Twirling in the Outfield
I have made unusual choices in my life — unusual compared to others in my generation, and this has often led to a challenge when trying to explain myself to them. It’s not that I don’t communicate well or that I don’t understand myself. On the contrary, I understand myself just fine. And this lengthy post will prove I can communicate. It’s other people who seem to have trouble understanding me. I don’t fit in their boxes very well, and this has caused my journey to be bumpy from time to time — when the pull of gravity begins to effect my altitude. I have tracked this to a couple of pivotal moments in my life which can be explained in vague, mixed metaphors. I shall attempt to share a bit of my history in a not-so-brief, autobiography;
I was raised the introverted second sibling of four brothers born to a humble preacher/prophet and lover of Jesus, David B. Myers. My dad is a church planter, and like any military brat, I was dragged around the country (in the Lord’s army) from church to church, state to state, and school to school. And yes, I was schooled publicly. This constant stream of new people, places, and experiences into my life drew me out of my introversion. I was and am a learned extrovert. Even so, when not forced into the limelight, I could be found alone recharging, reading a fantasy novel, making weird halloween costumes, sculpting polymer clay figurines, playing in the woods, or doing solo puppet shows. I was NOT a “Normal” kid — not weird, mind you, but certainly not the typical sports-loving, all-American boy.
Strike One: born outside the mold.
The family lore says that upon my second season of little league baseball, after being scolded for twirling in circles in the outfield, I confessed, “I hate baseball, I’m so bored out there — any idiot can hit a ball with a stick.” I don’t remember uttering these words, but my parents promise that I did, and I believe them, because I generally feel the same today — no offense to the baseball lovers out there. I now know some perfectly capable, non-idiots who love baseball. Needless to say, I quit little league and pursed things that intrigued me: music, art and theatre.
Despite my interest in all things creative, I still tried everything from wrestling to soccer, just to see if would like it. I was athletic, strong, and capable, and had lots of family pressure to conform, but I didn’t really enjoy playing. My wife, a consummate card player, gamer and game maker, still chides me because I “ruin” her fun. Games have simply never interested me very much and, according to her, I’m not much fun at her parties. I do like single player sports and video games, tennis and ping pong, and I even enjoy a game of Nertz, now and then. I’m just a methodical, deep thinker with a lot on my mind, and so I’m the guy getting hit in the head with the ball because he’s not paying attention — or twirling in the outfield, in my case.
My lack of interest in most things, “All American” left me, in a family of five men in an odd place. My brothers, all athletes (and closeted artists), teased me and made my life difficult, leaving me to figure out what I was here for. Fortunately for me, my mother (Phyllis) saw a lot of herself in me and recognized the creative drive. She had majored in Art in college and is quite a talented sketch artist, though she never pursued art professionally. She opted to stay home and raise four rambunctious boys. She taught me how to love Jesus, love others, and find my illusive place … and she adds that I had no trouble defending it.
Due to our particular ‘brand’ of fundamentalism (considered a particularly stuffy one, and for which I am still grateful), there really wasn’t a great place for a kid interested in piano, sculpting, theatre and film, but I was caught in a paradox. I felt a strong calling to serve the church. This was a quandary. How would I do what I love, and serve a church heritage that didn’t seem to have a place for my talents? Some in my heritage would argue that I didn’t look hard enough, or that If I would recall, I was offered the room under the stairs, but very few of them realize how small the space seemed from where I was standing. And so, I threw myself into high school theatre, show choir, scenic painting, sculpting and drawing. (Explaining the ins and outs of my particular church culture which frowned on the arts would take another ‘brief’ essay –which I won’t bore you with today.) When I graduated high school (a National Honor Thespian), Ironically, I entered seminary, unlike all my friends who immediately left for University.
This was Strike Two: Trading University for Seminary.
Don’t get me wrong. Because of my intellectual and artistic interests and honor roll grades I could’ve easily gone to school just about anywhere. I was accepted to Pepperdine, Indiana University, and Savannah College of Art and Design and more. I had great academic choices, but I chose, yet again, for good or ill, an unconventional path. My time in seminary was good. It prepared me for ‘Knightly’ service and I ended up setting out for the mission field for a couple of years. The “Iron Curtain” had recently fallen and Russia was “ripe for the harvest,” –according to the people who claimed to know. So, somehow and despite a childhood fear of the movie, “Red Dawn,” I ended up on the frozen, nuclear tundra for two years. This was a remarkable and life-changing experience. I studied Russian language and taught English, and encouraged a young, struggling church plant.
