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A Purgatory of Maturity

May 17, 2010

High School was not pleasant for me. Really, I can’t imagine how it would have been pleasant for anyone other than the stereotypical “in” crowd. We’re all awkward, confused balls of hormones caught between being too old to be a kid and too young to be an adult – a purgatory of maturity.

To add to all the normal issues I was rather skinny, not very athletic, a geek and in band to boot. I played the trombone. I didn’t play sports and didn’t have much interest in typical “guy” things. I might as well have put on thick coke bottle glasses and a pocket protector. Well, I did have the glasses so I guess I was halfway there.

With band came a lot of things, though. Friendship, learning experiences, work ethic and comradery. My freshman year there was, as there ever were, three drum majors – students who took up a leadership role within the band. One of them, for one reason or another, seemed to take to me. We’ll call him Bob.

Bob was a lot like me. We thought alike, dressed alike, looked alike. We both were interested and exceled in mathematics and the sciences, though he was admittedly much better at them than I. He ended up being one of his class’ valedictorians. We both tended to have more simplistic styles – jeans and t-shirts were our resting states. You didn’t really find us in the trendy, preppy clothes. We were mistaken for brothers on at least one occasion that I can vividly remember. Bob was also a couple years older than I and just about every girl in the band had a crush on him at some point. It was joked once or twice that I was “Bob-lite”.

All of this mixed together to create what amounted to a mentor for me in High School. Bob, as it turned out, was also a Bible believing Southern Baptist Christian. I can remember, vividly, him telling me about how he was “saved”, where and when he was. A cemetery, I believe, in July – one of the benefits of having a nearly phonographic memory. He also tended to lean towards a literal interpretation of the Bible as well, which surprised me for a lot of reasons I won’t go into in this post.

That aside, like any impressionable teenager, I tried to emulate him. I tried out other churches, denominations and ways of thinking but always within the Christian realm. I became more entrenched in math, science and music. Read my bible, from time to time. I even became one of those drum majors and worked with him for his senior year.

I could never find a church I liked. There was always something I objected to on the grounds of personal morality, world views or it just plain didn’t make any sense. One had a thing against homosexuals which made no sense to me. Again, another subject for another post. Another had a thing against the card game “Magic: The Gathering” and, I kid you not, Pokemon. I guess because one had the word “Magic” in it because otherwise it’s just a card game. The other… well, I’m not sure why. Seriously, why would anyone have a problem with Pikachu? Sure, he’s annoying he’s hardly the snake in the garden.

Anyway, after Bob moved on to college, I was left on my own once again, though I was able to coast along for a while being, basically, what everyone expected of me. I never was a Biblical literalist the way Bob was, though. I just could never make sense of that. Evolution was just too strong, to me which was the basis for my rejection of the Bible as a literal work. Admittedly, at the time, I really didn’t have a good reason for accepting Evolution. It just seemed more reasonable to me and that the Genesis accounts were metaphorical or meant for a less scientifically literate human race. Now that I have a better understanding of its mechanisms, I feel a little more justified. I made the right decision but for the wrong reasons back then. Better than making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons, I guess.

It should also be pointed out that it never occurred to me to be something else. That I could be Hindu or Muslim or Agnostic or Atheist or Buddhist or Taoist or whatever else was out there even though I knew people who were these things and I asked questions about their faith. I would always think “how could I believe in something so silly”? The irony of that statement is not lost on me now.

Perhaps it also had something to do with the need to be accepted during those years – a behavior which is both a boon and a bane when you think about it. On one hand, it keeps you from going too far off the reservation which can be dangerous. On the other hand, it can restrict you a little too much and, worse, you won’t even realize it. Teenage rebellion is, after all, about the desire to establish yourself as an individual, to be accepted and finding a balance between these two basic drives.

At the time I prided myself on having an open mind and knowing who I really was. But, I was young and still didn’t truly understand what that meant. Granted I think I was little more aware of the process than others were – I’ve always been a bit more introspective – but I still didn’t know myself as well then as I do now. Then again, I doubt I know myself as well now as I will in another 15 years so perhaps it’s simply a function of time and experience.

Later, after talking to others I knew in those years, it seems I gave the impression of being solid and a rock and confident in my beliefs. I was anything but. Like most people I was a bit lost then, looking for where I fit in with this thing called “life” but I think I just didn’t show it as much.

Then came graduation and the “big” world of college.

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From → High School

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