Authors: Luke Donovan
Copyright © 2012 Luke G Donovan
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: 9781467940917
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62111-285-3
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011961990
CreateSpace, North Charleston, SC
Thank you for picking up my book to read. If I were there in person, I would shake your hand—or if you preferred, give you a high five or a
fist pump. Ever since I was nineteen, I dreamed about writing a book about my life. The following story is just that: my life, the people I’ve encountered, and all of the different experiences that have helped me learn and grow as a person. From the outside, my life seemed pretty normal. I grew up in the suburbs of Albany, New York, was an honor roll student, and graduated from college with a 3.85 grade point average. From there I took a job with an agency that works with adults with disabilities. Before I turned twenty-five, I received two promotions. However, it wasn’t until my midtwenties that I actually discovered “the big picture” in life.
So what exactly is the big picture? What characteristics are necessary for living a fulfilled life, in which you are generally happy, can work with others, and cause little, if any, physical or psychological damage to yourself or others? The list below isn’t exhaustive, but the three main principles that I believe are essential to living an emotionally pain-free life are self-respect, compassion, and a realistic attitude. Let’s address these one by one.
First, self-respect—something I can honestly say that I’ve struggled with all my life. I never really developed my own, separate identity, and I based a lot of my decisions and views on what I thought others would want me to do or what was popular at the time. Then, as I became older, I started to have what I consider “obituary thoughts”: if I kept doing what everybody else wanted me to do just to please him or her, what would my obituary say? “He just did whatever was the safest but really didn’t make too much of an impact on anybody.” The people who I’ve met and grown up with were also very susceptible to having others control their lives.
As I got older, for those of you who consider yourselves religious, I began to see that God didn’t create us just to follow somebody, to be somebody else’s doormat, or to be used or abused by others. God wants us to be individuals who love God, and most importantly, love ourselves for who we are
—not how others want us to be!
For those of you who aren’t religious, consider this: did your mother carry you around in her uterus for nine months, dealing with morning sickness and hours of labor that forced her cervix to stretch in pure agony, just to create another individual who was controlled and used by other people? Childbirth is very hard work, and it should produce an individual who can make a positive difference in other people’s lives, not someone who feels compelled to act and think like some android, with somebody else dictating his or her life.
Second, in order for people to live happy lives in which they can get along with others, not only do they have to have respect for themselves, but they also have to be able to see others with compassion. They need to be able to relate to people in a nonjudgmental manner and see others for their inner beauty, knowing that they aren’t simply some label or stereotype or defined by a single bad action or undesirable personality trait.
Finally, my third tenet to happiness and a tranquil world is having a positive and realistic attitude. In my youth, I didn’t think I could truly experience happiness because I always wanted more. The friends that I had weren’t perfect, but they were great people, and I still didn’t think my life was good enough. For some strange reason, like many young people, I just expected to have everything handed to me on a silver platter. My mother dated a man for nine years who told his children before they entered high school that if they worked hard for four years, college would be a piece of cake. When they got to college, he told his children to just work hard in college, and the rest of their lives would be easier. The truth is this: life is all about hard work.
I wasted about ten years of life suffering from horrible clinical depression. I tried psychotropic drugs, but they just made me feel fat and tired. I tried therapy, but I could never bring myself to really talk to my therapist. Instead, most of our sessions seemed to turn into staring contests that I didn’t get anything out of. I had feelings of anger, rage, and self-hatred that I stored for many years. The main way I fought my mental illness was just by talking to and learning from other people. It wasn’t until my midtwenties that I finally started to recover. I wanted to write a book to chronicle this depression.
I grew up as a child with absolutely no feelings of self-worth. I wanted to end my life several times. Yet other than being known as shy and quiet—although I could also be goofy and silly at times—I was able to hide my suffering pretty well. I remember my mother once telling me, “Everybody in our family thinks you have it together, but you don’t.” I had great grades in school and was involved in extracurricular activities. Still, I felt totally inferior to everybody else and struggled with feelings of anxiety and depression. I wanted to tell my story to help others who don’t love themselves. No matter your situation, nothing is worse than hating yourself. I believe that if Jesus Christ walked the earth today, he would be most disappointed with people not loving themselves. There is so much hatred in the world—genocide, discrimination, war, and so forth—but I believe the most horrible of these is self-hatred.
The only one person you are guaranteed to be with for the remainder of your life is you. Imagine being with somebody for the rest of your life and
him or her.
