Journey to Authenticity – Pt 2 and Thoughts on 30

Death begets life.

“Even in the desolate wilderness, stars can still shine.”  -Aoi Jiyuu Shiroi Nozomi

A few weeks ago, I was surprised by my family and friends with a birthday party to celebrate my impending (now present) 30th birthday.  My wife threw the whole thing together, and it turned out to be quite a fun occasion.  At the time I still had about 2 weeks until I officially began a new decade, but the celebration was timely, as it happened to fall on the coldest day we’ve had this Fall so far.

I think November is a great month.  There are the obvious reasons, of course, like the weather, the leaves, the holidays, but it’s an extra special month around my house because my wedding anniversary is on the 10th, followed by my birthday 9 days later.  The novelty of November always sets in when it arrives.  I love the warmth that the celebrating of year-markers of major life events brings.  And who doesn’t love just stuffing their face on Thanksgiving?  (Oh, is that not what it’s about?)  The scents are fuller, that air crisper, sentiments greater.  There is a certain exhilaration that ushers in this season of change.

And with that exhilaration is an inescapable sting.  I went into a funk when I turned 29 last year.  I don’t know, y’all, I guess I thought that my youth only had a year left to stick around, and that any vitality I had left in me was about to run dry.  It didn’t help that, added to the sadness I felt for that particular birthday, I get seasonally depressed.  I know there are a lot of you (if not all to some degree) who struggle with the same thing.  I typically gain weight (not just from the holiday sweets, either), become numb to just about everything (except my children – MAN they carry some dang joy with them), and I go into a mental hibernation.  The things I love about Autumn are mudded by the things I dread about Autumn.

The death that cold brings about is twofold.  The earth retreats and withers, is cloaked bleakness and numbness, and shrouded in bitterness and dreariness.  And so am I.  So you can imagine that, in a time of year when I already feel lifeless, going into the last year of my 20s was an extra blow I wasn’t ready for.

But not much longer after the cold began, I could see Spring on the horizon; a new season.  Turning 29 started to signify new life instead of loss…the brink of change, the first line of a new book.  I started to realize that 30 isn’t old.  My youth hasn’t actually escaped me, and actually, I get to begin a new decade with youth AND wisdom hopefully.  It’s like when you restart the computer: there is still life, everything starts fresh, and some things begin again with new improvements.  Yesterday has been shaken off, and today is a blank slate.

The outside is deceptive in Autumn and Winter.  Plants shedding their foliage is actually an act of conservation: nutrients are kept within, cell membranes are maintained, proteins are broken down and re-made.  I have finally realized that the same can actually happen to me.  This time of desolation is a time of refinement, the cold a preparation for warmth.  29 has been a year of internal investigation.  I’ve been trying to take account of my make-up and rearrange and strive and grow.

Growth…maybe that’s it.

Maybe the pain of Winter is actually the pain of growth…growing pains.  Maybe the ache of losing my exterior is actually the ache of something greater welling up within.  Maybe the pain of this temporary dormancy is the pain of the dam beginning to burst from the life building up behind it…like a web of bones around my heart is coming undone*, getting me ready for the zest and bounty of warmth and Spring.  Or a new decade.

So, welcome, Fall, and welcome, 30.  I have to believe that joy is waiting at the end of the slumber.  It HAS to be waiting.  Color of a new dawn, words of a new song, life of a new season – of weather and age…all awaiting, being refined in the death that precedes them.  I’m going to accept this death in light of the joy that will come because of it.

I would say that it’s appropriate that I celebrated my birthday on the first bitter day of the cold season, wouldn’t you agree?  I think that evening was the impetus to me really understanding this process.  Instead of glooming and dooming in the sadness around me, this year (even if I still retreat) I’m going to strive to hold onto the hope I’ll be revitalized.  It’s possible to celebrate a new age in the cold, because they are both signs of something greater to come.

 

*This is a direct quote from a song written and performed by Audrey Assad called “New Song”.  I am posting the video below if you want to take a listen.  I think it goes well with this post, and possibly fills in the blanks, as this particular blog post feels a little scattered.  The song might not be your taste in music, but the lyrics ring incredibly true and speak to this theory of death begetting life.  It’s about the yearning for something to breathe life back into the mundane, for the things that typically bring joy but somehow seem to do be doing the opposite be renewed, that even after a difficult season, there is something greater to live and feel: a new song.  Water still flows underneath a sheet of ice.  Enjoy.  🙂

Journey to Authenticity – Pt. 1

Guys, if you tire of reading about the same dang thing, let me know and I’ll stop.

By now we all know that about five and a half years ago I made a huge life change.  I left a career path that had been in my bones until about a year before I decided to abandon it.  My wife and I moved to a different part of the state, she started a new job, and I went boldly into the unknown.  With the fresh start I had, I set out on a journey towards authenticity.  As I take account of the last 5 years (Jason Robert Brown, anyone?), I’m beginning to be able to name all of the things that I’ve felt for a while that had been innominate.  It’s interesting, really, because all of this is basically happening in retrospect.  I guess hindsight really is 20/20.

