Chapter 1: Who I Am

It’s a tricky thing to sit down and try to figure out how to start a book like this. Actually, I hesitate to really even call it a “book”, because (while I hope to get at least a few copies printed and bound) I’m probably not going to be putting tons of time into things that people normally do when they write a book. I’ll try to do some basic editing, and maybe run spell-check once or twice, but I just don’t really have the time to put a lot of polish and shine on this thing. I am a full-time grad student, after all (also, I just have to say that the temptation to introduce a few deliberate spelling errors in the opening paragraph is quite strong right now. I’m having trouble resisting. In fact, all spelling and grammar errors you find are intentional).

However, despite that, I still want to write this, because I think it’s important. Not the things I have to say — though I hope that you’re able to derive some sort of meaning out of what I write — but rather, it’s important for me to set down on paper some ideas about who I am. One thing I’m learning about myself is that, despite my best efforts, I often portray a different image of who I am to different people. Part of this is because I’m not a very confrontational person, so when I sense that something I say, think, or believe is going to be offensive to someone else, I try to avoid saying, thinking, or believing that thing around them so as not to make them mad. But a bigger part of it is this: if I’m really honest with myself, I’m afraid that if I let people see who I am, then people are going to be repulsed by what they see. And even though I am an introvert, I still crave the attention and respect of other people. So I make myself different when I am around people; I make myself not who I am, but who I think they want me to be.

This “book”, then, is my initial attempt to overcome this compulsion. See, I don’t want to be who other people want me to be. I want to be myself, and I want to have such strength in being myself that — even though there are some dirty parts inside me — I’m not afraid to have other people look at me. And since it’s much easier for me to put thoughts and words down in writing than it is for me to vocalize them, I decided to write this thing.

So that’s the deal: I want to show you who I am. In return, all I ask is that you accept what I show you. You don’t have to like everything about me, and if some of the things I say make you angry, I’m sorry. Sometimes they make me angry too. But it’s all a part of the crazy, messed-up beautiful human being that is me.

I do want to be careful in what I write; there are a number of traps that I fall into very easily when writing things like this, and I hope to avoid them in the following pages. First and foremost, I don’t want to give the impression that I have all the answers, or have some deep understanding of the world, or anything like that. It’s very tempting for me to want to package things up in a pithy statement that will convey an important life lesson to the people reading this. And to some degree, I do hope that reading these pages will teach you something — because while I don’t profess that my life experiences are any more profound or valuable than yours, I don’t believe they are less so, either. But that’s not the point of me writing. The point is for me to show you who I am, and many times that can’t be summed up in a witty statement.

I also am working very hard to make this not a depressing thing to read. I have a natural inclination towards things that are sad, or melancholy, or bittersweet, and that comes out a lot in my writing. I write most naturally about sad things, and I do the vast majority of my writing when I am sad. But I want to be, and hope that I am, a happy, joyful person — and I certainly don’t want to make you sad! So I am working hard in this document to make it joyful and life-giving, not depressing and melancholy. There will be some topics that I have to write about that are difficult for me to write, and may be difficult for you to read. But I am doing the best I can to also write about things that bring me joy.

Finally, I want to point out up front that I will be talking a lot about God and faith in these pages. If this makes you uncomfortable or angry, I won’t be upset if you stop reading. But I hope you won’t. I’m not interested in writing this to convert you to my particular brand of Christianity (or to any other religion, for that matter). However, it would be impossible for me to convey a clear picture of who I am without describing what I believe. I’m going to try hard to use language that doesn’t assume any knowledge about religion and isn’t churchy, because that type of language annoys me just as much as I imagine it annoys you. But I’ve spent a long time in many different churches, so sometimes I get surprised when people don’t understand what I’m talking about.

Anyways, enough blathering about that. I want to talk a little bit about how this whole thing is organized, and then dive into the deep end. There are two books I’ve read that I can say changed my life; the first is a book by Donald Miller called Blue Like Jazz (they made a movie out of it, too). The second is a book by Bob Goff called Love Does. Both of these books are just collections of stories and vignettes about events that happened in the authors’ lives. Because I liked these books so much, I’m attempting to emulate their style here — so in what follows, you’ll just find a collection of stories about things that have happened in my life. You don’t have to read them in any particular order, but I’ve arranged them in the order that I think gives the clearest picture of who I am.

You should also note that, like all the best stories, all of the stories I tell here are true, and some of them actually happened. You might wonder how a story can be true if it didn’t actually happen. Maybe you think it’s contradictory for me to paint a real picture of myself that is fictional, but hey. Life’s full of contradictions. And the stories I tell are true, even if they didn’t happen; they are shrouded by the imperfect veil of my memories, and they might be embellished a bit here and there, but the picture they paint is as close to a picture of me as I am able to create.

One final note: as I mentioned before, some of the things I write about will be somewhat heavy. I may also occasionally use swear words. I’m not going to apologize for either of these things, but I just want to give you fair warning. And you might not want to let your six-year-old read this unless you think they can handle it.

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