to the nonbelievers, i say peace!

It took me many, many years to realize the influence Donnie Wahlberg has had in my life. I always loved how seriously he took the idea of being a role model, but it wasn’t until this past year that I slowly started to add up just how significantly I’ve been impacted over the years. First of all, as I’ve said before, his voice has been in my ear since I was a child, saying “don’t do drugs!” and “stay in school!” It wasn’t long ago that I was telling a friend that the worst substance I’ve ever touched in my life was pot. When I began to explain why, I stopped short – I’d never realized that a big part of it was because I’d grown up with someone I loved so much telling me not to do it. Sure, everyone hears that from parents. But I guess there must’ve been something quite profound in Donnie’s voice for me…I’m proud to admit I listened, and avoided substances altogether. I’m not sure I was ever destined for much in the way of drug abuse, but to be someone who’s personally really been steered away from them by someone who’s always been conscious of his status as role model? Awesome, for both of us, as far as I’m concerned. I really am proud of that.

And it’s kind of just the tip of the iceberg, really. I’m not sure when exactly I stopped and thought back over all the positive influences DDub has graced me with, but it’s fairly overwhelming. There are other fans who say “oh, is he your favorite?” when I try to describe how I feel about him or what he means to me. To be perfectly honest, no – that’s not what it’s about. (I was a Joe girl from day one, remember?) Donnie’s something entirely different – he’s my hero. He means the world to me. I’m so grateful for all the positivity he’s supplied me with these past 2+ decades…I almost want to say “I can’t find the words,” but that would be a cop-out and a disappointment…I’m a writer. I can find the words.

“We’re gonna make these people happy, we’re gonna satisfy them, we’re gonna make them smile. That’s the goal for tonight, that’s the motto for today: make the people smile. No matter what it takes. If it takes every ounce of my energy, every other guy in the group’s energy, I know everyone’s gonna give it all they got to make it happen tonight. Tonight’s the night!”
Donnie said that nearly 20 years ago, and I swear he still feeds off of the love, smiles, and energy exactly in the same way. I learned quickly with him that to smile at him will get a reaction much more quickly than will screaming (lucky for me, I never was much of a screaming fan) or anything else.

Also, I heard the man say “peace!” so many times and/or bear the symbol of the peace sign, I developed a very strong association between the two. To this day, I think of Donnie when I see a peace sign. Long gone are the days when I see him sporting them everywhere, but it doesn’t matter – the impression is permanently etched in my mind, and I like it. Yes, I’m blogging about it, but it’s still something that’s pretty “secret,” just for me – I see a peace sign, I make a connection most people don’t make (and I liked them to begin with)! They make me happy.

Donnie is a New Kid. The man and the band are permanently, irrevocably intertwined, and yet – it’s Donnie as a human being that I love, not Donnie the celebrity. When my best friend Cass & I were planning our epic road trip up the Pacific Northwest, we decided to get tattoos. While I was considering options for what I’d get, the suggestion of a peace sign was all I needed: something I love with obvious meaning to anyone that sees it, and even more meaning to me. The best part? It worked out that the day I got my peace sign was DDub’s 40th birthday!

“…positivity is not about being soft, it’s about being smart…” This man is inherently positive. Thanks to over a year’s worth of Twitter updates, I’ve begun to really realize how crucial his words have become in my life. No joke? I swear it’s like daily affirmations with Donnie. Almost everyday I can count on him to “tweet” words of encouragement about living life to the fullest, making the most of every hour, distancing myself from those who bring me down…it’s absolutely priceless to me, and I’m nearly speechless with gratitude.

Every time I look at my arm, I think of Donnie and I do smile, which I think he’d be happy to hear. I’m grateful to have such a visible reminder to be thankful for having had such a brilliant role model for so long. In a way, I feel like I got to share in his milestone birthday with him, even if he has no idea. I’ll always remember that day, and I am humbled by all that he’s unknowingly given me. More importantly, I’m grateful for his continued presence in my life and hope that I’ve learned enough by the many years of his example that I’ll be able to have a similar effect on others in my life. Thanks, dub. Peace (and many twugs)!

Posted: September 7th, 2009 under On the Block.
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