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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Local-Grown Cold Shoulder

You know...part of my goal for The Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life for 2013 is to try and bring a little bit more of myself to this blog. Looking back through previous entries, I don't believe that I have opened up as much as I really should have about who I am, why I started this blog, and some of the personal challenges that I have had to endure that have gotten me to this point in my life.

Part of the reason why this has been the case has admittedly been out of fear of being judged as whiny, or self-absorbed, or any other negative adjective that can be associated with an unlikeable personality. The last thing that I wanted to do was to turn people off of reading this blog, because for the most part, I do think that it is a fun diversion to every day life.

At the same time, I realize that maybe I should be more open to all of you, no matter how good or bad I come across.

You see, I'm kind of at the age where I'm beginning to stop caring about negative comments, or things that are said by other people for the sole purpose of hurting other people's feelings. I'm not going to let people drag me down to their level any further, nor am I going to surround myself with negativity.

So, beginning this Thursday and every other Thursday, I'm going to tell it like it is, and basically bare my soul to all of you. Picture me standing outside in the middle of a park buck naked. That's what I'm talking about.

(Or, don't picture me naked if that's what you'd rather do. Believe me, I understand!)

I realize that I am taking a chance here by being one hundred per cent honest about my thoughts and feelings. But then, I look at what my story can teach other people about life. And, considering the title of this blog, I should be providing more life lessons through my own experiences. And, if I have to expose myself to the world with every possibility of being critiqued for it, so be it. This blog's been a lot of fun, but it's also been a source of healing for me as well.

So, with that...I bring you the first Thursday Diary Entry of 2013.

January 3, 2013

It's the first diary entry of 2013, and for today's entry, I thought I would talk to you about where I grew up, how I grew up, and one big mistake that I inevitably ended up making along the that I just realized not that long ago.

Okay, so you've probably heard of the song by John Mellencamp entitled “Small Town”? This blog entry is kind of based around that song. First of all, why don't I put on that song now, just to put me in the mood.

I'm sure that those of you reading this know where this is going. I myself was born in a small town, and continue to live in the same small town 31 years later (barring a two year stay in Ottawa, Ontario).

My town is approximately 22,000 people, so I would probably classify it as more of a city. It's not a metropolis by far, but at the same time, it's hardly a village. We have our own hospital, police station, and post office, after all.  And physically speaking, it's actually quite beautiful.

When I was a kid, I remember having a lot of fun in my town (well, elementary school teasing aside). And, I was involved in so many activities growing up. I spent six summers at a summer playground program where we would go swimming, learn about nature, and go on a couple of out of town field trips. I would go to our summer festival every day each year to ride on the fairground rides and listen to the live bands. And, I have vague memories of walking down the downtown sidewalks with a gigantic ball that my mother purchased from the now-defunct Woolworth's location, waving hello to every person who passed us by.

Those memories seem like such a long time ago.

Flash forward to now, and I have to admit that I'm not exactly as open as I used to be when I was four years old. I'm extremely guarded, I don't initiate small talk with random people these days, and I don't really have much of a social presence within my community at all.

And, I only have myself to blame for it.

It's hard to pinpoint when it was that I decided to basically give my community the cold shoulder. I was fairly okay with being a part of the community when I was a kid, and I suppose that before I became a teenager, I was still very much proud to be a member of my community. I competed in contests at the local shopping mall, I would go to various events and trade shows, and I just had a lot of fun.

I think it wasn't until I became a teenager that my relationship with my community began to deteriorate.

I don't really need to go into how hellish of a time I had as a teenager. I've written about it before, and I'm only now starting to make sense of it. And, part of the reason why I decided to close myself off to the community was hugely linked to my experiences that I had as a teenager.

I went into grade nine expecting to have a fun experience, and having a lot of opportunity to show the world who I was. By grade eleven, I was at a point in my life where I suffered from severe agoraphobia with a nice dash of mild paranoia. Several of my peers used to play these terrible, cruel mind games with me. You know the ones I mean, right? They would pretend to be your friend for one week (ironically enough a week in which they needed help with a homework assignment), and then the next week, they'd turn their back on me as if I had a fatal and contagious disease. I also had some rather intense stuff happen to me when I was sixteen years old, and that stuff wounded me emotionally in a way that I can't even begin to describe.

To make matters worse, the very people who I thought I could trust in...the very people who I thought would help me whenever I needed it turned the other way. These were teachers, administrators, guidance counselors...people who served the community that I lived in, and people who were supposed to be role models for young and impressionable minds like I had back in those days.

And, the message that they basically sent me was that I wasn't important enough for them to do the right thing and stop the abuse I had to undergo from various classmates from continuing. Oh, but when a similar situation happened to another boy when I was in my senior year of high school, they suddenly became available to call the police and launch a full-scale investigation.

