Chris and I were driving the other day. After passing a “pumpkin patch,” we started talking about all those hackneyed family photos we’ve never really participated in, and how funny it would be if we got everyone to dress up in our goth-y-est getups and go around taking the same pics with our…. special family twist. You know, “pumpkin patch” autumn photos with both the boys in black, glaring out from under shaggy hair, arms crossed, both standing next to Chris and I, who are equally austere and darkly dressed.
Skip to the almighty family Christmas photo. Ha! I think we’ve done that maybe once in 20 years of playing house. But we could certainly pull off the most awesome “Fucked Up Davis Family Christmas” pics, fo sho. There would be a Santa and some bird-flipping involved. No smiles. NO SMILES!
Cut to Halloween. It ruins our plans. We’d simply look normal.
I’ve never been a big celebrator. I was done with Halloween at a fairly young age. Strange fact, especially considering my love for all things horror. I’ve just never been a dresser-upper. I enjoy seeing the pics of all you guys who are my age and still love dressing up for Hollerween, and cosplay equally- all the creative costumes that didn’t come from a store are super cool. But for myself, it just doesn’t rev my engine. Never has.
Same with Christmas, birthdays, (enter the name of any holiday here). I can’t really say why. I don’t know. I’ve just never gotten excited about things like that. Decorating my house, giving/receiving gifts, dressing in costume….. it just all seems like too much trouble for little reward.
In other words, I’m boring.
Or perhaps my dopamine receptors- the pleasure center of my brain- simply require a different kind of fuel to catch fire?
I do enjoy things. Meaning, I am not pathologically wretched. I think it comes down to the bare-bones definition of the phrase “old soul.” I’ve heard it used mostly as a synonym for “deep-thinking” or “profound,” but those are misnomers. When I Googled the phrase “old soul,” however, the first result that popped up was spot on. LonerWolf’s 9 Signs You’re an Old Soul hits it out of the park. I won’t go through all 9, as a couple seem to mirror each other, but I’ll touch on the bigger points-
“You tend to be a solitary loner” Ya think? Yes, I have friends. And yes, I had friends my own age when I was a child, but I always knew there was part of the relationship that was missing. I knew 99% of those friends did not have the same thoughts I had. I knew I had ideas and interests that I would never be able to share with them. Many of my thoughts and ideas as a child would have been perceived by my peers as about as exciting as a hedge maze in the shape of a Mobius strip, and many were far and away outside of the boundaries of “appropriateness.” Even today, my habit of over-thinking drives people nuts. And when I tell people that the first full-length novel I ever read was Stephen King’s Carrie, and I was in the second grade, or that I was (at least in thought) extremely sexually precocious at an even younger age, eyebrows inevitably raise. Yet, I was happy inside my own head. I never feared my thoughts. I was never ashamed. I was curious. Intrigued. Yes, intrigued with myself. And I learned very early on that I was going to have to do a whole lot of pretending in order to survive my childhood. Could that be why I find no enjoyment in dressing in costume for Halloween? Perhaps my human suit I wear every day is my costume. Oh! The profundity! (insert cackling laughter). It’s probably also why Disney, the World, the Land, the corporation, the manufacturer of assembly-line fantasy, has also never done much for me. When I was little, I remember watching the movies and cartoons and feeling insulted. How dare they try to define me with a silly happy ending and talking animals! “MoooOOOooom! Can I read your Stephen King books?” The smartest thing she ever did was tell me “No.”
“You love knowledge, wisdom, and truth” ……. and it’s gotten me in trouble on more occasions than I can count. It sounds like a humble brag, yes? But when you strip away the aura that surrounds those words, what it’s really saying is that an old soul is incapable of believing anything for the sake of conformity. Everything must be questioned. Nothing is accepted at face value. Disbelief until proven otherwise is an old soul’s reflex, not acceptance until proven otherwise. That is a precarious position to be in when you’re a child. A child is expected to take a parent or a teacher’s word at face value. Although a teacher may pay lip service to a desire for their students to be curious, most of my teachers had no idea what they were getting themselves into with me. I was the “Why Kid,” the kid who constantly had my hand up, but mostly to ask a question rather than answer one. Why? How do you know? WHY? WHY? WHY? I learned fairly early to just shut up and regurgitate until I got home. That was after my 6th grade teacher gave me seven detentions in one day because I refused to stop raising my hand. It was a classic Breakfast Club “Bender/Mr. Vernon” standoff. Thankfully, she was 9 months pregnant, went on maternity leave, and forgot to let the substitute know of my wickedness.
