I’m slowly but surely working my way through your requests.
tirani asks me to write about my teenage years.That’s not as easy as it sounds. My memory of past events is foggier than most people’s. I don’t know if I deliberately blocked them out, or if I just never made an attempt to remember; but it’s a haze where certain events stand out, with only vague associations to dates or ages. I’m envious of people who can say “when I was in 9th grade, I…” we never had grades, but it probably wouldn’t have helped if I had. Things happened. Some before others. It doesn’t get much more distinct than that.
Some notable events of my teen years:
When I was ~12 I went with my dad to Mexico to see an eclipse, and my mom left. After that she was the “fun parent” and dad was the “real parent” (you children of divorce know what I’m talking about) – I lived with my dad and she would whisk me away on the weekends.
When I was 13 I went with my dad to India. Puberty hit while I was there, quite literally overnight. Before I had thought of girls as nice enough, in their way; then I woke up one day to the sudden realization that I was surrounded by angels from heaven. I spent a couple days just watching them from the flat roof of the house we were staying at. Then I promptly fell head-over-heels in love, more or less arbitrarily, with an 18-year-old who spoke little english. It was an amazing feeling. A few days later we left the country. It took me at least six months to get over her. I never felt that way again.
I found out recently she still lives in the same area, she’s married with two kids to a software engineer (go figure), and she’s trying to get back in touch with me. I haven’t responded yet and I don’t know if I will.
Not long after that was when I started really getting close to my friend Mark. Rather than write it all again, I’ll just quote a previous entry to tell that story:
He was a hyperactive cut-up, a loser, a walking catastrophe, an emotional mess, and I came to love him dearly. He stayed with us when his parents were out of town, and sometimes when they were in town. Although our contact was often sporadic, I think he was the closest thing I ever had to a best friend like other people have best friends – we hung out, stayed up late talking or playing video games or listening to music, I listened to his troubles, he taught me to love roller coasters, we had midnight water gun battles. He drove me up the wall quite often, and I would have done anything for him.
His dad finally got sick of his mom and blew his own brains out with a shotgun. A couple months later Mark was driving with a friend and showing off one of his guns. He put it to his head, said “see, it’s not loaded”, and pulled the trigger. Whether intentionally or not, he was wrong.
At this time I was living with my dad in Westminster. At some point my cousin and her young daughter moved in with us, where they stayed until after I moved out. I was practicing a more or less self-directed education, with some guidance from my dad.
Throughout my teens I attended various church camps, retreats, and youth conferences, which furnished many of the emotional high and low points of my life. As the rare instances when I was surrounded by my peers, they tended to be cusps for dramatic experiences. I discovered the heights of communal bliss, and plumbed the depths of loneliness.
I met a girl at one of these events. For the next few years I conducted an ambiguous long-distance relationship with her by mail and later internet. We were best friends by mail, and something more and also less on the few occasions we got together in person. I experienced a lot of heartache that probably could have been avoided if I’d had more than one close friend to obsess over.
I went to flight school, first in sailplanes and then in powered planes. I got as far as soloing once or twice in a sailplane; personality differences with my instructor prevented me from going as far with powered flight.
I taught myself to play the guitar by mimicking tunes by The Cranberries.
I started attending community college at 16. I took general ed and computer programming courses.
I got two jobs, one at an internet help desk, and the other as a lab aide at the college. At both I worked with groups of oddballs that I remember with fondness. I was only ever turned down for one job, a lab aide position in an elementary school.
I met a girl who became, and I am proud to say still is, one of my dearest friends in the world. Although fate long conspired to keep us out of contact with one another in strange and inexplicable ways.
I took photos and wrote extremely bad poetry from time to time.
I moved out into my own cozy apartment around age 18. I reluctantly moved a year later when my landlady forced me out to make room to expand her salon.
My dad’s employer, where I had once briefly co-oped as a final project for my advanced C++ programming course, offered me a software job. I took it, and I’ve been there ever since.
I met another girl at another youth conference who made me feel safe and loved. I visited her school and thought about moving to be near her, and also as a change of scenery. But though she thought it absurd and narcissistic when I asked her not to fall in love with me (I wanted a friend, more than anything), she proceeded to do that very thing. One day I got a letter explaining that because of her feelings for me, it was just too painful to talk to me anymore.
I went to a “coffeehouse” in Westminster one day (really a weekly music event held at the Salvation Army), and discovered that their coffee sucked. I offered to make their coffee for them, and that was the beginning of my involvement with a well-meaning, but ultimately doomed, venture. I used to load up my supplies every Saturday night, and then drive up from Owings Mills, help set up, brew up coffees and cappucinos etc. with makeshift equipment, and then clean up and trek home. Sometimes I’d photograph the bands. In the process I struck up a pretty close friendship with the woman who’s brainchild it was. I regret that I haven’t kept up with that friendship.
The transition out of my teens and into a wholely new chapter of my life was marked by my attendance of the Cornerstone festival, where I learned for the first time that there were people in the world I could feel totally comfortable with and accepted by; that I was a cuddle slut; and that skirts are really comfortable in hot weather. That week was the germ for many changes which have since come to full flower in my life.