Friday, August 15, 2008

Thinking of What to Say

A man in his 20's says:

I fear the herd mentality. I avoid Top Forty radio, don't bother with New York Times Best Sellers. If everyone likes something, I'm convinced I won't. And yet, secretly and unbeknownst even to myself for the longest time, I want the same things everyone else wants. This internal dichotomy makes me feel like a fraud. To the observer, I appear to be an easy-going sort of person who can easily engage with people. The reality is that I feel no connection. The one thing that seems so obvious to others has been eluding me all my life. Relationships are a puzzle, a crossword in a script I'm unable to decipher.

Lust, yes! I understand the mechanisms of lust, the machinations of desire. I've been in lust several times. But love? I don't think I've ever been in love. I so desperately want to join the game before it's too late. But the older I get, the more emotionally immature I feel. And I know that all the isolation I have ever felt has been due to self-sabotage. For example, I waited until I was 25 before I told my parents I was gay. Can you believe it? The irony of it is that I knew they would accept me as I am, but told myself not to risk jeopardizing it. "All that wasted time," is what my mother said that night.

Will I continue to be my own enemy? I feel like 'How Soon Is Now' by the Smiths was written about me. I'm passionate, and authentic, and kind. I don't consider myself unattractive. People like me and tell me I'm fun to be around. So when is it going to happen? How soon is now?

The Conversation:

Jason: Evening!

Good evening!

Jason: How are you? Have something good to drink?

I've got a frosty ginger ale here, just slightly adulterated with some Tanqueray....

Jason: Ah, sounds good. I have a little pinot grigio. Although, it's warm.

Isn't that supposed to be served kinda warm anyway?

Jason: I hope so, because then I got it right.


Jason: Are you ready?

Ready as I'll ever be. Let's get started.

Jason: I'd like to start with your friends growing up. Can you tell me a little bit about your friendships? Who were they? What were they like?

Growing up was...interesting. We moved around a lot, so I had to say goodbye countless times.

Jason: How often did you move?

Let's see. I changed cities three times, and went to six schools, all told. I would say I only really felt close to people in college.

Jason: What was the course of an average friendship growing up? Let's say around 13 or 14 years old.

Oh God. Thirteen was the most miserable age. I had no friends for the entire year I attended that school. I couldn't stand it! Ironically, I won a prize at graduation for being the most versatile student. Go figure. I guess the way I perceive something and the reality of the situation is not the same thing.

Jason: Why didn't you have friends?

I didn't want to intrude. Everyone else seemed kind of clique-ey, like they had a good thing going without me. It's a character trait I got from my father, I think. This desire to please others and not make waves, to the point of pathology. Plus, I felt like I didn't share any interests. There was no point of connection, no common ground. I felt like I wasn't like anyone else, that I couldn't understand. How do you strike up a conversation with someone you don't know? It seems contrived, talking about the weather, fake, and so I don't do it. And rather not say much at all.

Jason: Did they tend to disappoint you?


Jason: Put myself in your shoes at age 13. What was it like walking up to someone? Or probably more realistic, what was it like if you were around these kids while they were talking to each other? What would be going through your head?

To be honest, I don't really remember any particular scenario. Obviously, it must have happened. But I guess not enough to be memorable. That changed when we all went to high school. It was a bit like a second chance. Everyone was new. And you had to strike up friendships in order to survive the older children.

Jason: Were you good at altering yourself to fit a friendship? Did you feel a couple steps ahead of people? Shaping the relationship how you wanted, and for the goal you had?

Oh very. That's why I was popular with everyone in high school. People still recognize me in the street, and then I have no idea of who they are! And I think it's so damn artificial--these silly little conversations about what everyone's doing now. I actually don't care. But would never tell them, of course. I was steps ahead of people. I could blend in very well by then--talk to anyone, about anything. Very rarely did I gain any sort of satisfaction from it, though. I didn't belong to a group. I chatted to geeks, jocks, and posers alike.