“You’re spiritually inclined” Yes, but not religiously so- spiritually insofar as having a fascination with consciousness, and the validity of the consciousness of others around me. I can’t speak for all old souls, but I have always had a solipsistic bent. It goes back to the “disbelief until proven otherwise” concept, even metaphysically so. To be able to believe that all things outside my own consciousness exist mutually exclusive of my own self is a HUGE leap for me. One of my earliest memories is a xerox copy of this concept. I was 4 years old, sitting on the floor at preschool. The wall to my right was all window, floor to ceiling, and I could see the school buses parked in a line just outside. The carpet was a pattern of colored diamonds, very busy, very 70s. As I sat, I traced the outlines of the diamonds. The teacher was speaking, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was watching my finger as I traced, and thought to myself “I wonder if all the other kids can see what I am seeing. Can they see the diamonds? Are the diamonds they see different than the diamonds I see? I probably shouldn’t say that out loud….. someone might think I’m weird…..” Now that I think about it, that last phrase is the motto of my entire life. “I probably shouldn’t say that out loud…. someone might think I’m weird…..” I learned very early on how to wear my human costume well.
“You understand the transience of life” …… and it’s frighteningly liberating. Life itself- human life- human consciousness- is a fascinating microcosm. Much like the fleeting life of a comet traveling too close to the sun, the microsecond birth of a new star, or the rogue planet on an unintended path of destruction, human life is equally bound by chaos, coming and going from the Earth at the whims of nothing. It’s liberating because I am able to recognize when I become lost in human mundanity- the Game of LIfe- The Machine. I’m not afraid to play my own game, write my own rules, and decide that those things society labels as desirable hold no interest for me. It’s frightening because this line of thought can easily lend itself to sociopathy, or nihilism at its very softest. The questioning of any sociopath will reveal a touch of solipsism, nihilism, narcissism, and the understanding of the transience of life. The one thing that separates the old soul from the sociopath is the spiritual quest for the definition of kindness, the deliberate understanding that its opposite is cruelty, and the desire to display kindness and abhor cruelty. In itself, it would seem that these things stand at odds with the belief that anything outside yourself may not exist. Why bother defining kindness and cruelty within the confines of one’s own fantasy? Reflexive disbelief. The understanding that although the solipsistic law of parsimony would conclude that my own existence is the only provable existence (I think; therefore, I am, and you are, because I am), there also exists the understanding that I may be wrong (I think; therefore, I am, and you are, because you are).
“You aren’t materialistic” …… as opposed to those who crave objects and define themselves by the procurement of them. Bigger. Better. A newer model. I am not a house, nor am I defined by the one I choose to live in. I am not a car or a television or an outfit or a piece of jewelry. I have these things. I desire these things. But I don’t live and die by them. I am not defined by them. I am not defined by how my material world compares to that of someone else, nor do I judge a character by the house it lives in or the car it drives or the money it spends on subjective frivolity. In fact, my reaction to someone else’s perceived importance on the basis of their material world is the exact opposite of the reaction they expect to receive- all I see is complete lack of substance.
“You were a strange, socially maladaptive kid”…… and truer still, when I right-click on the underlined word “maladaptive,” the only option I get is “manipulative.” Yes and yes. It is only natural that one begets the other. Not only was I maladaptive, I was downright dysfunctional. Growing up in the Deep South didn’t help matters much, though I have enjoyed, via Facebook, watching some of my old high school buddies branch out from their deep southern roots a bit and show a little of their own weirdness while still staying true to themselves, amazingly so. I was always weird. Everything I did was weird. At first, I wasn’t trying. In fact, I was trying to pretend to be normal, it just never seemed to work. No matter how hard I tried, something always fell out of my mouth that gave away my true nature. I was fortunate enough to have a small posse of buds to catch me when I fell, but I almost always fell. So, I gave up, and purposefully stopped trying to hide my weirdness. If everyone around me thought I was Satan incarnate, why not prove them right? Why not have a little fun and scare the living shit out of everyone? No reason, just fun. Which again caused me to question where I fell on the scale of sociopathy. Is it a normal thing for a 12-year-old girl to question whether she has a conscience? Is it a normal thing for her to painstakingly pick through every single soul in her world by name to see if any of those names evoked feelings of love or empathy (spoiler: They did). It was only in the last 5 or 6 years that I have been able to put a name to my conscience- “Selective Conscience,” and it was only through finding a true female soulmate in the most unlikely of places that I was able to discover that about myself.
