What a difference a week makes

This time last week I was curled in a ball on my bed crying and screaming at God. September has been very difficult for me. For the first time in 17 years I am not in school. I had a very difficult summer and told myself it would be okay because my friends are returning in the fall. I still see them but not as often as I’m used to. Unfortunately I spent quite a bit of time with my head up my butt, hurt, angry, and very convinced that I had been unceremoniously dumped by everyone I cared about. Someone who was a father to me died just over a month ago and I am still learning to live with that. I worked at a job that was minimum wage and had nothing to do with my degree. I felt I had no purpose and no support.

Last week was the final straw. My father contacted me to say that my great grandmother was very sick and they were calling the family in. My great grandmother has been a rock of mine since I was young. I’m not very close with my family but I have always loved my great grandmother and she has always supported me. I snapped. I started sobbing and screaming at God “what next? What else am I supposed to put up with? I can’t fucking do this.” I don’t think I’ve ever consciously sworn at God before but I just went completely off the deep end. It scared me.

It was a wake up call. I went to an older church friend after I picked myself up enough to leave my bed. He gave me amazing hugs, sound advice, and just listened as I ranted and raged for about an hour. I ran into one of my pastors and his wife on my way home from visiting with Keith. I felt like God was telling me that I wasn’t as alone in this as I thought and I got some comfort from that.

Now this week my great grandmother is doing much better. While I still work at my minimum wage job I feel like I have some support there and I have also been offered two part time jobs in my field. I have reconnected with friends and pulled my head out of my butt for the most part. I went to chapel for the first time this year and felt rejuvenated from that experience. Things aren’t perfect but I no longer feel so alone or wasted.

Long story short it never amazes me how much this town keeps showing me again and again how much can change in a week.

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Damaged Goods?

To say I started this blog because of a singular event would be incorrect. To say it was started because of a string of events would be closer to the truth. In reality, it was a string of mentalities that really brought this blog into being.

Allow me to set the stage.

I grew up in a Christian home. My father grew up in a United Pentecostal church and my mother was a Wesleyan. My siblings and I were raised in a Baptist church in a small conservative fishing village. Given the remoteness of our community along with other psychosocial factors we had a tendency to cycle through pastors fairly quickly. One thing all these men had in common was weekly altar calls and warnings about hell. Every. week. My church went through a period of three years where we pastored ourselves while waiting for the right leader to arrive. These were spiritually some of the best years of my life.

At the age of sixteen my church finally elected a new pastor. He and I clashed from the start. It seemed the focus of every sermon was on the inevitable descent into hell. As someone who had been told at the age of three that if I did not want to pray then Jesus would forget about me when I died and I would go to hell this terrified me. I wanted nothing to do with a theology focused on damnation—the fear of which having already influenced every decision I had made for the last thirteen years. At the age of sixteen I started questioning the beliefs of my church, choosing instead to try and find my own relationship with God. A relationship not so driven by hate and fear.

By the time I entered university I was going through the motions of faith. I was still motivated by my fear of hell but questioned if there was any real significance to anything else I had learned. I went to church sporadically, made an effort to read my Bible daily, and lived my life however I wanted. I dated non-Christians, swore like a sailor and drank like one too.

This brings us to September of 2012. I was a washed up mess. The toxic combination of my drinking and unhealthy relationships had sent me into a suicidal head spin over the summer. I had fallen in love with a girl for the first time. These feelings weren’t returned but I was left to figure out my sexuality all over again. I was mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. I showed up to my university’s clubs and societies fair in a daze.

This was how the Christian Fellowship at my school found me. I had meant to join when I started university but there was a conflict in my schedule and each time it became easier not to go. I knew a few people in the IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) from church, but not well enough for them to know who I was outside of church. Those who did know me thought I was eccentric if not outright crazy. Nevertheless they invited me to their first event and I found myself saying yes. I slowly because more involved with the group and started making friends. All the time looking at myself—a queer, recovering alcoholic, self-destructive, feminist—surrounded by all these Good Christian Kids and silently asking myself, “what the fuck am I doing here?”

I kept my insecurities to myself. Some days they ate at me more than others. Some days I clashed with my Christian friends even when I didn’t want to. Over time however I came to see that my friends weren’t perfect either and this helped. I still felt like damaged goods, but I came to realize that maybe I wasn’t alone in these feelings.

All of this is a really long lead up to Easter Sunday 2014. On Psalm Sunday we had watched a video in church of people holding up cardboard signs saying what they had struggled/were struggling with and how God had helped them. Our pastors told us that they would like to see something similar happen at our church for Easter Sunday. They asked us to spend the next week thinking about what to say if we wanted to participate.

