It’s a difficult reality to get my head around, because the natural order in it has been fixed for such a long time. The last time I don’t remember hating my life was when I was a child. A natural feeling of idealism and free exploration was cultivated by my parents’ moving us around the world, and schooling in Germany – particularly in an international school with its requisite liberal traditions. There was definitely a sense that I could be anything I wanted to be – I was learning alongside Americans, Malaysians, Nigerians, Japanese and Germans, I could be a musician, learn any language I wanted, be as creative as I wanted with the most diverse group of friends imaginable. As a family we’d visit Switzerland & East Germany, I’d make new things in the cub scouts and love music by BA Robertson and enjoy Marvel Comics reprints, but certainly not be driven by them.
A lot changed in the 80s, both in my family and in society. We moved to Guernsey, having originally planned Switzerland, and I always felt how much of a retreat it really was. Cut of from everything which I’d relied on to enjoy life, I completely withdrew. Class, nationality and appearance based relationships made no sense to me whatsoever, but they were the order of the day. Authoritarianism wasn’t something I’d encountered whilst growing up in Germany, but it became the focal point of my life in the Channel Islands; it was hardly surprising that bullying followed on too. And halfway through the decade my mother developed cancer, which killed her at the beginning of the next. In hindsight I was out of step with myself throughout the second half of the decade. Not remotely interested in girls, I nonetheless made a relationship (of sorts) happen. I later found out that my mother had realised I was gay. I was walking around in a fog in my late teens, when I should have been at my most experimental. Technology went wild and capitalism ran rampantly with it this decade, and having goods to make me feel better started to become important.
In the 90s it became everything. Into adulthood I leapt and out into the real world I ran. With precisely no tools having been cultivated with which to enjoy either of them with. My sexuality and sexual orientation were blurred under the surface, I was buying more and more things with which to hide from the terrifying loneliness of life. I went back for a time to live in Oregon, but instead of making use of the endless natural resources and opportunities for creativity and freedom, I kicked off what turned out to be a fifteen year suicide run – the biggest house of cards you could imagine. I began to depend only on gratification for transitory happiness. Despite counselling, counselling courses, counselling work even, late on in the decade, that central pillar remained unaltered.
This year, despite owning my own property, starting out with a succession of good jobs, being married and having the most impressive collection of friends around me since those happy times in Germany, the house of cards finally collapsed. That I managed to survive it is nothing short of a miracle, and is testament to the quality of my partner and my friends. I can now see much of what led to that happening. Not only had I spent most of my formative years away from an environment in which I could thrive, but I’d started to depend on false alternatives. And depending on them was a disincentive against developing skilful abilities with which to thrive once again after feeling I was in hostile territory for so long. My embracing photography so completely in 2005 was a good start, but had only been part of the puzzle to reassemble.
My meditation with Alistair has reawakened a spirit of exploration, and it’s taught me the basics of how to start using my mind skilfully as an adult for the first time. It’s not that I won’t make mistakes with this – this is all still unfamiliar ground – but it’s the first meaningful dawn I can remember. There are adjustments yet to make, but as in 1994 when I awoke to my sexuality and sexual orientation, although I’m joining the party late, I am finally here at last. I have tools to look at the world with fresh eyes, to look at myself inside and to work on and develop who I am skilfully, all with the collaboration of others.