“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”
I’m still trying to figure this one out. For a large portion of my life I was always the center of attention, whether it was four year old me filming the “Bwian Earhawt Show” or 10 year old me creating completely new games/sports and leading the neighborhood kids in tournaments for said activities. I was captaining sports teams, constantly trying make others laugh, writing & telling stories, discovering new hobbies, and simply creating, always creating. As a child I was described as “colorful” and as an adult, “the perfect amount of too much”. When the desire for attention grew too much in my late teens/early 20’s it all came crumbling down on me.
A dark realization hit. There was no Brian. I didn’t have an actual identity. I was very quick to get attached to people and hobbies because they were cheap labels I got to slap on myself to give me the appearance of substance. If someone couldn’t offer anything to my ego they meant nothing to me. As time went by I began to realize that without my clownish antics I had nothing to offer anyone, nothing legitimate that I stood for, zero confidence and not a genuine bone in my body. I was a chameleon changing with each week and each new person I got to put on an act for, who didn’t know the darkness that was bottling up inside of me. Soon my desire for love and attention from others faded away as I began to believe that I was nothing more than a novelty, a worthless addition to anyone’s life. The spotlight and expectations began to terrify me. If anyone got too close I was afraid I’d ruin their life. I grew deeply cynical, loathing human beings and developing hypersensitivity towards hypocrisy, which I myself displayed more than anyone. It felt like I couldn’t escape. This newfound self-awareness mixed with crippling anxiety and regret lead me to become extremely suicidal when I was about 20. It’s hard to completely explain how I behaved during that time.
All I can recall vividly was a day that still gives me chills and was a big turning point in my life. One day after shutting myself in my room for what felt like quite some time, I sat on my bed with a knife, legitimately trying to rationalize my death.
“They won’t actually care, they’ll pretend to care to get attention then a month later they’ll be better off anyway. I’ll actually be helping people if I do this.”
This was a real thought in my head. It still scares me that I got to that point. During this low point a weird, magical thing hit me in that moment. About two feet away from me was a disc sitting on my desk, a green Buzzz that I had loved since I was 15, a disc that I had a strong attachment to. It was my first “real disc”, my first ace, and the first disc to actually get returned to me when lost. In that strange moment I realized that a disc had never let me down and couldn’t let me down. A disc wasn’t capable of hurting me. It brought me joy. It let me be creative, expressive, and passionate. A disc couldn’t judge me. It took me out of my comfort zone, to new states, to new experiences. In that moment I felt like I had a real taste of what my identity was. This cheesy feeling of happiness wasn’t a front to impress people. It was something I really, really found value in. I liked that feeling. I liked it so much that all of my bottled up fear, anger, sadness, confusion, and loneliness in that moment poured out of me. I didn’t want to die. I stood up, grabbed my green Buzzz and walked an hour and a half to the closest course. I barely threw when I got there. I walked around the trees and tall grass and soaked in the fact that I played this game for me, and me only. This was one of my reasons to live. I didn’t have to be anyone other than myself here.
It sounds like a very quick, tacky transition from rock bottom to being back on track, but life really began to slowly turn around for me after that day for some reason. I can't explain it fully. I’m still here, so clearly I did something right.
As I move on with my life and continue my relationship with the sport of disc golf I have realized this for myself; true love is such that the genuine, intrinsic joy you get from something is so grand that you feel compelled to share it. In the past year or so I’ve gotten better at laying out the groundwork to be able to do this. It takes patience, honesty, sacrifice, and a lot of reflection. I realize now that this life I’ve chosen is not just for me. I don’t feel the need to “light myself on fire” anymore to get attention, but I feel almost obligated to bring this happiness that I feel to the world in hopes that I can bring a tiny bit of light to someone who might be feeling that same darkness creep in, an underdog who might need to feel heard. The bright, vibrant shirts that I sometimes wear out on tour are a transparent display of pride to be where I am, and a badge displaying the joy I feel and the color that this game and the people within the community bring to my life.
Feel free to share your own story with me if you need someone to listen. Love you all.