“You just “feel” old”……. “This can often be perceived as being aloof and cold, which is only one of many Old Soul Myths.”…… Yes. I feel old. I have felt old since my earliest memories. I have been ready to move out and “be all growed up” since the day I learned to tie my shoes. Instead of feeling the shock of adulthood, I spent 17 years feeling the torment of a childhood I never belonged in, like a marionette with strings being pulled by adults who (I perceived) loved to lord over children for the sheer fun of wielding unchecked authority. The only thing I could do to feel comfortable in my own skin was to rebel. To question. Constantly. To refuse giving my respect to anyone on the trite notion that children must respect their elders. To scream when I was told to be quiet. To bang, as loudly as I could, on a piano after I was scolded for playing it in church, after which the scolder attempted to “pray with me,” all while I laughed at her attempt to exorcise my demons…. and then I banged some more. To laugh, long and loud, while I was being spanked. To tell a high school teacher (who shall remain unnamed) to “fuck off” when I was scolded for a pair of shorts that did not pass the archaic dress code. The “side-hug” was my hallmark. I felt, even as a very young girl, that physical affection was forced on children, that all adults assumed children desire it, even need it, and they give it without asking permission to enter a child’s personal space. A child MUST desire her mother’s hugs and kisses, right? A child MUST feel loved when a teacher wraps her arms around them, yes? No. Yet it was even more complicated than that. It wasn’t that I inherently did NOT desire it, it was the assumption that I DID and the failure to ASK that repulsed me. What I sought was autonomy, the cutting of my strings, to be left alone to choose my path and the people I allowed to walk it with me. Aloof and cold? To those who I have not allowed on my path, yes. I have no allegiance to anyone save those to whom I have pledged it. I felt an allegiance to my mother as a girl because I loved her, not because she was my mother. I feel an allegiance to my husband because I love him and I have pledged it, not because he is my husband.
I feel an allegiance to my children because children are the only humans who are born with a birthright to the allegiance of their parents, unconditional allegiance and love, an allegiance and a love that is not required to be reciprocated unless a parent has proven they deserve it.
I am old. I have been old since the day I was born. The things that excite me today are the things that have excited me since the beginning of my time on this Earth.
- I am a creator.
- I am a silent observer.
- I am a questioner, a disbeliever but an active seeker of truth, even if I stubbornly choose not to believe it.
- I am a storyteller for the sake of the journey, not the audience.
- I am selfish with a shallow well of devotion that I must ration carefully, only to those who have earned it.
- I am a lone runner who cannot understand the concept of a “running buddy.”
- I am a family girl who has never, ever been able to grasp the concept of extended family vacations. Family reunions. Week-long family trips with aunts and uncles and cousins. Whoa. Personal space, people. Personal space.
- I am a player on a team of one; I cannot be responsible for anyone else’s destiny.
- I am an introspective narcissist, made clear by this silly blog of constantly evolving self-definition.
- I am a writer of magic, yet I don’t believe in it.
- I am a collector of karma, yet…. I don’t believe in it.
- I am an anonymous giver; saying “you’re welcome” are two of the hardest words I have ever tried to muster.
- I am a learner who refuses to be taught.
- I am a wanderer with clear goals at the end of an unplanned path of which I have no map.
- I am obnoxious.
- I am loud and naked when I drink too much.
- I eat the exact same thing every single day.
- I am a nonconformist for the sake of nonconformity alone.
- I am a true rebel without a cause because it has been my milieu for so long that I don’t know any different, and us “old folks” don’t take too kindly to change.
For good or ill, I am an old soul. Terrible at parties, on the off-chance I accept an invitation. My best friend, one of the triad that completes my inherent self, together with my mother and husband, lives 10 minutes down the road, yet we still communicate- 100% of the time- via email, using the same email addresses we used the very first time we ever met, and she is the only person I ever email using that address. And if all that isn’t weird enough, we share the same psychiatrist.
I drive my husband crazy. My kids are used to it. My mother knew it from the time I spoke my first words. I’d have never met my best friend if I were any different. And I still rather doubt that any of you even exist.
Cogito, ergo sum. Cogito, ergo es. Fortasse.