I have an alter ego. He’s always there, when I least expect it, waiting to pounce. Easily recognizable in the shadows, his disproportionately long and frizzy hair forms a halo around his face. A chunky body is a dead giveaway to his presence. But when he talks, that’s when you know with absolute certainty that he is there.
He is my seventeen-year-old self, and he is dangerous.
When I was 17, I was a bit different than I am now. The world seemed simpler, and I seemed bent on a mission to prove I knew everything there was to know about it. I overthought about the simplest things, I corrected people’s pronunciations at every turn, and I acted like I knew everything… because I did know everything. If somebody had a comment about pink turtles, I was there to give every fact I knew about pink turtles. Seventeen-year-old Matt was arrogance incarnate.
Oh, and I also didn’t have any friends.
Yes, apparently being really smart does not automatically grant you friends if people go around calling you a smart ass behind you back. I don’t use that term casually, that’s what I was called more than anything else. And for the longest time I was offended by the cruelty of people for calling me that. But then the thought finally hit me that that’s exactly what I was… the dictionary definition of a smart ass.
Basically, I was a monster.
And this monster had a bit of a crisis because he could not stop overthinking things. He could not trying to prove he was smarter than everyone else. This is the creature he had developed into because of introversion, rejection, doubts, Bible studies, acquaintances, environment, and entertainment. Encyclopedias are great until you become a walking one, and are about on the same social level as one as well.
But I’ve changed for the better.
It’s amazing what you can learn if you shut up long enough to truly watch how others form relationships. It turns out listening is a better fuel than talking, love is a better character trait than arrogance, and the conversation is more important than the details. It really is about winning the heart, not the argument. But sometimes… sometimes I’ll say or do something and out of the corner of my eye and there he’ll be…
My seventeen-year-old self.