Want my help on something?
The only thing we are is a byproduct of our
If you're conscious of yours, learn to translate them to others. Not so they're 'understood,' but so they're FELT.
I didn't speak until I was almost 3 years old. My parents took me to a doctor concerned I might be deaf.
After doing some tests he told them,
'he's not deaf, he just doesn't have anything to say.'
Whether this is your first introduction to me, or re-introduction by my actual self, I appreciate whatever motivated you to make it this far. If you're one of the friendships or relationships that fell victim to my self-guided pursuits, I hope you can understand why solitude was vital for my wellbeing. If you're one of the few that shared a moment with me along my journey, I appreciate your generosity. And if you're one of the handful of people who have sent me messages, letters, and postcards thanking me for inspiring a move, a risk, or a more authentic life, I have been genuinely humbled by your graciousness. I apologize for never responding but I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge such notes. I was young when I took a leap of faith hoping there was a safe place to land beyond my sights. But I didn't know for sure how I would end up. Acknowledging or taking stock of any distance traveled, or vocalizing any responsibility would have only added to the albatross. Your pursuits and enlightenment supplies more gratitude than you can possibly imagine.
Since then I have been on a relentless pursuit to genuinely live my life. I have been committed to the idea that I can do anything. I can create anything. I can achieve and learn anything. I have a responsibility to myself above all else. I spent all of my 20's learning, growing and experiencing. I have tried, I have failed, and I have become more human in the process. As I'm now getting ready to start a new chapter of my life, I am doing so with the understanding that I could have only gotten here by genuinely knowing myself, consciously living life; while seeking out knowledge and experiences like a trail of breadcrumbs that have been left behind by others.
This free, real-time book/blog experiment is my gift to those who are looking for a step, and my obligation to those I'm indebted to.
The months that followed were a self-loathing, drug-induced fog. The entire motivation to leave was liberation, but it quickly transitioned into avoidance, confinement, and disdain. Cultural anthropology was the only subject to offer some insight, but even that was met with a level of hypocrisy in my mind. The environment was alienating, life was self destructive. I think I failed every class that first semester, which is more than I can say for the spring. Because about nine months into my freshman year, something snapped.
I stopped going to class all together. I spent days if not weeks wandering between the campus in San Antonio, and staying with friends in Austin. By the time I made it back I had been dropped from most of my classes and failing the rest. It was there in that moment that I finally accepted what I knew all along. I was not meant to live within the system I was born into. I would never succeed by placating constructs based on myopic paradigms, that failed to acknowledge my existence.
So I quit.
I quit school,
I quit the expectations,
I quit accepting what I was told.
I made a promise to myself that I would never live my life based on the ideals of others, ever again.
Rather than play chicken any longer, the summer before I'm supposed to start college, I applied to the only option I was given. A small, private, catholic university with a rolling admission date. (Yeah, I literally applied about a month before orientation.)
My dad had called the university and was told scholarships and grants had already been awarded so regardless of the admission date, sticker price education was out of the question. At this point my parents had already written off any notion that I would attend anything more than our local community college. And I had already dismissed the ability to stay in that environment. So I penned an introspective account of the context afforded to me by my ADD diagnosis as an admission essay. And even though I was awarded the 'Presidential Scholarship' just weeks before class was supposed to start, I think my parents felt more relief for themselves than any sense of pride in me for the accomplishment.
Apparently the disability doesn't only exist in children and can cause more symptoms than hyperactivity. Even though I had always been well-tempered, my mind had been bouncing off the walls.
Here I was, months away from graduating with a less-than-stellar academic career. I thought back to all the missed signals by myself and others. I thought about all the times I tried explaining it, only to have it dismissed as an excuse. I had been marginalized my entire life for just being me. All of the systems in place, all of the judgment and discrimination for not being able to achieve goals that were literally unachievable to me. And now I'm supposed to take a pill to fix it?
I dismissed the idea. There was no way to 'correct' the byproduct of my life. Luckily I was conscious throughout it, so I was able to understand what was best for myself. I knew what I was good at despite any 'disability'. Which is why after graduation I planned on pursuing an education and career in photography, media and technology. Unfortunately my relationship with my parents, or lack thereof, rendered any plans or ambitions that didn't align with theirs as futile.
Alas, the most oppressive glass ceiling and invasive system of them all. At this point originality had as much chance to overcome challenge as whatever team was going up against the Harlem Globetrotters.
...is what I remember my doctor telling me from the results.
The following semester I joined the school newspaper and I was reunited with technology. I was introduced to Pagemaker and Photoshop –at a time when 'layers' was the new revolutionary feature. Within a year, I was writing the most important news stories, taking photos, and designing the layout. I even explored new territory by creating a calendar as a fundraiser that was entirely organized, designed, photographed and produced by me, singlehandedly. When I finished it, the advisor told me to print and bind them too [which meant one at a time on an old single-sided printer notorious for jamming]. I had already put in months of extracurricular time and personal money to get it ready. With only a 90-minute period, manufacturing hundreds by myself would have been close to impossible. So just like that, as abruptly as photography found me, I gave it up.
