Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Confessions of an indoors-person


Hello, my name is Jeff Parkes, and I am an indoors person. I like staying inside, inside activities, and take great pleasure from being in places where there is a roof over my head.

Nowadays it seems like a crime, or a freak of nature, to be an indoors person, especially during the summer in Utah, where the glorious mountain landscapes are but a few minutes away. Everybody loves going on hikes, camping out, playing sports, and enjoying their active lifestyles. Even people who aren’t exercise maniacs or sportsmen/women still list some sort of outdoors activity among their highest favored pastimes. But not me. So whyzat? Well, most of it has to do with one thing:

The SUN!

This blasted spectre of the skies is the bane of my existence. I would enjoy the occasional outdoor activity much more if I knew it wouldn’t be followed by hours or days or even weeks, in some cases, of horrible pain, itching, and eventual melanoma if I’m not careful. Plus, I’m a pretty heavy sweater, and sunscreen is horribly disgusting if applied at the SPF and thickness I need to avoid sunburning, and is rarely worth the effort.

Consider this case study, which is the most recent of many similar experiences: at the beginning of June, I took a trip along with my sister Kjersti to visit my brother Ben in Orlando, Florida. While there, we took a brief trip to Cocoa Beach, and were there for probably around two hours, tops. Frankly, I had a great time, even though about all I did was float there with a body board (the waves weren’t big enough to do any serious body boarding). During this time I reapplied sunscreen, twice. Twice! We were there two hours! Yet, after arriving back to Ben’s place, I discovered that I indeed had earned a deep red burn from my shoulders all the way down my back. I couldn’t really sit down, walk normally, or move my arms. Heck, I could barely breathe without intense pain due to my skin fluctuating with my lungs. This intense pain lasted about two or three days, followed by a milder, but still bad, pain for about a week, after which terrible itching and peeling occurred for four days, finally ridding myself of the marks of that two-hour two-sunscreen-application beach experience.

Not many people understand the pain that fair-skinned people have to go through. From what I understand, most people’s sunburns are, at worst, a mild annoyance that goes away after a day or two. But to me, and others with my skin type, it’s something much worse. It’d be like someone asking you, “Hey, want to go on the best roller-coaster experience ever? It’s the craziest, funnest time you’ll ever have! Unfortunately, right at the end, the ride breaks both your arms and you get punched in the face, hard, by a steel fist. But it’s OK: you’ll recover, right?” Would you take this ride?

This is why tanning salons, or indeed, people laying out in the sun to get a nice tan, are things even more baffling to me than, say, smoking. Both activities involve people trying to look cool when they’re young but actually looking kinda gross (to me, anyway), getting cancer later in life, and dying early. At least I can understand that smokers get addicted to the nicotine. I mean, why?

However, in addition to my sun problem, there are other reasons why I prefer the indoor life. I’m a creature of comfort. Blame it on being raised in the age of convenience, but I’m one that enjoys life better if I’ve showered, am wearing clean clothes, have slept on a mattress, and am not covered in bug bites. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy nature. I’m a big fan of mountain vistas, of beautiful landscapes, alpine lakes, waterfalls, fields of flowers, and all sorts of other natural phenomena one can experience, especially here in Utah. I also prefer that said vistas, etc. are within a half-hour walk to the car, where I will proceed to drive to a location with a bed, sink, working bathroom with shower, and so on. I am not disparaging those who do enjoy camping and all related inconveniences; I am saying, however, that I don’t share their enthusiasm.

As I’ve said before, I sweat a lot. I also get overheated pretty easily. My body temperature, at least every time I’ve measured it in a controlled environment, has been somewhere in the 97-degree range. You might think that that means I actually don’t get overheated as fast, but the contrary is true: I’m used to being cooler, and if working out or playing sports or whatever raise me up to 98.6F I feel hotter than most others. At least I would imagine that’s the case. I obviously can’t do an objective study. For these reasons, I’ve never been a very active sportsman, especially in sports where you’re moving all the time, such as basketball or soccer. Ones where you get breaks, such as football or tennis, I can deal with better, where ones where you basically stand in one place most of the time, like volleyball, I greatly enjoy. However, if a sport’s outside, it’s pretty much given that I’m going to have a harder time with it, thanks to the SUN!

That brings me to another point why I dislike playing sports: I’m horrible at most of them, compared with the average population. This is mainly due to lack of training and/or motivation as I grew up (it’s hard to play on a team in elementary school, even at recess, when the other kids mostly just make fun of how bad you are, especially your own brother, who isn’t even that good himself. For more info on that, ask me about the “Mark Eaton’s still eatin'” incident). While people aren’t nearly as overtly cruel at my age, they still either ignore you in games, or worse still, make little patronizing comments in order to make you feel better. “Ooh, you almost made that shot, Jeff! Don’t worry, you’ll do better next time!” Thanks, I know I’m horrible; don’t treat me like a five-year-old with low self-esteem, please. I can also tell that the more experienced players aren’t having as much fun either; they can’t play at the top of their game against an opponent such as myself. Frankly, the only times I really have fun playing sports are when everybody involved is about as inept as I am. At least then I can feel like a contributing member of the team.

When I was outdoors having fun growing up, it was rarely anything organized; just me (and maybe a friend such as Dan Burk) creating some sort of fanciful, marvelous, imaginative, Terabithia-like place in which to exist to escape elementary-school cruelty. I am still a big proponent of climbing trees, traipsing around fields, and taking long walks (in overcast weather, preferably). Unfortunately, I’m too much of an adult to be able to do this with kids, and most people my age are too grown-up to do this with me, so I’m left to either not have much fun outdoors, or do lots of things by myself. Which I do when I can.

But when it comes to social activities, especially with others my age, it’s nearly always preferably indoors for me. Unfortunately, not many people understand, and so I get left out. Come play a board game, or watch a movie, or have a philosophical discussion about semicolons (has happened in the past month!), or play a bit of Nintendo, or build a model of Deep Space Nine, or whatever floats your boat. But when you ask me to go play Ultimate Frisbee, or hike Timpanogos, or go swimming in our little pool at noontime, don’t be surprised if I turn you down. It’s nothing personal; it’s just who I am.

And that’s OK.


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