I grew up in a small town. Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Washington State. Probably 90% of the town was military personnel and their families. All in all likely no more that 12,000 people back then. That portion of my life laid some deep, fundamental, parts of my personality that will forever stick with me and at times I tend to think are the best parts of me. Yet, throughout my childhood I felt this longing to leave the island. I'm sure there is more to it underneath it all but what I felt, particularly as I got older, was trapped.
My Dad retired from the Navy in 1997. The final 3 months in Oak Harbor were spent living with my Mom and Sister in my Grandpa's motorhome in an RV park next to the harbor. It didn't help matters either that my 7th grade year had been one of the hardest school years I'd had up to that point. I struggled with grades, I was bullied pretty bad, I sucked at whatever sports I was trying and was just generally a very lost kid. I was more than ready to start my new life and leave that world behind.
Tacoma wasn't brand new to me. All of my Mom's side of the family lives in the area and some of my Dad's. During the many times my Dad was deployed on ships around the world, my Mom would make the 2 hour drive south for the weekend to stay with friends and family. During the summers, I would stay with my cousins for a week here and there. Tacoma was familiar. Yet, Tacoma was still mysterious. It was so much bigger than where I grew up and even better I heard there were places I shouldn't go. Tacoma was rough but that was what excited me!
It was a sunny day, early summer and busy. On the way to our new home we hit a stop light. From the back seat of my parents Ford Aerostar van I could see these two dudes hanging out at a bus stop in front of an abandoned storefront. They had to have been no more than 50 feet away. I'm not sure what captured my attention, possibly their skateboards. Without hesitation, dude pulls out a can of paint and blasts the entire front window of this place with a throw-up. Now, I had no idea what a throw-up was at that point. I'm still curious today whether graffiti as a thing had registered to me at that age yet. What did happen in that moment is my mind got bent into an unnatural direction that it had never experienced before. To say my mind was blown is an understatement.
As time elapsed and summer gave way to fall so did my utter confusion about what I saw. From that day forward my eyes were helplessly fixed on scanning the environment around me for graffiti. It's like that moment seared a vision into my soul that can never be unseen or removed. From then on, I would find myself in what would start to feel like predestined moments. The first day of 8th grade for example, when I saw these wildstyle letters done with white out pen on a kids backpack, I was obsessed and had to ask him about it. That one comment turned in to a best friend that I would end up having countless adventures with over the next two decades of our lives. One after another events like this would unravel in this very city I am writing this from right now.
This city, Tacoma, Washington has qualities entrenched so deeply in me that many things about myself just wouldn't be there if it wasn't for her. I am so grateful for the many experiences I can reflect back on and all the incredible people I feel fortunate to have met along the path in this unique city. In the long run, I have no idea what my contribution could be to Tacoma. How could I give back? It's something I've never considered until now. I have no ambitious goals or intentions to even do something like that. I just want to continue to create and connect with my neighbors in this place we all call home. Really I just want to be another one of those people in the community who people see and say "Oh yea man, that's Jared or Rats.." or whatever nickname I've gone by and say, "Yea man dude's cool, that dudes the homie". Something along those lines just feels really good to me..
Love yall, God Bless..