Adam Avitable's mundane moments

My first day of high school: The International Baccalaureate Program

(Originally posted on 8/25/2009. Revised and republished.)

I’m very smart. I may not always exhibit the best common sense, and my emotional maturity level is that of a 19-year old, but when it comes to observing, learning, and applying what I’ve learned, I excel.

I don’t say this to brag. It’s just necessary information for this story.

So. It’s 1989.

There I was, this smart-ass brilliant 12-year old kid, a year younger than everyone else in 8th grade (I would have been two years younger if my parents hadn’t been too damn afraid to put me in kindergarten at 3), discussing high school with my mother. See, there was this brand new, two-year old program at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, four towns over, called the International Baccalaureate program. The Daytona Beach News-Journal, a bastion for terrible reporting and subjective journalism at its worst, had published an article about it, and even though it was part of a huge public school, you had to apply to get into the program itself. I don’t remember what scores they needed – PSAT probably – but attendance was quite limited. It had a different focus on learning than any other program, and unlike AP, it required a full commitment – you couldn’t pick and choose classes if you wanted to get your IB diploma – the diploma that would typically allow you to skip a full semester worth of credits in college.

I was hesitant to attend. Change will always terrify me. My mother, always the influencer and decision maker from the shadows, encouraged me to follow an existing student for a day and see what I thought.

I loved it.

Adam Avitable wearing ridiculous clothes as a teenager

Every time I see this photo, I yell “NERD!” at myself.

 

My 13th birthday passed, summer started to turn to autumn, and my first day of school in the International Baccalaureate program approached. My bus assignment memorized, I was ready to be on the corner of Knollwood Estates Drive and Hidden Hills Drive at 5:45 AM. (As I was coming from almost 20 miles away, that school district had set up a special bussing system that would pick up kids from all over the various towns at ungodly hours and get them to school by the first class at 7:27 AM).

I stood there, shivering in the August heat. With the exception of a short-lived stint in seventh grade that ended with two bullies, a beating, my ass, and the ground, I had never been to a public school before. This was a huge transition from the security blanket of my private school, with only 11 people in my 8th grade class, people I had been with since first grade. My backpack weighing almost as much as I did, I put my Walkman headphones in, Weird Al blasting loudly, and waited for my bus.

“This will be awesome,” I halfheartedly told myself. “I can’t wait for some of these classes!” Yes, I’m well aware of the extreme level of geekiness in that sentiment. Here’s another tidbit of nerdliciousness for you to chew on. I used to sit at lunch with my friends and we would see who could correctly identify the highest number of elements in the periodical table in order. We would try to stump each other with calculus. I am geek, hear me roar.

In my head, I painted tapestries of grandeur. Our bus would probably have a special banner on the side, declaring our status as the International Baccalaureate kids. We would descend in full view of the student population as a hush went over the crowd. “Those are the smart kids,” someone would whisper while others nodded, trying to bask in our vast intelligence. The teachers would note our eager shining faces and the administrators would know that we were the good kids. The seniors would be impressed by our collective rising star. We would rule this place through intellect alone.

Class of 94 Spruce Creek High School IB

This picture contains a teacher, an engineer, a government official, a doctor, an entrepreneur, and a comedian

 

I was finally ready. Bring on the first day of school.

In the still of the morning, I heard the hum of a diesel engine over the chords of “Dare to be Stupid”. “This is it,” I straightened my shoulders and awaited my destiny.

As the bus rounded the corner, I knew something had to be wrong. Something had to be horribly, horribly wrong. Was this fate or God or just someone in the school district with a terrible sense of humor?

This was no ordinary bus. But there was no banner – there was no proclamation that there were geniuses on board. Before me was the short bus. A literal short bus. Replete with wheelchair ramp and handicapped symbols, normally used to transport the mentally disadvantaged and physically disabled, my chariot awaited.

The door squealed open. “Yer one of them smart kids, right?” The driver’s voice broke through the dark interior. I heard the sarcasm as it dripped from every inflection.

