If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.
- Vincent van Gogh
I tend to not share much about my personal life online, especially professionally. In my own world, there are a lot of changes, a lot has happened in the last six months, I am a week away from moving away from Las Vegas, heading up to Utah, and my children are living with their father in California while I get things established. I know that I look one way on the surface, even people who know me see things one way when they’re really entirely different from reality. I began to think about phrases like “rock bottom,” and how quick we are to accept beliefs about people just based off of appearances or our preconceived notions about what we believe to be true. This may be professional self-sabotage, but I’ve passed rock-bottom, taken a left, and am sitting at the bottom of a flight of stairs, looking at a trap door. I have help and support, I am still breathing, I believe I will, at some point, be okay.
Part of my proof of that is that people have been put in my path who inspire me and push me to believe in more than where I am now. These people are reminding me that while I can’t change the past, I can choose a different future. In my own very sheltered life, I know there are things I take for granted, that while things feel bad now, I am very lucky in my resources.
This last weekend, I traveled to Phoenix to celebrate my friend Donnie.
I met Donnie through our mutual friend, Steve, at a movie night where a group of us all watched “Howls Moving Castle,” a beautiful film about accepting yourself for who you are and being confident and loving of the fire and starlight that drives us. What struck me about Donnie was his openness about where he was in his life; he was ten months clean from a lifestyle that had brought him a lot of pain. This last week, Donnie celebrated two years of clean living, and getting to observe him with a very large table full of friends and loved ones, I couldn’t help but think about how he is not someone I ever would have thought about speaking to, let alone feeling the honor of referring to him as my friend.
On Saturday, I was able to snag him for a portrait session after he coordinated and participated in the weekly cleaning of his church building. I asked him about his journey, as I’m facing my own uncertain future, and he was kind enough to share it enthusiastically and without hesitation or fear.
Two years ago, Donnie was asking passerby’s for money outside of a store. When he approached Steve, he was met with hesitation, but instead of a dismissal or simply handing money over, Steve offered to take him to lunch. Over burgers, Donnie talked about his situation and mentioned his grandmother living near the Latter-Day Saint temple. Steve, who is a member of that religion, offered to go with Donnie to the bishop at the nearby building to get Donnie some help. The story goes that while everyone showed up, nobody really was confident Donnie would. Donnie seemed a little surprised that he showed up for the meeting.
The road wasn’t straight and narrow from then on. Relapses, setbacks, “You think you’ve hit rock bottom, then you realize you can dig a little deeper,” Donnie laughing as he shared the concept with me.
“There really wasn’t one point where I decided to fight, no one big thing. I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired of it all the time.” He fought for himself. For his future. For his friends. We talked about Steve, how he’s impossible to lie to, how deeply he genuinely cares about people, how you just never want to let him down. I watched his face as he spoke of his love for our friend, and realized that sometimes when we can’t find the reason to fight for ourselves, we can find it if we just fight for someone else who believes we’re worth fighting for.
I’m proud of this man, I’m proud to call him my friend, and I’m honored that he took the time to sit with me and tell me his story and let me share the pictures with you.