There’s a big difference between the person on the left and the person on the right in the picture above….and it’s not just the hair.
The picture on the left is me in 1986. Insecure, unhappy, not knowing I was suffering from depression, and suppressing a traumatic experience that I didn’t realize was already consuming me. Behind a layer of arrogance and anger was a person who felt he was not good enough at anything – music, school or friendships.
I was living in other people’s shadows, both dead and alive….my father, my brother and Allen Roosa, a music student in my high school who died tragically in 1979 during his senior year. He then was considered the “gold standard” of all music students in our school district going forward, as a music award was created in his honor.
There are days when I can’t believe I didn’t truly try to take my own life during these years. I remember the night of my graduation in 1987 as the time I came closest to doing it. As I spent my last year of high school at a junior college, I had no desire to go to my high school graduation to feel judged one more time. As my peer received the Roosa award along with a slew of other awards I was given the equivalent of a “seventh place trophy” award that night, I would rather have not gotten any fucking awards that night, and that was a moment that pushed me over the edge, as my dad made me go to graduation because of how it would make him look if I didn’t. I heard one classmate crack a joke at my expense as awards were being presented. I felt no self-worth, and felt beyond numb. I just wanted to walk out, get in my car, drive to the Rhinecliff Bridge and just be DONE.
Instead, I just went to the movies by myself, where I felt I could just “vanish”. After years of being picked on and being looked at as not good enough, self-value was not part of my vocabulary. I now post this senior picture for fun – part of that was to create a new narrative for that picture compared to the negative one that had been in my head for years.
I’m thankful for my years of therapy, and I’m not the least bit ashamed or embarrassed to say that I suffer from depression, that I’m on medication for it, and that some days there are triggers that still can bring me down. After years of making mistakes and finally facing my demons, I’ve learned (I’m still learning) the importance of self-worth. Although I appreciate compliments about my musical ability, I still hear the voices of my critics (my dad, my high school chorus teacher) who loved to bring up my “deficiencies”. I don’t play piano – I’ve always felt like I’m not a good musician because of this, as this has been thrown in my face more times than I care to remember. (It’s also the reason why I now have no desire to learn).
Doing the photo shoots with Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet was a lot of fun….I look at the picture on the right very differently than the one on the left, because the picture on the right represents a lot of hard work. That smile comes after a lot of years of darkness. At 51, I finally feel the confidence that I wish I had when I was younger. I’ve still had people try to knock me down – from my ex-wife to Miss Vitriolic 2019, who took every possible shot that she could – where I would have felt like a failure about what was said, I know know I can consider the source with those types of comments…and besides, why give that much power to a self-righteous douchebag, or an incredibly racist asshole? (Or a “Karen”, as the kids say these days.)
These pictures represent two very different people, even though they are one in the same. I’m glad I’m still here for the journey, and I can look back at my life with a lot less shame and guilt. Although there are still days where the struggle is real, I just try to be as positive as I can be each and every day.
There’s a lot of value in that.