Jason: Did you sometimes wait for an opportune time, maybe the right vibe, the right topic, the right moment, to mention something that you cared about? Did you do it to see how they would react? If they would be interested or care?

All the time. I don't think my interests were instrumental in anyone's formative years though, haha! There was a lot of pretending. Pretending to share interests: music, fashion, pop culture.

Jason: You didn't find that others were interested in what you were interested in? I'm thinking that your interests were unusual, more advanced, older. Did people sometimes claim you were weird or put you down in some way when you spoke about your interests?

People were seldom interested in the same things I was. I guess my interests were more mature, thinking back, less transient. I don't think people considered me weird or an oddball. They always thought I was funny. And that annoyed me. Sure there's wit, but there's more to it. I often felt like I was seen as a diversion, some sort of entertainment. Not something to engage in. Just something to passively watch.

Jason: Being entertainment is fine when it seems to be leading to something. That maybe you'll find some common ground, but when it ends there, or it ends in an insult or dismissal, the whole effort becomes very anger inducing. Would you agree with that?

It's rather unfulfilling. Not anger, really. It just makes you tired. Tired when it doesn't seem to be working, and you have no other way of being.

Jason: Don't you feel cheated, sometimes?

I actually sometimes feel like I get what I deserve. Very little human warmth.

Jason: Why don't you think you deserve human warmth?

Because I don't put in the effort. But I don't know. And don't understand why it has to be such a game. Before the real connections start.

Jason: Why would you put in the effort if you get stung for it? Isn't the entertainment a kind of effort? Aren't you trying to appeal to people to find common ground? And demonstrate your mental abilities?

I guess. But after a while, you have to hope the other party starts to reciprocate. And they seldom do.

Jason: That's right. They seldom do. Is that your fault, or their fault?

I may have unrealistic expectations. It comes with being a perfectionist. If it doesn't go exactly as planned, we'd rather just forget the whole thing.

Jason: Were you forced into a position of responsibility in your household? Did your mother or father rely on you for more than childhood things?

Not at all. I was always granted the space to do more or less what I wanted. But having an older sister who screwed up and disappointed them a lot...that made me take on those extra responsibilities of being the "good kid." Without it being expected of me. I just did it to compensate in some way.

Jason: What you mean by "space?"

Space = opportunity.

Jason: Does space also equal not a lot of direct attention? Accolades, but not involvement? Praise, but not understanding?

No. I think you're reading too much into the word (bad choice in hindsight). I have virtually perfect parents. Very close, very involved. But I don't tell them everything.

Jason: What sort of things do you keep to yourself?

I try not to bother people with talk about feelings too much. I don't recall ever having a conversation with my parents about how I feel socially inept, for instance.

Jason: Did they ask you how school was going when you were having a horrible time?

They did, all the time. And academically it went fine, so I'd steer the conversations towards that, and not what I did during break time.

Jason: Why weren't you honest about how you felt?

I didn't want to bother anyone. No one died. I wasn't suffering academically, so it was silly. Not something worth sharing. I didn't need close friends, I was fine. Even I believed it after a while.

Jason: Were you afraid that they would feel responsible? And feel badly for making you move?

Hmmmm. I've never thought about that. No, I don't think so. I think they would have assumed I was capable of coping.

Jason: They would have downplayed your feelings?

No. I think at that point I had led them to believe that I was emotionally stronger than I really was.

Jason: Imagine yourself telling them at age 13 how you felt in school. What is the reaction that you imagine that makes you want to not say it? To avoid the conversation?

I only told them how I felt at 13 once I started college. What had made me not say it at age 13? The imaginary look of sadness and empathy in my mother's eyes.

Jason: How would you feel if your mother was sad?

Upset. So it's best to just avoid it.

Jason: Would being upset be an immediate reaction? Kind of like a reflex?

It's a reflex, I guess. I have very strong emotional ties to all my immediate family. They mean the world to me. Always have.

Jason: How do you feel when a quasi-friend, maybe someone at work, becomes upset by something you say? Do you immediately become upset? Do you try to remedy the situation, and if you can't, to avoid that person?

