as I walk

the journey to becoming me

To my wife:

Well, we’ve made it through our first year. Our first of many. Our first of dozens. I wish I could say that it was all magical and beautiful, but the first few months delivered punch after kick after jab to us. You stuck by my side no matter how rough it got. You didn’t just stay by my side, but, you spoke life into me. You helped me. You loved me. You encouraged me. You promised time and again that you weren’t going to leave. I wouldn’t have made it through without you. I don’t know if I would have even tried.
Every day that I see you, I feel closer to you than the previous. Each day we speak, I feel more in love with you. When you smile at me, I feel lucky – luck in love, lucky to be alive, lucky to know you.
As we start this second year, I pray that I can be the wife I want to be for you. I want to be your confidante, your cheer leader, your best friend, your comic relief, and even the kick in your pants. I want to love you with a selfless love. I want to love you the way Jesus loves the Church.
I hope I don’t have to learn things the hard way. I want to glean from other successful and unsuccessful marriages. I don’t want to make mistakes with you, but I know that if I do, you’ll be gracious and we’ll work it out. Thank you.
I love you.

The Ellens

I was a senior in high school in 1997. I was finally in a physically safe place and could spend my brain power thinking more introspectively other than mere survival. I would hang out at home or at a friend’s house and watch television which was a bit of a luxury for me. My favorite show was Ellen. I couldn’t stand Seinfeld – all of the characters seemed to be whiney for no apparent reason and were selfish and lazy on top of it. Friends was all about sex and there was no way those people could afford those awesome apartments. So, I found my enjoyment in Ellen, it was fun, little sexual tension, and realistic enough for this hurt and jaded kid, but distant enough from reality that I could zone out. Then one episode, she came out. It was the “puppy episode” as I recall.
It was all over the news, checkout magazines, and what little bit of internet there was back in the day. I remember being fascinated by it. I couldn’t tell if I was rubbernecking a bad car wreck or if I had a case of hero-worship. I had a research paper assigned just about a week later and I decided to do it on “Outing in Entertainment”. I remember being scared about even choosing the topic – what would it mean for me to write on it; what would people think? I was very concerned with what people thought, yet I wanted to do it anyway, I think that deep down I was testing the waters of coming out (which may be why I waited until I was in my 30’s). I had never been so invested in a research paper before. I still think that I did my best work then. It may not have been as polished as some of my pieces are now, but the content, the sweat and tears that went into that paper were beyond high school for sure.
I got some flack from my teacher, from my peer editor, and I remember from my father when he found out what my topic was. I didn’t really care, I felt it was important and wanted to tell the story. I told it, but it fell on deaf ears. Looking back, writing the paper was important for me. I finally was getting out of the mindset that gay people are all promiscuous and swingers and disease carriers. I learned through all of the research that gay people are people. Gay people are people. Sure, some gay people take a different person home each night. Some straight people do the same. People are people. I also learned that coming out in 1997 has far more consequences than coming out in 2012.
Thanks to the trailblazers like Ellen, Martina Navratilova, Elton John, and those who came after Neil Patrick Harris, Zachary Quinto, Michael Sams, Jason Collins, and Ellen Page who came out on Valentine’s Day at a HRC event.
From Ellen to Ellen, people are coming out – not because it matters what people do in their bedroom, but because people have a desire to live authentic lives, and to show that it doesn’t matter what people do in the bedroom – that they are still the same people, the same creators, actors, athletes, friends, family members, church congregants, pastors, students, teachers, construction workers, auto parts sales people, baristas, hair dressers, ice skaters, musicians, etc.
I came out so as to not have to hide what I was doing – like it was wrong. I came out so I could live out who I was inside. I came out not because Ellen made me gay, but because she showed that it was okay to be who I already was.

I guess my point in all of this is that people are people, and because of that, there will always be jerks saying terrible things either because of sexual orientation, race, gender, class, ethnicity, disability, or religion. I just wish we could get to a point as the human race where we’ll own up to why we disparage people – because we’re jerks, not because of what the social confines we’ve put a person inside of.

Woman in my life essay

The following is an essay I wrote for my school’s HerStory month.

