My Decision to Quit Being a Teenage Boy and Start Being an Actual Human Being – New Year’s Resolution TBT

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Towards the end of my first semester of college, I looked over the desolate wasteland that was my social life and came to an important realization:  Maybe I would have more friends if I wasn’t such a dick.

It's easier to make friends when you aren't a horrible human being.

I want to believe that it’s in my nature to be a good guy, but I was just trying so hard to be anything but that throughout high school.  I blame Maddox and The Ex-Girlfriend.

For those unfamiliar with Maddox and The Best Page in the Universe, it’s a website that has been around for probably over a decade by now (this makes me feel super old).  The author humorously shreds elements of pop culture and society in a cruel, unforgiving way.  It’s hilarious, especially to adolescent boys.  Maddox makes it cool and funny to be a jerk.  I decided I wanted to be like Maddox.

The missing part of the equation, however, is that Maddox is an anonymous guy on the internet who can revel in hate emails because he will never see those people in real life.  When you walk around the world mocking people to their face because you saw someone do it on the internet and it was funny, you don’t win any popularity contests.  Some people think it’s funny.  Most think it’s crappy and you give them no reason to believe that you are anything more than an ass hole.

So in December of 2007, I decided to quit being like that…next year.

The Ex-Girlfriend and I had an epic on-again-off-again teen romance that spanned from 8th grade sorta confusedly into high school.  She lived with her mom in Pensacola every Summer, and in Kentucky with her dad the rest of the year.  It was long distance, it was hard, it was fueled by a misguided notion that any of it was very important.  She was the first girl that I ever told, “I love you.”

In the end, the long distance killed it.  We broke up and didn’t get back together.  Months later, she moved down to Pensacola to stay year-round.  “We almost made it,” I thought.  Like any mature boy, I avoided her like the plague for as long as I could.  It was extremely conspicuous seeing as how we were both on the swim team and thus spent 3-5 hours/day together.  Eventually, things leveled out and we were cordial to each other again.

That’s when a close friend started talking to her and was cool enough to ask my permission to go out with her.  I told him yes, because I wasn’t remotely interested in getting back together with her until around ten seconds after I told him yes.

More time passed.  They broke up.  We started talking again, doing small stuff, hanging out, holding hands.  I cornered her and asked what it meant, because that’s my style:  be too afraid to say anything for a couple months, then suddenly work up the courage and make it as confrontational and uncomfortable for the other person as possible.

I wish I was joking about this, but she literally turned around and walked away.  We were at a swim meet and it was loud so I held out hope that she just didn’t hear the question.  I don’t even remember how it happened, but I think someone else told me that she did hear and she didn’t want to get back together.  We had been circling each other for like four months at this point and apparently it didn’t mean anything to her.

I was super hurt and angry, so I did the only rational thing that high school Brantley could think of:  held her transgressions against the entire female race and the concept of relationships.  The ensuing dating cold streak was unprecedented.  I wanted to be loved, but wouldn’t allow myself to love back.  That was how I got hurt and I had no intentions of ever doing that again.  Apart from a short-lived almost-something that I ruined by my refusal to dance and a short series of make out sessions with a girl that I would later abruptly stopped talking to, I didn’t have any more high school girlfriends.

And so I carried these negative attitudes with me into college, lamenting my failed fresh start despite the fact that I wasn’t committing to it by changing myself first.  With a miserable, lonely first semester behind me I vowed to let go of those bad feelings and negative habits in 2008.

I actually carried through with it too.  I started by sending a Facebook message to The Ex-Girlfriend apologizing for everything that I ever did wrong and for holding so much against her.  She wrote back and we forgave each other.  In the same fashion as the rest of the overblown relationship, her forgiveness meant everything to me.

Apologies and forgiveness are two of the strongest medicines ever invented by mankind.

With that monkey off my back, I was confident enough to meet new people.  I was a nice, decent human being to them and they liked me for that.  People started to think of me as a nice guy, even people that I had known me in those dark days of high school.

New Year’s Resolutions can be silly, frivolous things that we abandon by mid-February, but they can also be an excuse to make profound life changes that make you a better person inside and out.  (It’s also worth noting that I lost 40 lbs. in 2008).

New Year's resolutions can be silly and frivolous and easily abandoned, but they can also be profound life changes

Disclaimer:  I don’t actually blame Maddox.  He has every right to do his thing, and he does it very well.  I blame my silly teenage self for thinking that it would be a good idea to mimic such harsh negativity because I thought it would make me a cool kid.

Another Disclaimer:  I also don’t blame The Ex-Girlfriend.  She wasn’t perfect by any means, but the majority of the damage was self-inflicted.

For the most part, people can only screw you up as much as you let them.

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24 thoughts on “My Decision to Quit Being a Teenage Boy and Start Being an Actual Human Being – New Year’s Resolution TBT

    • Thanks! I had a screenwriting teacher who summed it up as, “Does the character smell himself?” A person who smells bad and knows it is profoundly different than a person who has no idea that they smell bad.

