fresh start

2015: the year of change & balance

As a blogger, I feel like I have some sort of obligation to do some sort of New Year’s/New Year’s Eve post. I think there might actually be an unwritten rule about it somewhere. But in all seriousness, this year has been so completely insane that I thought I would write up a monthly recap of all the madness that’s happened in the past 12 months, because sometimes I forget about all of the huge things that were a part of 2015. So here we go.

January:

I reconciled with my best friend after several months of whatever the heck we were feuding about.

I took my first ever real writing class.

I experienced suicidal thoughts for the second time in my life.

I started coming to terms with what I really believed about being a gay Christian and what that meant for me.

I started my last year of Welcome Week at Bethel with spring welcomes.

February:

I continued to heal from the depression and spiritual attack I experienced in January.

I came out to my family.

March:

I shared this blog publicly for the first time, coming out to everyone who read it.

I saw two of my favorite artists live in concert.

I decided on a new life verse: Ephesians 3:20-21

April:

I experienced the start of my first relationship with another guy.

I had an article published in an online magazine for the first time.

May:

I wrote a second article that was published in an online magazine.

I was interviewed and later appeared in an article in the Clarion, Bethel’s student newspaper that went on to gain nationwide traction, shared by the likes of Justin Lee and Rachel Held Evans.

June:

I moved out to North Dakota for the summer and later discovered that I hated the 9 week linguistics program that I was in.

I started dealing with some demons that went all the way back to middle school as a result of the people who were in the program.

July:

I experienced my first breakup.

I learned that one of my friends passed away.

August:

I finished my linguistics program in North Dakota and headed home.

I had an emotional and mental breakdown with my family where the full magnitude of everything that happened in middle school, including my first bout of suicidal thoughts, finally all spilled out.

I reconciled that whole mess with my family.

I went back to Bethel to serve in my last Welcome Week ever and loved every moment of it.

The morning of the second to last day of Welcome Week, I packed in four hours and went to the airport to leave for my semester abroad in Spain.

I arrived in Spain and met my host family.

September:

I got lost my first night in Segovia.

I watched wide-eyed as the first month went by.

October:

I visited Ireland, the Czech Republic, and England.

I almost killed one of my annoying travelmates.

I realized I was hopelessly addicted to Spanish chocolate croissants.

I experienced my first Gnimocemoh (that’s homecoming backwards fyi).

I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t talked to in 4 months.

I missed a friend’s wedding.

November:

I DTR’ed with another guy and saw nothing come out of that.

I visited Hillsong Church Barcelona.

I finally understood Don Quijote.

I talked with one of my friends the night his dad passed away.

I was acknowledged as a regular at my favorite Spanish bakery.

I missed another friend’s wedding.

I reached the tell-stories-cook-together-and-go-to-theatre-shows-together level with my host mom.

I wrote the suicide letter that I never wrote and sent it.

December:

I started coming to grips with the fact that I was leaving Spain.

I started a massive 25 page paper (that still isn’t done).

I said goodbye to Spain.

I arrived home in the US.

I’m writing this blog post now.

 

Thinking about this list earlier today, I decided that this past year has been filled with probably two or three years’ (at a conservative estimate) worth of monumental moments, and I just think that’s absolutely mind blowing. I honestly don’t think that I would’ve expected all of those things to happen a year ago, and yet here I am, having experienced so many things this year that you’d think they wouldn’t all fit within one 365 day period.

2015 has been a lot of things. It’s been painful. It’s been wonderful. It’s been challenging, and it’s been growing. I’ve cried a lot this year. But I’ve also stood wonderstruck quite a few times as well. I’ve faced demons old and new. I’ve been to four different countries and probably been on just as many, if not more, flights than I have in my entire life before this year. And I’ve closed a lot of chapters of life that have been open for a really long time, as well as opening a few new ones.

God has once again proven Himself to be infinitely faithful throughout whatever we might struggle through in this life, from being in a place where I questioned whether life was worth living anymore a year ago, through healing from that, through having that thing in my chest broken and wading through many different kinds of loss, through providing friends and love in other places that I didn’t expect, through a semester in another country immersed in a different language, to bringing me home and instilling in me an anxiousness stemming from the excitement over the infinite possibilities that lie ahead in 2016 and in life in general. This year has been nothing less than an emotional, spiritual, mental, and personal rollercoaster of all the twists and turns you could ever imagine, but He is the one thing that has remained constant throughout all of it, planted steadfast as the one thing that I can rely on when everything in my world seems to be up in the air, spinning completely out of control.

So, I’m not really sure what the next year has in store. As I’ve said countless times already this year, everything after graduation in May is uncertain. 6 classes stand between me and college graduation, and I don’t really know what comes after that. I’m applying to grad school, but other than that, I’m trusting that God will continue to lay out His path for me as the time comes. Though I’d like to know a more detailed plan of what’s to come, I suppose I’ll have to be content with that for now. I had no idea what to expect a year ago today, and then a thousand crazy things happened over the course of this year that left me speechless as to the unpredictable ways in which the Lord chooses to work. So, I guess I’ll just use the same plan for this upcoming year. It seems to have worked out alright.

So, I guess I’ll end this sort of sappy roundup post this way, by resharing my new favorite couple of verses as of this year from Ephesians 3.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

  • Ephesians 3:20-21

I might not know the scope of what’s going to hit me in 2016, but God does and He promises here that it’s going to be immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine, and that just gets me excited to see all of the crazy, supposedly impossible things that God is going to do over the course of this next year. I’m just glad to be along for the ride.

