Kat was doing one of her ruminations about Daniel on Friday, which prompted Paul to ask her why she loved him so much. She replied that she didn’t love him, that it was inappropriate to refer to it as love when she couldn’t even talk to him. Even when unrequited, she felt that any kind of love required a connection between the people involved. In an effort to change the subject, Paul asked Mark and me about our “love lives.” Mark had a girlfriend freshman year, but they broke it off because it was too hard to get to each other after school due to the transportation involved. We have a solid public transportation system, but it’s rather expensive for a teenager without a job to use constantly. And having your parents drive you around for romantic encounters is weird. It’s a large part of the reason why Mark wants to get a job this year, either to pay for public transportation or a used car that can offer near complete freedom when he’s 17. I also said that I was waiting for better transportation options, but that would probably change if anyone I was attracted to felt the same way. A couple girls have said they liked me, I have told several girls I liked them, but no cases were mutual. If that situation changed, then I would probably be more willing to try and deal with any transportation issues that would come up. But for now, it gives me more time to focus on my school work.
But I felt bothered by Paul’s overuse of the word love. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, his old neighborhood apparently even still considered Valentine’s Day a major event. There are many different kinds of love, but they should be the most powerful feeling of their type. I’m not saying you can’t say you love pasta and salad, but you must really, really, really enjoy both of them more than any other type of food. Constantly using the word, no matter what kind of love it is, devalues the concept. If you sign every card with Love, then you’re saying you care as much about your significant other or parent as anyone else you’ve ever given a letter to. And even if you do truly love someone, saying it all the time makes it seem routine and a reflex instead of a genuine expression of emotion. However, it is used so many of ways that cheapen the word. I mean, love life can refer to anything from a guy who does exclusively one night stands, where it’s a euphemism for sex life, to a deeply conservative Christian couple, who may or may not be in love but are together to satisfy their demands of their families. One some websites the only way to show approval for something is to click a button that says “love”. The word has been used in titles of books, movies, and of course about a million or two songs. It’s everywhere, and I think that it cheapens what should be the highest level of praise that we can give.
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Noah became the first person in our grade to turn 16. Technically, he can get his driving learner’s permit, but it would be hard for him to pass the written test since we won’t be done with our driver’s education course until January. It’ll also affect lots of other people, like Mark, and is going to result in a lot of people trying to get appointments at the local driver’s school on the same day in January. At least we have a simulator available where we can practice driving without the risk of anyone getting injured. I’ve tried it a couple of times, getting better each time but I still feel I’m a long way from actually being in control of a vehicle. I’m still focusing on the written test at the moment.
Our course goes into all sorts of minute details and rules about driving. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to remember all of them, and my memory is better than most people with licenses. All of the different signs, what you need to do in a hundred different scenarios from hydroplaning to a broken tire, how many points you get for violating one of the many rules, and even a dozen hand signals. I’ve never actually seen someone do a hand signal from a car, but it’s something we have to learn just in case. Thankfully, despite the fact that I can’t get my permit until I turn 16 in April we all take the test at the end of the course. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to remember enough to pass it. Then I have to figure out if I can actually drive a vehicle.
It used to be that almost everyone outside of cities had a driver’s license. But since members of this generation have sensory issues, attention problems, or coordination difficulties less people are able to pass the driving test. We’re lucky that public transportation is bit more viable out here now. Apparently, there was only one taxi service in our town, and it cost $20, in 1970s money, to go to a town less than a half hour away. That’s if you could even get an appointment for a pick-up. Now we have a couple of bus lines and more affordable taxis that can help us get around. But it’s still much better to be able to get a driver’s license of your own. Not having to depend on the buses being there when you need them, assuming they’re even on time, or whether there’s an available taxi makes life much easier. You have to pay for a car, insurance, and gasoline, but at least you don’t have to pay someone to drive anytime you want to go anywhere. And if you’re really good at driving, you can get a job at one of the taxi services. You don’t get as much money as you did per trip in the 70s, but the volume of customers more than makes up for it.
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I spent Wednesday evening over at Mark’s house. I went there after decompressing for an hour once the school day ended. We went up to his room and played video games until his father came home for dinner. We would have played in the living room with the bigger TV, but his brother was watching it and we couldn’t risk upsetting him. Mark usually beats me whenever we play anything on his console; I mostly play PC games but I can’t drag my desktop all the way to his house. We play computer games together online, but in person its better just to use a console. The problem I have is that I’m still much better with a keyboard and mouse than I am with a controller, even after years of playing with Mark. But he can practice every day, and I only come over once every few weeks on average.
