Austen was born 30 years ago today on September 26, 1991. As a child, he had many birthday parties with friends and family. As he grew older, the day was always special but the birthday celebrations were fit in between soccer and hockey games. Then more long distance celebrations as he went to college, although for his 21st birthday, I did make a special trip to Bloomington, Indiana for a birthday dinner. And when he lived in the condo with us in Evanston, we did birthday dinners in Chicago after work.
Now, as the birthdays come around each year, I look through photo albums and his writings, pulling out photos, marking passages, finding words I don’t remember seeing, a flurry of moments and memories. I share some of them with you here. When I get to this point, I have gone through a myriad of emotions and feelings but I do come out on the other side feeling calm and ready to move forward with a smile on my face. Like he wrote, ‘This moment is a gift,’ and what we do with our moments, makes all the difference.
I am Austen Brooks. I’m ten years old. I love sports and I’m pretty good. My favorites are soccer and hockey. I live in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. I have two cats who are mixed breeds and a dog who is a beagle. I them them all. I have one brother who is 13 and one sister who is 15. My favorite book series is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I also love to write and maybe that’s what I’ll end up doing.Austen Berj Brooks, Summer 2001
This moment is a gift. Life is so amazing, that’s the thing we all get to take part in this life but some people don’t understand. And you treat life like a lover who just can’t figure out how to be steady in a relationship.Austen Berj Brooks, October 11, 2010
I am. Still here.
Can you tell me what there is to fear?
Belief, it’s a weird thing, it can empower and destroy, lead one to kill or sacrifice, and if we have it in ourselves…the sky is the limit. Where did my belief go, it tumbled through the grinder of life, it was lost, it was — fully healthy when I was younger, I thought I was going to do something. What that was… well I am unsure, but I was going to be good at it. Then everything falls apart, and I mean everything. What to do now, where to go, it is up to me if I choose to embrace it.Austen Berj Brooks, 2012
Well, here is what I do know. I am unique, I am capable, I love myself for being a dreamer, a philosopher, a challenger of convention. These are my great strengths, which I interpret as weakness, my deep inward life. Introverts are looked down on in my society. People are afraid to look inward, but this is where I’ve spent my entire life.Austen Berj Brooks, 2012
It’s all a big fucking mirage. Wishing, thinking, wondering what will make me happy, make me whole. Life is about experiencing. More to the point, life is about being. I have to be patient. Honestly, I’m still figuring out who I am. A single day or event does not indicate what I’m about or who I am. You can learn from everything, the good, and especially the bad. My core is burning with fire and energy. It shines and flickers and flows. Beautiful colors emanate in all directions. Brilliant greens, reds, yellows, oranges. Who I am at my core is great. Unfortunately there are layers and layers of programming resting on top of that shining center. I really need to strip it all away. Do things my own way. Know what kind of person I am. A good, generous person. Not someone people should be afraid of or unsure about. I am what I am. What ingredient is missing here. What will the catalyst have to be? Love. Love for myself and others. There’s too much suspicion, misunderstanding, thoughts lost in translation. I am this whole, peaceful, mystical human being. I have a body, a mind and a good soul. I can be happy without being sarcastic. I can be genuine and strong. I need to take a step or two back.
Where I’ve come from is a bottomless pit. The climb was long and treacherous. I slipped many times. I got up and kept climbing. Now I can see the sun’s light shining down on me, but the world still feels inaccessible. I’m still not to the top. My eyes look up to the stars and I try to grab them.
I question everything I do. You have to be strong in your position, in your path. Purify your soul. Open your eyes. Let go of who you used to be and embrace who you will be.Austen Berj Brooks, Journey Through Sobriety, June 29, 2013
Austen, when I look up at the stars, I think I see you shining brightly. Love you always and forever.