Do you remember what it was like to be young? I mean, I’m 31, and am still considered young in many circles (believe it or not), but go back to that time where you had little responsibilities, were always fed, and you didn’t have to worry about the 9-5 lifestyle, more like 5:30-2:45.
Back to the days of Friday Night Lights, After-Prom parties, crazy red-headed Chemistry teachers (maybe just my school), and an Italian Art teacher who proclaimed to love “handguns and fast cars” (again, maybe just my school).
When I moved to this new area where these things would become a reality, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was away, for the first time in my life, from my friends and family. I was with my dad and step-mom, feeling like a guest in their home instead of a member of the household. This feeling lasted long into my adult years, but now I’m treated like family anytime I go visit. I’m thankful for that because, at times, I feel distant from even the closest of my family today. It’s not from their lack of trying. I’m just a very hard to get along with individual. A loner. I don’t mind though. I’ve enjoyed being alone since I was a kid.
Rainy Day Solitude
“You’re always in that room”, my dad would bitch. Who could blame him? A newly crowned teenager rushing to his room every time he came from school, basketball practice, or the neighbor’s house. I felt safe in my room. It was my “Dan(ny) Cave”. My place of solitude. A place where, even as a teen, I would watch little TV (except wrestling) and would opt for music, writing, and thinking. I would lie there and think for hours. Sometimes, I’d write one of my many female friends because they liked to read and, well, I liked to write. I was definitely like the gay kid who couldn’t be more straight. I was emotional, quiet, sensitive, and everything else that has been stereotyped as bad for men, but my years later I would come out of my shell. Well, kinda. Today, I wear the shell proudly as an Ambivert. At this time in history, I was reserved and definitely feeling inner solitude as opposed to putting myself out there.
I didn’t feel like I had a voice at this time so I discovered the power of writing. I would write for what seemed like hours. I think I’ve had a noisy mind since a young age because my grandma always told me she thought I would become an artist due to the many hours spent just drawing, scribbling, and acting out a story in my head. I got away from drawing when I realized I wasn’t any good and opted for writing. Some days, I quietly doodle in notebook just to feel the freedom of drawing without judgment. I encourage you to try doing activity sometime without judging whether it’s good or bad. Just do it and enjoy the process of doing it.
It was during this time of solitude and writing that I become a bigger fan of reading. I would read for hours on end, take a break, then read some more. I was rather enamored with different books, but spent a lot of time reading Chicken Soup for the Soul books and books about angelic appearances because I believe that these pieces, crafted out of hope and inspiration, were destined for my hands. I needed both of these things to survive my first dark night of the soul.
I wouldn’t change these days for the world, although, most of these days, I probably fit the criteria for a Major Depressive Disorder, but I discovered a rich inner love filled with wonder and amazement.
Many nights I would lay on my bed with my lamp on, much like I do in my room at my mom’s house now. I would think, “I want to die. I hate life”, but then I would dive into a book or writing or even watch a show and the dark feelings would leave my mind and sleep would come easy. I’m forever thankful for the tools available to protect me from myself. I still need them today.
As you can see in my blog post titled What Pro Wrestling Taught me about Mental Health you will see a tribute to someone who encouraged me to fight and never give up, no matter the odds. I loved that about his character and grew to love him even more when I read his first NY Times Bestseller “Have a Nice Day” authored by Mick Foley.
What I saw in this book was a man who was willing to put a normal life aside for something great. He bled, sacrificed, slept in cars, took bumps that no man should endure, and literally gave his all for a cause. That is what I took away and still take away from the ladies and gentleman who perform in this “sport” today. They sacrifice and don’t give up chasing their dreams no matter how uphill the battle. Funny that they get so much flack about the Attitude Era, because it was messy and offensive. Funny, I see life as those same two things and I don’t get the choice to put on a mask and make it go away. Ironic that they are now ‘child-friendly’ but those performers of that time taught me to have a little attitude and give a big middle finger to things that oppose me (thanks, Stone Cold).
I liked that raw side of me (yes fans, pun intended) that gave a big fuck off to anything that got in my way. Tenacity and determination are good, but as an under 18’er, I knew I couldn’t just flip the bird to every person I wanted to so I opted for another route, a different way, what might some call THE WAY.