An acquaintance? Well, no. I wouldn't be upset then. Obviously I would try to be courteous, but I wouldn't go out of my way. I definitely wouldn't actively try to avoid someone I've wronged.

Jason: A friend. What if you yourself said something that ended up hurting a friend?

That has happened with friends, and it does make me feel miserable. In such an instance, I would go out of my way to remedy the situation. But I've also drifted from people I once perceived as friends, because of such scenarios. They need to also be accommodating. If not, they must stay the hell away from me. These days I'm very wary of "toxic friends" who become all-consuming. A friendship should be natural and easy. No maintenance required.

Jason: Do they need to be accommodating because you would be accommodating for them? Would you help them feel better about hurting you?

I don't hold grudges easily. But I can think of three people I don't want to see again. Ever. And I actively avoid them if I can.

Jason: Do you not hold grudges, because you empathize about how awful they must feel about making a mistake?

I'm not a psychopath. I do feel empathy, sometimes even for people I've never met (or fictitious ones in novels, even!). However, there comes a time when the whole relationship, that whole engagement, becomes immensely tiring, an artificial assemblage of things left unsaid, things to skirt around. It is not worth the effort for me if it's that damn delicate.

Jason: I'm in no way judging or pushing for a solution here. I'm just getting into how you feel in discrete situations. You seem to feel a bit cheated when someone you've hurt isn't accommodating to you. You can even feel angry about that. I'm thinking that even if you're hurt, you will help the other person feel better about their mistake. However, it has limits, like you say.

True. But I think this is it: friends shouldn't make you feel tired by their very presence. And most people do. Anyway, that's how I see it.

Jason: Have you ever felt equal with someone? Someone who is at least remotely a peer?

I have a couple of good friends I'd give my life for now. And the best is that I do believe that they would do the same. It has taken me an awfully long time to find and connect with people who feel and think more or less as I do. Which makes me feel very fortunate. However, I still feel entirely awkward when meeting strangers. It takes me a long time to build up enough courage (or is that trust?) to initiate the whole thing. And the first couple of weeks (or months, sometimes) still feel very fake and uncomfortable and artificial. I hate it. If only there was some sort of recipe. But people are too unpredictable.

Jason: Are they your equal?

New persons, or my handful of good friends?

Jason: The good friends.

I don't understand what you mean by equal, I guess.

Jason: Do you find yourself more the leader, having the ideas, being the more dynamic? Do you find yourself doing more, taking on more responsibility? Or, is it balanced? Or, are they more the leader?

It's balanced. We think up stuff to do together, and are equally accommodating. They don't make me tired! I listen when they speak, and vice versa.

Jason: Do you find yourself being wholly yourself? Or is there still a little posturing? A little thought going into it rather than totally natural?

With me, friends are total comfort. In new situations, posturing absolutely. I've been working with a new group of people since moving to this town about a year ago. After six months of sheer agony and hardly speaking to anyone, I can finally joke around and chat to people. But I still feel slightly like an impostor. I'm doing it to survive. I have to make new friends or perish. And the process is therefore unnatural and awkward and uncomfortable. I'm more skilled at it than at 13, though! It only took me half as long this time around! But there is no joy in meeting new people for me. Although others seem to like it quite a bit. Otherwise all those dating agencies would go out of business, I think!

Jason: For you, what does it mean to be alone?

On the whole, I don't have much of a problem with being alone. The constant twitter of other people leaves me bored and under-stimulated. There's always something interesting happening inside my own brain. And this suits me fine, for the most part. But there are those quiet hours of the night when I want, no, desire that input from outside myself. I realize now that we weren't meant to be alone, even if people are such an irritating species. I have a lot to share, more than I'm allowed to with those few precious friends. And it seems like such a waste not to.

Jason: Why is it limited with those friends?

Surely there are things you share with your wife you've not shared with anyone else?

Jason: Emotional support? Emotional sharing? Safety to voice those things?

I get emotional support from friends. I complain about the absence of love constantly to those who wish to listen! God, how sad does that sound?

