Small Families Are Best

As the third of eleven children, I know what it’s like to be part of a big family. And as with most things, it’s not all good nor all bad. I can’t imagine giving up any one of my siblings. I care about them, and I am glad they were brought into existence. In fact, the sibling I am closest to is actually the last of the bunch, number eleven. Without him, I’m not sure I would have survived 2018, the absolute worst year of my life. In large part due to him, 2020 has been comparatively wonderful. There is no way I would want to go back in time and tell my parents that they really should have stopped after me, number three. No way!

Having said that, when I imagine what my life might have been like if there were only two or three of us, I feel like a lot of my life’s biggest struggles could have been either avoided or mitigated to some degree.

Every child has their own unique challenges and needs. They don’t all need the same rules or amount of personal attention. They don’t need hugs to the same degree of frequency. They don’t all need to be told that they are loved every day to feel that they are loved. Some can be left alone for long periods of time without harm. Others need constant social interaction from their parents.

When I raised my own two children, I recognized that treating them both in exactly the same way would be a mistake. So, I treated them differently. I learned how they each feel love, and I did what I could to make sure they both felt loved by me. I taught them to read, differently. I taught them arithmetic, differently. My son, though he does value fairness, was able to understand when I explained why the penalties for breaking rules could not be the same for both of them. Even the rules could not be exactly the same. They were two different people with different needs. Maybe schools and governments have to treat everyone the same, but a family shouldn’t have to. What was important to me was that each child felt loved in the way they needed and that their opportunities for individual growth and life success were maximized.

The more children there are though, the more difficult this approach becomes. I think that, out of necessity, most parents of large families use the much simpler strategy of treating every child the same. They try to show the children that they are being fair and that they love each child the same. At least, this is the approach my own parents seemed to employ. One positive benefit of this approach is that I never got the feeling that they were playing favorites. 

Unfortunately, what all of this fairness also meant was that my own unique individual needs weren’t quite being met. For example, I was not a happy child, but my parents never took any real action to discover why I was struggling. On those occasions where I felt a need to talk to them about some concern, I often had to wait in line. I can remember multiple occasions where I simply gave up and went off to be by myself elsewhere. 

Sure. My parents loved me…, but unless I did something drastic, I could never get the attention I needed. Among the things I tried when I was young were screaming at the top of my lungs, walking out and being gone for hours at a time, breaking walls, doors, and mirrors, getting F’s in classes, stealing, and even getting physically violent with siblings. I was awful, and I needed help. But did I get the help I needed? I got punishments. I got put in time out. I got extra chores. I lost privileges and access to things I enjoyed. They tried to control my behavior by meting out punishments. I don’t remember any time being spent to find out what was really wrong.

Of course, I didn’t know what was wrong either, but I was the kid. I was too young and inexperienced in life to understand my own psyche. I remember the phrase being often used in my house, “they just want attention,” whenever a child acted out. As if wanting or needing attention was a bad thing! In my mind, I was just an awful person, and all of the punishments and parental admonitions just supported that belief.

In middle school, things got especially bad. I heard about the possibility of homeschooling, and begged my mom to let me try. I needed something to change. My mom actually arranged a meeting with my principal to discuss the option, but he told my mom that I would just be running away from my problems. According to him, I needed to face them in order to overcome them. The logic doesn’t sound bad, and I don’t blame my mom for listening to him, but the choice was still wrong for me. Going home at that time wouldn’t have been running away from my problems. It would have been giving my mom a chance to figure out what the problems were, away from so many other distractions. 

A year or two later, my mom let my younger sister stay home to be home-schooled while I attended my first year of high school. High school was a lot better than middle school though, and I started to have some hope for the future. The next year though, in my sophomore year of high school, my mom decided to home-school everyone at home. For the family as a whole, this might have been a good decision, but I’m not sure it’s what was best for me personally. As just one in a crowd, my parents never really understood my own personal individual needs. 

The point of this post is not to criticize my parents though. I believe they did the best they could given the circumstances. If there had only been one or two of us, I’m sure they would have spent more time with me. They would have come to understand me more, and they would have been able to meet my needs better. If they weren’t able to understand what was going on with me or didn’t know how to help me, they would have had more money to spend on a child therapist or psychologist. Perhaps, I would not have had so many suicidal thoughts, a fact my parents never knew about me until I wrote it out in a blog post just a few years ago.

More recently, I have had some unpleasant interactions with my mom that I feel are caused, at least in part, by the sheer number of children she has. I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has caused great harm to me and millions of others, and I have written much about this. Until recently, my mom refused to admit that this could be even a little bit true. She finally did acknowledge that the “attitudes of members and the policies of the church have caused [me] pain,” and that “perhaps if [she] had [gone through what I did, her] perspective would be different.”

This partial acknowledgement made me both happy and sad. I was happy that she was starting to see, just a little bit, what I’d been going through all of these years and how the church was a part of that. I was sad that it made no difference to her. Now, this may have nothing to do with the number of children she has, but I can see how it might. If I came to believe that one of my children had been hurt by the members and policies of an organization that I loved, and that that organization was continuing to hurt others without apology, I would want to rethink my relationship with that organization. Even if I couldn’t give it up, I would want to keep my relationship with it a lot more low-key.

However, if I had many similarly devoted children and grandchildren that looked up to me and would see if I wavered in my dedication to this organization, I might hesitate changing any of my behaviors. I think that my mother believes that the church helps and blesses the lives of her and almost all the rest of her family, and I am just one sad exception. In her mind, changing her attitude toward the church might help her relationship with me but hurt many others. She can’t afford that, regardless of how it might affect me. 

To me, it seems pretty clear that numbers matter. What a parent will do for one child alone, they might not be willing to do for that same one child out of a great number. Imagine if all eleven of my mother’s children felt hurt by the church. Would all of her family-directed emails then be full of worshipful statements about the church? Would she then continue to exclaim her great joy that the church is true? Would it permeate all of her communication both public and private? No matter how much she believed the church to be true, even to the point of certainty, I think she would more carefully evaluate whether she needed to affirm that confidence at every step, destroying family relationships in the process.

And so, back to my original point, I think small families are best. When schools, governments, etc. have to treat all the same, regardless of personality differences, psychology, etc., parents should be able to do what’s right for the good of each individual. Parents, especially, should not have to choose between the good of many and the good of one child with unmet needs.

Unity of Mind

As a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder, I took two classes which I enjoyed more than all the rest: Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind. These classes presented many studies that challenged what I thought I knew about perception, free will, unity of mind, and so on. I was sure that my religion had it right, but I wondered how these studies and the evidence they presented fit into it all.

