Fifty years old and still hereIn an unforeseen calamity of errors, I managed to turn 50 years old last week. Aug. 5, to be precise. In the days preceding the party planned in Santa Clara, I also managed to show symptoms of my age when I spent two days passing kidney stones. Hence, the party is to be rescheduled, time and place to be announced. You are all invited.

The thing I have been marveling about when I reflect on the milestone of a half century on this rock is that I am even here at all. I am only half joking when I say that I did not plan to live this long. And while I will join with my peers in attesting that 50 is not old per se, well, it sure isn’t fucking young anymore.

As a very vocal member of this community, however, I want to express a few things that are a little off cue from my usual forays into the misgivings of the community. You see, those are the things I feel compelled to write about in this publication because that is what I believe the founders of this great land intended with the First Amendment.

But I have lamented over this enough in the past that those who know me are at least aware of my position there.

What may not be known, however — and to be true might be hard to discern given my naturally coarse disposition — is what I’d like to take a few paragraphs to tell you.

When I growing up, I managed to be kicked out of every elementary school I ever attended for what I now understand to be the behavioral issues that are typical of an unmedicated child with ADHD. I say this somewhat facetiously and intend no callousness towards anyone who does or does not use medications to mitigate the condition. For my family, the medication option was not on the table. My mother told me I had been given a gift to use and a weakness to keep it humble.

In any case, at one point in my grammar school life, a teacher had become dissatisfied enough with me to have a meeting with me and my mother. And right there in front of me, she told my mother she thought I was mentally challenged and needed to be in a school for special-needs children. She outlined how I was inattentive, prone to loud and disruptive musings, and generally a poor example of a person.

My face must have been displaying the hurt I was feeling at being singled out by a teacher as an outcast of sorts, because my Irish mother gave that teacher what for and then some.

The entirety of what she said has faded to a single memory of her coming to my defense as any parent should, but one thing that will stand out is this. She said, “You insensitive and impetus child! I will not argue the fact that he is a difficult child to teach. I gave birth to him, I should know. But he is curiously and wonderfully made by the creator himself, and it confounds me that you cannot see that in spite of his challenges he is genuinely just happy to be here.”

This is not a case for or against teachers or an espousal of expertise about ADHD. This is a personal story about myself that offers a glimpse into someone who one might otherwise perceive as generally negative and pissed off.

I have lived in this community for over a decade now and can say without reservation that I am nothing short of happy to be here. I am a harsh critic of it as well as an ardent defender of it; I take both equally seriously, and often they are the same thing. I am naturally gregarious, and while I may on occasion meet a son of a bitch I don’t like, I never meet a stranger.

And I perhaps befuddle a few of my conservative friends because I am that type of treehugger who may just surprise you when I rip the tree out the earth and beat someone with it. Anyone who calls me a liberal pussy has not met me and does so from the comfort of a computer.

Speaking out against injustice and bowing to no decree are not the most predictable things for sure, but I believe they are the essence of all of us who hold liberty dear, no matter what our ideological leanings are. And I try in earnest to keep this in mind when I incite these rigorous dialogues on matters of consequence.

I have met and engaged many of you and will likely continue. And to friends and foe alike, it has been a privilege.

See you out there.

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Dallas Hyland is a professional technical writer, freelance writer and journalist, award-winning photographer, and documentary filmmaker. As a senior writer and editor-at-large at The Independent, Hyland’s investigative journalism, opinion columns, and photo essays have ranged in topics from local political and environmental issues to drug trafficking in Utah. He has also worked the international front, covering issues such as human trafficking in Colombia. His photography and film work has received recognition as well as a few modest awards and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Based in southern Utah, he works tirelessly at his passion for getting after the truth and occasionally telling a good story. On his rare off-days, he can be found with his family and friends exploring the pristine outdoors of Utah and beyond.