The boy who ran away from home with me.

James The boy who ran away from home with me. * heycheri sherilynn macaleI took this picture of him nearly 10 years ago.

When I first met James, I thought he was so cool. He was the kind of cool that only a severely-sheltered girl of seventeen with zero worldly experience could imagine was cool. He had this sort of rebellious flair, this laid-back demeanor that made him stand out without having to say or do much at all. He had a presence, and when I first laid eyes on him, I immediately had a crush.

James was tall, fit, and had long legs. He had this mess of blonde, curly hair, and the other boys sort of flocked around him, naturally deferring to him in all matters requiring any sort of decision-making: where they sat, what they did after school, where they hung out during lunch — James was their leader. And when he spoke, it was always with purpose, always in that same deep rumble. He sounded like a man. He never seemed to vie for attention, and I suppose he never needed to, because everything he said made anyone within hearing distance stop to listen, and any small joke he made in passing cued belly-full laughter with ease.

From the first day he arrived at our little school, it became clear the other teenaged girls attending collectively believed that he was the guy to “get”. I remember seeing my female classmates walk by his desk during class to subtly pass him notes, letters he would unfold and read when the teacher wasn’t looking, then quietly smirk to. I remember seeing the school slut (yes, we had one of those) perch atop the edge of his desk and bunch her cleavage together between her arms while leaning toward him, striking up a conversation with him and laughing loudly at everything he said.

Though he was the object of many a girl’s affections, James remained cool. He never gave any one girl more attention than any of the others, and if anything, he ignored most of them to focus, instead, on his “boys”. They worshipped him for it.

For my part, I was never much of a flirt growing up. I was shy, incredibly well-behaved, nerdy, could barely dress myself, and a total tomboy. My idea of a good time was hanging out with my baby brother (still the coolest kid I know, by the way), playing video games, drawing, and writing in my diary. I didn’t exactly have much going on for me in the boobs department (and growing up, I actually believed breasts were everything), so when it became clear that what stood between me and James was a sea of young, hormone-driven teenaged girls all experienced in wooing and all eager to win him over, I gave up on the idea of us ever becoming an item and contented myself to merely fantasizing about what it might be like to date him.

Essentially, he had no idea I existed, and I was much too meek to assert myself and let him know I was alive.

Then one day, he talked to me.
He actually talked to me.
And us formally meeting completely changed my life.

*

We were in art class. My art teacher was a gentle sort of man, the type who quietly laughed off misbehaving students and very much wanted to be everyone’s friend. He never criticized our artwork even when it was truly terrible, but instead praised every chicken scratch doodle and encouraged us to keep practicing, raining down compliments on us at any sign of improvement. He was a major comic book nerd, and amidst the gaggle of delinquents surrounding me, I was his favorite student.

“Does anyone know who the X-Men are?” He asked us excitedly. There was a general but half-assed murmur of acknowledgement from the class, and I could see his shoulders slump a bit at the lack of energy.
“Yes,” I said, loud enough for him to hear over the mumbling and hoping to perk him up. He brightened at my response, continuing.
“Today, we’re going to invent our own superheroes! Does anyone have a favorite X-Man or superhero?”
“Sailor Moon!!” I squeaked enthusiastically, because Sailor Moon is the shit. Duh.
“WEENIE!!” Someone yelled at me from across the room. The class erupted in a fit of laughter.

Incensed, I swept the sea of giggling classmates for the source of this insult, surprised when I saw that it was him. James. His buddies were laughing and patting him on the shoulder, and he was looking at me with this triumphant smirk on his face, reclining back into his chair.

I couldn’t believe he just called me a “weenie”.
What the heck?!
Who even says “weenie”?!

… But it was such a harmless insult.
And he was just so cute.
And when I locked eyes with him, I couldn’t help my face getting hot.

I smiled nervously, then dropped my gaze to the pile of doodles on my desk, suddenly fascinated with the eraser on my mechanical pencil.

*

When class ended, I was far too eager to get out of there. Mortified at the idea that he had finally acknowledged my presence and faced with the potential opportunity to actually have a conversation with him, I did what any inexperienced and scared-shitless little girl with a crush would do: I stuffed my things into my backpack quickly, clutched my heavy three-ring binder to my nonexistent chest, and ran away! * To this day, I still suck at getting hit on. But just as I exited the door and had made it a few steps into the hallway, I heard him call for me.

