Jan. 2nd, 2013

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I'm in a nostalgic mood this evening, and I felt like writing things I would say to myself at past points in my life.

Age 5: Play with the toys you really want, you'll have more fun doing it. Don't listen to dad, or the girls at school who want nothing to do with you. You're not wrong, there's no "right" toys, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And I know dad's mean and scary, while somehow also loving and wonderful, but he is wrong. Do it in secret if you have to, but you know who you are, never let him force you to forget it or pretend you're someone else. It'll take a long time to remember it again.

Age 6: The way dad treats you isn't normal, no matter what he says. The nice counselor at school is onto something, don't let dad convince you to lie to her. He'll hit you anyway, no matter what you say. If you tell her the truth, at least maybe he'll get the help he needs, or he'll never be able to hurt you again.

Age 8: Dad is impossible to please, so stop trying. Any answer is wrong, he'll find a reason to hit you no matter what you say or do, then manipulate you into thinking he's an angel and you're the one who's worthless. Turn away from him, try not to let him into your heart, and if you find yourself doing something because it's what he wants, ask if it's really what you want before proceeding. Most importantly, though, stop lying to try to tell him what he wants to hear. It doesn't work, and all that stuff they tell you about lying being contagious really is true, it'll take many years to break the habit.

Age 11: Parents splitting up, rather violently, new school with new kids who don't like you, most of your friends from elementary school went to the religious school. You've never felt so alone before, or so sad. But those kids who goof off all day? They may look like they're having fun, but they're some of the most miserable, broken people you'll ever meet. Even worse than dad. And they don't really even like you that much, you're just the only person who doesn't see that they're not really worth being friends with. Instead of flocking to them, open up more to the school psychologist. Say yes when he says you can see him every week. He'll be the most valuable friend you've ever met, if you let him. Oh, and scouting sucks, doesn't it? You'll learn a lot there, but the cost of that knowledge is pretty high, so if you want to drop out, I certainly wouldn't blame you, and you wouldn't be wrong for doing it. I genuinely can't tell you whether you should stay in or drop out, but if you stay in, know that you will never meet a single true friend from it, and aside from learning a few useful skills that you'll be able to learn in other ways, it'll never benefit you in any tangible way.

Age 12: This is the most miserable school year you will ever have, which probably doesn't sound encouraging, but think about it: Even if nothing changes in your timeline, once you get to the end of this school year, no other school year will ever be worse. So when things look hopeless, hold onto that. Also, I know dad sounds like a lot of fun nowadays, he sounds like he's changed, and doesn't hit you anymore, but don't believe a word of it. Nothing has changed, and he'll still hurt you, but he'll hurt your mind and your heart, which will take far, far longer to heal. Especially don't let him talk you into living with him or seeing him more than you see mom. But take that HTML book, it's the best thing he'll ever give you, and building websites will someday make you more money and bring you more success than anyone has ever thought you were capable of. The kids who make fun of you for it will never make even a third of what you'll be making 15 years from now. And if for some reason you didn't get an HTML book in this timeline, go get one and learn how to build a website. Seriously. Lastly, from this point on, think of school like a job; you're there to learn and perform tasks. It's not the end of the world if you don't have friends, you'll find them elsewhere.

Age 14: The internet is an amazing thing, isn't it? Cling to it, explore it, make friends, express yourself, be yourself. I know it hurts, but think back on what you liked to play with when you were little, before dad got into your head. You weren't wrong, back then, so think about that. At the same time, I know you're really lonely, and have basically only had one friend for the last three years. Church seems like a great place to find a community, and it is, but don't ignore your logical thoughts. Sadly, prayer makes no real tangible difference, and all those great people from church will either reject you or stop caring about you in roughly 5-7 years.

Age 15: So you finally got your wish, and you get to live with dad half-time. Not as fun as you imagined, is it? Take that as a sign, and go back to mom's. She'll gladly take you back, and everything dad says about her actually describes him. Unlike dad, mom can prove this, and she will, when you're older. Or just snoop and find the court files yourself. Also, if you live with mom, she'll give you a car, dad won't.

Age 16: Everything turned upside-down, dad kicked you out, and you're back with mom. I would've warned you not to let dad find out about that stuff, and not to do anything from his girlfriend's computer, but getting out of his house quickly was worth enduring that heartache. I will warn you, however, that from this point on, any contact you have with dad will escalate into creepyness pretty quickly, so try to keep him at arm's length. Also, don't write those letters to mom, the stories people tell you on DPF are total BS, and she doesn't want to know. Lastly, I know you want to latch onto a label, and declare it to the world, but don't be so hasty to set it in stone. As much as it hurts, think very carefully about when you were very young, the sorts of things you wanted to do and play with, and the people you felt most comfortable being around, even though they didn't always want you around. Then go research transgenderism, gender issues, and so forth. I know it seems freaky and weird, and it goes starkly against everything you think you know about how gender works, but seriously, just go read some gender studies books and articles with an open mind, and think about your childhood, before dad got into your head.

Age 17: Computers are great, but dad's success was 100% due to being in the right place at the right time. You're not, and everyone your age is being told that "there's lots of money in computers". Know what happens when an entire generation is told that? They all know everything you do about computers and networking, and most of them are better at it than you. So, it's useful information, but don't plan on being a network engineer at JMU fresh out of high school. Learning programming is where the money will be long-term, and you're already awesome at it. Computer science classes are boring, and they tell you that you have to do their work to be a programmer. But there's WAY more to programming than what they're showing you, and they're pretty much just focusing on the boring stuff that you already know, they're just dragging it out so much that it looks like foreign concepts. Find something to work on in your own time, like websites, and learn that way. At the same time, you're a lot more artistic and creative than anyone's ever given you credit for, and you know it, just look at what you do with Legos, and the elaborate imaginary worlds you spend time daydreaming. You just need to harness that creativity and put it into something other people can see. You should try photography, you'd be pretty good at it. Oh, and take college applications seriously, make sure to actually do them. You'll never get into JMU with that GPA, but you've got writing chops, use them to write an amazing essay. I guarantee /someone/ will take you. Oh, and go research transgenderism; notice that the few TG people you've met were weirdly compelling for reasons you couldn't explain, and your usual reaction of disgust felt somehow wrong? Take it as a sign.

Age 18: Didn't get that dream job right out of high school, huh? I know, it sucks a LOT, but ultimately, it's the way the world works. Not having a plan doesn't mean you'll beat the odds and not need one. Grandma is offering to help you with community college, take it! But don't worry too much about jumping straight into computer science stuff, they suck at teaching it and it's not that important anyway. Just stay in school, learn stuff, and earn those pieces of paper. Don't worry too much about the MCSE though, it'll never be as helpful as you think it will be. Also, research transgenderism, blah blah blah.

Age 19: The more gay people you meet, and the more relationships you're in, the more out of place you feel as a gay guy. Stop ignoring it.

Age 19 and up: Here's a copy of all my Livejournal posts I've made since I was your age.

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Natasha Softpaw

April 2014

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