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Every story starts somewhere, and I guess my story starts the day my birth mother discovered she was pregnant. She was eighteen at the time, and unmarried, which in the 1960's and 70's was frowned upon big time. So much so that when my birth mother told her mother that she was pregnant, she was sent from the small country town where she lived to Wellington, where she stayed for the duration of her pregnancy.


Nobody else knew, which must have been incredibly difficult for her. This happened to prevent embarrassment to her family, and so none of the rest of my birth family, including my birth father, were to know of my birth until over twenty years later when I contacted them for the first time. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just how things were at that time.


Whilst in Wellington, at some point prior to my birth, my birth mother went to a local cinema, and it was whilst there that she saw the directors name, and thus I was then given mine, 'Karlyn' (pronounced 'car - lin').


I was born on the 15th of October 1971, in Wellington, New Zealand, and named Karlyn James Anderson.


Immediately after I was born my birth mother went back to the small town she was from, and again asked her mother if she could keep me, but the answer was no, and so I stayed in Wellington.


It was there that I was adopted by a recently married local couple, and when they became my new family, my name was changed to Dean Graham Connolly.


I was later told that they had adopted me because they did not think that they could have children of their own. I'm not sure what changed, but a little over two years later they had a son of their own, and life for me somehow became a quest to discover who I really was, because through my eyes I was consistently reminded of who I wasn’t.


One of my first childhood memories is of being read a book about a kid whose parents were not able to look after him, so he lived with a family called The Fairweather's. I had have nightmares about that book, and all the things that had happened to that child’s birth parents, but I don't think anybody ever knew.


That book was how I was told that I was not the same as most children. It was my new families way of telling me that I was different, and from within that first memory I can honestly say that I felt like I have never truly belonged anywhere, and I guess that it is partially why I have continued to look for that somewhere I do belong, somewhere I actually feel like I fit in, even though I understand now that what everyone had done up until that point was what they thought was best for me.


I want to make something very clear to everyone who reads this. The choices I made growing up were mine. I have accepted every mistake I have made, and in some cases personally apologised for my actions. I do not blame anyone else for where my life took me, because my birth mother did not have a choice, my adopted parents did try, and parts of my life have been as normal as anyone else’s. If what I did growing up was wrong, I was lucky enough to be in an environment where I learnt that was so. The path I choose was my own, and I do not blame anyone else for the life I have lived. I made my own choices.

 

I was not what most would call ‘a good boy’ growing up, as even when I was really young I had the strangest knack of getting myself into the most incredible circumstances through shear misadventure, and bad timing. I spent as much time as I could away from the house where I lived, and once when I was maybe six or seven I ran away to join the circus (which was where I thought everyone went when they ran away) but did not know where to find them so, after eating the sandwiches I’d made myself at the top of our driveway, I returned ‘home’ after only a couple of hours, and mostly I remember being disappointed that no one had even noticed I’d gone. Even at that young age I always remember not being happy.


What people did notice was when I set the bushes behind the school on fire, when I was about eight years old, playing with matches, and the time when a few of us stole a boat from the harbour opposite our school at lunchtime, even though we never knew how to sail it. A few people even noticed the time when I was about fourteen, and a girl friend gave me some car keys. She said for me to "collect" her parent’s car late at night so we could go for a drive, and whilst I was trying to get it started I discovered her father was the national president of the New Zealand’s largest gang. People did notice all that I was doing which was wrong, what they didn’t notice was why I was doing it, or my struggle to fit in.


I was up for anything growing up and enjoyed having all kinds of 'naughty' fun away from home, during which time some of my friends were seriously hurt, or killed in the process, which for me was just part of growing up. At home it felt like I did not belong, that whatever went wrong there was somehow my fault, and if I were to be completely honest it usually was, but even when it wasn’t, I would still get the blame. This quickly led me to leave both home, and school, very early. This quickly led me into a life few will ever understand.


Strangely all of this did make me and my adopted brother close. Without being able to explain it properly, I think being me made his life easier, as he could quite clearly see what not to do, and knew that I would get in trouble regardless of which of us was at fault. This was especially true when we were very young, but in some weird way I was okay with all of that. It was my way of being a big brother. It was my way of looking out for him, as I would any of my real friends later in life, and even though we did drift apart as we got older, we always maintained that bond we had as children and I am extremely proud of who he became as a result.


