LETTER TO ME By Arron Witkus
TABLE OF CONTENTS PAgES 1-2 INTrO PAgES 3-6 ChAPTEr 1 PAgES 7-11 ChAPTEr 2 PAgES 8-12 ChAPTEr 3 PAgES 13- 16 ChAPTEr 4 PAgES 17-18 ABOuT ThE AuThOr
Intro Music is such a beautiful thing. Theater is a beautiful thing. Sports are a beautiful thing. Three aspects of my life I have been taking for granted my whole life. That all changed recently when I read a book called Easter Rising by Michael Patrick Macdonald; the book is about Macdonald and his life growing up as a young boy from South Boston. While reading this book I realized something, Mac and I are two very similar people. As young boys we both went through the traumatic experiences that would altar our lives forever. Sending our lives down paths that may have surprised us a little bit, younger than most we had to create an identity for ourselves as men. These were not easy times for both of us, dealing with things such as death, conflict and then having one “out” that was always there for us. My town was a place that I loved and always felt a part of. Where I come from helped me realized the effect those three things had on my life. Sports were always a major part of my life but I always had other aspirations such as theater. The thing about acting that always intrigued me was that for an hour and a half maybe two you get to act like someone completely different. It was never easy to juggle both there were a couple of conflicts. But whenever there was a conflict that’s when music came playing. Country music is my genre of choice I could listen to it all day long. For me though it has a deeper meaning when I listen to country music I look at the lyrics and look for lessons to learn from. Mac on the other hand does not like where he comes from. He does not want to
be just another kid from southie. He goes through many deaths and hardships as a boy. But found a safe haven in music. His genre of choice is punk rock. Now this genre is a very different type of music. But for Mac it was exactly what he wanted, in punk music the main focus is being different and out of the “norm” perfect for him. Mac was out on his own while I had my dad who was pushing me to be a better person but more so a better man. Mac was looking for that “out” people screaming and always talking about being and individual drew him in I can see why. Mac and I have finished in the same place. We both have an appreciation for the finer things in life. Our Lives had us slow down and take a look at what we need to focus on and what is really important in life, not to be caught up in all the little things that aren’t going to matter later on in life.
CHAPTER 1 This Is Where I Come From
I love my town. There have been so many times where I can look back and I know this is supposed to be my home, where I need to be. My town is the perfect size; it is not too small nor too large. My town is full of diversity. My peers are also perfect because no one here is the same. Why do I love these qualities about my town so much? I have many reasons as to why I love my town, although one reason does stand out the most. In order to understand why this experience is so special to me you have to know my background. I have been an athlete ever since I was around four years old. In middle school there was not a weekend or day that I was not playing football, basketball, and volleyball. Once high school rolled around being a three-sport athlete became my life. The only exception was when I broke out of my comfort zone and wanted to try something different. My junior year of high school I took an intro to acting class because I wanted to see how interesting acting and theater could be. The first day of class I walked in thinking I was the man because I thought acting was easy. I was right for a while until we had to perform a specific scene. This day I discovered, along with the rest of my
class, my hidden talent. The teacher asked me to stay after class. At first I thought I was in trouble until she asked me to audition for the competition play. The competition play is a performance they take very seriously around Massachusetts. My response was “What the hell would she want me in a play for?” When I got home I told my parents the news and they encouraged me to do it. They thought it would be a great experience for me. I thought why not try something new. Walking into the audition I had never been so nervous for anything. Through the nerves I nailed the audition and got the part of Chad in the play “Almost Maine”. This character and the scene I was in were interesting to say the least. Chad and Randy are two buddies down on their luck with the ladies. They compete to see who has had the worse date ever and randy won. Randy got to pick what we did the next night. In the scene we sit starring up at the sky. I began to think about why nothing makes sense in this world besides him anymore. This makes both of us very uncomfortable so we say goodbye. As I am walking away I fall to the ground like I got shot which was me falling in love with my buddy. Randy became mad when he noticed my feelings toward him were more than just friends. He was unsure how to react so he said we were not friends anymore. As he walks away telling me this Randy gets shot by the same gun I just did a minute ago. Months of practice go by and it has come down to the first round of the competition. We nailed it and had fun doing it. Our play received the only standing ovation of the night. We moved on to the next round. Two weeks later we go to semi finals. Only one play from Chelmsford high school has ever moved on to the semi finals
