The Teen Age of Regret

In 30 years, supposedly I will look back at this stage in my life and regret the decisions I made, but when I try think of myself as a 46 year old woman warning her children to avoid her foolish teenage mistakes, I’m not really able to formulate a picture in my head. Usually, I end up seeing myself as the mom from Wonder Years or Leave It to Beaver, which is totally ridiculous because I would rather die than settle down and become a housewife.  It’s hard to see yourself feeling remorseful about current decisions.

Nope.

Upon reflection, I suppose that I see a few areas in my life that I may regret later:

1. My tattoo. I got a tattoo during spring break 2013 in Grand Cayman from a Scottish woman named Chaz. Positioned on my lower right stomach, a silver dollar sized design of an interlocking mustache, monocle and bow tie is permanently inked in black. It’s my original design, and so far, I think it’s pretty awesome, but who knows what it will look like after I have children.

2. My study habits. I’m not sure whether I will regret studying too much or not enough.  I think I study too much, but I guess I will or won’t regret studying based on how well I end up doing in life. If I end up working at QuikTrip, then I suppose I should have studied more.

3. My lack of typical high school experiences. I’ve never been to a concert. I’ve never smoked weed. I’ve never gotten wasted or gone to any “real” parties.  I haven’t had a boyfriend since eighth grade. Basically, my life consists of school, homework, work, sleep and food. I don’t have time for tomfoolery, and I may wish I had lived a little more at 16 in the future.

4. My diet. For the last month, I have been gluten free for no particular reason other than I had some of the gluten intolerance symptoms and wanted to eradicate them by altering my diet. I sort of regret my decision already because I’m one of those annoying “I can’t eat bread because I’m just trying to be difficult and irritating” people now. If the health benefits end up being short term, then I’ll regret forfeiting my cake, doughnut, sandwich and cookie opportunities when my metabolism was decent enough to process the refined sugary goodness.

Nah.

Besides these four questionable decisions, I don’t see myself feeling any remorse about my teenage resolutions. I like to pretend that I have a level head and am capable of avoiding stupid choices. The human brain isn’t fully developed until about age 25; however, so I may not be  seeing my current actions as clearly as I will in the future. Also, I am a bit biased about my current life decisions because they are current, and usually people don’t make conscious decisions to make bad decisions.

Research Shows That I Am Almost Autistic

“How much gas do you have in your car?”

Between the ages of three and seven, my brother Noah would make this inquiry of anyone and everyone. After the unsuspecting stranger mumbled a reply about the amount of petroleum in his gas tank, my brother would press the matter further: “Can I go see how much gas you have in your car?”

He was completely obsessed, and God forbid that the gas in my mother’s Suzuki ever dropped below half a tank. If Noah ever neglected his  duties and such a tragedy occurred, he would incessantly ask about when we were going to the gas station until my mom caved and purchased a quarter of a tank to get him to be quiet.

And then there was the hand flapping, the inappropriate questions about people’s past relationships and the complete lack of social awareness.

My parents decided to have Noah tested for an autistic spectrum disorder when he was six years old. I got to skip school and accompany them to the KU facility where these types of tests were given. I remember watching my brother through a one way mirror as he struggled to identify the moods of people in various pictures. I listened to him avoid answering questions directly, even when they were as simple as, “What’s your favorite color?” As he avoided eye contact and flapped his hands excitedly on the other side of the glass, I began to fully realize the magnitude of difference that existed between him and his peers.  That afternoon, some guy explained to us that they had diagnosed Noah with a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome.

Webmd.com lists a few common symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger’s syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. They have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation.
  • Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such as hand wringing or finger twisting.
  • Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop rituals that he or she refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
  • Communication difficulties: People with Asperger’s syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They also tend to have problems understanding language in context and are very literal in their use of language.
  • Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger’s syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive, interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.
  • Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger’s syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.
  • Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.