“Any recognition is better than none,” I thought to myself and boarded with a sigh.

adam_eyes_featured

I don’t believe in God.

I don’t believe in God.

I can’t.

Do you believe your God is the right one? That you’ve chosen the right religion? That every other person in the world who has made the decision, conscious or otherwise, to have a different set of beliefs, is wrong, and you’re right?

I can’t believe in God.

Do you think there’s an actual entity out there who tells you what to think, who’s decided what’s going to happen in your life, who cares if you call out his or her name in times of pain or in exultation of happiness?

The intensity of Adam Avitable

 

“Mysterious ways” is nothing more than a catch-all excuse for the unanswerable, inexplicable evil that happens to humanity on a daily basis.

Oh, he’s not an old white guy with a big beard to you? YOUR religion is more advanced than that? He’s a presence that flows through you? He’s an invisible hand that guides you through making the right choices in life? But if he’s creeping  through your veins, what’s flowing through those other people over there with a different group of beliefs who think they’re also acting in the name of Someone?

Why are you right? Why are they wrong? Faith? Arrogance? Or is faith just another way to paint the sin of arrogance?

Maybe your conscience is just your conscience. Maybe it’s a construct made from social awareness and developed with morality taught to you by your family and peers and television and social media. Maybe your instinct is about survival and reproduction and nothing more. Maybe the invisible person you talk to at night doesn’t exist or isn’t yours to talk to because there’s another sect of believers who are more right than you. Or maybe it’s just your subconscious guiding you to make good choices.

I’ve studied religions in depth. The patterns and repetition from one to another are obvious. But each one claims ownership over your soul. THE ONE TRUE whatever.

Each religion (except for YOURS of course, god forbid) can’t be right. They can’t all be wrong.

Let’s take a huge leap.

Let’s imagine that there is something out there who gave each of us the spark that makes us different from the monkeys and the rocks and the stars and the dolphins. We’ll call it God.

Does God care about you?

Does God care about YOU?

Does God care about each decision you make and what makes you a good person based on the moral guidelines of your society during the extremely finite time period during which you’re alive?

Does God decide where your spark goes after you become nothing more than a rotting body?

Or.

OR.

Do you think – can you possibly imagine – that maybe whatever it is that created us (if we continue with this theory) is so vast and powerful and eternal and all-encompassing that NOT ONLY can you not even come close to comprehending a fraction of a piece of a minuscule portion of what it is, BUT neither can any of these self-appointed leaders who use human-created (extremely flawed human-created) documents and stories to anthropomorphize something that they should never even have had the fucking arrogance to try to put into words?

Believe in yourself. Reach in and pull out your heart and soul and look deep inside and realize that you have the potential to do good within our world on your own. Be a good person because you enjoy the reward that comes from helping others. Treat your fellow humans how you hope others would treat you. Behave in a way that you would like to see others behave. Love others. Trust them. Be honest and open your hearts and homes to the world.

But don’t do it because of a god. Don’t you dare have that arrogance to think you know what the fuck you’re talking about. You don’t. None of us do.

I don’t believe in God. I don’t think your religion is right. I don’t think it’s wrong, either. I think we’re all right. We’re all wrong. Everybody gets a heaven of his or her own, based on his or her pocket religion. Your parents like McDonald’s and you like Burger King and your neighbor is a vegan and there are kids in Africa who will never eat fast food. Who’s wrong?

Because ultimately, we’re in charge of what we do for our lives, and after that?

It’s up to . . . .

It's not always about being funny.

Suicide

He killed himself in June.

I didn’t know him, but I’ve witnessed the impact of his choice.

His girlfriend’s Facebook posts demand, then beg, for answers.
Her son -not quite old enough to understand- knows life is different, forever.

Today was the right time to write about this, on what should have been the 64th birthday of Robin Williams.

Suicide is stupid.
It’s awful.
It’s selfish.
It’s heart-wrenching.
It’s final.
It’s terrifying.
It’s preventable.
It’s the result of a cry for help never being answered.

