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What Changed Your Life?
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Old 02-19-2009, 02:41 PM
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Default What Changed Your Life?

Fair warning; this thread may wind up being about as gooshy as a hug from Oprah Winfrey, as sickeningly sweet as a cluster of Hallmark cards. But I tell a lot of stories that deal with people being stupid or mean, and I think it's important that people are reminded now and again that not everyone is like that. If you have a story about something someone did for you that changed your life or changed the way you look at things for the better, post it here. There are way too many of the bad people, so we need to take the time to appreciate the good ones.

I've been accused of being cynical before. I've also been accused of being naieve. I've never been religious, but instead these days I believe implicitly in the limitless capacity of the human soul, in our potential for kindness and beauty. All of this is because of something that happened when I was sixteen. I will remember it until I die.

At sixteen years old, I was a pretty sullen little misanthrope. My relationship with my mother was shot, my two best friends had just moved to another province, and my homeroom teacher was a woman who saw my tiny bit of native-american heritage (not even enough to get status) as a reason to continually lobby for me to be put into "special ed" classes -- this woman would wind up later getting fired for racism in a pretty spectacular manner, but for most of the school year she made my life miserable. At one point, she told me to "hurry up and just drop out like all the rest of you".

I'm not saying any of this to garner sympathy, but when you're sixteen everything seems bigger than you and it's easy to forget that people have it worse than you do.

So I decided to run away. Of course.

My uncle had left home when he was my age and spent some time travelling and working in different places throughout the country, and I saw no reason why I couldn't do the same. I cleared out my savings account (seven hundred dollars) and bought a bus ticket for Calgary. I got as far as Edmonton before something happened.

If you've never had an Edmonton winter, they're nothing to sneeze at. The snow is powder-fine, undulating across the sidewalks in ribbons pushed by a continuous wind, and stings like needles against your bare skin. The sky is dark by four in the afternoon, and the temperature drops below zero, whereupon the snow will usually begin to fall harder, and frequently made it up as high as my hip.

On this evening, I'm standing outside the terminal while I wait for my next bus. Needless to say I'm having second thoughts about all this, but pride is a funny thing. It exaggerates all your hurts and makes you sullen and immovable. My hands are jammed in the pocket of my coat, which is thick, heavy, obviously well-made and expensive. Even outside I am warm.

I am feeling spectacularly sorry for myself as the man comes over to me.

He's homeless. I mean, why else would you be out in weather like this in such flimsy clothing? The long cuffs of his jeans are frayed and dark with mud and water, and the shoes are all wrong for the cold -- cheap supermarket bin sneakers, soaked through and trailing laces like limp earthworms in the slush on the sidewalk. He's older than I am, at least fourty, and his ears have gone white with cold. He asks me, very politely, if I have any spare change.

Do I have change? I have seven hundred dollars in my pocket, a heavy meal in my belly, but I'm sixteen years old and all that matters is my own wounded pride and hurts. "I don't have anything." I snap in reply. I can feel tears of self-pity pricking at my eyes, and I hate myself for them, which only makes me angrier as I scrub the heels of my palms against them like a baby. "I don't even have a quarter to call home, okay?"

Instead of moving on, instead of calling me the liar that I obviously was, he gives a funny sort of sigh, a soft 'aahh' of comprehension or maybe just sympathy. "Don't do that." he says in the gentlest voice I've ever heard. He fishes in his pocket, takes my hand, and presses something into it. "You go home and be safe and warm, sweetheart. This is no place for you. Get someone to come for you and be safe and warm."

He turns and walks away, as I stand there staring dumbly after him, the quarters he's just passed me feeling like they weigh a hundred pounds in my hand.

I really can't explain how I felt at that particular moment, but it was like the entire world had suddenly rotated a hundred and eighty degrees beneath my feet. Here I was, sulky and in good health, pocket filled with more money than this guy might see in the next year, and he'd given me some of the only money he had because he felt sorry for me. Because he wanted me to be safe and warm. I remember that very clearly. Safe and warm.

