I wrote this essay this last year in college. It is my first attempt at a collage essay. For those of you who may not know, a collage essay is formed by bits and pieces of information in a poetic form that answer tough, deep questions. This prompt asked the question who I am and why I write. It is a daunting task trying to put into words who you are. I feel you can never really fully explain who you are. What makes you, you, is always changing and evolving. All the memories and experiences that shape you aren’t always the big events in your live. Sometimes, it is the small ones that impact us the most. In this essay I try to touch on the big things, and the little things.
The Other Side of Silence
I’m afraid of letting people down.
I’m afraid being alone. That’s what I tell myself but I’m actually afraid of losing people.
The emptiness left in people by tragedy.
The depression hidden behind smiles.
The world became hollow and eerie.
The shell of a perfect world formed through youthful and innocent eyes started to crack and reveal all the evil and loss that were scratching at the surface. I found out that everybody, even the people I suspected the least, had horrible things happen to them or had done horrible things themselves.
“He wanted to see his son, but it scared him to think that Charlie would no longer be a boy but had become a man without a father in his life.” ̴ B. Harrison
I want to tell stories about that moment when you realize your parents are just people. They make mistakes too.
I want to tell stories about what it means to be a man.
I remember drinking beer, tattoos, facial hair, fighting, and sex.
What are we not talking about?
I am a white male. I have privileges that I don’t deserve and power I can’t control. I don’t know the extent of my power. I didn’t ask for this. I try to exercise caution with my responsibility.
My relationship to power tastes like cake, like free sweets.
Brothers. Three boys in one room. Depression and anxiety and sexual ambition are out of control. I am the oldest. I must lead and guide. Perfection is my aim; Academically, physically, and more discreetly, emotionally.
I remember sex made you cool.
Family reunions in San Antonio. The sun made my shoulders brown and the humidity made my dad and step mom upset. As kids, my brothers, cousins and I would all play games, swim, talk to distant relatives we didn’t remember, and eat. There was always so much food, and the food was huge. Everything was bigger in Texas. Spanish words mixed with guitar strums, laughter, checker pieces clicking on wood, and forks scraping plates. Everyone was always hungry for more, they just didn’t know what.
Tall fir trees enclosed my grandparents’ house in Littlerock, Washington. Inside their house dusty knick-knacks and family pictures were everywhere. I loved the old smell and how everything was worn-in. I loved the fireplace, the warmth. All along the driveway, the bushes had conquered junk cars my grandpa had scrapped for parts, and the shrubs had taken over the old trails that used to wind through the trunks of trees. A small creek trickled off to the side. I could always faintly hear birds chirping some where high up in the branches and I loved the sweet melody the wind played through the dancing trees. It was a quiet hum that let me know I was home.
My father wasn’t there but I still learned to love.
I’m afraid of becoming my father.
“A Father to the Fatherless” ̴ Psalm 68:5
My grandma showed me how around campfires in the middle of nowhere, and through jokes at all the wrong times.
My grandpa taught me how to love through greasy fingers working in his shop and playing catch until the mosquitoes became unbearable.
My cousins taught me down by the river in Texas. They showed me how to love through smiles with our toes in the water when the sun sank low and made the whole world orange.
My first girlfriend taught me how to love. She showed me a world I didn’t know existed outside of movies and novels. She also showed me how imperfect and messy it all is.
And when things fell apart with her my friends showed me how to love by getting me out of bed and taking me on adventures.
But my mom, she taught me the most. She showed me how to love simply by being there when no one else was. By caring and loving me when it seemed like no one else did.
It is a strong word if you choose to let it be. Hate is just another four-letter word like love. They only have value when we give them value, and I can’t help myself.
I fell into some bad habits and the wrong crowd for a part of my life. I developed my own silence. But I was rescued by Jesus.
This is me.
The Other Side.
There is value in listening. Whether you’re listening to a family member for the hundredth time, or a stranger for the first, the fact that you are listening and engaged with another person is important. It’s important for learning and growing.
I want to tell stories that change people’s perspective and way of thinking. I want them to know they aren’t alone in their struggles.
Above all else I want to tell stories that get people to find their voice and break their silence.
I remember how it used to be, and I envision how it could be.
My aesthetic is messy and complicated.
My aesthetic is voice.
The path is through listening and revealing our own unique and ugly stories.
The tragedies and loses bloom inside those that keep them in and slowly squeeze out their life and restrict their voice. So, the silence grows. I believe that things could be different.