As a teenager I rebelled more than most do normally. I destroyed everything around me, including the room in which I lived, and every relationship I ever had completely. I tried suicide three times, and I drank myself into a state of unconsciousness more and more regularly. I used a variety of drugs to numb my over active mind, and I got into trouble with the police a lot, but thankfully it was nothing too serious.


I think the first time I was bought home by the police I was fairly young. Maybe eleven or twelve years old. A friend of mine delivered newspapers, and he had to collect them from a shed near where we lived. I had somehow got my hands on a bottle of wine, drank it and was playing up at the newspaper shed, when the local priest who lived across the road came over and told me off. As he was leaving I was being cheeky, and at some point pulled my pants down and mooned him. Next thing I know I am in the back of a police car being taken home.


My friends set the bar pretty high as far as friends go though, they really were friends in every sense of the word. We had each other’s back, were respectful of each other, and as a result treated people how they treated us. Even though most of my friends were people who were I guess as outcast as I felt, we never discriminated against anyone, black or white, rich or poor, and the only thing that mattered was how we treated each other. It was during this time that I learnt what real friends were, and right or wrong, I can honestly say that my friends would have died, or killed, for each other, because some of them did exactly that.


Thankfully I knew an huge variety of people when I was growing up, people from all walks of life, but we didn’t really think about it that way, we mostly accepted people at face value, and whilst everyone around us became lost within the perception people who did not know us had of who we were, the bond between us just grew stronger and stronger.


Unlike other people, I never really thought of it as us being naughty. We just did whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it, and that made us kind of well-known within the different circles of people that knew us.


None of us became famous for anything good though. Some of my friends were in accidents that killed them, others died because of mistakes they, or someone else had made via a bad choice, or during another misguided adventure. Death was the final consequence for some of our actions, and we accepted that. Some of us grew up, some of us moved on, and some died. That was just how it was. We weren’t scared of anyone, or anything.

 

I don’t think any of us realised just how lucky we were to have the unique freedom that we had effectively created, a freedom that most people definitely did not have, especially back then. Effectively we could do anything we wanted to, and so that is what we did, mostly I guess because we did not know differently. Quite simply we lived our lives to the absolute limit, and sometimes beyond.


At various times in life, as people grow, I think we all reach a crossroad where we can actively choose what comes next if we are luckily, and for me when one of those times arrived after my best friend was killed, I choose to find my birth parents with the help of my social worker, and discover even more about who I really was. My thinking at the time I guess was that perhaps they held the key to unlocking unopened doors. I somehow believed that finding my birth parents would somehow make my life better. More complete. And, I was kind of right.


It took a long time (almost two years I think from the time that we started looking, until I made contact), but eventually I found, and was writing letters to my birth mother. We then quickly arranged to meet, and I went to visit. I stayed a couple of nights, and then all too quickly decided to move into the house she had just built with her new husband. It all happened so fast that we never really got to know each other, and I quickly became more lost than ever before, because to be there I left the safety of all I had known, and found myself in a situation where nothing around me was familiar, yet through my eyes it all was meant to be.


When I first met my birth mother, I also met my oldest younger sister the same day. Not long after that, I met two younger sisters, and I can tell you without any doubt it is near impossible to describe the intense feeling I got when first introduced every one of them. It’s like a mixture of feeling weird, excited, nervous, at home, and a strange sense of peace, all rolled into one, something that comes from the instant acceptance that we have the same blood in our veins, but at the same time there is almost a sense of guilt, and for lack of a better word remorse, that this is the first time we were meeting, that so much has been missed. It is hard to describe, mostly though the overall feeling is a very good one. At least initially.


The roller coaster of emotions was incredible. I went from seemingly no one caring what I did, or did not do, to people actually fighting with each other to take care of me, and it was quite a lot to take in. The hardest part was probably meeting my birth mothers father, my grandfather, and knowing I was the grandson that he would never really get to know. We never really knew what to say to each other during the moments we were left alone. It must have been as hard for him, as it was for me, because I have never been very good at directing feelings and thoughts appropriately, the right words always getting lost in my head somewhere.