To everyone reading, thanks so much for keeping up with everything that I’ve written and everything that I’ve experienced this past year. I wouldn’t have made it through without Jesus and without a lot of you guys.

here now (survival + renewal)

Today’s post is coming at ya in honor of both Thanksgiving drawing near (stateside anyway) and the fact that we’ve officially passed the 20 day mark in the countdown to our departure from Spain (cue the ugly tears here). This post will probably also be a bit longer than some of the more recent ones, just as a disclaimer. #themoreyouknow For the books, we’ll be departing from Madrid on Friday, December 11, so we really only have 19 days left in Spain, since that last travel day doesn’t really count. It’s really quite soon, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve already spent close to 3 months living in a completely different country, in a different language, with families that were strangers to us not too long ago. So, everyone back home, prepare yourselves. We’ll be back to terrorize you with endless stories, suitcases full of European clothes, and flubbed uses of English in no time.

But anyway, for the majority of this post, I wanted to write about some of the things that I’ve been reflecting on as Thanksgiving approaches, namely: survival + renewal as the title of this post suggests. And what those things mean may surprise some people, because while I like to think of myself as an open book, these aren’t the things that immediately bubble to the surface.

So let me start here:

When I first left to come to Spain, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had just come off of an incredibly difficult summer of having to face a lot of demons from the past. I was all sorts of bitter, angry, and most of all, exhausted. I was ready for rest, and I kept praying that Spain Term would give me that. After all, I was taking the bare minimum number of classes and was going basically for the heck of it, since my Spanish minor was already done. Little did I know that over the next 90ish days I would not only get the rest that I needed, but also go about tackling each and every skeleton that was left in my closet, some of which were trivial things that just needed to be finished off and some which were a great deal bigger.

The biggest thing I want to focus on and something that a lot of people might not know about me is that I’ve been suicidal twice in my life. The first time was towards the end of middle school and the beginning of high school, largely provoked by one specific person, but also by others, that I won’t name here. And the second time was just earlier this year when I was struggling to reconcile who I was with the various futures before me. That’s vague, but those are long stories for other blog posts. Regardless, I’ve tended to pride myself on the fact that you would never know about this part of my life if I didn’t tell you, but the fact of the matter is that over the course of this semester, I’ve learned that those periods of darkness have weighed more heavily on me than I thought. They’ve caused fights and arguments with people that I love as a result of my inability to fully deal with them, and they’ve affected the way that I see the world and the way that I see other people. I’ve slowly chipped away that the darkness from these events, but I think that being 3,000 miles away from home finally gave me the space that I needed to take a hard look at them and put them to rest for good.

Living in another country, in another language, away from friends and family allowed me to take a step back from things that I had held close for so long. I was in a new place, in a new time, and for the most part, no one knew who I was or the things that I had gone through in the past. And I think that sense of being a blank slate this semester really magnified the extent to which some of these things continued to affect my life. I realized that I was still subconsciously trying to impress someone that had thrown me away a long time ago, and I realized that the defense mechanisms that I created in that space were still active in relationships that no longer called for them. But I think the biggest blatant call out that I received the whole semester was when we had to write our (sort of) final paper for one of our classes. The paper was supposed to consist of a letter written to the one person that, in our opinion, has influenced our life the most. It was then that I realized the magnitude of the impact that some of these things had on me, because as much as I wanted that letter to be written to one of my parents, or one of my siblings, or to my best friend, it couldn’t. And I ended up writing the letter to that guy from high school who pushed me to the brink of suicide the first time, describing everything that happened and the impact that it had. It took me four days to write that letter, a lot of them just staring at my computer screen or my notebook trying to figure out what to write.

And again I realized the kind of mentality that all of those years had left me with. I was constantly questioning what I was going to write, because after so many years of having it diminished or invalidated or not taken seriously, I felt like I had to defend my right to my pain, and if my argument didn’t hold up in that twisted court, my case would be thrown out. I had to force myself out of that mentality and tell myself that at this point, it was okay to say that it was his fault for doing it, my teachers’ fault for implying that I should just toughen up, my friends’ fault for seeing it and not doing anything, that it was anyone’s fault but mine. And something else I learned while writing that letter, something so fundamental, but at the same time something that I had to be told, is that with real pain, no one has the right to tell you that they didn’t hurt you.

After having turned in that paper, I edited the letter a little and actually sent it to the person it was addressed to, for my own healing and my own closure surrounding it. I haven’t gotten any response of substance, but that doesn’t even matter to me at this point. To me at least, I’ve discovered that just putting things out there matters more to me than how people choose to respond a lot of the time. Like, having finally told this guy everything that I wanted to say was more important than how he responded. Or telling this other boy that I liked him was more important than whether or not he felt the same way (he didn’t, in case you were wondering). Or any other example like that.

And, thus, we’ve caught up to the present, where I’m feeling a strange blend of restlessness and peace, peace because after six years, every demon from my past that has haunted me has finally been laid to rest, and restlessness because my mind just doesn’t even know what to do with the blank slate that it’s been given. There aren’t any dark secrets left to hide. There isn’t any more bitterness to swallow. There’s nothing left unsaid. There aren’t any more what ifs. The only thing left is a new chapter of life at a time when the possibilities for what’s ahead are nearly limitless.

And as Thanksgiving rolls around in the US, I’m thankful for this, and continuing to grow more and more thankful for the difficult times that cause us to grow the most. They might not be fun, and they might stretch us to the point of breaking, but those hard times always refine us more than we know at the time.

So, here’s to metaphorical fresh starts, to survival, renewal + being thankful.