Friday, June 26, 2009

When Your Best Just Isn't Good Enough

There have been many things I’ve attempted to do in my life and come away from those attempts feeling as though I’m a complete failure. I’m sure most people have felt this way one time or another. It’s a frustrating thing whenever you try your best at something, and no matter how hard you try, you’re never quite good enough. You either have certain failures or setbacks, or someone else is always able to do the same thing better somehow. If you let it, these feelings can literally destroy your self-esteem and any feelings of self-worth or value.

I’m glad that with God our best is always good enough. That’s all he asks of us, is to give our very best, to do our very best, to try our very best. I’ll admit there have been times when I have felt like a complete failure as a Christian. I’ve done a lot of things no Christian should ever do. I haven’t always followed God’s leading, or cared as much for my fellow man as I should have, or abstained from certain sins, or a whole host of other things. I haven’t always given my best to God. But it is a comfort that my best is all he asks for. That’s all he wants: my very best, the best I can do. And so long as I’m doing that, I am good enough.

(I want to add that this note is for those in Christ. I do not mean to imply that all God ever wants from anyone is a best attempt at being good. Of course He expects that, but He also expects you to follow His son, Jesus, accepting Him as Lord and Savior of your life, and allowing Him to influence and change your life for the better. It is along that path, which I believe doing your best is good enough.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reflections on My Life: Part II

This last week I’ve gone walking a couple of times at the track behind my old middle school. I hadn’t been there in years. There were a few changes, but overall, it was still the same ole place I remembered.

As I was walking, a lot of memories came to mind. My middle school years were some of my favorite years of being in school. I had teachers I liked, classes and classmates I liked, plenty of friends, and the whole world ahead of me. I remember getting to read a lot. Every Friday in English class we got to read a book of our choosing for the entire class period. Our teacher would usually allow us to have snacks as well. I think it was during this time that I really developed a love for reading. It was the first time any teacher had just allowed me/us to read anything we wanted like that and to make something fun out of it. Come to think of it, I probably gained my love for reading in the sixth grade instead. We read a lot of good books in reading class that year. I remember having friends. I had more friends during those two years than at any other time in my life. I remember feeling confused about a lot of things, as I’m sure most kids do when they’re at that age. I remember I wasn’t gay. Okay, yeah, I was, but I didn’t really know it or understand it at the time—I just assumed I had some misplaced feelings that would eventually go away.

I remember the transition from middle school to high school was not a very good one for me. I had signed up for marching band my freshman year. The summer before school started I had to practice quite a lot with the others. I never enjoyed that. Band for me had always been about the music and having fun, not about marching and competition. To make matters worse, most of the friends I’d made in middle school band didn’t join that year, and the older students I was around made it abundantly clear that they didn’t like me. They never tried to reach out to me or befriend me. And anytime I tried I was put down or just outright ignored. They made fun of me. One of them in particular, I can’t number how many times he called me a faggot or queer and said he hated fags like me. I was miserable that year.

Looking back, I really wish things could have been different. I wish I’d done what some of my other friends from middle school did. I wish I’d taken a carpentry class or some other vocational class like they did. I wish I’d been able to make friends that year. I think, in hindsight, one or two people may have honestly tried to reach out to me. But when they did I couldn’t trust them. I was afraid of getting hurt. The rest of the time I was in high school, I was pretty much a shadow. I kept to myself and did everything I could to avoid others. Those few I was friends with never really knew me at all. They may have liked me, they allowed me to be around them, they invited me along on a few outings, but I know I never really let them know anything about me. They knew I was shy, quiet, calm, maybe even kindhearted, but that was all they knew. I wouldn’t let them know anything else.

I can see so clearly how much I changed when I started high school. But it’s when I was in middle school that I remember most fondly. I was more outgoing, happier, and definitely more positive about myself and life back then. I had friends, and I didn’t hide myself.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is why I have so much trouble making friends these days. I honestly think the answer lies in how I changed when I began high school. Before my ninth grade year, I was just myself. I allowed people to know me. But when things didn’t go so well my freshman year, I think I just quit letting people know me, and I gave up trying to know them.

I’ve been reminded lately, or perhaps taught, that trying to be anything other than myself is foolish. And wrong. I believe God values each and every one of us, including the unique qualities or characteristics we each possess. When I entered high school I stopped being myself. When I was myself, I was made fun of, bullied, and made afraid. Out of fear and hurt, I withdrew. I began hiding myself from others, and became more cautious of how I acted around them.

Almost three years ago now, I contacted an Exodus Affiliate Ministry in Indianapolis, IN. A counselor, Paul, offered to help me there. We wrote emails back and forth to each other, and once I became comfortable with him we began talking over the phone. I’ll always owe Paul a huge debt of gratitude because he pushed me to be myself again, and to open up to others and try to make friends. He also was very compassionate and understanding. Paul is one of the few straight people I’ve ever known who was willing to at least try to understand the things I’ve went through and offer real meaningful help and encouragement. And I never felt like he was judging me.