A very long time ago (I think I was maybe four or five) I fell out of a tree and landed head first onto a concrete block. I only remember it because it was the first time I heard my thoughts, a bit like a voice in my head. Again it’s something that is hard to define. It’s like I have a thousand thoughts going through my head at the same time, and I have to snatch at them when I am talking to someone, because I can think a lot faster than I can actually talk, so often the words that come out of my mouth appear confused, and it's much, much worse when I am not completely comfortable within a situation. As a result, I think a lot, but don’t talk so much, and I am mostly okay with that, except in situations where I feel like I need to say something, and struggle to find the right words.


I can’t tell you exactly what it is wrong because I have never had it checked out. Going to a doctor and saying I have voices in my head never seemed all that sensible. I can tell you though without any doubt that I am completely deaf in my right ear, and a little bit deaf in my left, which makes conversations rather one sided, and I guess further isolates me from most people. As a result I self-medicated growing up, well beyond what most would consider recreational, and as a result I know my limits better than most.


I can also tell you that the words you read here have taken a very long time to put into any sort of order, because it is all getting worse as I get older. I am actually a bit worried that it will soon start to show, regardless of what I do to try and hide it, so I have stopped trying to hide it. On the positive side though I am not a very good liar as a result, and always have to be completely honest, mostly because to be a good liar you need a good memory, and I don’t have one of those. I am apparently too honest most of the time, because most people today don’t like hearing the unsweetened truth, where-as I do, but I think that is something that makes me real, and all of this combined I think actually makes me, and what I can see through the lense of a camera, rather unique.


If I am to be completely honest with you, I guess depression has played a huge part in my life. I have never really done anything about it other than try to live through it. I accepted being unhappy as just a part of who I am, and its only through my desire to not allow other people to go where I have been that I find some place inside me that pushes that dark side of myself to one side so I can give something positive to those around me. Being me has never been easy though.


In hindsight the biggest mistake I made when I met my birth mother was to not admit I had these 'problems'. Instead I continued doing things the way I had done them previously, and I continued to self-medicate, not fully understanding that the purpose of any drug is alter a person’s thoughts, or how they feel. Drugs control how we re-act, so when a mind has as much ‘character’ as mine does, doing anything that alters my thoughts, or feelings, is effectively flicking a coin in the air and calling heads or tails as to what I will do next.


As a result I quickly became lost and isolated. I had no idea what I was meant to do, or how I was meant to act. I would effectively hide in my room. Through my eyes, I had either given up on, or walked away from, all I knew. I had turned my back on not only my adopted family after twenty-one years, but also everything that had ever been familiar to me, including my friends, and I had no idea what to do about it.


Understandably I was asked to leave, but that still hurt. It still caused me to get even more lost within myself, and I drifted further and further away from anywhere I had previously been. I bounced from one place to the next, not really going anywhere, until one day I found myself looking at an advertisement in a newspaper that had caught my attention. It was for a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. I'm not sure why I called the number at the bottom and enrolled, but that’s what I did.


Once a week I would catch a bus to the financial district in the city, where I slowly regained my confidence telling complete strangers stories about my life publicly for the first time, and in an environment where business leaders would go to learn to be better business leaders, I learnt to be a better, more confident me, as I unloaded years of personal conflict.


It was only then that I decided I wanted to meet my birth father.


There was one major difference between meeting my birth mother, and only a year later meeting my birth father. That difference was when I met my birth mother I wanted a new life. I not only wanted to be a part of her life, but I wanted everything in my life to change. I wanted people to love me and show me that they cared about me, and I wanted the family that I thought I never would have, so when I didn’t get that and was asked to leave, it hurt, it hurt a lot. When I went to meet my birth father I didn’t want anything except to know who he was, to just see him for myself with my own two eyes, and maybe spend a bit of time with him, but that was it. I did not want, or expect him to give me anything. I wanted nothing other than to be able to say I had actually met him.


My birth father is reasonably well known throughout the country, he was an All Black in the 1970’s, and here in New Zealand that is more generally more popular than movie stars, or the prime minister, but yet he still seemingly accepted me for being me the moment we met. I didn't have to be anyone else, and at the time, after everything I had been through, that meant so much that it gave me the confidence to want to continue to try and make a better life for myself. It gave me enough confidence to allow me to get on a plane and fly to Australia, knowing that whatever would happen there I would be okay. And once again, I was sort of right.


