TagGrowing up

Isolated Youth

This could be the story of my childhood. I grew up in a small town in Northern Virginia. Berryville has about 2,000 people. My high school was 550 and my graduating class was 168.

We were near enough to Washington DC and Baltimore to pick up some music from outside the Christian and Country stations which ruled our airwaves. But it was still isolated where the goal was to get out.

“Basically, this story is a controlled experiment,” I continue. “Napoleon is a place that has remained static for decades. The economics, demographics, politics, and geography are the same as when I lived here. In the past twenty-five years, only one thing has changed: technology.”

This paragraph sums up Berryville. Static and isolated. The internet changed everything. I often hear how the internet made the world a smaller place, but for me, it made the world much larger.

Adulting

When I was a teenager, being an adult frightened me. I had no idea how to be an adult. All of the things I would have to manage as an adult seemed overwhelming. There was just so much and it would never stop. It would never get easier.

Now that I’m in my 30s and can look back on my teenage years and with my 20s fading into my past. I am less afraid. But I still have no idea what I am doing. But that’s the thing. No one has any idea what they’re doing. We are all doing our best. We are all figuring out this thing called life one day at a time.

We are all faking it as adults. We all struggle.

No one has everything together and I want to say that out loud because it helps to hear it.


Recently, I read a post called Supposed to be where the author talks about his struggles with depression and weight.

So the first time I took a walk in the summer heat aimed at ‘starting a program’ I actually hoped I might die. I’ve written this before elsewhere and told people, but I’m convinced their reaction is to think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. I shuffled along those pretty wooded trails in that hilly park by our home in Georgia and by the time I reached a ridge where there was a slight breeze and the peaceful rush of the Big Creek below, I thought, very clearly, hopefully I’ll die here. A man the size I was at the time, with my uncontrolled hypertension, well, I was supposed to die in that situation.

He struggles and he succeeds. It’s not easy. But he finding success with hard work and determination. He is doing his best. We are all doing our best. This is something worth repeating.

We all struggle. We all do the best with the life we have. It’s hard for everyone. No one has a perfect life where they face no adversity. We are all trying our best. In the age of social media where everyone posts their highlight reel for their friends and family to see, we don’t post about the rest of our days.

Recently, I saw a video that puts this into perspective. It asks a simple question:

Facebook can be depressing because everyone else’s lives are better than yours… But are they really?
httpv://youtu.be/QxVZYiJKl1Y

We don’t post about our sadness.
We don’t post about our failures.
We don’t post about the days we’re too sick to get out of bed.
We post the best parts of us.

But it’s not the whole picture.
We all fail.
We all struggle.
We all have bad days.

But we don’t share those. We fear if we do, people will stop following us. We’ll lose friends online. We will be facing a truth no one wants to publicly admit.

Life is hard.
We’re all in this together.
Let’s try to help each other.

TV is not the default

Television was not the default in my home growing up. We did not have cable television. We could not get cable television had we wanted to. We lived too far out in a rural area of Northern Virginia. ((Rural as in, the school bus was late because the herd of cows in the road would not move. Have you ever tried to move a cow?))

We had an antenna and a series of stations from the surrounding area. We had FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS ((Sometimes)) from Washington DC. We also had WDCA and Channel 50 which I can’t recall what station it was affiliated with. We also has PBS, and a hand full of local, educational programming stations. So we were never for want of documentaries and science programming. As far as mainstream TV, it was a toss-up. Sometimes you could watch an entire hour of television without interruption and static snow across the screen. Other times, it would render whatever you were trying to enjoy unwatchable and sporting events were no better.

I got to thinking about this because I found myself missing the lazy, quiet Sunday afternoons at home. I would be curled up with a good book or magazine. ((This was a time before the internet.)) I loved the rainy days most of all because the drops would splash off our tin roof. ((Did I mention we lived in a 150+ year old farm-house?))

I was thinking about the peace and quiet of those Sundays because my wife and I were recently curled up on our couch, under a soft blanket reading. Only she had her Kindle and I had my iPad using the Kindle app. It was peaceful and quiet and I was very happy.

The TV was off. The stereo not playing. No video games or talking. It was just peaceful serenity and reading. The Kindle and it’s related apps for iPhone and iPad have reignited my love of reading. But that’s another story for another day.

The Start of Something Good

Art Versus Industry. They made me excited about music again.

After being turned on to them by an online friend, and all around good person, Alex Morse who incidentally does their video and photo work, I’m hooked. They make me remember a time of Stabbing Westward and Nine Inch Nails, from The Fragile era. The darkness and melodic noise make me smile. They put me into that happy place where the warm synth washes around me and makes me happy all over. There’s something about the “darker” music that makes me happier than any bubble gum pop song.

I love the melodies and harmonies woven into the drum beats, guitar riffs and droning oceans of noise. It’s like Nine Inch Nails’ A Warm Place which is one of my favorite songs of all time. The safety and happiness in those notes are the security blanket for the 21st Century. The warm hum of sound and emotion cradles me and tell me everything will be all right. And most of all, it makes me feel just a little less alone and alien.

I remember listening to Nine Inch Nails growing up and really feeling like someone understood me and the pain I was feeling. I was going through the divorce of my parents. I was an artist in a world of farmers and hunters. I was a huge guy towering well over six feet tall which makes me stand out no matter where I went. I was a huge dude who had his own ideas about art and style and comfort and expression. I was a freak and I let that flag fly freely.

But I also hurt. I had a lot of nights of depression and anger and sadness and loneliness. I’d talk for hours to friends online or the phone. We’d talk about a lot of things. Sometimes it was my metaphorically talking them off a ledge sometimes the other way around. It was always two worlds growing up. The world of insiders, the Berryville natives. The families who had seemingly been there since the founding by Benjamin Berry centuries ago. Then there were us outsiders. Anyone who had moved to the area for one reason or another. To escape the poor school systems, violence, and congestion of Washington DC in the case of my parents.

I never felt like I fit in. I’ve always felt very alien wherever I was. I never felt like I saw the world like other people did. I never felt like what worked for others worked for me. How did they get through life so effortlessly? How did things seem to be so easy for them and work out so well? How did they show that cool exterior? Weren’t they a bubbling inferno just beneath the skin? I sure was.

I don’t know how “normal” people got through life. Did they have the same crippling, self-doubt and question their own intelligence and abilities? Was that a trait of an artist?

I’ve always been very empathetic. I feel what other people feel. I read people. I get inside their heads to the pain there. Growing up I had a lot of friends that shared a lot of the pain I did and in some cases had things must worse. I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to help them the best I could. I often wonder how things turned out for them…

I was always the guy my friends would turn to for help. I was a little older, a little wiser and had my head on pretty straight. I was also much to good to do anything truly wrong. Sure I bent a few rules growing up and I paid for it. But I’ve never done anything illegal or been arrested. I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or attend the wild parties I knew went on in and around school on farms on the weekends. That just wasn’t me.

I was, and still am a devout introvert.

I keep to myself. I prefer the company of computers to people. I prefer the quiet, pre-dawn hours where the world sleeps to be awake and productive.

“It’s not Introversion. Just really good spam filtering.”