I’ve learned that I’m somewhat introverted (and I don’t mean that in the “It’s cool and different and trendy to be introverted” thing that’s been happening lately.  And I don’t possess ALL the qualities of an introvert; just a few, and at varying degrees.)  I’ve attained the ability to identify my emotions (which is weird, sometimes).  My mind almost always goes too deep for normal conversation, and most of what I think is veiled when spoken…mainly because the thought of explaining myself is too exhausting to even take a stab at it.  My eyes have been opened to how human we all really are.  I’ve seen how selfless I am capable of being, and that even when it shows sometimes in my actions, my heart still has a long way to go.  I’m still learning to be satisfied, to aspire to greatness, but moreover, to keep sight of reality.  I’m realizing how important the things that I delight in actually are in my life, even if they’ve caused me great angst and pain in the past.  But probably most of all, my confidence in being who I am is ever increasing.

I realize that the preceding paragraph might have sounded entirely boastful.  I hope that’s not what you take away from it – be sure that the lessons that I’ve learned during these past 5 years typically came from a place of being humbled in some sort of way.  I considered adding “pride swallowing” to the list above, but that’ll be a lifelong battle, and the fight against that nasty beast is a constant struggle for me.

There are three things that seem to stick out in my head as avenues by which I came to these beginning phases of authenticity.  My goal in sharing these things with you is to hopefully inspire you to turn inward and get a better grip at what actually happens on your insides.  I still think that if we were all completely authentic, the world would actually be a better place.  I’m finding that true authenticity is a journey that will last a long time, and quite the difficult one at that.  In the very least, maybe something I say will resonate with you that may challenge how you think, or allow you to see somebody in a different light.  Or maybe none of that, and if you read the rest of this, I think you’re awesome.

Consider this part 1 of a 3 part series.

 

I’m an anomaly.

An anomaly is something that deviates from what is standard or expected.

I don’t know, guys, what is actually expected of me?  Just because something is standard, is that what our expectations are?  I don’t know.  All I know is, for my entire life there has seemed to be a standard to meet as a man, and for most of my life I haven’t met it.  As it turns out, I was never actually “less than,” and “not meeting the standard” doesn’t mean I fell short.  I’m just different, I guess.

I mean, I’m a ballet dancer.  I know I know, you all know that bla bla bla, shut your mouth, Terence, we get it – but let that sink in your brain a little bit.  I would imagine that some of you might find it quite odd, even though I keep beating you over the head with it.  And I know this because that perception makes up a vast majority of the response I have gotten to my art form for basically my entire life.  It’s not normal.  The art form itself is not normal (even though it ranks right up there with singing/using your voice – we are all given the tools to dance, so it seems quite primitive to me) – you’ve got girls and guys dancing around in tights, the girls standing (and turning and moving) in deathboxes of shoes on the tip of their big toe, guys carrying girls over their heads (sometimes with one arm), girls with their legs up by their ears, guys soaring through the air – sometimes with a 720° added to it – THIS IS NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR.  Even less normal, speaking in terms of the dance world, are male dancers.  Women are a dime a dozen, and it would seem that men are somewhat of a precious commodity.  Even still, in our culture, being a male dancer is an EXTREME deviation from what is normal or expected.

This bleeds into other areas of my life.  Music, TV, fashion, hobbies, interests, social life, relationships, jobs, and on and on.  Even though I like Mario Kart from time to time, you’re not gonna find me “hangin’ with my buddies playin’ video games” or “catchin’ the football game.”  Is that how you say it?  Catchin’?  Speaking of which, I don’t even know how to speak “typical male.”  Do I call you guys “bro” or “man” or “buddy”?  “Sport”?  Forgive me if I don’t address you specifically beyond a “hey” next time I see you.  I don’t wind down with a beer, I don’t have a desire to play 9 holes (nor could I, really), and don’t ever, EVER, ask me to play basketball.  I’m tall, yes, and mega coordinated, but I’m gonna save myself the embarrassment and just stay away from that whole thing altogether.  (Unless my son wants to play basketball, in which case I will absolutely take necessary interest in it and go to as many games as I possibly can.)

I know it sounds like I’m bashing all these things.  I’m not, and truly speaking in jest.  While these things don’t reflect much of my personality, I don’t think they are bad in any way.  Actually, I think it’s kinda cool that there are certain characteristics that mark the male gender as a whole.  For example, when I look at the sports that most guys take great interest in, what I really see is passion that is almost unrivaled.  I see it in the players, the coaches, and the fans.  I can identify with that.  I also see a great sense of community.  Sports have a way of drawing people together (men and women, and men and men) in a world where most everything else divides.  I can identify with that, too.  Obviously, this passion can be taken WAY too far and crossover into something stupid and nauseating, but I love that it exists.

