What is a tragedy? A car accident? A school shooting? An abduction? A natural disaster? A Shakespearian story ending in ill-fated lovers’ suicides? The dictionary defines tragedy as “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress…” or if we want to take the more theatrical route “a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending…”. Where is the line drawn between tragedy and depressing? Is tragedy an alternate reality while depressing is too much reality? Is there a line between the two? It seems to me that a tragedy is depressing and for whatever reason, we are so often entertained by others’ tragedies. Is it the drama attached to a tragedy that pulls us in? We seem to enjoy “putting things in perspective” and being able to find comfort in the fact that someone else’s life is worse than our own. I’ll be the first to admit I too, have been sucked into the entertainment of a so-called tragedy. Some of my favorite shows are Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. Some may say these shows are disturbing, depressing, or even morbid but all of these terms are rather synonymous with tragedy for me. Tragedy has been “lightened” by us but in all reality it’s right there on level with down right depressing.
Tragedy took a whole different meaning for me when I was fourteen. I thought my life would be one string of events that caused great suffering, destruction, and distress. I thought it would have an unhappy ending. It hasn’t though. So why is my life continually labeled by many as a tragedy? I certainly don’t find it depressing. My story is still being written and the future seems much brighter than the past. Maybe it will bring you comfort, maybe it will bring you tears, maybe laughter, anger, or a myriad of emotions. It is certainly dramatic, but it is no tragedy.
It’s hard to know where to begin. Do I begin with a bang and grab your attention quickly? Or do I ease you in and take on you a chronological journey from the beginning to the “end” thus far? Let’s start from the beginning.
The first things that typically come to mind when anyone learns I am from Kansas are tornados, sunflowers, farms, vast expanses of flat lands, and of course, The Wizard of Oz. If I would have been paid to hear the various phrases from strangers, new acquaintances, and even old friends such as “you’re not in Kansas anymore”, “follow the yellow brick road”, or “there’s no place like home” I would never have needed student loans, or college for that matter. These are particularly popular when I am lost in any area not within the state of Kansas itself. Add to these phrases the fact that I have brown hair and people seem to see the perfect equation for Dorothy. Mind you I have never owned a dog of any kind, nor have I ever named a pet Toto. I also do not have a habit of knocking myself out during tornadoes and dreaming of places where the majority of the inhabitants cannot grow above four feet tall.
I escaped the “typical” Kansas upbringing (meaning, I did not grow up on a farm in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cows) due to the fact that I was born in the lively city of Lawrence. It does not take long to realize Lawrence is essentially it’s own little world within the state. Just about any stereotype or “norm” within the state is broken in this small city. Flat? Hills. Republican? Hello no. Agricultural? Not really. Tornadoes? Okay, yes. Drive down Massachusetts street any given time during the year and you are likely to see at least one sign that says “free hemp”, a handful of posters encouraging the legalization of marijuana, many Pr-Obama posters, tattoos, dreadlocks, colored hair, and individual styles for clothing taste. This is not to say it is a pot-smoking hippy town, but it is certainly not the bible thumping, agricultural oasis many people expect. I myself am somewhere in between bible thumping and living solely off of “peace and love”. Much of the individuality and uniqueness of Lawrence is thanks to the University of Kansas (KU) being our main boasting point and something anyone who is a native “Jayhawker” can agree on despite any other difference in opinion.
Although I did not grow up going to every single basketball game (that’s right, not football) or attending every other sporting event or camp offered, I was still raised to be a Jayhawk fan through and through. We could not afford season tickets but that did not stop us from cheering from our home while watching on the television. Both of my parents attended and graduated from KU. My mom had been employed on campus at Watson Library for years when everything…happened. We’ll get to what “happened” in a moment. Let’s start by giving a description of my parents. First, we will begin with Mary ‘Mershon’ Miller who was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1957. She was small, very small, mild mannered, somewhat shy, and very kind. She was also incredibly smart. I still do not know exactly how smart she was on a scale of genius to mega-mind but I would imagine she was somewhere in that range. How someone like my dad managed to snag her is beyond me. That is not to say he himself was not intelligent. He was quite the mastermind but in a much different regard. Martin “Marty” Kenneth Miller was was born in Champagne, IL (I believe) in 1958. He was a man of medium height and build, fairly attractive appearance, charisma, and charm. He was also a man who loved power and manipulation.