If I could photograph this moment – capture the music and lighting, the tree outside my window swaying so gently – you would understand the feeling in my chest. The colors and textures, the grey shag rug that keeps my body comfortable while I lay on the floor. David Grey singing “This Years Love” while I watch the flame from a lavender and sage candle dance quietly next to me. Chris sleeps in the other room with our two dogs resting their head on him.
I believe this moment is perfect.
And I crawl inside myself into that little cocoon buried deep within. Where I can hibernate in the warmth of my own introspection and solitude.
But the realization that as I type these words, Chris shifts his position. The song changes to Dashboard Confessional’s “Screaming Infidelities”, and the wind calms outside. The moment has passed.
Now Elton John’s “Rocket Man”.
And I suddenly feel like I am removed from my body, watching a film about a boy growing up to become a man. No words, no drawn out plot. Just segments of time that flash in my mind. He’s on a plane now, leaving what he knows to begin a new chapter. He stares out the window as the clouds part for the sun. Fast forward to him and his wife, in a home that is warm and brightly lit. White linen curtains blow gently from the outside breeze as their children play in the yard. Chapter by chapter, his story unfolds. Unbeknownst to him, it has already been written and lost somewhere in the depths of his subconscious. Somewhere. Soft and pale, a distant haze of familiarity.
Although it means nothing to me now, it makes me feel as though I know what I want. To be a father. To grow old with Chris. To live in the light. Surrounded by love, by a serenity that comes from acceptance. From an honest and unconditional embrace with life.
A moment can never be captured. It is a living, breathing force that evolves with us. The mind photographs the moment and we have an imprint. A memory. But the camera is always different. Our lens changes. And with that, the photograph begins to fade the second it is developed.
The XX play “Do You Mind?”. The beats hit me in my chest as I lay on the floor with the iPod player next to me. Vibrations that massage my core. Now “Half Light 1” by Arcade Fire filters in and my head drifts again. The music takes me somewhere hopeful, somewhere that tells me everything is exactly as it should be.
I close my eyes and type.
Take a deep breath.
“They are only echoes…”
And those lyrics resonate.
Because the photographs, the memories – they are only echoes of a voice that spoke once before and fade with each repetition. Softer, lighter, into oblivion.
The music picks up and they chant the next verse. Drum beat. Instrumental. Like a purple and blue smoke that wraps my body. “They are only echoes.”
It’s not about what was said, but how it lives on. Who hears it and what they do. It’s not about the words I write, it’s about who reads them and how they affect another. It’s not about the life I live, it’s about the connections I make. The echoes I leave behind. The seeds that are planted. The children I mold.
I want to be a father.
I listened to someone speak recently about their own story. Their influences and inspirations. I held on to every word but couldn’t shake a nervous energy that was building inside me. It was a familiar anxiety that was not out of the ordinary. I knew these feelings were stemming from the anticipation that this speaker was going to mention me at any moment now. That they were going to cite Ryan Heller as an inspiration, or at the very least, someone worth acknowledging for my writing. But the excitement shrank to the size of a bullet that quickly pierced my gut as the presentation ended without the mention of my name.
I was no longer the center of the universe.
Just like that.
And it’s a silly realization that probably seems juvenile and immature. But the echo went on for days. The feeling was one that had plagued me before. A recipe consisting of two parts rejection, one part anger and a dash of inferiority. A delicious shame casserole with a side of ego deflation.
I grew up knowing that I was different. That I was a special boy meant for greatness beyond my wildest imagination. And my imagination was pretty wild. Whatever happened over the years, that feeling never left. It rented space somewhere in my little head, cuddling up with addictive tendencies and an early-developed sense of entitlement. I was going to change the world, take on Hollywood by storm, win three Academy Awards, write twenty-one best-selling novels, fall into telepathic abilities by birthright at eighteen, and have the financial security to accommodate a grandiose lifestyle. I had the past life of an Egyptian Pharaoh, the insight of an ancient shaman. Talent and wisdom that comes from many lifetimes.
A kid with big dreams and so much fear.
It was then I knew I was still that kid, with the sting of rejection fresh on my face. A grandiose sense of self, needing to feel special. To be admired. Accepted.
Thirty years old and still looking for acceptance.
I guess the difference is that I like myself today. And I can catch the crazy in my head before it goes viral. Before I break. Before I’m lost in a bottle of something to make it feel OK. Because I’m happy. Because I’m still special in my own right.
But just maybe not that unique.
They were only echoes.