I was cleaning house and moving a few rooms around a few days ago. While doing this, I found another box of photos that I’d thought had been lost. These images go WAY back in some cases. I’ll post a few of them here.
Some of the photos were very similar to photos I already had, but they were in slightly different angles. This got me thinking about how the camera had a slightly different perspective, and how maybe I could do the same.
I began giving some thought to various memories that I’ve had from the past. One by one, I’d give them acknowledgement. I’d give great consideration to what once was. I’d realize that I lived through it [with exceptions, like the photo above]. I would consider how it impacted my life, and what I did or didn’t do with those lessons. I thought of the people I had encountered in my life, the times we had, and how it’s all now water under the bridge.
And then, I made the conscious decision to let it all go.
As I scanned the photos, I put them in folders broken down by era; almost by decade.
Thanks to progress that I’ve made via the work that I’ve done for my mental and emotional health, I began to re-contextualize all of these memories.
I would also start to ask myself some questions about these memories, such as which memories I should write down to pass on to my son, which memories are exclusively my own, and which memories I should consider throwing away for good.
It was then that the big picture hit me hard, and I felt it worth writing about.
A BRIEF LIFE RETROSPECTIVE, BY DECADE
While these are my personal thoughts on my personal experience, I have the nagging suspicion that the thoughts of other people might function in this way. At the very least, other Autistic people might think this way, and maybe this thought process will help them to better process the past.
Processing the past is a good way to deal with the present and future.
This particular story — my story — starts in the mid-60s, when I was born. During my half-decade in the 60s, I didn’t have anything resembling a past to worry about. In fact, I didn’t even understand concepts like rumination or nostalgia.
For this reason, the 60s were fine. There were some bad moments, like my neighbor poisoning my dog. Other than this specific moment, and a few others, I don’t look at the 60s as something that was particularly outstanding to me.
So far as I was concerned, I was just living my life, and I had little in the way of external influence.
And most definitely, of important note, I didn’t really have a past.
Then we get into the 70s. While I could have a past in the form of looking back on the 60s, I was too busy with the 70s to be bothered.
I should say that this DOES NOT include things like music and movies. I was still listening to music from the 60s, as I do today. “Moving on” means moving on from my experiences and thoughts, NOT the media or other cultural avatars.
The 70s were difficult at times, because I started kindergarten in 1970. This was my first exposure to being alone without my parents with a large group of kids.
The anxiety that this produced was something that I was told to “just get over.” It would be another 46 years until I would learn that I was Autistic, and what that diagnosis even meant.
But I was too busy trying to deal with this anxiety on my own. I don’t wish that on ANYONE.
All the same, the 70s were full of some decent times and good memories, in spite of the bad memories and difficult times.
Then we get into the 80s.
The 80s was a time where I found a significant amount of independence and autonomy. In the summer of 1980, I had my first official paycheck-with-taxes-taken-out summer job. By the end of summer, I bought my first car, a 1972 Pontiac LeMans.
And before the summer was over, I’d march with my high school band at the Indiana State Fair, as the ONLY drummer in a 3-member drumline. More like a clump, if you ask me.
I am fortunate enough to have video of this performance.
On December 1, 1980, I got my drivers license.
There was lots of activity around that particular day. John Bonham had died in in late September of that year. I got my license on December 1st. My birthday was 2 days later, and Led Zeppelin officially disbanded the day after. And the end of this year was capped off with the release of Back in Black by AC/DC.
What a way to kick off the 80s.
I’d start driving around more. I’d go on dates, or go hang out with some people, or go catch a midnight movie. Of course, I lost my virginity shortly after that. Not that I buy into the concept, but that first experience does make an impression.
The 80s had many other high-level events, such as my first guitar performance in the high school talent show, high school graduation, starting college, playing in my first rock band in college, playing my biggest show on guitar in 1985, and moving to California in 1986 to start pursuit of my dream of being a musician in LA.
However, as high of a note as the 80s started on, it ended up landing on an equally down note. I had almost married a girl I had liked in college. When that didn’t work out, I ended up meeting my future ex-wife.