I’ve known these things about myself for a long time, but being able to have peace about my anomalistic nature has been a struggle.  Imagine if the things that you love, that feel most natural to you, were under constant scrutiny.  Imagine if that scrutiny made you feel separate from the rest of the world.  Imagine if the constant destruction of the things you hold dear, that you take great delight in, that you pour your heart into, were used to make you feel not good enough, sub par, not worthy, less than, vapid, and of little value.  The hardest fight I had was in middle school.  So much changes in our young lives during those years, and I had to fight for my own legitimacy at 13 years old all by myself.  My family was most definitely supportive, but during those years the opinion of your peers is more important, even if it shouldn’t be.  Still, there is some importance to feeling like you have a specific role in the community around you.  I am still not sure I ever did back then.  I wonder if that season of life cemented who I was to become.  Most directions I turned were dead ends and I was only left to turn inward – to my own heart, my own brain, my own emotions…to this day I am incredibly independent and internal.

It’s interesting, though.  The things that make me an anomaly are the very things that were despised about me; the things that made me retreat.  Yet those exact things are what should’ve been turned outward, shared, and appreciated.  Right?  Forget all that, I was rarely even respected for them.  Somehow when I was open with myself, I must’ve been “gay” or “girly” or “weak.”  Nope.  The things we love don’t actually define us.  This isn’t a “gay or straight” issue, but as an example, there are gay and straight male ballet dancers.  “Male ballet dancer” isn’t enough to draw any concrete conclusions about a person’s identity, and I certainly felt that being labeled because of it (or anything else I’m interested in) was unjust.  And you might, too.

Side note: I have realized that I am probably more tender, soft, and emotional that a lot of men.  I’ve also realized that this actually serves to highlight my masculinity.  Thanks, wife, for changing my mindset about that.

Look, y’all.  There is a perceived standard for a reason, and it’s because most people fit it – and it isn’t bad in ANY WAY.  However, I know that EVERYONE has something kept in the corners of their mind, the darkest chambers of their heart, that makes them deviate.  And that is AWESOME.  It’s time to bring those to the surface.  You know that thing I’m talking about.  The thing that, when you think about exposing it, makes you feel that slight tug of fear.  The thing that, when you are full engrossed in it, YOU COME ALIVE.  You don’t have anything to lose, really.  And as I am finding, as you grow in the peace that comes from accepting that this thing MAKES YOU “YOU,” you’ll find authenticity in so many aspects of your life it’ll make your head spin.

Then we’ll be a world full of anomalies.  (I know, then we wouldn’t actually be anomalies since that would be what is standard.  Just go with it.)

I hope that made sense, guys.

And I promise I tried to remove any tone of self-absorption or pompousness, so if any of it remained, please excuse.  This is my diary out loud.  Isn’t that a song lyric?

My poor brain is gonna explode one day.  I just know it.

 

A little perspective

This is one of those stupid times nobody tells you about when you’re a kid.

I’m sitting here in some random neighborhood in Durham, NC with a car that overheated because of a stupid hose that disconnected because of a stupid clamp that apparently can’t do it’s job and stay clamped. I know exactly how to fix the problem but I am unable to do so because I don’t have any stupid tools with me. Now I have to wait 30 stupid minutes for a tow truck to come take me back to my workplace, where I had left not that long ago to run one stupid errand.

It’s Walmart’s fault. Their stupid website told me that there was a store 3 miles away from work. It was only when I got there that I realized that there was no clarification on the website that this was a GROCERY STORE ONLY. Fantastic. It was in that parking lot that my car stalled (it’s done this before – I won’t tell you what kind of car it is, but I will never be buying one of those again), leaving me perpendicular to parked cars, not being able to move. I felt so stupid. It took me 5 attempts to get the stupid thing started again, and when I was en route to another Walmart (an ACTUAL super center), I smelled the burn and saw the indicator that it overheated. So naturally I went to the nearest random neighborhood I could find and began trying to remedy this stupid situation.

Alas, I am still waiting for a tow truck.

The whole thing is stupid.

I mean…maybe not the whole thing.

The weather is really nice. The neighborhood seems quiet enough.

Im sitting on a brick half-wall in the shade. That, coupled with the breeze, is quite nice.

It’s a really beautiful August day here in NC.

Work can still happen at work without me; nothing’s gonna fall apart because I’m not there.

My current situation really isn’t that bad, I suppose.

I have a car. Sure, it’s on the fritz currently, but it does it’s job most of the time.

I ate lunch. I drank. The heat is bearable, even if I had to sit in it directly.

Thank God I don’t have to sit in sweltering heat with no food or water.

