You are in for a treat. This post is penned by my friend David, who I met through a swing dance club at the University of Washington. I watched him learn to dance and get really awesome at it. Since then, David and I have taken The Artist’s Way course together and from the deeper friendship that formed, chatted lengthily on life, faith, creativity, love, and dreams. He’s a strong thinker and feeler, and you’ll see that in this vulnerable post. Bravo, David!
Sometimes our deepest changes and influences come from the pockets of life we thought were far far behind us.
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU by David Slater
At six, I was hyperactive, though cautious and thoughtful, extroverted and people-pleasing, though with a strong sense of justice, and I ran around chasing girls pretending to be Superman.
Things were easy then; I was simply myself. At play I was boisterous, running through the woods attacking nettles with swords, at church I was calm and responsive, at school I was outgoing and playful, and at home I was relaxed and did what my parents expected. They let me play video games, after all.
Around that time I met Jessica. Our families became increasingly close over the years, especially after our fathers started hanging out. Ken’s playfully grumpy, “Hey, what are you doing?” complemented Dad’s gregarious teasing in a way not easy to find, much to the pleasure and dismay of their children. So Jess and I bonded amidst the paternal torture, and life went unperturbed for quite some time.
Then the trauma occurred, not too long before high school–my family moved to Vancouver, and my circles and respective identities were jumbled in the move. Dad offered Ken a job, and he and Jessica quickly joined us there. By joined, I mean moved in with us, as Jessica’s mother and brothers were still back in Port Orchard trying to sell their house.
The summer before freshman year, I took my first trip to Europe, coming back tan, ever-so-slightly cultured, and two weeks after school started. Jess was a likable, loquacious sort, so upon arrival at Prairie High School, I was lucky enough to find her with friends in tow, and they welcomed me! (Apparently I gave good hugs or something.)
But I never really felt at home there. I was always restless, trying to impress the next social group. Even exchanging thoughtfulness for sarcasm, caution for apathy, and honor for fawning, I didn’t got very far.
Never did I say, “I’m going over to so-and-so’s house.” I truly never made friends, even with Jazz band, an exchange program in Nuremberg, and indulging in the weight room after school. But that didn’t stop me from trying to join their circles, groping for identity.
Questions started to come in: “Who is this girl you come to school with? You always leave with her, too!” And the snickering would start. They teased her, and mocked her behind her back, in the typical passive-aggressive fashion of the Northwest. Instead of defending her, however, I responded with a mix of embarrassment and nervous laughter and change of subject, the way a teenager responds when caught in a mall with his mom wearing jeans hiked up to her sternum.
All of my youthful sense of right had been deposed by insecurity. I pretended not to know her (I was such a cock then), but the association was there, unmistakable, and those I was trying to impress were only struck by my lack of gallantry.
Home was different. We hung out, chatting about schoolwork, quoting “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, and reminiscing about life in Port Orchard; it was great! That was when I was myself, still one of her best friends.
But at school, the rift grew. I didn’t even talk to her there. An unspoken agreement was reached: I did my thing, she did hers. The friendship at home only contrasted more harshly with the two-faced jerk I was at school.
We never stopped being friends. I can’t really explain why; it doesn’t make much sense to me. I think she was confused about who I was, and gave me greater leniency for it. Mostly, though, it was her unswerving loyalty.
One saving grace we did share: Mrs. Alway’s English class Sophomore year. Some of those books… ick! The Chocolate War…Things Fall Apart. The latter one nearly killed me. It certainly killed my grade, much to Jessica’s amusement, to this day.
I detested high school. I had fond memories of middle school (how many people can say that?), but this was different. It wasn’t that people didn’t know who I was, or that they disliked me; they were indifferent. My presence didn’t add to the conversation and my absence wasn’t noticed. Living in the apathy of others is a lonely place. Luckily, my hatred for high school produced some motivation for change. My Junior year, I left to take classes at the community college (Running Start, for you Washingtonians).
Jess, you’re the one friend I kept from Prairie, the one that never left. And with more than a tinge of remorse, I realized then that you were the friend I wanted all along. I was constantly changing myself, but you brought me back to where I started: my thoughtful, hyperactive, joyful, six-year-old self, minus the grass-stained knees.
Dancer, Musician, Engineer, Teacher, Learner, Shepherd, Paladin, Philosopher, Lover, Brewer of Mead, Drinker of Tea, Eater of Oatmeal, and Friend of Children, David Slater has long wanted to be a writer. But his dabbling in such diverse activities as Shaolin kung fu, a barbershop quartet, chainmaille construction, church planting, pen-and-paper D&D, Lindy Hop, coffee snobbery, Nightwish concerts, hiking, fried insect eating, djembe playing, and drinking water from whisky bottles has kept him from pursuing writing. If you care to encourage him in a literary direction, you can find him here: https://www.facebook.com/CaptainVanity