“Hey! Hey, wait!” His voice was so recognizable. I knew it was him. When I hesitantly turned back toward art class, I saw him struggling to stuff his own papers into his backpack and hurrying in my direction. I quickly glanced around me, unsure if it was me he was speaking to.
“Uhm, me?” I asked shyly.
“Yeah, you,” he said, finally slinging his bag over his shoulder and standing next to me.

Oh god.
This was happening.
He was talking to me.
James was talking to me.
My brain short-circuited for a second, and I found myself staring. I had never seen him this closely before.

He had blue eyes. These really pretty, almond shaped eyes. And such long eyelashes. Wow.
And I mean, I know I’ve said it enough at this point, but man. He was so cute, and seventeen year old me was absolutely smitten.
I blurted the first thing that came to mind.

“What’s a weenie?”
He laughed, brushing his fingers through his mess of blonde curls before shoving his hand casually into the front pocket of his navy Dickeys, hiking his bag up higher on his shoulder. “You don’t know what a weenie is?”
“I mean, I know what a … Weenie is,” I said, sort of whispering the term in embarrassment, “but what did you mean?” I smiled shyly. I felt kinda sweaty. Man. Talking to cute boys is hard.
“Y’know. A weenie.” He glanced toward the ceiling and tipped his head from side to side, as if the movement would knock the definition out of his brain and onto his lips. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like, ‘dork’, or something.”
“Why did you call me that?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Because you’re a weenie. You gave a weenie answer.” He was smiling.
“Okay… I guess.” I said, not really knowing what to say to that.
“It was just a joke. You don’t really seem like a weenie,” he said. And I was relieved, for some reason, even though I didn’t know what he meant by weenie, because y’know, he was cute, and I wanted him to think I was cool just like I thought he was cool, because that’s how the teenaged mind works, okay? “What’s your name?” He asked.
“Cheri,” I said, still in disbelief that we were actually speaking to each other. “What’s yours?”
“James.”

I forget what we talked about after that.

And I guess it doesn’t really matter because the next thing I do remember doing with James was packing a bag and running away from home together, then going on one of the craziest adventures of my life living as a homeless teen for over seven months on the streets of Stockton, California, one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.

But y’know.
That’s a story for another time.

~ Sherilynn

Be Grateful for the Little Things.

Before I begin, I should say I meant to write this from the beach, but was afraid I’d let the point slip away if I leapt from my bed to bike on over there.

Ahem.

* * *

It was late at night. I had just gotten off of work, and my friends were in the neighborhood. They were all in good spirits, excited to see me (or so they acted) and in the mood for shenanigans. For my part, I was excited to see them as well but also felt kind of … Uhm. Weird.

It had been so long.
I was nervous.

What happens to me when I’m trapped behind a computer?
When I’m on the other side of reality and merely observing it, it freaks me out. Not leaving my apartment for too long gives me this kind of social anxiety, and it’s actually pretty awful.

The only thing that seems to really solve my impending introversion is to get the heck out there again and saturate myself in people. In real air. In the sounds of the city. In dog poop and smelly Bart escalators.

This experience will be good for you, Sherilynn, I thought to myself. What’s the worst that could happen?

My friends wanted to go to this playground nearby.
A playground, I thought? It felt like I was 17 again drinking forties of King Kobra with my then-boyfriend. Which, y’know, was actually kinda’ nice.
But it sounded fun.
So I came with.

Through most of our walk, I tried to reattune myself to their rhythm. Their cadence. They had been interacting with one another all night, and so were used to their collective presence. That’s generally what happens when a group stays together long enough. Sort of like how girls supposedly sync up during their periods (which I’m only somewhat convinced actually happens).

When we reached our destination, we took our seats atop a rickety, wooden boat — the kind pirates probably rowed out of their enormous ships — surrounded by a sea of playground sand.

There, we talked.
With the beer already drunk, we pursued company.

It was freezing.
Some of us were in one another’s laps and others huddled up for warmth.

I had gloves on.
I didn’t feel like cuddling.

I looked around me, and this guy — a friend of my friends who I had only previously met in passing — was sitting next to me, huddled over and kind of staring at everyone else just like I had been. I smiled to myself. I found the observation amusing.

“What’s on your back?” I asked, pointing to the thing on his back.
“Something,” he said, adjusting the thing on his back.
“It looks like a guitar.”
“That’s because it is.”
“Shut up.”
“What?”
“Is it really a guitar?”
“Yes,” he smiled, “it is.”

Now, normally I’m not the sort of girl to just up and ask someone to play guitar, but come on. We were in the middle of a playground in San Francisco, and most of us were buzzed. If that isn’t a God-given opportunity for Kumbaya, I don’t know what is.

