This is my house, small, humble and with a backyard meant for dreaming. There are three bedrooms and one bathroom. There is an upstairs and a downstairs basement. My bedroom was the one upstairs and to the left. There were two windows in my room. One window faced the front of my house, which was on a main street. This is the window I could look through to see the world drive by.
The other window faced the side of my house. I used to dream through this window. And sometimes, I would climb out from my window and stand on the slanting roof on the backside of my house. No one could see me here. Below this part of my roof was the garage, which, for some reason, my family never kept a car in the garage. We had a collection of things in there. Just stuff. We had things like a lawnmower, a few rakes, a shovel or two and whatever collected things that never made it into the home.
My bedroom saw a lot of my secrets but the room never told on me. I lived here from my third year of life and up until the age of 19. There was only a brief separation that spanned between September of 1989 and October of 1990.
This is my room, small, and yet, my room was big enough for me to hide here. I lived here. I played here. I pretended here and I grew from early childhood, into boyhood and then found myself here as a teenager. I experienced change here. This room is the captor of my early truths. This is the place where I wept and I laughed and I dreamed and so on. There was a bed, which was always the same. The decorations changed throughout the years. My room went from early boyhood to musical with posters and black-light posters with a black-light reflecting across the walls and a glowing prism that tossed colored lights around the room in a swirling pattern. Safe to say this was my last version of self before changing or escaping my cocoon. This is where the drugs took a change as well, but yet, in fairness to myself; drugs were the smallest part of me.
This is the place where I heard my favorite bands for the first time. This is where I learned how music can play what we feel. This is where I rehearsed what I would say to people. I planned my attack here. And yet, this is where I would retreat to when the attacks failed.
My floor was wood. There was no carpeting. There was a black tapestry with a heavy metal band’s album cover that draped over the window facing the front of my house. There was another over the window that faced the side of my house. This controlled the sunlight that came through my windows. This could allow me a place to wake slowly instead of being blinded by the new morning sun. Then again, I never slept much. I never slept late. I suppose the gloominess of a dimly lit room was enough to allow me to be calm or yet, maybe there was a sense of being concealed, or safe; as if I were closed off from the rest of the world.
This room saw the different stages of innocence and yet, my bedroom knew all about the loss thereof. I had hiding places for things of mine. I had a hole in the wall that was covered by a poster. I hid things here. Some of what I hid were bad things. Some of the things I hid were the tools of my trade, such as a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and my paraphernalia, which I used to keep me high.
There is so much more to where we live than meets the eye. There are programs, such as “Hidden in plain sight,” which discuss teenage rooms and where their hiding places are. And thus, I had more than one. I had more than two. In fact, I’m not sure that all these years later, somewhere in the old bedroom of my childhood home is something there, hidden, like a little remnant of me. I lived here. I grew here. I ate here and I slept here. At a few points, I almost died here.
This is my family, typical and yet, unusual at the same time. This was my Mother, warm, kind and from a different world. I say this and yet, she was indigenous to this planet. Mom came from a place known as Carlsbad, New Mexico. She was hopeful. She worked. She lived and she loved. She cooked and yes, she cleaned, and there was the typical common family dynamic.
Mom was the caregiver. She was a protector. She was naive to some degree, misinformed, but yet, she was there to do what she believed she was supposed to do.
This was my Father. He was tough, stern and he too was from a different world. His hands were heavy and strong. This was my first hero. His birthplace was New York in the Bronx. He came from a time before time. He came from back when our country was in a depression.
He was quarantined when he was young with something called Diphtheria, which almost killed him. My father is the person I refer to as The Old Man in my stories. The Old Man was born in 1929 on May 28. He grew up very differently from me. Then again, all parents grow up differently from their children; only, for some reason parents never seem to take this into consideration. Often, our parents fail to take into consideration that times change and so does our culture. Hence, life is not the same. We are not the same. We are all going around the sun in a unique fashion. It’s best to call this out instead of pretending to act like we know everything.
The Old Man worked hard. He worked harder, especially if he felt older or as if he could not control something; in which case, The Old Man would take on a project around the house so that he could prove his ability and prove his strength.
He was proud of his heritage. He was proud of his culture and his background. He was proud but he was not always proud. There were moments of truth. There were moments of awareness, like, say, when the teachers used to call home and he would learn about some of my antics at school
I would try to explain why I couldn’t walk the line. I would try to explain why I didn’t fit in. I would try to tell him but yet, when you’re a kid the only words that leave your mouth are words like, “I don’t know.”
This is my brother. He is strong. He is my second hero. He is someone who I wanted to approve of me as well. And yet, we lived as polar opposites. He sat on the athletes side. I was on the opposing side. My brother was popular. He was in the newspapers for playing lacrosse. And me? I was in the newspapers too. This was because there was a helicopter chasing me through the neighborhood.
My brother was unlike anyone else. He was strong. He loved to compete. It didn’t matter if someone was better, stronger, or faster, my brother would only try harder.
I never saw anything like this before. I never dared anything like this either. He was known and good looking, which was difficult for me because girls would ask about him and seldom ask about me.
This is me, remembering where I came from and what I’ve overcome. This is me, thinking what I would do if I could go back to speak with me at the age of 12 or maybe even younger. I know what I would say. I know what I would tell myself. I wonder if I would listen.
I wonder if the young version of myself would appreciate that someone else understood or instead, would I only be embarrassed because someone else knew the truth about things I had never dared to tell anyone before.
This is my cognitive beginning This is where my cognition began and where I acquired my earliest lessons and understanding. This is where I learned to jump to conclusions and create assumptions, predictions and retrieved information, which are the things that molded my youth at the roots. This is where my misperceptions of life began. This is where my connections linked experience to memories and emotions with feelings. This is where anxiety was born and rejection was learned and in this room, in this house, in this life; this is the child I have to meet with.
This is the thought I choose to confront. This is the boy I face to remind him not to worry. I say it’s okay. No one can ever hurt you anymore. No one will ever put you down again. You will never be bullied or have to bully someone. You don’t have to act for attention or fit in a crowd.
I’m here now and together, you and I can get through anything. But we have to believe in each other. We have to depend on each other. And sometimes, we have to have faith. We have to understand that the past is not today’s fact. Today needs to be sufficient for itself. When facing this boy, I explain how I have grown so much and yet, here I am, admitting that I am still so young and small, like a child, which is me. I am a child on the inside and still afraid of the dark. But that’s okay.
The emotional mind is my inner child’s playroom. And like my bedroom that I described, I have secrets here. I have fears here. I have reasons why I shade the windows. I have worries and fears and times when I rehearse what I plan to say. I plan for my attacks here and yet, this is where I retreat to when my plans fail.
(Can you even see where I’m going with this?)
No one will advocate for us better than we will. If we don’t do this for ourselves, then who will? I am not that boy anymore. I am not even the same as I was yesterday. Either we layer or exfoliate and scale back to our true selves, which means we get to our real selves and to our truest beauty.
It’s okay to do this; to be you, to not be burdened with the ideas and the thoughts of an over-analyzed life, to let go of the fear, to drop the mask. It’s okay.
By the way, there’s a word for people who live this way.
It’s called freedom.
Maybe we should give it a try sometime.