"I was the chunky, chubby class clown ashamed of my tummy. Turn their frowns upside down then maybe they'll love me."
Dad looks at me with his classic smirk that always meant "I love you but I'm about to call you out on something"
Cringe. Here we go.
"I saw you trade your sandwich for a giant piece of cake today, Braden."
Damn! Busted. My grade 4 class went to the water park for a field trip which happened to be located about 100 meters from my house. I know, lucky location for a kid growing up right? Lame part was dad had a pair of binoculars he would use to check on me to make sure I was safe. He also used them to spy on me when he was bored, which was often. So although he thinks he caught me, I had also caught him. Love you dad.
Anyway, he saw the drug deal go down. I thought I hit the jackpot trading the regular whole wheat, lean chicken, lettuce, spicy mustard sandwich for a colossal, gooey mouthgasm of chocolatey yes please, but now the truth was out and I had to face the facts; I was a fatty and addicted to food. I remember keeping my shirt on while playing at the water park that day and feeling kind of awkward because no other boys had their shirts on. As usual, I proceeded to act like a total goofball to compensate for the fact that I was ashamed of my belly.
I was the funny kid. Imagine a chubby kid that dances like Elvis while impersonating Jim Carry, Mike Meyers, and Chris Farley. I think I watched Ace Ventura and Austin Powers for 15 years straight plus my family is composed of ridiculous, entertaining characters that made my childhood environment a habitation for clownery. My dad is an over the top, dramatic, story teller. Jerrod is a quirky, poetic, impersonator. Stacy is a passionate, fire filled bubble with an endless capacity for creating profoundly cute nicknames, and my mom is funny in that "oh my god you are sooooo white" kind of way.
Pause. My parents have these hilarious unconscious reactions to non-white people. It's not racist, it's just super gringo. My dad thinks all non-white people speak Spanish and my mom thinks they are all deaf. Brown person appears and papa is whipping out his repertoire of "hola, gracias, la quenta por favor?" and mama is slow motion yelling at them as if they are behind a concrete wall. They hate when I tease them but they are gringo as fuck. I love you mom and dad.
Taylor, Stacy's oldest son, is my nephew that is only 2 years younger than me. We grew up like brothers for our early childhood. I think the only time he called me "uncle " was right before we dropped acid together for my 21st birthday, but that's another story. He has this really intense, crazy, ultra hilarious side that only his fellow demons get to see so you may never see it, but I promise you, it's beautiful.
On top of their hilarious, entertaining ways, my family is stubborn, opinionated, and loves debating things. This can make for a pretty fun conversation over dinner especially since I've accepted that we aren't going to agree on everything so it's better to just enjoy the madness. If negative vibes swirl in with the strong opinions and sense of importance it has potential to transform into vicious, toxic, arguments, but that happens seldom.
So here I was, an intense, spontaneous, goofball with a lot to say and a never ending hunger for attention and cake.
My entertaining nature combined with my insecurity for smuggling jelly rolls under my shirt was the perfect recipe for becoming a class clown. This made me popular in school because people enjoy laughter and my over inflated sense of confidence gave off an undeniable energy that earned me lots of attention. Most kids liked me or at least pretended too, except the haters but haters gunna hate or something.
In grade 1 my friends told me I was holding hands with a girl at recess and I didn't even remember! She confirmed it as well, but I had zero recollection. I know your thinking "wow what a heartless, womanizing, savage this kid is" but hold your judgements for a second. I think I was just so enchanted by the fairytale moment of divine first love that I entered into a parallel universe only to return back to earth with an empty memory bank and a slight craving for cookies. My grade 2 girlfriend signed "I love you" on her picture and I carried it around in my moneyless wallet. My current wallet is still moneyless but is made of colorful duct tap. Thanks for the upgrade Lester, love you.
By grade 5 I was closed mouth smooching bitches at recess. My popular friends and I would take turns "dating" the poplar girls and everything was smooth as butter. No drama, no asking permission to date your friend's ex, no expectations, just free spirited universal love broooo. Dates consisted of bike rides, msn chats, or jumping on trampolines while learning the basics of how to hide confusing erections. Note for those learning this crucial science to male survival: tuck it up, and if you can't then you don't need to worry about it anyway. Breakups were easy and caused by logical reasons like "because" or "because she kind of smelt like ketchup that one day on the bus." Call it shallow or call it pheromones.
I was goofy and overly cocky but I don't remember being a straight up asshole to people, though some people might remember that differently. Memories are foggy and I probably just pick and choose what I like to believe but I was the class clown that wanted people to like him not hate him. My first and only fight was in grade 6. I've been in a few dramatic primate encounters since but this was the only time that felt like a real fight to me. It was super bad ass.
