1: In these pages lie the Memoirs of John Stewart Harder the 3rd English 12, 1B
2: We all start out the same way when we are young, joyful, rambunctious, and full of innocence, a blank slate. And then the world comes knocking and the illusion is shattered, for some this may come as a bad parent, others as a death in the family, or others as a divorce, no matter what the cause the result is usually the same, as it was for me. When I was young my parents divorced, at about 5 years old. I didn’t know what was happening for sure back then but I knew it wasn’t good. As my mom took me by the hand and drove us away to a new house, I started to hide myself. | Back in my pre-school days I was very sociable, enjoying my time playing with my friends and some of the older kids and eating snacks and napping. When I got home things changed, not that I explicitly knew what was going on at that point in time but I could feel the tension in the house, especially when my parents were in the same room. As an understanding slowly dawned on my young mind that my parents were not going to be married anymore. I wasn’t too concerned with the ramifications at that point just confused as to why it had happened. After two long years of yelling over the phone and not seeing my dad much I had already built up my walls. I had turned into a quiet kid. I didn’t ever talk much, except to a few people that I was good friends with and even them I was quiet around. That was the way I was, I did my work, read at lunch, and wasn’t too loud for an elementary kid. As time progressed and I got older and older I started to deal with more and more understanding of my parents strained relationship, I developed new ways to cope. I gradually stopped eating as much as I used to. I got really bad about it, hardly eating anything throughout the day and I turned into a little stick kid from the fat baby I was. I used eating as a way to control something in my life, since I couldn’t control who I lived with or anything else at that point. I used eating as something to control in place of controlling any part of my life. Between the not eating and other control problems, I had really bad problems with my insides and my parents were forced to watch me like hawks to make sure I ate what I was supposed to and did what I was supposed to. Those actions made me distrust and dislike my parents even more. But I am better for it now even though I had built up another wall because of those problems.
3: One of the many walls I have built up in the past years is my friends and family, other than my parents. I used my friends and school as a sort of buffer zone. Where I could relax and not worry about being watched or anything. As I grew into middle and then high school I didn’t really change that much, I was still a skinny, quiet kid. I relied on the few true friends I had made in middle school to keep me real. I was never relaxed at home or around my parents I was always on guard, but at school I let my personality out a little bit. Not enough that they ever got the real me but enough that I could not freak out or become a problem child, not around them anyways. And that was because I didn’t want them to think bad of me and leave me. So around my friends I always wore the mask of the quiet kid who cracks the occasional joke or two and was never more than that. | When I moved into ninth grade I was in court again, where the stifling, and frustrating building made me feel like I was trapped in a thick resin, and because of my parents and that reduced me even further with even my friends. I didn’t talk to them and during my freshman year I didn’t make that many I had a small group that I knew, but I was still guarded against them. But when in the summer before tenth grade the court stuff ended I changed. I slowly integrated myself with my friends more and more until I felt safe enough around them to drop a wall or two. From that point on, my friends, at school, and church, became almost a lifeline to me. | I used school to de-stress and forget about living in two houses. My friends to me were what kept me from going back to not eating and being the problem child I could have become. I threw myself into going to school and trying to go out and hang with them as much as possible to get away from home. That’s what I have been doing all my life, throwing up barriers made of different personalities or people to try and separate myself from my home and my parents. And though I have started to take down some of those barriers I am always, always guarded about what I say and how I act at home, even if I don’t seem like I am. It’s because I have this one last mask on, all the time, no matter who I am around or where I am, I keep it on to try to separate my current self from the problems and bad decisions of my past, because that is how I deal with things, with barriers, or masks, and using my friends as a safe zone, an island in a sea of distrust.
