I am the luckiest person I know. I have air in my lungs, food in my belly, and everything I need to lead the life I want to live. I have been blessed with many gifts, and the greatest of these is an extraordinary capacity for feeling.
I feel every emotion with extreme intensity, including not only my own emotions but also those of people close to me. When it comes to positive sentiments like happiness, excitement, and love, this gift is my greatest strength. It is what makes me the fiery, passionate person my friends know, and that fire is the driving force behind everything I have ever accomplished.
But what happens when you take that same intensity and apply it to pain, anger, or even hatred?
I have had a consistent relationship with pain and anger throughout my life, but the only person I have ever hated is myself. Take it from me; it is not pleasant being on the receiving end of that fury. This is something I have struggled with ever since I can remember, but especially from adolescence into early adulthood. I did some horrible things to myself during that time and I badly hurt some of the people I loved most in the process. My internal battle reached its climax one summer night when a stranger pulled me down from the chain link fence separating me from the 125-foot vertical drop of Caneadea Dam. He sat me down and asked me about my pain, my anger, and my fears. He told me about a time when he, too, was hell-bent on utter self-destruction. He told me that I have a job to do and that I can leave this world when my time comes. I slept under the stars that night, and my friend stayed by my side until morning. The world has looked different ever since.
I was ashamed of my self-destructive thoughts then and I am ashamed of them now. Back then; I was so ashamed that I did not reach out for help when I needed it. I was afraid that people would write me off as a lunatic. I am still afraid of that. I am telling this story now because I know I am not the only one and because I know how lethal that shame can be. It is not the thought of suicide but rather our own insecurity about that thought that kills people like me. I just happened to get lucky.
That night at the dam was in the summer of 2010. A few weeks later, I announced to my friends and family my intention to fully pursue my dream of making music. I built a website, put a band together, and took them into the studio to record my first EP, Give Me A Push. I performed my music all over my home state of Maryland and then started busing up and down the east coast, with nothing but smiles and the tip money in my green hat to keep me going. Since then, I have taken this music across the United States, into Canada, to China, and all over Australia. I have seen numerous videos of people dancing to my music in Argentina, France, Sweden, Russia, Korea, Singapore, you name it. I sealed a $25,000 “record deal” with about 400 wonderful people who believe in me and my music. I am not merely chasing my dream – I am living it right now.
I am telling this story now because what if there hadn’t been a kind stranger taking a walk by the dam in the middle of the night?