It was Mark’s mother’s turn to make dinner since she had to take his brother home from school. The food was fine; having Mark and his brother as children and me as a semi-frequent guest means that both his parents avoid making meals that may evoke sensory response issues. Well, there were a couple of times in the past where Mark’s brother found something upsetting, but they have very little control over that. After dinner Mark and I went back up to his room to finish the game we were playing, then after about half an hour I went home. I might have stayed the night, but I knew that if I did I would risk being woken up if Mark’s brother had a meltdown and I didn’t want to deal with going to school sleep-deprived.
Mark doesn’t like to talk about his brother much. I think he mostly view him as an annoyance. He’s even more different to Mark than Paul is, just in the opposite direction. I don’t know if there’s any hope of him living outside of his house or in a group facility, but the odds aren’t in his favor. Less than a quarter of the people who go through the lower schools get any kind of job in order to pay for at least part of their care. And since their care involves many more people and a lot more money, I can only think of a couple prominent savants that can pay all the money they need to in order to live independently. Government-run or charity care facilities have been getting better over the years, but you’d still rather not have to live in them. The quarters are cramped, the walls are thin, and most importantly the staffing is inadequate and you know that’s not going to get any better. Well, unless we get a whole lot more qualified immigrants with the patience to deal with people like him. There might always need to be somebody to help dress him, feed him, and clean him, and that’s not an easy job. I don’t know how his parents do it, or how long they’ll be able to keep it up.
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My mother and I went to the department store to buy clothes on Saturday. Not so much exciting as incredibly irritating for both of us. At least when I stop growing soon I won’t have to buy as many new clothes. I’m big enough to wear some of my father’s old shirts, but they’re incredibly uncomfortable. They all have tags, and even when you try and cut the tags off there’s still a bit of it left that tends to feel like its jabbing right into your neck. And some of the shirts have buttons, which means I have to get a T-shirt to wear under them anyway because they bother me, and most are long-sleeved which sometimes makes my arms feel like they’re suffocating. At least his pants mostly fit me and are comfortable, Mark has the same problems with full-length pants that I do with long sleeves. The problem with that is that I can wear a loose coat to cover my arms in the winter, but he has to wear large bulky snow pants through most of the fall and into the spring. My mother mostly has issues with certain fabrics; she can’t stand wearing anything made with wool for example. At least I don’t have their problems too.
To be honest, the whole shopping experience was exhausting. First, you have to find the section your clothes are in, then you have to see if you can find clothes that might fit you, then you have to try them on to see if they do. Since clothes don’t come in every size, they are never going to fit perfectly. For example, if you have a 33-inch waist, do you get 32-inch or 34-inch pants? I suppose you could get the 34-inch ones and have the waist adjusted, but then the rest of the upper section of the pants is still designed for person with a larger waist. And then there’s the fact that even when they are the same brand and size sometimes clothes have slight differences, so even when you find one that fits you still have to try on others that should be exactly the same but aren’t.
So the entire process is trying on one ill-fitting piece of clothing after another, which must be a pain normally but is even more so when you have touch sensitivities. At least shirts aren’t made with loose tags anymore. Luckily, I was able to find three shirts and a couple of pairs of pants, and they’ll hopefully last me for at least a year. My mother also found what she was looking for, so she took our clothes to the checkout computer and we were finally able to leave. In case you were wondering, yes my parents buy my clothes. For one thing, I don’t have a job so I don’t have much money outside of Christmas and birthday gifts. But more importantly, if they didn’t pay for the clothes I’d just keep wearing the ones I own even as they stop fitting just so I don’t have to go through this process again.
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In fact, Paul is not like us. His parents both came from Christian Science backgrounds and didn’t take any pain relievers as kids. By the 80s his grandparents had become regular boring Protestant yuppies so they weren’t as afraid to use modern medical conveniences. He moved here from an immigrant neighborhood in the city because his mother got a job at the local bank. Also, his parents felt like getting away from the city and into a larger house in the suburbs. Since his old neighborhood has a lot of immigrants, he had lots of friends that were more like him instead of us. It does explain why Paul has all the answers in Spanish class; it turns out he is fluent after using the language so often with his friends from his home town. But coming to a town with a limited number of kids like him, including nobody in our grade, is hard on him.
Now that I think about it, I wonder why there aren’t many immigrants in our town. There have been many successful ones since the standards were relaxed over a dozen years ago, so I don’t think money is the problem. But I guess people want to stay with others like them, which I can understand considering the treatment Paul is getting from people here. It’s the same with whole towns that are entirely made up of people like him and carry on with a lifestyle that seems odd compared to the rest of the country. Their schools have no safe rooms, the students have to sit in lectures the entire period, and there’s an emphasis on group projects, presentations, and busy work. It sounds like a nightmare. There’s also a complete lack of public transportation if it isn’t an urban area and some people constantly throw parties that prevent their neighbors from sleeping or working. But that’s the way they used to do things, and even here we sometimes have to deal with the old methods.
