Growing up is hard, and it’s the same for everyone, but when I was a kid I thought it really sucked. I am going to turn 33 on Thursday (March 21st), and as I reach this new year (which, for some inexplainable reason, feels significant), I cannot help but look back at some of the years past.
I was short, and fat, and probably annoying as fuck. I tried to hard to get people to like me, and when I couldn’t get them to like me I just tried to get attention (usually by telling dumb jokes, dancing poorly, and pretending I was a ninja), and that led to several ass kickings, which I’m relatively sure I didn’t deserve.
My parents had always read to me when I was young, and that blossomed into a love of reading myself. The more I read, the more I found I could escape into it, and leave behind the misery of my childhood, and live a different life entirely.
Those early, elementary school years, with the bad hair-cuts, the bullies, and the semi-regular beatings, were buffered with Terry Brooks and his Shannara series. I spent many a classroom hour, ignoring the jeers and the taunts while I imagined riding into battle against the demon hordes, the Druid, Allannon, at my elbow. In the landscape of my mind none of the problems of my real life existed, and I had a respite from the constant malice that made up my life and found a way to keep my sanity.
In my later part of high school, and my years of university, I dropped 50 pounds, grew 6 inches, discovered Shotokan Karate, and damned near lived either on the dojo floor, or in a weight room. Now, instead of being a short, chubby target for violence, I was a tall, proud, arrogant jackass. I turned into a vastly overcompensating “tough” guy, and took every opportunity to tell everyone I met how much I could bench press, or how high I could kick. Then, I found, the physical violence stopped, but the ridicule ramped up and took in any slack left by the lack of beatings.
Again, I escaped into books. My reading tastes changed as I matured, and I now turned to Jack Whyte, and the building of Camulod, to supply me with a journey to a place where I could imagine myself an important man, leading a colony of survivors to prosper in a savage, untamed land.
Once I was done my schooling I was accepted by the RCMP, and sent to freeze my ass off in Regina for 6 months of running, marching, getting yelled at, and generally hating life as I waited for the hell to be over. During this time I took up with Stephen King, and Roland of Gilead. As I was training to be a Mountie, what Roland would have called a “Gunslinger”, I imagined myself travelling with Roland and his ka-tet, seeking the Dark Tower where all the ills of the world could be solved.
No matter the period of my life, I had a constant companion, in book form, to lend me a little support and shore me up. Many hard days were defeated, and obstacles overcome, after a few minutes of pretending I was somewhere else.
As I began writing in earnest, I have always written stories that spoke to me. I wrote about the struggle between good and evil. I told stories about a man’s journey, and his growth on his way to heroism. I wrote about standing up for what you believe in, and doing the right thing, even when it is not easy.
But one thing I realized is all of these stories are written for the man I am now. The man I have become through the last 10 years of law-enforcement experience, and the things I have seen (and wish I could forget). I have completely forgotten what it is to have the dreams of a younger man, and what those dreams meant to me as I was trying to figure out who I was going to become.
I’ve recently started a new project, and I am writing it for the me who lived through the bullying, and the long hours in a small dojo, trying to be something other than what he was. I am trying to tell a story that will appeal to that young man, and hopefully teach him something.
It’s a bit of a risk, because it is very much a departure from what I normally write. It is still, of course, going to involve good versus evil, a young man’s journey, and a great deal of magic. The main difference is the perspective I’m going to try and write it from, and the fact that I’ll have to use far less explitives.
As I start this new project, I am working hard to remember where I came from, and the stories that gave me such comfort when my days were so hard. Despite behind hard, they were good days, and made me who I am. And I’m willing to bet you had more than a few of those days too.
Feel free to share them with me, as I share this little bit of a journey with you. Perhaps we’ll come out close to the same place.
Thanks for reading.