Mark and Paul got into a bit of an argument on Friday over some minute difference in their respective Christian denominations. It was getting so absurd Kat had to remind them that they both believed that God exists, Jesus existed and was the Son of God, the Trinity is one being, and that the Bible is the Word of God, and everything else was minor and they should stop arguing about it. This is a perfectly rational argument that pretty much never works in practice, but in this case got Paul to question what her beliefs were. She replied that she was a brought up as an atheist, and remained so after learning about Christianity due to its place in our culture. She asked Mark how he could be a Christian after he’s learned so much about the universe, and he said that the wonders of the cosmos were a sign that they must have been created by an intelligent creator. I unfortunately commented that I found that argument completely unconvincing, which then led to everyone asking me what my views were.
I explained was raised as a Catholic, going to Sunday school for years and taking in all the teachings of the Church. However, sometime after my first communion I began to wonder if I actually believed any of the teachings or just memorized them. And honestly, I found that I didn’t believe for certain that God existed, which meant that the rest of the dogma was worthless since I didn’t believe in the most important part. Kat then said that I was an atheist, but I don’t necessarily believe that there isn’t a God either. I just don’t know.
Lauren then talked about how she was raised in a Jewish household, including the Bat Mitzvah and everything, but her family never talked about faith or went to synagogue. She referred to herself as culturally Jewish, but not religious. I guess since the country as a whole is culturally Christian, since we have national holidays for Christmas and Easter. My family celebrates both even though we never go to church even during those holidays. With the rate of non-religious people increasing every year I wonder how they will be celebrated a century from now, if they are at all.
I guess a lot of my lack of belief comes from my studies of history. It isn’t just all the wars fought over religion, but the reaction that people had when children started having higher rates of speech delay. We know what caused it now, but at the time a lot of religious people thought it was a plague punishing the country for whatever thing they were against, whether it was the Vietnam War, Watergate, disco, whatever. But even dangerous non-religious believes were prevalent, like people making loads of money pretending that children could be magically transformed by giving them expensive supplements or going on gluten-free diets without scientific evidence those things do any good. As if things like that would completely change the way our brains were hard-wired from birth. Then there were places people sent their kids because they believed they could be “cured” by using electrical shocks by poorly trained staff to discourage “bad behavior” that was sometimes completely harmless. It gave me a more cynical view towards believing anything that people tell me, although I don’t know whether it gave me too much or too little.
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The good news is that I passed all of my tests. I’m very disappointed that I got a C in geometry; I’m so used to getting As in math. The most important one, not yours sorry, was passing the written driver’s test. I can’t start practicing for over another three months, but at least one step is out of the way. Mark already has his first lesson scheduled for next week; as expected there’s a bit of crowding of people trying to get in at the moment. I’m very interested to know what he thinks of the experience.
The bad news is that it’s the beginning of a new semester, which means change. At least only two classes are changing, with music replaced by art (because apparently music isn’t an art form) and physical education replacing driver’s education. I would prefer to have an actual education class instead of gym, but laws are laws and there’s nothing I can do about it. But my main concern is with the issue of change itself.
Admittedly, all of these changes were ones I was aware of long in advance. However, it still means an adjustment to my routine, from the routes I walk to classes to changes in the amount of homework I have to deal with. It’s much worse at the start of the school year when I have to figure out all of those things for eight new classes instead of two, and I was able to manage it. And I was able to do it last year, and in middle school and elementary school, so I think I’ll be fine. Planned changes happen often and, while difficult, are manageable.
Unplanned changes can really cause a great deal of stress though. For example, my parents talked about having to take pop quizzes when they were in school; if I had to take a surprise quiz I’d be so stressed and anxious that even if I knew the answers I might not be able to write them down. And I know the reactions of other kids would be worse than that. Another thing schools used to have were unscheduled fire drills, which I’m guessing probably annoyed teachers as much as students. You’re all prepared to get through class, then you’re being pulled out to an unexpected loud ringing noise while wondering if the school is really on fire or not. Obviously we still have drills, but you have to warn us the day before. Even minor disruptions like these can cause great discomfort when not planned for. That’s one of the best parts about going on break; the fact that you have few disruptions. Now, my parents could cause disruptions by demanding that I do a chore without warning, but they know me well enough to avoid that except if they really need to. If they really need me to do something unexpectedly, I’m able to do it, it just won’t be done very well and will probably have to recharge for a while afterwards.
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I had noticed Lauren and Paul being late for classes ever since we came back from break, and when I found her sitting at our lunch table instead of with her friends a few tables down my suspicions were confirmed. Apparently, they live a few houses apart from one another, and started hanging out during the break. Normally I’d be annoyed that he brought another person I have to be social with during my lunch time, but at this point their talking to each other is just distracting the rest of us from studying for midterms and finals. They kept going back and forth, with him using flattery and jokes and her giggling or awkwardly trying to make witty remarks. Paul did laugh at them, even though I thought they were embarrassingly unfunny. I guess it’s just a symptom of early infatuation.