The last three years I’ve tried to follow Paul’s advice. In a lot of ways, it’s helped me. Some of it’s only caused more problems—though I don’t really fault Paul for that—in a more perfect world life would be easier done than said. But, it’s sort of because of Paul’s influence on me that I’ve done some of the things I’ve done to make friends, that I got as involved at my church as I did, and that I began this blog. He helped me feel more comfortable being myself. All of it’s been in the attempt to become me again, and to allow others to know me—to fully know me, and for me to know them.

All of these thoughts came to mind while I was walking.

I think fear can lead people to do some really terrible things. The ones who bullied me did so out of their own fears and prejudices. The fear of their bullying and anyone else thinking the things about me that they did caused me to give up on myself and others.

I look back and I wish I’d done things differently. I wish I’d looked those people in the face and told them to shove off. I wish I’d not paid any attention to them or cared about what they thought. I wish I’d kept on being myself. I wish I’d kept on trying to make friends. I wish I’d felt comfortable enough about myself to just be myself and let everyone know how I felt—about everything. I think I might have been happier if I’d done that.

The last year or so, I have tried more to just loosen up around people. I realize not everyone is going to like me. I am who I am though. People will either like me or they won’t. If they don’t, I can get over it. But, if they do, that’s great, and something worth fighting for. This last year, I have felt more comfortable being myself. I’m not afraid of people knowing me like I used to be. I’m not afraid to come across feminine or gay around others—it’s just how I am. And I’m not afraid to face criticism, even when that criticism hurts, because I know there are others who do love me, who do care about me, and who do value me as a person.

I guess the main point of all of this is that it’s stupid to allow others to tear you down and cause you to give up on yourself. Be happy being you, because there’s no one else in the world quite like you. And there’s something so truly special about that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Beautiful Ride

I heard a song last night that I really liked. I was watching the movie Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story, and at the end John C. Reilly sang this terrific song. It’s not the best song in the world, and I realize it was probably meant to come across comedic, but as I listened to it I thought about how honest and uplifting it really is. Essentially, the song is about what the main character of the movie has learned from his life. And to sum it up, he realizes his life has been a beautiful ride. It just got me to thinking that I hope that’s how I’ll feel at the end of my life—that I will be able to look back and know that I really did live a good life and know what was important.

I’ve posted the song below. Probably doesn’t say much for my taste in music, but what the hay. I hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Random Bits of Boredom and Some Thoughts on My Mind

As the title of this post would suggest, I have been literally bored out of my mind the last few days. This is the first summer in a while that I haven’t had a job. I’m used to working outdoors and getting my hands dirty. So far, this summer has been absent of that sort of work. Or, well, it’s been absent of the great degree of it to which I’m used to. With no job, and not being in school for the moment, I’ve had plenty of time to take care of some long time projects. My bedroom is the cleanest it’s been in months—no more stacks of books and school papers lying around on the floor for me!—I’ve compiled a four inch thick folder of worksheets and lesson plan ideas that I’d accumulated over the last two semesters (should really come in handy once I start teaching), I’ve written one short story, revised another, written more on a novel that’s been in the works for what seems like forever now, and thoroughly enjoyed as much reading, movies, video games, exercise, and exploring the countryside as I can possibly take in. On top of that, I’ve spent quite a lot of extra time with my family.

One thing I’ve not done yet, but been itching to do, is a carpentry project of some sort. If any of you didn’t know this about me, I actually really enjoy carpentry. I’ve been considering building a table or desk on account that the one I currently have just isn’t really big enough for all of my computer stuff. It’s also crossed my mind that I might be able to make a little extra money building some furniture. Money aside, and the need for a larger desk, I just really enjoy building things, feeling as though I’m making something useful, being productive like that. It’s actually been some time since I was last able to do any of this sort of work, so I really am looking forward to it.

On the subject of carpentry, has it ever struck anyone curious that Jesus, being God himself, the creator of the entire universe, was a carpenter by trade? I’m not sure if I’d ever really considered how perfectly suited the job of a carpenter was for him; after all, being a carpenter you get to create—just something neat to think about.

Something else I’m working on is getting a little healthier. I’ve been trying to eat better foods, and when I say that, I mean those with less than 100 grams of fat and five-thousand calories, which pretty much rules out fast food. The last couple of years, life for me had been so busy I’d allowed fast food to become my friend. The downside was that I’ve put on about thirty pounds. Yep, the diet is in full effect. No more eating out (at least no more than twice a month, if I can help it) and no more junk food. I’ve also gotten back on a regular exercise routine. I love jogging/walking. There’s a track that I like to go to just a mile or two out of town. It’s a nice place. I try to go at night, because I like the cool air and the fact that I usually get the place all to myself. It’s somewhere I can go and avoid any distractions and have the privacy to either talk through my thoughts or talk to God. And I love the sound of the crickets and seeing the lightning bugs in the field nearby. It’s just really peaceful. Usually I’ll walk five laps and jog or run five laps. Sometimes I’ll do more or less depending on the weather. In addition to jogging, I’ve been doing fifty to a hundred crunches and fifty pushups once every other day. So far I’ve managed to lose a little over five pounds. Anyone got any tips for me? I’d appreciate the advice.

