A Flower Grows in the Garden of Rubble

It’s easy to forget that your real life happened when you think about the four years of Donald Trump’s presidential term. The political overshadowed the personal, quiet introspection turned to outward outrage, for both supporters of Trump and his opposition. But real life did go on for all of us. Before we go a word further, this will not be a political article, so you can take comfort in the fact that this will be a depressing personal story. 

            I do my best thinking on my walks with my dog, Jango. Something about the cold quiet of the morning, the tip-tap of Jango’s paws hitting the sidewalk, and the jingle of his tags calms me, and I can really hear my thoughts. And so, I’ve been reflecting on the timespan of the Trump presidency. The timespan, not the presidency itself. Trump was elected on November 8, 2016, my 26th birthday – a strange birthday to say the least. 

2016 was a strange year. Early in the year when I spent a month in Los Angeles, on a Sunday morning my band and I read the news that David Bowie had died – a devasting blow for the likes of us freaks. Then, a few months later, Prince died – yet another blow. That summer, I toured for what would be last time with the band Ours. It was a stripped-down tour, meaning no drums or bass, just vocals, guitars, and keyboards. I enjoyed my role that final tour, especially because I got to sit down on stage. I played keyboard and electric guitar with effects, which are my actual instruments of choice. I played bass begrudgingly, but guitar and piano/keyboard are what I like to play – bass is a necessary evil. But it wasn’t all good that tour, the lack of drums drew focus to my playing in a new way, and I think for the entire tour my volume was too low – a subconscious defense mechanism to cover my tracks and sketchy timing.

On that tour, we took a break for a week and went to Hawaii with some close friends whom I now consider family – the friends, I’m still close with, the band, we’ll discuss that a bit later. That Hawaii trip was one of the best times of my life. It was pure relaxation, no band business, no real working on songs due to the singer, Jimmy, getting severe sunburn early in the trip – we just drank and hung out, it was a dream. Then we got back to the tour, which I was counting down the days until it ended. We got home and continued to record, things went back to normal, and I resumed my dread.

The election was held, Trump won, though not by popular vote, never by popular vote – a fact worth remembering. It’s strange the way things lined up. Trump gets inaugurated and was as bad, if not worse, than we could’ve imagined. We gave him the rope and he hung us with it. Concurrently, I started thinking more and more about leaving the band. I was so overwrought, so unhappy. I didn’t enjoy the music, not because of quality, but because of taste – an important but ignored distinction, as I am now public enemy number one in that band, but more on that later. I was nervous playing, I was even more nervous recording. And so, as the months went on, I inched closer to my eventual departure.

On a Saturday in May 2017, I left the band a shaking mess, sending a manic screed via text to the band leader and driving away with a guitar and my clothes. I spent that summer a total mess of a person, listless and angry, despondent and combative – a real joy to be around. I would see my band, and though I’d spent time apart for several months, I would still put on the old crass persona when I saw them – for what? It was a sad situation. I went back to college in September 2017 for a few weeks at Seton Hall before leaving for financial reasons. I was listless again for another few months while preparing to go to Rutgers Newark in the new year. All of this in Trump’s first year.

I won’t bore you with a year by year account of the Trump presidency. But, I became comfortable in my skin for the first time in a long time, if not ever. I slowly grew out of the damaged mentality I had developed in the band. It’s this growth that I’ve been focusing on as of late. I want to apologize to my family for my time in the band. The way that the band operated, we pretty much worked all the time – well, at least the singer did. He had a machine-like work ethic, working on songs in the studio from the early morning to late at night. Because we were constantly making some sort of record, one of which has still yet to come out as of January 2021, I didn’t feel like I could leave. It was as though leaving would show that I didn’t care, and I was desperate to prove my worth to the team – it seemed like everyone was trying to prove their commitment to the band. 

In so doing, I stopped seeing my family. It broke their hearts, and now it breaks mine. We’re close now, so it’s all right, but I’ve been thinking back on that time and feeling awful. I would drop by my mom and dad’s house on a Sunday morning to do laundry and shower, then leave – I didn’t linger a moment longer. It was so cruel, so insensitive. I wish I didn’t take that band so seriously, nothing is that serious. It was like pulling teeth to get me to go to a family event, and then I would leave early to get back. Once again, this tears me apart. When my sister moved into her current apartment, I helped her move, but then didn’t come back to the apartment to hang out for the rest of the time in the band. When I finally left the band and returned to my family, I saw what I had done to them, how I had actually abandoned them in service of that band. I regret every second of it. With all my heart, I apologize.

When I did leave the band, I was in bad shape. My mother was worried, and asked me if I would hurt myself, and I cruelly told her that I didn’t know. This tore her apart, and now it tears me apart. Why say that? Why do that to someone? Why plant that worry? I wish I knew. 

And so, for the entire Trump presidency, I sat in the wreckage of my old life in the band. I sorted through the debris and found the kind, confident, intelligent, and funny person I knew I could be. I don’t like who I was in the band. That band doesn’t particularly like who I am now, so it’s funny how things change. When I left the band, things were amicable – things aren’t anymore, there’s a grave misunderstanding about some of the things I’ve written about my time in the band. Part of that is certainly my fault, but I stand by what I’ve written – the tattered remains of my time in that band grow frailer still. And for anyone I hurt during that time, I apologize. I was living as selfishly as I possibly could have – the life of an artist seems to be that: selfish, and hard on the family. But, as the Trump presidency draws to a close, I’ve sorted through the shattered remains of my old life. And now, a flower grows in the garden of rubble.

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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