This week I’ll have midterms in this class, geometry, biology, 20th century American history, economics, and political science, plus the final for music and the written exam for the driver’s license. I know this has been brought up again and again, but I really wish that all the tests weren’t at the same time. The two finals have to be, but the rest of our classes are yearlong and don’t have to schedule the tests in the exact same week. Yes, this means that we may have to delay the midyear report cards, but I’d rather have better grades on my report card than get it earlier.
Honestly, taking the tests is the easy part. There’s no lecture to sit through, so it’s an entire period where you are doing things yourself and the only thing holding you in class is your own ability. Thankfully, in almost all of my classes I’ve been able to leave and either relax or study for the next test on my laptop after I finished the exam. And nobody is assigning extra homework, except for this, so all I have to do is read materials to learn or re-learn what was covered in my classes. It turns out it’s a lot faster to read through the textbook than it is to go to class every weekday for over four months. But it still takes a lot of effort when you have to do it for eight classes at the same time.
At least I’ll be able to see how I’m doing in classes once the report card comes out. I’m glad that you are grading our vocabulary quizzes, small in-class assignments, and exams because I have no idea how I’m doing with this since you aren’t grading it yet. I may prefer to have a higher GPA than prioritize getting my report card faster, but I still like to know how I’m doing. I’ve written a lot of words that may or may not be any good, and it’s very frustrating. The school’s therapist told me that you have a reason for doing this when I complained about it, so I guess I’m just going to deal with it.
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The break went well. Christmas morning my parents and I exchanged the gifts we wanted, and I got everything I asked for including a $50 Amazon gift certificate. My father and mother also got gifts for one another, which they both seemed pleased with. I got to try out my mother’s new seat covers when she took me to the dentist, and they feel really nice. My father likes his new gloves a whole lot, especially since he had to shovel snow on Tuesday. As I helped him I wished I had gotten myself a pair; it was really cold that day. After we gave each other gifts we headed off to my father’s family for lunch. Outside of more gift exchanges, it was basically the same as when we went there for Thanksgiving.
New Year’s Eve was boring as usual. I guess that’s to be expected when considering it’s a holiday that’s traditionally celebrated by having large, loud get together were everybody gets entirely too drunk. I have little over five years before I can legally drink and I don’t like loud parties, so there wasn’t much for me to do but stay home and watch the celebrations on television. There were still thousands out in Times Square, but the crowd keeps thinning every year. It’s been half a decade since you couldn’t see the actual square between all the people. At least that makes it a bit more likely not to be pick-pocketed while watching the ball drop. They showed other celebrations around the world, from Sydney, to Paris, to London, and they were all much more crowded and extravagant. I’m assuming they were all drunk, which means nearly entire nations were probably hung over on New Year’s Day. I noticed even when I went to the local convenience store that the employee putting things on the shelves was stumbling and putting things where they didn’t belong. I tried correcting some of his mistakes, and I’m just glad we have automatic check-out so I didn’t have to deal with him messing with my purchases. Maybe once I’m allowed to drink I’ll understand the attraction, but right now I don’t understand why people do that to themselves.
The rest of the break was devoted to recreation. I spent hours at a time in the Wikipedia Wormhole, looking up one historical event that led to another article and then another. I haven’t looked up history articles outside of class since the beginning of the school year, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. I played plenty of computer games too, and went over to Mark’s house a couple of days to play the new games he got for Christmas with him. I also watched a few movies, got caught up on television shows, and generally did whatever I felt like doing at the time. I may have had a lack of structure, but at least that lack of structure was under my control. But now I’m recharged and hopefully read to get back to work here.
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I am so relieved that winter break is coming up soon. I don’t know about you, but coming to school every weekday is completely draining. It starts when I have to wake up, at a time way earlier than they should be making all high school students do. Luckily, after years of my parents struggling to get me out of bed, I figured out that I can force myself to get up if I put my alarm clock across the room. Then I eat breakfast, which is crumpets and microwave bacon every day just so I can have some sort of stability. And then it’s time to take a shower, which means a lot of time adjusting the temperature so that it isn’t too hot or too cold, then repeatedly washing myself despite the fact that I’ll never feel clean no matter how long I spend in there. The school bus shows up to take me, and I’m off to another exhausting day.
There are eight different subjects in one day, each with a twenty minute lecture and a twenty minute section of individual work and instruction. The working sections aren’t so bad since we get to actually do things during them, but I don’t understand why they still have lectures at all. No offense, but I can’t pay attention to any of them, and I usually get by with relying on the provided notes. If I wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted to get a reprieve I’d probably have had a meltdown by now. Even lunch, where I’m with people I enjoy talking to, means tiring social interaction. And after all that there’s still a twenty minute bus ride before I can finally get home.
