Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Secret Origin of Cap'n Neurotic: A Psychosis Is Born

Over the past few weeks you’ve gotten a glimpse into the neurotic workings of my mind, and have learned a little about those brave, brave souls who have been able to withstand the twisted processes of my psyche long enough to be labeled my friends. But so far you’ve only gotten to see snapshots of the more recent results of my neurotic evolution. I think it’s about time to take a trip down the long and winding road that has made your good Cap’n Neurotic that strange and unusual individual he is today. Not all will be revealed (a head monkey has to keep some aura of mystery, after all), but much should be made clear over the next who-knows-how-many posts. So, let's take a trip in the Wayback machine to a little town in Oklahoma called Wyandotte (pronounced alternately WHY-en-dot, WINE-dot, or, if you're Wrath teh Berzerkr, wan-DOT-tay), the speck on the map where I spent my formative years.

If you've never heard of Wyandotte, don't feel bad, pretty much nobody has. My parents were long time residents of the area, having grown up there themselves. Mom taught freshman and sophomore English at the High School up until my senior year, when they bumped her up to juniors and seniors; yup, that's right, I had my mom for English for three years. All the jokes about "I bet you got good grades in that class" might have been funnier if I hadn't made good grades in all of my classes . . . but probably not. My dad split his time between farming and working at BF Goodrich, until the plant closed down and we had to sell the farm. After a series of sales jobs, he went back to school to become an R.N., graduating from nursing school at the same time I graduated from high school.

In a lot of ways I took after my mom: my verbal skills, sense of humor, songbursty nature; I took after my dad in my love of SF, Fantasy, and Horror. Nobody's sure where my math skills came from. I attended the Wyandotte school system for 13 years, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, graduating with a class of 29. I was involved in tons of school activities: 4-H, Technology Students Association (TSA), Student Council, Academic Team, Band, Vocal, Competitive Speech; I was class Valedictorian; and, by the time I went off to college, I had lost contact with every single classmate.

You may have noticed a certain something lacking from my list of activities above: athletics. While still in Elementary school, I developed a strong aversion to organized sports. This was a pretty odd decision on my part, since both of my parents were avid sports fans. My mom was at every Wyandotte football game, come rain or come shine, and subsequently, so was I. Who knows, maybe this was my one act of rebellion, manifesting a bit precociously; heaven knows I avoided all of the usual ones during my teenage years. For years I convinced myself that my eschewing of the world of athleticism was out of an embracing of my inner nerdiness, which cried out that I couldn't enjoy sports without giving up that part of myself that got good grades and read comics. It's not that I made the assumption that jocks were dumb; there were plenty of outgoing athletic types in my class who could have aced all their classes if they'd applied themselves; the fact that most of them didn't seemed to prove my point. But, after many years of peeling back the layers of my neurotic tendencies, I think that there was one factor that drove my distancing from sports: fear.

My sophomore year of college I wrote an essay entitled "Of Prisms and Plotlines" which I'll probably wind up posting here sooner or later. The gist of it is that too often I’ve let stupid little fears rule my behavior over the years. A lot of the excuses I made for a lot of my avoidance behaviors were, I now believe, merely a self-deluding smokescreen for my fear-based lifestyle; specifically, a fear of failure/embarrassment. I do think those nerdy stereotypes played a part, but not in an “I can't make good grades if I do this" sort of way, so much as an "I'm a nerd and couldn't possibly be any good at sports and will make an ass of myself if I try" sort of way. So, I subscribed to the philosophy of "better to abstain from sports and be thought a klutzy wimp than to try to play and remove all doubt." It's this same fear of inadequacy that has tripped me up again and again over the years: it kept me from trying to learn to ride a bike (I mean, that takes balance and coordination, right? Forget that!); it delayed me getting my drivers license until I was almost 20 (judging spatial relationships and relative speeds? That's crazy talk!); it made it more difficult to build deeper friendships (it's nice and warm here inside my shell, I don’t think I’ll risk poking my head out to make friends, thank you very much); and it forced my mom to drag me kicking and screaming to my first 4-H meeting, and later brow-beat me into joining TSA (both of which helped me discover my love of public speaking, so thank you, Mom). Anyway, to complete the illusion that it wasn’t fear keeping me away from sports, I assumed a studied disinterest towards athleticism of all sorts.

My relationship with sports changed once I reached Jr. High and had to start attending all of the football games with the band. This would start my pattern of being as interested in sports as my current social circle; while playing and cheering for our team, I got caught up in the school spirit and finally developed an appreciation of the game, which would then spill over into love of basketball. Of course, I was only interested in our high school sporting events; it would be several years before the NFL or NBA made it onto my radar. During this blossoming of interest in athletics, I briefly (very briefly) pondered if it was too late for me to try my hand at some sort of physical activity, but the voices in my head assured me that it was. My self-consciousness about my physical prowess (or lack thereof) would inform my neurotic behavior for years to come, much to the eventual dismay of several Parkerites. But that’s a story for another time.

Thus ends chapter 1 of “Cap’n Neurotic: The Early Years.” Join us soon for chapter 2, “Cap’n Neurotic 2, Electric Boogaloo or: Kryptonite is to Superman as Socialization is to You-Know-Who.”


G'ovich said...

I think this qualifies as "putting it all out there." If you need graphic illustration, I have a great one of you bowling in San Diego.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Dr. G'ovich, ladies and gentlemen: an endless pillar of support :)