My brother had all of those symptoms. He only had two friends, he drummed his fingers and made loud noises, he refused to sit up with his knees under the table at dinner, he never looked me in the eyes, he was obsessed with the movie Cars, the amount of gas in peoples’ cars, superheroes and Hank the Cowdog books, his dancing gave a whole new meaning to “dancing like a white boy” and he was exceptionally talented at music, humming recognizable songs before he could talk or walk.

After my brother was diagnosed, nothing changed, really. He wasn’t any different than before his diagnosis, and life continued in its awkward rhythm, until this last summer.

I love Google. Google is beautiful. I ask it questions, and it gives me millions of answers in a fraction of a second. One fateful day in mid June, I was googling “How to tell if you’re autistic” because I like taking online quizzes and self diagnosing myself.  Through this search and the others that followed, I discovered the AQ Test.  Unlike the typical online quizzes that random unintelligent loons create, the Autism-Spectrum Quotient test  was created by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Center. Baron-Cohen is basically the chief authority on the Autism Spectrum, so this test is legit. According the the test’s description, the average non-autistic person scores around a 16, and about 80 percent of those with a diagnosed disorder score a 32 or higher.

I took the test and scored a 27. I thought the test had to be a sham because there was no way that I was that weird, so I started making my friends take it. They all got 9s, or 10s or 11s. I took it again and got a 28. Then I took it a third time and got another 28. I took it a fourth time, really trying to get within normal range, and I got a 29. I had my brother Noah take it, and he also got a 29.

My brother with Asperger’s and I got the same freaking score on a test meant to measure how autistic we were. I continued to analyze the results’ implications. I realized I couldn’t count how many times I had become infatuated with random stuff like Rubik’s cubes, national anthems, hula hoops and more recently, newspaper class. I realized that I was socially awkward, and it was easier for me to formulate my thoughts when I wasn’t directly looking at the person with whom I was having a conversation. Then I realized that forcing everyone around me to take the AQ test was probably another indicator that I was borderline on the spectrum.

I think what distinguishes my brother from myself is that while we both have similar feelings toward social situations, I don’t come right out and tell everyone that I would rather be in my room reading a book, editing a story or typing up a blog post instead of going to a party.

Are you as autistic as me? Find out here . Also, take the poll below because I’m still obsessed with comparing my results to everyone else’s.

Some Advice

I don’t do very much correctly on the first attempt. Here is some advice that I hope will help you make your own mistakes instead of repeating mine:

1. Don’t get a tattoo in a foreign country during spring break when you’re not thinking clearly

2. Don’t buy a cat. They don’t die

3. Don’t spend your birthday money on a unicycle

4. Don’t wear pants when it’s 105 degrees outside

5. Don’t wear sweaters when it’s 105 degrees outside

6. Don’t wait to learn how to drive until a few months before your 17th birthday

7.  Don’t tell anyone you’ve only been driving for two months

8. Don’t spend your childhood by yourself in your room reading The Bailey School Kids

9. Be open and honest about what you think, unless voicing your thoughts will get you shunned by the people you care about

10. Don’t take math over the summer to get “ahead”

11. Don’t let relationships with people fall by the wayside when you don’t see them everyday anymore

12. Don’t trust what the  idiots at PetWorld  say about rodents’ genders

13. Some people say they’re just making a “suggestion,” but apparently, they’re actually sugarcoating a “demand.”

14. Don’t go gluten free

15. Eat lots and lots of bread

16. Don’t eat rice cakes ever

17. Don’t be awkward

18. Do something unexpected every once in a while

19. Don’t be that guy

20. Avoid group projects at all costs

21. Don’t make your blog posts too long

22. Don’t raise your eyebrows too much

23. Google the definitions of words before you use them incorrectly in front of a large group of people

24. Bring your own toilet seats and toilet paper to Peru

25. Actually do get a tattoo in a foreign country because they’re freaking awesome

My VeggieTales Fanfic Phase

It was the third day of sixth grade. My teacher stood at the front of the room and announced our assignment: a fifteen minute free write. She explained that this would be a daily assignment, and that at the end of the allotted writing time, whoever wanted to share their work could come to the front of the classroom and read their creations aloud in front of their peers.