“Do you know how to play it?”
“Um, yeah. I can play a few songs. Nothing special,” he murmured.
“Can I hear something?”
He laughed. “Sure,” he said, pulling out his guitar.

I waited.
He began strumming.

… And, okay.
Chords.
I’ve heard chords before.
My sister and Dad are rockstars on the guitar.
I grew up listening to them play.
I wanted something new.

“Do you, umm,” I started, scooting closer to him on our little bench and talking politely over the sound of his guitar. “Do you know any words to go with those sounds?”
He laughed again. “Yes,” he said, “I do.”

And when he started singing …
Let me tell you:

Guitar is an instrument to be played at close range. There’s something about the realness of it that just completely beats out this electric crash you hear over loudspeakers at music festivals, or on stage in local watering holes. It is intimate and beautiful. It’s an instrument that, when someone leans near while playing to let slip words in perfect tune to what feels like an unpredictable and thrilling acoustic wave of music, you feel this rhythm growing in your chest and a fire igniting in your loins. You feel your heart leap into your throat. You feel your hair stand on end, and your thighs quiver.

Guitar up close is sex.

No wonder the Beatles got so much punani.

And his voice was just … Whoa.
Surprising, coming out of him.
He didn’t look like a singer.

And when he stopped, I screamed.
And I totally got why people screamed for the Beatles.
I mean, he was no Beatle, but he sang this song about being in love with a girl and it was just the cutest, most amazing thing. It felt like he’d been studying out of a sensation-tickling textbook and was putting what he learned into practice.

I don’t know how else to describe how excited I was.

And the reason I tell this story is because:

In life, I think it’s important to find pleasure in the little things; those observant somethings and forgettable nothings. I think it’s important to find pleasure in pure observation of all of these amazing things going on around us and all of these new experiences, and to feel, with sincerity, that those things are incredible. InterestingOf value.

I believe that in life, a healthy curiosity is absolutely necessary to survive in the face of change. I believe that it is important not to think of change as this shifting, scary, and unfamiliar obstacle to overcome, but as an experience or a journey in which there is no right or wrong outcome.

Be grateful for the little things.

Guitar.
A sweet voice.
Friends we haven’t seen in forever.
Our memories.

We can get so bogged down by worries and overwhelmed by how we believe things should be that we forget to appreciate the small stuff. We become so intent on being in control of every little thing we experience that when something flies out of control, we focus on it so intently that it drives us insane.

So, forget all of the shitty mistakes you’ve made.
Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes.
In fact, you’re supposed to make them.
How else are you supposed to build a more educated guess on how to handle similar situations in the future? I mean, try your very best not to fuck everything up, but also be forgiving with yourself when you do.

Y’know, somewhere on my blog, there is an entry about perspective.
My thoughts on it are the same now as they were then: Remember and be grateful for all of the wonderful things in your life, and let that be that. Gratitude is a practice that should be practiced daily, and it is only when we shift our perspective to be constantly aware and appreciative of the wonderful pieces of our day-to-day lives that we can truly feel at peace with ourselves.

Oh, and get off your computer.

… K.
Off to the beach.

- Sherilynn

 

No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood.

Something terrible happened two days ago.

Seven people died in Southern California, and even more were severely injured when twenty two year old UCSB student Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree.

His motivation?
Retribution.

… Or, that’s how he put it in the video blog he posted to YouTube just six hours before hopping into his BMW with an automatic pistol and taking to the streets to enact his plans.

This is that video:

0 No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

The original video was pulled from YouTube where it had been posted to Elliot Rodger’s personal account. This is a lower quality copy posted to an unrelated channel, preserving it for viewing.

What scares me most about this video is how many men in my life I know that might feel exactly the same as Elliot did, but are too afraid, or too prideful to reach out for help. It scares me to think that any of the people I know and love could snap at any moment because of a pent up frustration they feel with society. And it makes me sad to see this kid, a kid who is younger than my baby brother, lose his life so senselessly while destroying the lives of several others in the process.

Elliot Rodger No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

A young Elliot Rodger with his hair bleached blonde, pulled from his Facebook page.

Leading up to the killing spree, Elliot shared several video blogs detailing the small pleasures in life he would take to alleviate himself of the pain he felt from being scorned by women — a walk through a parking lot near his favorite golf course toward the setting sun, his drive home from attending school, etc. He peppered these videos with thoughts such as how unloved he felt. Alone. He very much believed that life was unfair (which, admittedly, it really is). He was tortured by the thought that “obnoxious men” could so easily win over the women he lusted for while he, a “perfect gentleman”, was still a virgin at 22.

