I want you to know me better, so here’s a small look into my life.
My first pair of skate shoes were black, worn-out DCs. I was 12. They were Bryan’s, my new, 14-year-old neighbor’s. He had, I guess, outgrown them. He wanted me to have them so I could be like him – a skateboarder. And I was happy to oblige. And for the next two years, I skated (poorly) and made a series of other decisions out of a pure desire to belong, to feel accepted.
I did that poorly, too.
From being called the “Douche of Spades” when the five or so neighborhood kids decided to start their own skate club (aptly named “The Spades”), to getting into regular fights at school, I was an all-around misfit.
To be honest, that was the case even before I tried to be Bam Margera. I still sort of am, in a more buttoned-up kind of way.
After my parents moved from that rural subdivision in unincorporated North Carolina to its neighboring city, the focus of the social pressure shifted from skateboarding to rap music. By that time, I had persuaded my mom to replace the DCs with Osirises, which would later become a great complementary accessory to low-hanging skinny jeans and a baggy, clearance-rack Element sweatshirt.
The marriage didn’t last. My mom’s engine blew on her car. And we moved back to rural America. This time in Illinois.
“Those farmboys will beat you up,” my papa would joke, as he chided me for my urban style. They didn’t. They just made fun of me and called me gay.
So I hung out with the three or four other skaters. We each battled our own pains, silently. That’s probably why we always partied.
Once I quit partying with them, they stopped hanging out with me, too. So, having no close friends to keep me there, I decided to leave regular high school. It took me a long time to pick myself up from all the following I was doing, to craft my own roadmap that would allow me to thwart how misguided I had become.
But that’s behind me now.
Today, seven years later, I’m 25, a soon-to-be young, upcoming professional. I’m more comfortable with myself; I have good, supportive friends; and a solid grounding in my own values. Though I still feel social pressure, it’s not a pressure to change myself in any way like it used to be. It’s more like a longing.
A longing to feel like I can relate. A longing for lengthy, humble, and intimate conversations about things I care about, important cultural issues and global disparity. A longing for support and validation.
I think that after I’m established in life with a stable income it will get easier. Your 20s are supposed to be the best years of your life. While, yes, I cherish my health and my lack of substantial commitments, the deep desire for stability, for certainty, for security, for clear signs of success – well, that’s a pretty big trade-off.
So I say to myself, “I’ll be happy once I make it.” But I know that isn’t true. I can tell from the lessons of others who “make it.” In reality, I’ll be happy once I learn to make my own happiness. Once I learn to be fully content, hopeful, and optimistic regardless of circumstance. Thankfully, on many days I am, but there’s still a great deal of inner work to do.
I’m confident that the disposition in its mature form will come with time and wisdom. A lot will, I believe – more than I can imagine. Until then, I will continue to pray that good people along the way who are a little more fortunate and a lot more experienced than me continue to extend a hand up and offer the benefit of the doubt.
On the come-up, that’s probably the best you can hope for.