I finally unglued my feet and ran after him, leaving my suitcase on the sidewalk. The guilt was incredible, the sudden glimpse into my own staggering self-pity and absorption almost crippling in the face of that one unquestioning kindness. I wanted to find him, to apologise, to give him everything I had.

I looked for over an hour, and I never found him. I kept enough money for a return ticket and gave the rest away to the other people I found sleeping on benches or sitting in their 'houses' made of cardboard and blue tarp. By the time I got back to the station, my suitcase had been stolen. It didn't matter.

I suppose this is why I take it so hard when people are cruel or unfeeling, the way I used to be, why I get so angry about it. I'm nowhere near perfect -- I still have too much of a temper, for instance, tend to carry grudges for too long. But at least now I understand that the world begins and ends with everyone. Some people may not believe this story, which is fine, because frankly, I don't care. I know there are people out there with great beauty in them like I saw that day, and I hope everyone has the chance to see it in their lifetime. Or to display it themselves. Everyone should be safe and warm.

So . . . yeah. You can make fun of me if you like, but I felt like sharing. Anyone else?
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Old 02-19-2009, 04:37 PM
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I couldn't tell you the exact day, moment, or any of that but here goes.

When I was a teenager I was mad. Didn't matter about what, I was generally in a bad mood. That all stopped when I started dating the woman I now call my wife.

But I was still quick to anger. I had a temper that was legendary. I could scare people. I could shout so loud entire lobbies of high school kids would shut up to see who was yelling (yes I know this for a fact). I once almost broke my hand from punching (and breaking) a door.

How I never got into trouble is beyond me. I once threatened a popular kid's life for mocking me. He never told any of his friends, and he avoided me for the rest of highschool, he wouldn't even look me in eye anymore.

People hated me because I would go from nice to pissed of screaming in minutes. A lot of it was I called them on their BS, but you get the point.

I remember I once made my GF cry (I wasn't yelling at her, just at someone else and it scared her).

I vowed then and there to watch my temper, but it wasn't an easy task. Until 1 day I was mad about something, and I suddenly got dizzy, my chest hurt, and I had to sit down.

My anger was pushing me towards an early grave, and I finally realized it. So I stopped.

Of course I get angry still, but I don't keep it, I drop it quickly. It takes quite a lot to get me pissed off to that point anymore.

But if you do, please step back, because I don't like to bring out that guy anymore, but I know he's back there, and therefore I always try to keep him in check.

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Old 02-19-2009, 04:47 PM
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I was always a crybaby. The sensitive one. I couldn't take being teased. Always shy and kept to myself.

What changed was my mom died. On Easter Sunday, actually, so that holiday is a little bit of a sore spot with me still. The next school year, someone mentioned that I seemed a lot "harder". I didn't cry so much, I was more outgoing and nutty. I could be a world-class bitch when I wanted to. This was right as I entered High School, as well.

Still didn't have many friends, but it certainly helped shape things for later on. My sister didn't like hanging out with me anymore, so I got very used to being on my own.

Next change was college. Junior year. I moved into a dorm and was living alone for the first time. Still had no friends, but something must have changed. After a year, my sister liked hanging out with me again. I got a few local friends I met on LiveJournal, and a few more nationwide. I got more bold, more adventurous. Whereas at home, I'd never set foot outside afterdark, on campus I'd head to the library at midnight to use the computers when mine broke. I'd go to McDonalds at midnight for a sundae because I wanted to. I'd still have my pepper spray on hand, but I wasn't so terrified I would huddle inside my room in fear.

When I moved back home after graduation, I REALLY missed that dorm. I got to be independent--TRULY independent-- for the first time. I'm making plans to move out in June, with my sister, actually. I'm still sensitive to insults, and still get obsessed about fannish things (and tend to babble), but I've learned to take correction and criticism well. I can take responsibility for my own actions. I'm not afraid to go somewhere new.

