I am writing this introduction with an eye to how my life experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, and how that has lead me to where I am now. I am skipping over the details of the bad, not because I wish to hide it, but because it is not solely my story to tell. I will reflect on how my situation in life affected me, but I will keep out the specific details that are not solely related to myself. I am not writing this to lay blame or cause harm, but simply to show my path and maybe help others. So this is your warning, I will mention cutting and my struggle with it. I will not go into detail and have only mentioned it because it felt wrong not to. It is a big part of my story and my current mindset and evolving world-view.
For the first 9 years of my life, I lived on a farm with my mom, dad, and 2 older brothers in the western part of New York state. Our house was a few miles from a small town in the heart of Amish Country. Those years shaped my love of nature, growing things, the changing of the seasons, and animals of all varieties.
From the time I was 2 or so my dad started working at home on his taxidermy business full-time, after being a butcher in a supermarket for nearly 20 years.
My brothers were older than me, so they were in school and my mom had returned to work to help support my dad's venture. She was previously a stay at home mom, and my parents where what my dad called 'back to the earth hippies' where everything was from the earth and organic, before organic was a thing. This was in the 1970's, so when I was born at the start of the 1980's and mom was working outside the house, this 'back to the earth thing' was toned down. We still had a huge garden and mostly organic food, but my brothers loudly complained I was allowed to have pop and pizza (both of which I never liked, evil tomatoes) when they were never allowed at the same age.
I spent a lot of time with my dad, watching him at his work and playing outside by myself. I loved how he would transform a dead animal into a work of art. He truly was an artist. He even did side work for other taxidermists because he was so skilled at his craft, and he won a few awards for different displays he created.
It was not a morbid thing in our house. We joked about how other people viewed it, but to us it was just a job dad did and other people thought it was weird. These same people, or at least their dad's, showed up every year with their prize buck, fish, turkey or what-not for my dad to mount and hang on their walls at home. Most everyone in our community hunted every year in order to provide food over the winter and keep the animal populations healthy.