I cry a lot.
Like, a lot.
Not in front of people usually, but on my own, the water gates fucking love to open.
I used to hate this. I recently started learning to love it. At first, the problem was that I felt like I had no control over it. Then, I realized I had control over everything that makes me, me. So now, I know when it’s time that I need to separate myself from the pack and have a good cry. It feels right and it’s fulfilling in the grand scheme of things. It honestly just feels like my alone check-in time. It’s the time that no one else is allowed to interrupt, where I get to exist in my own being and check-in with myself over why I feel a certain way. It’s become one of my favorite things that makes me human and makes me feel alive. I feel, I breathe, I live, I cry. I exist. I am openly in a spot that is vulnerable and tangible. And all of those spots matter.
Sometimes I need to sneak away at work or out with friends for a random cry. That’s ok. The way some people need to masturbate in “odd” places or times throughout the day, I may just need to cry. I mean, at least I’m not doing them at the same time… IT WAS ONLY ONCE, GUYS!!!
Finding things I like about myself has been one of my favorite parts of adulting. It took a while, and it took a journey. All of my favorite qualities of myself have come from my mouth. It took a very long time for me to know and admit and proudly say that I’m a very good person. I’m compassionate, I’m loyal, I’m supportive, I’m intelligent, I very genuinely care about other people in a way that as I get older, I realize isn’t as common as I originally thought it was. It continually confuses me that every single human on this planet doesn’t have that mentality, but I appreciate the realization finally, that maybe this approach actually makes me a person to be proud of.
Being human really does consist of these ups and downs, and albeit exhausting, the ride can be somewhat fun when you have even the smallest of victories along the way.
Music has been one of the most significant and constant factors in my overall mental health. My earliest memories are me listening to Motown albums, and early Whitney and MJ albums, and me not being able to sit still, keep my mouth shut, and just feeling feelings of excitement that I literally can not describe. As a child actor growing up, that obsession with music continued, and even as an FT working child actor who legit hated the sound of his own voice always, I could never argue against the love of what the right chords and voices did to me. It made me forget about any trouble I had as a five-year-old, a ten-year-old, a fifteen-year-old, a twenty-year-old, and made me just exist for a period inside of a song. One would think I didn’t have a lot of problems to think about at those young ages, alas, life can be difficult and crazy as fuck, and children aren’t always dealt the fairest of cards, and I definitely did require an escape to deal with certain things and certain experiences. Sometimes checking out is what makes us resilient. Music offered that in ways I couldn’t even process or describe. Watch a child sing and dance to a song that profoundly moves them, and you’ll realize it’s simply one of the most untouchable moments that can ever happen on earth. It’s pure, it’s beautiful, and it’s honestly, perfect.
I always say to people, that children and old people are my favorite people that exist on earth. Why? Cause honestly neither give a fuck. They’re too young or too old to care at that point, and they just care about the genuine purities of why life exists. And they will remind you of those things without saying a single word, and put you back in a place that you didn’t realize you needed to be put back in.
Music is one of the best free forms of therapy that we can encounter day in and day out in the course of our daily life. As someone not currently in therapy (Someone give me fierce free health insurance. Please and thank you), I’ve constantly been searching for the means that I have access to, that will better my day to day spirit and help keep me a conscious, sane and pleasant person to be around. From the gym, to running, to reading, to writing, I’ve really focused on finding the things that keep me happy. Music has been at the very top of that list. I can not express what music means to me. I’ve fought the love of it for so long, from aggressively doubting any talent I have, but I’ve also embraced it in terms of finding a genuine love of supporting other artists, giving them a safe space to write, breathe, sing, grow, thrive, and live, and concentrating on the validity that music can give me. It can make any experience feel valid, and make any person feel just that much less alone. In a world that’s so hard to live in, every ounce of validity we can find, holds so much weight to it.
As a child actor, I grew up a true triple threat. It was taught, it was forced, it was never a question. I always knew dancer was at the bottom of that list, and as I grew older, my fear of that weakness continued to grow. As children we are inherently resilient, as adults, we are inherently pretty fucking terrified and second-guessing ourselves. The older I got, the more I found myself becoming terrified of dance. Once I retired from pursuing theater performance, at, like, 20, I definitely resided myself to all interest in dance. I’d do it in my apt, but I’d be damned if you were ever going to see this guy dance in public, ever, EVER again.
Early last year, one of my close friends told me about “What The Float”. What The Float, is an outdoor, moving silent disco, immersive experience where each month they took over a different neighborhood, with different mixes made by DJ’s for each specific route. I was told it was life-changing, incredible, one of the best experiences I’d ever have in my entire life, blah, blah, blah. Now, with all I’ve told you so far, combined with the fact that I don’t really love large crowds, don’t love strangers, have pretty detailed social anxiety outside of work, and again, the fact that I wouldn’t be caught dead dancing in public, ALL signs pointed to a resounding NO, and a very hard pass. However, my friend Becky was leading one of the routes and it was ending at my bar, The West End, and everything inside my brain said that I had to be a supportive friend, and at least make an appearance on one of them, as a silent thank you for choosing my venue as the after-party.