One of these studies involved individuals that had had their corpus callosum (the nerve fibers that connect the two brain hemispheres) severed. In this study, the patients exhibited a phenomenon that is now called alien hand syndrome which is where one hand, typically the left, seems to act on its own, independent of conscious control. One example of this could be where an individual goes to the closet to pick out a shirt, reaches for the one they want with their right hand, and their left hand slaps or pushes their right hand away and tries to grab a different shirt. There have been several theories presented for why this might happen, but none have been proven, as far as I know. I don’t know what is actually happening here, but it certainly leads one to imagine that consciousness may not be so neatly unified as we tend to think.

In our day to day lives, we seem to have one, and only one, consciousness that makes decisions and directs our actions. But what if there were more than one consciousness within us that shared our perceptions and experiences? Perhaps, consciousness isn’t even something that can be counted at all, but flows and ebbs like water. I have no idea what the reality is, but I think it’s an interesting idea.

If such were the case that our minds are not a single unified entity, a lot could be explained. For example, the other day, I was waiting for a student that often skips class. A part of me really wanted him to come so that we could do the work that needed to be done. At the same time, I also hoped he wouldn’t come so that I could relax and not have to stress over him. I know there are other explanations for being two-minded about things, but the idea that I could literally be “two” minded at times is interesting. What if every time I have mixed feelings about something, my mind is actually divided in the moment.

In the past, I have often talked about the various “voices” that speak to us, enticing us to go one way or another. In religion, this is often depicted as a demon and angel over each shoulder, whispering into our ears. Indeed, I used to believe that these voices came from without. These voices came from the Holy Ghost, angels, servants of Satan, spirits of the deceased, and so on. 

But what if all of these voices were just me all along? When I pray and calm my soul, what if the feeling of peace that can come is just all of my internal voices coalescing into one? Or what if that peace I feel is just another part of me, telling myself that what I want to believe is good to believe. A part of myself wants something to be true, and I can feel that when I pray or meditate. I sense this feeling as if it comes from the outside, but does it have to be?

In our day to day lives, we hear and see much more than that which we are consciously aware of. For example, each day, I drive to work. My mind is often busy thinking about various things, but somehow, I always arrive at my destination without issue. I see all of the other cars, and I carefully avoid hitting any of them. I don’t run over any pedestrians. I know when the light is red or green, and I go when I’m supposed to. But I feel like I do much of this at a subconscious level. Or perhaps “other-conscious” level? I’m not actively thinking about all of the things that I see and hear, but they still enter my brain and have an effect on my actions. 

To give more examples, I could see thousands of faces in a crowd, but not be able to consciously focus on any of them. But I still saw them, and much of that information made it into my brain. I could hear 10 or more conversations happening at once and only be able to focus on one of them, if that. But I still heard them all. Much of that information also worked its way into my brain. In a later moment, I may even be able to recall some of what I saw or heard and make connections that I couldn’t make at the time. What this all means to me is that I, at some level, know considerably more than what I can consciously bring to mind.

So, if there is so much more knowledge in my head than what I am consciously aware of, and I have some important issue that I’m trying to figure out, wouldn’t it make some amount of sense to want to access that hidden information if it were relevant to the issue I was facing? This is what I think may often happen when a person prays for answers to questions they may have. The answers don’t have to come from outside themselves. They simply need to quiet their mind and allow their subconscious or “other-conscious” to make the relevant connections and allow the information to surface.

I don’t know if this is how consciousness actually works, but it seems to fit the facts as I see them. People often get warm peaceful feelings when they pray or meditate on something they want to believe. People can also receive knowledge that they didn’t know they had or suddenly remember something that they had forgotten. 

What makes me think this is all just the subconscious or another side of our own consciousness and not an omniscient god is that although listening to these voices is generally beneficial, people get things wrong all the time. People are told to go right when they should go left. They have warm peaceful feelings that they believe come from the Holy Spirit, but then discover that what they thought was right was actually wrong. The story I usually hear from these individuals is that they misinterpreted their own feelings as being the Holy Spirit, or that God had some other plan and needed them to go in what only seemed to be the wrong direction for His own purposes. It makes a lot more sense to me that these feelings did not come from an omniscient god at all. It was all them all along, doing the best they could with what was available to their own inner selves.

In short, I believe it is beneficial to pray or meditate and listen for answers. I don’t understand the process (unconscious, subconscious, multiple consciousnesses, fluid consciousness, etc.), but I believe that the answers that may come are generally right and benefit the supplicant. However, because these answers are human in origin, they can be wrong, and people who enjoy this process should be aware of this possibility. No matter how “right” something may feel, there is always the possibility of error. In consequence, people should be open to changing their minds when they are presented with new information or contrasting views.

“I Know”

Sometimes, because of all my writings on uncertainty, I get the feeling that many people have the false impression that I’m just wishy washy, uncertain, and full of doubt all the time. This is not the case. I could be 99.9999% certain about something, but then focus on the 0.0001% uncertainty in order to demonstrate a point. No matter how sure about something I am, there is always a chance that I could be wrong. That chance could be very small, but it’s always there, no matter what I think or believe. The refusal to acknowledge the possibility of my own human fallibility is pride, arrogance, and extreme foolishness.

EarthHaving said that, there are some things I believe to a very high degree of certainty. For example, I’m pretty sure that the Earth is not flat. I have seen pictures of the Earth from space. I have seen the curvature of the Earth from airplanes and high mountains. I have traveled a great distance around the Earth, from Hungary to China. Even if I did not have my own personal experiences, there seems to be enough evidence out there to dispel all doubt. I could almost be willing to say I know the Earth is not flat, but what would be the point? When do people really use those words anyway? My complaints about the phrase – “I know” –  come from the feeling that it implies absolute certainty, but perhaps this is only in certain contexts.

Generally speaking, I think most people will simply say, “the Earth is not flat,” and then move on. There is no need to add an emphatic “I know” to the start of it. However, if someone comes up and claims that the Earth is flat and an argument ensues, a person, without sufficient ability to explain how or why the Earth is not flat, may feel pressure to assert their knowledge. “I know the Earth is not flat. It’s just not. I can’t say how I know; I just do.” 

To me, the above case is most like religious expressions of surety. People understand that their views are not universally accepted, but they lack the ability to coherently express their reasons for their beliefs. Therefore, they feel the pressure to fall back on, “I know.” If a person has confidence in their beliefs and clear reasons for those beliefs, they should be able to just say it. “This is the case because…” To me, adding “I know” to the start of an assertion is giving up on trying to reason with someone and trying instead to appeal to faith. It gives the message, “just trust me”. I know this.