Depression and anxiety can come from anywhere – the triggers are endless and the consequences can be terminal. Unfortunately, the stigma from depression, anxiety, self-infliction of pain, and suicidal considerations is overwhelming – sometimes more overwhelming than the pain itself. These afflictions are all about a need to be listened to and to know that you’re not alone, but many people suffer silently rather than risk facing derision or the lack of consideration in the eyes of others.

I come from a family that doesn’t understand depression. To their eyes, it’s not real. It’s something to be shrugged off, a battle to be fought of mind over what matters. More exercise, healthy eating, mental distractions – those are the solutions. Little weight is given to chemical depression and medicated treatment.

“If only I could just be happier, I wouldn’t be depressed.” It’s cyclical reasoning at its worst, and it’s why so many of us never get the lifeline we need.

It’s second nature to expect medical treatment when someone breaks an arm. There’s no “Just shake it off and get out of the slump” or “It’s all in your head – just push through and you’ll be fine.” Yet, in our modern society, mental illnesses still scare so many people that we’d rather just pretend they don’t exist. By belittling the issues and downplaying the severity of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, we are essentially burning victims at the stake, terrified of getting infected by this mental witchcraft.

Suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone, even you. They probably already have, at least once. Maybe not a fantasy or a command compelling you, but in some fashion or another, even if just a gentle tug on your sleeve or a subtle whisper in your ear. Driving home late one night, stressed with no end in sight, and you think, “One twist of this wheel, and it could all be over.”

It’s at this point I should make it clear that I’m not entertaining suicide as one of my long list of paths for my life. I suffer from depression, and it can be severe at times, but in the end, I am a narcissist who fears not leaving a legacy more than I fear the crushing pressures of life itself. Don’t worry about me.

If you deny that depression is real, educate yourself.
If you suffer from depression, you’re not alone.

Never be afraid to reach out for help. There is someone (and likely an entire community of someones) who has been through it before and understands. There are online communities full of empathy and support and the love you need to get the help you deserve. Because you do deserve it. Everyone does.

Here’s a small buffet of resources – there’s something for everyone, and I’ll try to add more to this list as I come across additional sources of help, information, and support:

Campaign Posters for Senior Vice President

Why Adam Heath Avitable Will Never Be President #ElectionFail

“They took my posters down at school,” I looked at my parents across the dinner table, “All of them.”

“Why? Should we call someone?” My mother, as always, was ready to come to the rescue.

“The Principal said that he was afraid it would reflect badly on the school if anyone who didn’t have my ‘unique sense of humor’ visited Spruce Creek.”

“What? I’ll get in the cah raight now and drive ovah theah and tell him he’s wicked retahded!” Dad said in his somewhat intelligible Boston accent.

“Nah. I tried to convince him, but he wasn’t budging. I’m still on the ballot, so maybe that will be enough.” Getting my parents involved would be the worst idea possible. In International Baccalaureate, we already had the reputation of being the nerdy smart kids and the kiss-asses at Spruce Creek High School, so things would only get worse with Mom and Dad around.

I didn’t win, and that was probably the last time I was in a position to ever run for office of any type. Now, with so much information about me out there, most of it put into the world of my own volition, I couldn’t even be President of the Altamonte Springs Ke$ha Fan Club, and I’m the only member!

What’s that, you say? You want to see the posters that might have gotten me elected to office in high school? The posters that were SO clever that the principal couldn’t even wrap his brain around them? The campaign posters that are so awful that I’m almost embarrassed to show them to you (keyword: almost)?

Okay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

Adam Heath Avitable ran for Senior Vice President in high school

 

Let’s start with this one. First of all, I wasn’t running for Senior Class President? I was just going for Vice President? Was I just hoping for less responsibility? Was the President a foregone conclusion or a hot girl? Or both?

And secondly, RED SHARPIE? Oh yeah, teenage me, great idea. Let’s just use a red marker on plain white poster and put absolutely ZERO effort into writing something professional looking. Chicken scratch always wins elections.