and that was a long time ago. We were so anxious and knew we had something special about our play. When it was our time to move on we once again had the only standing ovation of the night. The judges said it was so mature and so real so we move on to the next round. It all came down to the state finals we had one show left. Our three months of hard work came down to this one show. The first scene went by and it was flawless. Now it was Max’s and my turn and we had never performed like that before. As we walked off the stage together the crowd gave our scene only a standing ovation. There was about 5,000 people standing and cheering for our show. As I looked in the crowd on my way off stage I caught my friend’s in the front row. There are many memorable football, basketball, and volleyball games I have played in. I have played in sold out gymnasiums and stadiums, I have played in state tournament games, and thanksgiving football games. The state final was most memorable because my friends and family were all there to support me along with the school and town. That was when I knew I belonged in Chelmsford. My town is very small. So when an athlete try’s something on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum people hear about it quick. The families of my friends from sports teams were coming up to me saying how impressed they were that I was able to excel in acting as well as sports. Even the most diehard Chelmsford sports fans would give me praise and it made feel like I really belonged in my town. One time in particular has stuck with me till this day. The dean that I had freshman year who had retired was a huge football fan. He was always giving us
pregame speeches and always letting us know he thought we were the best team in the state. He was back at the school one day and we crossed paths and he stopped me. He told me “it’s good to see a football player branching out! Everyone always gets the wrong idea with you guys.” When he said that I was shocked such a praise from such a prominent figure in my town. Every time I think of that story I think yes I knew I belonged here. With all the compliments saying how it was great that I could juggle the two activities and still succeed, they didn’t see how truly hard it was to be a part of both. I am a person who does not like to break commitments that may be because I don’t like to disappoint anyone it’s just not part of my nature I just don’t like to do it. With being a part of two very big commitments it has its up sides, but there is always potential for conflict.
Chapter 2 Getting Pulled In Two Different Directions Since I was a young boy Sports have always been a huge part of my life. Being out side with some sort of ball in my hand was all I needed to have a blast. At age five I started playing baseball and hockey; these were my first organized team sports. I was born into an athletic family. My mom played softball until she was 35 and my dad was a three-sport athlete in high school. I think he is one of the biggest Bruinâ€™s fans in the world. My extended family has also been involved with sports, making this a family bond. When I entered high school I was still very involved with sports, every day I had something related to do with either football, basketball, or baseball. It all started to seem boring and repetitive to me; it felt as if I was missing out on this whole other world outside of sports. I didnâ€™t want to just go to school, then practice, and then home. I needed a change. The theatre was my change; it was the other world I was missing. As a junior, I took an acting class and immediately was drawn into it. Acting was so different from anything I had ever done. I was not being told to run faster or hit the ball harder, I was just told to look deep inside myself and pull emotions out for
emotional recall. This intrigued me so much. Everyone was so nice, even if someone screwed up, not one person made fun of him/her or got mad. Instead everyone was very supportive saying “it’s ok don’t worry about it you did fine.” Even if it was horrible my peers were still supportive and encouraging. This positivity was so different to me; I had never been around so much support. Even while we were hanging around waiting for the teacher everyone would be talking about a play they just saw or how the band played at halftime during the football game. I was so used to calling each other names and pulling a prank on someone on my team. With my new found interest with theatre and the offer from the acting teacher I decided it was time to try to perform in a live show. These two extremes in my life worked well together. After a tough day at school, practice was exactly what I needed to get out all my frustration. After my practice I had rehearsal for the show and that would calm me down; it was the perfect balance. On the court or field I was Arron Witkus a three-sport standout athlete. On stage I was Chad a 25-year-old woodsman from Maine who had a great simple life but was down on his luck with the ladies because he didn’t smell to good. If you take away the nice people this is the sole reason why I fell in love with theatre, because I can be someone else. Theatre was an escape from the real world and from myself. For example, I just had a tough game/practice and my coach was on my case, which was all forgotten as soon as I put that plaid jacket on and got into my character. Chad did not have any pressure on him; the only tough part of his life was he was not to good at cleaning himself. Soon I began to have two groups of friends too my theater friends