I spent the next week wrestling back and forth with the idea of saying anything. I love being there for other people but I am terrified of being vulnerable. I was worried that the friendships I had worked on for the last two years would be taken from me. That I would be seen as the damaged goods I always knew myself to be. I was terrified.

Sunday morning as I was enjoying Easter breakfast with my church family I gathered up the courage and decided to let myself be vulnerable. I grabbed a piece of cardboard and a permanent marker. On one side I wrote in big bold letters ”DAMAGED GOODS”. Along the edges of the sign I put “self-medication (pills, alcohol), depression, self-harm, eating disorder, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation.” On the back of the sign I put the words “being transformed by Christ.” A little shaken I returned to the breakfast table and waited for church to start.

I was surprised by the amount of people who came forward with signs. Some of them I knew and some I didn’t. When it was my turn I stood at the front and unloaded my insecurities on the church. As I flipped the sign I started crying. I stood there with tears in my eyes on the stage with the rest of the sign holders for what felt like an hour. I was still crying when I returned to sit with my friends. I was met with hugs, not ostracization. One of my friends thanked me afterwards for my honesty and bravery. I didn’t feel very brave. It just didn’t make sense to keep it inside of me anymore.

Thankfully my friends did not abandon me upon hearing The Truth (as I so dramatically put it at the time). My friendships remained strong and having not been accepted into grad school I decided to stay in town another year. Some of my reasons for doing so were healthier than others. This town is the first place I’ve ever felt at home. This is the first place I’ve ever had a strong group of friends. I was still worried that if I left my friends would say “Thank God” and no longer feel the obligation to talk to me. I would be alone again and that terrified me. I trusted these people but not enough to test it apparently.

A summer apart taught me that real friends stay in touch. You might not talk to them everyday but you know that not only would they care if something bad happened to you, but they care and are there in the good times too.

Which brings me to the night I decided to make this blog once and for all. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get here. I’ve never done anything like this before.

As I mentioned, I decided to stay in my university town after graduation. There isn’t much work outside of the university. I was working in a coffee shop two towns over. I had graduate friends visiting and the only exciting news I had was I had found a job working at the coffee shop in the university town instead. My friends showed up with the young adults who were working as counsellors at a Bible camp for the summer. Even though they were all very friendly, once again I felt like a dirty penny, like everything I said was wrong in some way. This mentality was no one’s fault but my own. I managed to shake myself of it by the end of the evening. After the late teens/young adults had left I wandered the streets with my friends and reminisced on the last four years. It was empowering to see how far we had come, how much things had changed since we first arrived. I momentarily stopped beating myself up and conceded that maybe I wasn’t a lost cause after all.

So here we are, blogosphere. This isn’t a recovery blog, per se. It’s not a Dear Abby blog either. It’s just a place to spill out some thoughts and try to make sense of my own headspace. Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a journal but posting somewhere that all my friends can see it doesn’t feel right either. As time progresses people I know will hear about this blog, but we’ll both just have to deal with that when the time comes. This space will not be perfect and for the most part it will not be apologetic. But it will be my own. My words to share with whom I please and if you made it to the end of this incredibly long diatribe and still wish to stick around then I applaud your patience.

Welcome to my self, perhaps still salvageable after all.

September 10, 2014 (posted September 23 because I am a slacker)

Just to get things started

Greetings. Good morning? Good evening? Hello all the same and thanks for tuning in.

After much hemming and hawing after the last year or so I have decided to start my own blog. Like any other recent university graduate/20-something I believe that now that I have some Life Experience under my proverbial belt I have Some Things to Say. One might even say, Some Advice to Give. Hence, this blog.

Will it be painfully pretentious at times? Perhaps. Prone to preamble and perilously long rambles that don’t actually lead anywhere? Almost definitely. Will my Strong Opinions change as time goes on? I certainly hope so.

So if you’re still interested (and by no means should you be at this point) stay tuned. There is more to come very shortly. My first post will most likely be an explanation of this almost flinch worthy title followed by some (hopefully well thought out) posts about Things That I Think About A Lot. I will try to organize these thoughts into categories which may or may not have sidebar settings. I am not as tech savvy as I have been or as I could be.

But this will be a growing experience for both myself and for anyone who tunes in and feels like speaking up. I believe this blog should have a comments section. If this proves false I will post a way to contact me. Above almost everything else, I want this blog to start a discussion, or to keep a previous conversation going. If there is something you would like me to speak on specifically I will do my best to write on it, even if it’s just to admit my utter ignorance/indifference on the subject and then go from there.

Let’s see how it goes.