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Well, I can tell you THIS!

I grew up around more adults than kids my own age. My dad spent the majority of my childhood in some phase of graduate school, which meant that I was exposed to all sorts of intellectual debates about liberalism, philosophers, religious movements, ideologies, and ethics -- debates that took place in all of the stereotypical places you'd imagine graduate school intellectual debates to take place: dimly lit coffee houses, famous local delis, tame dinner parties, and picnics on campus parks involving some undisclosed but not outrageous number of alcoholic beverages. Growing up, I thought such conversations were normal, everyday occurrences -- that all parents were philosophers and writers, or at the very least, friends with philosophers and writers. When I wasn't learning phrases like "Contemporary Perspectives on the History of Religion" and "Sociological Perspectives of Secularization," I was surrounded by college students 24 hours a day, because during my dad's Ph.D. program, my parents were Resident Heads in a dormitory at the same university.

By the time I entered elementary school and found friends my age, I never really related to them like a "normal" kid. I think I was so used to being around adults that I actually felt more comfortable talking to the teachers than the other students. I had a few close friends whose parents were also involved with the university, who understood my preference for talking over playing on the playground, and so I remained somewhat oblivious to my misfit status until we moved away from the university environment right at the time I entered junior high. It was then that it became crystal clear to me that my peers had no appreciation for my adult-like sarcasm, vocabulary, and "responsible" approach to life. In high school, I waited tables at a restaurant and one day during a lull, I stood talking to some co-workers. We looked out the window and noticed a blackening sky. Somebody said, "look at those clouds!" and without thinking first, I said, "yeah, they look really ominous." Silence. Awkward looks. Someone giggled nervously and said, "Kristen, you use too big of words," after which the awkwardness turned to sheer hilarity and everyone laughed and laughed: that quirky Kristen!

I use too big of words. How I managed to laugh off this horribly constructed sentence as if it were perfectly acceptable, the way everyone standing around seemed to think it was (WAY more acceptable than the HUGE three-syllable word "ominous"-- THREE SYLLABLES! Whoah, Nelly.), I will never know. In my mind, "You use too big of words" was like the mushroom Alice ate that caused her to grow so huge that she suddenly had the capability to crush the "off with her head" queen like an ant: while I externally took the high road and laughed at myself, my internal fantasy of verbally defending myself grew disproportionally into attacking what I saw as her ignorance, then to crushing what I saw as the close-minded, peer pressure mentality that had encouraged my silence among people my own age during my later childhood. I was young enough to stay silent, but old enough to realize that the collective, elective ignorance of many of my peers would eventually silence me permanently if I didn't surround myself with different ones. In college, I did just that, and it was refreshing not to feel forced to use "smaller" words when I spoke and to spend my days in a place surrounded by fellow "misfits."

Since then, though, I feel like I'm back in that restaurant wanting to crush close-minded ignorance like an ant again. Maybe it's this geographical region, maybe it's the types of jobs I end up taking, maybe it's because I don't have time or money to invest in things like graduate school or even something as simple as a book club. I usually don't have time to put much thought into it because at work I spend my days reminding myself just to fit in, just to get by, just to continue to help provide a comfortable living on the Fringe. The friends I have tend to contact me mostly out of convenience, and so even though they don't necessarily ridicule my vocabulary, they bring their own energy-sucking close-mindedness to the table in the form of narcissism and self-centeredness, and try as I might, I can't continue to see those friendships as anything but reminders that once again, I have effectively invited soul-crushing, ignorance-accepting silence into my life.

When I originally started typing this post, I had intended to write about the funny new phrasing Bryce uses anytime he wants to tell us something. Maybe we're sitting at the dinner table praying to the Texture Gods for mercy on our exhausted souls in the form of Bryce actually eating something bigger than a crumb, like maybe an entire half of a black bean or an eighth of a canned peach. Maybe we're running around in the morning, me in the bedroom getting ready for work, John in the kitchen feeding the dog or making the kids' breakfast. We're never expecting a conversation, we're never prepared for an interaction despite knowing that one of our kids is physically incapable of being awake and within a 10-mile radius WITHOUT interacting with one of us. In any case, he has been coming up to us out of the blue to tell us about some or other inconsequential thing (that he still likes chocolate milk and would prefer it for every meal, that the sky is blue today, that he was thinking of what it would be like if Truman weren't a dog but were actually made out of wood, etc.) with the following opening phrase, the origin of which John and I have tried and failed to learn, and so now assume based on the Broadway show director flourish with which it is always stated that Bryce created it in his own mind: "Well, I can tell you this!"

At first, John and I would look at each other in confusion, wondering where he came up with the phrase, then giggling over the contrast between his young, small appearance and his adult-like conversational voice. But now, I feel like I understand where he's coming from. Sometimes a person just has to make it clear that they're about to make an important point, be it about chocolate syrup, wooden dogs, or a decision to better one's life - you know?

Well, I can tell you this: I'm done with the silence of ignorant conformity. And I have no clue what that means in any practical sense yet, so there's no need to torture yourself by asking things like, "what the hell does that cryptic comment mean, Kristen?" because I will not have an answer... right now, I just know I'm done.

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