The Woman in My Life

From our very first conversation on the phone, I knew she would be special. This lawyer was down to earth, funny, sincere, and intelligent. When we finally met, everything I thought I knew about her was confirmed. This OKCupid date was the last first date I’d ever go on. We couldn’t stop talking, I couldn’t stop smiling. Within six months we were married, and now we’re on the dawn of our one year anniversary.

The things that made me fall in love with her still draw me in and make me interrupt her stories just so I can tell her I love her. Every day, I feel that we get closer. The people that come across her are better for having met her. Her love is infectious.

She stood by me through the darkest time in my life. I never once felt her withhold anything from me during that time. She gave even when I did not have the capacity to give back. She didn’t expect anything from me other than to keep fighting to get out of that darkness. Her love is peace.

She has taught me to stand up for myself – to be strong. As time has gone on, I’ve seen her strength, her loyalty, and her passion for social justice really come alive. She taught me that feminism is a good thing and to embrace who I am. Her love is strength.

She encouraged me to return to school so I can have my dream job. She is sacrificing so we can make it work. She helps me study and will proof-read papers for me. She’s in this with me. Her love is transformative.

Her love is mine.

what

You have been witness to a multitude of my thoughts for the past few years. You’ve witnessed doubts, fears, triumphs, a mental breakdown, the quest for love, the all things considered, crazy fast finding of said love, not to mention my preparation for and travel to North Korea. As I look back on some of the things I’ve written, I see that I’ve drawn poor conclusions. The facts remain, but my conclusions, my inferences were weak so the argument became un-cogent. It comes down to bad logic (this Philosophy major thing is coming in handy).

So, not only am I re-evaluating my past arguments, I’m re-evaluating so much more and for once, I’m actually examining my identity. I have been assigned a project in my social justice class to do a paper and presentation on one of the seven core identities – in my life. I assumed this would be easy. I have a wealth of blogs to grab thoughts from regarding my sexual identity and how religion plays into it. Yet, as I started going through it all, I realized that it wasn’t real. It just didn’t fit. It wasn’t logical.
I scrapped what I was going to do and instead just wrote down all of the real, raw, moments that impacted my life and figured that would lead me in the direction to begin this project. The more I wrote the deeper it became and the more questions arose.
For the first time in a few years I began to question who I am. No, that’s not quite accurate, I am for the first time questioning what I am. What is my identity? I see the events that have led up to who I am. I’m comfortable with that. But what am I?

I hate labels. I’ve said it before in previous posts, yet still, I keep putting them on myself – even when they didn’t quite fit. Even Christian the easiest label for me doesn’t feel right. Yes, my plan is seminary and possibly becoming a pastor or a professor of theology, and definitely a theological author. Yet, Christian sound confining and has baggage and weird connotations. I call myself a chick. It’s not because I’m trying to be cool. It’s the least weird term. Even as a young kid, I didn’t like girl. It felt weak and foreign. As I grew up the terms lady and woman frightened me. I’m certainly neither of those things. I shunned women only Bible studies because I felt such a disconnect from them. Maybe I was born to simply reject traditional gender roles, but maybe it’s more than that.
Remember how upset I was over wearing a scarf at a job? It wasn’t because of politics, it’s because it was not congruent with who I am. That much I knew, but I was afraid to look inward to find out how and why… and what that means.

I remember wanting to do all the things that boys were allowed to do. I remember wanting a career – pastor, mechanic… I remember really wanting to wear jeans and a blazer. I remember teaching myself to pee standing up. I remember getting into trouble for it and writing out Bible verses and wearing dresses. I remember being told that a “sex change operation” was real but I’d go to hell if I had one. I remember praying that I wouldn’t grow breasts or get my period. I was afraid that I’d be stuck living trapped as a housewife (as I saw my mother) in suburbia and it was utterly terrifying.
I don’t want a penis. I don’t want facial hair (trust me on that). I shave my legs meticulously so I can wear shorts year round. I try to smell delicious with bath splashes or Gap’s Dream perfume. I surely do not want to give birth. I only wear guy clothing with the one exception of bras. Yes, I wear boxer briefs. I have a short haircut that I’m sort of trying to grow out… I was the one that proposed to Kelly. I get upset when I’m mistaken for a man, but feel equally strange when called ma’am or miss, or some other gender specific term. I hate using the term lesbian (and very rarely have I ever used it). I don’t like the term butch, because though I can dress “that way”, I don’t feel that. Maybe I’m not a lesbian, because maybe I’m not actually a “woman”.

