I Am Sam. Sam I Am.

51N595qwKOL._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_Until I was 13 years old I would often get Green Eggs and Ham for a birthday present. It stopped being funny around age 2. I can only imagine the little chuckle that would escape the giver’s lips when he/she would see the book in the book store, thinking it would be so tongue in cheek, such a… perfect gift. But when everyone thinks the same thing, imagine me opening up six copies of the same book (a children’s book) on my 12th birthday.

It’s a valid point, though. I mean, what would I have gotten myself for my birthday any of those years when originality kind of went out the window? I honestly don’t know. I was Sam, and I had absolutely no clue what I was really into, no idea what would have made me happy if you had handed it over while I was blowing out candles. Let me recall the elementary me. I liked:

  • playing games of Hangman
  • taking apart alarm clocks
  • reading (a lot)
  • trains, and train conductor hats
  • sketching little caricatures of me that resembled stick figures
  • playing with Legos every so often
  • eating food (not cardboard. Real food. I swear)
  • imagining the world as a different place

Oh, and I had no friends. The adults in my life were often fawning over what they called my “adult tendencies,” which to me meant I wasn’t a proper kid. No wonder I had no friends. But as much as the adults claimed to know me, they didn’t realize any of the above, because I was pretty much a shadow of my current self. I was often seen but not heard. I was Sam, but in name only.

I finally let anyone who would listen know shortly before the 13th anniversary of my birth that I would no longer accept copies of Dr. Seuss’s epic book, that I had actual interests, that the joke just wasn’t funny anymore. It hadn’t been funny for years, even when I was laughing all the while. I was apparently good at being fake, at making others think their joke was worthwhile, when they were really just wasting their money, AND I was always disappointed on what should have been my special day.

“Why didn’t you say something before?” my mother asked me, and I honestly had no answer for her. I guess I felt like eventually they would realize it wasn’t funny anymore, or they would get to know me better so they didn’t have to rely on the old standby. I guess I thought that after a while they would start trying to be serious, because that was my always my problem, being deadly serious. My idea of a smile back then was easing up the left side of my mouth, then letting it fall back into a straight line. Eyebrow to follow.

The book-as-gift was funny in a way they never intended, though. One positive of having so many copies of Green Eggs and Ham was that I knew it backwards and forwards. I found it hilarious when they would watch me open it and they would say “You do not like them, Sam I Am.” You know, because Sam was the little guy speaking, not the big dude who didn’t like the green eggs and the ham. So Sam DID like them, and me… not so much. I was more like the large dude who just won’t be convinced despite the rhyming bonanza going on in the background.

Of course the book was also a catalyst for me to break out of my shell. It was the push to avoid getting any more of those books that allowed me to first tell how I felt, after all that time, that helped me become the vocal person I am today. It also led to many more interesting birthdays in the interim between then and now. Up until my 13th birthday I didn’t truly know what I wanted or liked in life. That book forced me to think about it, to ruminate upon it, and to let others know.

On my 13th birthday I received a bicycle and a train set.

Sam

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The Friend Initiative

friendship-quotes-4-3452Friends are interesting creatures because each and every one of them is different, even though they share the same classification. When I say I’m “doing things with friends” each and every time I let it pass my lips I’m saying something completely different. And when I see them randomly in public there are different reactions and expectations with each one. I love the idea of friends because they’re like cards in a Rolodex. You can flip through and so many memories come back to you.

My first memory of someone I called a friend was when I was in kindergarten. I looked up to Robert and Joseph. They were both bigger than me, physically, and they had a quiet confidence that is lacking in most kindergartners. They seemed sure of themselves, and I wasn’t even remotely there, so I followed them around and tried to insert myself into their conversations. It wasn’t until later in the year that I realized they liked me being around because I was good at figuring out things. I guess my brain was analytical even then. But the point was I thought they were doing me a favor by teaching me a way to be when they appreciated the way I already was.

Be-yourself-be-yourself-27231879-499-333We were inseparable for the rest of that year, the three of us, and they helped me to value what I can bring to a friendship — my individuality. And since then that’s what I have attempted to do. Instead of trying to be like others in order to strike and maintain a friendship, I just try my best to BE myself, to show who I am from the very start so they’re not shocked when I finally show my true colors. It took me an eternity to really get it down, though, because my first instinct is to gravitate toward how the other person is, and what I think they want from me. If they like a certain type of music I tried to force myself to like the same music, even if I didn’t. If they enjoyed a type of food, I became a connoisseur of that food, even if it made me gag.

Being a good friend means being good at understanding who I am and what I want out of the friendship.
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