On March 2, 2008, I was on my way back from a lunch break between rehearsals for select chorus and the school play with my two friends. As we walked down a particularly seedy Binghamton street, a group of neighborhood bullies ran up to me and beat the ever-naïve snot out of me while my friends just stood and watched.
That was one of the most pivotal moments of my life, as it set me down a path that has only recently begun to change. In the wake of my assault, I developed anxiety and depression, which caused my social life to suffer horribly. A couple of months later, I had a nervous breakdown, which practically destroyed my relationship with my then-girlfriend. I withdrew from the Mock Trial team, drama club and select chorus, all of which were among my favorite activities throughout high school (I was a soloist in the chorus, and according to everyone around me, a rather good one at that).
Considering that many of the details of those events were printed in an article last semester, I’d instead like to discuss something that came to mind over spring break.
After the article was printed last November, I began to uncover a lot of other skeletons from my past that I’d long-forgotten. Looking back, I noticed a common theme among all of them.
Every time, I wound up in the position I was in due to fear.
I was afraid I would be hated, or thought to be “stupid” or “mentally challenged.” I was afraid of embarrassment, and of letting my family down with my mistakes. But most of all, I was too afraid to see the truth that dangled right in front of me the entire time.
Although I can’t change the past, I still have the ability to change my perception of it, thereby freeing myself of the guilt, fear and anger that I’ve had to keep in check for years. And in doing that, I’ve been able to undo some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Over winter break, I reconnected with some of the friends I thought I’d lost along the way. I visited my high school and shared some of my successes with my former teachers, all of whom were happy to hear about my accomplishments.
But above all, I decided it was time for me to make my return to the performing arts once and for all. I joined the college choir, and am set to perform as Friar Francis in the Theatre Department’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” (yes, I know, it’s a shameless plug). This return marks one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve ever made in my entire life, and I’m proud to have taken this huge step.
There is little certainty in the world today. Even science has proven itself to be imperfect at times. Yet I believe I’ve found what seem to be two universal truths. The first is one we’ve all heard before: anything is possible. The second, however, isn’t as well-recognized as it probably should be: it is only by embracing who we’ve been that we are able to show the world who we truly are. I challenge everyone reading this to at least reflect on this in the context of their own lives, as it may hold the key to so many answers.
Incidentally, my first performance in the college choir took place on March 2, 2012, exactly four years (to the day!) after my assault. Pretty cool, wouldn’t you say?