I am not sure where I first heard the phrase: a movie, a sermon, a TED talk, but I like the idea as a place to start. Every good drama on TV has a different way to describing life “in general” and I can’t say that I agree with most of them. However, as my “fully adult” life started later than my parents, it has taken some time to really review where I came from and where I am up to the current season. In preparation of this post, I made an outline of sorts, describing the various aspects of my past that developed my character. The word “character” has been overused in all my favorite entrainment as well. I am using the definition of “when no one is looking, how do you think or act?” My current level of introvert behaviors bring me to this place quite a bit. I enjoy the time where I can just sit and think. Saying I use all this time wisely would be a fabrication. I struggle with my demons, sins, and character flaws in these moments. This feeds back into my outline from earlier. (Side Note: I do love a good outline!)
This one is long and detailed. Five major topics with lots of sub-bullets describing the various parts of the “real me”. I spent a good portion of my formative years in the Church. I know for a fact that I would be so much worse off without that strong base of knowledge and experience. I did the vacation bible school every year and attended youth group. I even served on the alter for many years. When I wasn’t learning about my Savior, I was exploring the Great Outdoors with the Scouts. I started in Cub Scouts and made is all the way through to Eagle Scout. Scouting was intermixed with my church activities and school all the way up. When I first examined this list of overlapping activities, I got a little dizzy. I was a busy child, teenager, and young adult. I should probably thank my parents for transporting me to all those events over the years.
It is incredible however, how each of these events and experiences would shape me. I developed a strong passion for Spreading the Word to the next generation when I worked as a Camp Counselor at the local summer camp. I served as an Acolyte and learned the parts of Faith and why they are important. I learned that being raised in the church was not enough for the Journey. I had to make a separate and intentional decision to follow Christ. I then worked weekend retreats that revived or awakened the Spirit in other teenagers. I learned to play guitar with the worship music of that camp; I started writing songs about the struggle of being a human in this broken world. I started thinking deeply through poetry and journaling. I experienced how the strong rationalizations of a leader can be twisted into Prophesy for their own purpose. I was in high school when the great split of the Episcopal church occurred at a national level. Summer camp not so crowded the next summer. The choice: stand with what remained or branch out into a new sub-section of an already torn church. This is hard for anyone, especially someone new to his faith. However, we carry on. My parents found a new local church to attend and a youth group that built me up. This group encouraged me though the normal difficulty of my later teen years. I actually completed my Eagle Scout Project at that same location. That property has a lot of memories for me.
The Boy Scouts was a way for me to interact with boys my own age from 1st grade all the way to age 18. By the time I reached the higher levels of Boy Scouts, we were more like young men in training. Strong guides, many retired military, showed us how to survive with our wits, trail mix, and a compass. It was a safe place to be with the men. It was place of learning and following. It was a place of leading and hard work. It was a place of accomplishment that would carry on far beyond a diploma. There is a scene in the Spider Man movie with Uncle Ben where he tells Peter, “These are the years where a man changes to the man he will become the rest of his life.” Second only to my Faith, Scouting put me on a path of leadership and overcoming obstacles.
Each section of my life taught me new skill in interacting with people as well. No childhood would be complete without classmates. School was a place of learning all things. We were taught our math, writing, reading, science, and history. We all know that the life lessons were all outside of the formal classroom. I learned how easy it was for people to be mean to one another. Being a quiet, yet curious kid made me an easy target. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have years of being bullied or anything. I don’t want to minimize other’s experience with this. The point of me bringing it up was the moment that I decided that other people’s words were not going to break me. This moment came to be on the playground one day. I was in third grade. I realize the not every person has this type of moment or that some people may have not reached this quite yet. As I continued through my public schooling, others tried to bully me. However, I am happy to say those later attempts were not very successful. (This is where I would start playing basic mind games with my classmates. Gotta start early, right?) To be clear, I was still not very vocal until high school. College was the safe place for me to test out my socialization skills: to practice my extrovert self.
My numerous hours at the local church would show me the importance of treating people of all ages with respect. My church had every age group from new-borne to the late aged that needed a walker to get to their pew. The phrase that comes to mind is “Respect your elders!” This was also where I learned you can respect someone without believing the same things. I would learn that I had different ideas about the world, but was able to learn from their life decisions at the same time.
I didn’t have a job until late high school. Just a simple cashier job kept me busy a few nights a week. This environment created a whole new level of camaraderie that I had not yet felt. The first leanings of “workers vs. management” were brought to light. A constant struggle between the worker and the “important people who make the decisions. I recently hit the five-year mark with the company I work for. This really brought to light how work friends could become so close.
