I’m going to interrupt our regularly scheduled narrative for a moment of reflection on the One Year Blogiversary of our journey into the Story of Dave.
It’s hard to put into words how much has changed in my world since I began this blogject.
But one year ago, I sat down at the ole’ laptop and stared at a blank screen.
There have been occasions in my life when I’ve been nervous to write something and show it to others. School projects. Scripts. Bad teenage poetry to love interests. Letters of intent. Letters of resignation. Essays to get out of punishments.
But nothing comes close to the nerves I felt typing out the words “The Prodigal” one year ago today.
I’ve never been genuinely scared that writing something could hurt my life until I undertook this project.
I’m not a person very interested in putting my business before the world. I mention in other posts how one of the reasons I became an actor is to avoid being me. Being Dave is not a whole lot fun. Maybe it was for 80+ studio sessions when I was a kid… but since then my journey is one that has filled my life with pain, poverty, shame, mistakes, legal problems, and endless copious amounts of professional and personal failure.
And I want to take a minute and revisit a pivotal moment in my life that won’t come into the narrative for awhile but I believe I’ve already mentioned…
Towards the end of my half decade of studying in North Hollywood in the aughts with my coach (who has since moved to San Diego and opened up shop there) I was doing a scene study from Of Mice and Men.
And as I’m doing my best to inhabit the headspace of George theorizing to Lennie I get to the end of the scene and my coach loses his shit on me.
My note this day? After 5 years of weekly scene study?
“I. can’t. see. you. in. the. work. Jave…”
said acting coach Andrew Benne for the 1,000th time.
“I don’t want to be seen. I don’t act to be seen. I act to hide who I am.”
Dave Jave who has experienced 15 years of mental health discrimination and trauma.
“WELL THAT MAKES ME WANT TO QUIT COACHING!!!”
And he throws his note pad on the ground in a huff.
I wasn’t planning on someone being angry at the end of this performance.
And this response has me shook.
“I… I… I want to be someone else. Isn’t that the point?”
Dave Jave trying to get out of trouble.
“Of all the students I’ve ever taught in my career YOU ACTUALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY. AND YOU’RE GONNA BE TOO MUCH OF A COWARD TO SAY IT?!?”
He genuinely is offended at my answers.
It’s kept my mouth shut for decades.
This fear comes from a legitimate place… you wanna know how many people have been shitty to me as a mental health patient for the last 30 years?
Hint: almost all of them.
You learn to hide in plain sight. To not stand out or draw attention. I have the ability when I want to completely disappear in a room full of people. I’ve had to learn this tactic. And I don’t mean hide under a table or be a wallflower.
I mean downshift your personality and energy so nobody notices you. So nobody asks the mentally ill disabled guy “so what do you do (for a living)?” and then the follow up “gee, you don’t look disabled…”
And so part of the draw for me as an actor is the joy of getting out of my sad headspace and into the life of another entity even if that entity is not real. It’s a mental health break for me.
But here my coach was putting me on blast for doing precisely that.
It didn’t make sense to me at the time.
Why would anyone care what I have to say?
There’s nothing special about me. That point has been drilled into my head by every single person and system in authority over me my whole life.
What would I say that anyone would listen to anyway?
Self indulgent. Egotistical. Bragging. Arrogant.
These are the things that people will think of you when you speak out.
It would take me another decade of life to finally be able to understand what my coach was talking about. And to see in me what he saw in me.
And for much of the last decade of my life I could feel this project brewing and growing somewhere dually trapped within my skull and ribcage.
I would say things to myself, “Ya know… not that I ever will write a book… BUT IF I WAS GOING TO… IT WOULD BE CALLED THE PRODIGAL AND PROBABLY DEAL WITH THE HYPOCRISY OF EVANGELICALS BEING A POLITICAL CULT.”
But that’s silly. That’s a grotesque idea that is guaranteed to do more harm than good. And how am I qualified to write about this stuff? What makes my life story interesting enough to have the ego necessary to write for an audience?
AND ABOUT MY LIFE STORY?!? Haven’t I lived this already and proven what a horrible experience this is? Why relive it and share it with strangers?
I was terrified. My hands trembled. My fingers struck the wrong keys.
What am I going to write?
How the !@#$ am I going to write this story?
Nobody wants to read about Depression.
That’s the most depressing subject of all time and nobody wants to be depressed.
In my day to day life for the last 30 years whenever I tell people I struggle with Severe Major Depressive Disorder people get physically uncomfortable in my presence. They squirm. They want out of the conversation.
