Life in Review: The Down Years
When I was 15 years old, perhaps the most influential single event in my life occurred. My family moved from Washington to Tennessee. For years, my dad talked about something called Y2K. It was a theoretical computer problem that would cause computers to stop working at 12AM on January 1st, 2000. The problem could theoretically bring banking, power, government, etc. to a grinding halt. Well, he was so seriously worried that he quit his job and moved us all out to a cabin in the woods. He anticipated chaos and panic. To protect his family, he took us to a place where we could be self-sufficient and far from large cities.
We left the place I called home all my life, left all my friends, and moved out into the woods. It was an unpleasant experience. My dad’s brother owned the house and lived there with his wife and six kids. When the clock hit midnight and the year 2000 began, nothing happened. The things my dad feared would happen never happened. He gave up a good job with a good company, spent a lot of money on preparing food with my mom, left my three older sisters in Washington etc. A lot of effort and lost opportunities for nothing. The theory was debunked.
Nobody was happy in that house. I was angry, my mom was angry, and my dad was humiliated. However, I was angry as soon as we arrived. When people face adversity, they often show their true character. Under pressure, I became angry and violent. I didn’t like leaving home and friends, and I took out my frustration on others. I once got in a fight with my little sister. I punched her in the eye. It wasn’t a full-power punch, so she wasn’t seriously injured, but a punch is a punch.
Life there wasn’t an entirely bad experience. I got to spend a lot of time in nature. We ate at a table next to a wood stove. I slept in a metal storage shed, and when it rained, the sound of the rain hitting the roof of the shed was almost hypnotizing.
After moving from Washington, my family moved several more times. We moved to Kentucky and lived there for about four years. During that time, I was probably depressed and didn’t realize it. I never made any friends there. Now I was getting interested in girls, but because of my religion, I had no real opportunities to meet girls. I had several more fights with my sister where I got violent with her. Although I was homeschooled, I only rarely did any studying. In retrospect, it seems like a dark time for me. This was probably the worst version of me that I remember. The good news is that we now had a DSL internet connection, so I had the opportunity to share that version of myself with strangers on video game websites all day, every day.
Things weren’t so well for my sister, either. During our time in Kentucky, my sister told our parents that she wasn’t going to practice Judaism anymore, a big emotional blow for them. She and my dad had fights, too. Like me, my sister often played games on the internet with other people. However, my dad had a particular bias against role-playing games, and my sister was playing a RPG. When my dad found out, he disconnected her computer from the internet. As you can imagine, my sister was not happy about that. She had internet friends that she interacted with through those games, so cutting her connection to the internet cut her connection to them, too. She couldn’t play that game anymore, but my dad restored her internet connection when my mom got involved.
Those events established a pattern of conflict between my little sister, myself, and my dad. To a certain extent, the tension exists even now, although distance and time have helped reduce the tension to a large extent.
However, things were not all bad. Mom took me and my sister to get custom bowling balls, and then she and my dad took us bowling almost every week. We often visited the zoo together, too. My sister learned to play the piano. She got pretty good at it.
After four years in Kentucky, my dad was fired from his job. A new boss was hired. The new boss didn’t like my dad, so he quickly found a reason to get rid of my dad. That was neither the first, nor the last time that would happen.
My parents made the decision to move to Miami Beach, Florida and be with a Jewish community that we had developed there. The community was not a typical Jewish community, nor were we and our rabbi typical Jews. We essentially were (and still are) trying to begin a reformist movement of Orthodox Judaism. The result is that we were very isolated, having no connections to the larger Orthodox community (Orthodox Jews will not associate at all with them even if they want to). The opportunity to finally live with and enjoy the company of fellow travelers was one my parents didn’t want to pass up. I even had the opportunity to look for girls for the first time!
We lived in a tiny apartment in Florida for only seven months, but it was an eventful seven months, for good and for bad. Before we came, the community already had some problems and had fractured. Not exactly a good sign. However, we studied and got closer to the rabbi that we had learned from over the internet for many years. I made some friends and did things with them. I abandoned the games and internet arguments, and instead, I got serious about learning web development and Photoshop skills. I also binge-studied and finished about two or three years of high school studying in that seven months.
After seven months, my dad found a job, but it wasn’t in Florida. My family, along with the rabbi, packed up and headed for San Antonio, Texas. Left behind, again, were the few friends I had, and any opportunities to meet girls.
But, out of darkness, light.