The beginning of the rest of my life will take place some time this August. I am talking about a hard stop and start. Of course, every moment in the here and now marks the beginning of the rest of my life.
The man that I was from 1999-2012 in Austin can’t possibly exist, or I will surely destroy all that is good about my present life situation. But, of course, I want to take anything that is good with me. The healthy stuff.
The inclination to live in a world of my own creation is incredibly strong. The desire to have my reality be something almost entirely comprised of books, art, writing, music, movies, etc., and not real people.
It’s weird to think how incompatible even the man I am today should be with the man who will start seminary. It is a little daunting to think about how I will successfully navigate a myriad of social situations without making all of the same clumsy mistakes I always have made. Of course, the answer is to let God lead.
As much as my faith in God waxes and wanes, as does my desire to be close to Him, I understand perfectly that if I attempt to begin this new life by relying upon my own wits, I will fall flat on my face, perhaps spectacularly, or maybe just in a tragicomic sort of way.
I will want to surf the thirteen years of memories–they will be unavoidable. I will on some Saturday want to drive down and see the first place I lived, the second, and the third, fourth, fifth, etc. I will want to reclaim whatever was good from that thread of being and gleaning meaning.
Hopefully, school will fill me up with so much reading and extracurricular activities that such opportunities are rare. Of course, I will try to get down to Town Lake every single Saturday to hike and bike and run. I will become frightened and uncertain if I find myself in a moment where I am unsure of what I should be doing, wondering if there is a quiz I should be studying for, or a meeting with a group that I forgot about.
Such is the stuff of most of my nightmares. Going back to school, and school may be high school, college or some eternal school that has no real identifier. There is always a class or two that I have forgotten about, and it is now almost the end of the semester and I’ve forgotten to attend the class, study the books, take the tests. Me failing the class means something unspeakably horrifying–not being able to graduate, ever, from this dream school.
I didn’t follow all of the instructions. Everyone else did, but I did not. There are no more second chances. I have lost the last opportunity to make something of my life, and now I must die and submit my spirit to whatever Jesus decides is best for me to do or wherever to go next. Such is the stuff of nightmares.
Of course, there is also that nostalgic yearning for the opportunity to endlessly live on an idyllic campus somewhere. Non-stop philosophical discussions. Endless dinners and drinks with fellow faculty members. Playing racquetball with a department buddy in the evenings while ogling co-eds and fantasizing about wife-swapping like some John Irving novel. Going to performances by the music and theater departments every other weekend. Taking lengthy sabbaticals in Europe and even more exotic destinations. Living a sweet, quiet life among dusty books and beautiful young people who never grow old, even as I do–the collegiate version of Matthew McConnaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused.
But, it’s an unreal college that never quite changes, and remains perfectly stuck in the 1970s. We ride our Schwinn ten-speeds every other spring night and play tennis doubles with our wives. We keep wine cellars full of modestly valued good wines, and line our walls with shelves of books we mostly will never read. There aren’t any computers except for a few giant ones in the math department, there is only analog film and vinyl to capture and listen to those things which delight us. We are tastefully indulgent in a little bit of rock n’ roll, but we mostly listen to cool, mid-century jazz and lounge music–the music that was of our generation, lost and sandwiched in between the greatest generation and the baby boomers. We don’t spend much time with our children–children have their own lives and were meant to raise each other. Our world could be in a Woody Allen or Wes Anderson film.
Of course, such a thing maybe never existed, and will not exist for me no matter how much I might pretend it to be so when I step onto the seminary campus and see the UT campus across the way. The days of male professors ruling the campus and academic world while winking condescendingly and suggestively at their female colleagues are long gone. The academic world is full of all the same corrupt, lazy assholes I have known so well in the corporate one. And besides, I shouldn’t lose sight of my ultimate goal to be a pastor, helping others at a church that prides itself on how much it likes to help people.
I don’t want the rest of my life to be a quaint cliche. Not even a pastoral one. The smells, sights and sounds of a well-loved community church are surely intoxicating, and I bet it will be quite the heady feeling when I step up into the pulpit of such a church for the first time. The fact that it will be my work home, and the community at large will be my office of pastoral duty is highly appealing, and I won’t necessarily object to being called to spend the rest of my life in a mostly white, affluent suburban parish, but I don’t think that this is all God has in mind for me to do.
To be for sure, I want my kid or kids to grow up in a place that they feel safe, accepted, cultured and able to thrive. I would rather raise them in Richardson, Texas than say, Compton, LA or some such neighborhood, no matter how much more righteous the pastoral work might be. I have to know my own limitations, as God obviously clearly knows them, but I shouldn’t accept myself as being especially limited when it turns out that I am not.
I can’t accept that I will spend the rest of my life mostly alone, aloof and apart from everyone else. I may not ever have the gang of buddies who want to go watch MMA fights down at the local bar, but I would like to think that I can still develop friendships with other quiet, introspective men who think a lot about their existences. I can’t accept that I can’t change. I have never been able to fully believe that I am destined to be stuck being shy forever. I wasn’t shy before puberty, though you might wonder if I had Asperger’s or ADHD were you to take a look at the un-shy me of 8-12. Which is to say, I have no interest in trying to tap into whoever or whatever I was before I hit puberty and became shy and mistrustful of everyone.
Again, as with all things that are giant moutains to climb, I should be putting my faith in trust in God as much as possible. I don’t know how, exactly, I am going to get through the next 3-4 years, even though I will probably look back on them during my first few years as a pastor with wistful fondness and remember them as being easy. I don’t know exactly how I am going to become a pastor who has a kind word for everyone, who has a sermon ready every week and can convincingly preach it. It could be, that I should start practicing now on my poor little family, who will have to bear the brunt of all of these crazy changes, anyway.