I was rummaging through old documents when I came across an unpublished post from November 2012, just before I left for Guatemala, signaling a more definitive break with my life in the bucolic Pacific NW. I was struck by how much more the hope I allude to at the end has continued to take root, especially as I build a life down here in So Cal. In lieu of not having time to write actual posts (finals week, guys… it’s the greatest), I figured I’d share this with you all. (NB: my parents continue to be awesome.)
What is it about a place that can exert such emotional power over the human mind? As if I stored little pieces of my sadness and sin in the pictures and trinkets that litter my room, which return to me the moment I rotate the cheap-gold handle. I’m quickly reminded the creeping spores of apathy and cynicism thrive in the damp chill of a Pacific Northwest winter (which lasts from October-May, for the uninitiated).
Home, with the stairs that I have, generously, a meager 40% chance of running up without tripping. Home, where I spent countless hours staring across the valley at the horses running around, happy creatures unaware that they had never known freedom. Home, where I forgot how to cry, and where I sharpened a razor-wire tongue that made me, I thought, invincible, if only because I never bled first.
Home, where I taught myself to shave behind two closed doors, blushing and ashamed; where I watched dad take my brother to go camping on his 13th birthday to talk about what it meant to be a man, where I convinced myself it wasn’t such a big deal, anyway, because two years later he missed mine for a business trip. And besides, camping in the winter is stupid.
Home, where, at sixteen, I decided Jesus was worth giving everything to follow, where I encountered that contagious flame of passion that altered my life forever. Home, where I discovered that this holy flame within me wasn’t enough to stop me from looking at porn or to dull the hidden ache of loneliness, and every time I repented I knew that God knew that each sorrowful promise would never be the last, and I couldn’t bear to abuse his mercy so I stopped praying altogether. Home, which I then left.
I learned to pray again at college. I learned to feel, to love, to be loved, and to, for once, be honest with myself. Through a million little miracles, God repaired my maimed soul, weaving the fragments together in a painstaking labor of grace.
But then I would board a plane to the Northwest and the stitching would loosen.
Home, where I finally told my family that I’m gay; where they promised to love and support me, and where I learned that love and support don’t always look to the same to everyone. But we are growing together.
I wonder how long it will take me to mature beyond the grasping shadows of a childhood ill-spent. I mean, look at me, my penchant for writing maudlin, self-serving complaints about my youth goes up by 1200% when I’m here. It must be all that My Chemical Romance I listened to.
I catch glimmers of hope. My dad and I have never been closer. I’m not hiding like I used to. I pray, often. I wonder what would happen if I stayed here longer, poured myself into reclaiming the history of this place. Maybe, just maybe, I could exorcise the bitter spirits and find that sought-after sense of integrity that evades me even still.
I may never know. I leave again in a week, this time for four months. Shortly after I return, bilingual and much better at soccer, I begin graduate studies 1000 miles away. I’ll continue to grow up, change, move deeper into the warm embrace of that blessed fire, and become increasingly aware of how fortunate I am to have the parents I do, to have lived the life I did. Perhaps the confusion will fade along with the myopia of youth.
I will say, however, that things are not entirely the same as they used to be: back then, I couldn’t love myself, but now I know without a doubt that God loves me, that even in the midst of my apathy and willful rebellion he still wants to be with me, to speak with me, to surround me with grace. And even as I’m unsure if I know myself as well as I think I do, I remember, resolutely, that he knows who I am, fully, and rejoices over me as I am conformed into the likeness of Christ.
Then, my inability to trust myself silenced me before a God I knew deserved better. Now, my inability to trust myself provokes me to cry out to him more than ever, because he is trustworthy and will not leave me to muddle through life alone. The former isolated me, the latter binds me closer to the one who saves.
I guess I am slowly realizing that, even though the dust of apathy rises up from the carpet and a whole host of other struggles seem to rematerialize every time I come home, the one demon that I haven’t heard from in some time is despair, and that has made all the difference.