Once I get home I have to spend about an hour just doing very little in order to de-stress from the day. My father always talks about how he did his homework right after school before he did anything else, and he wonders why I can’t do it too. But I don’t have the energy to do more schoolwork after being in school for six hours. Eventually, I obviously have to finish the work I didn’t get done at the school, but only after I’ve recharged. Sometimes I need more than an hour to recharge, and on the nights where I also have a lot of homework to get done I get to bed so late it makes the next cycle more difficult. Luckily, I get to spend most of a week doing nothing but resting and preparing myself for the rest of this semester and the start of the next one. Despite the fact that I have a few doctor’s appointments during the break, most of the days I have for myself. I have no plans for what I’m going to do, but the fact that I have control over the time is the important part. Of course, the break doesn’t start until Wednesday, so there’s still another two days of school before I can relax.
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Christmas is coming soon, which means everyone is expecting gifts. I can barely figure out what I want for presents, much less what other people want from me. I settled this with my parents for the last few years by asking them to tell me what they want for Christmas as a pre-Christmas gift. So I’m going to get my mother seat covers for her car and my father electric gloves. Luckily, we give the rest of our relatives’ gifts as a family, so I don’t technically have to be involved. For the rest of my gifts, I was going to ask for a game console, but I figured that was too expensive. So I just asked for some games and gift cards for future purchases. Gift card aren’t the most unique thing to get someone, but at least it has more of a personal touch than just giving them cash.
I wonder that by not coming up with gifts for them it makes my parents think I don’t care about them. This is especially important for my father, because he grew up giving and receiving a certain level of affectionate signals. Greetings, small facial gestures, thinking of gifts; what does he think I think about him if I don’t do those things? He may be able to read my face better than most people, but I’m not very expressive to begin with. And if I’m ever in a relationship with someone, how are they going to feel like I’m committed to them and want to be with them? If they’re like me, they won’t like that, or constant greetings, or be able to tell what my face is expressing. Some people even have touch sensitivity so badly that don’t want to be hugged or even touched in any way. How can you show someone like us you care without repeating it over and over until it loses all meaning? Unfortunately, I have no idea.
Kat and Mark also decided to use my idea for giving gift ideas with their parents, although Mark calls it his birthday present instead of an early Christmas gift since he was born on December 8th. Paul thinks we’re all ruining the spirit of Christmas or something. I don’t recall the actual spirit of Christmas entirely revolving around gift giving, although three of them are a small part of the original story. I do remember being a kid and being so excited I was unable to sleep Christmas night because I couldn’t wait to see what was in all those wrapped boxes in the morning. But all of those toys and clothes are now either given away, thrown out, or sitting in the attic somewhere. People make these goods, other transport them, and more work at stores that sell them. I just find it a shame that they’re work is going in large part towards the need for people to exchange gifts in order to show that they care for one another. But since I haven’t thought of a better way to show affection, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.
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On Thursday at lunch Paul asked us, almost whispering as if we were under surveillance, if any of us had Myspace accounts. Of course none of us did, which didn’t surprise him but he said it was worth asking. He’s used to communicating with people using it, including his friends from his old school and his family. It’s a very popular service among people like him, including my father, where they can share all sorts of things about their lives and keep up with the details of whatever the people they care about are doing. Users post pictures of themselves, tell people what they’re doing at any moment, and sometimes post pictures of themselves doing something at any moment. It’s just a constant stream of personal information that I don’t understand anyone wanting to go through constantly. But it remains popular, even though I’ve seen articles complaining about its interface and bloated features, because nobody’s created a competitor.
Obviously I use the internet quite a bit, but usually in anonymity. I find it a lot easier to converse through typing, since you can take time to properly prepare what you’re trying to say. Since most of the communication is through typed words, I’m not being judged on my tone of voice, stumbles in my speech, or my physical appearance. I’m just being judged for what I’m saying. As opposed to Myspace, which turns the internet into an extension of your offline life. I prefer keeping my internet life and person life separate, since my internet self is perceived better than my real life self and I’d like to keep it that way.
I do plenty of socialization online with complete strangers. I post on message boards, I have a group I play games with, and sometimes use chat rooms. I don’t know where exactly these people live, or what they look like, and, except for my gaming group that uses voice chat, what they talk like. I just know the words they type, and that’s all I can judge them on. Kat uses a website where she catalogues and ranks her music, but she does it under a pseudonym because she doesn’t need the world to know that she thinks Highway 61 Revisited is a five star album when Blonde on Blonde is only worth three stars or that OMD’s Maid of Orleans is the 53rd best song of the 1980s. I only know about it because we saw her using the account on her laptop, and she was reluctant to share it at first but then explained her methodology at length. Mostly she just communicates with strangers on that website that share her interests, and don’t care if she flaps her hands when she’s excited. The internet is a great tool that connects you to the entire world, from people posting tons of information on Wikipedia to video sharing sites to meeting people who you otherwise would never meet. It would be a shame to see it turned into a digital reflection of the real world.
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