4: There is one thing that e all have in common; despite our so called unique personalities, we all have fears. Fears of failure, disappointment, or exposure, we all harbor them and try to prevent them from being made known to those around us, lest we be ostracized. These cracks underneath our overlaying personalities are prevalent in everything we do. Our hesitations when talking to people, or our way of being overbearing, everything down to the smallest tick portrays something hidden. Ever since my parents got divorced I have tried to cover up my cracks by drawing back into myself. I went from a rambunctious kid into a moody, quiet pre-teen. Shouldering through the day like it was a struggle to survive, and treating those around me with an icy calm and detached personality. At home it wasn’t much different; I stayed in my room and played video games. And despite my dad and step-mother’s urgings to eat better and do my homework, I kept riding the downward spiral. My grades fell and I developed a control problem, becoming a typical problem child. I wouldn’t ear much unless it was my favorite or something that would not benefit me at all and even getting me to eat that was a monumental struggle. It wasn’t until I was around thirteen that things started to change for me. | My parents finally decided to work “together” to try and help me. That help came in the form of a nutritionist named Kim. She did more than just telling me what to eat, she bonded with me. She checked in on me all the time and even went so far as to invite me to her home to eat dinner. She was, to use a cheesy metaphor, the sealant to some major cracks. At every appointment she checked my weight and either chastised me or praised me, but not as a ways to an end, but because she cared about me. In the years I knew her, my weight steadily increased, and my quality of life improved vastly. And even though my parents will contribute these small successes to a psychiatrist I visited, I know the truth. Along with Kim, came another therapist, at that point I was so jaded to the many appointments that I just wrote him off until I met him. Bruce made and still makes a big impact in my life. He was a hypnotherapist and psychologist. Whenever I had an appointment with him I was happy, because he was helping me to become better.
5: In the same way that Kim and Bruce helped me to seal some cracks, other people managed to exacerbate them, and undo some sealing. My parents, although they may have had good intentions, they did nothing but to drag me back. They kept yelling and fighting amongst themselves, while I struggled to absolve my issues. This more than anything, drove me deeper behind my mask. As I lived in that stress I gradually added more masks to the mix, to further hide myself, and in turn protect myself. And like a ship with too heavy of a hull I started to sink, into a wide sea of distrust, with everything seeming to drag me down. Then a hand reached toward me, a hand, attached to a person named, self-worth. As I grew, I realized that I need to take control back from those around me. So like Beowulf fighting off the sea monsters, I fought back my problems and my head finally broke the surface. Once I had gained some breathing room I started to work in earnest; and I improve, slowly, very slowly, but I was treading water. Cracks began to seal themselves and I found some masks “melting away”. I started to grow in size and in personality. I grew from a very shy and introverted pre-teen into a semi-normal teenager, and into the person I should have been from the start.
6: Everyone has one thing that helps to get them through the tough spots in their lives. Something that gives them the drive and the confidence to keep going even when everyone or everything says they are wrong. Everything that I have learned in my life has all lead up to one simple thing, faith; faith in God. It may sound cheesy but He has gotten me through a lot in my life. When I was little I was a normal church going munchkin. I went to church every Sunday with my parents and went to Sunday school and then accepted Christ at a very young age, not yet knowing what I was actually agreeing too. I accepted Christ when I was six or seven and was baptized not long after. It wasn’t until everything started to get worse, did I turn to Him and call for help. | I didn’t know much, if anything, about God and my so-called beliefs, just little bible stories that I had been taught in Sunday school. That all changed when I got into middle school. During middle school everything started to accelerate, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I grew taller and matured more, but I also became more ostracized, only because of the way I kept myself apart. It was at that time that I started to question God, and why he would give someone such a bad life as me. It was a little self-centered, but that’s who I was back then. I started to pull away, farther and farther, from God as I progressed and now that I look back on it I now see a distinct difference in my life and how much worse it got when I was pulling away. My health that always seemed to take care of itself was falling fast, so were my grades and my ability to relate to other people. During this period in my life I continued to play Christian and went to church, but never really got anything out of it at all. It wasn’t until I was in seventh grade and my family transferred to a new church, did I really start to be logical about my argument with faith. When we first walked through the doors of West Cabarrus Church I was shocked to say the least. I was used to an old style church with equally old people inside it. This church, to me, was the epitome of modern style. There were so many people under age 50 there and so many other youths there. It took me a little bit to adjust to this new environment, but soon I was back to the same old thing, playing Christian, just to a whole new crowd.
