Personal gratification is having found the courage to detach from a self constructed by a deeply broken man. In the 30+ years I spent under construction I was weighed down by a necessity for the concession and favorable appraisal of other people, other broken people. I didn’t know the first thing about loving, nor finding myself because I had been well-conditioned, both, by my own insecurity and a skewed society to look the other way, towards other people, other broken people. It’s what many of us learn almost as soon as we learn to talk. The psychology of an American upbringing that values some over all. Until you know better, ignoring your problems to follow the leader becomes a virtuous pattern of curtail. For a time, not standing out was rewarded, handsomely. And I scored high.
Anyone who truly knows me is used to my swan song of growing up as an only child, yada, yada, yada. Beginning from boyhood, I learned to blue-chip the art of being liked. Being likeable became a means of survival for me. Regardless of how impersonal and tepid an adjective, unoccupied by any degree of charisma or authenticity; the act of being liked was my ticket. It became an empty standard of which I based my understanding of self-worth. Lost, I bartered away all opportunity to discover what was beneath my surface. I had become a chameleon to varying social circles with a knack for playing a part, and pleasing others, almost like a politician. Agreeable is an accurate description of the me I was then. Agreeable, the eighth dwarf desperately pleading for a spot in Snow White’s VIP gang of seven.
There’s nothing wrong with being liked. I happen to believe being liked can denote an admirable way of existence, so long as the breadth of the word speaks to being respected and loved. If that were the case then, I’d say like away, Mother*ckers! But it wasn’t. To be liked meant to be alike. You were encouraged not to think differently, not to explore anywhere others hadn’t already conquered. To be basic!
This pseudo-woeful depiction of my past, I bring up not to disguisedly preface a rehearsed, tale of newfound wokeness. My intention is to be reflective of the complex intersection where a once harmful inner dialogue lead me to repress issues of abandonment and debilitating insecurity. I lacked vigilant awareness of the banefully fluxed nature in which I communicated with myself consciously and subconsciously, and that left me mentally disinterested in walking a path of my own discovery. I didn’t realize how dangerous lacking confident inner self-narrative was at the time. And that, though unacceptable, was understandable.
Let’s unpack, shall we?
Long ago in a faraway land called 2014, there lived a boy stuck in the melancholy of a life inexperienced. Back then, “Vidale” stood for piss-poor perspective, a rudimentary vernacular, and bad eyebrows. He was a haphazard, unassuming character of whom I shared my full name, date of birth, social security number, allergies, a birthmark, and not to mention an indistinguishable resemblance to. I had a lack of understanding and perhaps fear of my own greatness. I was nothing more than a dearly disgruntled stranger trapped in a shell I didn’t really want to be in. I hated myself. I hadn’t yet found the courage to dismantle everything I had been erroneously taught to embody. “But isn’t this who I am – isn’t this me?” I would say until one day, through the fog, a new notion popped into my head. “If this is true, if this is who I am – all I am, then today is as good a time as ever to become unlike me.” Side note: I did then and still do have full conversations with m’self. I realized my abuser wasn’t a difficult life cursed by unhappiness. Nobody was actually forcing me to assimilate. It was my own unyielding stubborn mind and the defeatist personal beliefs and experiences I chose to align all my attention with. I feared who I had the potential to be. I was scared to break free from being comfortable, no matter how unhappy being comfortable made me. For too long, the unknown hadn’t seemed like any more of a promising destination, until it was.
Mine eyes had seen the glory of the leaving of the turmoil. There was beauty I found on the long journey of healing. I was forced to face past traumas before reaching the next leg of the race. But there was no looking back for me. When you plant a healthy seed, you don’t expect it not to blossom, do you? Facing and clearing all the long-burdened gunk that had latched deep into my soul lead to real internal growth, and soon after, my personal evolution was to follow.
It took some time to walk those first steps to loving and healing the unconfident, unsure child who grew into an aimless people pleaser. The most important task was to unlearn all I once knew. Tucked within unconditional compassion and selflove was the wonder of getting to truly know myself.
Fueled by an unearthed curiosity and desire to expand and develop my truth, I hardly recognize the old (un)Vidale. I feel unseen no longer. I won the award for Best Performance by an Actor Hell-bent on Securing Self-Destruction. First and foremost, I’d like to thank God … Nowadays, I strive for that larger than life sense of oneness. I don’t always reach it but it strive nonetheless. I wake up each morning happy to spend another day in the shoes of someone I’m having a great time getting acquainted with. Deep down, the one-time isolated yet imaginative only child and introvert is a man who cleans up quite well, and always has something to wear when the dress code calls for charisma and authenticity.
Here is the part of the story where I take a brief pause to dust off the old A.A.V.E. for a second to say to myself, “You go, boy!”
And if you couldn’t tell, this was an essay about self-discovery and Depression.