Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who is this boy staring back at me?

For Christmas, I received a scanner that scans slides into digital images. For someone of my generation who loves to take photos, it is not strange to find shelves filled with boxes and trays of slides. The job of converting these thousands of encapsulated memories into the digital age is a daunting task. However, with a little time on hand, I grabbed a box and found our engagement slides that we took ourselves (with a timer and running into the frame, hopefully gaining our composure before the photo was shot, but not always - some had us falling over each other, bursting into laughter and as I look back on them, those are the best and we should have used them on the wedding announcement instead of the more serious, contemplative ones).

As I retrieved each image, a flood of memories and emotions came rushing back. (NOTE: Typically, when one takes the time and is brave enough to truly look at images of oneself decades earlier, it's a scary and intimidating, often embarrassing and sometimes painful experience and reality check - but I did it anyway, and I came away feeling nostalgic and longing again for an innocence and sweetness lost). It was nearly 28 years ago next month. I was just 21 years old - merely a babe - a returned missionary of just a few months, not even a year back from all the emotions associated with that incredible life-changing experience, including an equally life-altering bromance. She was back from her mission just months as well. And here we were, arms around each other, in love! Yes, we were in love! I was in love! In my innocence I was enamored with the idea of marriage and the idea that this beautiful young lady was in love with me. She completed me. She filled me up. She was my princess, my sweetness, my dear.

I look deep into the faces of these images now and can't help but wonder who these people are staring back at me so beautifully. I was surprised to note how "hot" we look. She was radiant and gorgeous, and I was a real keeper, dare I say, a young man full of the cuteness of ripe youth that is stunning - I don't remember ever thinking that I was good looking, but the eyes and smile of this boy staring back at me, so filled with hope and purpose and enthusiasm for life, are handsome and beautiful!

And I wonder... who are these people? Who is this boy staring back at me from my past? Was that really me? Was I really that naive, that optimistic about the future? Where is that boy now? Where has he gone? The lines and wounds of age and experience have scarred and clouded the vision of hope. The youth is forever lost. I hate getting old. I don't want to admit that life is passing on. I continue to think of myself still as that youthful skinny, charming student at BYU, devoted MTC teacher, recently engaged to an amazingly powerful, confident, intelligent woman who loved me, and me in love with her (and unable to process the emotions I felt inside for other men, incapable of accepting those feelings for what they were).
Am I he? Where did he go? Who am I?


Kengo Biddles said...

Beck -- you are him, and you are more. You've grown, you've learned...and maybe this trip down memory lane can serve as a reminder that you must have hope (faith, hope and charity, after all).

I think you have much to hope for. Yes, days and times may be difficult, but I know you can surmount any obstacle. I knew that from my lunch with you.

You're a great man.

Beck said...

KENGO: I'm still a man of hope. But with time has come experience and knowledge and with that comes the loss of innocence. The face I stare at in the mirror is older, and less innocent, and less naive. But not necessarily wiser or smarter.

There is something about faith and hope and charity and YOUTH acting together for the better good that cynicism and experience and the lines of age lose.

Was I wrong to marry so young? Some may argue an emphatic "YES", while others might see what I see - a faith and hope and confidence and assurance in the future that is hard to grasp and obtain today.

Scot said...

It must be the season for nostalgia :-).

To me, we are the result of initial conditions plus future inputs. I take past selves as a fraction of the present picture, and a fraction that decreases as more time to that past self ticks by, but never to zero.

Where'd he go? I think that old self went to the same place the ball of clay goes after the sculptor gets done with it; the shape went years into the past, and the base material is sitting right in front of your computer monitor, in a different shape :-).

Beck said...

SCOT: Your nostalgic post triggered me to post this reflection I'm going through as I keep staring at the "boy" I was when I was engaged.

But, yes, I fundamentally am who I am. I always have been me and I continue to be me. My fundamental material is the same (fortunately I still have my youthful trim figure and my hair! :))

Still, it's odd, looking back now with such clear eyes of being a "gay man" all my life - something I've always been - to stare at a face of me at a time when I didn't know that part of me. It's freaky and strange and amazing all at once.

Though rattled a bit, I'm okay with it... just weird looking back into the eyes of the boy I was at the time I was engaged.

Kengo Biddles said...

Scot, you put it really well. It's like your high-school GPA -- Even though you're moving forward and getting new grades, the D you got in second semester Algebra II can still come back and bite you in the butt (like it did to me...)

But that's a great parallel with life.

Public Loneliness said...

Beck, love your post.

I think about the same things looking at old pictures. As human beings, we evolve, we change, it is impossible to stay the same, even if we try, our habits may change, just like our bodies and minds. None of it is bad at all, it is all the natural process of life. In my POV we just keep turning into a better version of ourselves, not the other way around because of our experiences.

I'm sure in spite of all the goodness we see in our younger versions there are also tons of insecurities and inmaturities attached to them, it is all relative, but I do also believe it is good to look back now and then, helps us deal with the now and the possible future.

Beck said...

PL: I hope we are turning into a better version of ourselves - at least internally - but I can't help but covet the youthfulness that is wasted on the young when they don't know any better!

Silver said...

In my wallet I carry a picture of myself at about 14 years old. I was a beautiful, innocent boy, but I had a very low self image and a lot of heartache and insecurity. Truth is I took a long time to overcome that and the negative dialoge that went on in my head for years. I didn't even begin to grasp my potential. I spent years living in my head instead of in public. I was so trapped in my head. Thankfully now, I'm real and I love interacting with people, especially other men. Now I like myself, but it took so long.

