Recently I was reminded that I used to be an idiot. Not just an idiot, but a cringey edgelord. If you look at my yearbook for senior year, you’ll see that it wasn’t signed by anyone. It’s not that people wouldn’t have signed it, I just didn’t have the desire to ask. I signed a few and someone reminded me of how I signed theirs. Please see the image below.
The signature reads “[Friend], Ever notice how pages like these get filled with crap because people are trying to justify bad high school memories with fake wishes and hopeless ambitions for the future? I would wish you luck, if I believed in it, and thought it would do any good. [Government Name Redacted] Miller.”
That’s really embarrassing for me. One, the person whose yearbook I signed was a wonderful person. They supported the band I played in and was a genuinely good human being to talk to (they still are). Two, I was reminded of the cringey bullshit I did as a youngster. I will forever be immortalized as the douchebag that just had to be “that guy.” As soon as I read that, my stomach dropped, and I audibly groaned. What the actual f***, A.P.? Why would you do that?
I have reasons. They may not be good reasons, but they are my reasons.
The truth is, the fun-loving sultan of sarcasm, and Reigning Archduke of Mayhem ©, wasn’t always a very likable person. I was awkward out the gate, I was hard to like, and I was pressed to express myself in healthy ways. I look at the picture of the way I signed my friend’s yearbook and I’m reminded of the card-carrying window-licker I used to be. In hopes to atone for such flagrant douchery, and reconciling the people I’ve been, I wanted to explain who I used to be, so that maybe some of you can think back on how you remember me. Maybe it will all make sense.
I had a hard time in school. I didn’t feel like I fit in and I had a really hard time relating to other people my age. It started when I was young. My father passed when I was about five years old and I didn’t process it well. It was painful to hear others tell stories about the things they did with their fathers—playing baseball, going fishing, learning how to work on cars. I withdrew myself from those conversations so I didn’t have to hear them. Withdrawing myself limited my exposure to others and really stunted my social development. I threw myself into things like comic books and movies, subconsciously trying to find a masculine influence. All I knew was the dire situations Superman was in, how life-and-death everything the X-Men did, and how the characters Jean-Claude Van Damme played had the obligation to save the day. That skewed the way I saw the world, I know that now.
Junior high was about as much fun as getting a colonoscopy every day. When you enter your teenage years, you’re struggling to find out who you are. We were all vulnerable, and if people are focusing on how awkward someone else is, they aren’t focused on how awkward you are. Because I didn’t relate to many people my age in elementary school, I sure as hell didn’t relate to them when our bodies are changing, and having the mentality of rabid wildlife. The isolation became worse. If you’re not in a room full of people, you don’t have to be defensive about things you can’t control.
My freshman year of high school is when my idiot phase went into full gear. I had a theory, one would spend their energy trying to conform to the mainstream, or spend an equal amount of that energy rebelling against it. I fought the direction of the tide and it was painful. I dyed my hair black, I started wearing t-shirts for bands with shocking imagery, and I went out of my way to get a reaction out of people. I had a talent for art, and instead of using that talent to express myself (as one does when they create art), I went for shock factor. I was trying to get attention. I didn’t want to be voiceless anymore. If my voice wouldn’t be heard being honest about myself, then I would be loud about trying to get a reaction out of people. I was wrong. This line of thinking really made the isolation even worse than it had been.
In hind sight, I know it would have been painful no matter which direction I choose. As an adult, I can recognize that those kind of feelings were not exclusive to me, I just didn’t handle them in a healthy way.
You might not believe it, but I was a really good student in my younger years. I remember in Fifth Grade, the four classes had an end-of-year trivia competition. The four students with the best GPA would represent each class. I was in that group of four & competed against the students that would be the valedictorian & salutatorian of our graduating class. With the onset of puberty, my underlying Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) went into high-gear. I couldn’t handle the structure of a typical academic environment. My grades dropped. I had all the symptoms of a problem drug habit without the benefit of being high.
By the time I limped along to the end of my Junior year, my grades were garbage, I had ZERO prospects for the future, and any room for an elective that would have helped me discover my talents was spent on making up for the classes I’d failed the year before. I could see it in adults eyes, they’d given up on me. The goal was no longer to get me onto a bright future, it was to get me out the door, and let me be someone else’s problem. While the people around me were planning on which college they’d go to, I was hoping I’d have a diploma to prove I’d been there.
The summer between my junior & senior years, my band played our first show. When I tell people I used to be shy and awkward, they can never believe me. They ask what changed and I tell them that I can pinpoint it down to one moment: the first show my band ever played. When you’re on stage, playing an instrument, it’s an incredible feeling. I walked into my senior year with a new confidence in myself. I let go of the pretense of trying to shock people into seeing me a certain way and I just did what I was comfortable with. It wasn’t like a “She’s All That” transformation, but a step in the right direction.
The story has something of a happy ending. I did end up getting my degree, made some incredible friends along the way, and re-ignited my passion for writing. Sure, some doors weren’t open for me, but I learned to tear holes in the walls along the way.
If you knew me then, please believe that you don’t know me now. I didn’t know how to act in a lot of situations, I’m not that person anymore. I’d love to get to know you now. To that friend with the yearbook, I’m very sorry my years of hurting bled onto that page.
Thank you for joining me on this trip across the Millerverse!
Songs listened to while writing this blog:
- Hero of the Day – Metallica
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground – White Stripes
- Fire Water Burn – the Bloodhound Gang
- Santeria – Sublime