Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hair Update

I figured I'd get these up by the end of the month.

This is what my hair looked like in March:

This is what my hair looks like now:

It's really long. Sweet Roommate has taken to teases me now about needing a haircut, but I pay him no mind.

I've taken to wearing it down lately, and the feeling of all that hair flowing out behind me or falling in a blonde heap across my shoulder everytime I turn my head is pretty cool.

I think this will be particlarly enjoyable as summer comes.

Wow. My next haircut isn't until August. When you think about how long my hair is now, that's kind of crazy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the Bathroom Wall

Art really knows no boundaries. I came across this poem today, scribbled in marker on the side of a bathroom stall on campus:

Haven't they heard of beauty
And don't they know the stars drip electric water
And I let it run through my fingers
Like a freak nightmare into the
Cobweb of a beaded dreamcatcher
But they are too busy
With their French maids
And typhoid romances and their
Bubblegum and amusement parks
And their TV and their cubicles
And their treadmills and their banks and
Their pop bands
To see
That a grain of sand
Knows more than our critics
And it needed no hands
No thoughts and no machines
To be

It made me smile all the way to class, and I found myself reading it over again during instruction, marveling at the lines. I wonder who wrote it, and why he put it there?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It Makes Me Feel Like Home

I have been blessed in more ways than one in recent months. From what was easily the blackest time of my life I have emerged onto a plain of brilliant sunlight, and in the course I now take I am trying to strike a path wherein I neither sentimentalize that experience nor forget the enormous gifts I've been given.

On the one hand, a person can't walk around in a perpetual state of bliss. Such a wide-eyed, sweet-as-pie mentality quickly becomes annoying to others, while expecting perfection is a sure set-up for failure.

That's one thing about my father that always irritated me: things with him, until recently, have been either wonderful or dreadful. Before our move to Deep South State, he decided that life had "changed" and that we were headed for paradise. The adversity we faced there hit him hard because he did not account for it.

A person must budget for these kinds of things.

On the other hand, I've experienced in the last year an unprecedented flowering, one that has brought a revitalized work ethic, renewed my love for reading and writing, sparked once again my creative imagination, handed to me the sweet fruit of friendship, and, among other things, seen me offered a record deal.

All in all, not bad.

I also learned, just three days before my birthday, that I'd been selected to fill Major University's public relations internship. It's a coveted position and the selection process, which went on for about two weeks after my interview, is competitive, so when I got the call telling me I was being chosen I was thrilled.

Beginning May 17th, I will commute Mondays through Wednesdays to Major University, where I'll get paid ten dollars an hour to produce news stories painting the school in a favorable light. This will be my first job that actually relates to what I'm studying and allows me to apply my journalism skills toward a useful occupation. It will be the first job where I'm not easily disposable.

That's a big change from working in a movie theater for minimum wage.

During the rest of the week, I'll be in the recording studio, something that Local Records is eager to get an early jump on; I'm going home this weekend to receive the legal paperwork for my record deal (it still feels bizarre to write that) and in addition to that will be recording for three hours each on Saturday and Sunday.

"After you get out of school, things will really pick up," Label CEO told me last weekend.

My contract states that my debut album (tentatively to be titled Catastrophe) must be finished by December 31st, but the label is pushing for a Fall release and wants to have several singles and at least one music video out by late July or early August.

That means that my holiday will probably be even busier than the school year, but that I'll also enjoy it a good deal more.

And I am in awe of this.

I am in awe of the fact that, at twenty-two years old, I get to divide my summer between furthering my journalism career and recording my debut album.

So my task now is to maintain a realistic outlook while never forgetting all the things for which I should give thanks.

Recently, I received another of those.

Mountain Town is isolated from the rest of Southern State, a situation that typically results in my being cut off from almost everyone I know when I leave the Goldlands for Christmas and summer vacations. I have family, of course, but all the friends from campus are away in different parts of the state or country.

This summer, though, there will be some notable exceptions to the rule.

One of these is Norwegian, a girl from Mountain Town whom I met at Major University and over the course of this year have become close friends with. She'll be home for a month before taking a trip to Gambling City, and we're sure to hang out.

Then there's another friend.

This young woman, whom I was at first inclined to introduce as Wild Girl, lives in the southern part of this state but will be in the Mountain Town region for the whole summer as a researcher at a park of sorts, a great 200-acre facility of trees and wildlife.

"I'm taking your picture," I warned her as she showed me around. "I'll have to think of a pseudonym for know, for Flickr."

"I want a black name," she said immediately. "I want to be called Laquesha."

"Okay..." I said. "Laquesha it is."

So it was that, for the first time, I let someone choose their own blogging alias.

Laquesha is a wild and infectiously fun individual, a girl who regaled me one of the first times we met with the story of the New Year's celebration during which she'd had blackout sex in front of the other partygoers.