Jason: What is the extra piece that falls into the category of love that doesn't exist in friendship? Beyond the physical part. That's clear.

It's a closer kind of connection. One where there finally are no secrets. Are you telling me that this is all there is? I don't believe that. There's a very intense core that I've not shown to anyone, not even close friends or family. And it burns when you keep it to yourself this long.

Jason: That's the core I'm trying to get to. The emotion it feels. The disappointments. Can you identify a trait that your lover would have that your friends do not?

I want to show someone the world in my eyes. But so far, the initial connection to get to that stage has eluded me. Maybe it's because I can't identify that distinguishing trait. It seems easy for others, but I really don't know what to look for. And I'm afraid of looking like a fool. So I end up doing nothing. I have often thought that there are no sins, but there is one sin, and that is fear. Fear leads to all the others: jealousy, greed, murder. And fear is what keeps you back. Yet knowing this does nothing to lead me to action. Welcome to the dichotomy that is my life.

Jason: If I put a new person in front of you, what percentage of you would have hope that this person would be a kindred spirit? Who wouldn't be tiring? 5%?

Interesting question.... From my experience so far, not a lot. Most people have nothing to offer me.

Jason: 1% or less?

I wouldn't be without hope. Everyone deserves a chance. But I'd be extremely careful about letting my guard down. Assume that all snakes are poisonous before electing to handle a new specimen, I say.

Jason: What is the nature of your fear in this situation I've presented? Is it that one more failure is another nail in the coffin? That you might not be able to stand the disappointment of one more? That it might prove once and for all that it won't happen for you?

I think the fear in this scenario is a mixture of the fear of disappointment, and also the fear of being taken advantage of. The first is fear of something passive, a lack of connection. The latter is a fear of something active, malice or vindictiveness. Strangers are not to be trusted. I don't think anything specific would prove to me that it's not in the cards for me. But my life taken as a case history so far, has not been very reassuring.

Jason: Why would a person take advantage of you? In what way?

Since I don't seem to be as plugged in to what everyone else thinks is important or interesting, I'm afraid of being misunderstood, of looking foolish, of being derided or patronized. And condescension is the one thing I can't handle. It really pushes my buttons.

Jason: Being looked down upon by someone who has no right or basis for that opinion is hugely galling, isn't it?


Jason: I'm going to type something longer. Give me a minute, okay?


Jason: Although it doesn't seem to be rooted in your family life, there have been times of great upheaval in your childhood. Being moved around is very traumatizing. It places you in inferior situations, being the outsider. It makes you hyper-aware of what it means to be included or excluded. You learned to be watchful and cautious of others, because to get it "right," could mean the difference between the comfort of friends, or being truly ostracized. On top of this, you were cursed/blessed with high intelligence. That high intelligence put you immediately out of sync with many or your peers. What turned you on, didn't turn them on. In fact, they probably felt threatened by you. They protected themselves by putting you down or making you feel different. Later, these same traits made you very interesting to be around. To "entertain." However, in the end, these situations could be just as isolating. You are right to be disappointed in people, because people have truly disappointed you. But it's not really their fault, because there are few people in the world who are equipped to be your friend. Especially in the way that you are looking for. Someone to penetrate that deepest core that's you. You've been disappointed and hurt so many times that you've become extremely tired and cautious to the extreme. That, of course, is going to tend to hold you back from making connections, because the truth of it is that you will often be the one who has to lead. You are in more of a position to see ahead, to see into people, than they can see into you. You talked about feeling emotionally immature, and in a way, you haven't had the opportunity to grow in that regard, again, because of how few people are equipped to understand you. When you couple this with your aversion to upsetting people, it puts you in a catch 22. You are very dedicated to making the other person happy, but then are hurt when they don't reciprocate. Fear of upsetting them or being misunderstood paralyzes you, and it's often unclear how to proceed. That's how I'm feeling now, putting myself in your shoes.