I’m in a neighborhood, so if my current situation were dire, I might be able to find somebody to open their doors to me for a few minutes.

I’m not without access to shelter. I guess that’s kind of a “win” by global standards.

(Look at that! Just got a phone call that the tow truck should be here in 10 minutes.)

I have a place to go home to that isn’t in foreclosure.

I have kids and a wife that are healthy.

I have food to put on the table.

I have a job to go to tomorrow (although I created that job for myself and I’m my own boss, it’s still a job).

I’m not worried about my electricity getting turned off. I know that I have access to clean water at the turn of a faucet.

I don’t live in a place that I have to worry about walking outside my front door to an unsafe world.

Within reason, I don’t have to worry about getting shot today.

I’m not currently worried about losing my city, home, loved ones to air strike.

I’m not being beheaded in Iraq.

Yes, I can freely practice my religion.

…I guess my current situation isn’t really that stupid.

It’s just not what I had planned for today.

Yes, that IS God laughing.

a blogger struggling to blog (i’ve said it before – i really don’t like that word)

this is a blog about blogging.  and maybe bloggers, too.  also probably the creative process and why it can be frustrating.

what a terrible first paragraph.

i’m not a writer.  i mean, yeah, i write…or type, or whatever…but i’m not “a writer.”  there is definitely a reason that this is the 9th post on this blog since i started it 8 or 9 months ago.  i feel like i have a lot to say, and usually it gets down on “paper” to some degree of concision, but i’m having some dang block right now.  of course the natural series of events that happens after i realize that something i’m writing is going nowhere (like the 950 word post i had been working on that i had to stop looking at) is that i start freaking out, deleting stuff, regretting deletion, questioning everything about myself, believing that i’m not interesting enough to write about life experiences, wondering what my purpose is and why i live the life i live…i mean seriously.  my struggle as a non-writer to deliver eventually leads me to thinking that my life is a waste!  so crazy.  (obviously i’m not being serious…completely.)

and will somebody please clarify once and for all if the period comes before or after the paren???  i can never remember.

then i start thinking that i need to find a niche.  i could go down the dad blog road.  maybe the religious road.  perhaps a food blog – but if i do that, be warned that i will go on and on and on about how amazing pizza and ranch is – because i’m not a chef either!  (but can i get an “amen”???  if you’ve ever had cpk’s ranch, you’ll know why my eyes fill with tears at the thought of DIPPING my pizza in it – especially when they aren’t skimping and give me the bowl of ranch instead of the saucer.  yes.  LORD!)  sytycd (“so you think you can dance”) is running currently, so i could spend posts upon posts reviewing every episode of that parade of clowns.

i definitely couldn’t be a fashion blogger.  although, the more and more i comb through blog related hashtags on instagram, the more i’m realizing that the world is filled with fashionistas.  i mean really.  it’s almost as if the fact that you wear clothes qualifies you to be a trendsetting fashion blogger.  it’s great because a lot of what i see is jank.  yes, a lot of it is totally gauche, but somehow most of it all looks the same: same poses, same pictures, same phrases.  they’re a dime a dozen.

and why is that?  what is it about buying a semi-professional camera, dressing up in something that you think is just CUTE, having somebody take pictures of you in which you pretend that you are caught off guard – you know, the pics where you’re mid-stair walk, or when you just happened to be caught tucking your hair behind your ear whilst looking behind you, or when whoever is taking the photo happens to catch you, profile, gazing into the distance, deep in thought – and writing about how great your outfit is?  i’m fairly certain that there is something extremely sociological/psychological happening.  come to think of it, i’d actually like to speak to a professional about what inspires these blogs and the people who write them.

then there is another type of blogger that seems to dominate the fortress of amateur, personal blogs on the interweb.  it’s the 20-something-female-my-life-is-perfect-but-not-really blog.  [NOTE: before i go any further, i hope that none of you bloggers find this offensive.  there are a few of you who may be reading this that are thinking to yourselves “ok RUDE.  BYE.”  rest assured, if i follow your blog, whether on facebook or otherwise, i don’t think you fall into the aforementioned category.  honest to God.  don’t let your feelings get hurt.  if i thought you were one of these girls, i woulda unfollowed a while ago.]  i can’t tell you how many “messy wife”s i’ve come across.  and you’re probably wondering what in the heck i am talking about.  they call themselves “messy wives.”  messy wife.  messy.  wife.  it sounds silly, doesn’t it?  like, what is a messy wife?  *writes a blog.  signs it “the messy wife”*  LIKE WHAT THE HECK.  are you incapable of cleaning?  would you be better off wearing a bib while eating?  no?  ohhhh, i see.  it’s a somewhat of a code name you use to give the impression that while your blog is all about everything you can do to attain the perfect little life, you’re imperfect on the inside.  noted.  continue.