They try to switch the subject or give quick advice so we can get back to talking about happier things like why Donald Trump is the second coming of Jesus and how “we’re one day closer to the return of the Lord”. Sports scores. What they had for lunch. They’d rather go into extreme detail about that funny story of having to change junior’s diaper blowout at the mall… that’s WAY more fun to talk about than Depression.
And also… like I discuss in the Whale Vomit post… the idea of taking on Focus on the Family fills me with literal dread. The organizations and characters they’re tied into do not fill me with a sense of security and well-being.
And sitting in the back of my head was the fatwa that had been placed upon Salman Rushdie for his book the Satanic Verses and it’s usually not a good idea to poke people’s religion and take shots and be a cultural antagonist.
CULTS DON’T LIKE THAT.
And then… he got attacked last summer right as I start writing this thing.
Can I get a boat outta here?!?
Also, btw, fwiw, fyi, icymi… I’m trying to rebuild a county political party that had become a quagmire of egos and infighting and fecklessness and if any of you have ever attempted to rebuild a political party in the middle of a fascist uprising where the room is being held hostage by unscrupulous agendas… this is not a small undertaking.
This is an impossible project.
But then I see that my fan base is jumping for joy last spring when they finally achieved their dreams of making Roe vs Wade no más.
So I had the voice of my acting coach in my head demanding that I speak my truth as an artist into the ether, with trembling fingers, against the back drop of fascism, and the only thing I can think to do as an artist is to try my best to do something I’ve never done before:
Tell My Story.
And I don’t wanna do it.
A story I don’t want to tell. And the clock is ticking. 2024 has always been looming large in my head since that Orange Bastard took office in 2016.
Suffice it to say, but there was a lot going on in my head on May 12 2022.
Now I have not just one impossible project I have TWO IMPOSSIBLE PROJECTS AT THE SAME TIME.
And there’s major stuff happening personally that I’m not addressing in this project that makes all the rest of these impossible projects seem quaint and small.
So technically… THREE IMPOSSIBLE PROJECTS.
My country is hurting. People are dying. Lies are spreading.
Aren’t I already doing enough? I’m rebuilding a political party isn’t that enough?
But… when I see the things my fans write. When I see the way they treat a pandemic. When I see their arrogance and self-righteousness and paranoia…
I didn’t want to write, but I felt compelled. Pulled into this project from a place of dread that overrode my personal fears.
And I am worried that people are going to take shots at me. Mock me. Belittle my struggles. Claim that mental illness is demon possession and a sinful lifestyle and my efforts will be dismissed and written off as another malcontent. Ya know… like they always do.
But a thing I’ve realized as this effort has developed is that I’ve already been going through all of those things. I’ve always been mocked and belittled. I have 30 years of practice of being treated horribly.
Maybe this scar tissue has an upside…
I did not know how the story would flow or unfold. I just dived in.
In fairness to myself and my process, I didn’t realize that I had been passively writing this project internally for 30 years and actively for about 10.
But I knew if it was going to be me writing it then it would have to be funny-ish. HOW THE HELL DO I MAKE DEPRESSION FUNNY?
Country on fire.
Start typing bro.
I was so terrified to post that first post with the words Focus. On. The. Family. in them.
And something completely wild happened moments after I posted that first post a year ago… as I laid down in bed and turned on my Youtube to watch some boring chess videos/watercolor painting/universe gazing videos of monotone narration so I can bore my overactive brain to sleep a commercial starts playing.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY HELPS WITH DEPRESSION.
I have never seen this commercial before.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS THAT THIS COMMERCIAL IS PLAYING ON MY TV 10 MINUTES AFTER I JUST POSTED ABOUT THE START OF MY JOURNEY OF DEPRESSION WITH FOCUS ON THE FAMILY?!?
It wigged me out so hard I had to wake up my wife and ask for a sanity check.
“They found me already. They’re monitoring my social media and are using AI to target me.”
Silly nonsense but it was scary and real that first night. The kind of an organization that has a marketing budget for commercials for their “mental health ministry” is the kind of organization I don’t want to tangle with.
But I kept going regardless of discomfort and here we are a year later.
I got through those first posts. Terrified that the Aloha post was coming but forcing myself onto shore by burning my boat so I can’t escape. Must. Keep. Going. Forward.
And those first posts where nobody was reading… would this ever be interesting to anyone? Can I write in a compelling voice/style that allows me the wiggle room to tell the story creatively? Can this be a fun read somehow? And is that worth putting effort and time into or should I just write the messy stuff fast and walk away even faster?