"I don't mind telling people," she laughed, a smile cracking across her round face. "It's funny."

Laquesha showed me across her Mountain Realm, starting with the Slave Quarters where she'd be staying.

"Apparently this was an old plantation back in the day," she explained as we walked through. "So they're shoving us in here. The professors get cottages."

We laughed at how fitting that was, and then the self-christened Laquesha proceeded to give me a tour of the rest of the grounds.

The work that Laquesha will be doing at the Mountain Realm this summer is comparatively boring--she's helping to study the breeding patterns of an invasive moth species and will spend much of her time collecting larvae--but the environment in which she'll carry it is not.

"I'm so lucky to be here," she said as we walked out across the stunning scene.

She was so right.

Beyond the Slave Quarters was a series of brightly-colored trees along a stone-lined walkway.

I found myself making up stories about one of the trees, imagining that a white wizard had died on the land, perhaps during a great battle or perhaps on a peaceful afternoon after centuries tending his enchanted forest. In my vision, he was buried in the soil he loved and the tree sprouted up over him, its white petals offering magic power to those who knew how to use them.

We strode through a landscape that was vast, beautiful, and unexpectedly varied.

I'd expected hardy vegetation and big trees in this mountainous environment, but there was much in addition to that, including a swamp.

After we'd walked the standard trails, Laquesha decided to give me a behind-the-scenes look at the place, taking me to the old farmhouse where all the grad students who work in the Realm reportedly party over the summer.

"This is so VIP," I joked. "Usually this place is really exclusive, but I have the hookup. I can come see these trees anytime I want."

Laquesha cracked up as we approached the edge of a massive, hilly field.

The place was sprawling and gorgeous, filled with vibrant green grasses and untamed yellow and white dandelions.

"I don't understand people who don't like the country," I said as I looked around us. "It's so beautiful here."

"I know," Laquesha said. "That's never made sense to me, either. They say it's weird to them, but it makes me feel more natural. It reminds me of home."

I've always felt a connection to my landscape, which may be the reason that I yearn so for thunderous winters and summers of boiling heat, or why living in Deep South State as a teenager so disoriented me.

"I keep expecting for it to be chilly," I remarked one morning to a friend at the bus stop. "And for the leaves to be red. But that's not going to happen. I feel thrown off."

Laquesha and I were going to head straight over to the farmhouse, but there was a rise in the green of the field and I wanted to see what was over it.

"We're marking out uncharted territory," I informed her. "There could be a whole different world beyond that hill."

She laughed at me.

"Sorry," I smiled. "When I was younger I loved to go exploring in the woods."

"I still like doing that," she said.

I felt warm inside and out when I heard her reply.

"I've kind of accepted that a part of me will always be a kid," I said. "In some ways, like in terms of emotional maturity, I feel a lot older than twenty-two. In others, though, I'm an idiot."

"That's good, though," the twenty-one-year-old answered. "Inside, I'm like twelve. And I try to hold onto that, but there's so many people who try to bash it out of you. Sometimes I'll think something is funny, and people just don't get it. I want to stay twelve."

We continued to talk all the way back to the Slave Quarters, about career goals, graduation dates (due to my minor, I'll walk with the Class of 2011 rather than the Class of 2010), and our difficult childhoods.

"I really don't know how I turned out so okay," she laughed after sharing a particularly painful story. "I'm weirdly normal."

I drew her into a hug.

"Sometimes those childhoods produce the best parents, though," I said. "We won't make the same mistakes they did. When I was a kid I was practically taking notes: 'Not gonna do that. Definitely not gonna do that. Not gonna do that, either. That one was horribly damaging to me.'"

She cackled with mirth again as we embraced.

At the end of our afernoon together we both departed, she for the Goldlands and I for Mountain Town.

We both have a lot ahead of us these next few months, and we're both excited about it.

This summer doesn't just carry the promise of an internship and a record deal--it carries the promise of companionship.

In my public relations position I will gain career experience and a good salary; in my musical endeavors I will record a disc filled with music I love and see the potential for a huge payoff.

Then there are the friends who will be nearby. In them, the value of everything else is measured.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As I Turn Twenty-Two

My 22nd birthday finds me meeting success in my professional endeavors, branching out further into a wide network of friends who give me endless joy, embarking on ventures I would have thought impossible months ago, and surrounded by people who love me.

My life is not perfect, but I've been given so very much, and so much more than many people ever receive.

On this birthday, I have countless reasons to be happy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Two Years

It was two years ago today, on April 7, 2008, that I heeded the urges of an online friend and posted my first entry to Blogger.