i guess i can’t be too annoyed by this, because at least these “dirty spouses” are acknowledging that they aren’t actually perfect, despite that that’s what their blogs might tempt one to believe.  it is what it is.  (i will add, though, that i appreciate the handful of these types of bloggers  who occasionally write about deeper things, personal things.  i respect that.  and whoa.  i am NOT trying to make myself sound like some expert blogger.  this is getting crazy.)

but aren’t we all kinda messy?  it’s understandable that we would be tempted to make things seem peachy on the outside – ESPECIALLY if things are REALLY out of whack on the inside.  my blog is called “terence transparent.”  it’s actually somewhat of a misleading title.  sure, i am being almost completely transparent about the things i have written so far, but guys, i FILTER.  i’m not just gonna air out all my dirty laundry.  in my head (which is getting full to the brim with thoughts – i curse whoever made me a deep thinker) i am not lacking subject matter for blog posts.  i do, however, strive to be as open as possible about what i do choose to write about.  but it’s difficult.  it’s hard to thoracotomize myself and be as bare as i have been.

and couple that with my severe lack of writing abilities…??  yikes!

it reminds me of when i was still dancing.  for as difficult as i find writing, i can tell you that baring one’s soul on stage is waaaaay harder.  i mean, you’re already in tights – no questions about what a dancer looks like – but on top of that, you have to come to a place of complete vulnerability.  i don’t know if i ever truly reached the point where i opened my chest and ripped my heart out.  i tried, though.  i really tried as best as i could.  to be honest, i’m not even sure that it’s even possible to measure true transparency or vulnerability in art.  maybe the effort that i put into showing myself was in fact the accomplishment that i was trying to attain.  who knows.  it’s probably more of a process than an end result.

but let me choreograph.  my body feels and moves.  my mind is connected to phrases and energy…these things i write about would be more easily danced about.  my fingers can clumsily tap their way across a keyboard, but i want my feet to fly across the room…turning, and jumping, and reaching.  but in this current season, that isn’t possible.  it will be one day, hopefully soon, but now right now.  these feelings and thoughts and ideas can’t be danced.

and that’s why i struggle to write.  that’s why the 950 word post i mentioned before is now down to 450.  that’s why i started ANOTHER blog post in the middle of this one that is also unfinished…almost unstarted.  (i’m just makin’ up words right and left – whatever works.)  and that’s why there are 4358 years in between blog posts.  and that’s why this blog exists.  there is a song inside of me, yearning to be sung – steps yearning to be danced – and this is the safest place to sing and dance somehow.  this giant network we call “the internet” somehow feels safer than being on stage in front of an audience of mere hundreds.

and to the messy wives: show yourself a little more.  tear the walls down, unlock the door, draw the blinds.  we know you aren’t perfect, so no need to scream it.  just be real, i guess.

and this one is 1381 words long.  so much for that writer’s block.

recount

it’s 5:27 in the morning.  i’m tired, and you’re just having your morning like it isn’t way too early to be awake in this household.  i wish i could get inside your little 2 year old brain and know exactly what you’re thinking and feeling as you lie there on the couch with the pillow, blanket, and nabi that you requested.  i’m having more and more moments like these the older you get and, for how incredibly sweet they are, the bitterness is ever present.

watching you grow and change has been one of the most rewarding, heartwarming, saddening, happy, and abundantly full experiences i’ve endured.  i’ve found myself saying quite often that the baby years are too few.  you’ll spend most of your life as a big person – you’ve already changed from baby to toddler, then you’ll become a kid, then a teenager, then an adult, and i will (God willing) see it all – but there aren’t nearly enough little person years.  you’ve gone from infancy, being able to do nothing for yourself, to walking and talking…already!  and it’s only been a little over two years!  you have the rest of your life to walk and talk, couldn’t it have taken just a little longer to get there?  why do the changes have to happen so quickly and soon?  if i could slow it all down…just a little.

even earlier this morning, at 3:52, when you gently knocked at the bedroom door (your new morning routine), my initial annoyance immediately dissipated when i saw you standing there with a stuffed animal tucked under your arm, quietly asking to “see mommy?”  [God, please burn that into my memory.]  in that moment i saw you in the essence of which you were created: my precious child, petitioning me in complete innocence and sincerity.  does it get any purer?  you should know, that even 3 hours before i was ready to wake up, every part of me wanted to scoop you up and put you in bed to share my pillow.  if i wasn’t worried that you’d wake your 4.5 month old sister who was sleeping soundly on the other side of the bed, i wouldn’t have delayed.  not even a second.  sure, you will need to learn how to stay in bed a little longer one day very soon, but it would have been fine today.  i wouldn’t have minded.  i can go without sleep occasionally, and i will.  i will if you want to take an early morning and watch “pocoyo” with us in bed.  even if we’re up long before the sun, i’ll trade a few hours of sleep for a few hours of closeness with you.  the time keeps flying by…i need as many of these moments as it will allow.