The first two years of college were a revelation for me. I cannot say that I did super-well with carrying the energy of my teenage Faith with me, but those life lessons outside the classroom were nonetheless vital. College is when this still somewhat quiet kid/teen branched out. I explored the world of the extrovert. I learned how to start conversations with people my own age. I know this sounds strange, however, I was always better when I was with the adults. There were many times that I found fellow classmates, Scouts, and even my Brothers in Christ a little less than mature. (Good news future William: when you get older everyone will be mature adults…..right?)
During this time, I learned about all the ways that the World can distract you from your goal. Unfortunately, one of those was a short-lived “romantic” relationship (my first) that really put me off the idea for a while. That was a not a shining moment for “mature” William, I’ll say that. Basically, it was a status thing: the quiet nerdy kid has a girlfriend….woo! Luckily, at the end of the school year, we were able to part as friends after a rather strange break-up months earlier. My second year of college was another experience of working on a large team with Residence Life. This was the first time I had to be on committees and lead events for the residents. There are more sad stories than happy ones about that year, but it did test my character many times. I am happy to say that some of the stronger moments of my Faith were displayed that year.
After two straight years of living on a campus or summer camp, I was ready to move back home with the parents. I would not have worded it that way at the time, but it was really a blessing in disguise. After stumbling around trying to find a church or Faith based group to participate in, I was ready for a smooth introduction into an existing church where my parents knew a few people. This church family saved me in many ways. After a time of “getting back into the pew”, I starting working with the young children teaching Sunday school. A couple of years later, I started volunteering with the Youth Group. I was giving back so that the next set of children and teenagers would not be without a leader. I knew some of the struggle of life and was able to share in a helpful way. The teenagers needed to know that even the nerdy / geeky ones make it through. I worked with the Youth Group for about five years and really enjoyed the experience. I learned what it was to be a mentor to a young person. It is an honor and something I hope to do again in a different capacity soon.
Obviously, over the years, I have made 100s of decisions that each affected my life accordingly. We all have. (Connecting with your audience is an important part of this…) Some of these are daily habits that we follow in an effort to keep the good parts of our past. We don’t want to carry everything with us, most likely. Some things are meant to be forgotten. However, our brains don’t really work like that. So my question to myself for this was, “What about the big decisions?”.
I could write a whole other post about my crazy college journey though the Elementary Education major, but for this, let’s say that the decision to change majors was a big event in my life. I had thought I was going to be a classroom teacher for many years and when I arrived at the practice experience, I knew I was wrong. I then over-corrected into a technology-related major that was over my head and outside my interests. I have placed myself comfortably in Business Administration, after reevaluating my life for the third time in a six-year stretch. These are good examples of times where I wonder if the change was my scared human brain grabbing at straws or God’s Will. Why would He send me on a path of hurt and embarrassment just to become stronger? I know that I would not have been as successful in my current job without it. This is over 5 years after I made that first college major change. So, as you can see, God works REALLY slowly sometimes.
Congratulations! You have made it through the condensed version of my life so that you can understand my current interesting season of life. When I moved out of my parents house into this apartment, a new journey started. Luckily, I was already at a company with a steady workforce with no chance of a major change. I had also just secured my first full-time office job that would support my apartment, a new car, and all the fun bills that come along for the ride. I once again got a little too excited about my freedom and made some good and bad decisions that I learned from. I have tested out who I want to be. I have tried a couple different directions along the way. One of the main things that I realized is that until you are away from your former influences (i.e. parents), you don’t really know what you think of the world. I love and respect my parents, but we now have some obvious differences.
One noticeable item of the “new me” is this blog. I started it to promote the poetry book I put together and then starting writing these posts. As a person that has ideas bouncing off the walls in his brain, it seemed like the perfect way to get them written down. Being able to share with others is just a bonus. Another interesting part of my current life was a revival of my computer gaming roots from childhood. I follow people on Twitch and really enjoy escaping into the virtual world to manage a city or civilization. This made me more comfortable with the idea of creating my online presence. I know the internet can be as bad as the World. In the community I stumbled upon, I was lucky to find a very uplifting one. As I further explored, I found musicians and artists of all different medias. I have refined my Subscription list on YouTube several times as well. I still have a few that I have been with for a long time. It has been my great pleasure to watch as they have turned their passion into full-time work.
So the big question for me will be the following: how much of the past do I bring with me as I move through my next adventure. I will not lose my Faith. If anything, I am hoping to strengthen that even more using the last couple years as the reason to really dig-in deep.
I have decided to move to a new city sometime next year in an effort to advance my career with the company I work for. This has brought all types of thoughts of a “fresh start” into my head.
What do you think? What events shaped your character and personality? Has it changed as you have gotten older? What things did you keep and what things have fallen away? Have you made a major change to “reinvent” yourself recently? Let me know!