I felt an excited shiver race down my spine. Since the year before, I had kept a daily journal about recess drama and after school shenanigans, but I’d never shared these private writings with anybody. The idea of standing in front of the scrutinizing audience of tweens that were my peers and presenting the fruit of fifteen minutes of hard work was terrifying and electrifying at the same time. I took out a blank sheet of college-ruled notebook paper, sharpened my number 2 pencil and frantically looked around the room for ideas. Then I saw him. Bob the Tomato.

As my artistic illustration in my first free write shows, Bob the Tomato glared down from his lofty perch at the innocent sixth grade class.

As my artistic illustration in my first free write shows, Bob the Tomato glared down from his lofty perch at the innocent sixth grade class.

Until ninth grade, I attended Veritas Christian School. Most of my classmates spent their early years in church watching episodes of VeggieTales, a religious cartoon in which animated vegetables act out Bible stories. Bob the Tomato and his friend Larry the Cucumber host the show, and various types of fresh produce costar. BigIdea Entertainment created VeggieTales and other children’s television programs to teach kids about God. Love, kindness and compassion are themes of the shows, but when I looked up and saw a Bob the Tomato stuffed animal, I didn’t see the the love of God in his big, plastic eyes –I saw the evil glint of a serial killer.

My realization of Bob’s true, villainous identity sent my pencil scribbling wildly.  Below is an excerpt from one of my nine episodes of “The Revenge of the Tomato,” my first and only attempt at a fanfic. I have typed out my selection because I don’t want to force people to read my handwriting. SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION HAVE NOT BEEN ALTERED.

More Revenge of the… Tomato!!

Revenge of the Tomato

Revenge of the Tomato

Once a children’s tv host, Bob the tomato has resorted to a life of crime.

He has gone from a 6 digit salary to a life of gambling, winner takes all, losers however take nothing.

He is almost untracable, hiding in the various forms of his popular plush toys. Big Idea still sells these toys as to not scare children about this evil tomato.

After the murder of 20 french peas, the asparguas with no name and MA grape, Big Idea sent Bob to a maximum security prison in Moose Lake, South Dakota.

After an amazing escape, which information is not availible to the public, people, vegitation and money have been going missing.

Madame Blueberry says “if Bob is not captured, I will resign!”

Blog More Revenge Part 2

More Revenge of the Tomato

However poor Madame Blueberry never had the chance, there was a tickbomb in her gown she was to wear in a movie which name has not been given out for safty of BigIdea, and she exploded…

(End)

When I presented this story to the class, I gained my peers’ admiration. Compliments from my colleagues fueled my fire to write more stories, the gruesomer the better. My sweet, Christian teacher could only listen to me pollute my classmates’ minds with brutal butcher knife slayings for so long, and she requested that I “wrap it up.” Below is an excerpt from my final episode:

The Revenge of the Tomato Episode 8: The end of Bob

Forced to cease composing my murder thrillers, I bid ado to my serial killer saga.

Forced to cease composing my murder thrillers, I bid ado to my serial killer saga.

Because this story has disturbed the minds of 6th grade students, I have been asked by their teacher to end this true tale because I guess some people just can’t handle it. So I will not be able to tell you the gruesome details about what he did to an eggplant, his fight with Preston the Jewish pumpkin or when he froze Junior Asparagus and dropped him from the highest Bumbleburg building. Instead, I will continue writing, but first give a good ending for this classroom. That shall be Bob’s death. Now you probably won’t understand why he is in the sea of the pirates who don’t do anything and because I can’t write anymore, I guess you won’t know. You will also not under stand why his butcher knife is dripping with gourd juice and his ninja suit is slightly torn and he is on a raft with a ‘Join the darkside we have cookies’ bumpersticker. And I can’t tell you.

(End)

I waited a couple months after I ended Bob’s life for my teacher to calm down, and then I wrote this poem:

The tomato named bob, poetry addition

The poetry edition of my fanfic.