i’m learning that the seemingly small moments are the biggest, and when one of these small-big moments blind sides me, i feel my desire to be as present as i can.  it’s like a pain…it hurts to know that i sometimes can’t prepare for the special moments; that i can’t be prepared to live in those times.  i want to soak up everything possible because my memories are the most tangible things i will be left with when you go and grow up.  i pray that the memories are strong enough…that they will somehow be enough one day when all i have are traces of this little person you are now.  i know it will smack me in the face in 10 or 20 short years just how much you’ve grown, so promise me that you’ll show me some grace one day when you inevitably find me staring at you, because i will be searching for reminders of who you are today…i know that when i look at you, i’ll be pressing play on the home video reel that’s stored in my brain, remembering the first time i saw you, the first time you looked at me just seconds after you were born, the time when you were just a few months old and i scrunched my brow at you and you smiled, how, also when you were really young, you’d look like a tree frog when picked up, how you’d stretch and have the biggest smile on your face when i’d get you out of your crib in the morning, how ferociously you’d make the motorboat sound until you were covered in drool and red in the face, the crunching sound of the rice mum-mum as you bit into it for the first time, how you’d light up and say “dada dada dada” when we’d pick you up from childcare after church, how you’d purposely fall into our arms when you were learning to take your first steps, how you would say “dahkdah dahkdah dahkdah” instead of “tickle tickle tickle”, how you jump your feet “out in out in out in” when you dance, how you called 7 “funny” 11 “oney” and peanut butter and jelly “bo jay jay”, anytime you said “holdmeholdyouholdme”, how saying “yayayayayay!” when you were frustrated changed to “whoawhoawhoa!”, “wubbies” (my favorite – you will say that for as long as i have a say in it), how you said “wubbie bb hahmeh” to your sister, and how you call her “pretty” or “princess”, how you kiss her on the cheek and ask to hold her, how you call us “mommy pig” and “daddy pig”…and many more.  i’m going to recount as much as i can as often as i can.  i have to.

so.  it is my mission to be present.  my charge.  i’m going to do everything in my earthly power to live life with you, to experience as many parts of you as i can.  i should give a fair warning that you’ll probably see me cry often because of it, but that’s ok.  i want to share my heart with you as you have already done with me.  i want to rejoice with you, cry with you, share in your (appropriate) pride.  let me help bear your burdens and feel what you feel.  i’ll be your guide and i’ll be your help…ahead and beside.  i’ll strive when you strive.  i’ll learn when you learn.  i’ll grow when you grow.  i’ll live when you live.

my son, my first born…i will give you all of me.

wubbies.

regret and insecurities

this post might be slightly grim, so i am apologizing in advance.

 

recently, a rather tragic event has happened to my family.  some of you reading this already know about it, but for those who don’t, i am going to try to give you a rundown of what happened so you can be up to speed for the rest of this blog post.  admittedly, this happened as a result of a decision i made, but i ask that you consider the outside circumstances of what my life looked like at the time before making any judgments.

this is something that i saw coming, and very well could have prevented, but i decided to let life play out and take the next things as they came.

i have included a photo that better shows what we were facing several weeks ago, so if seeing a photo of this type of subject matter is too much to handle, i would advise using discretion.

the photo is pretty self-explanatory, but i’ll offer additional thoughts after you see it.

 

here it is:

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i am sorry to have put you through this, as i know that looking at me with cornrows has now caused you lasting damage.  you wouldn’t be the only ones, though.  along with you are the strangers at the grocery store, cowering in fear as they shoot their side-eyes, the facebook commenters who i can only imagine were trembling behind their computer screens at the horror of seeing this picture pop up on their news feeds, and everyone else who’s life apparently depends on how i wear my hair.  one person even told me that getting cornrows was a “stupid decision,” i guess because that decision somehow affected them in a negative way.  or maybe the idea of somebody wearing a hairstyle that they deemed dumb based on their perception of what dumb hairstyles are was too much to deal with.  THEY COULDN’T.  EVEN.  (interesting, isn’t it?  i always thought stupid decisions were ones that aren’t easily changed.)  i guess i owe an apology to my family for my being so willing to besmirch our good name.  they should never have to deal with people giving me funny looks.  it’s just too much.

 

you know what drove me to make this awful decision?  it was the fact that i don’t want to live a life of regret.

