Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Different Reactions

This job that I'm in now is probably the first job I've ever had where the majority of the people I work with are not LDS. I realized this walking into work today and thought it'd be an interesting thing to talk about.

The Salt Lake valley is actually very different from Utah valley. Refreshingly so. I enjoy seeing people that look different and act differently. I enjoy making new friends with different views. And of course, I enjoy seeing the gays and actually being able to tell they're gay! Only some of my readers understand that :P

So I've noticed something working here in residential treatment. People treat me differently. Oh don't worry, it's a good thing.

I've had three close encounters with residents. None of them lead to anything too serious. Bruises yes but otherwise I'm fine. I've noticed that some staff here get beat up either verbally or physically a lot. But it's only certain staff.

Could it be because I'm LDS? People don't really ask what religion I am but it affects their behavior. Or is it because I am respectful of others? Are there some other character traits that help me at work?

When residents are mad, they yell and scream and swear. Then when I begin talking to them, they speak softer, and the swearing mostly stops. It's really interesting!

Most of the staff here are really good people. Some of them have a very tough loving approach though. But what're they like with me? They're respectful, considerate, and nice.

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that who you associate with creates who you are. I've seen people go different ways depending on who they associate with.

It's actually a phenomenon in psychology and research has proven that likes attract and that the environment has a huge impact on personality and especially behavior. The environment can be more effective in changing a persons behavior than a persons own personal beliefs and values.

The values that I cultivate influence the people around me. What I choose to show others through my actions has a huge impact. Past historical figures such as Gandhi and even Hitler have realized this and used it for better or for worse.

In my case, I've used it for the better without fully realizing it. I simply follow the rules I learned when I was a child. I respect others, I am curteous, kind, caring, and attentive. Many kids here who won't talk to staff will talk to me.

I just thought I'd put my ideas out there for you guys. Who we are and choose to act changes the way others around us act. Want to change the world? Change yourself first. Others will follow behind :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Side of the Story

It's time for me to tell my side of the story of this past week and weekend. But before I do, let me just fill you in on some things I've learned about listening from school and my work.

Be quiet. When you immediately jump into a conversation in which someone is trying to talk things out and give your infinite fountain of advice and knowledge, you come off as insensitive to the issue, and are basically telling the other person that they are not worth your valuable time. You are telling them to grow up, get fixed, and move on so they no longer have to deal with your issues.

When listening to problems my friends have or even the kids I work with, I don't say a word for a while. At least I try not to. I listen to what they're saying. I also listen to what they're communicating through body language or tone of voice.

Along with listening comes asking questions. Asking questions shows that you are indeed interested in what they are trying to say. Ask questions to get at deeper roots of the issues or to clarify confusion in your mind. It shows that you are invested in their well-being.

Now then, here is my story.

This week has been hard for me. It's been a very emotional week. I began my weekend really hoping that seeing my friends would help me feel better. I kicked it off by hanging out with a gay friend from work. We simply watched a movie and snuggled. It felt good to be close to someone again.

Then we went to a pizza party. At first I really didn't want to be there. And that feeling was confirmed by someone who in a failed attempt to get my attention and flirt with me, decided to make fun of me. I felt like I was back in elementary school.

The party continued with me feeling like I just didn't fit in until one of my best friends showed up. For the rest of the night, I stayed by her side and felt my mood lift. She loves me no matter what and has stayed by my side through a lot.

Then it was time to go home. My mood dropped again once I left the comfort of my dear friends. I felt alone.

The next day I had a date. It was wonderful and he was a perfect gentlemen. We toured Salt Lake City, had intelligent conversations, giggled at seeing cute boys, and shared personal stories to get to know one another.

So the date was perfect. Until he went home. After he left I received a text saying, "well I had a great time until reality set in." Um...what? Oh right, the reality he was referring to is the fact that I don't want a relationship. Now I had made that point clear before we met for our date. But I guess our date confused him.

The general conclusion of the conversation that followed is that I am a player and that I'm stupid for not wanting a relationship. He then told me we could only be friends from afar for a while. I did my best to explain that I never meant to hurt him and apologized profusely. But, he wasn't going to change his mind. End of story.

So I turned to my friends for comfort. Then the crap hit the fan. Now, this is what I feel like my friends told me. Actual reality and my perception of reality tend to separate when I'm upset.

Most of my friends didn't listen. They said I'm sorry and that was the end of our conversation. There were two who did what I said in the beginning not to do, they through their infinite knowledge in my face hoping something would stick. It's incredibly irritating when people assume what's worked for them is right for me.