Heck, last summer, I went to New York BY MYSELF at a week's notice. I just signed up for motorcycle driving lessons. I've learned to like myself as I am, and want to improve myself for my own benefit.

So there have been a couple turning points in my life. If there's another one, I'm hoping for Secret Agents or Aliens. Or maybe zombies. Zombies are good for Coming of Age dramas.
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Old 02-19-2009, 05:43 PM
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Hmmmm, which ones to tell...

Well, like many others on here, I was an emotional angry teenager. Granted, I do have bipolar disorder, but a lot of it came from being the only person in my group of peers who liked learning and liked to read. I really didn't fit in, and didn't have much of anyone to talk to. Then came...college. Blessed, wonderful, glorious college! It was the first time in my life I'd been surrounded by people who liked to read and learn, and for once I wasn't the odd one out. That was GREAT.

Another one: When we were kids, my sister was always the writer. I didn't like writing essays for school since most of the assignments were dumb, and had never thought about writing fiction. Then in senior year of high school, my mom made me take a couple of community college classes. The second one was Freshman Composition II, a class where we read literature then wrote essays about it. Not only did I enjoy the reading, but I loved the professor, Mr. Ledbetter. He was one of those profs who'd been teaching forever, and still loved his subject. He and I got along smashingly--he didn't usually have students who loved literature and poetry, and I didn't usually have adults take me seriously on such things. One day he came to class and handed me a brochure about a writing contest that the main branch of the college was having, and told me that he'd like me to enter. I did, won one of the two top prizes with a short distopian story (the first fiction I wrote!), and made him incredibly proud. Now, 10 years later, I'm a professional writer, and have written several NaNoWriMo novels, and am trying to get some stuff published. All thanks to Mr. Ledbetter. He died of cancer about 4 years ago, and I still miss him.

I think there's another major change in progress now (one or two people here may know a little of what's going on), but I'm not saying anything about that till I see where I end up...
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:11 PM
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There have been a few people in my life who really helped me. My grandmother (mother's mother) was the first. My mom bought into the whole 50s happy homemaker thing. My grandmother had been a flapper. She hadn't had an easy life, but she felt like it had been a good one, and she encouraged me to be independent and not buy into the marriage, house, kids thing. She also told me about things my mom wouldn't, such as why my mother divorced my father when I was a baby, abusive men, stories about her family and growing up in an orphanage. She encouraged me, the weird kid, to be me. Thanks, Grandma, I really miss you.

I had a few really good teachers, but the one I remember is the Silver Fox. That was his nickname, I'm totally blanking his real name. He had been extremely handsome when young, and was still attractive. He dressed very spiffily. But what was so great was he totally rocked the Socratic method of teaching. We did very little book study, but I learned so much more in his class than any other class I can remember. Also, he had traveled all over the world when younger, including working for the State Department, so he had wonderful tales to tell and often used them as allegories. Most importantly, he treated us as rational, thinking humans, and even the biggest jerk in the class responded.

A personal change I made a few years ago has led to a lot of continuing changes in my life. Although I was long separated from my family due to religious conflicts, I had never mentally abandoned my religion. Finally, I did. I started really looking and when I developed my current belief system I felt real and whole for the first time ever.
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:52 PM
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This may seem like such a small thing to just change a person around, but it certainly changed me.

I fell in love after promising I never would again because all it brought was pain. This guy was great. We always had fun and I could have long talks with him about anything and everything.

Out of the blue, he broke up with me. About two weeks later, we got back together. Just a few days shy of my 17th birthday, he broke up with me and we kept in contact.

Well, he met a cousin of mine and ended up being with her.

What killed me was when my cousin got a hold of me (before they ended up together), she told me that I needed to get over him. This from a girl who went out with a guy ten times. I told her that I loved him and that I thought that she would understand.

I found out that they were together and I became bitter. I shut the world out. I didn't let anyone in. A friend of mine told me that he knew a guy I would like. I told him that men were the scum of the earth. I ended up with his friend later on, though.