I think this is quite accurate, except for the part about being in a position to "see into people." I often feel like I can't tell what they're thinking (about themselves, about life, about me) at all. And I am only dedicated to other people after a painstakingly long evaluation process, once I've let my guard down. Yes, it is a catch 22 and I am unclear how to proceed.

Jason: Thank you for clarifying that point. I was reacting to how you see steps ahead of people, and how you can create what seems like good interactions for them, but empty ones for you. I understand that what's going on in their minds is still a mystery. Yet, you can manipulate them on some level.

Thank you. That's precisely it. On the whole, I'm not an unhappy person. I don't feel ostracized. But a little bit disconnected once in a while, and a bit left out when the lights go out.

Jason: Not having what you deeply want can be just as damaging as being ostracized. It's just a much slower burn.

Slow burn. That's me. I have been hard on myself. But because all this madness inside my own head, I totally have the power to turn it around. And I know I will. I just hope it's soon.

Jason: I hope you've found some good in this.

Thank you for listening. I didn't want to be the only awkward one anymore.

Jason: Have a great night.

I hope you get up in time for work tomorrow.

Jason: I'll be fine.

Goodbye, then.

Jason: Good night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Still Calling

A man in his 20's says:

To set this up, you need to know I'm a Christian, specifically an Episcopalian. Also I'm married and called to be a priest.

A couple of years ago I was in the middle of what they call the discernment process--essentially the application and approval process which leads to going to seminary and eventually to the priesthood. The process up to that point had been somewhat of a pain. A necessary pain, but a pain nonetheless. One of the requirements was an approval by the vestry (the board) of my home church.

My priest asked me to come to church a little early one Wednesday night right around this time. He was a young guy, who was just out of seminary himself. His office was so small there was nothing between us as we sat. The look on his face gave me a knot in my stomach. "I've been looking for a way to say this, and I think it's best just to say it. You did not get the approval of the vestry to go further in the discernment process."

The wind was knocked out of me. In that moment, all the plans I had, the plan I thought were God's plans, came to a screeching halt. I asked for the reasons, and he vaguely mentioned something about not being mature enough right now. What was frustrating about this whole situation was that the people there didn't really know me, not the real me. So how could they judge if I was ready or not? Just like it was with college friends--everything was just on the surface. No deep meaningful relationships.

The people there still don't know me. And now I'm questioning whether I'm supposed to be a priest at all. It ended up being a good thing, I think. It allowed me some time for introspection, and I've come out a better person for it. But I still don't feel any kind of fulfillment, and not being sure of my direction in life has made things worse.

The Conversation:

Jason: How's it going this evening?

Pretty good. Tired but pretty good.

Jason: Long day?

Yeah, my day starts early

Jason: I'm sitting here with a glass of homebrewed mead. Anything over on your end?

Not yet.

Jason: You want to grab something or just get

My wife is bringing me something in a minute. Lets do this.

Jason: First off, I really felt for you in what you've shared already. I thought we'd start with a pretty big topic. What was the first time God truly revealed himself in your life? I don't mean just going to church because your parents went. Really had a presence personally.

I would say the first time I FELT God was in college. Felt him and really understood, you know?

Jason: Tell me a little about that. What were you doing at that moment?

Well I was on a retreat actually in Panama City, and the whole weekend was themed around the Holy Spirit. One of the nights there was a service where there was an alter call, and I went up not really having a purpose, but went just because that's what I was supposed to do. For show almost.

Around that time I had really started to deal with the death of my father, which was something that I hadn't ever fully gotten into until college. So I went up there, and it just hit me, God was telling me that he was there for me. I never really felt God until that point. I understood that God loved me, but there had always been some transference of my relationship with my Earthly father to the Heavenly Father. So God had always been distant. But at that moment, he wasn't distant and I cried like a baby. I was up there for a good 20 minutes just weeping.

Jason: You had already chosen to become a priest at this point?

Oh lord, no. That wasn't until years later. I wanted to be a coach at that point.

Jason: What year in college were you?

I was in my second year.

Jason: What kind of coach did you want to be?

Football and wrestling.

