The deeper I went into my journals, the more I learned about me. The more I wrote and the more I reveled, the more I notice a sense of freedom, which came over me. I felt a sense of personal understanding, which is what I needed.
I began this journey to feel better, which was successful but not easy. There were times when I broke into tears. There were times when I looked at the people within my circle of influence and saw them with contempt and regret.
I looked back to the things I used to look away from —whether it was depressive thinking or struggles with suicide; and whether it was the discomfort I had about things that should never happen to a boy, especially an unfair touch from a grownup, I literally exposed every memorable discomfort.
I realized that I could not run anymore. No, in order to be me, I had to beat the old me by understanding where I came from.
This meant I had to bare all. I exposed the feelings of degradation, which I never fully realized until I was older.
If I was going to be me, then I decided I would have to be me and no one else. I decided that I could not go halfway.
No, I would have to run deep. I would have to be humble and modest, which is not always easy.
In a lesson I once learned, it was told to me that humility is simply being honest about one’s self. And modesty is just the absence of pride.
The way I saw it is if I wanted my journals to produce to their full potential then I would have to remain humble and modest.
I started to see more about my boundaries or the lack thereof. Each of us has boundaries, which we learn about as we grow.
This is how we learn to interact. This is where we learn about connections with people, family roles, trust, personal space, and so on.
This was the hard part. I started to see where boundaries were violated. I began to see where people of trust did untrustworthy things—but more, I noticed this affected my self-worth.
This is where some of my trends began. This is where I learned to place trust in untrustworthy people.
I learned about boundary violations and accepted them because I thought this is just how the world is. But I was wrong.
The more I wrote, the more I felt, which was fine because although this was very hard for me—at least there was clarity.
I felt a sense of personal control. I could write what I want. I could control what I placed on a page and then simply, let . . it. . . go . . .
Besides, I was in too deep now to quit or turn back. I made a commitment to write my thoughts on a daily basis. And I did.
I had to know. I was giving myself the chance. I wanted to be rid of my past. I wanted to be rid of my mistakes and my regret.
More accurately, I wanted to be rid of the unspeakable secrets and the regrettable yesterdays. I wanted to understand where all this began. More importantly, I wanted to be free.
And who doesn’t?
But what is freedom? What does it mean to be free? Could it have been true that it was me, in fact, that kept me prisoner for so long?
Which it was me in some regard, which is the same for most of us. Oftentimes, we are our own captor, which is why people shy away from self-awareness because most people are afraid of what they will learn.
And I could see why.
I began to understand more about my depression. This was painful. It hurt to realize that I was part of the process. In my case, my freedom came in the form of accountability, in which I held myself accountable for me. This is was my source of empowerment. This was my personal release and no one could stop me.
I wanted to understand the fascination with status and the different levels of popularity. Then a memory came to me.
I remembered my first day in the seventh grade. I remember the first time I stood in the doorway of the cafeteria. There was a sea of tables and a sea of people sitting at them. I was so small and young. And the room was so big to me.
Life was no longer limited to the same classroom like it was in grade school. Junior High was different – they call it Middle School now. But back then, we called it Woodland Junior High School.
I recall seeing the cafeteria. On the right side is where the athletes and the jocks would sit. This is where the pretty people sat together in a group.
This is where the popular kids were. This was the social elite, the good looking, and the “Cool” kids tables.
There was a different group on the left hand side, away from the entrance and lunch lines. This side was popular as well. Only, this side was the tough kids and the trouble kids. They were long-haired and crazy, quick to fight, and quick to give a teacher the finger. They were socially elite and popular as well, just in a different sense and for different reasons.
This was the upper echelon of cool. In the middle of the lunchroom, however, and spread out in the sea of faceless nobodies, this was the socially vacant. They were the unknown kids in the middle of the crowd. They were the ones with unnoticed identities. Not good looking per say, and not bad looking either, just unnoticed and with no social ranking.
This was my fear. My fear was to be that kid in the middle, unnoticed and uninspiring. I never wanted to be that kid, so easily forgettable or unremarkable.
But how does one stand out in a crowd? More importantly, how does one overcome the idea of walking in a room and seeing themselves as unnoticed?