It was just the newspaper and exploitation I gave up, not the picture taking per se. I just understood I had reached a point where my growth would become stagnated and no matter how organic my love and appreciation for the craft was, I had reached a glass ceiling. It was part of a system. The same indoctrinated belief system that dismissed my concerns as excuses over the years. It began to cement an understanding that unorthodox would be seen as frivolous. It's when I became conscious of identifying moments where originality was met with challenge.
Rather than ignore my intuition, I spent my senior year of high school learning fundamentals of art and video editing. It was another creative high, but it introduced me to an even larger problematic system. My lower class neighborhood received cut-rate resources that directly kept me from being able to grow. I don't want to get into the specifics here, but I'll just say I had to take extreme measures to insure that my progress wasn't stifled by the systems meant to empower me. And if that wasn't enough, after turning 18 my life would change again.
The darkroom filled with smelly chemicals,
safe lights, and glow-in-the-dark timers
became my Fortress of Solitude. Capturing photos, processing film, and exposing prints, brought back the same joy and excitement I had using my DOS computer to play Concentration. Plus, I was good at it.
The silver lining (literally) came from a Pentax K1000. At 15, I took a photojournalism class and life changed. There was something magical about photography and film.
Truth is, there are plenty of catalysts over my most formative years and they might all be multimedia in nature. I lived vicariously through visionaries of both fact and fiction. I spent countless hours being fascinated by Bob Ross, trying to understand Carl Sagan, or imaging a life like The Pretender –a short-lived NBC show in the 90's where the protagonist could be anything he wanted to be. When my friends and I would play X-MEN at recess, there was usually someone fighting to be Wolverine, but I never had a challenge when I would call 'Beast'. (I would usually just sit off to the side and pretend to read or do science experiments.) Unfortunately, no matter how much I longed to be the most brilliant mind in the room, I was incapable of achieving any of it in real life.
By the time technology started working its way into my daily life (around 10 or 11), there was no turning back. I needed the experiences technology afforded me. It was the only thing that I could truly engage with and learn from. In some ways, I've been an early adopter since the very beginning. Despite a modest socioeconomic status, I always manged to experience and explore everything I was given access to whether at school or at a friend's house.
After puberty, my grades started to nosedive. In hindsight I can probably relate it to work demands rather than a chemical imbalance. But the next few years were torture. I loathed every aspect of life during the 'awkward phase' so many around me seemed to skip. My grades suffered, social life was nonexistent, and I was written off as a failure by practically every
adult in my life. Teachers would normally tell my parents I was never 'applying' myself, and anything I would think or say was either dismissed, or seen as an excuse. I was rebuked for things I felt were beyond my control.
I don't think it was a Sally Struthers commercial, but one of my most nascent memories came from seeing a 'learn from home' advertisement after school. I was probably seven years old and I remember being fascinated at the idea that someone could learn how to be a private investigator, electrician, or a gunsmith from their house. I imagined that one day if I could afford it, I would learn to do everything. Not to do any of them professionally, but to just have a diverse skill set and be as self-sufficient as possible.
I've always felt 'different.' I don't know how else to describe it other than existentialism flowing through my veins. Even as a child, I can remember moments as early as four or five years old, when I was making conscious decisions and experimenting with reason. Of course, at the time I didn't understand it as such and in over 30 years of life no one has ever really helped me understand it. But I've spent the past few years really trying to make sense of things –– and not in the common 'quarter-life' or midlife crisis kind of way. In fact, it might be the exact opposite.
I'm not reaching for, or transitioning into a heightened sense of identity. I'm not trying to discover who I really am and I'm not longing for change. I've always maintained an internal transparency and even shared elements with companions. However, my journey over the past year hasn't been for a personal understanding of self, I'm more concerned with being able to translate it to others. In the past I've tried dozens of times and fallen short, or it's required so much effort I usually burn out. But over the past year I've tried pairing my knack for design with subtlety and brevity. And even though this combination has me feeling like I'm on a new path, the truth is I've been on the same course since day one.
That same justification can be used to explain my sporadic communication over the past few years. Especially during the virtual radio silence that's happened recently.
But now, I finally have something I want to say...
That same justification can be used to explain my sporadic communication over the past few years. Especially during the past 15 months of virtual radio silence. But now, I finally have something I want to say.
Sean and Francis,
you helped me more.
But the only
and because my grandma said it was okay.
a Lifetime of
ALL of my past, present, and future,
reason why I'm ME, is because of
than you probably realize.
for making it relatable.
Your understanding of 'self' and
transparency in your craft was a real–time inspiration.