and my sports friends. If I did not want to go to a party I had the option to go see a play like Cabaret, The Laramie Project, or an original play a school around us was performing. Theatre was not always sunshine and rainbows. With both sports and theatre there was a huge level of commitment to both, as in there is going to be a conflict in schedules. This happened once and it was one of the toughest days of my life. The night my basketball team played our rivals was also the same night as opening night at the high school. Peers were making fun of me just like the main character from High School Musical. Unlike the movie I could pull off playing in the game and somehow getting back to the show just before I was about to perform. I had to choose which one was more important and at that time I chose acting. I did not have an understudy and the director took a big chance with casting me. I had a certain obligation and I could not let her or the cast down. Surprisingly, my basketball coach understood the situation. He said the game was not that important, as we already clinched a spot in the playoffs. Balancing two groups of friends was becoming a little difficult. I started to see myself less interested in partying and going to sporting events, and more interested in seeing shows and hanging with the theatre kids. My teammates did not like that at all; they always questioned me on whom my friends really were and if I ditched them for the theatre â€œweirdosâ€?. The night of my most important show, the state finals for the competition play, I wanted nothing more than to have my teammates there to see why this made me so happy. I thought maybe they would be my true friends by showing up.
Making the hour drive to Boston and getting there early so they could sit front row center just to see me act meant the world to me. After that some of them even came to some shows with me, but I made the biggest adjustment realizing who my true friends really are. The theatre kids will always be there for me and we still go see shows today. With the conflict of acting and sports in my life it was making things stressful on me, this is when I started to develop anxiety. When I first started having these nerves I didnâ€™t know what they were and I would just push them aside. But when they started getting more serious it started getting harder and harder to push them to the wayside. With the play over my stress levels had been going down but the nerves were getting worse and worse. I was starting to come down with a really severe cold and I was starting to miss basketball practice. When Friday came along I was in no shape to even go to school so I had to miss the game. When Saturday rolled around I was feeling even worse but I had purchased Celtics vs. Lakers tickets for me and my girlfriend. My mind set was Iâ€™m not moving Iâ€™m just sitting so I should be fine. When I got to the game everything was not fine the loud noise from the announcer and the fans screaming was legitimately scaring me and we had to leave the game. While we were the train the feelings got worse my arms were getting numb and the walls around me were getting closer and closer, the more people piled into the train the more my nerves got worse.. I was nowhere near my stop but we had to get off this train in a random city outside of Boston. We had to call 911 because neither of my parents were picking up their phones.
With myself calmed down in a Medford hospital bed they told me what happened, I had a full on Anxiety attack. They said with all the stress I had been putting on myself and I had no way of releasing it I had a mental breakdown. I was now attending counselor twice a week trying to get rid of it or at least suppress it nothing was working. One day I had the talk of my life with my dad. He told me what relieved his stress was music. “Music?” I thought no way could noise calm me down. He started going into to detail about listening to the lyrics and meaning behind all the “noise”. As I started listening to more music I really connected to country music. In my eye country music says what everyone else wants to say but just won’t or can’t. This was it this was how I was going to beat the anxiety the stress everything that came my way. This is how I am going to get through challenging times; this was how I was going to find my identity. So when Mac started using punk music to get away from the southie life and his crazy family. I couldn’t quite connect to those problems specifically but I can see how it helped him.
