Introduction by Nathan Hansen:
I’ve been moving around most of my life, the only time I’ve ever been settled was before the divorce of my parents. They split when I was 3. Since then, I’ve been shuffled between households and school districts more times than I care to count. Transience had become a mantra. In never staying in the same place for long, I was never able to create a close knit group of friends that I had always dreamed of, dreams instilled in me by movies like “The Goonies”, or “The Sandlot”. However, I never really had time for close friends due to my troubled relationship with my family, especially my father.
I am a liar. It’s something I’ve realized and accepted about myself, but it never went over well with my father, a stern utilitarian-type. Forever looking for what was missing in the picture. This never rolled with me and as a result we had a troubled relationship, nights filled with yelling and tears and threats of sending me away, until it finally came to an ultimatum. Move out or go to military school. I chose to move out. I went to live with my mom the next day, which wouldn’t have been horrible, but as an impressionable child I was programmed to believe that she was a horrible person. She was often used as an example by my father of exactly the kind of person you don’t want to be. I was always cautious to share myself with her and it wasn’t until I began smoking weed that I really began to let her into my life. Oddly enough, I like to believe it helped me to see things for the way they were. I realized that I had been a raised a privileged child who was no more than a parrot of his fathers ideals. That my mother was living in the poorer part of Houston struggling to take care of me and my sister. These sudden revelations hit me hard. I wasn’t accustomed to change. The movement. I went into a depression that lasted several years.
Two years later, and after overcoming my pride, I re-established contact with my father. He decided to give me another chance. I moved back in with him the following summer, and began my junior year at a college prep school. Everything was great. Smooth sailing. Until my dad caught me smoking, then came the shit storm of fury. I was grounded for several months. Over the course of the year, more incidents occurred, grades, staying out late, but nothing too unusual for a teenager. However, anything less than flawless wasn’t good enough for my father, and he decided that the only way to salvage my future was to send me away to someone who could “fix” me. An idea that seems to plague today’s society.
I was woken up at around six in the morning on a Saturday to the promise of a surprise. My father tells me to get in the car. He tells we’re going somewhere. We drive for about an hour, stopping for breakfast along the way, and arrive at the airport. He says we’re taking a vacation for the day to Seattle and that we should be back in time for lunch. Being the easy-going, gullible guy that I am, I actually believed that. We get on the plane and arrive in Seattle within a few hours. Soon after landing we are greeted by two guides for a wilderness program, a program for youth where “at risk” kids will spend anywhere between 6-10 weeks camping in the woods. I was given a bag with boots, a few pairs of underwear and handed off to the guides.
Their names were Michael and Emma, and after my nine-and-a-half weeks in the woods, I had come to love them, along with several other guides, like a family and acquire a profound respect for nature and everything in it. During my time in the woods, I also exchanged letters with my real family back home, it was meant to help rebuild familial bonds, but for me it crashed and burned. My letters went nowhere, and when it was time for me to go home, nothing had been resolved.
I was sent to a boarding school for my final year before college. I was all for it, I wouldn’t have to deal with my parents, and they wouldn’t have to deal with me, but about halfway through the school year, I was caught messing around with drugs again. Having had enough, I was cut off from the family in a brief phone call from my dad, in which he wasted no breath on an explanation. A sudden schism in my life, it shattered me, but what was odd was that what broke me wasn’t being exiled from my own home, it was the thought of possibly leaving the friends I had become so close to at my new school.
After a while, I realized that being cut off from my family wasn’t the end of the world, in fact, it was just the start of my transition into adulthood. The way I see it, it’s the same as a bird leaving its nest to learn to fly, except I was pushed. I am still attending the same boarding school in Arizona, and I plan to graduate in May, after which I will work over the summer to hopefully raise some college money to supplement scholarships and financial aid, and while I’ve got a lot more cut out for me, it’s a little exciting. My life is, for the first time, entirely in my own hands. Every choice has been given to me, and it up to me to make them.
Justin Case is an eighteen-year old senior at Oak Creek Ranch School in Sedona, Arizona. He will attend Northern Arizona University in the fall. Currently, he’s conquering his fears one at a time, serenading bystanders with a ukulele. This is his first writing appearance.