I have been sitting on this post since October 2016. Since then, I have made some additions. By the time you get to the last sentence, you may wonder why. If I am honest, I can’t really answer that. Perhaps being back in Frederick, Oklahoma for an Out of the Darkness Walk benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was more challenging than I thought. Maybe I knew a change was going to happen, eventually. Maybe I just wasn’t ready. Whatever it was, I am finally ready to let this bird fly away into the great unknown.
Confronting the frailty of my parents is something for which I am unprepared, but time won’t slow down and let me catch my breath. Instead, it keeps marching forward with little regard to my feelings. It beats like a heart in a dark and quiet room constantly reminding me of its presence. It also reminds me that I am luckier than most to still have my parents with me at the age of 34 and that I should cherish every single moment I can spend with them.
Every person has a role to play in their family. It wasn’t until these past few years that I became aware of my role. I am the Consoler in Chief. My family turns to me in moments that seem irrational seeking a rational thought. In these moments, I hope I help them find peace and comfort. I hope I help make sense of something which cannot easily be explained. This role doesn’t always allow me to grieve properly but if it allows them to heal then I gladly accept.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would participate in an Out of the Darkness Walk in Frederick, Oklahoma. The year after Lucas completed suicide, I was proud to participate in the Seattle walk. When it comes to suicide, we tend to ignore rural communities. We focus resources and fundraising efforts in urban areas. Our little walk in Frederick shifted some of the spotlight, if only for a brief moment. To be a part of that, made me immensely proud.
When I hit the city limits of Frederick, a cloud of depression begins to hang over me. Happy moments from my childhood are slowly being erased. Now, I see only pain. Now, I can only think of Lucas and the time I assumed we had before us. Now, home seems elsewhere. I don’t blame Frederick for what happened. We are all responsible for the choices we make. That burden cannot fall on the shoulders of any one place or person. Still, the role my hometown played lingers every time I step within the limits of a place I once loved dearly.
My parents left Frederick years ago, but I am far from accepting Elk City as home. I am a man torn between two places. As I reflect on my childhood, so much of my life in Frederick feels foreign. Like William Faulkner, I feel shaped by a place that is, was, and will always be the antithesis of almost everything that I am. Elk City doesn’t improve the feeling but then again Elk City wasn’t for me. It was for my parents. They too were trying to escape a place that served as an opposition to things they hold dear. If they find joy, peace, and calm in their new home, then there is no greater gift for me.
One of the joys of living on the West Coast, thousands of miles from my family, is I am often excused from the epicenter of family drama. Now, don’t get me wrong, I miss birthdays, anniversaries, and family gatherings. Missing those moments hurts and feels me with a shame that is hard to express. Yet, some form of drama defines every family. More often than not, I am happy to just be on the receiving end of play-by-play and not in the middle of it all.
Of course, distance creates another imperative. When I am back in Oklahoma, I find it necessary to soak up every moment in the presence of my family. I want to be there for every laugh, every story, every exchange of wisdom, and every moment that matters. As I grow older, these things matter more and more. For far too long, I missed these moments because the fear of missing out on some other opportunity consumed me. Now, I wouldn’t miss them for the world.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is becoming a more important organization in my life. I believe America should give the same attention to mental health that we pay to physical health. I believe the foundation believes in that same idea. As I grow in the nonprofit field, mental health is becoming more and more important to me. Hopefully, somewhere in the future, I can marry together all the things I care about so strongly.
I have heard others speak of imposter syndrome. It is this feeling some people have when they look at their accomplishments and feel like a fraud. Along those same lines, I have often had this feeling where I only see myself as a visitor. Nowhere feels like home and roots aren’t being planted. Growing up, Frederick seemed so small and the possibilities didn’t seem boundless. Edmond was frustrating. Los Angeles feels me with longing for something more. Only Seattle filled my soul. Maybe you need to move away from somewhere to realize how good you had it.
So, can you return home again? Men greater than me have pondered this very question for ages. I am ready to test the theory. Los Angeles will not be my forever home. This is meant to be nothing more than an interesting chapter in the book of my life. I intend to do some good while I am here. I intend to grow in every facet of my life. Then, when the time is right, I intend to return home. I intend to return to my Seattle home.
Be good to each other,
I've never asked readers for financial support before. I am committed to keeping content on this site free and open to all. For me, this means no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what I create, please consider making a contribution on Patreon.