Who Are You? Cause I Know Who I Am
When MacDonald was first searching for his identity he shaved his head. At first when he came out of the bathroom Kevin said, “who fucked up your head?”(MacDonald 19). Macdonald had cut his hair into “random near bald spots and spiky clumps(MacDonald 19).” MacDonald did not want to fall into the stereotype of a Barry Manilow look-a-like. MacDonald thought he was being unique and did not want to be labeled as “normal.” MacDonald and I are similar in the way that we both change our looks to begin a new identity. I used to change my hair all the time from a long, shaggy hairstyle to a clean cut buzz cut. It was a way to express my self just like MacDonald is trying to do. He wants to express that he is no typical Southey teen through his hair and the rest of his look. Along with his hairstyle comes confusion. He does not know where he should belong at first. Although he did know where he did not want to belong, which is a very important lead for a teen when he is trying to build a personal identity. At school his peers called him names and received attention from Ginny, the lanky, senior, punk rocker. All this happened as a result of his ne appearance. He noticed progress towards his new identity once Ginny noticed him and his new appearance. After detention MacDonald had a few hours to kill so he began to hang out in this new wave store, he would go to this store and listen to records. This is another
major point in Macdonald’s journey to find his identity. In the book he talks about listening to the lyrics of songs. The first artist that he really talks about is Debbie Boone as he is listening to the record and describes how it makes him feel he says, “the sacrilegious mention of Jesus was enough to make my hair stand on end. I wanted more(MacDonald 25).” He realized music most people would find vulgar now invigorates him and makes him feel alive. As he hangs out more in the store he listens’ to a different album and finds out what music really defines him and what makes him happy. I made a connection with MacDonald’s music because I underwent the same process. I found I had a special admiration for country music. My music defines who I am as a person. I listen to country for many reasons but the biggest reason why is because I can really connect to the lyrics they talk about what is going on in the world and that’s what I need to heart, same goes for MacDonald while he was in the music store and the song boredom comes on and he thinks about how bored he was “wandering Boston trying to kill time. It’s either that or go back to the project, with the same old fights, same old wheeling and dealing on the corner, same old fears about the bigger world(MacDonald 37).” MacDonald related to the Punk-Rock genre just like I relate to country. Why MacDonald was trying to find his new identity, he not only changed his music genre but also attended late night concerts. The importance of concerts for MacDonald was all f the strangers around. I can relate to this very well because I did this same thing. I wore different clothes hung out with different people and went to not concerts, but plays instead of sporting events. MacDonald shows that he is serious about change. He does not want to fall into a Southey teen typical routine. I felt the
same way as MacDonald; I did not want to only be an athlete or a jock. I want my life to have depth just like MacDonald has. He is a young teen but mature for his age. It takes a lot to step out of your element and into something different. MacDonald handles this journey to discover who he really is with composure and thrill. I agree with the decisions made and how they were handled. He is looking for more out of life and it just so happens he can also create a change in the world with these actions. His hair may not look normal but that does not matter as long as he has confidence in himself. He might listen to music people do not agree with but he likes it. He might have left his element but that is because he needs more answers. There is a famous quote that I think MacDonald would really like, “one day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” By Gerard Way I think he would have appreciated that quote because he is doing what is making him happy and what makes him feel like his true self. Now with Macdonald fully into music let’s get a little deeper into the music. How can a person put so much into music? It’s easy listen to how me and Mac did it there is one song that is my go to when I am feeling anxious I put on the song Sounds Like Life To Me by Darryl Worley. This song talks about a dad who is having a lot of anxiety about everything that is happening in his life his wife is pregnant and they don’t have money and he is feeling the pressure of LIFE. But his buddy is right there to telling him your caught up in all the tragedy your mind is making everything seem so much worse. that’s exactly what I do when I think I cant stop thinking about the mind and it consumes me. But Mac needs to stop thinking about his life so he listens to punk.
