What It’s Like to Be Different

I’m not the same as them.

I follow the beat of a different drum.

I’m strange. Odd. Peculiar. Mysterious.


It’s a good thing.


“You’re unique.”

“You’re quirky.”

“You’re a character.”

I make life my own.


It’s not a good thing.


“Why can’t you just act normal?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Will you ever change?”

I don’t harmonize with their chorus.


I’ve been labeled

An “enigma”

A “wild card.”

I’ve been individuated with


“Red flags.”


I’ve been called:


In a good way.


In a good way.


In a good way.


Different has a wide range of personalities.

Different is terrible.

Different is inexplicable.

Different is hilarious.

Different is wonderful.


But the thing to keep in mind is this:

Different is different.


And that’s the only thing you’re certain of getting

When you deal with me.



The Shoe Parade and the World of Confusingness


As a grandparent-proclaimed “growing boy” during my younger years, I had a tough time staying in the same pair of sneakers. In addition to constant half-size elongation, I absolutely destroyed respective heels and balls and other parts I don’t know the name of on every make and model of footwear. I used to go through like three or four pairs a year. I have decided to call this collective glory period the “Shoe Parade.” I need to be careful because that might be the name of a shoe store.

During the Shoe Parade, I gained a glimpse into the world of confusingness. My shoes decayed (yes, I was very scientific back then) at a much quicker rate than kids who seemed to live similar lives and who were going through similar, if not greater, bodily growth spurts (I was always short but my feet grew quickly; admittedly, while they grew taller, I did not measure their feet on a regular basis).

My best friends and I ran amongst golden cornfields, rambled through countless neighborhoods (actually just two or three), circled the bases of makeshift Wiffle ball fields, and protected the streets that held Abraham Lincoln’s legacy while pedaling away on our BMX bikes. And yet in spite of the fact that these friends were roughly one foot (12 inches, not shoe-related) away from me at all times doing the exact same things with their feet, they kept the same shoes for a year or two, and I didn’t.

I couldn’t wrap my ahead around this phenomenon. It made me question reality. I was “spoiled” with shoes, they would say. Then I displayed my soles, and after seeing more white sock than rubber, friends would politely hint that I was a “stomper.” I then walked really softly (to the point of tiptoeing), but nothing changed. Why was this only occurring on my feet? Was there something else going on?

I had no idea how crazy that world of confusingness would get, beyond the shoes I tied every morning. Young adulthood has been really weird. There’s been so many situations where things haven’t gone like I thought they should go, whereas for other people events always seems to unfold in a perfect logical order. I don’t have a name for this period, but it’s a few steps past (a footwear pun) the Shoe Parade.

Sometimes, I get kind of tired of it and want to find a simple place for my feet in the normal-person world. It can be tough living in a land where I expect outliers on a daily basis.

So a while back, I transitioned to the “regular” sort of life, or at least I tried, with occasional success. I told myself it was the right thing to do.

But then I looked down at my shoes, and I realized that they’re like a size too small and they’ll be a size and a half too small by next year. I might as well just shut up and get some new sneakers.

To My Escapist Self

Hi there,

You know that voice currently in control of your head, the one telling you there’s something else you should be doing, the one encouraging you to give up whatever positive things are directly in front of you? The one using words like “must,” “leave,” “elsewhere,” and “unsure” in the same sentence? Of course you do. It rules your life. It clouds your judgment. It torments you in every millisecond of your jobs, your relationships, your obligations, your leisure activities. Yep, I know you’re coming to the conclusion that something needs to be done to finally rest your troubled mind and help you come closer to being a real breathing person with actual emotions, and you’re willing to go to absurdly destructive lengths to eliminate whatever this thing is inside of you. I get that you’re ultra-tapped-in on that feeling, but there’s something else I want you to focus on for the moment: the little bitty voice you keep brushing past, the one with his hand raised politely waiting to ask some simple questions about the practicality of this venture. Answer his questions, take a breath, and look around you again.