So what am I? To be clear, I am not debating my biological sex. As far as I can determine, I have no interest in changing that, though I would love to not have to deal with certain umm… aspects. Does gender matter? I argue that it does, that it is one of the seven major ways that one interacts with the world. It impacts scholarships, relationships, restrooms, employment, finances, power, and authority to name a few. So again, what am I?
Last night we (the wife and I) had a serious discussion about androgyny and what that could mean, if anything other than a label. Why am I so focused on labels? I think it’s because there’s that moment of freedom to see something that finally makes sense, that everything lines up, even if only for a moment. It’s true, I want everything to line up and come to that “Aha” moment. Is there an aha for me though? Is androgyny the answer? Gender queer? Gender fluid? Is there a third gender? Am I on a trans spectrum? Seriously, what am I?

How do we find out who and what we are? Is that information from parents and society or does it come from within us – that we just know? If it’s the former, then is it even real? If it’s the latter, how can we know that we’re right? Can it change or is it just the depth of our understanding that changes if anything? I wish I knew those answers.

Jonah

I’ve had more Mondays off of school than I have had in class. Between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and bad weather, I’ve made it to one Monday class so far. This Monday, I will get to sleep in. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful for being able to sleep past 6.
You see, Jonah, our wonderful sweet little kitten… the same one who doesn’t have a tail and has taken over my instagram account… that same Jonah… has been waking me up increasingly earlier on a daily (and now nightly) basis. This morning he started at 4. Four. He always starts with biting my feet because he knows I hate it. He knows that I can’t stand to sleep with my feet under the blanket, so they’re out there… vulnerable… ripe for his taking. I try to kick him away, but it only riles him up further. I eventually get enough motor skills to go under the hot blanket. Then he goes for my face. This morning he scratched just under my eye, then jumped onto my side table, knocked every single thing off, and grabbed a bottle of pills in his mouth and ran around… I’m pretty sure just to make extra noise. This morning due to how early it was and how unbelievable jerky he was… I locked him in the closet (relax the closet is bigger than some NY apartments). He found the loudest thing in there and started doing his cat thing… so loud that I still couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up and let him back out and though I didn’t want to set a precedent, I filled his bowl up with some dry food and went back into bed. He looked at the bowl, jumped back on me and decided he was going to bite my arms… until about 6 when I then put canned food in his dish. I miraculously fell asleep for about 30 minutes before my alarm went off to get ready for church.
Afterwards we went home and I tried to take a nap, but the bugger continued to do whatever he could to keep me awake. So I relented and decided to do homework. As soon as I started he fell asleep, but I got into a groove and decided to keep at the tasks at hand.
I love him. I really do. But I kind of… well… I’m wondering if he’s a sociopath.

The F Bomb.

