Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Three Years Ago
I am a writer, a storyteller. I always have been.
As a small child going to daycare outside of Native City, I used to make up tall tales on the spot and tell them to the staff, who encouraged the tendency.
“You should keep making stories, BB,” one young woman said to me when I was about four or five. “You’re good at it.”
Perhaps for that reason, I have always understood the narrative of my own life as a journey, one sometimes mythical, one marked by several important dates on which fate spun. Some of these dates have been magical, and others have been horrific.
December 27, 2001, sent me soaring into barrage of beautiful lightning sparks that illuminated my existence for the next two years and five months, that began the happiest time I’ve ever known, even with its flaws.
That day saved my life. I’ve commemorated it every year since, and this December 27th, eight years later, I will do so again.
Some dates have been more ambiguous, neither good nor bad.
July 29, 2004, was the day I arrived in Central City, Deep South State, and began the most intriguing, glamorous, and heartbreaking saga I’ve yet experienced.
Along with the good and the in-between, there are some that are purely bad.
On October 6, 2006, three years ago today, I was experiencing the dramatic beginning of a severe emotional collapse, one that, before it bottomed out, left me near suicide. I’d spent the month before crying my eyes out every day, weeping when I woke, weeping when I ate, weeping when I showered, and sobbing myself to sleep, before sometime in September I lost the ability to shed tears. They wouldn’t fall from my eyes again for two years.
At the time, at eighteen, I was obsessed with the past; with the glories of years gone by, with whether I’d ever attain such fulfillment again, with simultaneously longing for prior times and wanting desperately to escape every vestige of who I’d once been.
I’d been growing my hair for four years at that point, since eighth grade. Somehow, in the back of my tortured mind, ridding myself of it would tear away the pain of my memories and the pain of the present.
I walked into a hair salon on October 6, 2006, and asked the stylist on duty to cut off my seventeen-inch ponytail. That being done I shaved my head, and, four months before Britney Spears made it the cool thing to do, was plummeting off the deep end.
The cutting of my hair was not a bad thing in itself, but it was symptomatic of the spiritual tailspin I was only beginning to ride, of deep-seated issues that hadn’t even begun to flex their excruciating muscles.
I was a young man in peril, and I got so much worse before I got better. When I think of myself as an eighteen-year-old boy, lost and alone in the world, his serious problems mocked or downplayed or ignored, and compounded every day, I don’t know how I made it. I thought I was a man, but I was a child, a child who nearly died.
At the end, in the moment Death stared into my eyes with its cold gaze and willed me forward into nothingness, I didn’t believe in God or humanity. It was awful.
Three years have passed since then, and time brought so many gentle changes.
The growth of my hair, now quite long again, is a superficial indication of the tremendous growth I’ve experienced within, just as the shearing of an eighteen-year-old’s long locks could not begin to encapsulate the agony he would soon endure. For everything, though, and despite my past assertions to the contrary, I wouldn’t undo it. Surviving that made me so strong.
Today I trust my own instincts, embrace those who embrace me, and spurn those who don’t. Today I have confidence in my talents but resist the hollow comforts of hubris. Today I am a fundamentally better human being than I was three years ago.
During that crisis, I often said I didn’t know who I was before it began. Now, I don’t know who I was as it unfolded.
For that, I am so blessed.