Now, having said all that, I find myself in that very situation that I have just described. I am not the expert that can explain everything perfectly, but I am quite sure about certain things. I have tried to express my views for several years and have not been believed or understood. I often feel incapable of explaining all of my reasoning to those who will not or cannot understand. Perhaps it is time to fall back to “I know.”

A long time ago, it was common knowledge that the Earth was flat. This was the reality that the people experienced, and to believe otherwise would have seemed foolish. As time went on though, more and more evidence came to light to prove that the Earth was not actually flat. Gradually, people were forced to reconstruct their reality. The Earth was not flat, and this became knowledge. What would it take for people today to go back to believing that the Earth is flat without forgetting everything we have learned in the interim? I could probably come up with a number of possibilities, but I would not place any of them above a 0.00001% chance of being correct. With confidence, I can say that the Earth is not flat, and if backed into a corner, “I know the Earth is not flat.” This is not absolute, 100% certainty though. I refuse to go there.

When I believed in the LDS church, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and so on, I knew these things were true to a high degree of certainty. I had no real reason to doubt any of them, and I can remember saying that I knew they were true. Since then, I have gained new knowledge and come to new understanding. I have had to reconstruct my reality, and like those that learned the Earth is not flat, I can no longer go back to believing as I once did. How could I? The new knowledge supersedes the old completely.

Friends and family members that still believe seem to think that I have only lost something that can be regained. This is not the case. Because I have gained new knowledge, I can’t go back and believe as I once did. I have moved on. I am in a new place, and there is no going back. Here are some of the things that I have learned and know to be true (with varying degrees of certainty):

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built on lies, deception, and fraud. Even with my gift for creativity, I struggle to save it. It is more likely that the Earth is flat than that the church is true.
  • Moroni 10:5 “By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” – This is a lie which takes advantage of people’s deepest hopes and desires. Belief in such a principle discourages rational thought and encourages acceptance of things one only wishes were true.
  • Church teachings about family, temples, and the celestial kingdom are manipulative and do more to harm family relationships than to help.

That list could be broken down into many other points or expanded, but I think the point has been made. I did not just lose my testimony. I gained knowledge. I did not just casually walk away from the church. I made discoveries. These were not happy and uplifting discoveries, and so people that are taught to follow the Holy Ghost through feelings of peace, joy, etc. can rarely accept them. These things can be traumatic, and do not bring peace or joy, but they are true anyway.

I believe in the considerable value of uncertainty, but I also believe in continuously increasing my knowledge and understanding to lessen that uncertainty whenever possible. The church is false. I know this to the greatest degree of certainty I allow myself. Like the flat Earther that finally discovers the truth, there is no real way to go back. And why would I want to? I only want to believe what is true. My only regret is that I did not learn these things sooner. The greatest mistakes of my life are a direct result of my belief in the church and its teachings. So much heartache, depression, and misery could have been avoided if only I’d seen the truth earlier.

But… could I be wrong about everything I’m so sure about? I will never close the door completely on my uncertainty, but I have been openly expressing my thoughts and feelings about this for seven years now, and it seems nobody is able to refute a single part of it, assuming that’s what the silence means. Or perhaps, I’m just not capable of adequately explaining my position. So today, I have to fall back to “I know.”

I Know … I’m Sorry

The other day, a relative posted their testimony of the LDS gospel to social media, and they used the words, “I know.” I got a bit triggered by this statement because in recent years, those words have come to mean an expression of extreme arrogance. What sounds good and beautiful to the speaker sounds like, “I know I’m right, and you’re wrong,” to me. It sounds like, “no matter what you think you’ve learned, experienced, or discovered in your life, you’re on the wrong path because I know the truth.” It sounds like an impenetrable wall being built up. It sounds like the worst kind of arrogance.

At the same time, I’m going through some difficult times with my wife and our divorce proceedings. I’ve been reading some of the emails we exchanged in the early days of our marriage. In one of the first, I bear my testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I wrote, 

“I have a strong testimony of the church and of my savior Jesus Christ. I know the church is true. … I am determined to [stay on] the path that leads to my Heavenly Father. I have felt His love strongly in my life and I know that … His love is unconditional … . I have faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that He suffered and died so that I can repent and find happiness … .”

I used the same absolute terms as my dear relative. Was I being arrogant? If not, then what is the difference? Why does one feel like arrogance and the other not? I thought about this for a while, and decided to go back to my journals to find more instances of the same. I found the first evidence that I believed the LDS gospel in 1990. As a 12 year old, I wrote, “[The bishop] asked if I believed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I happily responded, ‘I do.’ The best thing about that is, I could honestly say it.”

In the following years, those instances of private testimony multiply greatly. By the time I turned 16, I was absolutely certain that the church was true. Every other page of journal writing talks about spiritual experiences, reading the scriptures, and prayer. I wanted nothing more than to please my Heavenly Father and to return to Him one day. At the age of 17, I wrote the following:

“I went out in the rain and sang into the darkness. I feel the Spirit most readily through music, so often I’ll sing my prayers if I feel no one is within listening distance. This night, I stopped singing, being overcome with the Spirit. I felt His presence so strongly around me like a warm embrace. I made a promise at that time to my Heavenly Father that no matter how difficult things got, I would return to him in the Celestial Kingdom. I promised never to give up. If I fell, I would get up again.”

That promise defined me for the next two decades and is still with me in my thought processes, and my journals attest to that fact. At the same time though, my depression never let up. As a missionary in Hungary, I wrote, 

“I was feeling so depressed.  Sitting on my bed, close to tears, I cried out in my heart, ‘Father, hold me.’ The Spirit was instantly all around me as though he were giving me a hug, and I believe, in a way, that’s what it was.  I know He loves me in spite of me. The tears are still flowing though. Despite my prayers, I’m still me. I’m wishing right now that I had never been. I wish I could just cease to exist, both body and spirit.  God Help me!”

Several months later, I also write,

“Help!!! Sinking, ever sinking, the lights are growing dim.  I almost welcome the enclosing darkness, being nearly smothered in a familiar blanket of depression.  As I’m about to be swallowed up, voices call out and give me further desire to struggle and not surrender to the powers of hell.  O great, merciful God! Hear my voice from the great abyss!”