Jason: What were you majoring in?

I think at that time I was still officially undecided. I just hadn't done the paperwork to switch to Physical Education.

Jason: How long before had your father died?

My father died when I was six, and I was twenty at the time, if memory serves. A little over 14 years.

Jason: What did His presence at that moment in Panama City mean to you at the time?

Well, at the time, it gave me an appreciation for who I had in my life that cared for me, my friends especially. God kind of showed me that he had put them in my life to hold me up.

Jason: Were you struggling?

I didn't see it at the time, but I was. I was so desperate for acceptance. But at the time, I wouldn't have said I was struggling. Not to any great extent.

Jason: Did you tell your friends what you experienced that night?

Oh yeah, they were in the room. They saw what I experienced. I went up to my roommates who were my best friends and gave them a huge hug.

Jason: Did they share it with you? Did they seem to understand the importance?

Another friend had her arm around me as I cried. They seemed to get it, yes.

Jason: Had they had similar experiences they could share with you?

No, I think the nature of the relationship with them was more of older bothers, at that time anyway. So they didn't share, not that they weren't open to it. It just didn't happen.

Jason: Around this time, when you were twenty, what was the kind of moment when you would feel hurt for not being accepted? When did you feel left out or isolated?

I seemed to always get left out of social gatherings. Not intentionally, I think, but people just didn't think to call me. That happened a lot.

Jason: Did you have a best friend or two, or did you tend to be around people who were best friends with someone other than you?

At that time, my best friends were two of my roommates. They were both older. One of them was my former youth director. I was less social with my college student friends, the ones who were my age.

Jason: Did you ever speculate on why they didn't invite you?

Oh yeah. I thought they didn't like me. I thought they thought I was annoying or whatever.

Jason: Why would they think you were annoying?

Well, I didn't like myself very much at the time, so I was always looking for validation from other people. I had to include myself if I wanted to be included.

Jason: How did you end up with older roommates?

During my first year in college, I lived alone. When summer rolled around, it just seemed natural to try to find a place with my two best friends. I was at their apartment my first year anyway. I slept there a lot.

Jason: Did you know them before college?

Like I said, one of them was my youth director, and the other one was his friend. He actually came with my other friend to youth group sometimes. They were who I knew when I want to college so I already had an "in" with this particular group.

Jason: How long before this time was he your youth director?

He became my youth director middle of my sophomore year in high school.

Jason: Did he look out for you?

In high school or college?

Jason: Mainly high school.

He looked out for all of us. I don't know that he made a special effort towards me.

Jason: When you say you would sleep over at his apartment, did you have a dorm room and roommate somewhere else?

No. I lived off campus in a crappy one bedroom place. I had planned to go to a different college out of state and then changed my mind, so I never lived on campus. I got into the dorm process late.

Jason: So, off the bat, you were at a disadvantage fitting in.

I have to preface this next bit because I neglected to mention a big fact so far that you may have picked up on. My social group was pretty much centered around my campus ministry. I was very active in our local campus ministry. My youth director had been the president, etc. I feel like I had a big advantage fitting into my social group because a lot of the older students there came and spoke at my youth group.

Jason: Was this social group the same one you felt left out of?

Eventually yes, but that was really after the older students who I knew prior to college had started to leave

Jason: How were you around other freshmen?

I was fine, I suppose. A few of them were from one county over and went to the rival high school. I clicked with them and another guy my age. There was actually a nice little group of us freshmen at first. Two of those guys were in my wedding.

Jason: But it changed over time? As the older group left, you felt like you lost some ground with your peers?

Exactly. The fact that I was so "in" with the older students helped in the short term, but hurt in the long term because I wasn't making those connections with the other freshmen. I was hanging out with the people I knew more. Of course, it's not that we all didn't hang out together sometimes. We did. Just not frequently.

Jason: When you say that you didn't like yourself at the time, what particular things bothered you?

Well, my physical appearance mainly, and I had a hard time seeing my good qualities, so the bad were very pronounced. I was a horrible procrastinator and didn't put forth a very strong effort in classes.