And I have to write for multiple audiences at all times. This was a bad idea. This will be too much work. AND WINTER IS COMING? My Depression Kryptonite?
And then… something wonderful happened.
YOU all started trickling in.
One by one.
And positive comments started appearing.
And people seemed willing to give it a chance.
And then… it seemed like the formula started working!
I want to say “Thank you” to all of you.
Every single person who has made time to read this project.
Every person who has commented.
Every person who has lurked quietly in the background.
Every person who has pulled me aside in the last year to tell me they read this– it blows my mind.
Every person who has shared this with people you know and on your platforms… from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU.
I never expected a positive feedback loop. I expected negativity and was so used to it I just did it anyway. And to find love on the other side of the process has been like water on a parched plant. THANK YOU.
This was never a vanity project.
It’s never been about my ego as much as some detractors may assume. I genuinely am trying to do something positive here.
Maybe that’s inherently egotistical… dunno.
The goal was to use my story as the main character for discussion purposes.
There’s a documentary about the architect Frank Gehry called “Sketches of Gehry” directed by the brilliant Sydney Pollack and the two were close enough friends that Frank gave Sydney permission to interview his therapist.
Gehry’s therapist says something that has stuck with me for years. He’s talking about the difference between working with Artists vs Everyone Else.
And I’ll avoid misquoting him but the gist of his point is that most regular people come to work with him as a therapist because they want to understand how to change themselves and become better so they can fit into the world.
BUT ARTISTS are his favorite clients/patients because they inherently are trying to figure out how to change the world and make it better… so they can fit into it.
And that sounds like such an egotistical thing to do.
Changing the world. Psssh. Wishful thinking.
But… yeah. That’s precisely what most artists are trying to do. Hold a mirror up to you to see a problem. Pointing out the beauty or horror in something. Trying to alleviate suffering by making people laugh or think or change their behaviors.
That’s the job description.
And when I see my fans being led off a cliff like lemmings by people with unscrupulous agendas (they exist on both sides) it forces the artist in me to think “what skill do I have to stop this?” “How can I help?”
*opens lap top*
Writing is a powerful method of communication if you want it to be.
Let’s try to change the world.
But that doesn’t work without readers and supporters and allies and a community.
And I can see one building here.
And I’m humbled and honored that people are finding this and engaging with it.
It gives me courage to keep going.
I was terrified to write that Aloha post. But people are actually being nice about it!
Maybe Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka really did move the needle of the conversation. Maybe we as a society are finally ready to talk about this stuff.
Sucks that it’s me being a pied piper… but it’s a hit I’m willing to take.
If for no other reason than to be the example to encourage you to tell the stories you’re afraid to tell.
I’ll go first and jump in the water…
Here to catch the rest of you when you’re ready.
And then you’ll do it for the next crowd.
But Thank. You.
A burden of 30 years finally laid down. To finally write the words “I am a suicide survivor” and let it out after all this time… I wasn’t prepared for the kindnesses and love. To finally emerge into the spotlight after so many years in darkness and hiding and imposed exile.
I’m standing taller these days.
Got a couple more political victories under my belt.
I will do my best every step of the way to continue to deliver this product as best as I can. I will try to always keep focused on the purpose of what the goals are and not get too ego driven about the whole thing which is hard when the subject matter is one’s own life story.
But I have to remind myself my mantra is:
This. is. not. a. memoir. It’s. art. as. a. weapon.
I spend a lot of time on writing blogs and reddit threads and chat boards and discords and I see writers always begging to find out the secrets to growing an audience.
And the fact that an audience is naturally growing here is something that I do not take for granted.
Every single one of you matters and is important.
I believe the artist/audience relationship to be a sacred bond and carries with it tremendous responsibility. I don’t want to harm people. Or abuse my audience. I don’t want to glamorize myself and airbrush any flaws out. Nor do I want my sorrows to be some vain attempt at getting attention from some narcissistic “look at me” need that can never be satiated.
I want to teach my audience something.
I want to educate you about something that matters to me.
I want to do this in a way that challenges you to examine your lives and beliefs.
I want to make you laugh to make it easier to digest the tears and rage.
I want there to be the positive dopamine hits amongst the pain.
I want this to be a quality entertainment experience while it’s also a personal philosophical thesis.
But mostly… I just want things to get better.
For all of us.
And this is a way I know how to help.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
If you can spare a word of your thoughts below, it’s appreciated.
If you can share this project with people who can help our community grow…
I’m in your debt.
I think I’m ready for what’s coming.
Happy Blogiversary to us all!
Let’s celebrate the milestone 😎