 

the older i get, the more i am realizing how my decision 5 years ago to stop the pursuit of becoming a professional dancer brought forth more change than pain.  growing up, one of the biggest problems i had was worrying about what people think of me.  i still don’t know if that was brought about from being a ballet boy, or if it is something that intrinsically exists within me.  i can remember my dad always telling me “you don’t need to worry about what other people think” or “it doesn’t matter what they think of xyz,” and my decision to abandon that which i thought was my life’s calling was the beginning of the end of that worry in my life.  yes, at 24 years old, i finally started figuring it out.

that was around the same time i started figuring out how insecure i actually was, about a lot of things.  i had spent the past 6 years standing in front of a mirror in tights for 6 hrs a day almost everyday until the day i quit.  that is a sure fire way to become insecure.  and i was insecure about my abilities as a dancer.  and about what people would think if i stopped dancing, and what they would think if i didn’t, or what they would think if i moved, or didn’t have another career to jump into, or that i was “wasting” my gift, and on and on and onnnnn.  so when i finally wised up and decided to make a bold life change i realized that IT DOESN’T MATTER.  i let go of all these dumb insecurities that have no power over my life and started allowing myself to find pleasure in things i love.  i allowed myself to be the inner dork i always knew i was: the one who loves classical music, a cappella choral music, making pottery (which i really miss doing, btw), fashion, hair, creating, running, knitting, project runway, lifting weights, giraffes, hgtv, wine, america’s next top model, food, roller coasters, gymnastics, the ocean, decorating, deep conversation, nights in, shoes, singing, and whatever the heck else i wanna like because, once again, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  the only thing that being insecure about who i am leads me to is regret.  and since i have no room for regret in my life, i also have no room for insecurity.

 

so yes, i got cornrows.  whoop-de-freaking-do.

 

and guess what?  i once had a beiber haircut.  granted, this was before anyone knew who he was, so maybe HE actually had a BATTLES haircut.  boom.

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then i had my lovely wife make some of it green and blue.  THE HORROR.

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then i had a mohawk with bomb racing stripes.

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then i buzzed it.

then it grew out again.

then i bleached it.  GASP.

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then i buzzed it again.

then it grew out some.

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then i grew it out again.

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then i cut it short.

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then i bleached it.  AGAIN.  I KNOW.  YOU CAN’T.

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then i buzzed it.

then i spent a year and a half growing it to this.

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then i got it cut again.

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side note: too many of y’all commented about how this hair cut was “so much better!”  uh.  thanks.  didn’t know i needed so much improvement.  howev, i’m glad that it no longer causes you distress to look at me.  i had long hair.  what a tragedy.

that’s 10 things that i won’t have to have regret about later in life.  11 if you count the cornrows.  and honestly, it woulda been dumb if i let any insecurities about what people might think of my hairstyle stop me from changing it.  seriously, what a failure that would’ve been.

so, no more.  no more insecurities about the things that are inside of me.  no more insecurities about the things i love or like.  no more insecurities about the things that make me “me.”  once again, insecurities lead straight to regret, and neither are worth giving power to anyone else because of their perceptions of me, whether i’ve preconceived them or not.

and no more for you, too!

 

btw, i have a pair of white jeans, in case you were wondering.  ERMAHGERD!

it’s time to stop this train

he didn’t say it to my face.

“he’s queer as a football bat.”

i remember feeling like my skin was turning clear, exposing all of the places deep inside me that this most recent dose of venom sunk into.  i sat a few seats ahead of him in algebra class and was used to his daggers, but this one was particularly painful.  i’ll never know if i was able to maintain my composure in that moment.  at that point, i was very familiar with how difficult it was to keep cool and pretend that the sting i felt wasn’t visible to everyone around me, but i’m not sure if i was ever proficient in my ability to appear unfazed.  i’m fairly certain that my teacher heard the comment, probably because he managed to say it in a split-second moment of silence, and she managed to come to my defense without further embarrassing me.  while i’m thankful for her stepping in, looking back i don’t feel as if her normal teacher discipline was enough for such a hateful remark – even if i was grateful for someone coming to my defense at the time.

this is the same guy who called me “faggy” every time i happened to be in his presence, and probably not surprisingly, never to my face.  you’d think that in a relatively large high school with several thousand students, my path wouldn’t have to cross with his more than once each day.  no such luck, of course.  i can remember everyday walking towards him on the way to what was probably one of my last classes of the day.  i’m not sure if i was dejected or exhausted enough to not pay any attention to him, or if i was just so angry that i literally couldn’t look at him.  either way, i stared straight ahead, as if he didn’t exist, waiting to hear that 5 letter word, knowing full well it was coming.  “faggy” this, “faggy” that…i can’t even tell you anything specific he said, probably because it was all nonsense used for the purpose of calling me “faggy.”  regardless, it was never as i was looking at him.  always beside, far off, or behind.  i wish i had had the guts to square up to him and demand him to say it to me.  to say it TO me.  i think i was too fragile at that point, even as a sophomore in high school, from enduring the years from middle school until that point of being talked AT.  not to mention, he was a senior.  that would have worked against me.