Jason: After your father's death, did your mother remarry?

Yes. A few years later.

Jason: Was he your stepfather all the way through until this time period?


Jason: How was your relationship with him?

Pretty bad, actually.

Jason: What went wrong?

Well, I was a city boy that had moved to the country, and I never seemed to be able to do anything right consistently.

Jason: Was he critical of you?


Jason: How did your mother view your relationship with him? Did she see how critical he was?

She knew, but she didn't see it in the same light because she knew him differently and better.

Jason: How was your relationship with her by the time senior year of high school rolled around?

It was pretty good. Around that time it started to shift to where it is now. Almost more friends than parent/child. I mean she's still my mother.

Jason: Do you have older siblings?

Yes. An older sister.

Jason: How was your relationship with her growing up?

Pretty typical, I suppose. Annoying younger brother type of thing. I've come to realize now that basically she's very difficult. No other way to put it. So things got pretty intense at times growing up, and I think that explains some of it.

Jason: Did she get along with your stepfather?

No. Not at all.

Jason: Did they fight?

Yes, but not like equals. He's a pretty old school guy when it comes to parenting, and they clashed a lot. There is a better word than fight for what they did, but I can't think of it right now.

Jason: Did he manage to get the upper hand, or did she always manage to hold her ground in some way?

She had her moments, and I don't think she ever really submitted to his authority, but you could say he had the upper hand.

Jason: After your moment in Panama City, how did your plans to go into physical education change? Was it an abrupt process, or a slower drift?

They didn't change. I still went into physical education.

Jason: What did you do after graduation?

I eventually changed my major from physical education to general studies after I realized that I didn't want to do PE anymore, so after graduation I continued with my college job and picked up some more hours until I was able to get a better (in theory) job.

Jason: Did you get another job?

Yes. A few months after graduation, I got a job with family and children services.

Jason: How long after this did you begin to think about the priesthood?

I was called to the priesthood while I was still in college.

Jason: Was the process of following that calling going on at the same time? I'm trying to understand logistically what was involved.

Yes, the process was going on at the same time. See, I wasn't even an Episcopalian when I received the call, so I had to be confirmed and then wait to start the process.

Jason: Was there a particular moment when you received the calling?

Oh yeah, there was a moment while I was on another retreat.

Jason: What happened there?

There was this point during the weekend where they set it up where you take a walk to the chapel. It's at night and the path is lined with candles and also lined with people who had been on the retreat in the past. They're singing to you. Pretty amazing actually

Jason: It sounds powerful. How did you feel?

Loved. Pure and simple. I wept again there too.

Jason: What was different this time (the calling)? What did it mean to you at that moment to be a priest?

Different from panama city?

Jason: Yes. And any time before. What did becoming a priest mean to you at that point? How would your life be different than if you remained at family and children services or some other job?

I think it was different because of the shear activeness of the people involved. They were doing something for me. They were acting on God's behalf. In the past, my deep moments like that with God were somewhat passive as opposed to active. At the time, being a priest meant being a preacher and a pastor, but they are actually pretty different than being a priest. But Baptist and Methodist clergy were all I knew. I wouldn't be fulfilled to any great extent if I were in another job other than priest.

Jason: Did you feel like you would have a vital role in something far greater than most everything else the world could offer?

I think that's true to a certain extent now, even though I think the laity is more important than the priesthood, but I didn't think along those lines at the time.

Jason: What drew you to the Episcopalian priesthood more than to the ministry in the Baptist or Methodist church?

The community. People seemed more genuine in the Episcopal church, or my experiences at the time led me to believe that.

Jason: How were you received when you joined the church?

My wife was Episcopalian so she was ecstatic, and the church we ended up joining was very welcoming. The people I met on the greater church level were amazing.

Jason: Did they know when you joined that you were interested in the priesthood?

A few people knew. I didn't really advertise it to any great extent until I had been a member for a bit.

Jason: How was their reaction when you first told them?

