- Ryan Kretch
A memoir for the boy that could have been
The first time I got hit over the head like a brick with rejection was on the bus to one of my first days of Kindergarten. I had just moved to the strange town and I thought the best way to make friends was to whip out my poster-sized paper of my recent Sailor Moon drawings and show it off to the boy sitting next to me.
The worst idea.
“Well maybe he just wasn’t the right person to show,” I hoped — feeling the sting of the incident as I shoved the paper back in my backpack and turned my head to look out the window. I stopped drawing soon after.
The stings came more and more over the course of my elementary school years. I was never the boy that played kickball on the playground during recess, instead I would swing on the swings and envision fantasy worlds or role play Sailor Moon and her scouts with the other outliers I made friends with.
But over time, the stings became too much and I started to force necessary change upon myself to avoid them. Middle School was that fresh start. I wore skateboarding T-shirts and baggy cargo pants (even though I had fallen on my face and broken my tooth the prior summer on a skateboard and thus despised it).
Still the stings came, so I kept searching for ways to avoid them. I tried lacrosse, cross country, and started to become the person at the lunch table who perpetrated the stinging so that I wouldn’t have to feel it myself — all the while getting further and further from the Sailor Moon-loving boy that I once was.
High school was the shitshow of it all. I drowned myself in hard classes and leadership roles that I cared absolutely nothing about (what does a Treasurer even do, anyway?). I embodied fakeness and more fakeness, so I could avoid the rejection and feel what it was like to bask in what I thought was “popularity”. Would it take away all the stings from earlier on in my life? Not really…I just didn’t have the time to think about it anymore as I trotted on auto-pilot from class to class giving just about every person I knew a hug and a forced smile. On top of it, my body and mind became accustomed to daily anxiety and resulting panic attacks as I journeyed further and further from my heart and intuition. The stings were still there, accumulating, but just manifesting themselves differently.
Here I sit now, almost 30, often pondering the built up trauma from childhood, but still cannot help finding myself trapped in the mindset of the anxious high schooler that I was.
The past decade has been about unravelling the shitshow from all the stings of rejection and avoidance — the abidance of gender roles, the time wasted pursuing things that had no meaning, the fakeness, the conforming, the ‘popularity’, the concealment of sexuality. Adulthood has been about re-confronting each of these stings face to face, dismembering them, and doing all I can to reunite with the Sailor Moon-loving, fantasy-seeking boy that once existed on that bus all those years back. It was that boy, who had he just decided to tell the asshole kid off instead of retreating, would be bringing true magic to the world today.
But alas, things rarely pan out this way in the world we live in. Instead we must face the stings head on, and continue moving forward — hoping to revive and apply any wisdom and dreams from the boy that could have been.