From Fear to Growth, Step & Repeat

October 24th 2016

Creating content that you are okay sharing with the world is often times inhibited by the initial leap, that first moment of exposure. I have spent years trying to understand whether or not the world has any interest in what I have to say, if I have content that expands the human experience to a point worthy enough to move from the odd twitches of my own internal dialogue to a coherent narrative that tickles the familiarity of humanness. Fear.

But what if that’s not what it’s about, what if in all actuality it is the selfish side of it all that really matters. What if I honestly let myself be okay with this being for myself? Journaling publicly allows growth, it moves our deepest fears or loves from the hidden canvas of our subconscious and allows that internal chatter to release. Moreover, through exposure we challenge ourselves to meet the expectations or brave the fears that our innerselves have created. This exercise invites encouragement or criticism, it breeds accountability, it opens an avenue to translate words and thoughts to action. Growth.

In this first attempt to share, I am going to touch the core of the positive side, the trip through unconditional love. There is nowhere better to begin this journey then with the two people who enabled it all, the two who are the foundation to my very existence. An insight into our souls is often revealed by those whom we surround ourselves with. Motivation, character, emotion, success, health, dreams are all immediate products of our choices of influence, but ultimately there is a relationship we don’t get to choose – our parents, our creators. My story begins because as the late Randy Pausch describes in his talk and book The Last Lecture … I won the parent lottery. In the complete entropy of the universe I was gifted the most fundamentally positive foundation. Love. Unconditionally.

In my baby pictures I am depicted with a head full of dark hair and dark skin and for much of my life I have wondered whether someone took pictures of the wrong kid in the hospital or if my Mom had a secret rendezvous with a Latin Lover. It would potentially explain me being one of very few Caucasian, Jewish Rafaels that roams the earth. I don’t know what happened to the black hair, I guess it fell out, and as for most, my early childhood is but a faint and wispy remembrance of feelings and the occasional place. When I walk anywhere with my Mom or Dad apart from each other, I am told that I deeply resemble each of them individually – physically, emotionally, creatively. Latin lover theory debunked.

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Rafael was an archangel entrusted with the art of healing and to go further, in Christianity he was cited as stirring the water at the healing pool of Bethesda.Though my earthly energy will never reside in any monotheistic manipulation message, what I can tell you about my early years on this earth is that my parents, Jim Bergstrom and Elana Schwartz, taught me the healing power of being amidst the most beautiful nuances of this planet. The picture most remembered from my birth place of Hood River, Oregon is my transformed bright yellow locks crawling through an equally yellow field of flowers under the watch of Mt. Adams. That picture has rested on a book shelf in my Mom and Dad’s room over the course of moves from Hood River to Tucson, Arizona, through 4 homes in Sacramento, California, 6 abodes on California’s Monterey Peninsula and now settled in not far from where it began in a “pod” above the lively streets of Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District. Throughout these wanders we have, as a small family, always shared in each of our habitat’s natural wonders, grounding us in a connection to each place, in a love for the interaction of ecosystems, and in awe of the natural resources that sustain our existence. Respect. Admiration.

Influence is the underlying current that moves a human through its evolutionary lifeline, guiding transitions that manifest as falls from metaphorical cliffs or leaps over brick walls that once seemed too tall to ascend or too dense to knock down (another Pauschism at work). My parents have always been a trampoline underneath my clumsy giant steps; they encouraged me to do things that I might trip and crack my head open on because they would always be there to spot me and make sure the bleeding was clotted before I passed out. I fell down the steps when I was two and cracked my head open… a scar later, no problema. Three decades later… the man is just now beginning to take full form – from the wilderness of hippy Jew camp in Yosemite; moving to school districts that accelerated growth through public speaking, radio and television, photography, advanced placement curriculum, and involvement; the seams of a baseball being placed in my grip; a university education coupled with the leadership of college sports; opportunities to use the baseball’s seams abroad – Germany, Australia, Israel, Bridgeport(!?! – there is another full story here); falling hard with injury; picking up the pieces to return to that very element that the healing began with – a return to wilderness, studying it on an island, living it in the ocean. Here I am. I’ve been spoiled, but not through things, not through capitalistic pressure, but spoiled with opportunity. Dreams.

I must finish, however, not with what Jim & Elana, have done directly for me, but how their goodness and interaction is a conduit for a better world. What I have been witness to throughout my life is a pair of humans who are partners, friends, lovers, motivators to each other, and grounded in altruism – an ability to see things outside of themselves and hearts that feel for all life on this earth. As a kid, like most, I was grossed out by their affection, sometimes sticking a potato between their extended lips to dissuade a kiss, but today when I walk behind them as I click pictures of everything, I can’t help but smile or giggle when my Dad reaches for my Mom’s butt and potches it gently as they walk. Their affection is a gift to the world, one that has made me a lover, a person who falls in love every day. With their love is also high expectation, not of perfection, but that we as humans and me as their son will conduct ourselves with dignity, with an ethical foundation that looks beyond immediate gratification to the consequences of action. But this is not judgement, it’s warmth. I think you will find the warmth in some of the moments that I have frozen of them.

My name is Rafael Dersu Schwartz Bergstrom. I’ve lived in 36 houses or kitchen nooks around the globe. I love telling stories of place, people, and emotion through a lens and now with the addition of written language. I am an avid practitioner of environmental awareness based in an optimism for collective community growth and rooted in us all being engaged in an era of dynamic change. I dream that the intersection of my arts, experience, passion, and love for this earth will ignite a personal and global fire. 

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