The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a system used to keep a tally of stressful, life-changing events which happen to an individual, it assigns a numerical value to events and the final score gives an indication of how that sum may affect someone’s health. On the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, under the ‘Non-Adult’ section, the death of a parent measures 100 ‘Life Change Units,’ which is to say, the most points for any one event that could happen in the life of a kid.
It is hard for me to deny that I have an unyielding interest in death. What manifests as adolescent curiosity didn’t come from violent movies or angry music. It started many years earlier. The only section of the library at my elementary school which ever interested me in the slightest was the surprisingly well stocked shelves on all topics of death and the paranormal.
Ghosts, voodoo, witchcraft, corpses, hauntings, séances, grave-robbers, ghastly fatal accidents, poltergeists, you name the spooky subject and my ten year old self had read every single book about it in both the school and public libraries of Sidney. I had an appetite that couldn’t be filled. There was a very special thrill to reading about death which I was likely addicted to. The taboo of death excited me, it was something everyone went through but no one ever talked about and as a kid I felt like the bona fide expert on the subject – in both personal experience and reference material.
And when I became a teenager and made poor fashion choices and had black hair and more earrings than would allow me to sleep comfortably on a pillow each night it became very common – and therefore very uncool – to have such interests. There were too many movies about it, too many graphic novels and loud tuneless music that all talked about something that had previously been my private sanctuary, and so in my early twenties I felt I had no choice but to relent from my love of that genre. Peer pressure makes us do some ugly things when we are younger and more impressionable.
It’s only now, at almost twenty-six and inches from the finish line of an undergraduate, that I am once again that ten year old who can endlessly sit in the corner of the library for hours and just read about the gooey and spooky parts of death. And really, that’s who I was all along.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that ages 15-23 are without unique and personality-alteringly dangerous obstacles.
But here I am at the point where I must try to understand where this obsession comes from, because it is not a desire to shock and awe, or offend or stand out which drives me. If anything it is an intense desire to relate, to reach out to everyone I’ll ever meet who has ever experienced the same events but has gone without ever understanding their own feelings about it. I am compelled to do is find others who live amongst the remains of the dead, who cling to objects and memories and the past the way I do and to understand them in order to ultimately try to understand myself.
What is likely is I am simply too afraid to approach myself in this way, that I have reached a standoff with my own understanding of who I am and why it is I do the things I do, so I desire to look for it in other people and through them learn more about myself. These unnamed people I wish so deeply to meet – people who I know exist out there around me but who I will have to struggle to find – these people may be my mirror to the stressful events which shaped me, the mirror that lets me see the impression that’s really been left behind.
It will be my challenge over the next months to learn ways to find people, to adapt more tact than I can possibly poses within me to approach such a delicate subject. I want to understand people. I don’t mind if it means crying in the company of others, learning about what it is which affects them and how it is part of what drives me.
Every artist has a deal. Has their routine. Their song and dance. My deal is that my family is mostly dead. Might as well milk it for what it’s worth.