I am not a man
I am not a man
I saw that
I suppose this is how it feels like to be young and old simultaneously. You feel the residual elements of youth, high school and college, percolating in your mind. Sometimes you dream of these rustic faces, suddenly unearthed. The memory is raw and real, they are frozen in time, being exactly how you remembered them before. I don’t know how I deal with these dreams, do I look up this long lost person on Facebook? What does it mean suddenly be reminded of this echo memory? Do you just bury them in the past hoping they won’t come back? I remembered this girl named Anna. We were in second grade together, back when I hadn’t stayed back a grade. I usually don’t talk about being pulled back a grade because they are painful memories. I remember how strange it was to enter into another class the first time, the stickers of the names desks with kids who were a grade below me, and there was my name, and now I was one of them. It felt crazy seeing my other friends going back to class when my recess time had started, and there was a massive confusion for some of my students seeing that I disappeared, and reappeared in another grade. It was an unrooting, and upheaval of the world I knew, and to this day, it still haunts me. I still remember how alienated it felt to be planted in a grade below me, how degrading and embarrassing it felt. To be honest, I was one of the younger kids in kindergarten, and now they had put me back in my rightful grade. Despite the awkwardness, I would occasionally see Anna. She was always kind and nice to me, although we were in different grades, in fact, I think we were friends at one point.
The years went by, I got Harry Potter glasses, grew a little taller, and was going through puberty. I didn’t talk with girls much, although I had casual friends who were girls. I started running on the track team, and I was all up in arms, ready to impress people with my long distance strides. I knew Anna ran on the long distance track team, because she ran on the cross-country team as well. We rarely talked, because at that time, I was a pretty shy guy, I didn’t talk to many girls, especially girls whom I thought were attractive. But it was the first day, and I was going to run some laps on a small track, but I realized that I hadn’t ran in the last six months or so. I shrugged it off, thinking I shouldn’t take things easy but face obstacles head-on. I ran with the long distance runners several laps, and I was feeling weak at the feet and out of breath pretty quickly. Next thing you know, I’m sagging like a balloon out of air, but I’m still trying my best, and pushing myself further. For a long time, I never knew my limits, and when you run beyond your limit, two things happen. First, you either get severely injured, or you throw-up. I chose the latter, I threw up on the side of the field, at the most inconvenient time, while the girls were running by. Anna stopped and asked if I was all right. I tried to play it off, saying it felt better to throw up, and I started walking away, wiping barf off my nose and hands with leaves. I got pretty embarrassed easily back then, and I was pretty red in the face. This was not how I wanted my season to have started off. She was always kind to me, although we never talked much. She started dating some guy, I think his name was Will, on my cross country team. I never heard much about it later, when they broke it off. I don’t know why girls fall for the jerks anyways.
For much of my high school life, I remember that girls never liked me. They didn’t find me attractive, and I was usually too shy to ask a girl out. It strange now that I’m older, I see more girls seeing me as handsome, cute, and attractive. This was a huge change, from when I was treated as a geek and quiet weirdo who hang out with a motley sort of crew, to an intelligent, quiet, cute looking Asian guy. I was always too self-aware, the guy who stood with his hands in his pockets while couples slow-danced at a bar-mitzvah (I remember this fairly vividly) . It was only when I got back from college when people started noticing me. I came back for a class reunion picnic and I remember being seen and noticed because I had contacts on. I had felt like an underdog and a loser my whole life, and now people around me were treating me so differently. Girls actually noticed me; people paid more attention to me. But in some ways, I realized how shallow people were around me, they didn’t know anything about me, they didn’t know the suffering and shame in high school that I felt. And in some ways I still trust people, because I realize how judgmental and incredibly superficial some people are, people will just look at your outer appearance and make judgments, and accusations right away.
So this is how it feels like to feel old, with miles underneath your belt, but feel and look young.
Last week I worked for my church’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) for the fourth time. I’ve been a teacher the last three years because that is where my gift has been, in teaching and connecting with kids. Initially, I didn’t want to deal with the stress and the exhaustion of VBS, however I felt like I wanted to help out last minute, and be able to connect with some of the youth who normally did not come to our church youth group. I was assigned senior kindergarten class, an age that I’m not so acquainted with.
I should have been ready for the amount of intimacy I would experience.
Let me share you a secret, I’ve never been in love before. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship with any girl, although I have liked many.
But, I have experienced love before, I feel it when my friends are around me and I can expose my true self to them. I can feel love when I spend hours talking with a friend on Skype or Gtalk at some unholy hour at night about what I’ve been wrestling with this week.
One aspect of love is the physical aspect of it, it’s the touching, feeling, cuddling, hugging. It was something I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
The kindergarten boys were different than the girls. I realized that they desired physical contact, touching of their round oval heads, their soft skin. I’m not talking about some type of perverted sense of touch, but they really desired to be touched, to be bear hugged, to be lifted up in the air with their feet dangling. It was important to them more so than words of affirmation.
I think that’s why aspect of love I sorely wanted and missed. The feeling of touching a physical person and object, the intimacy of feeling accepted and loved. It caught me by surprise, because it related to my own spirituality. As a Christian, I always wanted to imagine how it would feel to be hugged by God. I knew about the love of God, I heard about it, but I rarely ever felt the presence of God. God can use people to interact with us, but how great would it be to actually feel God’s love in a tangible way?
Furthermore, the children made me realize how much I wanted kids of my own one day. I’m at the age that I should be thinking about having kids, so of my friends have already married and had their first child. Some day I want a mini version of myself running around and pulling pranks on other kids. Last week was an experiment with parenting, and dreaming about being a father, the father that I always wanted.