Around this time a year ago, I was being tossed about the throes of deep, deep depression. It all came as a result of a collection of monumentally selfish decisions that effectively dismantled one of the most valuable friendships I had at the time and severely damaged another that I had put good time and effort into healing. Months of discipline and silence were uprooted in the course of one weekend because I had chosen to to pursue the most harmful course of action offered.
I would spend the following week (spring break) with family I hadn't seen in too long, silently harboring my hurt and not knowing where to put my tears. On a drive home from a day exploring downtown Atlanta with them, I could do nothing but stare out the window at the unfamiliar skyline gathering in the dusk. Nothing but stare and nurse the wounds that I had reopened again. When at last I could bear it no more, I broke down right there in the backseat of the car. My lack of response to my family's questions made them aware of my grief.
Someone asked "Is he ok?" To which my mother solemnly responded, "No, he's not."
I was not; I was a disaster.
Later that night while sitting on my bed in the loft, my entire family ascended the stairs, circled me, and embraced me with love and empathy. Such situations are always overwhelming for myself. Some would say that these types of interventions can only be met with stubbornness or helplessness. I chose the latter.
I remember not being able to do anything but weep as they, some of them completely unaware of what was tearing at the inside of me, all placed their hands on me and prayed. My six year old niece leaned her head against me and clutched me, wanting her to know that if that was all she could offer to soothe me, she would gladly do it. How can a man not meet any such display of affection with anything but brokenness and thankfulness?
A few more months of attempting to salvage what I had done over the course of those few days, and I again faced a choice that could possibly result in more heartache. I bet you can guess what I did.
This was May of last year, the week before I was to be free of my four years of undergraduate work at Abilene Christian University and an end to my six year journey through college. At the time, I was in the middle of deciding if I wanted to stay in Texas or go somewhere completely new to begin again, in a sense.
When I inevitably made the wrong choice, I ran away to a secluded place without so much as a word to those who cared about me, leaving my phone and any other way to contact me behind. I was also damning myself in an academic sense, neglecting my studies as finals were the following week. I remember spending the day at the lake, laying in my car with the sunroof open, Balance & Composure playing on my stereo. When I grew bored of such inactivity, I walked down to the edge of the lake and ambled around aimlessly, throwing prayers out like stray missiles to explode over the muddy waters. Night found me perched on the edge of an abandoned water tower overlooking the moonlit surface several feet below. I didn't have the courage to do what I wanted to do but I did not wish to return to the world where my pain was ever staring me in the face.
In the end I chose to return, but not before begging, and I mean absolutely crying out in utter desperation to God to take something from me so that I would no longer have the capability of wrecking my life. What did I choose? My eyesight. I screamed at the stars and threatened, dared God to wake me up the next day to nothing but a world gone black. I don't know what sense there was in that cowardly request, looking back. I wanted something so challenging that I would have to devote my entire attention to the struggle of it rather than uprooting the things in life that were precious to me.
Of course, I woke up to a bright morning. I don't think I've ever been more distraught by the sunrise. After spending much of the morning reflecting on my stupidity at having run away and having to face the subsequent consequences, I eventually mustered up the courage to venture over to the house where all my best friends lived. After relating my story about where I had been the past 24 hours, one of them - whom I love and to this day would take a bullet for - looked me dead in the eye and said, "Why do you do things like that?"
I had nothing to say.
For once, no answer. I normally have an answer for everything, some way to justify or rationalize my impulsiveness. And when a brother whom I loved asked me a very simple question, I had no words. Or rather - I did have words, they were merely far too painful for me to say out loud. I knew my actions were rooted in fear and selfishness. I have to admit, by that time my friends knew me all too well.
When I asked each one of them in full trust what they personally thought I should do when I finished school, each one of them told me the same thing: that I should go somewhere else, somewhere new. Somewhere where I could walk the streets without the demons of my present mistakes dogging my every step. Somewhere where no one knew me and where there would be an opportunity to repair the damage that I had caused to myself.
The most important thing that I had to tell myself is that I wasn't giving up because I was getting out. The easiest thing for me to do in the short term would be to stay put, safe and secure in the environment I had built up for myself over the four years of my stay in Abilene. But it wasn't an environment I could thrive in any longer - it was a cage that was too easily broken, leaving me free to wander about and destroy things before retreating back to it in shame.
So I started to make plans. I looked at maps. I emailed trusted friends. I consulted my parents and those close to me. I did my research, weighed my options, buried myself in prayer.
This is how I ended up in Seattle.
And unfortunately, new beginnings don't always have the luxury of being painless.