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art theplaceI was a weird kid growing up.

And, in many ways, I’m even weirder as an adult. Since day one, being weird is something I embrace. I’m proud of it, even though I don’t give it much thought, because I think being weird is normal, and being normal is, well, boring.

I seek out other weird people, too. Folks who are a little off-centered, a little out there, those unique devil-may-care members of society that provoke the chaos, all in the name of good fun and pure intent. They not only fascinate me, they define me. They connect the dots of my life and justify why I am who I am, which is a sentiment that took many years to fully realize.

When I was in fourth grade, my catholic elementary school had enough of me. I asked too many questions. I interrupted too much. I had too much energy. I was too “out of control.” So, they demanded I see a psychiatrist and find out what was “wrong” with me. It was the mid-1990s and the latest craze was putting rambunctious children on this new “wonder drug” — Ritalin. 

Sitting on the couch in a medical office, I gazed around the room then back to the psychiatrist when she asked why I was there that day. I shrugged my shoulders. My behavior didn’t seem out of place. Even then, I felt I was just another 10-year-old acting like a 10-year-old does — easily bored, can’t sit still, can’t focus, wanting to be outside and not in the classroom. At the end of our session she escorted me out the door and said, “You know, you’re a pretty smart kid, Garret, and I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. You have too much energy and can’t focus, that’s all.”

Thus, I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and put on Ritalin. I hated it. I felt like a zombie. All of my energy was zapped, all of my imagination and curiosity dried up, where now I sat quietly and politely at my school desk, never once feeling the urge to bust out and blurt out whatever was on my mind — “I just gotta get it out,” I used to tell my mother.

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And that’s the way it went for me, for years. Truth be told, I don’t know what was worse — being on the pills or being teased for being on the pills. Kids can be the cruelest. I was an easy target walking to the school nurse’s office as my peers would ridicule me about taking “my crazy pills.” I felt alone, an outsider, and I wondered if I’d ever see the day where I was cured and “normal” like the other students. 

Somewhere around tenth grade I had enough. I told my mom I didn’t want to be a zombie anymore. I wanted to be me again. I took myself off Ritalin and vowed that I’d figure out how to focus and behave on my own accord. Determined to do so, I got my shit together, eventually getting good grades and putting all that pent up energy into school sports (mainly cross-country and track). 

That success in high school academics and athletics led to a mirrored experience in college. And then, like a lightning bolt blasting through my soul, I found writing. For a kid that was continuously told he “would never be able to focus on anything,” I could sit down for hours and lose myself in filling blank notebook pages with words. 

In the years since I took myself off Ritalin, I have fully immersed myself in my passions and personality. I am wild. I am weird. I am a writer. I have no shame and will always attack life with the same zest and inquisitive mind I had at age 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and, now, 30. 

I’m vehemently against medicating a child to suppress their wild sides. There’s nothing wrong in being loud or odd. Sure, get to the bottom of the situation, but use one of the way more effective and natural ways of solving the issue — music, art, writing, sports, etc. Give them something to focus on. Give them a hobby. Hand them an instrument, soccer ball or a pen and paper. In my experience, looking back, I was a wild child because I was bored and hadn’t yet discovered something worthy of my time.

But, most importantly, tell them there’s nothing wrong with being weird, because it’s the weirdos who end up entertaining us all someday, either on TV or the radio or the stage or in books that capture our attention. Besides, life isn’t black and white, it’s an endless color spectrum, with each day a fresh canvas to create upon.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.


Hot picks

1 Dave Desmelik will perform during a benefit for his son who has brain cancer at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville.

2 Author David Joy will present his new novel Where All Light Tends to Go at 6:30 p.m. March 6 at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.

3 Porch 40 (funk/rock) will perform at 9 p.m. Feb. 26 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.

4 A stage production of the Vagina Monologues will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 27-28 in the UC Grandroom at Western Carolina University.

5 Darren Nicholson Band (bluegrass/Americana) will perform at 7:30 p.m. March 5 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.

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