I have no written record of it, but I remember a particularly bad depression when I was 15 years old. I was seriously contemplating suicide and went to my Heavenly Father in prayer. I believed the church and gospel were true, but I was still not absolutely certain, and I needed an answer. If the church was true, I would keep on living because suicide wouldn’t free me from anything. If the church wasn’t true, then I … I don’t know what I would have done. I remember I didn’t want to think about it. I wish I had written more about this time of my life.

One week before my 16th birthday, I made a list of goals to accomplish. Among them is to “Find out for myself whether or not the church is true.” In one week, I finished reading the latter half of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon to its conclusion. Each day of that week I recorded my progress through these books. 

On my actual birthday, there was a situation with my dad where my birthday gifts were somehow locked in the trunk of the car, and he couldn’t get them out. He wanted me to help him figure out how to open the trunk. I had no clue, and I didn’t really care either. I had other things on my mind. I overheard someone asking my Dad why I seemed unhappy, and my Dad told them that I was disappointed that I might not get my birthday gifts. “If only my problems were that simple,” I wrote. I didn’t care at all for presents. I had more important matters on my mind… Like, would God answer my prayer about the church? I felt that if I could just finish the Book of Mormon that day, there might be some chance to turn my life around. All I actually write though is, “I read in the Book of Mormon until I finished it for the first time in my life.  And minutes after I finished came the call for supper. We had hot dogs.”

Despite not writing it, I remember feeling good about my accomplishment, and I took that good feeling to mean that the book was true. From there on, there was no looking back. I would accept that the church was true, and I would live on. Even though I often felt depressed, I put suicide out of my mind. It wasn’t a viable option anymore. I would just have to endure the pain and live on, though I often cried out to God to please just end my existence altogether.

I wasn’t happy, but I knew the church was true. It had to be. The alternatives just seemed too terrible to imagine. Although part of me wanted to die, another part of me was deeply afraid. I needed the church to be true, and I could not afford to doubt. For the next 20 years, I continued to pray regularly. I had countless spiritual experiences that confirmed my knowledge that the church was true. I was incapable of doubt. … 

And when I said, “I know the church is true,” it wasn’t arrogance; it was survival. 

And so, when I thought again about my relative’s declaration of sure knowledge, I decided that there may be other reasons besides sheer arrogance. I still don’t like certainty of any sort, and especially in religion, but I can see how it may feel necessary at a personal level. And though a person may believe that they are being open-minded, I think there are layers of consciousness or subconsciousness that may disallow doubt in order to preserve well-being. 

I guess I should get to the point now or risk rambling on and on without end. I forgive my family and friends for their certainty. I forgive them for seeming arrogant and closed-minded. I’m sorry for being arrogant myself when I’ve looked down on those expressing certainty in their positions. I’m sorry for thinking I was right and they were wrong. Sometimes, it’s not about right and wrong. These things can go deeper.

“I have a testimony that will never be shaken. I know who I follow. I know my master. As I try and live the way He would want me to, I come to know Him. God isn’t some distant force in the universe somewhere, but He’s my Father, my Heavenly Father, who stands here beside me, teaching me and leading me, holding my hand and He is showing me the way. I love Him.” – November 11, 1997

Vile Spirits

A number of years ago, I decided to try alcohol for the first time. Out of curiosity and a belief that a small amount wouldn’t cause any lasting harm, I bought a small fruit-flavored beer. The alcohol content was actually quite low, but as it was my first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My first impression of the beer was that someone had poured paint thinner or other toxic chemical into some fruit juice. I had difficulty swallowing as I am, I think understandably, quite averse to ingesting poison. After finishing the small drink, I rinsed the vile taste out of my mouth with water and felt none of the purported positive effects of drinking alcohol.

Still, despite that first experience, my curiosity was not sated. Maybe I just needed to try greater amounts or drinks with a higher concentration of alcohol. Over the next few months and on a weekly basis, I tried varying amounts of other types of beer, wine, champagne, vodka, and whiskey. As I tried more, I was able to experience some of the other effects that I’d heard about. I never felt like I lost any clarity of thought, but I did lose some motor control, vomit, and get a terrible headache. I really felt like I was just killing myself with poison. In the end, I decided that if I was going to experiment again, it would have to be small amounts and only socially. I get absolutely nothing good out of drinking on my own.

This experience really made me wonder about all the alcoholics out there and others that actually enjoy the taste of wine or champagne with a meal. I just don’t get it. To me, the taste of alcohol is absolutely vile without a single redeeming feature. However, it is clear to me that not everyone has the same experience. Some drink and enjoy the experience. Some get hooked. And some, like me, don’t. [The rest of this post is published on the M.O.R.E site.]

Stepping on Others to Get Ahead … and M.O.R.E.

In recent days, I have been feeling like my personality has been changing in some big ways, so I took another MBTI personality test on the 16 Personalities website to see if I was still typed the same way. I felt like I answered all the questions differently this time, but it seems like no matter how I answer the questions, I always get the same result – INFP. Over a period of decades, I’ve taken MBTI tests on various websites with completely different questions, but the results have been consistent without exception. This time, the only difference was the percentages in each category showed me to be even more strongly INFP than previous tests (81% introverted, 69% intuitive, 82% feeling, and 83% perceiving). In the past, my introversion, feeling, and perceiving percentages have all been lower – nothing in the 80s.

Truth be told, I was kind of hopeful I’d get something different this time. I couldn’t lie though, even to myself. I had to put what I felt. For example, I had to rate the following statement with regard to how true it felt for me: “In your opinion, it is sometimes OK to step on others to get ahead in life.” How could I choose anything but the strongest possible NO. Maybe others felt differently, but this was not me. 

When I thought more about the question though, I thought about my wife. Nearly fifteen years ago, I married her because I wanted something that I couldn’t have on my own. I wanted a family. I wanted kids. I didn’t really want a wife at all, though if I had to be married to a woman, she seemed pretty great. I learned to respect and admire her for her many talents and positive personality traits. I have often felt guilty over the years though because I believed she deserved better than me. She deserved someone that would marry her for her and not for what she could give.

Over the years, I’ve tried to ease my guilt by reminding myself, and her, that I did tell her from the beginning that I was gay. She chose to marry me anyway. Basically, I placed the blame on her where none belonged. It was my mistake, an unfortunate result of social, family, and religious pressure. I further tried to make myself feel better by being extra nice to her all the time. Again and again, I gave her what I thought she wanted, sacrificing my own desires at every juncture.

