13 05 2011

According to the degree plan laid out for us counseling students at The Martian Hill School of Theology and Psychology, I should be in Old Testament, Multicultural, and Research & Stats.

After reviewing the trajectory of my life and realizing that this mad rush toward A Career temporarily killed much of my desire to do this work at all, I am only enrolled in one of those “recommended” classes–Research, the one class at Mars Hill that requires absolutely zero introspection.

This is to be the first of many coming semesters where the zeitgeist of my classmates, my dear friends and confidants, is something I will experience from the outside looking in. No longer will I be an active participant in the conversations that are moving my friends to tears or causing them to question their very identity (at least not in the classroom) This week almost everyone I spend significant amounts of time with is being challenged to confront their implicit participation in systemic prejudice and racism, and I sit on the very periphery of these conversations. Here, once again lurking in the margins, I’m finding truth in words I’ve always said about myself knowing all along they were hollow, a thin veneer papering over huge uncertainties and insecurities.

I’ve long worn my silence as a cloak of invisibility, crafting a persona that allowed me to hang back and test the waters of every imaginable social situation. My every act and word was carefully weighed, judged according to whatever sense I had of what peoples’ reactions might be. If I could not predict how I would be received I said and did nothing. I was playwright, actor, director, and critic of the grand performance that was my presence in the world. It was exhausting. It was lonely. It drove me into books or on my bicycle; it left me desperate to be anywhere that was not populated by other people. And it made me into a fantastic observer of humanity, for every tidbit of information I gleaned about you by eavesdropping or inference was one less question I’d have to ask, one more conversation I could bypass with a knowing nod and a smile. I was perpetually hiding huge portions of myself from judging eyes (my own being the most vociferous in their condemnations).

But if anyone asked, I was Mr. Quiet Confidence. I was skipping on the inside. I was FINE. I was happy to be avoiding the drama and heartache of intimacy.

Now here I am in Seattle, living according to such a radically different philosophy that I was this very evening likened to social herpes for “I get around.” It’s been suggested I be the mascot of our class. I’ve been named strong and bold and courageous. I’ve been told that my willingness to dive head-long into the uncharted territory of my own emotional experience has been an inspiration to the very people I look up to the most and have been striving to emulate. I have allowed myself to be me in the presence of women and men whose insight and intuition has shone light upon my deepest rooted shame. I have told story after story, reveling in the spotlight that has, until now, been anathema.

And I have been well loved.

This week, this night, I’ve found myself returning to old silence as a new man. I’ve gone back to listening far more than talking. I’m again witnessing friends turn to me and say, “I’ve hardly heard anything from you all night!”

My silence is no longer empty.

This semester I’m slowing down, hopefully giving myself the opportunity to get to know the new me before next fall starts up with a wholly new class of incoming students to meet and love and (dare I say this aloud?) lead. I’m discovering the sort of effort it will take to maintain these indescribably beautiful relationships I have formed over the past year once shared classes no longer place us in the same room at the same time. I’m practicing what it might mean to freely ask for what I need–even if that means I need to respectfully bow out of a conversation that is too huge for me to add it to my list of personal revolutions this month.





One response

14 05 2011

Toom = Boomb.
Love to you friend. You’re journeying well.

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