There weren't any negative reactions but people weren't jumping out of there chairs. When it came up, the reaction was like, "okay, that's nice. Good for you."

Jason: How much time passed between that moment, and the moment you were told that the church was not recommending you to go forward?

I would say about 2 years.

Jason: When was the first time you suspected that things might not be going as well as you'd like?

Hmmmmm. Really, when the my priest told me about the decision.

Jason: Everything seemed to be positive up to that point?

As far as I could tell. Any negatives were very vague hints at things but nothing major.

Jason: You must have felt terribly blindsided. Sorry for that.

I was. Thanks for the sympathy.

Jason: When you left and had time to get over the shock, did you churn about what happened? What was really going on?

Well, it's funny. By the end of the night, I had run the gamut of emotions and potential scenarios. My wife ended up being more upset than me, and I ended up calming her down. Don't get me wrong. I was pissed, but my conscience kicked in pretty quickly as it usually does, and the right thing became clear.

Jason: What did you end up deciding?

Oh, I'm still there at that church. I'm still on the vestry (board). The immediate decision was clear: tough it out.

Jason: How did they fail you? What did they not see?

They didn't see me, the real me. They saw the immature kid who couldn't hide his frustrations during meetings. They didn't see my passion for helping people. It's a distinct possibility that I'm to blame for a lot of that. To be honest, I don't get excited about that church. (Never really said that out loud before.)

Jason: What don't you like about it?

There isn't anyone there our age for us to be connected with. I don't think my wife and I get a lot of respect because of how young we are. Everyone there is a good bit older. Not nursing home old, but older.

Jason: What sorts of things would frustrate you at meetings?

Oh man, for a while we didn't have a priest so the SR warden ran the meetings, and he didn't know how to reign people in, and they would go on for hours. We had a 3 hour meeting one night. Now we have a priest. 1 hr 45 min tops.

Jason: What did the human failings of this church do to your calling?

To be honest, not a whole lot. It made me question it, but human failing are what it's all about you know? I think it confirmed to me that I may not be called to be a parish priest, but that's out of my hands to a great extent.

Jason: Are you following the calling now in another way?

That's what I've been trying to do since I got the calling--find someway to live it out while I'm waiting. Right now, I'm active in Vocare, which is a ministry for young adults. It's a retreat weekend. It's based on the retreat weekend where I received my calling. Same basic format. Just different in a few ways. More Ecumenical. (The other one, not Vocare.)

Jason: Who are you right now? If you could build a life around you based on a pure expression of who you are, what would that life entail?

Wow. Right now, I'm a guy who's still figuring out who he is. In that world, my life would entail community and genuine relationships. I would hope to foster that with and between other people, because really all we have in life is other people. That's how God moves--through and sometimes in spite of people. I would say a pure expression of who I am would be genuine caring, people being open and real with each other, and lifting each other up.

Jason: I'm going to type something longer now. It may take a minute....

Jason: If I try to put myself in your shoes, at many times in my life, I felt a great weight pressing on me. It's very difficult, if possible at all, to remember my father as a person, but I sure remember his absence. The man I could have looked up to, and been mentored by, disapproved of me and made me feel like I wasn't competent, like I couldn't handle the things I was supposed to. The church, youth groups, and my personal relationship with God were my lifeline, because behind all these hurts and disappointments and doubts, I could see the truth of something much greater, something eternal. There are people who devote themselves to the passion of that truth, and I feel most at home working alongside them. But they're hard to find. I'm still looking. I wish people would let go of all the smallness and pettiness and see what I see. The purity of what's possible.

That's amazing. Truly amazing.

Jason: I feel like I understand a small part of what you went through.

I think you captured it pretty well.

Jason: I hope you feel a little lighter. That a small bit of the weight is lifted.

I do feel that way, I really do, and I thank you

Jason: You're very, very welcome. Thank you for participating and sharing your feelings! I'm sure your experience will help others when they read it.

I hope so. Thank you for doing this. What you're doing is a good thing in this world.

Jason: Have a great night.

You too, Jason.