One friend told me he wished he had never gotten physically involved with me. Um...ouch? Ya, major blow to my self-esteem. He also told me that every guy I've basically ever come in contact with feels played by me--they would die for me, and all I want to do is use them and move on.

Then came another friend who also has infinite knowledge and wisdom. He told me the way I build relationships is stupid. He let me know that I will forever be alone at the rate I'm going. My biggest fear = always being alone.

At this point I was numb. I couldn't feel anything anymore. I was planning on going to another party with this friend #2 but really didn't feel like going after that lovely little message.

I went with a friend who came up from Provo to keep me company. I was in tears the whole way there and was absolutely silent the entire night. Loved the whisperings going on around me instead of people just asking me what was wrong. Ya, that's good times.

I finally got to leave the party. Friend #2 felt like a total jackass for what he said to me earlier and wanted to talk with me today. I told him straight up to leave me alone and stop pretending like he cared. He did so.

There was only one friend who kept talking to me during this whole process. This was friend #1 who told me I use everyone. He was having a rough day too and while attempting to warn me in an effort to save me from more heartache, I felt like he attacked me on an incredibly personal level.

We talked a lot this morning. I told him that I feel like I'm trapped on an abusive relationship. I don't know how to open myself up on an emotional level and I use being physical as a way to feel important and loved. If I am wanted for my physical looks and features, I feel good about myself. Twisted, I know.

We also decided that most guys I hang out with are ready for a relationship and when I'm physical with them, they get confused as to why I'd do that when I claim I'm not ready.

So, I still don't know how to open myself up emotionally. I am committed to my friends. But I have a hard time believing that they are committed to me. I have too many walls up to believe that they would want me as messed up as I am.

It is a defense mechanism for me to take things in an attacking fashion. It's easier to maintain my belief that I can't ever be loved than for me to start to believe people may actually care for me. In my mind, it's better to expect the worst than to hope just a little for something better and have those hopes dashed to pieces. And the latter has happened to me far too many times.

I really don't know what else to say. I want to be understood. I want to feel loved for just me instead of people wanting to fix me first, and once I fulfill their expectations, then they'll be happy with me.

I am going to try to be more open to emotional intimacy with my friends. Right now I have no idea how to do that but I'm hoping as time passes, it will simply naturally evolve.

To those who I feel have personally attacked me, I hope you understand more of my thought processes now as to why I assumed it was an attack. I am sorry for my automatic reactions.

Thank you to those who keep trying. Hopefully I can make you happy with me one day. That day is not today. I hope it will be soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sounds of Silence

The song Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel contains many literary devices. These devices allow the song to reach a deeper level within our understanding of ourselves, but of humanity as a whole. In writing these lyrics, Paul Simon used literary devices such as alliteration, allusion, symbolism, simile and oxymoron to convey a message of utter dismay at the total lack of communication and a real emotional connection between people and people’s lackadaisical approach to a mundane existence.

The words “sounds of silence” create an alliteration that almost leads the reader to imagery. There is actually no possible way to be in a place where there are no sounds. If a person enters a completely quiet chamber, they would still hear the sounds of electricity in the brain, a high pitched ringing sound, and the “whoosh” of blood as it is pumped throughout the body. Paul Simon uses this phrase to say that the only way to reach utter silence is to be dead. He uses this fact to stress to the listener that the lack of communication between people results in dead conversations where nothing is discussed, nothing is learned, and no words have really been spoken.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord says that He will “hiss” unto all the nations. After listening to the phrase “sounds of silence”, I found that the phrase created a hissing noise. The word “hiss” that is used in the Book of Mormon refers to a warning. While Simon probably wasn’t alluding to the Book of Mormon, I do believe that there is a connection between what he wrote and what the scriptures say. As I have already stated, this song describes a lack of communication and an apathy towards a mundane existence. I believe that Simon was using his “hiss” as a warning to the rest of us to try and get rid of such negative qualities.

Another allusion that this song refers to is Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. The man in the story is like the man from Plato’s allegory who finally gets out of the cave. In Plato’s allegory, the man discovers all of the wonderful things that had previously only been seen as shadows. He runs back to the cave where his friends are still looking at the shadows being cast on the back of the cave. He tries to tempt them out of their cave of ignorance and look beyond the surface of things, but to his dismay, they refuse. Simon is referring to a frustration with people in general. Just like the man in Plato’s allegory, Simon writes that he had a revelation from the shadows of Plato’s cave. He leaves his superficial world and gains incredible insight. It seems that most people are unwilling or disinterested in anyone or anything. They are very much content to “hear without listening”. They will not go beyond the surface. They will simply accept the mundane around them because no one “dares disturb the sounds of silence”.