Way to make me feel like I was a part of the school, huh?

I am not going to lie to any of you. My experiences in dealing with the staff and a portion of the student body at my school embittered me for quite some time after I graduated. It took me a long time to even attempt to begin to forgive what happened. In the case of some of the cruelest people that I have had to deal with, I honestly don't even know if I am ready to play my forgiveness card yet. Though, I suppose I can take some comfort in the fact that I'm at least considering it.  It just may take a little bit more time.

That's how messed up things were for me. And, for some reason, I seemed to take out my bitterness and frustrations on the community that I grew up in.

I had it in my mind that since I was never going to be accepted as a part of the school, I may as well exclude myself from the rest of the community as well.

When I left my community for two years to go away to school, I admittedly only did it to get as far away from this town as possible. I was so focused on getting out of town that I didn't put a whole lot of thought in actually planning my post-secondary career out. If I had, I might have actually graduated instead of returning back to my hometown with my tail between my legs.

And, I think that also helped contribute to the reason why I decided to hide away from the community. Shame.

I felt so ashamed of myself for leaving my town, having an unsuccessful attempt at university, and coming back to the town feeling like I had accomplished nothing.  And, because of that, I completely shut down and hid away from the world for an additional two years.  Believe me, it was not my proudest moment.

I had decided long ago that it wasn't worth being a part of my community any longer because of the actions of a few cruel people...cruel people who actually fled town long ago. And yet, I was letting those few cruel people influence my entire opinion of a community.

It wasn't that I wasn't good enough for my whole's that I wasn't good enough for those cruel people who no longer have any ties to this place any longer. I almost regret not being strong enough to tell those people that they weren't good enough for me. But as I explained before, I was at an impressionable age back then, and I took everything to heart. I tried my hardest to get people to like it, and unfortunately for me, I focused on the wrong people.

And, as a result of that weakness that I displayed as a teenager, I now feel like a complete stranger in the town that I have called home for practically my whole life. I feel like I'm just existing here instead of making the best of it. Instead of going to community events that have been touted as the most fun that one can have in the town, I shunned them out of fear for being rejected, or feeling like I wasn't good enough to be a part of the community.

I was giving my town the deep freeze because of my inability to cope with what was going on in my personal life. And, I wonder if maybe it might be too late.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I always wanted to have this sense of love and belonging. I always wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. I wanted to have that place where I could just insert myself into anywhere, and feel at home.

And, the fact that I don't feel that way about the very place I grew up...well, I take full responsibility for that. And, I'm honestly not sure how I can go back to the way I was feeling when I was that carefree four year old boy, bouncing his ball along the cobblestones of the main street, enjoying the company of everyone. I look at the various local publications and seeing members of the community appearing in it, and there a small part of me that wishes that he could be a part of that too. But considering that I have essentially made myself invisible, it's easy to see why I tend to blend into the background rather than standing out in a crowd.

I've gone from one extreme to the other, and I'm honestly not sure if I can ever find that happy median again. The only thing that I can promise myself is to try and start up a clean slate and maybe find it in me to forgive myself for taking out my whole frustrations on an entire town. Then maybe I can find it within myself to hopefully find some sort of belonging within my community.

Because right now...I honestly don't know what I can do to integrate myself into a community that I closed the door on years ago.  I suppose that some would say that I am taking baby steps by trying to carve out a social identity at my workplace, and I don't disagree with that.  It's just a really frustrating thing to deal with.

That's all I have to say for today. I guess the one thing I can say is that I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I think that many of you reading this might have felt the same as I have. I just want all of you to know that you aren't alone.

May 2013 be the year in which we all find our place in this world, be it in a place where we grew up...or a place that we don't even know exists.


  1. Matt, for what its worth, I may only know you via the internet, but I happen to consider you a good friend and my "Grasshopper". :)<3. You don't have to "forgive", and it would be understandable if you didn't, but the fact that you have just shows how much better of a person you are than these so-called "community leaders". Thank you for sharing this. It's only through communicating that we learn to truly understand each other. <3

    1. Thank you, Celeste! That means a lot to me. And, hey, maybe one day we will meet up face to face! :)

  2. Actually, I think you do have to forgive. It's not for the douchebags who were mean to you, but for you. You shouldn't have to live with that anger and bitterness. It will eat away at you, and you are too amazing to let that crap get you down. You have come a long way, my friend. I had a few things I needed to clean out of my "grudge garage" too. It feels better to let that stuff go. Those people aren't worth it.

    1. Interesting point you make there...and I will say that I am ALMOST there. Almost. You are right in that I have come a long way, and it's only recently that I realize that I may have a bit more climbing to go before I reach that summit. But, I am a lot more mature and wise now than I was at 16. I'll get there eventually. :)

      Many thanks for the support and friendship. :)