A friend of mine texted me this:

photo No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

If others can handle it, why did Elliot snap? Why was his situation different? Was it mental illness? Was it that he didn’t have friends to turn to? Did he grow up in an environment that fostered that mentality? Was he exposed to reading or information that altered his views in an unhealthy way?

Whatever the reason, we can’t let this happen again.
We can’t let people go on feeling like they’re alone.
Like they’re misunderstood, or unfairly treated.
No one should be afraid to reach out for help, and it hits way too close to home to think that so many people are suffering and feel that they can do nothing about it.
There has to be something we can do to prevent something like this in the future.

Feeling compelled to make a difference, and also because this happened so close to me (a friend of mine who I only just attended a music festival with in San Francisco was shot in the leg by Elliot, and she is grateful she did not receive worse), I took to Facebook and approached my 200,000+ following to offer what help I could, hoping to make even the smallest difference. Should I offer dating advice online, I wondered aloud?

One response from Facebook follower Aimee Pepper read:

“He had severe malignant NPD [Narcissistic Personality Disorder]. A makeover would not have helped him. He would have been disgusted at the thought of it and thought of you as just another ‘entitled bitch’ or ‘slut who only wants cavemen’.

This guy had a mental disorder that flew under the radar for long enough that by the time his parents started getting him help for it, he was able to charm his way out of any repercussions or roadblocks to what eventually happened. He also found a home for his horrible thoughts and ideals in the MRA community, and while I don’t think MRA was the sole contributing factor in what he did, I think that it fostered an environment where he got constant affirmation for his ideas and feelings.

It’s like, obviously not every racist or KKK person is going to form a lynch mob, but I’m damn sure that the KKK community certainly encouraged way more to happen by creating an environment where it was considered okay. Same with this. Not every MRA guy is gonna shoot up a college, but the ideals and motivations behind what he did are very common ones in that community.

You could not have helped this guy. You’re not a qualified professional and even those guys didn’t help him. What needs to change is society as a whole.”

Please note that I have yet to fact-check the statements made in this quote, and further research may be necessary. For more on NPD, check this Wikipedia entry.

I agreed with Pepper on the point of society needing to change as a whole. What could we all do, I thought, to work towards some sort of solution to a problem some of us didn’t even know existed?

Pepper offered this in reply:

“…we need to promote the idea that society needs to be more accepting and understanding of mental illnesses so that it’s easier to recognize and diagnose them and so that people don’t feel ashamed for getting help.

We also need to crush the idea that masculinity comes from the possession of a woman, because that was truth to this guy and it made him feel like less of a man, which clearly didn’t sit well with his NPD.”

So, how can we do that?
I see campaigns pop up regularly across my social news feeds asking me and others to participate in this or that to support this cause or that cause — and those sort of campaigns have never moved me. They have never really urged me to join and make a difference.

What can we do to really get people to want to make a change?
Do more people need to snap or die in order for us to see that this is a problem?
More importantly, what can I do to help?

I need to know these answers.
I wish someone had them.

I have been sad before. I have been lonely. I have felt the crushing burden of expectations, and without friends, without family, I feel I never could have climbed out of the mental prison I had built around myself. Believe me, if I could be everyone’s best friend and be there for everyone when anyone most needed it, I would be, but I can’t.

What can I do?

For my part, I have this blog. I have my Facebook with craptons of followers. And I have several presences across the web where folks follow me for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes, they even listen to the things I have to say.

Is there something I should be saying to these people to urge others to recognize loneliness and mental illness in others? Some message I should be delivering that I am not already? What can I do to help? What am I missing?

If you have any ideas on how I can use my social and Internet influence to help prevent this sort of situation in the future, please chime in and let me know. I want to make a difference. And if you have any ideas on how we can all make a difference, please say so.

And if you, whoever you are, found this blog post and feel that you are alone, or feel frustrated to the point of snapping, please, please reach out to someone. Anyone. And keep reaching out for as long as you need the help. Please know that there are people out there who genuinely care and sincerely want to help. We want you to get better. We want you to be happy.

Please comment below with your thoughts. No one should have to go through this ever again. We have to do something.

Needing Change,
Sherilynn “Cheri” Macale

Edit: Smart comments made about this post across the web and uploaded as I discover them:

Screen Shot 2014 05 25 at 12.21.29 PM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.42.45 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.42.55 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.43.24 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.45.48 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.46.25 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale

Screen Shot 2014 05 28 at 10.46.42 AM No one should have to feel lonely or misunderstood. * heycheri sherilynn macale