I had a very unusual life. My dad died of a heart attack when I was two, my mom was mentally ill, I was raised in foster homes. I had a really painful childhood, and then I went to college and met up with kids who didn’t get me—and I didn’t get them because they were all Long Island Republicans. And I didn’t know at the time that I’d eventually meet my tribe, that eccentric people were out there (especially in Troy) and that I’d eventually be okay.
In fact, just the other day, a college friend reached out to me on Facebook. We had been best friends in college—we both met because we were both in theater, but then we had a falling out and I hadn’t seen her in twenty years. Turns out she just worked on a documentary about foster kids. She wrote me, "I feel like I owe you an apology because I didn’t understand you. I didn’t understand how most foster kids don’t graduate high school much less college. I didn’t realize how accomplished you were. Even though I thought you were amazing, a lot of your behaviors didn’t make sense to me before, and now I just feel like I wasn’t as understanding as I am now."
And I told her that I had come to realize that just because I had this Dickensonian upbringing didn’t mean that I’m the only one walking around in pain. Just because people were raised in suburbia or whatever doesn’t mean there’s not alcoholism, mental illness, incest, sibling rivalry, all kinds of difficult things. And people from backgrounds much less difficult on paper than mine kill themselves. You just don’t know. But thanks to her I’m a lot less self-absorbed than I used to be.
There’s this common core of humanity in us all, which is important to keep in mind—especially in this election cycle. Because it’s easy to demonize people, but when you get where people are coming from, what they’re willing to overlook and what they’re afraid of, you start to realize that those people fell in love, they got their heart broken, their parents may be sick, they may be a single parent, they don’t have money. People are struggling. Our common humanity holds us all together. Everyone has pain and needs love.