      I guess in this particular situation, I smelled myself and decided to go take a shower…haha

      • Haha! Damn, great summary! I like that! Lol… yep, it all depends on what ya want in life. I try to not judge an asshole if they are happy being an asshole. It’s their choice, right, lol… at least they’re being real. It’s the ones that complain about not having any friends and play the victim role who make me raise an eyebrow, and make me want to turn them around to look at themselves… 🙂 Lordy, I’ve had to take many of these showers myself, in my life… It’s a process, lol.

  1. First- Thank you for your comment on The John-Lauren blog.

    Wonderful that you decided to quit being a teen-age boy…just don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater…keep that teenage eagerness, keep your mind ever open as a tablet to be scribbled upon, always ask what-if?, and remember, everybody’s a dick, now and then. It’s part of the human condition.

    • Thanks so much for the comment! I definitely swung in the opposite direction for a while. I abandoned that teenage invincible nihilism and became cautious and afraid of things. Only recently I realized how useless it is to be scared in many scenarios.

  2. “New Year’s resolutions can be silly, frivolous things that we abandon by mid-February, but they can also be excuses to make profound life changes that make you a better person inside and out.” It’s so true. Best of luck this year as you embark on your second semester and become the man that you want to be. : )

  3. I have always believed in having very few good friends and good relationship with as many as i can maintain without harming my true self. I have never regretted this decision, the thing about college is they are the last bunch of genuine comrades/friends you will meet unless you are one lucky person who will be blessed with colleagues who are friends. that part is almost like seeing an oasis in desert- it can actually be one or mirage!

    at the end, i believe its absolutely nice to have a tight bunch of good friends. never look down upon yourself, if you dont like something in yourself change it- we can if we try real hard change most of our bad things/habits/traits.

    have a better year! take care.

  4. Well hello, Brantley.

    I very much enjoyed this wide-lens look in to your life. It makes us braver, I think – putting it down in words what we feel in our heart, and then letting others see us for what we are. A life lived in transparency may in fact be the toughest gauntlet we ever face and the single most important thing we learn while we are here.

    I thank you for sharing your isms. You will most certainly know by now that you have a gift for written expression, and so I do hope those chicken wings won’t always take precedent.

    🙂

    • Thanks so much, Cara. That really means a lot to me!

      Dealing with the theme of growing up, it’s so helpful to go back and look at where I was back then. You don’t notice yourself becoming an adult, it just happens bit by bit and soon you look backward and realize how far you’ve come.

      I’m just lucky that some of my more ridiculous youthful indiscretions didn’t land me with any long-term consequences.

  5. Lauren

    From someone who considered you a pretty good friend in high school, don’t be so hard on yourself. You were a much better guy than you give yourself credit for and we found your snarkiness pretty funny! High school were weird, awkward years for everyone.

    Enjoyed your writing though and hope you’re doing well!! 🙂

    • Ahh!!! How did you find my blog?! I was working up to sharing it around with people that I actually know now that I’ve got a bit of an audience of strangers that are super supportive.

      I appreciate you sticking up for me (protecting me from me). I just had a dumb, immature sense of humor sometimes and I specifically remember making a couple of girls cry. I tried to play it off back then like it didn’t bother me, but really it made me feel like a bad guy. Of course, being in high school and surrounded by people that knew me to be that way, I felt like I couldn’t really change until I got some distance from that crowd.

      Making a conscious effort not to be like that made me feel so much better about myself. Being mean in a funny way can be alright when it’s with people who know that you are just joking around, but it makes people who don’t know you think you’re a jerk and I had a lot of trouble making friends that first semester of college.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope all is well with you. I’ve see pictures of your adorable baby on Facebook!

      • Lauren

        Sorry! I’m one of the few people that use twitter. I hesitated to comment, but your writing is really good and I couldn’t let you keep thinking you were such a bad guy!

        And thank you! Its still weird to think I’m old enough to be a mom on purpose(lol) but he is a lot of fun.

      • Whew, it was twitter! I scheduled a bunch of tweets on that account because it has a decent amount of followers, but I’m searching for a new job with an advertising agency and it was suggested to me by some places that turned me down that I should connect with them online via their social networks to make sure that I’m aware should any openings come up. Well I did that and they started following me back on twitter and I panicked because I was promoting all of these blog posts about drinking too much and being super irresponsible! I should cancel the scheduled posts, but I keep forgetting to, so I’ve been deleting the tweets as they publish.

        It’s a tough balance here. I enjoy writing this stuff and sharing it, but it would be a major problem if potential employers found it or if my family started reading through it. My mom has already scolded me on Facebook multiple times and each friend request from a family member sucks a little but more fun out of that particular network.

        As for this particular post, it’s part of a much bigger story of how I came out of my shell in college. Believe it or not, I had a ton of social anxiety after I moved to Orlando and it made putting myself of there to make new friends very intimidating. Blogging about stuff that happened so long ago is also great in that I don’t have to bite my tongue because the majority of the people in these stories are long gone from my life!

        I really, really appreciate the compliment though!

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