I’ve been thinking about church lately. It’s been a while since I’ve went. To be honest, I’m afraid if I go back to church and something else goes wrong I’ll just end up wanting to quit it for good. I know this isn’t good. I believe Jesus meant for us, His followers, to be in relationship with each other. But I feel as though the church today just isn’t what it ought to be. And I’m not sure where, if I was going to go to church, I’d go. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. Maybe I’ll go back to my old church, maybe I’ll find a different one, maybe I’ll just take a little more time away from it to figure out what I’m doing. Only problem with that last idea is that I know not being in church isn’t helping me. I know I need the support it provides, even if that support only comes in the form of feeling as though I’m a part of something.

I’ve also been thinking about friends. I want to thank everyone who gave such good advice and comments for my last post, which was of this subject. One thing I realize is that I am a shy person. I also have trouble trusting people. So, it takes a while for me to open up to people. I realize that this doesn’t help me to make friends very easily. I know I can also be rather stubborn and perhaps even arrogant at times, neither of which can help when it comes to building a relationship with a person. I also recognize that it doesn’t help me any being gay and living in a rural part of the country, where being different isn’t typically considered a good thing to be. I’m not openly gay to too many people actually, but I know a lot of people think that about me. I know I do have some rather effeminate mannerisms and my voice is sort of soft. As Jay would call it, I have a little extra “sugar in my step”, so to speak (I don’t know why but I can’t help but like that expression). I’m sure a lot of guys see me and hear me speak and just automatically assume that I’m either gay or just too effeminate or different for their own liking. Regardless of whatever it is about me or otherwise that keeps me from making/keeping friends, I’m determined to keep on trying. I suppose it’s the stubbornness in me that keeps me from giving up.

Another thought on my mind is that I haven’t felt very close to my dad lately. I was playing the second Splinter Cell game the other night and out of nowhere this huge feeling of nostalgia came over me. I’m a terrible sentimentalist like that. I remembered a few years back when my dad and I played through the game for the first time. We played several other games together as well—mostly Medal of Honor and James Bond games. When we were playing those games I felt the most connected with my dad. I really enjoyed those times. There haven’t been very many like that when I felt so close to him. I struck up a conversation with him the other day about the Splinter Cell game, and I could see after a few minutes the fondness he has for those times as well. We ended up talking about the things we remembered most from some of the games and it didn’t take long for the excitement to grow in both of our voices. I’m hoping we’ll be playing one of the ole games together again soon.

Well, that should probably be just about enough from me. I’ll close with just one last thought, though. Does anyone else think that maybe it was a good thing that abortion doctor got shot recently? I mean, I hate that the man was killed, and by no means do I mean to imply that people should take up their guns and start killing doctors, but the man was admittedly himself the murderer of hundreds of unborn babies. I can’t help but feel as though a mass murderer just finally got what was coming to him. I know that probably sounds rather harsh, but seriously, with the man dead, his clinic has closed and who knows how many babies could now get a chance to live. Sort of makes you think a bit, doesn’t it?

(I want to add just this one last thing in order to avoid any further confusion. I do not condone the murder of Dr. Tiller. I think it was an awful thing that he was murdered. All I meant in the previous paragraph was that I think it's a good thing fewer abortions may take place now. But I do not think it was a good thing Dr. Tiller was murdered, nor do I believe his murderer had a right to do so. I'd have much rather him lived and somebody have been able to convince him to stop doing the abortions. And I want to apologize if my comments earlier seemed insensitive or uncaring. That really was not my intent.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


For about as long back as I can recall I’ve had trouble making friends. I meet someone I like, I spend time with them, I try to get to know them, maybe we hang out or do something for a while, and then nothing. All communication stops. Or, there’s also the occasions when I’m trying to become friends with someone and they won’t give me the time of day. Then there are those who I’ve thought were close friends that turned out not to be. After a lifetime of what I’d define as poor friendships, I seriously wonder what the problem is. Is there something about me that people just don’t like, am I going about things all wrong, or is it just the sort of people I end up being around? Or is it a combination of the three? I don’t know. I don’t understand it. But I know I just get so tired of trying and not seeing any results. (I think I should add that I do have several internet friends. What I'm talking about here are close, personal friends--the type you can see face to face and actually do things with in person).

I’ve heard of other people who struggle with a similar problem, particularly SSA men trying to form healthy friendships with straight men. I know I have trouble trusting people sometimes and loosening up. Maybe that’s what I need to work on. Maybe I’m too stiff for most people.

I guess the point of this post is that I’d like to hear from all of you that read my blog how you go about making friends. How do you define friendship? What makes you want to be friends with certain people? What makes you not want to be friends with certain people? How do you keep friendships together? What challenges have you faced in some of your friendships? I really am quite curious about all this.