Every Saturday night, I play a gig at a resort in Carlsbad, CA. The place is called Park Hyatt Aviara Resort. I live in Long Beach, so it normally takes me about an hour or two to get there, depending on traffic, and about an hour on the way back.
I used to listen to music most of the way there. It varies. I normally do some vocal warmups when I'm feeling studious. However, as of late, I've been calling my friends to talk while I drive. It's a great time to catch up with everyone I love.
At any rate, one such conversation with one of my friends brought back a memory from my childhood.
I attended an elementary school in Visalia called Crestwood. I grew up right across the street from that school, which was pretty cool. It was a giant playground right across from my house, so it was the perfect place to meet people and to engage in things to do. Play basketball. Play baseball. Just play. I really enjoyed playing sports growing up. I dreamed of being a professional athlete for a small stint.
I was a very shy kid. In some regards, I still am. I try to get myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible, but, it's a constant effort to break out of that mold. Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps not.
I spent much of 5th grade and 6th grade recess playing football with my classmates. I made what I thought at the time, were friends, participating in this daily activity. It was fun. I continued my efforts to reach out to some of these individuals, through extra curricular activities like Boy Scouts of America. I enjoyed it very much, because it helped me to meet people and get out of my shell a bit, and I learned about survival and the wilderness.
However, I made a mistake, as we all do, one day. I upset my father with this mistake, and as punishment, he forced me to quit Boy Scouts of America. The mistake I made was contrary to the code of conduct and ethics instilled in its participants. Because of this, it affected by ability to further connect with my peers.
A few years later, during junior high, I tried my best to reconnect with one of the kids that I was in Boy Scouts of America with. However, my efforts were met with a lack of enthusiasm. I was bullied by this individual. He took every opportunity possible to try and pick a fight with me. It started as verbal putdowns, and eventually grew into physical engagements such as throwing basketballs at my head during P.E. or a shove to the ground for no reason. I tried my best to not engage in what he wanted, which was a fight. Instead, I just accepted the punishment and ridicule. I didn't want to be hurt, but I certainly didn't want to be his enemy either. I gave up and kept my distance from him, as I assumed that my absence from his life would better suit the both of us, and I was scared of what I might do if I allowed myself to become angry. He was the son of the Cub Scout master I had in elementary school. I wanted to be his friend, but he didn't reciprocate that desire. So, we never became friends.
I went about life. Found things I loved, like music. I would see him from time to time. We would not engage each other, even in junior college.
One day, I was talking to a mutual friend of ours at College of the Sequoias. He asked me why I didn't talk to Paul. I explained to him that my efforts were never reciprocated, and told the story I just told you.
Our mutual friend, as adults typically do, explained to me that Paul had a bit of a rough go growing up. His father was not very kind to him. Paul's father physically and verbally abused him.
I was crushed by this information. As a twenty year old, I looked back on Paul's behavior growing up, and realized that he was in a great deal of pain at that time. It had nothing to do with me.
To this day, I can't possibly process all the intricacies of what it is to be a human being—what it is to put yourself in someone else's shoes. I try my best. Any frustration or anger I felt towards Paul, was replaced with anguish and sympathy for what he inherited.
I'm thirty seven years old now, driving back from a gig in Carlsbad. Music off. I'm just thinking. Remembering my life. Building a time machine constructed of human experience. This time machine can only travel to where I've been. I travel to my past. I have yet to manifest a future to travel to.
I've made a lot of mistakes that I regret. I wonder how many times I have been the Paul to someone else's life, without even realizing it.
I'm not sure that I will ever see him again. But, should I ever, given the opportunity, I would love to get to know you. Wherever you are, wherever the journey in life has taken you, I hope this finds you happy and well. You deserve it. We all do. The future is what we make of it.