I remember being seven years old. My elementary school had just started a Chess/Checkers club, and I was excited. At that tender age, the finer points of chess were beyond me, and so I stuck with playing checkers.

For my first match I was paired up with another boy in my class. It was a very even match, as I recall. A single mistake by either side could have tipped the balance one way or the other. You could have cut the tension in the room with a knife.

And then he monkey-jumped me.

“Monkey-jumping” is just the term we used for double or triple jumping your opponent where the direction of your piece changes halfway through. For example, if your first jump is diagonal-right and your second is diagonal-left, you’ve just made a monkey jump.

Monkey-jumping is, of course, a legal move in checkers. But I wasn’t aware of that. I had never played with monkey-jumping before. I had only ever played with straight jumping.

This was, of course, an outrage. And so I did the only thing I could do to ameliorate the situation. I started crying.

Oh it was terrible. The librarian who was running the club didn’t know what do to, so the principal was called in. He solved the matter by ordering the other boy to undo his previous move and to continue the rest of the game without monkey-jumping.

Even now, I play by a very specific set of rules. It’s not necessarily the set of rules that everyone else is playing by, and it’s not necessarily the correct set of rules. But once I learn the rules of a game, it’s very difficult for me to start following a new set of rules. I’m able to adapt to changing circumstances within a game, but when the rules of the game itself change, I can’t do anything about it.

And my friends tell me. They’re good people, these friends of mine. They tell me when I’ve got it wrong. They say “Mike, you’re wrong. You’re overthinking everything. You’d have a lot more fun if you played like this instead.”

And they’re right. They’re smart people, these friends of mine. They know what’s best for me better than I do. But I just can’t do it. I can’t just start playing by a different set of rules. I’m too scared. What I need is for people to start playing by my rules. Then the world will make sense.