Eventually though, the guilt caught up with me. I realized that I had stepped on her to get ahead, to get what I wanted. I used her. It’s no wonder that she doesn’t want to be with me any longer. I may not have made the mistakes she accuses me of, but I certainly made a big mistake. I married her under false pretenses. I told her I was gay, but she thought I was over that. It was something I used to be but was no longer the case. I think she believed I loved her the way a straight man loves a woman. After all, that was how I tried to act. I tried to be what I thought she wanted, even if it wasn’t how I felt. I never lied with my words, but I certainly tried to deceive her with my actions.

And so… is it “sometimes OK to step on others to get ahead in life?” It may be hypocritical, but I still say no, absolutely not. I would not do it again. No way. My wife and I will probably not stay married much longer, and if I ever get married again, it will be for all the right reasons. It will be because I want to be with him, not because I need him for something. It will be for love.

On another topic, I’ve recently started another blog site with a couple other people. It’s a unique experience for me as I’ve never worked collaboratively before. I’m planning to post some of my more religious and philosophical posts over there while this site will be for the more personal ones. Feel free to take a look – M.O.R.E..

At the Red Light

One of my more vivid middle school memories never actually happened. You see, I had this habit of imagining conversations and scenarios with the people I knew or saw around me. The beginning of the story is true enough though. I was walking to school one early morning and approached an intersection.  A long line of cars, occupied mostly by parents and their kids, were stopped at the red light. Of the people I could see, nobody looked particularly happy. Tired faces looked blankly ahead. I certainly wasn’t the only one that would have preferred to sleep in that morning.

My mind wandered, and I began to imagine the conversation I might have with a boy in my grade, a boy with a reputation, at least in my mind, of being somewhat of a bully. Even in my imagination though, the boy didn’t want to talk with me. I was frustrated that he was being so stubborn. If only we could understand each other, we could be friends, I thought.

Whatever… I hate that word. Whatever. Closing the door. Conversation over. Talk to the hand. 

I got angry with him. I totally lost it. With a thought and a hand gesture, palm faced forward, I lifted the kid off the ground and suspended him high in the air. I don’t remember the particulars of the conversation, but I remember that the attempt to communicate ended in failure. I wanted to shake him, to make him listen to reason, and to make him stop his bullying behavior. We could be friends.

Ha!

Perhaps my imaginary scenario could have been successful if I weren’t playing both sides. I wanted to imagine him agreeing to give up his bullying ways and then enthusiastically asking to be my friend. Instead, I imagined myself as the poor kid being suspended in the air by some mysterious power. I freaked out. Friends? What? As if that could be possible! Maybe I’d say the words this monster wanted me to say, just to get away, but that would be the end of it. I’d be out of there as fast as I could.

Disappointed, I ended the scenario in my mind. Force doesn’t work. No matter what a person would say or agree to do in that situation, it would be false. It wasn’t what I wanted. 

I had other conversations with other kids where I tried logic instead of force, and these were similarly ineffective. As humans, we’re emotional beings. Logic can feel too much like manipulation. It can feel cold and calculated. Some behavior or action may make logical sense, but who are you to tell me what to do or how to act?

I realize that as I’m sharing this experience, I’m slipping back and forth between different points of view, but that was the nature of the experience. I played every role and tried to get in everyone’s head. I was every person simultaneously, and I did and said what I thought they would have done or said in that situation. 

In recent days, I’ve experienced some real-life closed doors and minds. It can be so frustrating, especially since I know exactly what it feels like to be the one with the closed mind. Words mean nothing. Logic is irrelevant. Just go away already! I can’t do this. It’s too hard. You are that way. I am this way.

I know the feeling, and I can feel it again if I try. But I prefer to just let it go. Optimism is better than pessimism. Hope preferable to despair. Maybe I can do it. Open the door. Just a crack. Some thoughts are more helpful than others. Let them in.

In my mind, I lower the poor frightened kid back onto the ground, and he takes off running. I’m sorry, I say silently. He’s long gone already. I wanted to be friends, but that’s not going to happen. That’s okay. I’ve let it go. I hope someone else can reach his heart though. Both being the bully and being bullied are terrible experiences that no kid should have to go through.

Force doesn’t work to change people. Not really. I gave up trying a very long time ago. Logic can work with some people sometimes, but not particularly well. I wish it worked better because some ideas make a lot of sense, and the world would be a better place. Respect for people often works. If I respect somebody and they say I should change in some way, I’ll think about it. Emotions though… feelings and emotions rule the heart and our paths through life. 

 

Why Must We Suffer Alone?

My post from just two weeks ago, Who I Am and What’s Been Going On, has somehow become my most viewed post of the last 5 years. Friends and family members in 13 countries on 4 continents came to see what has been going on in my life. Frankly, I have been more than a little surprised by the response. Not only did you read my post, but many of you decided to reach out and try to connect with me personally. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Many of you had kind words for me, and words of solidarity. As I read your words, and interacted with so many friends and family members, I realized that as is so often the case, there has been a misunderstanding. I do indeed experience a great amount of loneliness in my life, but I have never believed that I was alone in these feelings.

As a highly empathetic youth, I was always acutely aware of the feelings and emotions of the people around me, whether I knew these people personally or not. As I observed and listened to people at school, church, the park, or just in my neighborhood, I realized that suffering seems to be a universal phenomenon. We all suffer. We have pain that we don’t always express. We smile with our faces, but we cry inside. 

I have written before about my habit of sitting in my bedroom window sill as a teenager. I remember one day being so overcome with the pain of those around me, that I couldn’t help weeping aloud in my window sill as I looked out upon my hometown. Their pain was my pain, and it overwhelmed me to the point where I couldn’t function at all for hours. 

Mission Viejo - View from deck 2
The View from my Bedroom Window Growing Up

To this day, I sometimes wonder when I’m feeling the lows of depression, if it’s really my depression at all. I know that, at least sometimes, I can literally feel the pain of those I interact with. When I write posts about depression or loneliness, I’m not meaning to imply that I’m alone in my condition, or that others have let me down in some way. As I tried to make clear at the beginning of this post, I have a lot of people in my life that care about me. I have met and connected with good people wherever I’ve moved to and lived in my life. Most of the readers of this blog are people that have known me in person. If you are one of these, I appreciate our connection. Thank you for being a friend.

I know I’m not alone, and you’re not either. As many of you have reached out to me, to comfort me and to connect, I have felt your need as well. I wish I could be there for all of you. I wish I could be the answer to your own private suffering and longing for real connection. … But for the vast majority of you, I can’t.

