In these years I tried many faces, many voices, many styles, ideas, and identities. Whichever group of misfit toys that happened to be able to tolerate me at that time became my model for Self. I rebelled in the same ways that my rebelling peers did. I began to dress, to talk, and to act like them. Good judgment not withstanding, my every move was a calculated attempt to express the mode of the group to which I was most presently adjacent. Not that I did not say 'in,' but 'adjacent.' This distinction is a very important one, because, with all of my grand pretense, all of my social mimicry and pandering, I was never 'in' any of the groups to which I thrust myself adjacent, I was only tolerated, and often barely so. In this decade, the fantasy of my Self made friends, had fights, found lovers, and lost them just as well. The mythical me was becoming every bit a normal teenaged boy, and in time, a relatively normal young man. The only problem was, he wasn't real. Across that decade, as my fantasy Self became more adept at coping with the world, I became much less comfortable with accepting that he was, in fact, fictitious. Whenever I would, by some miracle of introspection notice this fact, it felt as though I was staring directly at a perfect avatar, set squarely in the uncanny valley of my mind. He was so like me, in so many ways, and so like who I wanted me to be, but there was always something terribly, terribly wrong. After one too many heartbreaks, and many too many shattered dreams, I stopped being altogether and let Mythical Me take over for a while. For nearly two years, the real me never surfaced, and Mythical Me was perfectly content to steer my life into incomprehensible chaos. In those two years, I, myself, broke a couple of hearts while playing the part of my idealized self. I only managed to sleep at night on the knowledge that "it's not /really/ who I am, this isn't really the kind of thing I would do, but it's what society expects of me, and I have to perform. I have to play the part or I will never be able to interact with anyone." This I told myself time and again as each choice in front of me was taken the most morally reprehensible of those available. I stopped short of harmful criminal behavior, but it can be assured that were breaking of the social contract a fine-worthy offense, I would be in more debt that a Bernie Madoff investor.
A decade of losing myself came crashing to an end when I found that the love of my life was with child. A decade of my life, decidedly wasted, fruitless in all of my endeavors to destroy the scared, scarred, untouchable child that had dreamed of one day being a real boy, were shown for what they were. That decade crashed, but it did not die in the fires the ensued. No, each passing day drew me closer and closer to reality and scrambled frantically to piece together my long endeavor of self styling fantasy which had been shattered by reality's hard, jagged edge. I thrust myself, vigorously, into the crumbly walls of my fantasy self, desperately seeking a means to live there forever, but to no avail. In those weeks and months after I learned that I was to be a father, all of those pieces of my fantasy self, to which I had not grasped instinctively, burned in the wreckage as sat within myself, sobbing and clutching on to those shards my bleeding hands could manage. I didn't let the first piece of him, my stylized fantasy self, fall from my grip until Thursday 4 March, 2011 at 11:14am EST. In that moment, when I was most naked to the world and most true to myself, I was able to let a single shard of my long struggling fantasy fall and shatter to an explosive end while I forgot that my bleeding hands were holding on to anything at all. Over the years, as my son has grown, and my marriage has strengthened, holding onto those shards has caused me to miss some amazing opportunities life has thrown at me, and to reach for some elusive jagged edges that I should never have sought to touch.
Over the years, my identity as subsidiary to the banners which I fly has crumbled and burned more rapidly with each passing event in my life. Over the years, my fantasy Self, who had well defined his caste and realized his full potential, faded from my memory of Self, such that he was but a refracting glimmer in the back of my mind, as I pressed towards accomplishing the goals at hand, to which my identity, regardless of nature, bore no affiliation. He was nearly invisible, but always there. It was not until the afternoon of 23 March 2015 that I addressed the last shard, still piercing my flesh. It wasn't until I looked at my father, and told him I love him, and said what would be my last goodbye, though I wasn't sure of it at the time, that I saw the ugly menace for what it was, and even then, I could not bear to bare myself so: to remove the last remnant of him from me. The next morning, at 8:45am, I was woken by call that I knew would come, because I hadn't readied myself to leave early in the morning. That morning, that instant, when my mother told me that my father had shed his mortal prison, I ripped what was left of that wasted decade of so-called self discovery from my flesh and left to crumble of the floor of my psyche and combust in the fashion to which I had become accustomed. Over the course of next several days, as I struggled to keep my calm, to be strong for my mother, and more for myself, I watched mournfully as the last remnant of who I had long pretended to be died the agonizing death of interaction with reality. At 26 years old, I am a new man, but I have no idea, yet, who that new man is. I only hope that I can be the kind of man my father wanted me to be, because, for all his faults, I know that he did want the best for me.
A special thanks to my beloved wife, Rebecca Hartzfeld, without whom I most assuredly would have fallen into inescapable, lethal depression, and to Leslee Ann Petersen, a true friend, if not one often enough contacted, whose post inspired me to tell this story.