Remember, memory is a selective bastard.
I was an isolated child whose only comfort, and education, were books.
Last night I dreamt I was riding a bike near my childhood home with a few friends, whose names I’ve long forgotten. We came upon the house where my brother and I grew up and saw it was being completely rehabbed. We stopped to talk to a man who was trimming the bushes and I explained my family had owned the house for nearly 30 years and could we see it? The flamboyant man said, “Obviously not.” with no other explanation. We peeked through the windows where remarkable transformations were taking place inside.
I was in awe.
The house was a farmhouse, built in the 1860s, with two additions. The garage was a freestanding barn with a hayloft. The dream owners had completely overhauled every nook and corner so that nothing of what we had remembered as children was still there.
As we biked away, I noticed one of my boots were tearing (dreams are good reminders of things you need to pick up if you have forgotten. In this case: boots) and thoughts spun around to when I was living in that house and how I used to entertain myself.
(This next part is not a dream.)
These thoughts spun back to other times I was alone, which seemed like always. There is me sitting on the back steps watching the stars shoot by, hoping to be an astronaut one day or there is me playing basketball with myself. There is me eating rainbow pops with my grandpop while we listened to the Tigers on the AM radio. During the summer months, I would drag every item I could onto the L-shaped porch and create my own home, only to have to drag it all back inside as the sun went down. I would take a lunch and bike down to the library, grab some books, and then bike over to the secluded areas near the river to eat and read.
I don’t recall anyone asking where I was for all the times I was gone or why I kept dragging my things outside. There is me and almost never an us.
There is no existence of pictures of me with some other child and rarely with my brother or cousins. True fact.
Recently, two unconnected people said I was deeply isolated and desperately lonely, except I don’t see myself that way. It’s similar to when people discuss Father’s Day or grand family vacations or something else not in my world. I rarely knew my father, I’ve never been on a grand family vacation, and most of these synapses people form with their experiences were never in the cards for me. So I cannot see myself as being desperately lonely or deeply isolated because I cannot relate to these things others do. But when these connections are outside the realm of normalcy for them, it’s hard to understand someone who doesn’t discern your same faiths.
For all of my isolation growing up, my socialization and behavior came from books. This is how others interacted with others, so this is how I must interact with people. These traits are bad, because bad things eventually happen to them on page 237, so I must not do these things. This is how romantic relationships work, so I must wait for someone who exudes these traits before I can take them seriously (and YES, I was accused of reading too many romance novels because I wanted every man to be Mr. Darcy). This is how friends treat friends, daughters to mothers and brothers, lover to lover. Every. Idealization. Of. Social. Interaction came from books. Despite my large family, there was no one person around long enough to shower me with what would form my psyche. There was nothing and then, there is everything.
Being freed from societal expectations can be considered a gift. It gives me the perspective of outsider in on day to day interactions. It allows me to be seen and definitely not heard, and it allows me to interpret right from wrong on a cleaner basis because I have no influence (because we all know bad things happen in Act 2 or page 237). My moral compass is perhaps a little straighter and a bit more rigid than most.
It also allows me to travel without borders, without constraints, and without worry.
But it’s cyclic, for every experience shared alone, there is no one person waiting for me to come home, just like in my youth. There is no one person who is necessarily worried about me (i.e. there are those who love me, I know, but it’s not one specific person at home, knitting and wearing slippers in front of a fire, waiting for me).
Books taught me everything and with them, came unrealistic expectations and desires and this is one thing I’m very glad to have.
I’ve written of these things before; perhaps not as lucid but it has been said and will probably be said again. In order to grow, and to explore, we must challenge our boundaries and I’ll keep pushing until I feel that I am complete with that knowledge. But am I desperately lonely and largely isolated? Maybe. But if for all of this, I enjoy being me, why expect me to be anything else for that would alter the things you like about me? Would I be happier if I was part of a large social interactions, for I will not lie, there are times I long for such groups. And if I could change, be it my own happiness does mean it would preclude me from having large social interactions, why attempt to change the recipe?
As I was writing this, I was wondering if perhaps this growing up being socialized by books was perhaps the reason why my own books were stalling. Books gloss over everything in its pages and it’s difficult to write what you really do not know. I know what I would do but that would, perhaps, make for tepid reading.
Remember, memory is a selective bastard.