More away than home

Despite my best efforts, I never was able to fully overcome all those little anxieties that had settled into place over the yeas before high school. They were always at their worst, though, when I was surrounded by the same people who had been around when they first formed.

The odd thing was, anytime I removed myself from the ordinary and familiar, I felt much more alive. Much more myself. Much more at home.

Key Club was the most common escape route. Every year there was a district convention that,  while it happened more or less right in our own back yard, always felt like somewhere foreign. Also once a year there was an international convention that took place well beyond the confines of my home county. I made it to four district conventions and two international ones.

Finding myself on Burbon Street in New Orleans, surrounded by lovely young women was something I would have never considered possible during the first half of my high school career.

Finding myself on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, surrounded by lovely young women was something I would have never considered possible during the first half of my high school career.

These were the places where I thrived.

At my very first district convention, I broke through a lot of personal issues and got to know someone who really did change my life.

Removed from my ordinary rut, I allowed myself to be more true to who I was. Without the worries of overcoming past impressions made, I was free to experiment a little, to try on who I wanted to be.

It worked quite well.

During that time, I managed to make a good number of friends, in the space of a weekend or so, that I felt closer to than people I had known for years. A few would surface again, when I was in college. Some of them I’m still in touch with–more frequently than most people I graduated high school with.

Fear follows us only where we let it. When I was within the walls of my high school and, most of the time, within the confines of my home county, I was steeped in fear and depression caused by years of emotional baggage. Traveling, being surrounded by a fresh batch of people, sharing a common “newness” of experience–those things let me leave my fear behind. For those brief weekends, I was free to discover who I actually was, deep down inside.

It wouldn’t be until years later–nearly half-way into my college career–that I would fully understand just how much I limited myself when I was on my “home turf”. The shock of returning to the normal grind after a convention inevitaby shot me into a depression that would block out most of what I should have learned.

But, during my darkest times, those bits of interaction–the quick crushes, the shared laughter, the adventurous exploration–would be beacons to keep me from falling too deeply too quickly.

With my descent slowed, I could always find a kind, local hand to reach out to.

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