I liked the movie “Hook.” I’m not ashamed to admit it. I once owned it on VHS. It’s one of the first things I thought about when I learned of Robin Williams’ death. But I didn’t post it on Facebook. I didn’t talk about my sadness at his passing. I didn’t say anything. Just like Williams, I didn’t say anything. It took this thought-provoking article from Cracked.com to make me realize why–I’m different. Like Williams and millions of you, I know I’m different. I’ve always known it, always felt that pang in my stomach, that accepting who I am means society may not be as accepting. I don’t open up to people because I don’t trust anyone anymore. Not my family, not my friends, sometimes not even my wife. But she said something to me this week I couldn’t ignore. “You are 40 years old. You have to accept some things about yourself instead of always trying to change to be someone you clearly aren’t.” And it hit me–why not honor Williams death by facing my fears and talking about myself? I love politics and always wanted to write about it. But I could never muster the courage. I didn’t think anyone would care. I couldn’t figure out a way to get started. Until now. I want to kick it off by letting you know about me. I’m not talking about those Facebook threads where people post six simple, minor details of their lives that “no one knows.” I’m talking about 20 things defining who I am today, bad or good (Hey, it’s not bragging if it’s true.) So here goes:
1. I started kindergarten when I was four. I knew then I was different. I guess I was smart for my age.
2. I had no friends in grade school. No close friends anyway. I’ve always thought it was because when I was younger I picked my nose and ate it. But I’m not sure.
3. My childhood friends, for the most part, are all younger than me. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize I spent 14 years of my life with classmates I thought didn’t like me.
4. I never dated until college. I lost my virginity when I was 21.
5. I regret not playing basketball in high school. I’m damn good. Even today, I play with people half my age and hold my own. But a classmate told me in 8th grade not to make a fool of myself. And, unfortunately, I listened.
6. My first college roommate threatened to kill me.
7. I love my family, and feel a constant pressure to move closer, even though I don’t really want to live in the Midwest ever again.
8. I wish my brothers and I were closer.
9. I’m a horrible sleeper. I spend my nights in constant self-flagellation. I think about anything and everything I’ve done wrong that day, that week, or in my entire life. Because of this, I never sleep soundly. I wake up when a cricket farts three houses down. Most days, I’m so physically and mentally fatigued it impacts my job, my wife, and the people around me.
10. If I accidentally drop something, there’s a good chance I can catch it before it hits the ground. We do not own a fly swatter because I can catch flies with my hands. I then release them back into the wild.
11. If someone tells me I did something wrong, I obsess about it. All the time. I am still haunted by things I did when I was 10.
12. I became a vegetarian recently. If you’ve ever cleaned out a chicken coup or meat department like I have, you would understand why.
13. I don’t have any morals or beliefs. Seriously. I don’t judge people. I think this makes it easier for me to understand others who believe differently. But I also thinks it makes it harder for people to understand me.
14. I’m an atheist. I think I became one because so many people told me I should believe. And because Sunday service conflicted with WWF Wrestling.
15. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I hand it to you, then stress out preparing myself for that time when you crush it.
16. I hide my emotions so much I purposely watch sad videos. Crying is my only emotional release, and something I can do alone.
17. It’s been three years and I constantly think about my father’s death.
18. I think I’m pretty damn funny. I also think I use biting wit and sarcasm to make sure people don’t get too close.
19. I wish I could open up to more people. I have a wonderful wife, and some really great friends. And it’s still hard for me to talk openly and honestly with them.
20. I almost didn’t write this because I was afraid I would be made fun of or you wouldn’t care.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I’m starting a “Real Political Conversations” blog this way. But as you know, Williams’ death once again brings mental health discussion to the forefront. And, like politics, I believe we start the discussion the wrong way. We need to talk about facts, not opinions. We need to talk about HOW to accept everyone’s differences before we debate WHAT to accept. We need to stop blaming mental health issues solely on the individual, and start looking at the role society plays in forming those issues. And most of all, we need to connect.
And maybe that connection starts with this. Maybe opening up shows us we are not alone, that our differences make us unique, but are also shared with thousands or millions of others. Some of you can’t sleep. Others have trouble making friends. I’d love to learn more about you. I’d love for this to go viral and everyone posts their own list somewhere. Anywhere.
But I completely understand if you don’t.