Class bully was chasing my friend so I called him a "spazzim mazzim" (sick burn) and he turned and said "oh you think I'm a spazzim mazzim" and punched me in the head. I proceeded to 360 spinning backflip kick him in the throat for immediate immobilization. That's how I remember it, friends say I just put him in a head lock. Next day we got called to the office and he had a cast on because he broke his hand on my head. To be honest I felt pretty bad ass despite the ninja move I used was receiving a punch to the head. Weird part is this exact same incident happened to my older brother when he was a kid. I come from a lineage of steel headed warriors so don't mess with me!
(I'm actually quite soft and gentle and would really appreciate it if you didn't mess with me for real.)
I needed lots of attention to feel okay. I wasn't the kid who was going to break shit and hurt kids for attention I was just going to make a fool of myself. One time at a sleep over in grade 4 I remember taking off all my clothes, grabbing my dad's trumpet from the storage room, and performing a 5 minute improv musical for my friends. Best part, I can't play trumpet and never could. I was a naked, one man band, prancing around and jumping off walls while pretending to play trumpet. I acapella squealed and let my big ol belly bounce back and forth while my baby flesh carrot swang freely in the wind. My friends howled with laughter and for years would smirk at me and say "off the wall" to cheekily remind me that they knew how weird I was. Tys, Ngambo, Race, I'm sorry and I love you.
(My penis is now bigger than a baby carrot but not by much)
Off The Wall was my debut performance and I've learned to revisit it every time I fall in love. If you can't handle it we aren't meant to be and if you get up and dance naked with me I'll consider building a family with you one day. To this day when money gets low I sometimes ponder the idea of becoming a male stripper but I'm going to keep grinding at the musical clown thing for now. But I'll be grinding with every inch of my soul. Puns intended. Every single one. It's a curse. Help.
Anyway, I've been a performer for a lot longer than I've been a musician. Making good music is still very tricky for me even after 10 years of obsessive practice and 6 months of professional education at one of the best music production schools of all time(BEAT DROP). If my music skills seem natural that's just my natural performance skills fooling you. I've been making beats and playing guitar since I was 15 and I apologize to whoever bought my first mixtape in high school. Thanks for helping me sell those horrible sounds Brent, I love you. Hustle hard. Get rich or die trying.
Don't take this as "you darn kids better understand I put years of work into becoming a musician and producer", take it as when I step on stage it feels like home because performing has been my method of expressing, coping, and connecting with the world since I was a child. Performing feels like breathing and a big part of my anxiety and depression comes from forgetting how to breathe when I'm not performing.
So it's a gift and a curse. Welcome to life where the whole ride is a series of beautifully terrifying paradoxes. As a child we adapt to our environment and learn which behaviors we can use to get attention. If we don't feel good enough, and I believe most of us don't, we maximize those behaviors to cope with the existential fear of feeling unworthy and these coping mechanisms become foundations of our identity and our natural gifts.
In natural evolution the creatures that survive are the ones that have a genetic mutation most suitable for thriving in their particular environment. Simply put, and honestly the only way I can put it; a mutation is a glitch in the reproduction of DNA that passes on an accidental genetic quality to the offspring. Sometimes the mutation is super effective at helping those offspring survive. Offspring with a useful mutation have a higher chance of surviving and reproducing so after generations and generations of these mutated creatures procreating you have a completely new species of creature. All thanks to an accident in the unfolding changes of mother nature.
Evolution is a magical process painted by the never ending creation, preservation, and destruction of all life forms being guided by mathematical systems that work and chaotic "mistakes" that accidentally work.
These mutated creatures are good enough in the eyes of mother nature. Why? Because they are still here.
And so are we. But we've been conditioned to believe we aren't quite good enough. I believe that until we are self aware our identity and our gifts are shaped by us reacting to fear and learning how to cope with it. Our mutations help us survive and the ones that help us cope the most tend to become behaviors, expressions, or talents that we rely on to hunt for self worth.
It is your gift from nature and it plays a huge role in helping you thrive in this wacky ecosystem called humanity. Don't be ashamed of it, it's the reason you've survived. As a matter of fact, embrace the shit out of it, it's a gift from God or Rainbow Sausage Guru or Chaos Confetti Goblin or whatever you wanna call it. Harness it but don't let this mutation control you or you could build a false fixed image of yourself and reality and eventually have a mental breakdown.
Continue reading the "Mental Breakdown" series.