Since I was a young person, I felt set apart. I felt other, different, and strange. It was hard because I always had an easy time making friends and being social, but I had a hard time keeping friends unless they were regularly in my life. My closest friends in high school were people who I constantly hung out with. I was one of those kids who had two best friends, we were together so much, we just knew we would be hanging out.
My friends were very athletic, so I tried my best to play sports as it seemed like this was an easy way to make friends and be a part of a social group, but I never felt comfortable there. I was often the last one to make a team, I was often concerned that I only made the team because of being a needy kid.
As I went into high school, I started to pull away from the identity I had created. I did not want to upset my social status too much, so I did not make the changes I probably should have. My senior year, I thought about trying out for a play, but I could just not bring myself to become a “drama kid” so late in my high school career.
I settled into being an architecture geek, especially after I placed in a state competition. It again made me feel like I belonged because I had success. I had a natural ability to draw straight lines and spatial sense. I knew this made me much different than my peers. My mom embraced this unique side of me, taking me to see architectural feats in our city and we even attended a few musicals, because she knew I had an interest in them as well. She never seemed to care about fitting me into a box. She never considered me to be broken.
I think when we grow up, we begin to fit into a track and it is hard to break out of the expectations our families have for us, even if our families are behind us 100%, like I believe mine is. It is scary to try something else, because if we are not successful, it appears that we are a failure. It appears we are broken.
I used to believe that this, that many of us must find the “right” path, if we did not we were really broken people who could not experience fullness of life without getting back on track. Life was like a one track railroad without no other ways out, no sidetracks, no detours at all.
As a forty-two year old man, I see the error of this. I see how this thinking made me extremely judgmental of others, who appeared to be very broken or who had lost their way. I now see those who are wandering a bit as hopeful beings, who have a lot of potential to find peacefulness. Notice, I did not say success, because it really looks different for every person. I have progress far past success being financial, but it has been hard to come to the point I am nearing now, wherein success = peacefulness of mind.
I wish I could tell you the numerous conversations I have with young professionals who tell me what a gift I am to young students. How they could “never” be a teacher, how they wish I was paid more money, and how they really should volunteer for my classroom. For them, I would rather they eventually ask the self the question, “What will bring you the most peace?”
This is a dangerous question, that I am glad no one asked me when I was younger. I would not be ready for the dismantling that has taken place in my life these past few years. For the last ten years, life has beat me down, truly it has broke me. I have experienced depression that I never thought would ail me. I have dealt with a darkness that has never been in me before. I have seen what it is like to have your life changed drastically, in a moment. Yet, I am more full of hope than when I was young and full of so many options.
I am full of hope, because I realize that as I stay on the path of peacefulness, it matters less what I do, than who I am, admittedly broken and constantly being put back together by the peaceful loving existence of a God who cares for me.