Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Plan I

Throughout my life, I never really took control. I let my comfortable middle-class upbringing set the course with my parents leading the way, and I merely coasted along within that life framework, never daring to live outside the box, although always thinking outside the box! I was very introverted and self-absorbed, and the real world around me was simply secondary entertainment, a visual background, or a dream-world that I could wander through. I started off my first couple years of life as a prodigy. I was talking to adults in normal conversation before the age of 2, and reading children’s books by the age of 3. I soon discovered how to be social this curtailed my prodigious start to life, and by age 4, I was just another smart kid. Oh well. After a few years of talking to anyone and everyone all the time, I became extremely quiet and withdrawn, constantly reading a book or holding onto a book wherever I went. I had a close-knit loving family, in which I was raised well and with plenty of care and attention, but there was a missing vulnerability, tangibility, and toughness in my life growing up that I feel set the stage for my being a late bloomer in many aspects. Not to mention, I was born on February 1st of 1981, a birth date characterized by floundering around.


I was always able to skate across the surface of life and just go with the flow of things. Everything was easy-breezy. I just let my intuition and family guide me through my days growing up. I’d probably have never had a care or worry in the world if not for my aloofness, a trait I feel was given to me to remind me that I was human. At the age of 5, I got on the wrong school bus after school let out, but I wasn’t lost for too long, because the bus’s route wasn’t too much different from my assigned bus, so my parents were able to find me pretty easily. I was pretty frightened, however. I mean, seriously, when you’re only five, it’s a big deal to make that kind of mistake. A few years later, while I was staying at a summer day-care center, the kids were being entertained by one of those giant inflatable moonwalk castles. I took a break from jumping and bouncing around, and decided to lean over the edge of this moonwalk to see how high above the ground I was. In just a moment later, I got to feel how high when another day-care kid ran into the side of the moonwalk and bounced on it, sending me flying over the edge. I don’t remember feeling any pain as I hit the ground, but this time, my aloofness left me with a broken collar bone. After visiting the doctor, they had me wearing what appeared like football shoulder pads until my collar bone healed. My aloofness even followed me into my college years. I was driving back to my college town after visiting my parents in Houston for the weekend. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was enjoying listening to a cd in the car. I was in a highly pleasant emotional state… a natural high… like riding on a personal cloud across the highway. I should have been paying attention when I started to pass the other cars, one after the other, watching them fall quickly into my rear view, as if they weren’t even moving. The other cars kept slowing down. Or maybe I was just speeding up. I wasn’t even aware that my foot was pressing down on the pedal. As I began to move downhill across the rolling terrain, my eye finally caught the speedometer and saw it hovering somewhere between 95-100 mph! The speed limit was 70. Not even a few seconds later, I awoke from my daydream state to see a highway patrol car do one of those crazy u-turns that you only see in the movies and drive across the grassy median over to my side of the highway. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, I thought, or maybe not, I thought soon thereafter, as the patrol car pulled up behind me and the flashing lights came on.


There was also the time at college when I left my brand new mountain bike outside chained to the bike rack over spring break. I may as well have just given it away to some bike thieves. I left my dorm, and drove back to Houston for the break to stay with my family. By the time I realized my mistake, I was already in the Houston area, and it was too late to turn back around. A week later, when I returned to school, my bike was nowhere to be found. I searched every bike rack around the dorm at least several times, and then contacted the school police, na├»ve to think that they’d actually be able to get it back for me.