Adam Heath Avitable in his failed bid for Senior Vice President in high schoolI’m pretty sure my grandfather drew this one, because I would have put a question mark at the “Why Don’t You!!” part. I like the concept, though, because clearly every high school student is going to do whatever they’re told to do by an old white guy with spiky blond hair and a bowtie.

Terrible campaign posters when Adam Heath Avitable ran for Senior VP in high schoolHopefully there wasn’t another Adam running for Senior VP, or I just helped him. I mean, adorable, available and marriageable? I can’t believe I misspelled marriageable either. Why would I choose “demanding” as an adjective? Is that a selling point? I should have gone with A Dumb Ass Motherfucker.

Adam Heath Avitable used Calvin and Hobbes to run for Senior VPDo you know who high school students love to listen to more than an old guy with a bowtie? Fictional characters from a comic strip!

Another campaign poster from Adam Heath Avitable's failed Senior VP campaignThis one is somewhat clever, though by declaring myself cool I was immediately making it very clear that I was as far from cool as anyone could be. Maybe with a little production value, not looking like it was made in thirty seconds, it would have been a little acceptable.

A puntastic campaign poster for Senior VP by Adam Heath AvitableWhy doesn’t anyone realize that those are velociraptor eggs and when they hatch, there will be blood and bad puns everywhere?!

Adam Heath Avitable ran unsuccessfully for office in high schoolWhat, me infringe copyright? It was shortly thereafter that I had my letter published in MAD Magazine, so maybe all was forgiven.

Adam Heath Avitable ran for Senior VP in high school and failed. These are the posters.Other than the color and handwriting, I can find no fault with this poster. I am, in fact, amilliantly brazing.

Adam Heath Avitable ran for Senior VP for Spruce Creek High School in 1993This was the poster that started it all. The one that the principal was worried would reflect badly on Spruce Creek High School if visitors came in who didn’t understand the humor. I underlined “Intelligent” in a way to show that it was clearly a sarcastic poster, but the subtle humor was beyond him.

Avitable and America the Beautifully Naked

Reading This Before Independence Day May Save Your Life!

Recently, I have become aware of an imminent plan to cause trouble and chaos throughout the United States that will take place tomorrow, our Independence Day, on the Fourth of July.

In every state and in almost every city in our great nation, there are insurgents who will be planning on seeding our air, water and soil with poisonous chemicals. These chemicals, including heavy metals, dioxins, and perchlorates, can cause severe health effects to all who are exposed. Some of the chemicals like barium nitrate will affect our lungs, and others like potassium perchlorate can affect our thyroids and even create birth defects.

If that’s not bad enough, this process of poisoning the best country in the world was developed in pre-Communist China and further enhanced in an Italy prior to rule by Axis Power dictator Benito Mussolini. To compound the destruction of the health of our citizens and the land we rely on to survive, these poisons will be set aflame, burning throughout the countryside, with an extremely high risk of setting homes on fire, trees ablaze, and even immolating American citizens.

To further confuse the situation and frighten our nation simultaneously, organic salts, aluminum and iron flakes, titanium powders, and gunpowder – all extremely poisonous to be consumed, by the way – will be laced throughout the vehicles for delivery, causing large bangs, high pitched whistles, and hissing and sizzling sounds scientifically engineered in a laboratory to terrify animals, small children and distract the population of America. Additional chemicals are added to cause bright colors that will obstruct our vision and prevent us from seeing the truth.

Don’t be complacent, America! Be vigilant against these people determined to strip us of our rights, our liberties, and our dignity! Report any suspicious characters carrying large bags, rolling around giant crates, or anyone loading anything explosive onto barges or trucks. Report all incidents immediately to your local authority or be a true American and make a citizen’s arrest!

However, if you don’t have the spine nor the American blood coursing through your veins to stand up to these traitors to our American Way, just lay back and enjoy the fireworks instead.

Adam Avitable celebrates the Fourth of July with nudity

Where Avitable lives.