As I travel through the confusing times of my late twenties, I notice that things which once seemed of little importance and often unappreciated are beginning to effect my life in many different ways. It seems that certain memories are starting to fade away, while others are starting to take strong hold like the roots of an oak tree. Sometimes I wonder if it is the same for others in different corners of the world as it is for someone like myself who calls Eastern Kentucky their birthplace.
It is extremely bizarre what a person recalls from their youth. Like times when my Granny would give me a bucket of water and a paint brush and convince me that I was painting the steps of our little green mobile home. I also remember the pressure that I felt from my dad to be the best at anything I was trying to do. It seemed harsh and unfair at the time, but I now realize that it has made me a much stronger person. How could I ever forget sitting under the old shade tree and hearing my Granddaddy say, “Five times in my life, I have killed two squirrels with one shot”! He must have told me that story a hundred times, and every time was like the first for him. He was so proud that you could just see the excitement on his face each and every time. I, on the other hand, could not understand why I had to hear it over and over. I just assumed that once, maybe twice at the most, should suffice. There were many other stories that my Granddaddy told me, but the one about the squirrels is what really stands out. You see, you have to understand that to a life long squirrel hunter this was the highest achievement. It ranks up there with winning the World Series or the Nobel Prize.
It is also strange how certain periods of your life are much more vivid in your memory than others. I can remember my eighth grade year like it was yesterday. There may not have been another group in the history of the world as close as we were to each other. Everyday was filled with joy and laughter, never a dull moment. My dad was the Coach of our basketball team, and even though we fought like cats and dogs, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We all practically lived at our friend’s house, which was in the middle of our little town. I can remember sneaking out of the house late at night only to be chased around town by his mother as if we were playing a game of cat and mouse.
Those were the days, the times we refer to as the “Golden Years.” Unfortunately, those times could not last forever. We have all moved on in many different directions. As a matter of fact, there is only one person out of the once inseparable group that I still have any contact with, and I guess that we will probably be close forever. Some things last while others fade away. It is an unpleasant fact, but it is a fact that we have to accept. It often seems that I have been haunted by that period in my life, because I have spent every moment since then trying to recapture that sence of happiness.
My High school days were very strange times. This is where the family of friends embarks on their inevitable journey of separation. People start hanging out with different crowds. Some play sports, others join the band, and some decide that hanging out in the bathroom and smoking cigarettes is the life for them. For me, I guess I was still trying to hang on to the old way where everyone was equal and life was fair. However, it did not take me long to realize that I was fighting a battle that could not be won. Looking back I realize that I missed out on a lot of “high school stuff.” I probably should have went to a few more parties and got in a little more trouble. Maybe if I had lived a little more in those years, I wouldn’t be striving to play catch up as I get older. There are very few things that I remember about my high school years. Lets see, I got my driver’s license, had my first ‘real’ girlfriend, and some other key points society says that every young gent should experience. However, for some reason, I never could find that sense of happiness that I once felt just a few years prior. To make a long story short, I was very happy to see those high school days pass.
College, on the other hand, is when my life started again. My first two years were spent at a small community college in my hometown. At the time I did not want to be there, however, I later realized that it had its advantages. It was really nice to be able to get half of my college out of the way in a, for lack of better words, extended high school. I was involved with the student government, as well as several other student organizations. I guess all together it turned out to be a positive and educational experience. However, going away to college wasn’t too shabby. Finally, I was free! Out of that little god forsaken town forever! I don’t mean to brag, but I hit the University scene like a movie star coming to the opening of their new movie. I really got some lucky breaks with the “right people” and I was on my way. My social life was phenomenal, and I was breezing through all of my classes. What more could a young man ask for? I can say that I made some true friends while I was away at college. Many of them still keep in touch with me, and it’s always nice to hear from them, because it brings back all those wild and crazy memories. I really doubt that anyone else has ever had a better college experience than the one I had. Don’t get me wrong, people have made better grades and have been more successful, but overall my experience was the greatest.
If I had it to do over again, all that I would change about my college years is my major. After teaching for a couple of years now, I realize that I made a huge mistake. I think that communications career would have better suited my personal interests. Unfortunately, I am too lazy to go back to school now, and there is no way that I could motivate myself to get back into a student state of mind. I guess up to this point my life had been somewhat normal. Well, you might need to brace yourself now, because this small town boy’s life is getting ready to take a turn toward insanity.
