You guys, I wish this was a post that was going to deliver laughs by the bucket load. I wish this was a post that would bump everyone up a few levels on the happiness scale without having to first take a dip… believe me, I do. BECAUSE OF THAT, I will end this with one of the most adorable puppies you have ever seen and I promise that I will build from where this starts so that you never dip too low… I just ask that you trust me and take that first step.
14 year old Justin. He was a piece of work. TOTALLY socially awkward and with the WORST luck ever (even to the point of being “Bad Luck Brian”).
That was basically me as a meme when I was 14. A decade later and ya never know… there are some pretty hot cadavers out there….
But I digress. 14 year old me. Wow….
See, up until I was about 12, I was the luckiest dude on earth. I had this group of friends who were all a good 3-5 years older than me. They knew me (sometimes better than I knew myself) and despite whatever beliefs they had, they loved me. Laura, Dan, Tony, Josh… those four…. Nobody in the world could have ever asked for better friends. And here I was at 14 – 2 years later. I was in a different city and playing the ever so familiar “I don’t need anybody/I’m gonna do this on my own” angsty teenager game.
And they stood by and let me go. They let me be this idiot kid who had to do what he was gonna do because they knew what I would go through and they knew I would come out the other side. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that.
Hell, I was in 8th grade and I remember having a talk with Laura about being gay. It would take me 6 more years to admit it (and then another 6 to confuse the hell out of what I really am) and still that night… I was so close back then and it was a casual, two sentence exchange of a side conversation…
Anyhow, all of this reflection is brought about because I read an article on ESPN today. It was a “letter to my 14 year old self” or something or some sort. Aaron Rogers wanted his younger self to not dive for a ball in a pick up game of basketball. Andy Murray wanted his younger self to appreciate the feel of the racket, the bounce of the ball, and the pace of his heart. And then… Robbie Rogers… Robbie wanted himself to know that he was not going to be alone.
And, being the sometimes sappy and emotional sort that I can be, I suddenly realized what I failed to see back then. I wasn’t alone. I may have had to be on my own for a while but I was never alone. In my awkwardness, in my occasional suaveness, and in my killer dance moves (because SHOW CHOIR!), I was never truly alone.
And so I started thinking of what I would say to that gawky, 14 year old boy, who had no idea how to put an outfit together, let alone how to make it through a day without herp-derping something insanely awkward and maybe even tripping up a flight of stairs. I came upon a nightly ritual wherein I remember I would clutch onto my pillow and have an inner discourse about the existence of God combined with prayer to change me back to straight.
There’s nothing I could say to him that would keep his future – my present – what it is now. I couldn’t tell him that I’d discover what it means to feel “Love” through the pain of heartbreak. I couldn’t tell him that his classmates already know. I couldn’t even tell him of the Seattle Sounders, the Emerald City Supporters, the USMNT, Tanya, Ryan, Brady, Eric, Nick… All I could tell him would be a simple “Stay the course.”
And so when all the eloquence of words fails me, that is what I come to. If I were given the chance to talk to my 14 year old self and help him rest easier at night, that’s all I could say. “Stay the course.”
Upon a decade’s reflection, I can’t even begin to quantify the things I have discovered about myself and the people I hold dear. I’ve gone from dreamer to musician to wannabe lawyer and then back to musician before finally swinging around to writer. I’ve been a boyfriend, a best friend, and I’ve even managed to grow from the mistakes I’ve made. And all of that, I had to do on my own. And a part of me wonders if that’s what Laura may have seen a glimpse of on that night so long ago…
And so here I am, thinking back upon the last decade of my life and what I would say to that boy who tried so hard to hide and would wait another ten years to figure out who he truly is – beyond just a word. I look around to the friends I’ve made and the friends who have been there all along and realize just how blessed I have been. I have music, soccer, writing, movies, and even the occasional heart to heart all wrapped up into 24 hour doses that repeat every single day… That is what 14 year old me has to look forward to.
So what would I say and how would I say it to him? Well… despite the fact that I no longer play an instrument, this is my corps. This is the corps I auditioned for and this is the piece of music that made me truly fall in love with music and performing. There will never be another feeling in my life like running through this piece with them in the arc… and it says all it needs to. 14 year old me would listen and he would begin a journey of understanding that even a decade later, he is still unraveling…
“…But the fighter still remains…”
And oh what he’ll find.
He’ll find a brother…
He’ll find a family…
He’ll find something he loves…
And he’ll even find people who won’t even realize the impact they truly make on him…
So why spoil all of that? What else could I say to keep him going yet not reveal all the wonders and surprises to come?
“…Oh lord I wanna be in that number, when the Yanks go marching in…”
Phew… we make it through that okay? Everyone still here? Good. Here’s a puppy.
Until next time.
See you, Space Cowboys.