Every year, around my birthday, I sit down to a blank white page and try to encapsulate everything I have learned in the last year. Some years, this is easier said than done. As this year’s letter approached, the theme of authenticity stood out to me.
To live an authentic life, you must be true to yourself. Secondly, you must be true to the world. It has taken me 34 years to arrive at some sense of being my most authentic self. It has taken lots of trial and error. On more than one occasion, I have dipped my toes into the water and decided not yet. I have tried and failed. I have been filled with pride and I have walked away embarrassed. Each and every one of these moments afforded me an opportunity to shape and mold a truer version of myself. 34 years later, I have come to truly value who I am as a person.
My next great challenge is outwardly focused. When people meet me, I want to defy their expectations of love, service, home, religion, and a life well lived. If you will grant me the opportunity, I would like to set some goals for each of these areas now.
Over the last two years, I have been very open about my sexuality and my relationship of almost three years. When asked, I rarely shy away from saying “my partner” or “my boyfriend.” 99% of the people I meet have no reaction to the announcement. They continue with their line of questioning without many expressions. Some of these people also try to overcompensate and show me their ally card by talking about other gay people they know but their hearts are in the right place. Rarely, do I meet people who judge or have a negative reaction. For the most part, I have reached my goal in this regard. My next step is to change the hearts and minds of those around me about the inner workings of a relationship such as ours.
Now, wait for it, our relationship is just like yours. The other day we argued about a frame that was broken during the move. I sarcastically blamed Brandon and he quickly put me in my place. On other days, we worry about finances, the future, housing, getting home for Christmas, being healthy, and so much more. We cry, laugh, and find relief in our shared experiences. In every way of except one, our relationship is structured in the same manner as yours. My goal is to live more honestly in this regard and help people break down the walls of perception versus reality.
I like to believe that I have a servant’s heart. For ten years now, my career has been dedicated to helping others in some regard. It was first focused on commuter, off-campus, and nontraditional students. It then shifted to youth and families and now the light shines on homeless men and women. In my personal life, I have focused on mentorship, community engagement, and victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Giving of my time and talents in service to wherever I call home is one of the great joys of my life. At times, it feels like keeping this joy to myself is selfish. I want to share it with everyone I know. I want to defy their expectations of what it means to be involved in your community. As my life moves forward, that will become a goal of mine. When people meet me, I don’t want them to walk away thinking about how busy I am. Instead, I want them to leave inspired to bring about service to those around them.
Over the course of 34 years of living, I have been fortunate to call Frederick, Edmond, Kent, West Seattle, and North Hollywood home. Each one of these places means something different to me. Each one holds a special place in my heart. Given my track record and wandering heart, I doubt that I am done nor do I think have feet firmly pressed upon the ground. I know other places will be called home and with it new adventures, routines, friends, and communities. Now, I know this life isn’t for everyone. Lots of people crave normalcy, routine, and the familiar. I also know I meet a lot of people who tell me they wish they would have done something similar. Almost without exception, I talk with people who wax on about youth and missed opportunities. They place fixed limits on their life without any regard with the person they are holding those negotiations. More often not, those limits are self-imposed, and the arguments are internal. My goal is to help people realize this. It may sound cliché, but it is never too late to become who you always wanted to be. The decision rests in your hands.
There is a growing populace in this country. From sea to shining sea, more and more people are coming out as agnostic, atheist, spiritual, or find themselves searching. For me, I have gone from calling myself a Southern Baptist and then an agnostic. Now, I find myself looking inward through a Buddhist meditation practice. My search has never really ended, and I sincerely hope it never does. I find great comfort in continually questioning and wrestling with some of life’s great mysteries. In that struggle, I learn so much about myself and the world around me. I create a space to question boldly and without fear. When people meet me, I want them to know they can do the same. My end goal is not to evangelize. I am not trying to win people over to any particular side. Rather, I am asking people to question their world, opinions, and how they arrived at those conclusions. I don't want them to find solace not in the confusion but rather in the ambiguity of life. At the end of the day, if they arrived right back where they started, that is more than fine by me. My hope is they do so with a fully examined life in their midst.
A Life Well Lived
For the better part of a decade, I have operated under the notion of saying yes to most opportunities that come my way. I do have some ground rules that I follow though. I must be able to afford it without going into debt. It can’t bring harm to me or anyone else. It can’t negatively impact other time commitments. If these conditions are met, then I usually say yes. Over the past 10 years, I have experienced some fantastic opportunities; experiences that would have been lost to me if I had said no. These moments have contributed to the idea of living a life well lived.
This drive comes from a couple of places. First, is a millennial fear of missing out. The second comes from not knowing for sure where we go when die if we go anywhere at all. In my mind, we get one chance at this life and I should make the best of it. I don’t want to be on my deathbed speaking of things I wish I had done. Rather, I want to look back on my life with pride and a belief that I did everything I could to make the most of the chances that came before me.
Now, I know this may sound exhausting to some people. I completely understand. There are moments when I feel the same. By no means, do you need to say yes to everything that comes your way. But, I would like to implore the people around me to take advantage of this life and as much of it as you can. When we do, I think our relationships are deepened and worldview is expanded. Also, the knowledge we gain is unparalleled. It is my solemn hope when people meet me and hear my stories they come away with a mission to embrace more of this life.
Be good to each other,