Saturday, January 31, 2009

Songs of the Soul

I've been writing songs since 6th grade. I remember my first song was called "You and I," a corntastic story of love, punctuated by the word "baby" about 48 times. Interestingly, around 8th grade, when life really began to turn sour, I penned this opening verse to what would become my first full song, called "Toward the Light":

Sometimes I feel so broken
Sometimes I feel so confused
Sometimes I feel so helpless
Sometimes I feel so abused

I know. Grammy worthy, right? But don't worry, the entire song isn't so predictable. But why in the world was I writing words like that at 13? Things certainly weren't that bad, right? Verse two explores some new vocabulary:

Sometimes I reach within my soul
Searching for answers to my life
I begin to question all I have
Wondering if what I've done is right

I recorded my life through these songs, and even if they all dealt with somewhat overdone, tired issues, they were remarkably fulfilling and cathartic. No matter how trite the lyrics were, they were always true to what I was feeling. Songs like "Stranger" revealed identity issues, deep secrets and a boy hiding something.

I woke up this morning
and looked in the mirror
I saw a stranger
buried in fear
I stood burning cold
Trying to breathe
I looked in his eyes
it was me

I even wrote a coming-out tune at age 15. Did I know it was about coming-out? Absolutely not.

I wish I knew how to tell you
What goes on in my head
All the things I've wanted to say
The things I should've said

I find these simple lyrics very telling, revealing distinct truths that, ironically, I had never even admitted to myself yet. Looking back now, it makes a whole lot more sense why my songs were always about truth, identity, lies and sorrow (Cliche? Yes. Forced? No.).

Danger lurks around my mind
Cold winds pick up from behind
The sun sets, leaving me with black
The world shifts, throwing me off track

Only time until there's a landslide
Only time before I've nowhere to hide...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

As a Child

I wrote an essay once about myself as a child and the various forms of unique expression I displayed at very young age. During the course of its writing I learned some invaluable things about my current self, coming to the indefinite conclusion that our little selves are often still within us, buried somewhere beneath the fresh layers of conformity and pretense. Shedding some of those layers I aim to better understand the big me by examining the little, truthful me.

  • *As a child I included a Barbie doll on my annual Christmas list for years and years. Finally, my visibly bewildered mother complied (well, sort of) and bought me a Ken doll. I hated him for multiple reasons.
    *As a child I rode every single ride at Disneyland with my mother. When it was suggested otherwise I objected rather fiercely, often to the point of tears. I clung to her like she was the only thing worth having in the entire world.
  • *As a child I was instructed quite explicitly on correct running form by my predominant (but ever so loving) mother. She took me outside one summer day and taught me how to run: no flailing or limp wrists, but strong, manly arm swings. I pretended to care.
  • *As a child I would often lay in bed brooding over the fact that girls had more clothes and accessories to choose from. I was bitter and angry with God, the president, and humanity as a whole. What injustice!
    *As a child I was always Peach, April O'Neil, Chun Li, Belle, Jubilee, or the Damsel in Distress whenever the choice was mine. My brothers never passed up the opportunity to remind me either.
    *As a child I quickly developed strong obsessions for pop stars and movie stars. Everyone knew me as the boy who could tell you ANYTHING about Britney Spears or Kate Winslet. Unlike my brothers' rooms, my bedroom walls weren't adorned by the likes of Dan Marino or Michael Jordan. Britney's rosey cheeks covered nearly every inch of my bedroom walls, constantly reminding me (and everyone else) just how different I really was.
    *As a child I secretly watched films or TV shows related to homosexuality, maybe in an attempt to find answers. Or maybe just because I liked watching guys kiss other guys.
  • *As a child my best friends were always girls: Shelbi, Caitlin, Darcy, Jennifer, Lucy...
    *As a child I endured the stinging insults of bullying classmates day after day. Fag! Queer! Homo! Sissy! It deeply scarred my little heart and caused intense feelings of sadness and self-loathing. Mostly because I could never deny it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Art of Coming Out

The term "coming out" makes me really uncomfortable. It has always invoked within me a strong feeling of resentment toward the speaker, as most who use this common expression have no idea what it means. Can they even imagine harboring three little words within their soul their entire lives and then finally, after years of restless struggle, they decide to "come out" with it all, knowing full well that those three words will affect the hearer forever? For better or for worse. Can they even imagine?


The first time I told anyone, I did it in the most round-about, read-between-the-lines way that it barely qualifies as coming out (especially because this particular friend suspected...). I'll spare you a word-for-word transcript and assure you that it was anything but easy, and ever so freeing. It served as the beginning of a rather pivotal step in my life: slowly but surely accepting the truth and coming to actually say the words. Words that I had hated so ardently before.

That was last October. Now, 3 months later and the commencement of a new year, I reflect on the small handful of coming-out experiences that have followed. I met with my Bishop several weeks ago, a monumental act of bravery for me, and received wise and loving counsel, but left even more confused as to where my heart lied; was I willing to forgo this new life of personal acceptance, sinking back into the darkness of anonymity, or would that only engender further heartache and pain? I somehow agreed to meet him every week and take my time in coming clean on my past, venting my confusion and frustration, and if needed, receiving appropriate blessings and counsel. I haven't received a priesthood blessing for years. I miss feeling its power and influence in my life.

Only a few days after this experience, I felt strongly that I should come out to my dear friend of 15+ years, a girl I have always loved and cherished perfectly. Sitting in my car on a freezing January night, high on a hill overlooking the city, I told her. I came out. Then came that moment, that sliver of a second after you say it, that still haunts me in my sleep: how will their once clueless, loving eyes look at me now? What thoughts are racing through their minds? I felt tears burn my eyelids when all my fears were laid to quiet rest when there she was, my eternal friend, looking back at me as she always had. Her eyes, her mouth, her hands hadn't changed. She was 100% there.

These experiences, although bearing great significance, are merely drops in a very large bucket. I have a long way to go before I can claim the beauty and freedom of "being out," but the distinct feeling of hope that bathed my soul that week is unbelievably sustaining. Knowing that there are people out there that know all of me and still love all of me breathes air into my lungs, pours light over my senses, and fills me with such life. Like I've been freed from a jail sentence, escaping a life of confinement.

I guess that's why it's called "coming out."