As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that there’s a part of me that has mellowed out. Nowadays I like to be back in my house at an early hour; not out gallivanting ’til dawn, hobnobbing with celebrities like I used to do.
However, while there is a part of me that has relaxed, I’ve realized that I’ve also developed a part of me that gets incredibly high-strung about things as well. If my life were like the hit Showtime series ‘Dexter’, I would call this side of me my Dark Passenger. I can’t say specifically when I developed this side of me. I’ve noticed it develop more like a mudslide; it started out slow, but really picked up speed on its way down.
This dark passenger is what I call neurotic and/or compulsive behavior, and he has manifested himself in a few different ways that I’ve noticed lately.
1. Being incredibly early whenever I have to travel.
I’ve sincerely found this one to be the most debilitating behavior that I’ve developed in my advancing age. I first started flying on my own when I was 15 years old. I don’t remember being stressed in the least having to check bags or find terminals. Now when I fly out of Erie International Airport, I have to be there at least an hour early. I’ve never spent more than ten minutes checking in at that airport. At larger airports it’s even worse. Out of Raleigh or Pittsburgh or Los Angeles… I might as well watch a Paul Thomas Anderson movie while I wait.
However, I’ve yet to miss a flight… so there’s that.
2. I sanitize my hands like a surgeon in pre-op.
I feel like this neurotic behavior stems from working with children all day long. When you teach, you see some filthy, disgusting things. Watching kids picking, scratching and – yes – eating things occurs on a daily basis. I never noticed it until one of my colleagues in North Carolina pointed it out, but anytime that I walk by a bottle of hand santizer, I squirt my hands. I honestly don’t even notice that I do it anymore. It’s just kind of part of the flow of my day now.
Some studies say that proper sanitizing is good and some studies say that it is bad. Regardless, it’s now a part of my daily life, so I’m going to learn to embrace the weird that is eradicating germs with some rubbing alcohol.
3. I sneeze anytime that I go outdoors and it’s sunny.
I don’t know if this is some kind of weird Pavlovian trigger I’ve developed or if I’m really allergic to everything in the air outside, but the first time I step outside on a sunny day, I will sneeze. Sometimes I’ll even sneeze on overcast days if the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds enough. It’s become a point of amusement for my good friend Ross because sometimes I’ll step outside just so I can get out a good sneeze.
There are few things in my day-to-day life that I’ll enjoy more than letting out a good, obnoxious sneeze. So if we’re ever going out the door together, make sure that you’re not in front of me.
4. I scratch my head when I get nervous.
Someone pointed out to me when I was watching the Pirates this summer that I scratch my head when I watch baseball. As watching the Pirates play baseball is typically a stressful thing, I do this a lot during baseball season. Once this person pointed out that I have this habit, I started noticing that I do it during the day when I start to get anxious about work or before I’m getting ready to travel (as I’ve already identified that this is a stressful event for me).
I try and make sure that I’m cognizant of this behavior so when I get nervous at important times (like before a job interview), I don’t look like a crack addict jonesin’ for a fix. However, these neurotic behaviors are deeply rooted, so it’s going to take some work.
5. I find pregnant women gross.
This isn’t something neurotic, it’s just something I’ve needed to get off my chest for a really long time. I watched a pregnant lady do the Charleston on the dance floor at a wedding reception this past weekend. When I saw her go bowlegged and squat down while she slid her hands from knee to knee, all I could picture was an umbilical cord shooting out of her dress and a little baby crawling out.
On the plus side, you’re only pregnant for nine months. So that’s a positive.