This is what you worked hard to achieve. Do you really want to give it up? Do you realize that you’ll be looking at the next location with the exact same eyes? Just keep that in mind before you work so hard to end what you worked so hard to start.




You need to decide now, but your faculties have disappeared. You’re a robot with a glitch, you’re broken. You have a choice between left and right and you continue straight, and even after impact has been made and metal is crunching and glass is shattering, you’re waiting for a heavenly voice to tell you exactly what to do.

You’re still alternating between choices as the dirt approaches your nose. You think you’ve got it, you finally make a decision, and as you come up with a story supporting it, you regret it, you dramatically change your mind at the last second. The dirt is in your mouth, you can no longer see, and you cheerfully explain your new decision to the crying faces looking down at you, and you secretly long for the other choice, yes you, already dead sir, and you still waver in your grave infinitely. You are an idiot.


As a teenager, I became acquainted with a person who wrote me short inspirational notes, made to-do lists, left interesting internet tabs open, and signed me up for activities he deemed fun or beneficial. He was sure he had my best interests in mind, but I hated being told what to do so profoundly that I ignored the notes and backed out of the obligations. I did not like this person at all, and I wished he would go away. I made this very clear to him, but he steadfastly continued with the forced role of personal assistant. On rare occasions, usually out of boredom or confusion, I would follow through with whatever stupid event he signed me up for, suppressing any enjoyment. Even the slightest acknowledgment of his existence made him giddy and euphoric. He was really annoying in those instances.

I eventually realized I would have to put up with his perpetual presence. After being around him on a regular basis, I started having more compassion for the guy. There were certain periods where we got along really well; I think I might have picked up a little Yes Man-ism from him. But with the new ups also came some pretty big downs. He got very structured, developing a streamlined system with the goal of making things even easier and more appealing on my end. I think I felt an inherent hatred toward structure in general, and I would explode on him without warning. We had multiple falling outs where I disappeared into a ruleless world of random wandering for a week at a time. Of course, I would always fail miserably in this endeavor, and my loyal friend would always be waiting when I came back. I was certainly grateful for this, but I was afraid of becoming too dependent on him for my own happiness.

With this in mind after one particular argument, instead of responding dramatically by disappearing into oblivion, I determined it would be mutually beneficial if we took an official break for one month. I asked what he would do with the time off, and his puzzled expression made it clear I was his entire life.

It was during this month that I stopped to think for the first time as an adult. I realized his notes had always taken on a bit of a fanatical flavor, and it had gotten more extreme lately. Furthermore, on multiple occasions in recent years, he had signed me up for things I had no interest whatsoever in doing, putting me in numerous terrible, awkward, and perplexing situations. When I thought further about it all, it seems that this guy had some serious issues. He had a knack for cynicism, and I believe he was also quite the schadenfreude.

Now here we are in the present, and I have decided to let him go for good. He is set to return tomorrow, so I’m hurriedly working on a termination letter. This is my current draft:


I fully expected things to continue as normal when you returned, but your absence has given me a chance to think for myself. You might laugh at my use of that phrase, but you’d be surprised what a month can do for a person.

As loyal as you have been to me over the past ten years, you are simply not very good at what you do. Your pro bono help has led me in no particular direction. I clearly struggle without you, but I’d rather struggle on my terms than live under the command of your absurdity. Besides, I no longer want to live in the paper world of notes, lists, and RSVPs, eyes closed to the reality in front of me.

I might have to burn a few bridges to rid myself of the façade you’ve erected for me. I might have to consider an important part of my life a sunk cost and start new. I might have to whimsically pull the trigger on a number of things I failed to act upon in the past. But in order to handle all of this, I need to be left alone. I appreciate all the work you’ve ever done on my behalf, but I can no longer reasonably accommodate you as my assistant.

Please take all your belongings and do not try to contact me in any way. Good luck elsewhere.

