I was born on a Sunday, one of the most depressing Sundays this country had ever experienced. It was 2 days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. My Mother reportedly went into labor early due to the shock of the news. Several babies were born weeks early, like me, and were nicknamed “Kennedy babies.” I had an awareness of this as I grew up, but it wasn’t really “real” to me until I saw the episode of “Mad Men” and “lived” that weekend with the characters. I realized then “wow, maybe that is one of the reasons why I’ve always struggled with depression, I came in to this world at an extremely depressing time!” I watched the “Mad Men” characters mourn and numbly navigate that weekend as well as the televised funeral that Monday and it felt like the world changed that weekend. Hopes were dashed and a young man full of promise was gone. And I entered this world.
I don’t want this to be a depressing mini-memoir or a place to reveal my past to strangers. I reached the age of 50 a year ago and thought I had something to say. I’m 51 now, so perhaps it wasn’t an urgent thought! I do know that my life has had it’s share of dark times, but it’s also been pretty extraordinary.
I grew up in a small town in a typical middle class family – Dad, Mom, older brother and a dog. I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in and was flawed. Maybe that was partly related to being shy, having a speech impediment where I had trouble saying “r” words, or maybe it was related to my step-grandfather who was a pedophile. Whatever excuse you want to use, I remember feeling innately damaged. My Mother tells the story of me being a very quiet, good baby – all I ever wanted to do was eat or sleep. Sounds like a depressed baby! As I child, I found my comfort and solace in books. I could enter a fantasy world where I was special or I was a princess or I was a pioneer girl. Later, television shows and music also provided me with rich material for my fantasy life. I was Tracy Partridge of the Partridge Family and I even had my own tambourine! I was Laura Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” or one of the Waltons in the Walton Family. A special family where I was special, too.
I also remember always wanting to leave my hometown. I just didn’t belong there. I longed to go to a place where I belonged and in my fantasies it became the state of California! That seemed magical to me – Hollywood and Stars and sunshine! A place where you could be whoever you wanted to be, not who you were.
I eventually did leave my hometown and I did become who I wanted to be without completely changing who I am. I also visited California on vacation and I loved Hollywood, but I no longer wanted to be a star. I am special now just because I am me. It sounds like a cliché, but it is true. I like who I am, I like what I’ve become and I like my life. Perhaps that is something I can write about. How did I get from there to here?