Greetings! My name is Thomas Jackson Park.
I was born in 1971 on the American Air Base in Okinawa.
A year later my parents and I moved to California, where my sister was born.
I had, to my memory, a blissful early childhood, living with my immediate family in a variety of nice houses in the MidWestern U.S.A..
When I was about 7 years old, my parents divorced. They filed for joint custody. My father remarried.
Shortly afterwards, Dad obtained full custody of my sister and myself, and he, she, and our new stepfamily moved to Maryland, then returning to the MidWest 2 years later.
I stuggled during these years, having a tumultuous relationship with my stepfamily. When I was about to enter high school, I asked my father if my sister and I could move in with our Mother.
At the time of high school, I was healthy in most ways, though under it all, perhaps not emotionally. I had developed into an excellent student. As a Junior, I received the highest ACT score in the state of Missouri, and graduated from my class of around 500 students in the third-place position.
My Father, continuing to be supportive, financed my admission and attendance to a premier university, Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.
I had everything I needed in life, when I left home.
At first, in Evanston, things went well. My grades were good, and I made a great group of friends.
My life took a turn for the worse when I began to squander my scholastic standing and good health, experimenting with drugs.
I imbibed large quantities of marijuana and lsd during college, gradually falling into isolation and private struggle. I managed to graduate in 1993 anyway, with a fair gradepoint average. But something had gone wrong.
In 1995, I begged my Father to return home. I had lost my job at a cafe, and had taken out a loan, which I was unable to repay. I could not afford to continue to survive in Chicago.
My parents felt that I was not the same somehow, and took me to a psychiatrist. The doctor ran some tests and concluded that I had paranoid schizophrenia.
After a year with my Father and his wife, I ran away, back to Chicago.
I lasted only a short time there, having a hard time keeping work, and trying to live off my meds. At one point, I found myself working at a day-to-day factory job. I would carpool with a group of workers to various industrial plants, performing menial jobs. I was essentially fired from this type of work, as well.
My mother and her husband took me in for a year on their farm. I got back in shape, physically, but continued to struggle emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
I moved in with my sister and her then-time husband around the turn of the millenium. I stayed in their basement, and began writing electronic music on a PC computer.
After about a year I moved into my own apartment. I had a psychiatrist and a case manager. The general idea then for many mentally ill people was to provide them with some degree of independence.
This began a decade long period where I survived, but in greatly reduced fashion. I was able to visit my family periodically, but I had very little money, and spent most of my time on the computer, composing and sharing music.
My interests drove me further from family. I got by on food stamps, consuming frozen burritos and cheap whiskey. I waited anxiously every month for my disability check to arrive. I created literally thousands of pieces of music.
In 2008, my casewoker convinced me to seek employ. I began as a volunteer at a local library.
Two years afterwards, I took on a paid position, as a shelver there.
In 2012, I met a woman at a roller skating party with one of my co-workers. Her name was Torrey.
We began having a romantic relationship, and we were married, in front of about 100 of our family and friends.
I went from being a shelver to a clerk at the library. Torrey and I moved into a small rental house, were we lived with our 2 cats.
As I continued working and living with Torrey, my mental condition slowly improved. I was promoted several times, and became a computer assistant, travelling between various branches of the library. Torrey motivated me to get my driver’s license, the first one in decades.
She and I moved into a beautiful house in the Tower Grove South neighborhood of Saint Louis. Our first 2 cats passed away, and we obtained a bonded pair, Tobi and Dylan.
By this time, I was off of nearly all of my benefits. I asked my psychiatrist if I could reduce my medication, and she agreed. I whittled my dosage down to a very small, almost nominal amount.
About 2 weeks ago, I found myself in a barber’s chair for the first time in over 20 years. I had been so poor I could not afford to do anything other than shave my head with clippers. I looked into the mirror as the barber worked on my hair.
I was now middle-aged, well dressed and calm. I was married, employed, and well-balanced.
Truly I believe that I was like the prodigal son– having squandered my inherited attributes, and , years later, with God’s grace, moving back to my proverbial ancestral home.
And I do thank God for that.