7: During my second year at West Cabarrus I went to one of their camps, called Discipleship Now. I went just because of my friends that were going, but that soon changed. As I listened to the speaker that we had, an internal battle was kicked off. By the end of that weekend I had learned enough to see that God had not done all those things to me just to be that way, or because He had left me, it was because He wanted to show me what He was doing in my life and how He was going to draw me even closer. Ever since that one weekend wherein I re-committed myself to God I have been growing spiritually, and God’s power has shone. I have regained good health; I cared more about school and about people. Throughout my life I have had to just ignore the obstacles in my life and try to keep going as if they weren’t even there. Pushing through had left me bitter towards my God and now I regret how my life had taken its course, but of the same token I don’t. If I had not had to go through what I did I probably would have been worse off now. Now I value God as one of the key things in my life, in my failures, successes, and in everything I do.
8: Everyone has some thing or someone that means the world to them, something that would make them drop everything just to help that one person, or to even lay down their life to save that ideal, person, or thing. My one thing is, my friends, the ones who have been there during the bad and stuck with me through it. I don’t have that many friends, I mean real friends. I have hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends but those who I have known for awhile, those that help and care about me, those that have stuck with me, those are my real friends. I have those friends that I talk to in the hallway or when I see them out somewhere, but then there are those people that I am with most of the time. Those are the people that I know the best and the ones that I feel the closest too. Ever since my parents divorce I have not been too trusting of others, and that has been shone through my lack of true friends through middle school. When I got to high school though God worked in my life and led me to my current friends and over the years they have passed through unseen tests and have become people I won’t soon forget. They know the most about me and who I am and what I am like, and I am glad they do. One of my friends, Patrick, I have known since I was in sixth grade at Piedmont Open IB Middle School. We hang out pretty often and have most of the same interests, video games, sports, etc. Even when we seem to run out of things to talk about, we never talk about anything serious, or anything to do with our family problems. Even when his parents were in the middle of a divorce a couple of years back we never talked about it,
9: not once, because that is how we are. Then I have other friends that love to talk and talk about issues and problems, but they all have one thing in common, a bond. I have spent time with each and every one of my “true” friends to learn about them and how they act in different situations. I have done so, so I can be a better friend to them and help them when they need it, since they have been there for me when I have needed it. My group, though tight, is pretty varied, there are some who are completely serious, and genuine, then there are the ones who joke around and act nuts all the time. All that they are makes up my group and in essence, me. Their actions, words, and quirks have imprinted on me and changed me forever. I exhibit little ticks and mannerisms when I talk and move, just because I have been around certain people for a long time. When things at home are bad, I look forward to Monday so I can go and be with my friends and forget about stress for a little bit. They act as a safe zone in the middle of a storm. In my small existence, the most important thing to me is the people I care about and their safety and happiness. I try to be the best I can for them every day, they help keep me sane during times of duress and I try to do the same for them. We seem to act as a continuous shield for our group, we help whoever needs it and when they don’t we help whoever does. I try not to lay my problems on them too much and trying to solve theirs and keep them happy and safe. I would do most anything for those I care about, because to me, they are my real family, not by blood, but by shared experience.