I figured I should give an update of how things are going. I have a few classes that I like, one that I think is totally stupid (but it’s a great teacher, so it averages out to an okay experience), and one that should have been awesome, but just sucks. I like doing homework. I know, I’m sick and twisted. But I like it. There’s something about making my brain work that gets me going.
My job on the other hand…
Maybe it’s because I’m in school. Kelly thinks that there’s some kind of jealousy running around at work – that they see that I’m not going to let myself stay stuck there like they are. I don’t know about that. I think that I finally don’t care anymore about harmony. For the 3 years or so that I’ve been there, I’ve always been the peace keeper. I’ve been the thermostat. I’ve made sure that everyone kind of gets along. Now, I’m tired. I’m so sick of the middle school drama that seems to play out. These guys are grown men in their 50’s. Why can’t they just be adults? I’m tired of having to be the one to make everything better. Also, I just don’t care anymore. I now see that I won’t be stuck there forever. I don’t need to stress myself out to make sure that everyone else is fine. They certainly don’t care about me like that…
Yesterday on Facebook I mentioned that something bad happened at work. One of my closer co-workers, a guy who had even bought us a wedding present dropped the “f word”. He said the computer had to “de-fag”. He immediately knew he was wrong. I expected an apology that was along the lines of a slip of the tongue, that it wasn’t what he meant to say. Instead the apology came across more like “Oh crap, I didn’t mean for you to hear that”. At first I was angry. So angry that I walked away and found busy work to do in the back for an hour while I calmed down. Once calm, I realized that I wasn’t angry, rather, that I was hurt. He later asked me if I was still angry at him. I said no. It’s true. All I felt was hurt and betrayal. It may seem so minor, so trivial, it’s just a missing “R”. But in reality, that missing “R” destroyed a good work friendship. I can’t trust him any more. He clearly doesn’t respect me, or anyone else.
Today at work, I pretty much kept to myself and did the work that I needed to get done. I think that’s how it will be from this point forward. Maybe we’ll come to an understanding in the near future, but even then, trust has been broken, and nothing will be the same.

holy cow

Holy cow.

That’s pretty much all that I can say right now.

School begins on Monday.  Monday.  Monday.  Oh, and it will be a high of -8 that day.  Even though this is everything that I’ve been striving for and thinking about, I’m praying that the school closes due to the frigid weather.  Kelly already has Monday off from work… maybe schools will close too?
I hate admitting that I’m scared, but I am.  I know that once I get in the groove it will feel natural and smooth.  Obviously it will always be challenging, but it will eventually be smoother.
All I can think of is financial aid, figuring out how to get around, how to do school, and how to balance life.
Tonight I bought a couple of the text books… well, rented them… it’s cheap… and the right ISBN numbers.  I still have others that I have to get from the school because they’re custom.  I feel unprepared.  I don’t like being ill prepared.  I like control… and I don’t feel any of it.
I’m sitting here drinking a cup of eggnog on my last week night without any school obligations.  I can’t help but let my mind wander to the fear.  I’m trying to convert the anxiety into excitement, but I think I’m failing… miserably.  I can’t help but think about the desks in the lecture hall… and how I’m too big to fit in them comfortably.  I can’t help but think how intense it will be to add full-time school to my already full-time work schedule.  I can’t help but think about if I’ll have time to keep up with Kelly, church, the nieces, all of it.

Yet, I know this is the right path.  This is where I need to be.  This is what I need to do.  So, I will take a deep breath when I start to panic and continue to move forward.  I’ll try to ask for help when I need it, and I pray I have the wisdom to pull out of superfluous activities to make sure that school is and remains my priority.
Maybe it’s best if school isn’t cancelled, that way I can just get in and do this thing.  Yeah, that’s how I work best – exposure therapy.  My therapist will be proud.  But more importantly, I will be proud.

The beginning

The beginning.

As I sit here, I look to my left and see my wife napping on our futon with our cat snuggled up in a sweater under the blanket.  I look to my right and see a teeny tiny Christmas tree, multi-colored Christmas lights and snow falling outside.  This is a holy moment for me.
God is in this.
Two years ago I was miserable.  I hated everyone.  I hated God.  Mostly I hated myself.  I didn’t want to live most days.  I felt God hated me and then abandoned me.  I couldn’t imagine a future, let alone one like this.
I start classes in less than one month.  I’m getting my bachelor’s so I can move on and get my master’s.  I’m going for my MDIV if you didn’t already know.  Seminary.  The girl that shouted in Winnemac Park at 11pm most Monday nights “Fuck you God!  Where are you???” as loud as she could, is going to go to seminary.

