It’s been about ten years since my life first took a change for the better. I didn’t know how much could change in that length of time, but looking back I can see how different my life looks compared to what it was.
The short version is my life was going nowhere. I was stuck in empty routines and living with untapped potential. I was somewhat self-enclosed and shut off from people around me. In some ways, I struggled with depression and didn’t have much sense of self-worth. I felt as if no one knew the real me or cared. I had what I call “hello, goodbye” relationships.1
I grew up in the church, so I know what it’s like to live in a “church world” bubble and not see or understand what’s going on in the rest of the world, to not care about what’s going on around me. It eventually became a place I went to, something I did, a mindless routine in a week of nothing. For a little over 24 years, I stayed at the church I was basically born into and the place I got saved, but I finally decided to leave a place I had grown up and venture somewhere else. By the time I left, there was a generational gap between most of the people and myself; my brother and I were the “young adults.” It’s hard to feel a sense of belonging if there’s no one to relate.2
Prior to leaving I had felt little real world connection and instead retreated into an online world where I had connected with people I didn’t know in person. Ironically, I developed some lacking social skills by interacting with people online and being part of their virtual community. I was (still am sorta) part of a LEGO forum that allowed me to express myself and connect with others in ways I hadn’t previously learned.3 I’ve since had a chance to meet some of these people and develop some friendships with them.
Before stepping out of what we knew, my brother and I were invited to visit a few church locations, one of which we chose to become members. There were plenty of people around our age, and there was some activity for such people, the first such event for us being June 17, 2009. So we settled in, though I stayed for about four years. In that time, I began to cultivate friendships with people my own age and more or less left the online forum for real world relationships. (This was also when Facebook and social media started taking off.) While I was part of this community, I did have a chance to travel to Hungary a couple of times and teach English at a summer camp, which was something I’d never done before. (It was also my first flight… two birds, one stone.) Eventually the number of young adults began to decline– along with other changes, and I again started to feel as if something was missing.
Before leaving there, I had been part of Bible study comprised of people I didn’t at first know but grew close with. It was led by a couple who became like mentors to me; they taught me things about myself and helped me grow into adulthood like no one else before. Under their guidance, I got my first “real” job, bought my first car, and moved out of my parents’ house. But then came the time the couple moved to California. It was bittersweet. We were sad to see them go but happy for their new beginning. Also, we had become somewhat insulated within our group, and after they left, the group kind of fell apart for various reasons (not necessarily all bad ones). We each branched out in different directions; some of us still keep in touch, but for the most part, people have since gone different ways.
That job I mentioned was not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it did allow me an opportunity to grow as a person and develop some work skills, but it was a night job, so it also severely isolated me more than I had been previously and made me really feel the need for other people in my life. For five-and-a-half years, I worked nights and didn’t have much opportunity for social interaction outside of work. Since I worked nights, I was perpetually tired and miserable; I learned how much I had taken sleeping at nights for granted.4
Once the Bible study group dissolved, I felt more and more alone. I was living by myself and still working nights, and there weren’t a lot of people my age around me. Several months later, I wound up at a new church community with people around my own age, which was cathartic and helpful. For a time in my life, being around older people made me feel sad and somewhat depressed. But I was able to overcome this difficulty by building that missing connection of peers. I eventually found myself having no problems with being around people of any age group. However, due to my work schedule and living arrangement, there was so much I couldn’t be a part of, so I still had very little social life.
As I mentioned, I lived by myself part of the time I working nights. I managed for two-and-a-half years, and I learned more about myself. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I opted to find a roommate and ended up in house with some other guys. Within a year of moving, my life took a few more major turns, and this was again for the better. I managed to find a job that is better in so many ways. After several years of working nights, I was finally able to work days and soon began to feel alive again.5 Soon after starting my job, I met the woman I would marry within a year’s time. : Since I began my daytime job, I was able to get better transportation (and I drove happily ever after, right?).
Aside from connecting with other people, being part of my current church community has allowed me creative opportunities like never before. During the time I felt little connection to the real world, I would write for myself in a journal because it seemed no one paid attention. Then I started relating to people online and in the real world, then began writing for audiences beyond myself. Eventually I figured out to some degree who I was as an artist and learned to write and share more openly. I’ve had some public performances, which I’ve enjoyed.
As I look back and reminisce, I see how my life is different. During the past 10 years, my life has had several changes, major and minor. There’s a lot more I could write about: of celebration and loss, of new places and experiences, of things learned, and the list goes on. But there are decisions I regret and mental reminders I’d rather forget, things I wish could’ve gone differently, but that is the past and cannot be change.
I may not have always seen God’s hand during my circumstances or understood why at the time, but I know He has brought me through for a purpose, even if I don’t know what. I may not have always focused on God during these last ten years of transition, but I know He’s watching over me. All I have to do is look back and see how my life has changed from someone who basically wanted to be left alone to someone who is learning to love other people and enjoys being alive.
Who knows what the next ten years will bring.
1 The kind in which people ask how you’re doing, and you say “fine/okay” and they say “good” and move on.
2 There was one older guy I talked with about stuff, but he had passed away shortly before I left.
3 The Internet is such a wonderfully-interesting tool.
4 I have a perpetual reminder of my job via tinnitus in my left ear.
5 I still have issues with sleeping at times, but for the most part I feel more energized than I once did.