While those first few years were challenging enough, she would make the 90s an utter nightmare.
This was just ONE piece of the major gear shift that the 90s brought.
The 90s brought me, and sometimes others, things like the LA Riots after the Rodney King beating trial verdict, where I almost got killed by a group of people who decided they wanted to kill me because I am white.
There was the Gulf war, and a failed 10-year high school reunion. But the biggest overall shadow on the 90s came directly from my future ex-wife, who was not a good person and didn’t treat me well. I’ll leave it at that.
She ended up poking holes in my condoms, which was how I became a father. Forced, against my own will. There’s a word for that, and it’s r@pe. Getting away from her was a nightmare. And when I left, I went to stay with another woman who was just as bad. She was trying to get pregnant so that I’d be financially responsible for the two children she had with her brain-damaged former drug dealer husband.
There were some good things along the way. The album I recorded with Ruby Cassidy went well, even though she had some dirty ulterior motives. I also taught myself the fine art of meeting women online, and most of those encounters were positive. And I ended up joining a band in the late 90s called Sun On Skin, and we made some great music together.
The 90s closed with a bit of hope, after I moved in with my mother, got my act together, and moved back to Hollywood. This was when I met Catherine.
This is where I think that my problems in processing the past became evident. I would do a mental retrospective on the decades. Of course, the 80s were by far more positive and awesome than the 90s.
And this wasn’t just because things were better. More about this later.
The 2000s didn’t start off very well. There was a big political scandal with “hanging chads” on voting ballots in Florida, and the election was handed to George W. Bush, the non-winner. Al Gore lost his spine and conceded. And, of course, this was followed with the 9/11 attacks.
At this time, I was getting more musically active. I joined SECRET in 2000, and quit in 2001 while taking the other band member with me to form WHIPLADS. This got me involved in Noodle Muffin, and I ended up playing a variety of instruments with a variety of bands and performers.
The 2000s ended with Noodle Muffin doing their final live performance in late January 2009. I got to be a “celebrity judge” for the 2009 Guitar Center Drum-Off in Sherman Oaks, CA.
I also got called by comedian Fred Willard to be his drummer for a comedy skit that we did in 2009, and then repeated one last time in 2016.
And from 2005-2008 I got to work at MySpace, which was a dream of mine ever since the first time I saw the website.
The 2000s ended in the same way that the 80s ended, with me getting involved with someone who was going to only cause me harm. This time, it was a band in LA that ended up not doing all that much.
The 2010s were my darkest decade. I was involved with the band noted above, which I won’t be naming. I got roped in with the band leader’s idea of building a recording studio. We spent 4 years doing this.
In the spring of 2013, my son graduated high school. After that, he stopped coming over to spend the night, and has since been very busy trying to build his life, so we don’t talk as often as we should. This has felt like a loss.
By the end of the last year, in late 2013, I got sucked in by a “friend” online who was actually nothing more than a cancer scammer. This inspired the “friend” who was leading the band to change the studio locks, claim I did nothing, spread lies about me being a scammer as well, and then ripped me off.
Dealing with these two scammers was a big lesson, and the price tag was at least $50,000.
This threw me into a major depression that started in mid-2014 and carried on until late 2019.
Catherine and I had been together for 20 years when we packed up and moved to Oregon in 2019. We were there only six months, when an old girlfriend from 1982 found me. Her name is Annie. I wasn’t really in the best frame of mind to be dealing with any of this.
Still, Catherine and I had a long talk. We acknowledged that we’d spent 20 years together, but that we weren’t really ever a romantic couple. Catherine decided to let this old girlfriend come out for a visit. She ended up moving herself in, after divorcing her 5th husband of 16 years.
Everything was surprisingly civil.
I think that Catherine could tell that things were wrong once I brought up finding Annie, and my lingering, years-long feeling that we were going through the motions. We had been going through the motions, and my severe depression was not being alleviated in this situation. As I noticed this, I also noticed that Catherine and I had become more like roommates than anything else.