The Day I met a Jewish Carpenter
“Hey Danny” Stacy said as she walked across the street. We normally had this brother/sister chit-chat every few days, but it was the weekend so I was curious what she had to say. “Wanna come to church with me tonight?” she said. I had seen a difference in Stacey. She wasn’t the same little hell-raiser (well, our definition of hell-raising was badminton fights and hook up stories but she had started going to church and became really different. Like weird. So what did I do? I decided to do as any good wannabe detective would, I decided to investigate.)
I went to this church in a town called Glen White. You say you’ve never been to Glen White? Think of a coal-town preserved by poverty and despair. To me, coming from white. Middle-Class America, I often looked down on the people of this area until I visited this church (and a dear friend who lived there taught me the finer things of black cooking, such as baked macaroni and the world’s best cornbread). My best friend Kenny would bring me out of my shell and be a tried-and-true friend even to this day. Make a man shout hallelujah! Speaking of heavenly, which Kenny’s mom’s cooking was, back to the church story.
This church wreaked of spirituality and presence. The music was upbeat and not like the dry and dreadful like the hymns of my archaic place of worship. It was lively and full of energy, music, lights, and people under 70. I felt a “presence” like I never had before, but decided to ignore this strange push on my heart. I opted to look around in wonder as to why people would hold their hands up to the ceiling, for so long. Thankfully, this push on my heart didn’t let up after that night.
I was in our office room. It was part room and part office, hence the name. It was my place to go when the parents were gone. I would play on AOL Instant Messenger and use ICQ some. It was my way to be connected without really having to connect. I found myself able to fully express through messenger; I guess because writing has always been easier than speaking, for me.
I put in Third Day’s “Offerings” CD that Josh Rollins had lent me. He said “I think you’ll like these guys”. I did. I couldn’t even tell you a single word they sang, but I know that every night I would play this CD because for some reason it brought peace to my heart. Still to this day, if I hear this album, I get a tear in my eye and think of the first time the breath of the Almighty touched my neck and awakened my heart. In this moment, a response of falling to my knees and saying ‘here I am Lord’ was all that a scared, emotional, angry, depressed, and slightly psychotic kid did to be “saved”. People think I accepted God to be safe from Hell and this could not be further from the truth. I found the Love of the Almighty to save me from myself, because if it were up to me, I’d be dead today. Just saying.
What sold me on God wasn’t the pomp and pageantry of the big church, it wasn’t the rules or the teachings, the music or the beautiful sanctuary; ultimately what drew me to this place were the people and feelings of acceptance and unconditional love that had been shown to me and for me. I didn’t know all the rules, the scriptures, or even the answer to ‘What do they say about the Gospel’ when my dad yelled at me for going there and interrogated me with theology. I told him I hadn’t even heard that word before, to which he flipped. It must have been a big deal to not know that “God is love” because he had to tell me in a rather loud tone. Funny, love was the last thing I felt in that moment, but in the years to come he would talk less and do more. I think we all could learn from that.
So in my young and, rather, raw heart I set off on this journey to figure out God. A journey which has shown me more mountain-tops and cavernous depths than I care to think of, but it’s been one hell of a ride to view Heaven on Earth, as well as Hell on Earth. I’ve been to both places and what is cool is, I still found God there, even when I didn’t want to.
God would become a big deal in my life. So big that my grandma penned these words to me in a letter from 2006 “Danny, what I respect most about you is your walk with God”. I had my grandma’s respect. It meant and means the world to me because she was best friend, my confidant, and my rock. Next to this unconditional love from a Jewish Carpenter, I had this unconditional acceptance and encouragement in my life, from a pink-haired saint. Yes, her hair really was pink. My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you’ll always have that one source of unconditional love and encouragement—- in human form.
My teenage years were dark and, for many years, I remembered them as such. While writing this I started to realize how far I’ve come. Bad or traumatic memories are like a scar. You can see that something happened: a wound, a hurt, an invasion of your closest self; but now it’s healed. I don’t deny it happened, but when I touch (or remember it) the pain is gone.
This is my hope for you with all of your hurts and pain. Don’t deny them. Own them. The day will come, I promise you, in which you will be able to remember the pain without the pain.
The days that were to follow would take me to the ends of the earth, the heart of Evangelicalism, and on a journey of spirit, self, and knowledge.
It was time to go to college.