I bought my ticket, made a cute outfit, and committed to the cause. The day of the float was a monsoon. Now, above the ENTIRE list that I’ve already listed, if there’s one thing I’m known for canceling on, it’s ANY form of bad weather, including extreme heat, extreme rain, extreme cold, a blizzard, a heatwave, a monsoon, a possible earthquake warning in an entirely different continent, etc. I put my pretty fucking great outfit on and stared out the window as the tsunami continued outside. I went back and forth for a good twenty minutes about whether I was going to actually head out, and then I only left cause a. my outfit was cute AF, and b. I had a friend text me, who was also “floating” for her first time and who said she’d be furious if I didn’t show up, cause she was already there.
That night ended up being one of the best nights of my adult life. Any way that I could describe the What the Float experience to you, still wouldn’t do it justice. But things I will say is that: It’s one of the most freeing and therapeutic experiences I’ve ever had as an adult, that it’s made a boy who was born and raised in NYC, experience NYC in a new way for the first time in decades, that it’s made me move and dance and express myself in a physical way that I never thought was possible, and most importantly, that’s it made me open myself up to people in a way that I hadn’t in a very, very, long time. It’s been the freest of therapy, in two forms of definitions of the word: FREE.
After that first night, I haven’t missed a month of Float. I went out of my way to build events throughout the off season, and I’ve been feeling so full since the new season started last month, this year. It sounds like a damn cult, which is where all of my cynicism stemmed from, and I definitely have some friends who talk about it wayyyyyy too damn much. (You all know who you are) However, it offers something that I didn’t know I wanted and didn’t know I needed.
May’s Float started at a bar two blocks from the apt building I grew up in. Heading there I had a feeling that this would be a very specific experience for me, that no one else would be able to touch or understand. The first major stop was directly across the street from the apt building that I grew up in, and that my mother still lives in. Every turn, every stop, held a memory for me from some point of my past three decades on this earth. Some were very, very good, some were very, very bad. But I had the honor of having an incredibly cathartic experience, surrounded by people that didn’t necessarily know how deep my truth was to the surroundings, but who were there for a freeing, liberating, therapeutic experience for themselves. They just didn’t know it.
I got to twirl and strut while looking at my mother’s bedroom window from afar, knowing she was sleeping peacefully and hoping she was proud of the man I’ve worked really, really hard at becoming yet who constantly doubts him being a human worth being proud of. I got to dance my ass off in a courtyard outside of a building where I experienced sexual abuse for the first time as a child, and where I’ve purposely walked around as opposed to walking through, since I was seven years old. I didn’t just walk through that for the first time since I DANCED through it. I had the opportunity to bounce to the beat yet also stand back and relax as I got to watch some of my closest friends, some of my chosen family, live their truths while dancing in playgrounds of projects and open areas that were unsafe to even exist in when I was a child. Whereas a private school scholarship kid who “talked white” and who didn’t know when to shut the fuck up about the knowledge in his brain, was constantly warned he’d be beaten up, or even worse, killed. I had the honor of seeing the most freeing experience I’ve witnessed in my adult life, exist in THOSE spaces. Spaces that have been tainted, or had been ruined, and spaces that until that day I didn’t walk through or that I looped around, because 10-year-old Petey still had his genuine fears.
I constantly say to people that kindness is the everyday answer because we never know what someone else is going through THAT day. For the most part, everyone is trying their best. They’re trying to get through their day, untouched, unoffended and just trying to end it feeling better than they started it. You, me, we, us. All of us. It’s wholeheartedly how I try my damnest to walk through life. Hold a door open for someone, smile at a stranger, talk to a child for a couple of minutes, acknowledge a homeless person when you have to say no as opposed to blatantly ignoring them, take the extra time to listen to what an older person has to say. Make someone who may feel unnoticed, feel noticed and know that they matter in this world.
That night I pretty much relived my entire life in front of a beautiful group of people who just, didn’t know it. And I wouldn’t have changed a single second of it. I encourage you to do the same.
Live openly, dance openly, love openly, and always be the most unapologetic you, you can be. You deserve it and so does the world.
The next afternoon, I threw on my favorite Joni Mitchell album and had a fucking fantastic cry. Some of the tears were for the bad memories of the past. Some of them were for both the good and the bad of the present. And some of them were for hope for the future. Sounds dramatic AF I know, alas, guess what, so is life, y’all.
The word “float” essentially means to defy gravity. It sounds impossible, yet it is.
Defy gravity every day. xx
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and allaround storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).