Around five years ago in Taiwan, I was walking and talking with a friend. This good friend was feeling overwhelmed by the perceived obligation he had to maintain a connection with a growing number of individuals. He was constantly on his phone, chatting with multiple people at once. Like me, he was highly empathetic. He wanted to be there for all his many friends, to help them with their assorted worries and concerns, to give meaningful advice, and on and on.  

As we walked together, I convinced my friend to turn off his phone for a while so that we could have a more meaningful conversation. I can no longer remember the words that were spoken at that time, but I remember what lessons I took away from the experience. We can’t be there for everyone. We can’t be everyone’s good friend all the time. If we divide ourselves too thinly, our ability to do good is greatly decreased. Instead, it makes more sense to focus on just a few people in our lives.

The people that matter most to me are the people that I see in front of me. If someone falls, and I’m there to do help, I should. If my neighbor is hungry, and I have more food than I need, I would gladly share. I really don’t know my neighbors at all, but they matter to me. I can sometimes hear them, and feel their emotions, through the thin walls of my apartment. When I’m at work, my students and fellow tutors are the most important people in the world. When someone emails me or reaches out to me, they matter.

I don’t feel bad when distant friends or family members don’t go out of their way to try and connect with me. I assume they have their own lives and issues to deal with just as I do. I hope they don’t take it personally when I don’t reach out the way they might like me to. When I share my issues online, I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for me. I’m just taking care of a personal need to express how I feel. I also hope that the words I write can help others. If it doesn’t help you, maybe it will help someone else. We all have our own circumstances.

Finally, if it does make you feel sad or uncomfortable when I share my experiences relating to depression or loneliness, consider taking action. I don’t mean writing or trying to connect with me, though I certainly do appreciate those people that have contacted me recently. What I mean is that there are countless others just like me all around. These people may seem fine when you see them, but things are often not as they appear. Everyone suffers. There is so much pain that is never expressed. Hidden  wounds. Unshed tears. Silent screams.

So, if you feel something for these silent sufferers, go connect with the people around you. Give a hug. Express gratitude. Offer a compliment. Don’t let the people closest to you continue to think that they’re alone or that nobody really cares.

Back to Church

As part of my job, I get the opportunity to interact with a lot of young people. I love the kids and my time with them, and they seem to like me in return. I try and be friendly most of the time, and I smile a lot. I’ve written blog posts about smiling before and how it’s an important part of my life and who I am. I smile at all the students, my fellow tutors, my supervisors, the parents, and whoever happens to be walking by. That’s just the way I am.

A month or so ago, one of my students noticed me smiling and being friendly toward one of my female coworkers. His face started to glow, and he had the biggest smile on his face. “What’s up?” I asked.

“You’re blushing!” he exclaimed. “You like her!”

I can’t remember what happened next on that occasion. I only know I tried to convince him that we were friends but nothing more. I remember how certain he was that he was right. I really just wanted to explain that I was gay and not really looking at her that way, but I didn’t. I’m still uncertain about how people will react to that knowledge. I wouldn’t be the only “out” individual at my workplace, but I’d be the only one working with young children, not that that should matter.

A few days ago, I had a repeat experience with the same child and a new female tutor that I was helping to train. Of course I was smiling and being friendly. “You like her!”

“I just met her,” I explained. 

“I’m old enough to be her dad,” I added when the kid insisted. “I have a wife.”

“Swear to God you don’t like her,” he said. 

“Umm…”

Anyway, I realized that this kid was probably at the age when he’s starting to notice and really be attracted to girls for the first time. Although I was equally friendly to everyone there, he only noticed those times when I was smiling at or being friendly to an attractive young female adult. My guess is that he was projecting his own feelings onto me. I didn’t call him out on it though. 

Later that same day, I was helping a child find their tutor, someone they’d never met before. “Don’t worry,” I told them. “They’re nice.” I made the comment privately to the new tutor I was helping that I thought all the tutors were pretty nice. “Not everyone,” she said. She said it kind of quietly, almost under her breath, and I wondered what experience she might have had in just the short time that she’d been there to make her think that there were unfriendly tutors.

When I started this job, almost a year ago now, I remember there were some tutors that would never make eye contact with me. In fact, there still are a couple like that. I see them making eye contact and smiling when they’re with their students, but they don’t interact much with people they haven’t met in a formal setting. That’s okay, I guess. I try not to take it personally. I wouldn’t call them unfriendly though, but maybe that’s not what my fellow tutor meant when she said, “not everyone.” Not being unfriendly doesn’t necessarily imply being friendly. I guess when I said everyone is friendly, what I meant was that nobody seemed particularly unfriendly.

Anyway, today being Sunday, I had nothing to do. I was in the mood to meet people and to be part of a community. I don’t know anyone at my apartment complex besides my neighbor, who I only seem to see about once every three or four months. So, for the purpose of feeling connected to a community, I found where the local Mormon congregation meets, and I attended church for the first time in nearly a year.

I don’t own a suit or white shirt, so no matter what I wear, I stand out from everyone at the Mormon church. I tried to be friendly and to look nonthreatening though. I sat in the back where there were still seats available. I had a direct line of sight to the front where the leadership sat. I could see them looking in my direction from time to time during the service. I expected someone would at least come and say hello at the end, but no one did. I tried to smile and make eye contact with people, but nobody went out of there way to greet me or to find out who I was. I wondered what I was doing there.

After the first combined meeting, everybody separated into other rooms for one more hour of meetings. I decided to give church one more hour as I had nothing else to do anyway. I thought that if I went early, I would give people more time to at least say hello. In the Sunday School room, I sat at the end of a row so that there would be plenty of room to sit near me if anyone so chose. Instead, the room filled up to near capacity with only the whole row of seats near me left available. Nobody sat near me. Nobody said hello.

I did listen to the speakers, and to the teacher in the second hour, and I sang all the songs with the congregation. I didn’t feel anything though. The speakers seemed almost desperate to prove their points that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true. Had it always been like this? Nobody seemed particularly happy either. It felt as if people were just going through the motions out of habit. They were only there because they felt they were supposed to be there. Was it just this congregation, or was this something more widespread.

At the end of the meeting, a few people did make eye contact and looked as if they might say hello, but instead turned aside to greet or otherwise mingle with people that they already knew. I made my way slowly out of the room, walked two laps around the building, and left the church. I gave them every opportunity, but I guess they had other things on their minds. 