Being aloof meant that my mind had a clear tendency and desire to stray from the present reality. It is actually in the future that my mind naturally travels. So when I discovered my ability to anticipate things and my tendency to see or hear words and phrases right after thinking about them, it just felt normal. These traits really began to flourish in my young adulthood, but my most impressive display of my clairvoyant ability came at the age of 9. It was the summer before 4th grade, and I wanted a dog. Not just any dog, but a beagle. I read every book I could find on beagles in the library, and even read about them in encyclopedias. I was somewhat interested in other dogs too, but absolutely drawn to the beagle. It just seemed like the perfect dog for me, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. As my passion for getting a beagle grew, I began to discuss it with my mother, and I even wrote a brief poem about my beagle imagining that I had one already. We never had to go out and look for one, because just a few days after writing the poem, my beagle came to me! I was enjoying my day outside the front of the house when I noticed a dog coming in my direction from the start of my cul-de-sac street. Then I began to make out the coloration: brown, black, and white. It was not just a dog, but a beagle! He trotted happily with a sense of purpose even as he seemed to be aimlessly wandering or journeying. I was able to coax him into my backyard, and at that moment, I just felt like I had found a lost dog, but after a while, it felt like he belonged there with us, like he was ours. We kept him that day and overnight, and we put up signs, but no one ever called or came to our house to claim him. To this day I still do not know where he came from. Was he sent to us from Heaven? I remember how we couldn’t think of a good name for him. We told my uncle about how we found a beagle that day, and how he was just boogying down the street. So my uncle suggested that we name him “Boogie”. And so without even a thought, that became his name, Boogie the beagle. He became more than just a pet. He was part of our family, and a blessing and joy in my life from my childhood to adulthood.


Another joy in my life, music, began at age 8 that would become an outlet for my creative energy. I started taking piano lessons from a neighbor down the street. In exchange for the lessons, my mother tutored her son. With this agreement working out nicely, I took lessons for five years or so, and performing in recitals a couple times a year to showcase what I’d learned. After we moved when I was 14, I studied from another teacher, also down the street from me. Around this same time, I was also playing trumpet in the high school band, which took up a great deal of my time, so I put the piano lessons on hold. I have fond memories of my time in the high school band, one of which being a halftime show performance at Texas Stadium in Dallas when our team advanced deep into the playoffs. Getting to perform on the same field that the Cowboys played football was exciting! After high school, my interest in the trumpet faded, but my passion for music, especially creating music, continued to grow. In my second year of college, at age 19 nearing 20, I decided to study piano again from my original childhood teacher.


Around this same time, I also began to compose songs on the piano, with a sound and style quite different from anything I’d ever learned in lessons. Focusing on my weekly practice assignments was a struggle, because I was so immersed in my own songwriting and this new heavy staccato sound I was creating. Even during lessons, I was only halfway focused, because my desire to create was overtaking my desire to learn. I was using the piano as my personal tool for self-expression. There was always music playing in my head, and although I was truly creating that music, it felt more like I was just hearing it. The creating was effortless. My mind just had this ability to transfer my inner emotions, positive, negative, and transcendent, directly into musical form. I was always on the piano at home, but my practice assignments took a backseat to my newfound passion for songwriting. I just had so many pieces of song material in my head, at times overflowing, so sitting down at the piano to transfer that music onto the keys was a necessity, lest it be forgotten forever.


My music could be characterized as classical and dream-like, with heavy staccato chords and playing style, and altogether raw emotion. I made the strongest music ideas into songs, and when I had enough songs written, I decided to record an album, because I could only keep the music in my head for so long. One of my high school classmates was into audio recording, so I had him come over and do a raw recording at my house, all in one long take. I wanted it to be that way. It would, to this day, be one of my greatest accomplishments.


As a side accomplishment to that, I transcribed one of my songs in musical notation onto paper by hand, with the help of my teacher. The feeling of completing the record was joyous, but the songs themselves were somber and melancholy, directly revealing my emotional state at the time. I had been in the early stages of depression for months, during which many of the songs were written, and soon after the recording, I fell into a full depression that reached its deepest point about a month after I had turned 20. I remember lying on my bed one afternoon, completely resigned to death. I lay there waiting to die, but just as I thought I had truly passed on to the other side, I felt like God was not ready for me to go yet, and I felt the voice of God saying “no, not yet, not just yet.” ...


“no, not yet, not just yet.”

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