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Yada, Yada, Yada

It is easy to be in awe of a photographer and judge him or her as a genius or a natural. As the viewer, I rarely know the artist’s influences or life experiences i.e., I only see the art, not the recipe or the raw ingredients that shaped the vision. Artist biographies often neatly package the most compelling life events: he drank, it altered his perspective; her child died, it changed her profoundly; he went to a remote island, the simplicity changed his life – yada, yada, yada – ultimately the artist had an adventure or overcame adversity and frequently, the steeper the challenge, the more impressive the story. Moreover, biographies are often created for marketing purposes; messy parts of life are thoroughly cleansed, the artist is portrayed as esteemed with the truth cloaked. It can feel unlifelike; it leaves me wondering, what are the real bricks in the artist’s foundation.

We are no different than publicized artists; our lives are as rich and have similar depth. Events in life are links on a chain, each depends on the previous and a magnifying glass on one link is an incomplete image. I can point to events in my life, had one not occurred, I would be an unfamiliar Derek. Why do I see how I see? What has shaped my thinking? Like the promoted artists, we all have turning points in life – our very own yada, yada, yada – which shaped how we perceive.

My yada, yada, yada? Mom and dad were emotionally transparent; they smoked lots of pot and were pathological narcissists. As the only child, it fell on me to recognize their achievements and bestow admiration; encouragement and praise flowed backwards. Each used me against the other in their divorce when I was seven. Mom had a tough childhood – born to misogynistic parents in British India (now Pakistan), she was denigrated for not being born a boy and was ill-equipped for a son (I was supposed to be aborted, however (fortunately?), she said, “I did not want them inserting something into my vagina to get you out.”). Dad’s youth was not much better, he rebelled against his racist mother by embracing African American culture, exclusively dated poverty-stricken Black women after my mom and developed an extreme form of Antisemitism; all a contorted conundrum he took to his grave. Having been deprived of acceptance by mom and dad because of their yada, yada, yada, I overachieved to get noticed, ultimately discovering relief through work, at thirteen, carrying golf bags at Deepdale. Getting paid was my only acknowledgment; currency was the only appreciation I received.

Derek in 1987

More yada, yada, yada? There were two extraordinarily influential men in my childhood, neither of whom appeared through happenstance; Coach at Highland and Julian, my teacher, at Deepdale. Both unwittingly helped me build my foundation, one brick at a time. Coach was a brutal authoritarian who taught me how to push myself past breaking point, to find inner strength after I was depleted; Coach taught me how to be a man. Julian introduced me to my Self. I am a mosaic of both men and their teachings made up for the deficiencies at home. It would be woefully insufficient to merely say I had a tough Coach and a Carlos Castaneda-style spiritual teacher; these men were more.

The events of my life – my yada, yada, yada – have shaped my perception; how I see and how I think. What is your yada, yada, yada?


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