And by elsewhere, I mean in Hell.



A Person You Surprisingly Know Nothing About

Shared Tracks

I stand at the corner of Confusion St. and Certainty Ave. I take in the cool breeze, observing with cautious comfort the shimmering Ocean of Opportunities in the overwhelmingly infinite horizon. I hear the familiar rattle of the earth, and I prepare to jump onto the approaching They Line streetcar, yet much to my surprise, it seems to be rapidly accelerating. I step back as it perilously roars around the corner at an unprecedented speed, violently shaking the neighborhood. The car rips away from the electric line and uncouples from the tracks. Before I cover my ears and close my eyes as it inevitably careens into calamity, I look in through the rear window, expecting to see hundreds of terrified faces. From my admittedly limited glance, it curiously appears devoid of a single morning commuter. Nonetheless, I shield myself, preparing for the worst. After an eternity of silent seconds, I open my eyes to a neighborhood that shows no signs of any unusual activity, and the streetcar is not in sight. As I begin to reflect on what has happened, the bell of the They Line jingles as it arrives in front of me, full of passengers.

Did I miss something?

A Conversation Between Two People Who Have No Clue What They Are Doing

Just mixing it up a bit.



“That’s a reeeally shitty way of looking at the world, Stephen.”

“Right, like you don’t think the exact same things.”

“You’re an idiot. You think everyone is as pessimistic as you are. God, I wanna strangle you sometimes. You think people are so terrible. You despise everyone, and it’s like you get a kick out of despising yourself, like you’re a character in one of your stupid books. You clearly don’t trust anybody. You think everyone is out to get you, but you love that feeling too. How do you live like this? Is it fun?

“Are those rhetorical, or…”

Lookit you! I see you holding back that self-righteous smile. You feel so high and mighty, don’t you? You wanna be known as this kind of person, you think it makes you look cool.”

“That’s seriously not true at all.”

“OK Stephen.”

“Why would I hate everyone, and why would I rejoice in being depressed? That’s jist…stupid.”

“Because it makes you feel better than everyone else, like you get something that they don’t.”

What? Really, feeling worse than everyone else makes me feel better than everyone else? How is that possible? Very logical, Angie.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t play dumb.”

“Right, yeah. You’re the one who is good at being the lawyer.”


“Please tell me, why would I choose to look at the world this way, and why would I like it?”

“I have no idea, Stephen. I’m stupid, remember? I know nothing.”

What? When did I possibly ever say that?”

“Stephen, you make me feel like I’m the dumbest person ever just by your actions. You clearly think you’re smarter and better than me. It’s super insulting.”

“I don’t feel like I’m smarter and better than you, so…”

“OK Stephen.”

“Why don’t you tell me you feel this way in the moment? I honestly have no idea if I’m ever coming across that way. You expect me ta read your mind?”

“Yes, Stephen. Read my mind because you’re that smart. God, you’re stupid.”

“Wanna play Skip-Bo?”


“I’m seriously tired of this, Angie. I feel like now I’m scared ta say literally anything because you’ll get mad about it.”

“Then go date that stupid slut you’re tutoring.”

“Right, perfect idea. You clearly realize she annoys me, don’t you? And why d’you assume she’s interested in me? Yes, we happen to have one-on-one sessions in the library, and she happens ta be a female human being, and you somehow think she is attractive, but she is disgusting ta me and is not interested in me and I’m tired of talking about her.”

“Hahahaha. Stephen, you have – you’re making that smirk again! You love this attention! You’re secretly in love with her. You’re trying to be as cool as possible because she is, she is much higher class than me. The second something happens, you’ll leave me, I know you. You’ve done it twice before.”

“Ughhhh. This is ridiculous.”

“Stephen. Don’t say anything. I know you don’t love me anymore.”

