In high school, I often found myself in a role that I relished.
In school I tended to be the class clown. I would crack jokes and talk a lot and offer commentary on whatever we were studying. I felt emboldened to act this way because I almost always had the answer when the teacher called upon me, especially when I was fooling around, and all in all, I was a good student. The teachers liked me. I liked the fact that I could make the teachers laugh. Making students laugh is easy, cracking a teacher, who knows laughing is the wrong thing to do, is tough. And to this day I remember those teachers that I never made laugh. It has stuck with me, a painful memory I guess.
I was the class clown for the same reason every class clown falls into that role: I was mildly funny, I was smart enough, and I wasn’t good at much else. I got people to like me by making them laugh, because I wasn’t good at sports and I didn’t drive a cool car and I wasn’t overly attractive. Even today in my closest group of friends I am known as ‘the funny one’.
I don’t know how I feel about that, really. But that was exactly what I was hoping to become when I assumed those positions. I didn’t casually fall into those roles; I pushed my way into them. It was what I wanted to be known for.
At parties, at least early in high school, I tended to be the ‘life of the party’ guy. I always kicked up my energy level to top gear. I didn’t say no to much (except drugs and alcohol and anything cool, which is weird now looking back). I tried to constantly float through the party making sure I had a running conversation with as many people as possible. I wanted everyone to know I was there, and I wanted everyone to beg me to stay when I announced I was leaving.
To this day, at a party my sense of humor will still go over the top and is hard to control at times. I go out of my way to get laughs. I am willing to say anything from the darkest to the dirtiest to the most taboo to the most goofy joke I can think of. Not only do I turn my filter off, I turn my joke maker up to full blast. I love to find the line of how far I can push a subject before people are more uncomfortable than laughing, and then I like to go another step or two further until it is funny again. It isn’t always there, and I have learned to only be this way around my closest friends so I don’t offend anyone or make someone have a bad time.
Much like school, this was a role I thrust myself into (which wasn’t easy, my clique has a lot of very funny and energetic people in it. I am not sure I would be considered the funniest person in that group, just the most willing to ‘go there’). I wanted desperately to be ‘the funny one’. I knew I could make friends that way. I knew I could get girls that way. And it worked, still works.
Since I started taking mood stabilizers, off and on starting back when I was 18, I have not had the capacity to be this person any longer.
To be clear, I have no idea if it has had anything to do with the drugs. I might as easily stopped caring in my own right, or matured, or whatever you want to call it.
I still like to make people laugh. I still go over the top at parties sometimes. But I am a much more reserved version of my former self. I like this version better, frankly. It used to get exhausting having to fake energy when you didn’t have any. I used to field dozens of questions of what was wrong when I was quiet and to myself; two of my favorite ways to be now.
The interesting bipolar twist here is that I am usually somewhat manicy for parties. It naturally happens very often, and has always been like that. I would take the extra energy and channel into the things I talked about before, but the energy was usually there.
The question becomes, did I get up because I was going to a party, or did I go to the party because I was up?
Probably some of both, I imagine (and I already mentioned how I had to fake it at times), but I like to think that most of the time that I went to a party, it was because I was already up. I skipped parties in high school and college all the time. Later in my career it kind of became my thing. Of course, that coincided with an onset of depression. When I didn’t feel like I could maintain my persona, I just skipped.
These days I am most myself standing to the side drinking a beer. I don’t go to many parties anymore, and they are all heavily planned when I do go. They don’t fall into the weekly pattern of high school where I could allow my moods to determine whether or not I attend. I just have to go with what I’ve got. I have also matured enough to know that I don’t have to be the ‘life of the party’ (aka the most annoying person at the party) to be important to the people at the party.
I think that has a lot to do with why I was behaving that way, importance or relevance. I am still afraid that if I don’t offer something substantial to people, they won’t want me around. I can offer personality, not much else, and even that is usually difficult to swallow.