I have a history of hating Christmas.  Every year I say I’m going to try to like it, but I fail miserably.  There have been times that I’ve faked it really well.  See, I’m a people pleaser, and people don’t appreciate a Debbie Downer/Scrooge/Jerk-Face.  There have also been times that I let it all out there, the ugliness of how I felt.
In October I started feeling anxiety about the upcoming holiday season and how terrible it will be.  I decided that instead of “trying to like it this year”, I was going to “participate” in it this year.  No expectations or feelings were needed to be involved, just action.  Thanksgiving went off without a hitch.  We were at my sister’s who as always had an amazing spread with bunches of people to chat with, kids to play with, and rooms to hide away from all the chaos for a couple of minutes.  Her home always feels like my home.  Unlike the previous year, Kelly and I got to spend it together.  It was beautiful.  It helped remind me to be thankful as cheesy as it sounds, it is true.  I’m thankful for her, for my family, for second chances, for this recliner that I’m sitting in, for our kitten, for our new bed, for the dim Christmas lighting with a backdrop of snow.
I am thankful.
After zero bad experiences on Thanksgiving, I tentatively waded into Christmas.  Thursday, I pulled out our tiny Christmas tree and picked up some lights at Walgreens.  While Kelly was at work, I set it up.  It started as a gift for her, because I know she likes it and she doesn’t like where we live, I thought it would be nice.  But, honestly, I think I kind of liked it more.  It made me take ownership of the holiday.  I feel warm and peaceful with the lights on even though the radiator is still broken and it’s cold inside (hence the sweater for the cat).
I am having a great holiday season.  I feel loved.  I feel safe.  I’m excited about the gifts we’re getting people.  I’m excited that we get to write both names on the cards together.  I’m excited that this is a season about expectancy, not about anxiety.  I’m expecting cuddling.  I’m expecting hot chocolate.  I’m expecting spiked eggnog.  I’m expecting love to be given freely and freely received.

This is the beginning.  The beginning of life for me.  This Advent has rebirthed me.  This moment though, I want to hold it in my heart.  The snow, the light snoring, the lights, the peace, the love, the acceptance, the presence of God.  It is here.  It is palpable.  Do you feel it?

going back forward

I’m going back to school.  I have an associate degree in something that I can no longer do as a career, nor do I want to do it as a career.  I want to get my masters of divinity.  So, I’m going back to school.  I’m going to finish up a bachelors at Northeastern (in the top 6 most affordable schools in the country.  COUNTRY.  Five miles away from my door).  Then go to Garrett out of Northwestern which is I think 2 miles from my door.
I love theology.  I read it for breakfast.  I cuddle up with it at night.  I mourn when I finish a book that challenges my thinking.  This is what is right for me.
I want to be a writer, a professor, a pastor.  I want to be used the way God intended.  Not abused by some jerk of a boss so he can sit on his ass while he has me work mine off and lie to customers.  I want to go down this path… as scary as it may seem.  I want to learn more, I want to learn to be teachable.  I want to learn to be open.  I want to be challenged.  I want to have random info in my back pocket at all times.  I want to be able to shepherd people.  I want to be able to explain things in writing on paper and on a chalk board.
I look down on my arm and see my tattoo that says forward in Korean and realize that it wasn’t just about propelling me to go to North Korea.  There is always a forward, sometimes it just takes awhile to realize what it is… but I figured out what my forward is for now… and I’m going there.

World Communion Day

I learned that today is World Communion Sunday.
This isn’t something that I was raised with.  Talk to me about Pentecost Sunday… and well, then we can have a conversation.
As I heard it explained before communion, it was about uniting with our sisters and brothers around the world.  That they too were participating, and it wasn’t just our congregation but the congregations around the world.  It sounds beautiful.  It sounds lovely.  It angered me.
There are countries that have no access to the Gospel.  It may be because there simply hasn’t been a Bible in their language yet.  It may be because of harsh government rule.  There are places that people meet in secret knowing that if they are caught, they will be imprisoned, tortured, and or killed for speaking of Jesus.
How can I participate in something knowing that they cannot?  I think of the friends that I made in North Korea.  Kim and Cho are 100% unaware of what’s happening here.  We talked very discretely about things of faith after several beers and Karaoke.  I know that if the world were a different place they’d find a loving home at my church and they’d have taken communion today.  But it’s not.  The world is broken.  I chose to respectfully decline communion out of love not just for the people who I met in my journeys, but for those who have never met anyone who knows the name that is above all.
Today my heart broke just a little more for the people who I consider mine.

Kim translating for a guard

Kim translating for a guard

Sitting with some boys

Sitting with some boys

IMG_0264

Some North Koreans dancing

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