Of course, my 2020s got kicked off the same as everyone else’s, to a degree, thanks to COVID-19. Although there was a deadly virus flying around the world, I felt good about my situation at the time. Catherine went to stay with family in Rhode Island, and I was left here in Oregon with a girlfriend from the best decade of my life.
Catherine moved back to stay with us temporarily. She had her own space and things seemed to be chill, but this former girlfriend either had a mental meltdown or pretended to have one.
Whether she had a legitimate mental health episode, or she was merely acting, things went really, really badly.
One day, she just walked out and never returned. I know where she is now, and last I heard she was safe. The split with her broke my heart like nothing I’d ever experienced in the past.
Today, I am still in Oregon. Catherine and I still live together, although we have separate rooms. We do not present as a couple, but rather behave as really dear friends who care about each other and who want to help each other through these highly difficult times.
We still care about one another a great deal, but are coming to realize that we may not be capable of being a romantic couple. It’s a good thing that we both agreed that attempting to pick up where we left off would be a bad idea, and that where we left off wasn’t really all that great in the first place.
I am very fortunate in that regard, to have a dear friend like Catherine.
WHY WERE THE 80s SO DAMNED GOOD?
Through the 60s and 70s, I never gave much thought to the past. As a result, I actually spent time living in the moment, and being present for everything that happened.
The 80s were different and unique for me, apart from all other decades, because not only was I NOT involved in rumination or nostalgia, but I had become an autonomous human being who made decisions for himself.
From the 60s to the 70s, and the 70s to the 80s, I was always living with a sense of improvement, or things getting better.
The very early 90s was where I saw my first major decline in life satisfaction. The present was horrible at times, so I’d look back to the 80s for good memories. These memories were not tainted by anything in the present.
My nostalgia kick has its early origins in the 90s.
The 2000s had some powerful times and lots of things happened. And overall, the 2010s were an utter nightmare.
The 2020s started out as awesome as humanly possible, and then went as horrible as humanly possible. Annie and I made the best of it until late September and early October 2020, when things fell apart.
IN A NUTSHELL
I considered making a graph, but it’s so easy to summarize.
1960s: Early childhood, no past.
1970s: School life, no nostalgia for my life in the 60s.
1980s: Awesome life, no nostalgia, no rumination.
1990s: Some difficult times, rumination about the 80s.
2000s: Some decent times, minimal nostalgia about the 80s.
2010s: Very difficult times, heavy rumination about the 80s.
2020s: In progress and getting better.
A CONSCIOUS DECISION
It’s interesting how chains of events feed one another. When Annie and I found each other online in late 2019, it prompted both Catherine and me to sit down and truly evaluate our current situations, as well as our past and our future. This is where we determined that we weren’t truly a romantic couple, and made the decision to split.
When Annie left, it prompted both Catherine and me to talk more about our past, and whether or not we could have a future as a romantic couple. This was in lieu of picking up where we left off, which is what I did with Annie to a degree, 37 years later. Knowing that this is a mistake, Catherine and I decided to remove this as an option. This is why we are dear friends instead of a couple.
But when Annie left, it also gave me pause to consider my relationship with the past and how that might be having a negative impact on my life.
When I talk with someone from the past, I have the ability to pick up where we left off. I will talk about things that I remember as if they had happened yesterday. Meanwhile, the other person seems to be left wondering why anyone would do such a thing.
I have found that people from my past aren’t particularly interested in re-living some of the awesome things we did back in the day.
Maybe it’s because they’ve moved on, or more than likely they didn’t enjoy those moments like I did.
I moved on, too, but I was also ruminating and attempting to find a way to return to that magical time when life was at its peak for me.
I even went so far as to resuscitate a short-lived high school relationship from 1982 in an attempt to pick up where we left off. It wasn’t my plan when I met her, but it became my plan once she showed a great deal of interest in doing this as well.
The thing is, you can never go back.
It’s like the awesome taste of that first piece of chocolate cake. No matter how much cake you eat after that, you can never replicate the sensation of that first bite.
