scrooge-youShe took me to watch my old Scoutmaster yell at me to get my fat ass off his lawn when I accidentally sledded over his yearling tree. She showed me the time I pinned my brother down and pulled his underwear so hard that he bled. She showed me the day I was violently slammed against a set of lockers by Levi and Miles. She showed me the day I sat by my bedroom phone all day because I had heard the rumor that I might, for the first time ever, be asked to a  girl’s choice dance. She showed me the moment I gave up on that phone ringing, and crawled into bed.

She showed me a day in church when rooms of people laughed and openly discussed how horrible and destructive homosexuality is while younger Me sat quietly hating myself. She showed me the last final and horrifying fights younger Me had had in both marriages. She showed me so many moments in my life where people angrily demanded to know if I was gay. She showed me a day when I saw a picture of a man who I felt unwanted sexual attraction for, and then she took me to that same night some hours later, when I was on my knees weeping, asking God to take the evilness from me. She took me to the day younger Me lay face down on the floor of a missionary apartment, a baseball bat in the air above him, and let me watch as he hit the bat repeatedly against his own spine just so that he could get a medical discharge and not be a disgrace from his family for not wanting to be on a Mormon mission.

Then she put me in my own car only two years ago. I watched from the backseat, horrified. I knew what night this was. The younger Me drove up the winding mountain rode. I watched, tears starting to pour down my face, as the man in the front seat reached over and unbuckled his seatbelt. The look on the his was haunting. It was a look of someone who was cognizant only of how free he was about to be, if he would just roll his car off the upcoming cliff and end it all right then.

The younger Me searched ahead for the perfect place to end it. He found it. He stepped on the accelerator. He shifted the grip of both hands to one side of the steering wheel in preparation to roll the car. The cliff got closer. The younger Me took a deep breath.

“ENOUGH!” I screamed. “ENOUGH!” The ghost touched my arm and we were back in my bedroom. The voyage was over. I stood weeping into my own hands. “ENOUGH. I can’t watch anymore. The world is horrible. The world is awful. The people in this world are dark and evil. I am dark and evil and sick and broken. I get it, okay?! I get it. Just… no more. Please. Leave me be.”

“No,” she said. “You don’t get it.” And she touched me again.

I found my messy self in an old high school classroom alongside the ghost. Miss Lyons, the silver haired math teacher, had kept me after class. “I just want to check in on you and see if you’re okay, Dan.” I told her I was just fine. She then lavished me with praise for a job so well done on a recent geometry project. “I’m going to name you math student of the month,” she said. I was terrible at math. I knew I was terrible at math. And her warm smile filled me with sunlight anyway as she reached out and touched my shoulder. “You know, Dan, if you ever need to tell someone something, I am here. No judgments.”

The ghost touched me and I was taken to my childhood home in fifth grade. I stood anxiously reaching into a mailbox with my older sister standing close behind me. I pulled out a letter and we both giggled and ran into my bedroom. On my bed was another piece of paper with a pack of Now-and-Later candies taped onto it. “Now I’ll love you. Later I’ll marry you,” it said. It was a letter from a secret crush. The younger Me smiled bigger than I have felt myself smile at all in recent years. The ghost touched my arm.

We next found ourselves inside of my best friend’s house when we were 14. He wasn’t my best friend yet. In fact, I barely knew him, but a kid from my church just had his dad die from an unexpected stroke. I didn’t know what to do except make him some cookies and tell him I was sorry for his loss. That was the first day of a very long and fun-filled genuine friendship. I watched as this kid took the cookies that night and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

The ghost touched my arm. And we found ourselves in my college apartment. I watched as my girlfriend went to answer the door. There younger Me stood, on the other side of it with a giant bouquet of flowers and a guitar. I sang her a song that I wrote. I got down on one knee. I asked her to marry me. She excitedly jumped at me and said yes. The ghost touched my arm, and we were off again.

She took me to so many wonderful places and so many incredible moments. She took me to beaches in Hawaii, and parties with friends, and late nights in deep conversation with people I genuinely love. She took me to watch moments with girlfriends, and dates, and friends, and my parents which moments were all supportive and powerful and happy. She took me to adventures with my brother. She took me to the day I leapt into the air because I had finally publicly acknowledged that I wasn’t completely straight, I didn’t know what I was, and I was suddenly very much okay with that. She took me into moments when strangers touched my life with heart-felt messages and sincere moments of reaching out. She took me to moments when I danced with the homeless, and when I gave generously to others, and when I selflessly did things for people who weren’t me, and then she touched my arm again.

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Dan Pearce is an American born writer, photographer, and artist. His books include "The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man" and "The Real Dad Rules." He is best known for his blog (and supporting Facebook page) "Single Dad Laughing," with 2 million followers as of 2018.