Upon self-reflection and conclusion, I am closing this year by providing context on why I put this content into the world. In summary, I did this so that others may read my experience and know that we all have challenges, no matter how unique, traditional, and/or different we are. No matter how life humbles you (as it will every one of us at multiple points in our lives), don’t stop going. Even if you slow down to a crawl, as I have many times in my life, do not stop, as starting again will be a much heavier experience than slowing down based on the undesirable pain that life at times has to offer. Focus on never stopping, no matter how difficult.
I attended a private school for the majority of my educational career in all the countries where I grew up. In about 5th grade, we were doing a lesson on history and geography. When we reviewed a couple of places in our textbook, the teacher asked what we imagined these places would be like now in contrast to the time of the historical events we were studying. So when my teacher came over to see what each child was thinking, I told her quietly that I had been to most of the places we were studying (like Jerusalem, Rome, other places in Europe, etc.). My teacher immediately looked at me in condescension and said, “God doesn’t like liars.” In her defense, she was completely unaware of my mother or father’s professions, our abnormally extensive travel, and/or the fact that I had also been touring and working professionally worldwide since preschool. Confused and shaken by this adult’s response, I did what comes naturally to me and became very quiet, working to make sense of what I had done wrong to be spoken to like this in my mind. My classmates interpreted this adult’s comments (and my lack of reaction to them) as fact, making them laugh hysterically at me. They did so moments after I explained I understood the places we were studying firsthand with the same condescension my teacher displayed. The entire classroom adopted the story that I was telling untrue stories that were so grand that it was laughable.
This was an in-formative experience that absolutely happened for me, not to me, as it showed me how different people react to things they don’t understand or know themselves. I didn’t tell my parents until the school year had ended because I didn’t want the teacher or school to get in trouble if my dad got word of this life-changing incident. Iterations of this interaction/incident have occurred throughout my life with acquaintances, colleagues, and even close individuals in my inner circle. In most cases, I stay quiet. If I attempt to clarify a story and am met with any suspicion, I get even more quiet and accepting. When any individual assumes that I am outright lying about something I have done, I first accept that there is no changing the mind of its conclusion, especially ignorant conclusions. Therefore I always remained quiet and let whoever I was interacting with speak until they felt like they had solved the mystery that is me to pass the time.
Unlike the situation with my teacher, as I got older, I started to understand that some people will react that way and some will not. All people are not this teacher. Some can listen and not jump to an ignorant conclusion with no substantial evidence. Some will interpret my quiet nature as secretive or withholding, while others will empathize with my nature and accept how I am. Some will demand more information and decide that I’m lying if I choose not to elaborate, while others will allow me to share more in my own time and/or accept that I may not feel comfortable doing so at all. Ultimately, another person’s response is more based on/proportional to their own capacity to be reasonable. It’s in most to express all the ignorance inside themselves, hoping it sticks to another. This as opposed to the minority who observe that which they do not understand, as my mother and father do. Whether the minority or majority, I do not personally view one as better or worse than the other but rather as parts of the whole that make up people.
I remain myself for the most part to this day. With that said, I cannot say in full truth that this incident did not affect the way I process being criticized, especially when I know the kind of individual I am. Therefore I made it a point to recognize this issue in myself and not take it out on others, as this is my problem that I’ve had to overcome. I didn’t allow others — even an adult when I was a child — to interrupt my mental fortitude or dictate my overall behavior. This is proven as a result of my life’s direction. I do not view myself as a victim of anyone or anything, even if the facts show that I am, as that is not how I process experiences.
I believe most of the individuals who challenged the facts of my life assume that if someone had done the things I’ve done and been to the places I’ve been, they’d hear about it constantly. They assume that I should behave differently because they assume they’d act differently in my shoes — both in terms of my life experiences and my not feeling the need to prove or validate myself to others. This dynamic has come out in many ways, but I’ve consistently remained comfortable in silence and keeping to myself. In my view, this is similar to the way we see certain people handle fame/celebrity versus others who struggle under those conditions. Just as I (and >99% of people) cannot relate to or understand a famous person’s experience, my unique experience fell outside the scope of what most are familiar with or understand. That is not to say I’m a celebrity because I am not. Rather, simply that trying to explain something unrelatable to someone else is quite difficult. Therefore, I generally choose not to and opt instead to emphasize the things I have in common with others. Some people accept that. Some interpret it as concealment or deceit. Either way, it does not change my experience or alter my life’s work.
Whether it’s staying in Nashville (ABC) for an extended period in Nashville, TN with my close friend who was acting on the show while Hayden Panettiere protected me from the paparazzi based on her respect for me not wanting to be involved in entertainment on her scale and/or all the way to sitting on a tour bus with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan before one of their shows that my father was on the same bill as; I have nothing to prove to anyone about any aspect of my life. This knowingness goes so deep that it has made others uncomfortable. That has never been my intent. I do, however, accept that it’s their own internal discomfort that makes them feel this way, not my right to be the individual I am and will always be for whatever reasons I deem fit best for me.
In order to connect with any human being, there must be open enough communication to share the outline of one’s life. One must make the distinction between sharing the outline to deepen another’s understanding and intentionally putting one’s baggage on another, which is the most inconsiderate action. Anyone who intentionally puts their own baggage on another cannot be trusted, relied upon, and/or depended on in the most superficial circumstances, much less dire ones. Therefore appropriately sharing to connect in contrast to being connected by misery is the most important baseline to strike the right chord for a memorable melody in any relationship. The year 2020 caused the effect of self-reflection for me, which, in turn, made me up for the challenge of sharing with those that need uniquely articulated thoughts from a rare perspective. All I’ve written has been to share the outline of my life to connect to you — the reader — who has more in common with me than we have differences. I feel content with my decision to listen to my close allies and family’s idea to communicate my mind and its process to the digital world. Those who received something from what I’ve shared will share it with others that may need it. For those that got nothing from what I shared, they are not looking to get anything out of anything.
With care, respect for the planet, and evocative observation,