Jo(e), with whom I'd been in correspondence since the previous month, had been encouraging me for weeks to start a site of my own, but for some reason I was reluctant. Reflecting now on how fascinating and rewarding blogging has been for me, I can't imagine why I ever felt that way.

In the two years since becoming a part of this online community, I've met scores of new acquaintances and a handful of close friends (one of whom I even had the chance to visit with in person), documented some enormous changes in my life, and been able to facilitate my own personal growth through a forum that provided all the privacy of a diary with all the feedback of a town hall. It really is a wonderful arrangement, and I can't understand why the idea didn't come to me sooner.

My only blogging regret is that I didn't start at a younger age, and that's more a testament to the appeal of the practice than any actual remorse.

Things with me have done a fairly dramatic about-face since that April day two springs ago. When I look at the posts I wrote then, I am shocked at how filled they were with bitterness, sorrow, longing, and anger. I barely recognize the young man I was then, but I don't condemn him; he had a lot of bad things going on. The fact that, all circumstances taken into consideration, I've made it to where I am in two years' time is pretty astounding.

In any case, my readership has morphed almost as much as my personal life. The tight-knit group who were with me at the beginning have mostly dispersed or logged off, leaving in their wake a new crop of regulars and assorted lurkers. As such, a reintroduction is in order.

My name here was first Blackened Boy, for reasons that became very apparent, but after my blog was compromised in an unexpectedly fortuitous turn of events last May, I christened myself anew, this time choosing the moniker BrightenedBoy. Either way, you can call me BB.

I am twenty-one years old, and currently a college student at a major university in the American South, where I’m studying Government and International Politics with a minor in Electronic Journalism. I imagined that after graduation next May I'd be a public relations specialist or political journalist, but recent developments with a record company may change that, at least for a while.

A year ago, I was making the nearly two-hour drive from my home to campus four days a week, but starting this Fall I took up residence again, something that has opened up so many gratifying social opportunities and really improved the quality of my life.

When I'm not in school, I live with my parents, David and Marie (not actual names). They also reside in Southern State, along with two of my three siblings: Thomas (aged 14), and Pie (my sister, aged 6). My cousin, Beautiful Cousin (aged 19), attends a university close to my parents' home and stays with us so she can commute. They are all about an hour and a half away from my university’s campus, where they live in Mountain Town, a rural and isolated community remarkably cut-off from the extremely affluent area immediately to its east.

Another brother, Powell (aged 20) now lives with my Grandmother Normal Family in Native State. After some struggles, he's looking for a job with the full support of our father's family.

A year ago I changed my profile picture from a swirly-faced version of me to the photo my readers have known for the past twelve months, an image of a young man with golden blonde hair hiding his face and spilling over onto a red shirt covered in Bs.

For about two weeks leading up to this post I had been debating what my profile symbol for 2010 should be, there being nothing in any of my albums that I felt was adequate.

Then about a week ago, my close friend Norwegian snapped the capture at the top of this entry and I knew I'd found the right thing.

Now, a year in review:

April, 2009: I turned twenty-one, and for the first time in my life a birthday party was thrown for me by friends. This event was the crystallization of my emergence from the horrible blackness that had made me so death-like for two years.

May, 2009: Summer vacation began, and I started spending a large amount of time with Sacagawea, staying up late eating ice-cream and watching bad informercials when I didn't have work at Western City Movie Theater. I also changed my website after it was discovered by Anne's family.

June, 2009: My family went on vacation to Mountain Resort.

July, 2009: Summer proceeded nicely. I came out to my father.

August, 2009: After I wrote a letter of pleading to Major University's housing director, I received a last-minute notification that I was being granted a room for the Fall 2009 semester.

September, 2009: For the first time since May of 2008, I took up residence in school dormitories. I also came out on campus.

October, 2009: I went to my first gay club.

November, 2009: I celebrated the most thankful Thanksgiving I'd had in a while.

December, 2009: Christmas Break was isolated, but in a good way. I enjoyed the month of quiet.

January, 2010: I brought my 2010 New Year's resolutions into effect. Among them was a pledge to make "significant strides in music." On January 2nd I auditioned for a band and was inducted as the lead singer. I also moved into Student Town, which proved to be a stroke of good fortune.

February, 2010: After significant artistic differences, I left the band I'd been singing in.

March, 2010: During Spring Break, I sent a low-quality recording of myself to a small independent record label. A month later, they offered me a record deal.

After two years of writing here, I feel immensely lucky to have run across Jo(e)'s website on an unrelated Google search in the spring of 2008. It led me to some wonderful people and a very interesting experience that I hope will continue for a long time.

I'm also conscious, in looking at where I was when I started here, of my many blessings, which are so much greater than I could ever deserve.

Blogging has been an amazing outlet and has proven to be a treasured part of my life. I hope you have enjoyed the time I've spent here so far.

I know I have.