Music Can Sooth The Soul At the beginning of the book Mac experiences the death of his brother Davie, who committed suicide and jumped off a complex building roof. After this incident Mike begins acting tough at school as well as in front of his family because he believes that is what a Macdonald is supposed to do in that situation. He also starts skipping school because he is avoiding what the kids will think and say to him. While skipping school he gets into punk music hoping he’ll find an identity for himself. This is a very confusing point in his life as it is for most kids, they go through the period of time where they try and identify who they want to be. In my opinion this happens with every kid whether it is consciously or subconsciously. In Mac’s case he is doing it consciously but with a subliminal message behind it. Mac can’t let his brother’s death consume him, and the message he receives form this is to continuously move forward In an interview Mac expressed how important punk music was to him, "I found a music that was expressing the things I wished I could express," said [Michael Patrick MacDonald]. "The anger, and angst, that I was feeling, I could vicariously express through the anger and alienation of punk. Like the button that said `In order to create, you must destroy,' subconsciously I was destroying everything I had come from, erasing as much as I could: South Boston, poverty, Irish heritage, all of that. I was doing things you wouldn't recommend to a kid, like being 13 years old in underground clubs with 20- and 21-year-olds. But it was saving my life." Having this interview backs up my last lines of my previous paragraph. As stated before we could infer from the book that he is using the music as an outlet but he will never admit to it. In this interview not only does he admit it
but also he says that the music was even saving his life. Mac used punk rock in a very interesting way yet he did not allow it to completely consume his life. He used it as a starting point/gateway for everything he wanted to become. As we read more of the book we learned that Mike is not listening to strictly punk rock anymore. Instead he is expanding his music variety while listening to reggae and other genres of music that fit his mood in that point of time. In an earlier paper I talked about my connection with country music and how I can connect to the lyrics because they are about everyday life. Well just like Mac I started listening to different genres of music instead of just country I would listen to anything that was related to my life and how I was feeling at that point. One of the last turning points in Mac’s life I believe was when he went to Ireland and found out that Danny had passed away. Mac’s Ireland trip was eye opening for him to see where he came from and how nice the people were. He wouldn’t have gone there if his grand father didn’t make him promise to do so. Mac was able to learn a lot about the history of Ireland and their struggles against the English. At this point Mac is learning that he does have a place where he is from and Southie isn’t the only place for him. Although Mac went through one hell of a ride to get to adulthood he managed to make it. Through deaths of his brothers, dad, and a close friend it was tough for him. Also having his sister be inches from losing her life, he took every opportunity to grow from it. I say you need experiences in life to help determine who you are. But I think one of the biggest messages within this book is not to be defined by them but instead to define yourself by how you react to them. Also how you handle yourself in a time of
adversity. After Mac experienced his brother Davie’s death instead of changing him for the worse it helped him mature into a wise grown man. My favorite quote of the book is the last one a when his mom says, “Let’s keep moving,” that quote sums up Macs entire journey to man hood, to just keep moving forward. This demonstrates Macs continuous adventure starting as a confused teenager and transforming into a grown man who is able to identify himself as well as help others. Manhood is something young boys look forward to. Mac and I got to manhood quicker then most. I get reminders everyday of how far I have come from the kid who was scared at a basketball game from loud noises. When I’m stuck in a tough situation I think “sounds like life to me”. My aunt passed away when I was an 18 year old kid struggling to get by in school. My anxiety came back I was in a tough spot help my god father who has done anything I have asked of him, or help myself. As a man I decided to help my uncle he has been there for me I’m going to man up for him. So after my uncle was back on to his feet. I looked back at all the conversations we had and I realized he had helped me more then I helped him. He said “Arron she’s not gone I feel her everyday” he goes on to tell me the greatest advice I have ever heard in my life to date. “Some people who have passed are more alive than those who are living.” Damn is he right. I’m not going to let anxiety get to me life throws you curves you have to learn how to swerve. Me I have swung and missed a couple of times but I’m not reminiscing. Music sooths my soul like no other and right after my uncle told me that I cranked up the country music and we hugged cause we know we can’t stop living.
About The Author:
Arron Witkus was born April 27th 1993 in Lowell, MA. As a kid Arron was very energetic and active in the sports community. With a strong immediate family and extended family Arron had a swell environment to grow up in. When he got to high school he went through some challenging times. These times called on Arron to grow up maybe a little bit faster then he wanted to. With the help of country music Arron transformed into the man he wanted to be. Arron credits most of his morals to his biggest role model his dad. In his mid teen years some of Arron challenges were having to deal with deaths to friends and family, he also getting very sick and developed anxiety. Although this Roadblock held him back for a couple of years Arron fought through the adversity. When he was 18 he decided college was not right for him, so he enlisted into the Marine Corps, he left for boot camp Sept 5 th 2011 but was marked with fraudulent enlistment discharge. He came home and enrolled in Nichols College
for the spring semester and is a proud member of the Rugby Team. Arron is still attending Nichols College today and resides in Dudley, MA.