Why do you think this stuff? You’re the one who wants the pity party. This is absurd. Aw come on, don’t cry, come on now…”

“When we first started dating, I could tell in your eyes you really cared. You wanted me, and I, I loved that feeling. No one’s ever made me feel so warm and happy, and you still do sometimes. But you’ve also made me feel so much worse than I’ve ever felt before.”

“Look, you know I’m all over the place. You knew that going in. I told you I wasn’t an animal to be tamed or something. I had a bunch of stuff ta figure out and I was confused, and I still am, and I still suck sometimes. I told you I wanted to work through it together, but it seems like you forget I’m going through this at all. You think I’m living the same happy life you are. It’s true, I care for you more than I’ve cared for anyone else in my life, and I feel good about myself when I’m with you, but my overall feeling is still crappy. It’s like a general malaise that only I can fix or somethin’, I don’t know. I could have the perfect things – jobs, friends, a girl – right in front of me, and I wouldn’t be happy. That’s jist the way I am. It hasn’t somehow…changed since we started dating.”

“Maybe I thought it would change, Stephen. Maybe it was supposed to progress. If you truly cared about me, you wouldn’t still feel like you need to be so freaking independent. You get tired’a me so easily now. You get so frustrated. I just wanna watch “Mad Men” with you and you make me sit alone on the chair.”

“When’ve I ever made you sit on the chair? Come on…”

“I try to cuddle with you and you move away from me. You clearly get uncomfortable and don’t want to hold me. So I get up, and you put up a half-hearted argument but it’s secretly what you want. You feel so constricted. That makes me feel really great.”

Good Lord. I – I love cuddling with you. I love watching “Mad Men” with you, I’ve jist been busy lately, and OK there was that one time when I needed ta do my assignment so I needed my arms and I needed ta spread out and use my calculator and stuff. I’m in school, remember?”

“It’s been pretty much every time, Stephen. You never want to watch it anymore, and you always have work to do.”

“Why is this stupid show so important, anyway? It’s an hour long, and I wanna be able to follow what’s going on. You always wanna watch it either really really late or right when I’m in the middle of something that already requires a lot of thinking.”

“You used to like watching it with me.”

“I LIKE THE SHOW! I LIKE WATCHING IT WITH YOU! Why do I have ta justify liking it as if it’s personal? Do you think I secretly save it fer another girl or something? Do you think it reminds me of you and, because I hate you now, I hate watching the show?”

“Stephen, please stop.”

“Go. It’s your turn.”

“Stephen…I need to know soon.”

“I don’t understand, why does it hafta be an ultimatum? Why can’t we jist continue the way we’re going until things settle down in both of our lives and we can get more serious? Why is it now or never?”

“Because I’m tired of this. If you don’t want me now, you never will. Why can’tcha just say yes or no?”

“Because it’s not fair. I don’t get it. You know I wanna give this a true shot, but it’s going to need complete effort and focus, and we both are so busy in the next few months with things that will be pretty much done by the summer. Angie, why can’t we have perspective and wait until then ta make decisions?”

“Stephen, my birthday is next week. I’m gonna be 27. I’ve waited pretty much two years for you. Another week here, another month there. I can’t take another god damn day. I can’t wait until the summer. It needs to be now. If you want to be with me, you should be able to see that. If you care about me, you’ll want me even closer during this busy time.”

What? Angie, that’s not the way it works. How can you talk about being this serious when two weeks ago you were done with me for good? I don’t understand how you don’t understand my side. Things in the recent past have obviously been pretty crazy, so naturally I am hesitant to go all-in this soon after, and in the meantime, I have so so so much important stuff ta do in my life right now. Obviously I want you around for it, but it’s going to mean less time for thinking solely about us. There’s jist so much ta do and think about in a day ta then think about all the crap we’ve been through and how we’re going ta fix it and ta give you my complete time and energy when it’s being used for so many other things right now.”

“I need to know by tomorrow, Stephen.”

“I can’t…I don’t…this is not a…it’s statistically ridiculous the amount of wild cards you’ve drawn, by the way.”