I’ve never really participated in #ThrowBackThursday. I’ve wanted to, I just never really got around to posting a cute picture of me from the 80’s – because a cute picture of me from the 80’s does not exist. So I figured I’d give this a shot today, especially since I’m trying to get the ball rolling with some fresh blog content.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think a picture can be worth much more than that. A picture can be a window to our aspirations. A picture can freeze a moment in our lives that we may never get again. And a picture can remind us of where we came from so maybe we’ll have some clue about where we’re supposed to be going.
This picture here is probably one of my favorite and most cherished photos taken during my childhood. At the time – 4th of July, 1995 – I was a high school junior living in Salida, California. I’m the one in the Goofy shirt and backwards hat reaching out to the neighborhood cat. My parents (in the middle) were still married to one another, my grandmother (third from the left) was still alive, my uncle (the one on the far right) was still alive, and I still had a close relationship with my sister, my mother, and even the feline.
We all have aspirations when we are growing up. Some are good, some are bad, and some are incredibly ambitious. When we’re young we dream, and we dream a lot. My greatest aspiration besides being a writer was to have a big, happy family that gathered together (like in the picture) for barbecues, picnics, games, dinners – whatever. That’s all I could picture for my future as I was growing up, because it is the type of environment I grew up in and learned to love. It was a sensible aspiration. It wasn’t like I was asking to win the lottery, or to achieve a Nobel Peace Prize. I just wanted a large, unified family who enjoyed each other’s company.
And those aspirations were reality. For a while. Then October 1995 came around, and my grandmother died of breast cancer. Our family moved to Arizona. My parents divorced. My girlfriend treated me like trash. My best friend stabbed me in the back. I lost all of my college money. Nothing went the way I expected it to. In fact, in some regards, everything came crashing down. At least, that’s how it felt to me.
Life went on, and I learned how to survive, how to cultivate loyal friendships, and how to stand up for myself. Most importantly, I learned who God is, who I am, and what my purpose in this life is. I can confidently say that if I hadn’t experienced the heartache and challenges that I did, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
We all come to that one point in our life where the illusions we had as children are tested by the fires of reality. Another term for this point in our life is the end of the innocence. We are shown things for what they really are. We are shown people for who they really are. All disillusions are removed, and reality is there to tear us to pieces like Gmork from The Neverending Story.
At this point we can either accept our life for what it really is and vow to improve upon it, or we can deny what we see and live in a constant disillusioned state for the rest of our lives, never understanding that our trials and the tragedies of this life actually have the power to make us stronger and move us onto better paths for our lives. We have to learn that not everything in life is going to go according to the plans we made when we were in our teens, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Christina Perri sings in her song, “I Believe” –
“I believe if I ‘d knew where I was going, I’ d lose my way.”
This picture is the last time this whole group of people got together like this. I wish my grandmother and my uncle were around. I wish I had a better relationship with my mother and my sister. I wish my parents had stayed married. Those things aren’t my reality, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still aspire to obtain the essence of this picture in my own life.
Someday there will be another picture like it taken. In it, you’ll find my wife, my children, and our greatest friends and closest family gathered together in unity and love. And maybe even the neighborhood cat will join in.