35 Observations At 35

* My earliest recollections are of unconditional love and pop culture. Sitting on my father’s lap as he read and explained the Sunday Comics, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, the way his beard smelled and the way mine must now smell as well. Memories intertwined. Crying at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, the wind thoroughly knocked out of me, and the Take-Apart C3PO figure my mom bought for me afterward, running into a Walgreen’s quickly to pick up some shampoo for herself while dad and I waited in the car. I have that C3PO now, I’m looking at it in this room where I’m typing this. I still love everything I loved then, as a little kid. It’s all been ever present.

* Once in kindergarten a kid told me that I talked too much. My immediate visceral reaction- “How is that possible?”

* Between kindergarten and first grade, my parents and I moved to the country, away from other kids, and I started taking a bus on a long ride to a new school, where everyone seemed to know everyone already from before, and I felt what it was to be an outsider for the first time. For what’s now an indeterminable amount of time, I had what I now realize were a series of panic attacks every day. Far too young to communicate the complexity of my feelings, I just had to internalize it and roll with it.

* Isolation and obsession are old friends of mine.

* It was probably around fourth grade that I got the picture: If you don’t fit in, if you don’t conform, if your interests are different, someone among your peers is going to try to break you. You can either take it or flip the script and change the rules, which will probably win you respect. It’s then up to you if you care to grant respect in return.

* I wouldn’t trade being an outsider for anything.

* Once I was in middle school, I carried great strength in the knowledge that my taste was better than anyone who treated me snidely. I liked better music, I had a better sense of style, and even if I wasn’t smarter than a few kids, I had a better inkling of the outside world, and I owed it all to my interests, to art and ideas.

* It was many years before I made friends again that were as dear to me as the ones I had in middle school, most of whom I haven’t seen since, none of whom I saw again until I was north of at least age 18.

* I was popular in high school, in my own way. It was in to be odd, thanks to Nirvana and alternative culture, and I was odd anyway. It was a fluke.

* I wanted to overthrow the system and agitate, and that endeared me to delinquents and them to me. I mainly stayed out of trouble compared to some of the harder bangers, but school faculty hated me for my insolence. I relished it, and usually stopped short of punishable offenses.

* Usually.

* Once I figured out about record stores, i felt like I figured out why certain parts of my brain even exist.

* Discovering that modern Rockabilly lived culturally in places outside of my bedroom was an absolute call to adventure just like what you read about in stories. I had never felt that sense of being a part of something larger than myself until then. I skipped my high school graduation for it and ran off to join the circus.

* I’ve always had nicknames, and I always knew better than to try to fight them.

* Having mentors in late adolescence/early adulthood is massively important, especially if you can have points and counterpoints. Making friends with people older was never even a question to me, it was something that had to happen.

* I would wish a big, emotionally traumatic heartbreak around age 18 on just about anybody. It will fuel your fire at a point where you need it.

* For about three years or so I wouldn’t have done -or more importantly- gotten away with a big chunk of my daily activities if I knew it couldn’t be done. I sowed my oats then so I can hang out and watch TV now.

* Being underage in bars became routine very quickly. Dank, dark places were very exciting. I wish I could say that I took advantage of every opportunity and acted responsibly, but I didn’t. An important lesson that took me too long to learn was the value of moderation.

* Having a band was absolutely electrifying. I wish I had tried harder, but once I met a girl I liked, it was over.

* When the British officer at the airport asked me if I had any business being in England, I said “I have no business whatsoever being in England.”

* Losing a friend to suicide is a black pain in my soul that will never completely fade.

* I can’t believe how cavalierly I blew off getting and then having a music store job, but it gave me a reason to really try hard to get it back later.

* Turning 25 bothered me. I was in a dead end point at my job, things were getting turbulent with my girl, and I was past the age of calling a few things I had been doing “youthful indiscretions.” Now turning 35, I’m unemployed, single, pushing 40, and stress free. I have to imagine it’s the events of the last 10 years that brought me peace.

* I broke my own heart so that she would never have to.

* Every man should at least once hear the words said to him “Hurry up before I change my mind.”

* It was all right for a long time to have friendly adversaries, but nobody is strong all the time. Nothing is more important than trusting someone to defend you when you’re inevitably weak.

* I used to hear voices. More importantly, I used to listen to them.

* When my brain turned on my mind and I finally heard the snap deep inside of me, my first thought was “Isn’t this interesting?”

* I’ve never been one for self pity. Self loathing, sure. That drives some people, but it didn’t drive me anywhere but down, into auto pilot. I forgot everything else, but never forgot how to love. That’s what saved me, was other people. I didn’t want to let them down, so I stuck around.

* It wasn’t easy accepting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but once I did, the suffering largely ended. If you understand something, if you can see the wires, you can tell which parts are illusions. I’m not a “wife and kids” kind of guy. This is what it took to make me finally grow up, already.

* I’m an extremely fortunate person.

* You’re never going to control your thoughts. You just have to learn to let them blow through your head like falling leaves sometimes.

* It’s better to be loved than get laid, and it’s easier to burn people than you can ever realize.

* I recommend seeking out the people that run creative ventures and befriending them. They’ll challenge you.

* I have better friends now than ever before in my life, and it’s work sometimes, and I love that it’s work sometimes, because it’s worth it. That’s what my life is, now- communicating, connecting, and growing with the people I care about.