Transitions Part I

Brina Sherwin was a spunky little girl with thick black hair and deep brown eyes that burned with a contagious happiness. Subtle freckles dotted her sharp nose, and her thin lips were always curved up in a smile. She lived across the street in the mustard yellow house with the big window where the garage should have been.

Almost all of my golden childhood memories involved her and her cousin Bradyn—Jet’s best friend—as we spent endless hours playing in our front yards, or going swimming at the mansion her grandma, Jackie, worked for as a maid. As we got older though and got further into school Brina would pretend that she didn’t know me or would go so far as to make fun of me. Brina Sherwin was the first friend I ever had and the first “bully” I ever encountered.

I put bully in quotes, because Brina in my mind has never actually registered as a bully compared to others I have encountered. She never made me cry,and she never stole my lunch money. She was just teasing me because I was an easy target perhaps, or maybe she was just playing those dumb play ground games where girls are mean to the boys they like. Either way, she was the first person I can remember who made me feel bad about being myself in a public setting.

Though what you need to understand about Brina, in order to do her name justice, is that even though she teased me and pushed me around when we were kids, when school was over and we went home, she and I were best friends. I remember when I was in the school play as a second grader she’d sit there and help me with my lines. Though if I got it wrong she’d beat me up with her karate, that she learned while she lived with her mom in Oklahoma.

Brina’s parents were divorced. Or at least that’s what she had been told and in turn that’s what she told me. I’m not sure now though as I look back on it if they were ever even married. Brina lived with her dad Mitchel who in turn lived in his mother’s mustard yellow house with the really green grass and the enormous tree in the front. So needless to say she never really saw her mom. There were lots of summers while we were growing up that her plans to go visit her mom would fall through and if devastation was palpable then you could have entered into a world built out of the shattered dreams of a broken hearted child.

Sometimes I think we forget that adults are just grown up children, and sometimes I think adults forget that children don’t realize that. Right now I wonder if Brina’s mother ever really knew how much her daughter loved her, or how hurt she left her daughter when she’d put off seeing her. Brina might have been a bully in the vaguest sense of the term, but she was a human being with the same range of emotions as myself. She was only a little girl, but day by day she, like myself and every child I suppose, was beginning to understand the flawed nature of the Eden she had constructed in her mind. Simply put, adults, but more specifically parents, aren’t perfect.

Eventually we moved out of that house and into another, larger one in North Las Vegas. Over time I lost contact with my childhood best friend and new friends came along. I started my life over in my new surroundings and it would be in this new dream house that I’d come to understand more clearly what it meant to be bullied, and no time more poignantly than in Mrs. Perkins’ 3rd grade class.

When I first arrived at Eva Wolfe Elementary I loved it. The school was brand new and clean. O.K. Adcock had been old and all the classrooms were outside. I don’t mean that our classes were held in a field, that’d be stupid. What I mean is that every door to each classroom lead outside. In newer schools all the classrooms are inside, Eva Wolfe was no exception. In short, my new school was a physical embodiment of my own Tree of Knowledge.

The three years I spent at that school established much of the foundation of my life, and Mrs. Perkins’ class most of all. When I first arrived, school was much the same as it had always been. I went, made friends, played on the playground with them, and did work. Partway through the school year, however, things changed and I was selected to be in a new class with a new teacher.

After the switch happened something occurred that I hadn’t anticipated. All of the kids from Mrs. Perkins’ class would have nothing to do with me. I was no longer one of them. Scared by this I begged Mom to get me back into my class and after a chat with the principal I was back in. I was again one of them, or so I thought.

For some reason unknown to me I was still just as fiercely persecuted now as I had been when I was in the other class. And thus began the teasing. I was called an assortment of names, granted we were 3rd graders and as such had 3rd grader vocabularies, but I remember at this time Mrs. Perkins began a new rule that she wouldn’t hear tattletales. Needless to say that when I’d tell her what the kids were calling me, she’d tell me more or less, in 3rd grade teacher vocabulary, to get over it. But to my ears it sounded more like: “You’re not important enough for me to care.”