So how is self-hatred measured? First, it involves putting other people’s intentions, which are not going to help you grow and develop in any way, ahead of your own. Second, self-hatred can be measured by the feeling that you have to conform to preconceived notions of how to act, instead of just being yourself. I wanted to write my story to make people examine their own lives, feel good about themselves, and stop putting others or themselves down. I also wanted to help all the young men out there. In 2005, soon after George W. Bush started his second term as president, Laura Bush said that she wanted to do more for boys, since they are now trailing behind girls in education, and when you factor in inflation, will earn less than their fathers.
Bush has said “I feel like, in the United States, that we’ve sort of shifted our gaze away from boys for the last several decades, and that we’ve neglected boys,” “We believe the stereotypes that boys can be self-reliant, that boys don’t cry,” she adds. “And the fact is, all young children—boys or girls—and all adolescents do need a lot of support and a lot of nurturing from their parents and their teachers and the whole community.”
I wanted to show that young men do struggle with the same issues as girls: self-acceptance, peer pressure, body issues, and relationships.
A friend, Judi Clements, once told me that with confidence and a sense of humor, we can handle life’s greatest challenges. This is my story of how I developed confidence and used my sense of humor to face my issues. I hope you enjoy.
To my darling mother, who did not know what the hell was going to happen to her after she noticed her period was late in 1982.
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
was born in February 1983. Ronald Reagan was still in his first term as President, Pat Benatar was convincing the world that “Love is a Battlefield”, and I was trying to escape from my mother’s uterus. My mother always remembered my birth being the same weekend that one of her favorite singers, Karen Carpenter, died. She was a single mother, and all during my life my father was a very sensitive topic for us to talk about. Even on my birth certificate, the section under “Father” remained blank. My mother did have a relationship with my biological father, but he didn’t want to have children and quickly left my mother after she became pregnant. One question I always had for my mother was, “Why did you name me Luke, knowing that everyone for years after would say, ‘Luke, I am your father,’ and I never met my biological father?” As a child, I would embarrass my mother by asking, if she said hello to a man in the supermarket, “Is that my father?” Or if an older man quoted that famous Darth Vader line from
The Empire Strikes Back
—“Luke, I am your father”—I would sometimes reply, “You are.”
My first four years I lived in a house in Albany, New York, with my mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, and two cousins—all under the same roof. On the first floor, there were two bedrooms. My mother, grandmother, and I all shared the same room. The other bedroom was my grandfather’s. My grandmother and grandfather had a rocky relationship—to put it mildly—but did not believe in divorce, so they slept in different bedrooms.
The upstairs consisted of an in-law apartment with my two cousins in one room and my aunt and uncle in another. They had their own living room, bathroom, and kitchen. My cousin Alex was only nine months older than me, and his sister, Elise, was three years older than me. They quickly turned into my surrogate brother and sister.
My grandmother always had control over all the family, but it wasn’t because of her personality; it was her mental illness that dictated how my family lived, specifically her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). My mother never even told me what exactly my grandmother suffered from, but I figured out on my own that she had OCD along with the horrible anxiety that comes with it. She routinely saw a psychiatrist but was noncompliant with her medications. Some of my grandmother’s rules were that my grandfather was only able to go to the bank on Friday at 9:20 a.m. My mother was only allowed to wash her laundry one day a week, Sunday at 7:40 p.m. If we came home from grocery shopping at a “bad time,” which was just not a good time according to my grandmother, we would have to wait in the car until my grandmother said it was safe to come in. Nobody ever questioned my grandmother—we were afraid to—so we just went along with whatever she said. She had a rule that if the washer and dryer were on, nobody could flush the toilet or use any water. If someone did flush when the washer or dryer was on, my grandparents would usually scold the person. My grandmother became very anxious if she saw anything that triggered her phobias, of which there were many; she would yell, scream, and even throw objects like pots and pans.
My mother was accustomed to my grandmother’s phobias. For example, my grandmother would only accept dollar bills that had “proper” numbers on the bottom, and my mother would spend hours going through my grandmother’s money to make sure that the numbers on the bottom didn’t upset her. Once, I received a Fisher-Price play set as a birthday gift. I was very excited about my new toy, but when my grandmother saw the words “Fisher-Price,” her phobias kicked in and she became very nervous. To appease her, my mother took away my birthday present and said I couldn’t have it again.
When I was four, we moved into our own apartment, a two-bedroom place only two blocks away from my grandparents. This was my mother’s chance at freedom, to do laundry whenever she wanted, to stop spending hours on the tasks my grandmother demanded of her, like sorting her money. I remember the day we moved out, my grandmother kept yelling at my mother.