I moved around a lot when I was younger. I was born in Italy, and over the next seven years I lived in a total of four places. This was due to my father being in the military. My mother secretly hated moving so much, though she never said anything until long afterwards. There is a reason for this. You see, my family has been clinically diagnosed as codependent. What that means, for those who don't know, is that everybody in my family takes responsibility for somebody else's emotional state, each of us keeping another in their thrall to serve their emotional needs because we're each too busy serving someone else's emotional needs to take care of ourselves. This has been dealt with, to a large extent, but it nonetheless had a huge impact on my childhood. - - - One of the ways that it affected my childhood is that the stress stunted my growth. I'm at the 10% percentile for male adult height in the US, and it's certainly not for lack of fresh air, food, and exercise. (I mountain bike, I lived next to a forest for years, and everybody in my family knows how to cook well.) So I've always been short and I used to be weak and vulnerable to emotional abuse -- at least I wasn't fat as well. Not a good combination, nevertheless. While I was living in Central VA from 1989 to 2000, I went to a total of six different schools from second grade to ninth grade. This was due to a vicious cycle of being lonely and singled out, being molested relentlessly by almost everybody, being miserable because of it, and being moved to a different school to be lonely and singled out yet again. High school was marginally better, partly because I had begun to sense on an instinctive level that I needed to stick my problems out instead of being swept off by my parents to a new place where I once again wouldn't know anybody. It was only because I did stay at the same high school for all four years that I was able to make such a revolutionary change in my life during my senior year; I knew people and they knew me, even if they didn't like the kind of person they thought I was. In the early fall of 1999, after being inspired by my big-city cousin's bleached hair and snazzy MiniDisc player, (god, what a stereotype that is!) I borrowed the look from him. The effect was incredible; I walked into school and literally nobody recognized me. I sat down in class -- got up, bought a soda -- sat back down -- and about five minutes later the person behind me yelled, "holy shit!" With me at the center, an expanding ring of astonishment and muttered curses reverberated throughout the room. There are not many times in a person's life when they can feel their life change direction; some people, I suppose, may never have such an experience. This was such an experience. The effect from a simple change of appearance was so strong that, in the brief time that nobody knew what to think of me, I rebuilt my image as a person worth paying attention to. I still get a little zing of adrenaline when I recall that instant. There was a problem, though. While I had suddenly become somebody in the eyes of my peers, it was the last year of high school and I had missed out on the previous eight years of social development. (it would have been ten years, were it not for a smart-kid school I attended for a while.) I managed to keep from embarassing the hell out of myself (or at least managed to roll it into a joke when I did embarass the hell out of myself), but after graduation everybody expectedly went their separate ways, as did I, and that was the end of that. I went to college in New Jersey. I knew I needed a change, and Jersey was definitely a change from Lynchburg, VA, Jerry Falwell's town, the home of the moral majority. As much as the change was refreshing, I was also completely unprepared to deal with it. I spent the next four years with the same four people. I did keep up with their rate of maturation, but I never did catch up to where they were. As far as spending time with people not like myself, well, that rarely happened at all. The problem wasn't that I didn't want to expand my social horizons, the problem was that I didn't know how. I could go to a party and drink and sit on the couch and be invisible. While I was (and am) good enough at interacting with people my own age to keep from scaring them away, I didn't (and don't) know enough about human behavior to be proactive and actually find people to spend time with. All of the people who are my friends at this point are people who found me. Too bad everybody's moving in opposite directions while they try to build lives for themselves. - - - So now I'm working full-time in a small office, living on my own, working out a couple of times a week, doing pretty well all in all -- and spending all of my time either at work, at my father's house, on the trail, or alone at home. Not only am I not interested in the kinds of things that twenty-somethings do for fun, I'm not even any good at pretending that I'm interested in them. And god help me if I should attract the attention of a woman, I feel like I'm being preyed upon because of my lack of understanding of what the hell I'm supposed to be doing. (don't get me wrong, I'm a smart guy and my instincts carry me through well enough, thank god, but I have to suppress involuntary shivers the whole time.) I don't know how to make up so much lost time. I don't even know if I want to go through the psychological pain of trying to grow that part of me at many times the speed it should have grown at. Part of me wants to be a victim of circumstance, and another part of me knows that's stupid. So, for lack of any better plan, I continue to maintain the status quo.