered this awareness in me, of stories being the baseline by which I rated my experiences and how worthwhile they were (and later, as a result and for a period of time- how I rated how I thought of other people, but again, I’ll save that for later)
It was before my friend had told me about the bus, so I must have learned the black and white thing after I had already started seeking out the stories in life
My first job was as a commercial salmon seiner, in Alaska, when I was 17.
One of my best friends in high school, who is not a member of this server at the moment – her dad owned a seiner.
She wanted a friend to go with her
So we went up, and I lived and worked on the boat with her, just after junior year of high school ended, and returned to CA just before senior year began.
That whole thing is definitely worth its own channel
But there was this girl I met up there
Oh! This was one of the evolutionary stages of my ‘friend words,’ that I’d forgotten about
I’m pretty sure that somewhere around this time, the word was ‘interesting’
This girl, I can’t even remember her name now
Did not seem Interesting
And I had discarded Nice as the thing that made people worthwhile in my mind, as humans, a while before that point, and therefore dismissed her
Honestly, I did more than that
I think I looked down on her, some
I was not mean to her (that I was aware of)
But she was….a little mousey, maybe
And I was so terrified, I think, of seeing the Mouse in me
That I looked down on the Mouse in others
“Yuck!” I thought
One night, we docked up with the boat she worked on with her boyfriend
She was in her early twenties, then, if I remember correctly
And as we were sitting down for dinner
She starting telling the story of their relationship, just as a natural progression of the conversation
Which was actually a story about her life
And shocked me to my core, for how suddenly and deeply it transformed my perception of people, in a broader sense
When she was fourteen, she’d snuck out to go to a party with her boyfriend
She’d been fighting with her parents about him. They did not want her seeing him
So, this one night, she snuck out
And forgot her flipflops
But her parents had been crafty
And had laid a trap
They’d put a bear skin rug on the top bunk of her bed, head facing the door
Which she opened, then SCREAMED
Loudly enough she woke her parents, but she didn’t know this at the time
She just grabbed her shoes, and ran, back out to her boyfriend, who had been waiting in his car out front
When he brought her back to her house, sometime in the early morning hours-
Her belongings were neatly piled on the lawn
With signed emancipation papers sitting atop
And that was the proverbial it for that chapter of her life
She began, at fourteen fucking years old, living in her boyfriend’s car
Working, during some summers, on fishing boats
She had since been to Africa, working on a merchant ship
Where she stayed, for a while, and worked as a fucking horse jockey
She was like 5 foot nothing, very petite
And within this mouse was a fucking hero
She had done so many things that I only wished I had the courage, the strength to do
And she had done it all and was still –
I was shocked!
And I learned
that really interesting people are sometimes hidden within people that didn’t seem so at first glance, to me
Since it was her Story that had affected this shift in perception,
I started seeking out Stories
And, whether it was then, or later- I eventually landed on
As being the Salient Thing in stories that I liked.
I have never met a single person that I feel like I was not able to niggle a Surprising Story out of, if I tried hard enough