The insanity, however, did not begin right away. I did the “norm” after graduation and got a job. I just happened to be friends with the President of the community college in my hometown. She created a college recruiter/admissions counselor position for me. I traveled around to all the local high schools and tried to convince students that two years of community college was the way to go, before they leapt into university life. After I got sick of ‘selling’ the ups and downs of college to high school students, I went back to the university in which I completed my teaching degree that I would eventually be forced to use. It was there that I took on the position of Residence Hall Director, where I was in charge of about 180 young men ranging from freshmen to seniors. At first it was a bit strange because some of the students that I was in charge of were older than me, and many were good friends. It was fun for a while, but I still had a yearning to move to Nashville, Tennessee and try my hand at a music career. Oh yeah, I guess it is a good time to mention that my lifelong dream has been to be a singer/songwriter. I have been plagued with this dream for many years now. It has often kept me from being happy and getting on with my life. I cannot clearly explain why this dream is so important to me. It has almost become an obsession to where, if I fail, my life will be a complete and total waste. This is not where I need to be at this point in my life, because I am not getting any younger. I find myself intentionally keeping many doors of opportunity closed. I also would have to attribute my drive for music to all of those people that have put me down, and said that it could not be done. If not for proving a point to them I would have, no doubt, given up several years ago.
I went home to visit my parents one weekend, and on the following Monday, I turned in my letter of resignation to the university. I ventured to Nashville with a huge dream and a little more than five hundred dollars to my name. I had already arranged for a place to live, which would cost me five hundred dollars a month. I had not been away from home for twenty four hours and I was already practically broke. The next day I landed a job waiting tables, which lead to bar-tending, which lead me to the dark side of life and the world of insanity that I mentioned earlier. The drinking, wild parties, etc., almost took me under, and I literally mean six feet under. Before things got too far out of hand I also starting working at a music publishing company on Music Row. I learned a lot about the music business, both good and ill, in the short time that I was there. However, the evil side of the city took control of my life and I quit working at the publishing company, and basically quit working on my music career all together. Some of the people that I was involved with during this god forsaken time will without a doubt see the deepest, darkest corners of hell unless they have changed their ways.
I completely lost track of why I had gone to Nashville, as well as who I was as a person. Evilness had knocked at my door, and I had invited it in with open arms. I cannot say that I fully regret all of those crazy experiences, because I truly believe that it made me a much stronger and wiser soul. I am also thankful to the good lord above that I made it out of that mess with no considerable harm or damage to my life.
Knowing that I was in desperate need of rescue, my Dad convinced me to come home. Our conversation was on a Wednesday, and on the following Sunday my parents came to Nashville and saved me from the horrific life that I had become engulfed in. Coming ‘back home’ was going to be strange due to the life I had been leading, but it was ultimately the biggest feeling of relief that I have ever felt. When we finally got back to my parents house I went to my old room and slept for about a week, or at least it seemed that way. After I adapted to the “sane” life, I began to realize that I needed to find employment. This is where the real world hit me like a ton of bricks. I was going to have to put my teaching degree to use. I had promised myself after completing the student teaching program that I would never teach again. However, due to lack of other opportunities, I found myself back in the classroom. Like my Dad always said, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
After my third year of being back in good ole Eastern Kentucky, I started to get a hunger, or one may even say a desperate longing to go back to Nashville and give music another go. It took about a year to fulfill all of the requirements needed to get a Tennessee teaching license, but I was determined, so I made it happen. I decided that teaching school would give me the time off that I need to seriously pursue a music career, and I sure did not want to get back in to that terrible lifestyle that I had once been a part of. I also love working with kids, so it worked out wonderfully.
Four years have passed since my first venture to Nashville. I have since been a school teacher, basketball coach, and dreamer. I still sit and ponder on my past from time to time, remembering the good and the bad. I often wake up at night only to realize that I have been reliving it in my dreams. Sometimes I wish that I would have never awaken, and other times I do not want to go back to sleep. Where my future is from here is unknown, however, I am making great leaps and bounds in my music career. I am getting two of my songs recorded on other peoples’ albums. I have gotten my band together and we are sounding really great. We are also planning to showcase our music for several record labels in the upcoming months. Things are really starting to look up!
When I think of my life as a whole, I honestly believe that the good outweighs the bad. Even though there are always going to be bad memories, I can always take comfort in the pleasant ones. Especially, the one my Granddaddy told me about the squirrels. I will always cherish that story and often find myself depending on it when things go wrong. I am also glad that I took the time to sit and listen to it each and every time without interruption. I just wish that he was still with us to tell it again and again. If I had only one wish it would be to find something in my life that makes me feel the sense of accomplishment and pride that my Granddaddy felt from getting two squirrels with one shot.