10: Everyone has certain relationships that will make or break you and your life, relationships with family, friends, or romantic ones. Most have multiple relationships like this but there is always that one relationship that matters the most. Mine is with my parents, and it was and still is a very mixed relationship. My relationship with my parents started out like most, a happy child with good parents. Then with their eminent split, our relationship began to degrade. At first I, being a young and impressionable child, sided with the first side I was told of, my mother’s side. I didn’t give my dad many good thoughts back then, mostly wondering why he was so bad. By the time everything had settled somewhat I was somewhat ingrained in my mother’s side and listened to her. And that was a big mistake. When I finally got some time with my dad and I started listening I found that I was dealing with two distinct, yet similar forces. | My mother said a lot about her position and my dad said a lot too, but only one could be right, yet all the things they were saying were contradicting each other. I’d like to say that I found the truth and sided with the right parent and everything went well, but I cannot. I was only seven or eight, I had no idea about what to do, and I was just hanging on and seeing where the situation took me. My mom told me one thing and my dad another, but I never knew which one was right and which one to trust, so I believed neither of them. This made my relationship with them very strained, even from an early age I didn’t trust what they were saying unless they had proof. Through my whole life, the painful and shameful disorders, the stifling courtrooms, and the tension filled home, my distrust grew. During my middle school years I was not a happy kid. I was skeptical of everything that was told to me, and I didn’t really have any close friends, because I kept myself apart, more out of fear than anything else. I didn’t go out much if at all, and my life seemed to revolve around video games. As I grew up and I was thrust into new situations with new people, I began to trust people less and less. I didn’t believe anyone about what they said or what they did, not because I thought they were less trust worthy, but because I had trained myself to not trust people. That’s how it is today still; I have gotten better about it though. But I still do not trust my parents’ words or actions one bit, for fear that I will be let down again.
11: My relationship with my parents hasn’t changed much through the years, though it has gotten a little better now that I don’t care much about what they have to say. I learned that the best way to get through is to tuck your head down and walk through any obstacles, not caring about anything but what I think is important to me. With my mom I talk and can act normal around her, but whatever she says, unless it is a simple fact or I can see it in front of me. I find that the people I can trust the most aren’t actually in my family at all, friends, and step family, like my step mom; Michelle. She became my friend first, instead of trying to be the mom right away. She hung out with me and really forged a bond that was different than a mother-son bond, more like a good friend that happens to live with you. Through my life I have learned who I can and who I cannot trust, and how much I can trust some people with. Still today though I have many things that I don’t share with anyone, because I don’t feel like I can trust them to help me, or not tell others whom I don’t want to know.
12: Everybody’s life is seemingly different, but in essence they all contain the same major parts; the beginning, the middle, and the end, with a few crises scattered throughout. Mine was no different, not many people’s lives are. My life started with a normal childhood, a happy, plump baby, born to a happy couple. I lived through the first couple of years happy and normal, and then at age five, everything began to change. I walked in on an argument between my parents and thought nothing of it until my mom took my by the hand and took me to a new house. I was mystified, and thought it was an adventure. Later after we had returned home I realized something was up when I walked into my parent’s room, and my mom was the only one in that bed and my dad was in another room. I don’t remember if I asked about it or not but I still at that point had no inkling as to what was really going on. As my parents grew apart the tension in my home grew and grew until even a little four year old could notice what was going on. At that point my parents got a divorce and finalized it. Things quickly changed, my ---mom moved away and me with her. I lived without ----my dad for awhile and when custody was settled I was able to see him on every other weekend. Gradually my life became a routine, go to school, come home and go see my dad every now and then. After a couple of years, my parents decided to start dating again. | Enter: the Step Family. My dad found a woman named Michelle and married her when I was around seven or eight and my mom found a guy named Bill and they got married a little earlier than my dad and Michelle. As I lived with my new families I figured out who I liked and who I didn’t. Despite the new living situations of moving in with a new family I survived, so to speak. As I have moved through middle and high school I have relied on my family less and less and less, and more on my friends.
13: Through my life the few true friends I have had have been there for me always and they are one of the most important things in my life. I tell my friends the most about me and a lot more than my family, because I feel that aren’t going to be nosy and try to get into more of my business and the fact that I feel that I can trust them not to spread anything and to help me when I need them too. My life has been a roller coaster and even though I have had some bad experiences I do not regret any of them. Those experiences have made me so much stronger in life, and my faith; and they have led me to some amazing friends that are as much a part of me and my family as any other member of my real family. Everything up to this point and beyond will make me a stronger and better person, and I welcome the challenge.