As I left church today, I had two thoughts on my mind. First, I wondered if I weren’t just like my young student that thought I was in love with every attractive female I happened to smile at. Like him, maybe I was projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto others. I thought the members of this congregation seemed unhappy and all their talk about the Holy Ghost seemed to lack spirit of any sort. I felt like they were saying the words and playing a role, but none of it was real. Was it really them though, or did those feelings I had reflect something going on inside of me instead? I guess that’s still something I need to think about.

My other thought was about the young tutor that didn’t think everybody was friendly. At work, I usually go out of my way to say hello when I see a new face. I try and help the newcomers as much as I can. I’m a different person at work than I am at church. I’m a person that I like. I find everybody to be friendly because I bring that with me. I expect friendliness to be returned, and it almost always is. 

At church today, I wasn’t as proactive as I am at work. Yes, I tried to smile and make eye contact. I tried to make it easy for others, but I didn’t actually say hello to anyone or attempt to start any conversations either. If I had, I imagine people would have been friendly, and I could have had a different experience. Today, I could say that nobody was friendly. Maybe next time though, if there is a next time, I’ll be able to say that everybody was friendly.

Until then, I might just head out to Walmart. Last time I went shopping, I smiled and made eye contact with many people as I went up and down the aisles. And honestly, I got better returns from strangers at Walmart than I did from church today.

Who I Am and What’s Been Going On

This might end up being pretty long. I’m in the mood to write… And I’m not in the mood to care too much about organization, flow, coherence, grammar, or whatever else I might usually care about. I just want to write about who I am and what’s been going on in my life lately. I used to be a regular journal writer. I’m not anymore. These past few years have just gone by so quickly without much record of anything really happening.

A few days ago, I started a blog post by saying that I don’t feel much like writing anymore. I suppose that’s kind of true, but also not true. I’ve always had a desire to connect with people… and I’ve always felt like I’ve failed pretty miserably on that account. Instead of connecting with people, the things I write seem to push people away. Instead of increasing understanding, my writing seems to breed misunderstanding. The only comments I ever get seem to be the result of people jumping to conclusions. 

Family members especially have disappointed me. I don’t blame them though. They’re just unable to see from my perspective. I’m in a new space. I’ve moved on and left them behind, and I lack the ability to share how I think and feel without making them feel like I’m attacking them personally. It has never been my intention to hurt others, but I still have that deep seated need to form connections with others. So… I want to write, but I don’t want to at the same time. 

I hope that at least makes sense. No one ever says anything, but I can’t be the only one. Surely others have been in the situation where they’ve wanted to express their true feelings and thoughts, but also not wanted to for fear of hurting or offending the ones they care about. This is my life now, where a great majority of what I think and feel has become a point of conflict instead of a means to connect with those I care about.

So when did this great disconnect start? Maybe when I came out as gay? I can’t even remember when it was now. I put it in an email to the family, or a blog post, or something of the like. Maybe around 2011? Anyway, most of you know, but for those that don’t, my family is really big. I have 8 sisters and 2 brothers. When I came out to them, and everybody else, I believe only two, or maybe three, of my siblings made any kind of response. I don’t think my parents said anything at all. The word ‘gay’ was never uttered. I remember the siblings that did comment were positive, saying that they weren’t surprised or that now they finally understood why I never seemed interested in dating.

Nobody said anything negative to me. Why should they have? I was already married to a woman and had had a child with her. I was doing everything they thought I was supposed to be doing. What did it matter if I “used to” struggle with same-sex attraction? It was so easy to just ignore or pretend I’d said nothing. I guess it was my fault that things went that way too. I tried to pass it off as something in the past. I was gay but living a straight lifestyle now. People respected me for doing the “right” thing under difficult circumstances. Eventually, in the next life perhaps, God would take away my same gender attraction.

I wish I could have had someone to really talk to though, about everything I had been going through. I had nobody. I was so alone, and none of my family members were there for me. And although my wife had known I was gay from before our marriage, not even she really accepted it. Just pretend we’re a normal couple. That’s what we did for over a decade. She said she was okay with it when I came out to others eventually, but it did cause tension in actuality. It was difficult for her to deal with when others found out, and she couldn’t just pretend we were normal anymore. Still, I was able to connect with her better than I could with my parents or siblings.

The thing is, being gay isn’t just about who you want to be intimate with. It affects so much more than that. I used to pray for God to take away my gayness, but I think I never really wanted that prayer answered. If I weren’t gay, I really wouldn’t be me anymore. It’s more a part of me than how I look on the outside – like hair, eye, or skin color. Physical appearance can change, but I’m still me on the inside, and being gay is part of that, and is a part that I wouldn’t honestly want to change.

A couple years after coming out as gay, I felt compelled to come out in a different way, in a way that would drive the wedge deeper. Despite a deep trust and faith in the religion of my family for most of my life, I was unable to hold onto it. That was six years ago now, in 2013. The thing is, religion is a defining characteristic for most of my siblings and certainly for my parents. Most of them are so deeply religious that I think they’d even be willing to die for their religion. I know I would have been willing, right up to the moment I let go.

And so there I was, back in 2013, knowing in my heart that I was now fundamentally different from my family members and most of my friends. I could have pretended that things hadn’t changed, and I seriously considered it. But that’s not me. If anything, I’m true to my ideals. I prefer to live authentically, even if that means losing connections with those I had previously been close to. For those of you who are familiar with MBTI personality types, I’m an INFP. I think that’s probably pretty obvious to anyone that has read many of my blog posts.

So, I decided I had to tell everyone the truth. In the same way as I shared my homosexuality, I came out to everyone as a nonbeliever. This revelation got a bigger reaction, though still quite a bit less than what it might have been in any other similarly religious family. If anything, my siblings hate confrontation of any sort. They tend to be very agreeable and inoffensive.  I suppose these are good characteristics for the most part, but often I’ve wished that they’d just come out and say what they really think and what they really feel. That would be so much better than the overwhelming silence I’ve had to face these past several years.

Lonely, and craving human connection, I blogged quite a bit between 2013 and 2015. I asked my family members not to read my posts because I recognized that rather than bringing us together, my writing was pushing us further apart. I did want to connect with people with regards to what was going on in my life back then, but I didn’t want to completely alienate my family. I don’t think I really needed to ask that of them though. Those that would read, would. Those that wouldn’t, wouldn’t. I don’t think anything I said ever made a difference.

Of those that did choose to read, the one that was hardest to deal with was my mom. The problem was that she never seemed to read in order to understand me or how I felt. Instead, it seemed that she just wanted to figure out where I’d gone wrong so that she could fix it. She had all the wisdom and I was some poor lost sheep that needed help. At least that’s how she made me feel. 

