My wife pointed out that I am no longer the introverted guy she married 20 years ago. This got me to thinking about how this came to pass. She is right (don’t ever tell her I said that) about me having been an introvert. I have leaned that way since I can remember. I was always awkward socially, terrible with and terrified by the opposite sex, reclusive, antisocial, and a bit of a fire bug. Basically a serial killer in the making if documentaries are to be believed. I never hurt animals though. I quite preferred their company to that of people. Sometimes I still do, truth be told.
Really. Who wouldn’t prefer the company of these guys?
This isn’t me these days. Except for the socially awkward part. If you’ve read any of my blog entries, you’ll have seen some of the things that run through my head. More often than not, these things come out in social settings. Typically, they induce uncomfortable silences from those that hear me. Then I have to fill the silent void with things in hope of making it entertaining. My wife thinks this is how I came to be afflicted with Moosa. She still claims it to be a demented fabrication, but she’s a psychologist, not an M.D. If she was up to speed on her dementia she would know that mad cow is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s which is a form of senile dementia. And that is just half of the mutated thing I dubbed Moosa. Don’t judge me.
That said, memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember certain things that happened while living on Fort Riley, Kansas, that still entertain my parents to this day. I wasn’t even in the first grade yet, but they laugh when they tell me how I put little balls of poo in my dad’s combat boots. I don’t remember rubbing my junk on the sliding glass door while standing between the curtain and the glass. I guess it kind of freaked my mother out who was in the back yard watching funnel clouds with her friends only to have them point out a scrawny kid hitting a home run with a glass door while grinning like an idiot. Good times. These are the kinds of things I wish I could remember so I could introduce them as topics of discussion in polite company. Now they are just second hand stories rather than my own.
The crap I do remember from back then actually kind of sucks. Like my first exposure to a group of bullies. It was the same day I found a puppy and tried to keep it behind a little stone wall so I could go ask permission to keep it. I had to go back outside and break the bad news to the puppy, but dogs have really good ears and apparently he’d already heard through the walls and left without a goodbye. I clearly remember how upset I was. My mother skillfully distracted me by tying a cape around my neck so I could be superman. I must have been superman for days because it was just a few days later when I “flew” around to a friend’s back yard that I met my kryptonite for the first time. A group of older kids had my friend in tears and began threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t beat me up. I decided I should be elsewhere because this was so not cool. They formed a ring around me and the butt kicking commenced. Brock Lesnar couldn’t have done a more thorough job. I dragged myself home and swore off of capes and became a bit of a recluse… for the next 20 years.
Somewhere in my mind, I linked that event to the Army. It’s understandable, I suppose. Most of my life has been linked to the Army. I guess my point is that I think this is where my reclusive, socially awkward nature originated. It didn’t help that we moved every three years and I was forced to find that one other kid with no friends. That got really weird when that other kid was female and we were both beginning to recognize that the other gender was more interesting than our own.
I think I’ve figured out when the shift took place in the social arena though. I didn’t like the idea of my brothers being in a combat zone while I sat safely ensconced in my isolation. I’d already been married to my wife for seven years and at 31 years old, I enlisted in the Army. I turned 32 the day I arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to become a cannon crew member.
I was driven and climbed the rank ladder as fast as I could. Consequently, I was forced to be in front of a squad. I had to teach, coach, mentor, and lead young soldiers. This is pretty tough for one who has lived as introvert for decades, yet I was fairly proficient at it and this eventually led to my becoming a platoon Sergeant. The point is that the Army forced me out of my shell, made me face the uncomfortable and overcome it. I’d found my niche and that niche was in front of some of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.
So here I am. A mid-forties social bug who now embraces the awkwardness. I love my unique brand of oddness. There was a time during which my concern over other people’s perception of me was absolutely debilitating. I’m glad that is gone. I like being the guy at a formal military ball who removes his dress blue uniform top to reveal his dress shirt’s sleeves and back panel are colorful patches containing bulldogs on motorcycles.
I was the only person in the room full of officers and senior NCOs wearing a “party shirt” and it created a strange sort of conversational ripple as people turned to look. It was actually fun rather than mortifying. Now I kind of enjoy it when I introduce a topic of discussion that leaves others feeling awkward and unsure of how to respond. Welcome to my world, peeps! Embrace yours. It’s the only one you got.