I don’t know why, but at work the other day, I was thinking about my life in general and how complicated we actually are as human beings. While it’s relatively easy to sum someone up in a few words, e.g. nice, edgy, Type A, big hearted, and etcetera, it really and truly is impossible to answer the question Who am I? in just a few words. Can't be done.
My answer to the above question would look something like the following and even then, it’s ridiculously abbreviated. Note: There is no real order to my list; it’s more stream of conscience bellowing than structured thought.
Who am I? Who the heck is Derek Odom?
- I’m the kid who likes to spend time alone, playing with Hot Wheels cars and reading books.
- I’m the kid who learned at a very early age how to become invisible, how to sink inside himself when there was trouble, how to cope using positive energy instead of anger.
- I am a chess player, but more than that, I am chess. The game has shaped me in a way very few other things have.
- I’m on stage at the Roxy, playing with an original band, angry at myself because I’m drunk once again and cannot play well. At the actual Roxy.
- I’m hammered at the river circa 1996 or so, looking out over glass-smooth water somewhere in the ballpark of 4 a.m. Everyone in camp has long been asleep/passed out, and I’m leaning on the door of my ’68 Fury, drinking and drifting. On the other side of the cove, someone has brought a generator and a huge house stereo. Sublime is traveling across to me like messages in the wind, and I’m happy. I’m truly happy in that moment.
- I’m the old-books-and-clothes smell of thrift stores.
- I’m riding a motorcycle for the very first time on the freeway, knees hugging the tank in a death lock, scared shitless of the traffic and the speed.
- I’m trying desperately to start my Plymouth after having sex at the drive-in movies, fully realizing we’ll have to spend the night where we sit.
- I’m in love with Shannon Reid, an infatuation that lasted seven full years in my childhood. She hated me.
- I’m avoiding conflict.
- I’m one of the luckiest sons of bitches alive.
- I’m at Lake Okoboji in Iowa, the faraway sound of motorboats comforting in a way I cannot describe.
- I’m getting beat up by a large fat kid named Renee in seventh grade. I was beat up a lot that year.
- I’m on the roof of a Chevy truck that’s careening through cornfields at eighty miles an hour, half crazed on Mad Dog 20/20 and experiencing zero fear.
- I’m at a garage sale, wondering what wonderful prize I’ll find.
- I’m meeting my birth family for the first time at thirty-five years old. I’m crying on Eliza’s shoulder because I realize I came from trash.
- I have eerie knowledge of things I shouldn’t. Because of this, I’m very seldom afraid or wholly surprised.
- I’m reading psychology books, one after the other, until I break down one afternoon after realizing my mother was terribly unfair to me and I hated her for it.
- I love my mother.
- I’m in the bathtub, desperately hoping the water stays hot awhile longer so I can continue playing with my boats and action figures.
- I’m terrified of failure, not of being poor. My worst fear is I’ll look back and see I’ve done it all wrong.
- I’m an AutoZone manager.
- I’m highly sexual and wonder what it’d be like to have no testicles so I could finally be free of the prison that is hormones.
- I am music.
- I’m in my Fury, it’s 1994, and I’m crossing Nebraska on my way from Iowa to California; the engine is purring, the bass is thumping, the sights are gorgeous. I am truly happy in this moment.
- I’m a law student. I’m a cop. I signed up for badminton four times in college because I like the game. I’m an English major. I’m a writer. I’m failing math class because I can't understand anything. I have the credits for two degrees. I have no degree.
- I’m on my Huffy, knobby tires kicking up dust on some dirt trail or other in CO, cares gone entirely.
- I owe the IRS over thirty grand; the day I found out about this, I cried until I couldn’t anymore and hated everything about me. In that moment, I was truly unhappy; a failure.
I am experience, and that’s all I’ll ever be. The more I do and see and hear and love and hate, the more I become me. I’m the sum of everything I’ve done and wish to do. I’m changing, little by little, based on massive amounts of life experience. I’m a wise forty-year-old who still wishes to do unwise things.
And much, much, much more.