People ask me all the time where I am from. I instantly say ‘South Dakota’ and there’s a smile lingering on the edges of my lips as I say this. I live in Bayonne, I work in Jersey City, and I hang out in New York. So, I meet lots of people from all over the world, but I, across the thousands of people I have met working in a restaurant or talking to strangers at bars, have met only a handful of people from South Dakota let alone another gay city dweller such as myself.
Growing up in South Dakota was, obviously, a very different environment than which I currently live. When I moved here five and a half years ago, my best friend mentioned her worry about me. In South Dakota, I am an individual and stand out because I dance to no music and shine in the darkness. Moving to the city meant being lost in the crowd. Instead, my personality still danced in its own shine. It was one of the nice occurrences that made living here easier, but I found many other hardships.
When I made the decision to move here, I thought that focus and an easier life was ahead of me. I wanted to leave behind the hardship I faced in South Dakota. The debt would stay behind. The chubby Joshua would not follow me here. The writer I knew I was would be found. Instead, I found myself taken in by circumstances once again. I found myself dating someone almost instantly. I started a job and stayed with it even as it pulled me away from my goals more and more each day. I let my writing fall to the wayside.
This is not to say that I did not have great things happen. I started paying off my student loans. I traveled to Europe. I designed a budget that I followed. I still did not have a savings. I was far from paying off my student loans, and Europe put me back a little bit financially. It was during all this that I realized what I could accomplish with focus.
Now, I have a chance at very much becoming the person that I wanted to be when I first moved here. My big ‘Why’ harkens to that, but it goes one step further backwards in time.
When I was a teenager, all I wanted was to get away from South Dakota. I hated the kids I went to school with. I hated the fact they were athletic while I was small and mousy. I hated the fact that they could have these relationships. I hated staying hidden because I was gay. I hated the fact my only friends were on the internet. (They’re great friends, but you can hardly do much together outside of chatting when they’re 1,200 Miles away). I hated my family being poor. I hated a lot. I wanted more.
Back then, I pictured my future self as someone very different. I pictured myself being free of the constraints of South Dakota. I wanted to have a boyfriend who loved me and whom I loved. I wanted to have a group of friends who supported me, loved me, traveled with me, and whom I returned each of those things. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be hot. I wanted to be someone younger me could look up to. I wanted to help people through my art. I wanted to write.
That is my ‘Why’.
My younger self has gone to time as all our younger selves do, but he still rests in the back of my mind. He looks forward at the person I am and judges me. He judges me when I drink too much or get myself into troublesome situations. He judges me when I am too lazy to go to the gym or when I do not write a blog. He wants me to succeed and I want him to see success.
Going back even further, I used to live on a farm in South Dakota. My brother and I shared a room upstairs. I remember after I learned how to properly wish upon a star doing so each night. I sat at my windowsill just as the sky darkened. It was still blue the painter of night slowly darkening the sky and I searched for that first stay to make my wish. I closed my eyes as soon as I saw it.
Star light. Star bright. The first star I see tonight. I wish I may. I wish I might. Have the wish. I wish tonight.
I wanted the Xavier Institute, the Mutant School for X-Men, to appear in a corn field. I wanted to be different and travel the world. I wanted to have super powers, and a group of friends who stood by me.
As an adult, I realize that super powers won’t just come to me. Friends don’t just appear. But, I can strive for the same ideals as those heroes. I can have those friends. My writing can be my super-power. I’m already different being gay, and there’s still a large part of the world that doesn’t accept that. I’m different just by being a nice, compassionate, hard-working Midwestern in the City. I have traveled the world. Each day, I get one step closer to becoming the man I know these younger versions of me would accept and be proud of. I am happy with my journey, I am happy where I am, but I can be better and strive for excellence. And that’s why I’m living the superhero life.