My decision to not go back to the past includes the relatively recent past. If I moved back to LA after having been in Oregon for almost 3 years, it would be a different experience.
This is why Catherine and I aren’t going back. We had a good run, but there were some problems and once they came to light, it was impossible to ignore them. And I most definitely WILL NOT be going back with Annie.
Both of these break-ups were painful, and I spent the last year working to cope with all of it, and to figure out how to stand up, how to breathe again, and how to move forward.
WHEN THE PAST GETS RUINED BY THE PRESENT
What really, truly stinks is when a fond memory gets ripped to shreds. Before Annie and I found each other, I had some truly fond memories of our first date. We went to see Poltergeist, and I later took her to my house and played Stairway to Heaven for her on the guitar.
There were other fond memories of us together. And those memories are forever blemished with what happened just over a year ago. Again, I don’t know if she had a serious mental health breakdown, or if she was pretending to have one for other reasons.
But with that early 80s memory permanently ripped to shreds, I really have no interest in looking back on it anymore.
To be fair, she is not the only one. Thanks to my Facebook experience in 2019, many of my great memories from the 80s have been crapped on by modern-day versions of those with whom I’d shared these memories.
For example, I’d found the guitarist from my college band. He was someone I had looked up to for years. When we reconnected, I trusted that it would be safe to tell him that I had gotten my Level 1 Autism diagnosis in late 2017.
His response to that was, “Interesting. I always knew there was something wrong with you.”
Finding people from the past and catching up with them will only destroy those memories further.
So maybe it’s best that I leave them alone.
I might write about some of them in the future. That’s fine. What is NOT fine is me sitting alone, ruminating and thinking about what it might be like to try to go back.
IN THE END
There are people from my past who are reading this. One of them is a musician I’d met in 1998, and we still email and share music-related experiences to this very day. Another one has been a good friend since 1992, and I attended his second wedding in late 2016. Yet another was a good friend and fellow musician in high school, whom I’ve not seen since 1983.
These are examples of people from the past who are NOT cut off. I kept in touch frequently with the first two. The third one is a musician and is a kind and sympathetic person.
I can’t think off-hand of anyone else who would fit into these two types of examples, so these may be the only ones.
But those who forgot about me and moved on can stay moved on, and I should do the same.
And anyone who says they’ve been desperately trying to find me is more than likely lying to me about it. I’ve been VERY searchable online since at least 1999, when I started my website, DrumWild dot com.
During those 20 years, I’ve been found by musicians looking for a drummer. Other than that, only one person from the past found me during that time, and it was back when I had a LinkedIn account. NOBODY from my past found me via my website.
The past can be a good thing, when it comes to lessons learned, experiences that were had, or people that were encountered. Reminiscing on occasion is fine.
However, the past becomes destructive when reminiscing turns into ruminating, and full-blown nostalgia fills the space where new people and experiences should be growing.
When this happens, the past is magical, the present kind of sucks, and the future is utterly hopeless.
The only way to rectify this is to pack the past away, where it can be accessed on occasion, so that the present can be open to new people and experiences, thus allowing for the idea of a more positive future.
When I went through the 80s, I had no thought or concern for my experiences in the 60s and 70s. I do strongly suspect that this was a major element in allowing the 80s to become as great as they are in my mind.
Of course, there’s the newness of adult-like autonomy that played a role. This cannot be replicated in a general sense. However, I do live in a new state, and there are new people around, and there are some new experiences to be had.
The pandemic has mostly gotten in the way, which has slowed my ability to move forward. But I am confident that new people and experiences will still find a way. And I can spend my time embracing those, instead of clinging to a past where I’m the only one who seems to care about it.
Pink Floyd wrote a song about the past, how amazing it was, and how we always get pulled back to the present when we try to go where the grass was greener. The passage of time is a major theme in their songwriting.
As I let this song play, I will be taking my past and packing it up for safe keeping, until some time in the future, when it is appropriate to unbox it and give it a bit of a look before putting it back.
The endless river. Forever and ever.
If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading! https://paypal.me/drumwild