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I'm well past the halfway point of my life.  Nevertheless, even at this point, I'm still slamming into reminders of just how odd my upbringing was - how my life set me up to be completely at odds with the rest of the world.  

Left-handed among right-handed people, multi-generational household, gay back when people openly discussed using fags for target shooting.  Each of these subjects have impacts and depths that many people may not realize.  But none of those are the main focus of this.

I attended an experimental school.  There were no walls, no class hours, no assigned homerooms or teachers, no letter grades or even grade levels.  Everything was based on mastery of information.  I may be 13 years-old and reading a college textbook but doing remedial math.  There was a very careful, deliberate elimination of all forms of competition.  No sports.  No pitting one student against the other.  No comparisons.  Competition was viewed as the root of all evil.  Any instructor could help any student with any subject.  There were a set number of hours to each school-day but how those hours were used was completely up to me.

I have found, for my entire life, I stood out - for so many reasons!  Aside from the usual things that a gay kid would be forced to deal with in the sixties, my brain was shaped by a counterculture philosophy.  That, in turn, has been a mixed blessing.  My personal happiness is inextricably linked to and indistinguishable from your own happiness.  My goals and success depend, indeed, require your cooperation.  How does one make their way through a world that is completely opposite to the way they were taught was morally righteous and ethically correct?  There's volumes of details I could go into, but for a conversation starter, I hope this will inspire some comments.

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I remember hearing about my younger cousin (about 5 or 6 years younger) attending a Montessori school (in the early Seventies in San José) and later writing book reports on comic books! Because my brothers and I attended public schools, we couldn’t believe what he was ‘getting away with.’ He was a little kid telling us about the evils of Polysorbate 60! We couldn’t believe he could remember a word so long. He later attended public schools in the extremely highly rated Cupertino Union (K-8) and Fremont Union High School Districts. But his unconventional early education seemed to have worked because he eventually became a National Merit Scholar.

At the time, he seemed like he was from a completely different generation from me and we ignored him as much as possible. So even though our families often vacationed at each others’ houses, I really never got to know him (at the time, we were living in San Diego). When we moved back to the Bay Area, our families celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together (trading off which family hosted).

My parents were very conservative, culturally, socially, po***ically, and religiously – my father was a Protestant minister. My favorite Aunt & Uncle are much younger than my parents. I remember hearing Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues for the very first time on my Uncle’s stereo because my parents only listened to religious music. My Aunt taught us how to tie-dye t-shirts (which became my usual shirts to wear to school). Another cousin complained about the ‘sticks and twigs’ that my Aunt allegedly fed her family. Another Aunt complained about having to water 100 houseplants when she and her adopted son housesat for my favorite Aunt & Uncle (the count has dropped significantly over the decades)!

My favorite Aunt & Uncle are my oldest surviving maternal relatives. I still celebrate the holidays with them and my cousin’s family (the National Merit Scholar’s older sister). I sometimes feel closer to them than to my own brothers (who only sometimes join us for the holidays).

I only have contact to my paternal relatives through my brothers. The last time I saw any of them was at my father’s memorial service about 15 years ago (my mother died about 2 years before that).

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droughtquake - I'm glad that you had people around to whom you felt connected.  That's important!

Because I was gay kid and because I was immersed in a strange school environment, I did not feel connections to many people.  Being gay, I was always on guard, staying hidden, and constantly looking over my shoulder for the person(s) who would 'do the right thing' and kill me.  I spent my life trying to be good *enough* that people might be willing to forgive me for being alive.  While I watched others around me doing immoral, or unethical things, I was feeling ever more disconnected.  The school situation, although altruistic, failed to give me a sense of belonging even there, at school.  We were just a bunch of people working individually on our homework.  So much time was spent alone that the 'team-building' exercises were usually just odd moments of confused attempts at collaboration.

As an adult, I have found that I am almost constantly at odds with the world in general.  Everything is about winning or being 'better-than.'  Competition is often so subtle and inherent in nearly every situation that many people don't even realize it.  Biggest Loser, Survivor, The Bachelor, any sport, cooking shows, Ru's Drag Race, - almost any TV show in the top ratings will be about deleting someone for not being good enough.  Social media, today, is a vast landscape of minefields.  People are isolated from reality and other human beings while trying to navigate a labyrinth, or worse, a maze of information.  Every dead-end or wall may have a scrap of truth or a flat out lie.  There is no one to whom one can connect anymore to feel safe or secure about much of anything.

Our world has gotten much, much safer for gay people - not anywhere near what it should be, but much better than it was when I was a kid!  However, the world at large has become dramatically darker and less safe for everyone!  And yet, or perhaps because, of this loss of safety and an easily recognized reality, people are isolating more and cooperating less.  It seems to me that we, humans, never seem to learn from our history or mistakes.  We should be cooperating more and could be collaborating much more.

I bring this belief regarding collaboration into the writing world.  I have tons of ideas and desires about creating stories but almost never find another writer interested in collaboration.  Everyone has their own story, their own goals, their own take on something - I get it.  And we all need a paycheck.  But I have been surprised at how rare the true collaborative efforts seem to be.  Even the act of writing is a solitary task.  We *have* to be in our head, listening to and watching our characters so that we can transcribe events for readers.  Perhaps, I'm just griping about my own lost opportunities.  I'm not a kid anymore and I see the windows and doors slowly squeaking shut.

Edited by Hstrychsr
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I felt very isolated as a child. Sure, I had my brothers, but I was always the contrary one. We never had a lot of money because of my father’s profession.

The rest of my family loves baseball, but I hated it! But the then-perennial expansion team of the Seventies, the Padres, offered lots of deeply discounted tickets to students and their families in a desperate attempt to put bodies in all those seats in the enormous San Diego Stadium (later renamed Jack Murphy and Qualcomm). I’d take a book with me when they dragged me, protesting, to watch one of the most boring events ever invented.

We had lived in Honolulu from when I was a few months old until I was seven. In Hawaii, we looked like the majority of the population because we are Asian-Americans. In San Diego, there were few Asians at the time (late-Sixties into the Seventies) and people would stare at us when we went shopping.

As a very closeted teenager in a very conservative environment (San Diego felt like a small Navy town back then and there is a huge Marine presence too), I was terrified of being identified. I have come to identify the move as the trigger for my Dysthymia (long-term, low-level depression). I usually only had one or two friends and I was a very awkward child.

I’m sure my parents saw my need to be different as typical middle child behavior or me being rebellious. But I feel and felt fundamentally different from the rest of my family. Being Gay is and was only one factor.

I have almost no presence on social media. I have a Tumblr account, but have no content and no Likes (yet I still have Followers who are probably bots or fake accounts). I have never had a MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever account. My browser has filters that block Facebook and Google from tracking me. I use DuckDuckGo as my search engine because they don’t track me. But I’m sure that they all know much more about me than I’m comfortable with.

I don’t know what kinds of things you are attempting to write, but it seems to me that you need to post a few stories you’ve written on your own before you ask others to collaborate with you. I know I have two sets of my friends here on GA who, after writing on their own, decided to write a story or series together. One set has described a little bit of what it was like to work together, trying to mesh wildly different methods of working. The other seems to work much more independently, using characters previously developed by the other in an expanded world.

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