Suffice to say, this could be where my social anxiety began.
But I would argue it started before this.
Suffice to say that this could have been too much for me at the time.
But I would argue this was always a struggle.
Suffice to say this could have been the reason why I would lie and tell my mother I was too sick to go to school, which led to a series of hospitalizations and tests.
Suffice to say that a line had been crossed. I started to realize more about me and my differences. I started to see the social governments of popularity of who is cool and who isn’t.
Suffice to say that I didn’t like this game. It was too hard for me to understand the rules. And who decides these rules? Is everything in this world based on popularity and status? Perhaps, maybe . . .
I had always wondered who decides the requirements for popularity. To me, it seemed the popular kids were like a joint commission that determined who was acceptable and who wasn’t.
But how is this fair?
The more I detailed this, the more I learned about identity. And to a kid, identity is everything. Terms like “They” and “Them” represent the crowd.
Terms like “They” and “Them” meant the kids at school—but not just any kid. No, terms like “They” and “Them” meant the kids that truly mattered.
One time, I saw a shirt that said, “It’s not who you are. It’s what you wear,” above a man in a James Dean-like pose, leaning against the wall with sunglasses on and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Below the picture it said, “Because nobody really cares who you are anyway.”
I see this shirt as an accurate depiction of us and our society.
Perhaps not in all cases, but still, I get it.
Add this to the list. Add this to the stress of social discomfort in school. Add status to the distractions of learning disabilities. Add puberty. Add the changes kids go through and me, still much younger looking than everyone else—looking different, feeling different. And then add the need to be wanted. Add the need to be included and invited. Now add insecurity. Add the normal discomforts of youth and the normal questions kids have about themselves and their bodies. Now add the idea of sex and sexual interest and wanting to be wanted by a girl or have a girlfriend.
So what did I do? I broke down. I would tell my Mother I was sick, which worked because I was sick as a young boy.
I was hospitalized for two weeks when I was an infant and hospitalized again when I was 8 for gastroenteritis.
I had a terrible fear (and still do to this day) of doctors, needles, and hospitals. However, I remembered my symptoms, which I used again and again until one day, Mom thought it would be a good idea to challenge me.
See, Mom knew that I was petrified of the doctor. So, when Mom suggested that perhaps we should see a doctor to see if I was faking, I agreed, which sent Mom off the charts because she expected me to say “No!”.
Next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room. They admitted me into the hospital and gave me a spinal tap, which went wrong, and I was stuck in the hospital for two weeks.
The problem with this is they kept looking to see what was wrong with me. And now that I was in the hospital, I couldn’t very well tell them the truth.
I kept insisting upon my symptoms because I didn’t want to be caught in a lie.
As a result, I was out from school for six months. I was put on medication. I was given Xanax and other medications to “help” me with my anxiety.
I underwent so many tests that were painful and stressful, and yes, I was out of school —yes, I received attention but the attention fell short. Meanwhile, other kids my age were outside having fun. And me, I was in the hospital because I painted myself in corner and didn’t know how to get out of it.
Suffice to say that anxiety has always been a part of my life.
Suffice to say that depression and I go back longer than I can remember.
Suffice to say the more in depth and the more I revealed in my journals, the more the picture began to clear.
I was deceived as a child. I was deceived by my own interpretation and the deceptions of my perception. I placed too much importance on outside appearance and opinion. I gave too much away, which is why I was so angry.
I was angry that I was uncomfortable. I was angry that I held myself in such a poor regard, and that I had little faith in myself. I was angry that I was in pain and so desperately afraid. And more importantly, I was angry that I couldn’t find a way to stand out and be more than just another faceless nobody in the crowd.
All of that was about to change though.
And quickly too.
By the way:
I recall the first time I wrote about all the above. It was freeing and yet painful. Who knew that decades after all this happened, I would not only be writing about this in a manuscript, but speaking openly about any of this in large classrooms, in front of students, in colleges, or in front of law enforcement, community leaders, or acting as keynote speaker and toastmaster in corporate events.
If you would have told me then that this would be me now, I’d have shook my head and told you, “You’re crazy!”
Then again, life is crazy.