naturally, i have no clue what exactly he had against me.  i had never spoken to him before he narrowed his sights on me.  did he know i “did ballet”?  big deal, by the way.  was it because i didn’t have the typical persona that high school boys think they need to have in order to be relevant?  was it because i didn’t have a problem being myself in front of people who accepted me?  is it because i was willing, at times, to bare my soul a little bit?  do i even do that anymore?  i can’t even remember if i was someone who wore his heart on his sleeve because i was too busy guarding it.  or trying to, anyways.

still, for the purpose of what i’m trying to convey, that’s not the point.

i’m worried about us.  more specifically, i’m worried about the way we address each other.  more specifically still, i’m worried about the way we address each other on facebook.  i feel dumb for even typing that sentence, but i think most would agree that it’s becoming a huge problem.

i decided about 4 years ago to consciously change the way i use facebook.  i had become too arrogant in my opinions and as it was pointed out to me, quite negative.  even now, if i look back on my timeline to that time, i seem like someone who spent his life annoyed and cynical.  it’s certainly not something i’m proud of.  even worse, my willingness to be openly negative and annoyed spilled over into what i said to people in the trusty ‘comments’ section.  yes, even as a victim of verbal attacks, i dished it out (even to the point of delight at times, admittedly) from behind the protection of my computer screen.  hopefully i’ve improved in these areas.

over the past several years (and since trying to change myself as i pertain to and use facebook), i’ve noticed that facebook as a whole has been becoming increasingly vitriolic, probably at the same rate that facebook has been becoming increasingly more of a platform for many things.  this medium of social connection has now become an arena of self-bolstering for our quest to be superior in knowledge and right in opinion.

here’s why i’m worried: because we have turned facebook into a medium for our self-centerdness, we have turned ourselves into the guy that sat behind me in algebra class.

i challenge you to take a scroll through your facebook news feed and find an opinion based post.  we all have those friends who relentlessly stir the pot, so finding something like this shouldn’t be difficult.  once you find it, read the 37 comments.  it won’t be long before you find someone insulting someone else or a group of people.  some of the things people are willing to say to and about someone that they may or may not know actually blow my mind.  i’ve seen, and some sense been victim to, some pretty awful attacks.  i almost don’t feel as if i need to explain what happens, because you’ve all seen it, but the comments section gets out of control because somebody gets mad, then makes someone else mad, then someone else, and still someone else, and before you know it, everybody is mad and trying to outdo each other.  the once debate is now an argument, and the subject matter is now far from that of the original post.  i’ve seen it most when it deals with politics, religion, sports, or the mommy wars.  i’m starting to wonder if some people actually thrive off of these kinds of arguments, which is an entirely different problem.

the more i would read these arguments with waxing frustration, the more i realized that i would ask myself repeatedly “would he/she say this to his/her face?”  because of the nature of facebook commenting, people are indulging in the luxury of being able to take a good amount of time to formulate the best possible argument they can, to make it sound perfect and infallible, all while adding the perfect amount of insult and sarcasm.  they are literally taking time to write the perfect putdown, knowing full well they won’t have to deal with actually saying it TO someone.  i can hardly think of any greater cowardice.  what if these arguments WERE face to face?  would we be fine with saying the exact same things that we so easily say on facebook to the face of the person we are saying them to?  sadly, i’m not always sure the answer is ‘no.’  think about it…it’s way easier to let your fingers loose to just type away as they please than it is to say something from a few desks behind someone in math class, right?  this is getting scary.

the problem is that we are getting so comfortable saying whatever comes to mind on facebook, that it won’t be long before this keyboard confidence spills over into daily life, and we’re ignoring the respect we should have for each other, social cues, tension, or accountability.  we’re going to be ok with openly and freely insulting, tearing down, and attacking someone to their face…more ok.  probably the most painful thing about the insults that i got hit with from the kid from high school was that he must’ve known how hurtful the things he said to me were.  so hurtful that he couldn’t bring himself to say it directly to me and hold himself accountable.  he knew what he was saying was hurtful but said it anyways.  and safely from a distance.  we’re doing the same thing on facebook.

facebook isn’t all bad.  i have no problem with well thought out, respectful opinions and/or debates, and sometimes people truly feel they are shedding light on some things/opinions that may be misunderstood.  this is not in and of itself bad.  but facebook has given voice to the voiceless, and has given most of us an audience bigger than we have had or will have access to, so we need to remember that with great power comes great responsibility.  those aren’t just names and avatars you’re seeing, they’re people.  people with real feelings and struggles.  people who are sensitive, people who hurt, people who feel. and they can hear you, whether virtually or physically.  be careful with them.  know when to speak and not…you don’t have to say something about everything.  it’s a great skill to hold your tongue and be wise about weighing in.  holding our tongues doesn’t make us wrong or defeated, it actually breaks the cycle.  “when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  (prov 10:19)

i’m not sure if i even brought my point home here.  basically, next time you start to get “turnt up” by somebody on facebook, picture yourself sitting with them over coffee before you respond.  it’s time to stop this train.