Years have gone by and not much has changed. My “wiser” loving mother, along with a couple of siblings, will occasionally comment on one of my more controversial blog posts or send a more private email regarding something I’ve written. You’d think I’d want that. I’m always asking for comments or more interaction from my readers, but what I get from family usually disappoints. They don’t understand what I write. They can’t understand even when they try. I write as clearly as I can. I say things in direct fashion, and still they misinterpret and take things the wrong way. They quote scriptures at me and the words of church leaders that speak to other issues than the ones I’ve written about. And yet, I’m not sure if I prefer the silence of my other siblings or not. One sibling, out of 10, has seemed to make more genuine efforts to connect.

The point? I still want to be understood. I still want to connect. I’m tired of all the shallow conversations I have with people in my day to day life. Hi. How are you? I talk about traffic and the weather all day, wishing I could talk about philosophy, religion, and the purpose of life instead. As an academic tutor, I talk on a variety of topics with my students, but not one of them, or my fellow tutors, knows that I’m gay. Not one has an inkling of what sort of things I like to think about. Nobody knows me, and that hurts. I write to connect and to be understood, but I’m not making those connections and I’m not understood.

So should I still write?

Sometimes, my son talks about how he would really like a friend – a best friend. That was always my dream as well when I was young. I don’t think that dream has changed. My two closest friends when I was young have never talked to me about anything deep or real. I still long for the day when I can make that kind of connection with even just one person in my life. I shouldn’t say that I’m completely without that in my life, but what I have is simply not enough. Who can I talk to about being and growing up gay in an extremely religious family? Who would understand what that is like? I know there are people out there, but nobody that I’ve met or talked to. Who knows what it’s like to feel a great rift between themselves and all those they’ve ever loved or cared for? Who knows what it’s like to believe in a religion so deeply that you could give your life for it, and then have that taken away from you? Who knows what it’s like to be so completely misunderstood by what feels like everyone? I know there are many of you out there. Why do I have to feel so alone?

Oh, and then there’s depression and all that comes with that. I think I’d be depressed by my life even if I didn’t have some other brain related reason for it. I wonder if anyone else in my family goes through the same thing. I don’t think they’d admit it though. Maybe they would, but there’s such a stigma placed upon unhappiness in the church, it would be difficult to admit it. If they’re living the way they’re supposed to, according to their religion, they should be happy. So what if they’re not? I hope they know they can talk to me, that I’d understand.

For two years now, I’ve lived separate from my wife and daughter, and one year separate from my son. I miss them. I love my kids so much. Originally, my wife had suggested that I take both kids with me to America. I was only able to take my son because my daughter is adopted and required more paperwork to prove she’s our legal daughter. I kept my son with me for a year, and then a year ago, my wife came and took our son back with her. Now, two years since I left Taiwan, the initial paperwork has finally been approved. The wait isn’t over though because there is still more that needs to be done. It will probably just be months though instead of years.

I’m not sure how to feel about the progress that’s been made. On the one hand, I’m excited about the prospect of being with my kids again. One of my greatest desires in life was and always has been to be a father. On the other hand, I’m not sure the issues that made my wife feel like the kids and I needed to leave have really been resolved. The truth is, my wife and I never should have gotten married in the first place. I don’t want to say it was a mistake because a child came into the world as a result, and he is very loved by both of us, but as I am now, I wouldn’t have married her, or any woman. We got married as the result of family and religious pressure. I used to feel guilty for subjecting my wife to a life with me when I couldn’t love her the way she needed, but now I blame the religious culture that brought me up. I don’t think I really had a choice. Religion has hurt us both. Now though, without those pressures, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes.

What else is there to say? I did warn that I had a lot to write today. I have to say I’m actually pretty happy with my life at the moment. I have a job that I love, even if it doesn’t pay very well. I get to interact with kids of all ages and with other great people. We can’t connect on any deep level, but even that surface level is enjoyed. I have a brother that lives nearby that will occasionally be in the mood for the kind of conversation I enjoy, together with his wife, and I’m often able to feel a connection with them. Even when they’re not in the mood for that type of conversation, I enjoy the experience of having family nearby. It helps to lessen the general loneliness that is my life.

I think I will continue to blog from time to time. Maybe this kind of writing doesn’t ultimately allow me to connect with people the way I’d like, but it does feel good to put thoughts into words. I just need to learn not to care too much about what others think about it. Any of my family members who are going to be offended by my writing probably already have been and have likely stopped reading these posts at this point. It’s sad, but that’s just how it is.

One more thought that’s on my mind before I finish today – since I’m just rambling anyway and don’t really have a topic – is how I feel that despite all the changes that have occurred in my life, I don’t really feel any different than I did as a young teenager. This may seem random, but it’s how I feel about who I am. I’m still a kid inside – the same kid I always have been. I’ve learned a few things over the years, but I’m fundamentally the same. Perhaps my expectations are somewhat more realistic, but maybe not. I wonder sometimes, when I look at older people, if they see themselves the way I see myself – as a kid in an adult body. I have to act grown up from time to time, but it really is just an act. I hate seeing mirrors and being forced to acknowledge that my face is looking older. 

I feel like my mind is stuck in my teen years. I often wish I could go back and really live them. Not relive them because I don’t feel like I ever really did. I wish I could have attended school without religious beliefs. Would I have figured out that I was gay earlier? I wish I could have pursued a youthful crush. Would I have gotten my heart broken? I would still like to have tried. I wish I could have lived life in a more carefree manner… but then I guess it wouldn’t be me anymore in that case. Still, it would have been so much easier to connect with others if it hadn’t been for religion. I remember feeling that connection with the world for the first time back in 2013. It was such a great feeling. I wish I could have felt that earlier in life.

1994 Tayson
Me – 25 years ago, and how I still see myself

 

These days, I love the world. I love people. I believe most people are good. Even when people do bad things, they’re usually just doing what seems right to them based on their circumstances. The world isn’t the evil place it seemed when I was young. I was taught that the world was full of wickedness, ripe for the Second Coming of Jesus. The Millennium would be here in our lifetimes. The truth though is that the world is better than it’s ever been. People are kinder and more tolerant of other backgrounds and perspectives than ever before. There is real hope for eventual sustained world peace. We may not be there yet, but there is hope. 

Okay.. I guess that’s enough for now. This is who I am. This is what’s been on my mind recently. I’m happy today. I still don’t have that best friend both my son and I crave, but I at least like myself at the moment, and that’s enough for now.