Sticking: Glee

Posted on February 29, 2012

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This week, I’m going to break from my usual postings two ways.

First, I’m going to talk about a specific storyline. There will be spoilers, so if you’re not caught up through February 21st, you might want to come back when you are.

Second, I’m going to tell a very personal story.

We Watched It

If you don’t watch, Glee is about a high school glee club in Ohio. It’s in its fourth season now.

Glee has dealt with a number of very real issues in high school life, including bullying, body image, and prejudice against homosexual students.

On February 21, 2012, Fox aired the “On My Way” episode of Glee.

In that episode, some high school athletes discover that one of their teammates, Dave Karofsky, is gay. They spray paint the word “fag” on his locker. He goes home, puts on his best suit and tie, and hangs himself.

His father finds him before he dies, and gets Dave to the hospital.

The rest of the episode is about how Dave’s despair and pain changes and challenges those who know him.

Sticking

I want to thank Max Adler, who plays Dave Karofsky, and Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel (Kurt is also gay), for their brave and honest portrayals.

I also thank the writing staff. Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy have written the most episodes, but this episode credits Ross Maxwell, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Matthew Hodgson.

Finally, I want to think the producers, director Bradley Buecker, and the studio.

Thank you for telling this story.

Personal

When I was seven years old, my biological father died (my mom remarried so I have to make that specification). I don’t remember much about that day, but I remember one of my male relatives telling me, “You’re the man of the house, now.”

I was seven, so of course he didn’t mean it literally, but I was seven. I didn’t understand. So I started trying to push my feelings down so I could be strong for my Mom. Since I was seven, I grew up feeling the way I did, and thinking that everyone felt the same way that I did. My parents took me to a counselor once, but I was still just a kid and couldn’t express anything. Again, I didn’t know that how I felt was different from anyone else.

In 1989, I was at Fort Rucker in Alabama, attending US Army flight school. I was a gamer geek, and didn’t know any other gamers there. I had two housemates, but we lived together out of convenience, not because we had deep, personal, relationships. They were good people, don’t get me wrong, but we were different in our own ways.

In the period of about a month:

  • The first woman I felt strongly about as an adult dumped me. It wasn’t love, but I thought it was.
  • My grandfather died. Poppy was not my biological grandfather, but he was the only grandfather I remembered. He lived in Virginia and I’d gone to college in the same state. He took a personal interest in me as the only male grandchild. I’m not sure we were close, but I did love him.
  • I failed flight school. Flying was my dream job, and I’d talked my way into a position at a National Guard aviation unit so I could go to flight school. I’d failed myself, and my unit.

So, one day, after manning the duty desk for a few hours, I went back to our rented house. I went into my housemate’s room, opened his closet, and found his Colt M1911A1 .45 pistol. I took it out, and made sure that I knew where the safety and the magazine release were.

I wasn’t thinking about how it would hurt my housemate that I’d used his unsecured firearm to kill myself. I wasn’t thinking about how it would hurt both my housemates to find me dead, to keep living in the house where I killed myself, or to find another roommate to share the costs. I wasn’t thinking about how it would hurt my mother when her only son and oldest child killed himself. I wasn’t thinking about how my classmates would wonder if there was something more, or different, that they could have done or said. I certainly didn’t think about the staff at Fort Rucker, and how they would wonder why they didn’t spot the signs or if it was their fault.

I didn’t want to die; I just wanted the pain to stop.

My housemate didn’t keep his pistol loaded. I considered where to look for a loaded magazine, or for a box of cartridges, but I didn’t actually get as far as loading the Colt. While I sat there, holding the pistol, the phone rang. I am not making that up, at all. It happened just like that (as far as I can remember). The caller was the student duty officer. The National Guard liaison officer on Fort Rucker wanted to talk to me about what was going to happen next, after failing flight school.

Suddenly, there was going to be a “next.” There was going to be something after the pain.

I put the pistol away, talked to the liaison officer, talked to my commander in the Virginia National Guard, who was angry and disappointed, and I got the assignment that I asked for. A week later, I was at Fort Knox, in Kentucky, attending Armor Officer Basic Course.

When I was told that my time at Fort Rucker meant that I couldn’t compete for an active duty slot while at Fort Knox, I didn’t give up. I got mad. I fought the system, made my argument, and got on active duty – with three officers that trained with me at Fort Knox. We went to war together.

It wasn’t easy. It didn’t instantly get better just because I chose to live rather than to kill myself, but it did get better. I made hundreds of friends, got a job in gaming, and met a girl.

That girl made me go to counseling, so I could learn to express the feelings that I’d been stuffing away for almost thirty years. During that counseling, I had a breakthrough, and I looked back on my life and realized how long I’d been hurting.

I married that girl. Our fourteenth wedding anniversary is this Summer.

So, as you can see, “On My Way” struck a very personal chord with me (see what I did there? Glee is about singing, and I said “chord.” No? It’s not clever if I have to explain it).

Thoughts

No questions this week. Just this thought:

I am known, now, for being a positive, optimistic, person – almost a Pollyanna sometimes, I admit. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand pain and sorrow. I’ve lost jobs, and friends. I’ve struggled financially. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get depressed.

It just means that I learned how to fight.

You can fight, like me. I’m not special or better. If you’re hurting, talk to someone. Don’t wait as long as I did. There is help out there. Set aside your pride and reach out.

Life can get better, but only if you let it.

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