The poetry edition of my fanfic.

Bob was a tomato as red as a cherry,

who killed many vegtables and Madame Blueberry,

he slaughtered the penguins 1-3, which

surprised grandma and twins after tea,

he murdered larry the cucumber by severing his head,

and all of Bob’s victums were pronounced dead.

Pa Grape he grabbed and dragged away,

the wrath of the tomato this grape did pay,

he killed more than to number,

and made it hard for greens to slumber,

and finally this rampage came to an end,

because of a Jonah Whale, a friend,

Bob is dead, but his ghost still looms, around his victums lonely tombs.

(End)

Obscure Quotes I Use in Everyday Life

I don’t watch very many movies or television shows, but when I do, the randomest lines find a home in my longterm memory. Below are some of the borrowed phrases I continue to sprinkle into my everyday speech long after I first viewed them on the big screen.

“And so, we shall go to war!” – Pirates of the Caribbean 3

Usage: When the mood in the room is tense, I like breaking the silence with this quote in my chipmunk voice.

“Just trust the bear.” – Alaska

Brief Explanation: Four years ago, my family went on vacation in Florida with some close family friends for a week. While we were there, my mom had the brilliant idea to have all 11 of us watch a family-friendly movie. “Alaska” fit the “family-friendly movie” bill. In it, two children search for their father in the Alaskan wilderness and almost starve to death while following their guide, a polar bear cub. The children are nearly rescued by a Native American, but he decides to let them continue their expedition without adequate supplies instead of returning them to civilization because the polar bear cub is the father’s spirit animal or something.

Usage: When it becomes blatantly obvious that the problem at hand cannot be solved, saying this phrase lightens the mood of those involved. It also confuses the heck out of those who haven’t had the pleasure of sitting through a two and a half hour movie about spirit animal searching.

“Well that escalated quickly.” – Anchorman

Usage: I say this when one minute we’re talking about how elephants have funny noses, and the next someone comes out as an elephant nose self-esteem activist that doesn’t appreciate the friendly banter.

“Oh banana, why’d you have to get all brooOOoown and mushy?” – Sid the Science Kid

Brief Explanation: My brothers watched Sid the Science Kid before school every morning for like three years. It was always the same episode about rotting bananas, but I still don’t know how it ends because we always left for school about halfway through.

Usage: When I see a brown and mushy banana, this comes to mind.

“I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that cuz you think you’re fat? Cuz you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.” – Napoleon Dynamite

Usage: When someone is drinking 1% milk, I say this in my Napoleon Dynamite voice. Usually, the milk drinker has never seen Napoleon Dynamite, and they just give me a puzzled frown because they don’t have good movie taste or a sense of humor.

“And they don’t think I know a butt load of crap about the gospel, but I do!” – Nacho Libre

Usage: Whenever my eight years of Christian education come in handy, I say this to avoid the “holier than thou” mentality that’s associated with random, deeply religious references.

“Ah, my old shool house.” – Mega Mind

Usage: When I drive by my school in the summer, I say this with nostalgia out the rolled down window, and then I step on the accelerator in my custom baby seal leather boots.

“No annoying sounds.” – Despicable Me

Usage: When my brothers are making annoying sounds, I growl this at them, and they respond by drumming on their cheeks and asking, “Does this count as annoying?”

“You’re 16, you go to school.” – Princess Protection Program

Brief Explanation: I didn’t even see this movie, but I did see the commercials. That line was on all of them.

Usage: I have to tell myself this some mornings when I would much rather lay in bed than go to zero hour.

“Don’t tell me what to do.” – Drake and Josh

Usage: When someone tells me to have a nice day, I remind them that I do what I want.

“I’m da first one on da new road!” – Cars

Usage: I make this Mater reference when I’m driving on a freshly laid stretch of asphalt.

“I’ve heard it both ways…” – Psych

Usage: I pronounce words incorrectly on a daily basis, and this is how I respond to the people who go out of their way to point out my error.