Unfortunately for Paul, he’s going to have to do a lot of adjusting coming to our town. He’s already begun to speak up less in classes that aren’t Spanish, he shares less when our history teacher still asks us what we did during the weekend, and other kids aren’t complaining that he’s annoying them with greeting them in the hallway all the time. He says that in his old town kids were always chatting in the hallways on their way to class, and sometimes couldn’t make it to class even when given five minutes. I’ve very rarely seen anyone late for class here even though we have four minutes. I thought it might be because our school was smaller, but he said they’re about the same size. I guess when we’re told that we have four minutes to get to class; it means to us that we have four minutes to go to class and nothing else. It’s just another small difference that Paul has to get used to.
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I’m going to invite Paul, the new kid, to sit with us at lunch. So far he’s been sitting by himself, which I can’t imagine is pleasant for him considering his apparent background. It’s being spread around that he’s not a typical member of the Missing Generation, which is not a name I would have chosen but none of us had any say in the matter. The way he acts makes me believe it’s true; it’s more like you or my father. If it is true, then he would probably want company during lunch. Unfortunately, a lot of the other students still have weird ideas about people like him. Some believe they can read other people’s minds, or that they are all potential criminals.
For a generation of people who are supposed to be rational and analytical thinkers, these are really strange thoughts. First there’s the mind reading, which is silly even though it’s rooted in the fact that people like you can do things like read facial expressions better than we can. This does lead to the more rational fear that they will use that to take advantage of us, but that doesn’t mean that they will. You can’t assume the worst of people, which again they do by thinking that everyone like Paul is always about to commit a crime. Criminals make up a tiny part of any population; you don’t see countries like Canada or Great Britain overrun with crime despite them and every other country having very few people like us. And yes, they do have a reputation for talking about nonsense a lot and can remember less than us, but they also don’t have nearly as many meltdowns or talk about their pet topics like we do. They’re just different, and we can recognize that without demonizing it. After all, irrationally disregarding evidence is what led to the painkiller scare in the first place. Luckily, both Mark and Kat understand these things, so they agreed to let Paul sit with us. We’ll see how it goes.
I think it started when many parents began to realize that their children were different than those born even a few years earlier, so they made up scare tactics in order to make their kids seem like the normal ones. Technically, they’re right at about this generation in America because we’re the majority, but I meant normal compared to the rest of the world. It’s the same thing when they try to compare us to major figures like Einstein even though if you read about him he was very different from us in many, many ways. Having inspiring stories is one thing, but spreading false hope based on misrepresenting facts that you can easily look up on Wikipedia is another. If someone learns that they’re like Einstein, they might believe that they’re going to be the next Einstein as a child. Then, because they don’t have Einstein’s abilities, they’re going to be very disappointed when they grow up and they are getting fired from a job organizing files. There have been successful people like us born since 1975, so we don’t need to look up to somebody who might have had similar aspects.
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Since you told Mark that apparently he can’t just write about astronomy, I’ll continue to try and do these journals as previous instructed. As you probably heard, one of the sophomores had our first meltdown case on Thursday. We were in the working half of math class, and he apparently reached a problem that he couldn’t solve. Since I remember him always being good at math it isn’t surprising he was annoyed, but I don’t know what single problem could make him that irritated. More likely it was a combination of other things happening in his life got to him and eventually he just exploded. It doesn’t help when you’re trying to answer hard questions while the teacher is talking with another student in the background. I know a major part of the working period is for teachers to answer questions from students having problems, but it still disrupts our concentration for some of us. In any event, the teacher got his therapist and they took him to the safe room and he came back a few minutes later after he had calmed down. You’ve been working here long enough to know that this probably isn’t going to be the last meltdown of the semester.
I’ve had two meltdowns at school in my life. The first was in second grade when a third grader was making fun of me, or at least I thought he was making fun of me, during lunch. I lost control and started screaming and threw my lunch tray at him. Then I went to the garbage container and tried to throw that at him too, but I couldn’t lift it. Eventually I was taken to the safe room, and then had to go to the principal’s office in order to answer for throwing the tray. Both the third grader and I got a talking too and warnings, but no punishments were handed out.
The second meltdown was in fifth grade. It was at the end of the day in class right after gym. I was already tired from working all day before gym, and then while running laps I tripped and fell. My knee was badly scraped so I had to go to the nurses’ office. So I wasn’t in a good mood before returning to class and sitting (and mostly daydreaming) through the day’s final lecture section. Then during the last working section I overheard some kids making comments about my fall, and I completely lost it. I started crying uncontrollably and, like clockwork, it was off to the safe room where I stayed until the end of the day. Going to school the next day was embarrassing, but at least I didn’t scream or throw things that time. Luckily, I haven’t had a meltdown at school since. Quite a few of the kids here have never had a meltdown during class, but enough of us have have that I’m glad that we have protocols in place to make sure they go as well as can be expected.
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