|I was born in Loring, Maine. The last of three children - one brother, one sister - I was the baby. My father was in the Air Force, and my birth caught the tail end of traveling around the country as directed by the military. Just after my birth, we moved to California (where most of our extended family lives). We spent a few years living both in Sacramento and the Bay Area, but by the time I was seven, we settled into a small track house in the suburbs of Sacramento. There I spent the rest of my childhood and teenage years.
Mom and Dad made great parents. They provided for all my needs growing up. Even though I could tell we weren't rich, we never lacked money, food or clean clothes. We were clearly and contentedly middle class. Mom and Dad were strongly religious - Southern Baptist to be exact. My parents relationship with God through Jesus Christ seemed to be their greatest priority, and that was passed down to me and my siblings. My upbringing mainly revolved around an active Christian culture that instilled many good characteristics and saved me from a lot of teenage-type trouble. Like all things, it had its down side too. Many traditional and emotional rules seemed, at times, to be without purpose, and guilt was just part of the family.
Even though we lived in a tract house - quite sixties, all-American - we happened to live close to the end of our row, which let out into oak forests and part of the American River. In fact, our house was situated just so that we could almost see the river from our front lawn. Because of this river exposure - not to mention the weeping-willow tree house in the backyard, and the many weeks of family camping excursions - I gained a respect and wonder for nature. Respect because, like the river, whenever I was in it, I was part of something bigger than myself (plenty of people lost their lives in the river because they underestimated its strength). And wonder because, like the river, whenever I was in it, creativity and growth soared!
Because I was a bit of a loner, creativity and fantasy were my best friends. I remember Mom boasting that she never had to entertain me, that I was happy to play by myself. I'd spend hours playing Star Trek, Lost in Space and super heroes in the backyard or down by the river. One of the greatest sparks to my imagination was reading comic books. I think my brother had a few that I took charge of. But I wasn't content just reading them, I had to draw them for myself. Eventually, drawing became a way of getting ego "strokes." I may not have gotten great grades in elementary school, but I could always count on the teachers giving me and my parents lots of compliments on my drawing skills. It was something I claimed as my own; no one else could take credit for that which I created on paper. Little did I know that this skill - the one for which I've never had a single lesson - would be one of the most fulfilling joys and moneymakers throughout my life.
After a short time in a public Junior High School, my parents and I agreed to put me in a private school that provided me the opportunity to catch up in certain academic areas. In addition to "catching up," I also experienced intense legalism, that is, seeking approval by obeying laws. There were rules for everything! A student couldn't speak without permission. I witnessed many experiences where creativity, emotion, personalities and honesty were damaged and squashed in the name of "education." By the time I entered the public school system in eleventh grade, legalism had a lasting effect on me, but probably in ways that were not expected: my desire for mercy, freedom and reason (beyond what any rules could give) was ferocious.
Unlike drawing, which I happened upon, music was an intentional skill. Mom and Dad wanted music to be a part of their kids' lives. We learned to play the piano and had to stick with it until we graduated from high school. Beyond just learning a skill, it seemed that all three of us had a natural talent for music. The painstaking process of learning the piano was fodder for youthful rebellion, but resulted in music becoming the most fulfilling element of my life ...and my career. Somewhere in junior high I needed to make the piano my own, therefore, I started writing my own songs. By the time I graduated from high school, music composition had become so important (perhaps performing my own songs was a bigger ego stroke than drawing) that I knew, without a doubt, music would be my major in college.
|Toward the end of my junior year in high school, my sister died suddenly from an unusual heart virus, and, along with her, the child she was carrying. Obviously, this profoundly impacted our family as well as her husband. This was the first time someone so close to me had died, so her death had this tinge of a new experience yet it felt so final, like some devastating episode of the Twilight Zone. In many ways it was the perfect tragedy. "Only the good die young," I told my sister one tearful night a few years prior when I was afraid she would die before me, strangely enough. Jeanette had become the emotional and spiritual rock of our family. Each one of us could confide in her. Now our family had to find new ways to hold ourselves together. On the one hand, rarely does a day go by that I don't miss her. My life would be very different if she were here today. On the other hand, her passing from this life to the next has settled any doubt I might of had about the afterlife. Purely on the basis of emotion, relationship and spirit; I am confident that the afterlife isn't just a possibility. I personally know someone who is there.
I had made plans to attend California Baptist College, like all the other good kids at church. Yet it was my sister (she too attended C.B.C.) who came home from a trip to Santa Barbara and told me about this "gorgeous and cool" college that I just "had to attend!" This college was Westmont College. Even though it was a Christian College, it didn't have the trappings of the Southern Baptist Denomination (you should of heard the flack I got from church members because I was going to a non-Baptist College). Once again, I made something my own. In fact, I credit Westmont with giving me the skills of critical thinking. The college doesn't just want their students to believe a religion; the faculty teaches students to decide for themselves what to believe and why. Of course they have a bias, but who doesn't? Now, as I look back on those years, even though the college and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, I am grateful and proud of the education I received from Westmont.
A great experience about college life is bonding with good friends. I got close to many people that are still friends today. There were two guys I especially got close to: Jim Medema and Christopher Bartchy. We three were inseparable. By the end of college we were known as the "infamous" Triam - whatever that meant. We still stay in touch today even though we live far apart (one's in Minneapolis, the other's in Germany). They showed me unconditional love even when I confessed my most guarded secret - my sexuality.
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