Symbolism also brings a deeper meaning to this song. The “neon god” that the people make refers to the technological advancements that are continually making our lives more convenient. But this convenience comes at a cost. In a world of instant messaging, emails and texting, people are “talking without speaking”. Of course ideas are being shared, information is being passed, but any emotion has been sucked out of such communication. The days where people would visit their friends seems to be fading. It is much simpler to just text your best friend and ask them how they’re doing. Although this is convenient, there is no deep exploration of how their friend is really doing through a text. Such a connection can only be enjoyed in person.

Later on in the song Simon writes, “take my arms that I might reach you”. I believe that Simon is symbolically acting as the role of the Savior. In Simon’s mind, it doesn’t make sense that people would wander around, accepting the mundane. Simon wants to reach out and save them from themselves! Like the Savior, Simon tries to warn the people, using a simile, that such silence is like a cancer that will grow and destroy them. And, just like in the Scriptures, the people reject the message and “like silent raindrops”, his words fall into the “wells of silence”. And like the Savior who taught us to continually serve others and find the lost sheep, we should also be reaching out to others. Simon also makes another interesting point when he says “take my arms”. We have to be willing to take the hands that are extended to us. There are times when I believe that I can make it on my own, but then I remember that I need help. I have to then humble myself and be willing to grab hold of the Savior’s arm, or even the helping hand of a friend.

Simon’s clever use of oxymorons draws attention to the fact that what the people are doing just doesn’t make sense. Simon points out that there is an incongruity between people “talking without speaking”, and people “hearing without listening”. After all, it makes sense that if the people wanted to talk, they would speak, and if they wanted to hear, they would listen. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The people are not expressing what needs to be expressed. The world is becoming ever more mundane as people push aside their emotions as a hindrance to their productivity. Thus, things are still being accomplished, but there is no emotional connection between anything. It reminds me of the idea that people are always after money because they believe once they have it, they will begin to enjoy life. However, this is usually not the case. The individuals who seek such incredible wealth, push aside real emotional connections such as friends, family, and religion to seek something common. Once they have what they wanted, the connections they once had are gone, and there is no point in them seeking so much money since now, they have no one to share it with.

Finally, I believe that the entire song is a symbol for loneliness. What I have previously described is a devastating blow to humanity. We are gaining in apathy, and losing in emotion. And while this song was most likely designed to help us see our flaws, I believe it was also designed to reach out to the one lonely soul. Can there be a more devastating event in a person’s life than to realize that no one can hear their cries for help? Simon shows that he, if no one else, understands how they are feeling. He already described how alone he felt when he tried to save humanity from their silence, so at least he can understand the lonely individuals and let them know that they are not alone.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I have tons of friends. People sometimes wonder how I've managed to acquire so many friends. Well it was after junior high school that I decided to not be a loner and put myself out there. For the most part, I have succeeded.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I have some of the best friends in the world. When I'm down, people call me or text me. When my brother died, I had countless phone calls, friends just hold me while I cried, and many wonderful and thoughtful gifts. When I'm stressed, I can talk to any of my friends and they will listen to me vent and still be there after I'm done. Some of these friends have known me for almost all of my life. Others only a few years and still others are getting to know me. I needed to write this to say how much I love and appreciate all of you.

I have a problem. I'm sarcastic. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. It's a huge safety mechanism for me. When I'm feeling inferior or upset, I am far more sarcastic. But I'm also very sarcastic when I'm feeling really happy. It's an interesting phenomenon to be on both sides of the spectrum.

I have to apologize for being a jerk. I apologize to you guys for taking advantage of your generosity when I feel like total crap. I'm sorry for snapping when your arms were outstreched. You don't deserve that.

If I'm actually hurting you, please tell me. As much as I'd like to be, I'm not a mind reader. Sometimes I get carried away and need to be prompted to redirect my sarcasm. I need the feedback to improve myself.

My dear friends, thank you SO much for being with me through thick and thin. I know that I've pushed many of you away. It's hard for me to open up emotionally when I'm feeling really terrible. I thank you for trying to pry me open, make me feel worth your time, and love me for me.

I honestly cannot say thank you enough. There is nothing like having a good friend by you on a hard day. Sometimes you don't even have to talk, just sitting with a friend can be enough.

I miss my friends and especially my family. As I moved up to Murray, I realized I need to rely more on my social support because I am in an unfamiliar place. I get to see my family every week. I always don't want to leave after a Sunday visit with the best family I could have asked for. They are so understanding and loving. I am eternally grateful to them and for them.

Don't hesitate to call me up, text me or email me. I love to help wherever I can. I hope to be the kind of friends and family that you have been to me. Thank you all so much.


Steven Bristow