Let’s get real for moment. I’m not gonna write about filmmaking today. I’m gonna talk about what drives me to make sort of stories and films that I do. When I look back on my life growing up, and the friends I had, the sports I participated in, and life choices I made I realized that I was, and still am, to a degree, socially awkward. In a way, we all struggle a little with this.
As a child, my imagination was on a hyper level; so much more than that of the average child. My parents were not very active in my personal life, so my imagination was what got me through some tough times. I spent a lot of my time alone creating stories in my head and acting them out either with just me, or with my toys. Movies and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (later Power Rangers) were so addictive because at a young age I knew that what I was watching was once in someone’s head just like all the stories going through my mind. (When my daughter has trouble falling asleep my advice is always to close her eyes and create her own “movie” in her mind. Works like a charm!)
When I learned how to read I discovered another medium for expressing one’s imagination. When I learned how to write it was like magic. However, I quickly realized that I needed to stop spending so much time by myself. So, as awkward as that was for me, I tried to make friends in the first grade. I was not good at it, I guess, because when I threw a birthday party and handed out all my invitations and had so many “friends” promise to come–no one showed up. I was forgotten during the traditional Valentine’s Day card exchange, and for the Secret Santa…well, my teacher did the best she could to stop my crying.
By the second grade I thought I had finally found some friends. Two boys who were in my class–the typical duo: the leader and the minion. It turned out I was just the target. You see, I was so desperate to have friends that I endured the mental and physical torture that the “leader” put me through while the minion sat off to the side laughing his ass off. (This same desire to belong lead me to my first marriage with the same type of person)
Lying became my new defense. I would make up stories to tell people so they would like me. At home, I had been lying for quite some time already because I realized my mom and step-dad were more severe in their punishments when I told the truth than when they caught me in a lie. One moment in the third grade completely changed my view on lying. I apparently lied so often that the first time I truly told the truth my teacher didn’t believe me and straight out told me everything that came out of my mouth was a lie. At nine years old I learned how destructive lies really are. I hated that teacher from that moment on, and I made it my mission to prove her wrong. I began telling truth, even at home, even if it meant I would get into trouble. It lead to me spilling the beans to the school counselor about my step-dad’s abuse, which led to him being arrested and me into foster care until the court made its decision. Needless to say, I doubt my mom and step-dad ever forgave me. Not that it matters so much to me now. It later came to light when one of my sisters, several years down the line, brought to light his sexual abuse on three of my sisters (obviously not his own flesh and blood, just his step-daughters).
Where was my dad during all of this? Well, he was Special Forces in the Army and constantly off on missions around the world. Or at least, that’s what it seemed like. Either way, he was apparently unfit to save his kids from the tyrants that were “raising” them. I grew to hate him with a lot of encouragement from my mother. However, I was able to reconcile our relationship, and while it will never be a real “father and son” sort of relationship it is still better than nothing.
Back to my dilemma socially at school–I became obsessed with fitting in. I went heavy into sports. I wasn’t good at them at first, but I realized the “popular” boys were the ones who were the best athletes. So, that became my motivation to become the best. I do admit it was a very pathetic reason to work so hard at something. Another bad habit I picked up was how I treated those who were not considered “cool” even though I fit into that category. My logic was if I pretended to be “cool”, I would eventually become “cool”.
Middle school came around. I started noticing girls more. I put my heart on the line a couple times and received enough rejection that I gave up on the notion that I could be someone’s boyfriend. I didn’t really have friends, just people I wanted to accept me into their groups. In the eighth grade, there were four girls that completely changed my life. I doubt they know it, either, but they, in a sense, saved my life. I won’t give their full names, but they’re Julienne, Breana, Heather and Allison. What was it that saved me? They recognized me; accepted me for who I was. They planted a seed inside my heart that would take another 12 years before it would finally take root. What also helped me out was I finally found a best friend. He had moved in to the neighborhood from another state. I was able to create a brother-like bond with him that has lasted ever since.
I had also found another family that actually cared about me, nurtured my success, and taught me life lessons. That family was the YMCA Team Idaho Track Club. Track and field was a sport where only my hard work was put on show, and only I could succeed and fail. That meant there was no one else to blame for my failure except me. However, the beauty of it was that when I succeeded there were so many people to share it with. It’s a strange thing when failure is brought on by yourself, but success is the work of not only yourself–it’s a group of people with the same goals in mind. I found motherly kindness with all the “track moms” and fatherly kindness with all the “track dads” (all of which I was severely lacking). My teammates were more than just friends. They were brothers and sisters. I now found myself no longer wanting to be the best just to fit in. I wanted to be the best I could be, and be happy even if I wasn’t #1.
My senior year in high school brought with it a new challenge. All my life I looked for people I could follow. Now, at least with track, I found myself having to be the leader others looked to follow. How could I do this? There’s no way I could be a leader! In the end, I don’t know if I did a good job or not. I just did the best I could. Some of those athletes went on to have amazing careers and do amazing things with their lives. Unfortunately for me, my life couldn’t allow that kind of success.
Yes, that last sentence was pretty negative considering how great the last three paragraphs turned out. The tragedy here was that my mother decided if she cannot be happy, then none of her children should be happy, either. So, it was with complete disbelief that I discovered my own mother had sabotaged my collegiate career by throwing away mail and turning away schools that called the house. I was pretty confused that all my other teammates were getting mail and calls while I was receiving nothing. In the end, I did the only thing I could think of doing. Shortly after graduating I moved in with my dad.
My dad is a die-hard Mormon. There is nothing wrong with that except I’ve always had an issue with religion. I tried my best to do the Mormon thing, and do what I was supposed to do. I wanted so badly to believe in it just because of my desire to belong. My dad convinced me that my track career not going the way I wanted was divine influence. God wanted me to become a missionary. So, for 2 years I was one of those Mormon boys in a suit going around trying to convert people to join a religion that I really didn’t believe myself.
I was sent to Japan, and during my time as a missionary I discovered a disease within the leadership of the church. There were leaders that were taking advantage of the young women. I would later find out that it is a problem throughout the entire church and not just in Japan. Probably the only reason why I was able to discover this so easily is the fact that there are so many women who members than men in Japan. When I tried to bring this up with the Mission President I was ridiculed and told to never doubt the leaders. I couldn’t do that and I because of that I was relieved of my duties as a missionary…to put it lightly.
After being sent back to the US briefly I was back in Japan. Shortly thereafter, I married a woman who treated me as a slave than a human. Yet I wanted to feel wanted so I endured it for nearly seven years. I am not willing at the moment to delve deep into those seven years so that will have to wait for another time.
I later found a woman who actually appreciates me, supports me, and deeply loves me. I have never been happier in my life. She gave me the courage to pursue my life-long love of film, and we have created an amazing family. There will be hard times to come, but I know I can get through things.
We all have our own struggles, our own faults and desires. We all have regrets as well. So let’s get real. Instead of judging each other, let’s find a way that we can accept everyone and work together to make this world something we can be proud on ’til the day we die. As naive as that sounds, I believe it’s the mindset that will make all the difference.