I left New Zealand for two reasons; the first was that I felt like I had completely screwed everything up, and that I really had nowhere else left to go. I had turned my back on my friends, and my adopted family, so I could have a relationship with my birth mother, and then I had screwed that up as well. I had achieved something special with my birth father, but the probability of screwing that up as well, through my eyes, was pretty high. I felt that I needed to leave.


The second reason I left New Zealand, and I suppose the only real reason that I went to Perth, in Australia, apart from the fact it was as far away as I could possibly get, was my ex-girlfriend had moved there to be with her mother after I ended our relationship when I went to live with my birth mother, and I missed her. Without any doubt she was the best thing that had happened to me, she knew me better than anyone else, and I had not appreciated any of it, dragging someone so beautiful into my shitty world. I really wanted to see her, and perhaps have the opportunity to make things right. I wanted to tell her how I felt, and maybe even get back the one person I trusted completely.


Ironically, I had everything that I took to Australia stolen within 24 hours of getting there, and I mean everything, including clothes, money, and an address book that was my only link to everyone I had ever known, when someone walked into my hostel room, and then walked out the front door with bag, and everything I had taken to Australia.


In that moment I effectively lost contact with everybody I had ever previously met, including my birth parents, within 24 hours of arriving in Australia. That was of course except the one person I had gone there to see.


I thought I would surprise her, but it was me who got the surprise when I phoned with the news I was there to see her, only to discover that my ex-girlfriend had not actually expected the useless so-and-so that I am to ever show up there, or she would have probably told me she was now engaged, and pregnant, to someone she had recently met. She refused to even meet with me, and I was officially completely, and utterly broken.


I have never been good at maintaining relationships. I have had the best, and worst luck at the same time with girlfriends, meeting some of the most beautiful people I have ever known at the worst possible times in my life, and then discovered the very worst in people at the best possible time in my life. As a result I do know what I want, and wont settle for anything less, but I have also had to accept that in this life I may not get to share my life long term with any one person, and I am mostly okay with that.


I was now further from 'home' than ever before. I was in a foreign country. I did not know anybody, or have anything, and to top it off I was broke, but instead of panic, I decided that in that moment that I now had the option to truly start my life a fresh, too have a clean slate so to speak, and so I that is what I tried to do.


Creating my own path led to an adventure that took me all over Australia. I went from Perth all around Western Australia, then from Adelaide to Melbourne, and Sydney to Brisbane. I lived on the Gold Coast, The Sunshine Coast, and even in Byron Bay. I travelled in and out of so many different people’s lives, over such a trying period of my life, where I discovered what people were truly capable of, both good and bad, in such a diverse variety of situations, but ultimately I also discovered who I really was.


At times I found myself living on the streets, surrounded some of the most insane people I have ever met, people who, perhaps understandably, only cared about themselves, and it was very lonely. I found myself attached to anyone who cared, anyone who would listen, and that was not always a good thing, because this led to some seriously stupid life choices. Other times I found myself looking at moments from the outside, special moments that I will never forget in other people’s lives, moments words simply cannot define, and things for which I became eternally grateful, thankful to God I guess you could say for the balance, and those who shared those moments with me.


There are hundreds of stories that I may share with you all one day, but for now it is enough to say that for every new low I reached, I found something positive to allow me to continue, and thankfully I never gave up my sense of hope within each adventure, continuously looking for that happy ending to my story.


Eventually that allowed me settled in Melbourne. I still moved around a lot looking for my somewhere, but Melbourne was now home. I liked Melbourne a lot.

 

I had arrived in Melbourne working for an American Door to Door Sale Team, but I was fired when one of my co-workers was stealing our product and selling it on the side. The boss thought it was me, and I did not tell him it wasn’t, I just walked away. For me that was the right thing for me to do.


That led me to do a security course, and work in a couple of Melbourne’s largest nightclubs, where you would think being surrounded by hundreds of pretty girls all dressed up having fun would be a great job, but it was work that I did not really enjoy because I would rather have joined in the fun than maintained it, but thankfully almost straight away the small company that I was working for was taken over by one of the largest security companies in the world, and I began to specialise in major event security.


My job was all I had which was consistent, even when everything else around me wasn't, and so when combined with my desire to be all that I could be, my ability to relate to all kinds of different people, in almost any situation, and the simple fact that I always try to do the best that I can do, I became very good at what I did. As a result I enjoyed being placed in some of the best positions, in some very unlikely scenarios, working with some of the most well known personalities and biggest names in the world.







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