Sunday, April 2, 2017

There Isn't A Single Turning Point

Very seldom do I write or talk about my childhood, because, what's the point, really? A wise person once said ,

"There's no point in having the same thought more than once unless you enjoy having that thought."

Well, I definitely don't enjoy thinking about when I was young.

Last night, I went to a screening of American Street Kid - it's not widely available yet, but if you have a chance to go to see it - GO! A lot of what happened in the film was very familiar to me. So many of the people I hung out with when I was young are dead or in jail.

I'm still debating about the whole memoir thing. Jonathan Shaw, who wrote a couple of books about his life, including Scab Vendor: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist, was on our podcast a few weeks ago and he said,

You'll grow as a person, but it will probably hurt. And I just said 'probably' to be nice. 

Maybe. It sounds like psychotherapy but just talking to yourself (insert desired sexual innuendo here). I'm the kind of psychologist that computes statistics, I can tell you what percentile your depression score falls in relative to the general population. I'm not the one to come to for treatment for depression and helping you understand about its roots on your childhood.

 (People who suffer from depression, don't bother writing hateful comments. Yes, I'm sure depression is a serious illness. We already established that I am not a person with depression expertise in the previous paragraph.)

Foster homes. Juvenile hall. I don't feel I need to write out my autobiography or go talk to someone for $250 an hour so I can "understand my feelings" about my childhood.

A lot of things fucking sucked. Understood. The End.

However, Fidel Rodriguez, is very persuasive when it comes to getting people to do things to support youth, so I ended up speaking about my own youth at the Rise Up for Humanity conference, and putting some of those remarks in my last post.

One question I got asked several times was,

What was the turning point? Where did you turn that you ended up where you are and the people you were hanging out with ended up where they are?

 I had many, many odds fall my way. What if the YMCA had not allowed girls to join judo? What if the university hadn't weighted SAT scores far higher than GPA or even graduating from high school? What if I hadn't gotten a fellowship to graduate school? What if I had three kids by age 22 (I would have been married long enough)?

Judo helped. All of the people I knew who fell by the wayside seemed to have problems with self-esteem. It's hard to believe you are are a loser when you're winning all of the time, like I was.

Being good at math and programming helped. I didn't get into college because I was good at judo, but because I was good at math. During and after my competition years, I was able to get a job and make money because I was good at math, good with computers.

Not getting addicted to heroin helped. Don't shake your head like that's a given. That did in some of the smartest people I knew.

I'm not saying it was all luck. I worked full-time, went to college and trained at judo enough to win the national championships - for years on end. I was naturally pretty smart and athletic. (Don't give me any bullshit for saying that - I have a Ph.D. and a world championships. I'm not dumb and uncoordinated.)

So, lately I've been talking to people who work with incarcerated youth. Originally, we started out discussing the adventure games my company makes as a way to help them catch up with their math and language skills but after a while, the subject came up, how I'm being asked to speak at these youth conferences they would have barred me from attending when I was young. What the staff members tell me is that youth in their facilities need to hear from me. I think they want the youth to hear the message

Work hard. Don't get addicted to drugs. Get an education.

I think, though, it is just as important to talk to the staff and tell them:

There is no turning point. There is no time when you can give up on a kid as they are destined to be an asshole loser.  

I helpfully diagrammed my own path for you.

Born, I had the same odds of NOT being an asshole/ loser as anyone else. Right about the time I came into contact with you, those odds had plummeted. It looked like I was doing better for a while, then worse. Eventually, one good thing piled on another, and although there have been ups and downs, I'd say my odds are better than even now.

My message is that because you don't know when or what thing will make the difference, you have to keep trying different things all of the time. I know there are some programs that emphasize poetry and art, which is fine for some kids. Personally, I hate poetry, I suck at art but excelled at math and beating people up. Maybe you should get that kid who keeps running away to go out for the soccer or track team.

Still not sure on the memoir thing, but I'm thinking if  I really am going to be going out to speak to kids and staff, I may as well start writing it down.


 When I'm not ranting about life, I make awesome video games that teach math and history and are fun to play. You should check them out. Some of them are even free. Whether you have a Mac, Windows, iPad or android, we've got you covered.


plam said...

I like to pass on my advisor's words of wisdom: gotta be lucky and work hard. I hope that acknowledging luck can help with humility.

Anonymous said...

Even if ONE KID reads your message (via autobiography),becomes inspired/encouraged and has a cathartic moment and his/her life is altered in a POSITIVE way because of it,... isn't that in itself worthy of your serious contemplation in going ahead with the book? You could be the pivotal person that kid(s)needed all along.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for sharing, I really appreciate it.

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