my stuff, my self.

I don't know what I am.

I'm a nerd that loves sports. I'm a jock that loves shopping. I'm a romantic that reads comics. I'm a journalist who gets nervous making phone calls. I'm a conservative liberal. Or a liberal conservative. I'm not sure which. I don't make any sense.

I wear my eclecticity like a scarlet letter or a red badge of courage, depending on the situation (and by coming up with literary analogues like that off the top of my head I'm really just proving my own point twice over).

I can't divorce myself from myself, and I feel bad when someone calls me on it, and I know I get overly defensive about it, but I don't know what else to do. Because this is Me, and that is Me, and that other thing is also Me, and there is not any one thing that makes Me, but it is in the combination of contradictions that Me is. And I understand that it is difficult for any Not-Me to handle that. But I guess everyone feels that way.


My boyhood bedroom contained a lot of stuff.

I remember my father coming into my room one time. My father usually only came into my room to get me out of bed. (Later he realized he could do it just as easily by running on the treadmill early in the morning and leaving the TV on after he was done, with the volume blaring so loudly that it penetrated the door to my room a good hundred feet away and I had to get up and turn it off myself, and then he could yell at me not to go back to bed from upstairs in the kitchen. This happened a lot.)

Anyway, this time he wasn't coming into my room to get me out of bed. I don't remember why he came in, actually. But as he was leaving, I remember this part.

"Hey, you have a ton of cool stuff in here. I never noticed. Look at all this." He was motioning to the walls and bookshelf and desk.

There was a lot to look at. My walls were covered with posters from Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon and posters of characters from Star Wars (my favorite being a list of famous lines under the heading "THE WISDOM OF YODA") and full-length newspaper clippings of the Arizona Diamondbacks winning the World Series and John Stockton's 9,922nd assist, which broke the all-time record. And there were video game-related posters and a poster of the Taco Bell chihuahua (who recently passed away, may he rest in peace) and an aesthetically-pleasing series of ads from a certain campaign for Life Savers which I liked for some reason. There was a large poster that ripped off the Hard Rock Cafe logo and read "Hard Work All Day" and referred to missionary work (which kind of depressed me at the time because I wasn't sure I wanted my mission to be very hard, and as it turned out it was, even on the days when I didn't work very hard). And there was a poster of the Dave Matthews Band during their "Crash" days, back when they didn't suck. And there was a 3D stereogram of the Salt Lake Temple, one of those "Magic Eye" things that you stared at and stared at until you finally figured out how to relax your eyes and act like you were looking through the poster and suddenly the image jumped out at you. And above my door, where I would see it every day before I left, there was a copy of the "Litany Against Fear," quoted from the book Dune, which I had typed and printed out in an effort to motivate myself to combat my sometimes-crippling shyness and social anxiety.

I had read every book on my bookshelf at least twice. My favorites were easily spotted by their cracked and worn spines, and many had tiny nibble marks around the edges from my brother's pet cockatiel, which I accidentally let fly away, something I still haven't really forgiven myself for. Surrounding the books were model X-Wings and TIE Fighters that I had assembled but never gotten around to painting, and a model Gundam (a warrior robot from a Japanese animated series) that had colored parts already so it didn't need painting, and small plush figures of Luigi and Yoshi and Donkey Kong, and the crystal globe-shaped trophy my parents had had made for me after I won the elementary school geography bee and all the school gave me was a world map, which I clearly didn't need seeing as how I had just proven I knew all about the world, and a tiny figure of Paddington Bear which I inexplicably adored.

The top of my desk was invisible. Every square inch had a book or a paper or a stack of papers or a magazine or a handful of change or some other form of clutter on it. (I knew where everything was, of course.) My desk drawers contained more books and magazines and Game Boy games and assorted writing utensils and various knickknacks I had acquired on school trips or family vacations or impulse toy purchases at the nearest grocery store, the one I would ride my bike to so I could buy 25-cent cans of Shasta without telling my mom, who would never buy soda for us. And at the very bottom, where I knew only I would find them, were the notes and letters I had received from the girls I loved in the fierce, naive, terrifyingly uncomplicated way that only adolescents can.


I think this is part of the reason why I talk so much about the "stuff" I like, and feel passionate about them. I found, and still find in these and similar things (like the list on the sidebar to the right), ways to explain Me: in the nature posters, my sense of wonder and love of beauty; in the sports posters, my joy, awe and respect; my desire for adventure and excitement and heroism in the X-Wing model (and my practical realization that these were reckless fantasies in the Yoda poster). There was the fear of my inadequacies, and my attempts to overcome them, in the quotation above my door. The chihuahua represented my whimsy, and Luigi, Yoshi and Donkey Kong taught me to enjoy life and try to make it fun. The globe trophy contained my pride, and the missionary poster my humility, and the old love notes my introspection, regret, and romance.

And in that little Paddington Bear -- my ability to love unconditionally, for no reason at all.


My father studied the scene for a moment, smiled at me, told me he loved me, and left the room.

I think he understood.


"I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must be myself." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

3 Response to my stuff, my self.

  1. Andy says:

    The fact that I caught pretty much every single reference in this post (and I didn't even need the parenthetical to know what a Gundam was) will always bond us as brothers in nerdery.

  2. Danielle says:

    Your blog is very luxury. It inspirese to be a better blogger and post more than pics and YouTube videos. Keep up the good work.

  3. Morinar says:

    Wow, an off handed comment I made to you via IM turned into a full fledged blog post. I'm not sure if I should be grateful, apologetic, or just curious.

    Regardless, we all like you Shums for who you are. You're good people.