I became a huge bitch. I didn't let anyone walk all over me. I was finally able to tell people the truth without caring if it hurt their feelings or not.

Then it came to me. I finally had an understanding of who I am. I let my hate go and said that life is the way it is and I can't change it. I became at peace with myself and the world around me. I then knew that I had to do what was right for me and not let anyone or anything stand in my way. I knew that I had to speak the truth about my feelings.

I finally told the guy who hurt me the most that I was angry with him and just wanted to punch him in the face. Brave thing to do. He is a scary looking guy. Now, we are pretty close because I am totally honest with him.

I embraced my inner bitch because of those two.
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Old 02-19-2009, 09:49 PM
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Draftermatt, you and I have kindred demons. I should warn you all now, this doesn't have a happy ending.

I'd always had a bad temper. According to my medical records, my parents were interviewed by a mental health specialist after I had jumped up on a table and was throwing chairs. They were worried that I may have had a psychosis. I was three.
I worked hard to control my temper. I got so good at keeping it at arm's length, I was accused of being emotionally detached. Until 10 years ago...

August 28th, 1998. That's when I lost control. My senior year, I just came back from Basic. I gained 12 pounds of muscle and was in the finest shape I'd ever been in. But I'd had a long day that day and I still had soccer practice. This day, this one kid (for the life of me, I can't remember his name) was bugging me all through out practice. It built to such a level that all I wanted to do was lay him out. We get into a drill called Attacker/Defender, basically one-on-one drills. I drew him. I try to shoulder tackle him, but he side-steps. I plant my foot and try to turn.
Snap-Crackle-Pop, but it ain't Rice Krispies.

I fell and started "growling like a rabid animal", according to the coach. I was trying to stand but my leg refused to work. I was taken to the hospital in the back my own truck. ACL tear, cartilage tear. Knee swelling. My adrenaline drained away so I could feel the pain properly.

Not much to tell after that. Army doc "fixed" my knee. I still have the pins and I was Medic'ed out of the Army. Though I have a control on my temper again, I've been battling depression since 2002, the year I was discharged. My knee still bothers me, and every competent doc tells me I need another surgery.

If you read all this, thank you. I needed a vent.
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Old 02-19-2009, 09:57 PM
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For me, it was the day I realized most of what my parents taught me was bullshit, and I didn't need to continually go to them for approval of my actions. I used to constantly call up my parents and go "Do you think I should do this?" "Should I do that?" Even when I was living at home, I asked every time I wanted a snack.

Then one day (I won't go in to specifics) I realized my parents actually knew *less* than I did, so I stopped caring about their opinions on what I did, and just did what I wanted to do. Since then, my mother's had a hard time coping with that, so I've had to cut off contact with her, yet my situation has improved dramatically. I've more and better friends, I'm happier (I had clinical depression for a few years just out of high school), and I'm a bit healthier too, as the constant struggle between "what I want to do" and "what they think I should do" was wearing me down.
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Old 02-20-2009, 12:56 AM
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Want to know something that changed my life? I can give it to you with no problem.

I was raised in an Irish Catholic house that was probably more Catholic than the Pope. It was very strict.

I attended a Catholic High School. Many people think that was an awful thing but it wasn't. I was taught by Dominican nuns and they showed me ways to expand my ways of thinking.

I was 15 years old in a sophomore religion class when Sister Stanislaus proposed the following:

"Because God is just we know that Hell exists. Because God is merciful, we don't know if there's anybody in Hell."

Ain't that something to get slapped with in a Catholic school?
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Old 02-20-2009, 01:01 AM
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Quote:
Quoth LibraryLady View Post
I was 15 years old in a sophomore religion class when Sister Stanislaus proposed the following:

"Because God is just we know that Hell exists. Because God is merciful, we don't know if there's anybody in Hell."

Ain't that something to get slapped with in a Catholic school?
I wish I had gone to your Catholic school. Mine essentially said "Everyone's going to Hell except us."
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