I don’t understand most teachers. They go into the profession for mainly two reasons, 1) to help kids, or 2) or to teach a subject they love. Elementary school teachers can only really be the first reason in my book, and if that’s true, then Mrs. Perkins’ had lost her purpose somewhere along the way. She wasn’t much better than the kids, and maybe to her I was just that one kid who picked his nose in class. But I don’t why me being a naïve, nose picking kid gave her the right to raise her voice in disgust and draw attention to the fact I was picking my nose during class. Not only that, but then by doing so give an unconscious “ok” to the rest of the class to treat me in similar fashion.

A lot of time has passed since I was in 3rd grade, and I thank God that he gave me the talent of being good at picking something. Yes, I just thanked God for making me a good nose picker. Why? Because it forced me to learn how be good at picking other things, more important things like friends for example. So to all you nose pickers out there, and there are a lot of us, keep on pickin’. One day you really will find gold.

Now what does my history with being bullied have to do with this story? I’ll be brief. Everything. This is just one more piece of my foundation that you need to understand if you’re to grasp the person that I am at my core. Again, I’m about the details.

So after three posts, two of which actually have dealt with my story here at BYU-Idaho, I’m sure you’re wondering if I had any friends here in Rexburg or if I spent my time strolling around thinking about Eden. Well I didn’t walk around. The only walking I did and still do is what was and is absolutely mandatory, like to the bathroom. Heck I don’t even like to walk out into my kitchen to get myself food, because it requires me to leave my bed. Therefore it’s safe to assume I’m neither obese nor in shape. I’m about as American as they come baby. So instead of walking I made friends, and they made me walk around with them under the idea that we were “having a good time,” and we’d talk about Eden. Didn’t see that coming now did you?

Moving forward, BYU, BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii force their students to live not only by an Honor Code, (which is fine, the Honor Code does help to keep stupidity to a minimal,) but for some reason, devoid of solid logic, also in Approved Housing.  What does this mean? It means that the college creates a monopoly in which all apartments must be up to snuff for students, (which is really nice actually,) but also hinders who students can live with, mainly the opposite sex or where they can live. There’s lots of cheaper places in Rexburg to live, but because you can’t live there and the apartments know it they can charge through the nose for housing.

Now most people reading this who don’t mind the rules at BYU will say to themselves, “Duh.” Now here’s my perspective. I’m a gay man, I’m attracted to men, (and I’m told I have excellent taste,) and the school is forcing me to live with 5 other men. Now I could rent an apartment in which I don’t have to share a room, but I pay for everything myself and I don’t want to pay through the nose on rent so do to circumstance I share a room with another man. So what if that other man was to be gay? The entire purpose of Approved Housing suddenly falls through.

In similar fashion to how the school wont let hetero girls room with hetero guys, why would it be okay for gay men or women to room together? It doesn’t make sense if you’re trying to keep kids out of each other’s pants. Stick me with a girl and you can know for a fact that she and I aren’t gonna be anything more than friends. You’d probably walk in on us watching New Girl actually. And that would be our life, except backwards; one man rooming with five women…  Wait. Now that I’ve thought about that maybe I’ll just be content with men. The bathroom won’t smell like period at least. How do you even get rid of that smell? Catch the trashcan on fire?

Anyways I lived with five other guys and at the time such thoughts about the rules on Approved Housing had never once crossed my mind. I had bigger concerns, like how I was going to survive the semester on two hundred bucks, or how I was going to cook without any cookware. My can of rice and my can of pinto beans weren’t going to just magically appear hot and ready on my only plate. And now after a long day of school I didn’t have a mother to prepare those rice and beans with all the love a heart can contain. No, after a long day of school was just the rest of the day.

It was now in the light of being completely dependent on my own abilities for survival that I began to wonder if this was what being an adult was all about. Was I really an adult now? There was a terrifying excitement to the idea that made my heart skip a beat. But more now than ever I wondered how I could have been on this ship towards adulthood my entire life and never once realize that the shores of my childhood had become that black horizon of the past.



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