When I returned home from ‘the field,’ reverse culture shock had its way with me and I lived in a fog for about 18 months. I attempted to assimilate back into our home culture, but I struggled. It was like I had been time traveling. My little brothers had grown up, so much had changed, and I had a new language rolling around in my head and a fresh culture overlaid upon my life. It was a lot to process. While I was in Russia, I made great friends, one of whom I’m still in contact with today, Andre Mokan. He began teaching me guitar, opening my mind beyond my piddly childhood piano lessons. I began writing songs and poems and brought music home with me. It was a huge part of my healing and reintegration back into the states.
While meandering during my reentry, I was blessed to be asked to serve in a church internship in Cookeville, Tennessee where I cleared my head and met a budding filmmaker, Shayne Edwards. Shayne went on to make the rebuttal to Al Gore’s an Inconvenient Truth, entitled, An Inconsistent Truth, which he did, notoriously, in partnership with conservative syndicated talk show host, Phil Valentine.
In 2000, I left Tennessee and moved home (then, Indiana) to consider entering University, but adventure began to call again. My brothers had won a talent contest with a local radio station which spawned a sudden and quixotic pursuit of the music industry. I decided to get back to my roots, to forgo further formal church work and join the ‘VonTraps.’ And, yes, my brothers sing too. They are all immensely creative in their own right. I began teaching my baby brother to play guitar, and Suddenly, much to everyones surprise, he proved to be a teen prodigy. Overnight, he blossomed into a remarkably great guitar player, much better than the rest of us. Soon after, we had an album recorded and were playing on a local 100k-watt pop station with songs in the top three. (NJ-3, The Myers Brothers). Any confusion I may have had about my life’s purpose or direction seemed to melt away. We were going to be big stars.
Then, without warning, Dad said he was moving the family to Texas. This meant that the baby brother, our guitar player would be wisked off on the same journey I had lived so many times over. But worse still, was our momentum and mojo would likely be lost. Nevertheless, we all decided to follow our parents from our home in Indiana all the way to Fort Worth, Texas. Upon arrival, I scored a theatrical music direction position with a local theatre, Kids Who Care (another long story) and soon met the girl of my dreams, D’Lytha Brown – Myers. I continued touring with my brothers (We opened for the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato) and toured off and on for seven years, mostly off.
All the while, Shayne Edwards was sending me short films, and soon invited me to co-produce and star in his first feature. These opportunities led to a flood of music, theatre and film work over fifteen years and even a season as a theme park designer. What a ride.
So, maybe you can imagine my difficulty when I try to explain myself to someone who’s never moved, grew up in a single ISD, went to college, got a diploma and settled into a corporate job. They often look at me like I have four heads. And that’s ok … I am empathetic. How do I answer them when they ask “what do you do for a living?” When I reply, “I’m an artist, or singer, actor, filmmaker, writer, song-writer, sculptor, music director, missionary, theme park designer. It doesn’t matter which title I dane to mention, or even which is true at any given time. They typically reply, “Oh, that’s great (meaning: cute), but I mean, what do you do for a LIVING?”
The definition of a ‘professional’ (of a person) implies that one is engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime. “a professional boxer” synonyms: paid, salaried “a professional rugby player,” or in my case, “Professional Actor or Artist or filmmaker.” I have made my living, for most of my adult life, primarily, from the aforementioned list and been paid to do all of those things.
Our culture isn’t generally supportive of and receptive to people of numerous interests who carve their own paths –ironic, in the land of the free. Even the tax system doesn’t favor the self-employed or the freelancer, but seems to punish instead. And we certainly don’t laud the idealist, these days, unless their idealism is about being a benign centrist.
My idealism has enticed me to chase after numerous passions and interests, and it has made my life eclectic, challenging, and unique. Though it sounds ostentatious, I have been called a Renaissance Man. And it’s true, if you’re reading the British English Dictionary’s definition: Renaissance man, noun 1. a man of any period who has a broad range of intellectual interests.
I am definitely multi-interested and described by my friends as ‘good at everything he does.’ This, of course, isn’t true, but I pay my friends well. As the tormented artist, I’m rarely satisfied with my work, and know I have room to grow in every field of interest, but that’s par for the course. Oh wait, I was supposed to be using baseball metaphors…. Oh well. Case and point.
The path I’ve chosen was and remains honest. Though some might perceive me as a non-conformist for the sake of non-conformity, I am not. I assure you, I come by it quite naturally. I typically choose the adventure; I usually lean towards the creative or romantic ideal, and my love of beauty and art runs deep, as deep as my love for God, and one fuels the other in a passionate cycle of creativity. I am currently producing, writing and acting/singing whenever I can; I just finished writing (with D’Lytha) and Directing my first feature film, Aria Appleton. And, I was recently the Art Director for the feature film, Calamity, from Director James Tyler Cates. I was also recently certified by Morter Health Alliance as a B.E.S.T. Practitioner (a Chiropractic technique) and I have a few private clients. Did I mention I’m multi-interested? 🙂 I hope this helps you understand me a bit better and I appreciate you taking some time to read my story.