My wedding pictures and youthful and handsome. She is amazingly beautiful and youthful as well. I too was so in love, yet I had my doubts and worries about what I would one day know as SSA. I don't think the term or the understanding of it existed then. I married her because I couldn't bear to lose her. She was so good to me and for me. She made me a better man and held all the promise a wonderful future and family. I'm so glad I married.

I can ask the same question now. Who am I? That guy's still inside me, but boy there are some miles on this body and mind now.

I think there are some blessings in getting old. You don't have to play a lot of the old games. You can cut through a lot of the BS and get to the point and really not care much what others think.

Beck, I'd sure like to see a picture of you at 21. It's not a come on, you just have me curious what that 21 year old, innocent RM Beck looked like. However, he's still in your eyes and your heart. When I met you I got a look at him. He's still around and he's your friend. You owe him a lot for what he did to get you where you are.

I'll bet you that she still sees him too. That's a big part of why she stays and she still loves you.

We worry so much about how our condition hurts them, but remember, she fell in love with you for all those reasons and qualities that you still have and a lot more that she has watched you aquire.

No worries. You've still got it!

GeckoMan said...

How is coincidental is all this? I just was looking at our engagement picture earlier today and was thinking so many of the same things. And 28 years, huh? Me too! That is, it will be in February. Best wishes to you for many more happy years.

Beck said...

SILVER: I appreciate your perspective and helping me to think of that "boy" as one that I can talk to and literally thank for being who he was and what he did to get me to where I am now.

I haven't really put it in those terms before, but now I see the dialogue transpiring between me and my former self. Yes, there has been growth and I'm not the same person, but I am who I am today because of who I was then.

Thanks for that perspective!

Beck said...

GECKO: Between you, me and Scot here, I think there is something contageous going on about picking up the nostalgic bug.

Yes, it will be 28 years at the end of February that we were engaged to be married. In some ways that seems so long ago and such a different world, but in other ways, it seems literally like yesterday and I can feel and smell and taste what the emotions of that time were for me.

I guess for those few who are younglings in this community, us old-timers remembering the early 80s in a sense of fondness must seem strange and weird to say the least.

Congrats and best wishes to you as well!

Philip said...


I concur with some of the things you said. I also was totally unaware of what a good looking guy I was back then. Back then I wondered why my beautiful wife wanted to marry me. I also hate growing old.

But it was hardly fun and games back then.

I don't miss all the confusion, self-hatred, shame and ignorance I lived with. Now I know who I am. I understand me. I accept and am proud of the man that I am.

I am at peace with who I am. That is something I didn't have back then.


Scott said...

I was a real keeper, dare I say, a young man full of the cuteness of ripe youth that is stunning...

My wedding pictures [are] youthful and handsome.

I also was totally unaware of what a good looking guy I was back then.

... am I the only one who thinks that I kinda looked like a dork when I got married? I'm much better looking now! :)

Scott said...

... am I the only one who thinks that I kinda looked like a dork when I got married?

... I just realized that this isn't worded very well.

Of course everyone thinks that I looked like a dork when I got married.

What I meant to say is "am I the only one who thinks that he looked like a dork when he got married?"

Beck said...

PHILIP: You give me hope that one can find peace with oneself. Though I have confidence in the future, I still struggle with the self-peace and self-awareness and comfort level I have within my own skin. I have hope to get there someday...

SCOTT: Don't take this wrong, but I thought your engagement picture you posts a little while ago was better looking than you are now! So get over yourself and join the club that our best looks were when we were 21. :)

Philip said...


Strangely, the outside world never caused me as much grief as my own internal beliefs.

It was mostly my internal beliefs that kept me from finding peace.

Four in particular were troublesome.

The first two were "being gay is a choice" coupled with "there is something intrinsically wrong with being gay".

Those two died after I was exposed to a "community" of "gay positive" gay folks.

The third was "straight people at most can only tolerate gay people."

The corollary to that was "family members and friends are forced by love to stand by you - they too at most can only tolerate someone being gay".

This one died when I was exposed to a "community" of "gay positive" straight people.

The last one is "God does not accept gay people."

This one I have yet to completely overcome. I no longer believe God hates gay people but I still struggle with God loving me just the way I am.

I guess this belief refuses to die because I have yet to be exposed to a "community" of "gay positive" religious people.

Or, maybe, I need to see no one less than the Pope say God loves me just the way I am.

Regardless, the true source of much of my struggles have had to do with internal beliefs I accepted without question that were totally false.

Each time a community was needed before I let go of the fear of rejection long enough to consider their acceptance.

Once I considered their acceptance, it wasn't long before I saw that they were right and I was wrong and I let go of the fear and stopped struggling and was more at peace.


Philip said...

I want to say this...

Like most of us, I grew up in a "gay negative" community so maybe I needed to be exposed to a "gay positive" community before I could counteract what I internalized growing up.

Once I accepted the acceptance of this "gay positive" community it wasn't long before I internalized that acceptance; the fear disappeared; I stopped struggling; and peace was able to surface.


Silver said...

Perhaps the best breakthough I had in therapy was the day my therapist pointed me to myself at 11 years old when I was molested.

He had me talk to that 11 year old boy and tell him that we was responsible for what happened to him. He had me try to tell him that it was his fault. I ended up sobbing for that innocent young boy and what he suffered. At the time my own son was 11 and it fully brought home to me that I was not to blame, that I was a victim of abuse and that I was still suffering for that.

We can learn a lot from our inner child. Talking to our inner young boy can tell us a lot about our current struggles in life. It also has helped a great deal to embrace myself and love myself in the context of that innocent young boy and to administer to his needs.