Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autumn Away from Home

In my 13.5 months in the Pacific Northwest, I have learned a handful of things. Rain makes me sad, people here don't care about sports as much as in Pittsburgh, and fall is my most nostalgic season. Today was filled with struggle as I donned a Pitt sweatshirt while doing some park clean-up in Tacoma for the second Homecoming Saturday in a row. Just like Jack allowed the fear to overtake his emotions for 5 seconds before completing difficult surgery, I'm going to take a moment to get some nostalgia out of my system before I go back to enjoying this season of my life that God has presented tactfully.

Fall is my favorite season. I love everything about it except the rain. The weather is cool, but not cold. The leaves are changing colors, which is beautiful in WA and PA, although PA tends to win in the lack-of-rain department. The music can be depressing. My playlist consists of Brand New, Kevin Devine, and Bright Eyes because it feels alright to shell up in your house and watch the leaves fall outside.

Saturdays in the fall at home were the best. I played football by myself every Saturday afternoon (and several other afternoons) all through my childhood. In high school I remember driving past an open field and thinking it would be a great place to play our (what seemed like) weekly pick-up football games.

I recall an October cross-state road trip a few years back that I have thought as the best weekend of my life. Several of my closest friends and I drove to Philly to see the Avett Brothers and visit the families of two of our friends, Mike and Lindsay, to celebrate their recent engagement. The joy that so many of us felt as those  Pitt grads in Pittsburgh, Philly, and DC united in one place for the first time in so long has been unparalleled. Celebrating with two AMAZING families as a family of friends was a memory that I'll never forget. Also sharing our love of the Avett Brothers unifying music styling has been a celebration only possible with one band.

Another autumn afterward saw a beautiful road trip to eastern PA again for two bachelor parties and a wedding. On this trip I had the chance to reunite with several friends, including a few who hadn't seen one another in quite a while, to celebrate Rob's bachelorhood, spend a night with an old high school friend, Brandon, over quality music, visit with some old Suncrest folks at Eastern University who had grown from campers into adults and real friends of mine, celebrate Rob and Chelsea's wedding with good friends, and close out with another bachelor party for a good friend, Ben, who had moved to CA.

As I listen to this music I speak of, I am reminded of certain glorious instances over the last 10 years that have shaped who I am. Listening to Deja Entendu reminds me of being a Pitt freshman trying to find my way. The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me reminds me of the bonding I made with one of my closest friends, Andy Armstrong, when this album was being leaked for the first time after intense anticipation. These tunes remind me of times sitting in someone's living room playing guitar; whether it was Ben et al in Centre Plaza, the Cornerstone worship band in Bellefield Church, or Armstrong or Andy Redfield in any number of places. These are memories that I miss dearly when I'm sitting in my living room playing Kevin Devine over a can of PBR by myself.

Other memories creep in that are not as pleasant, though. Last autumn was a dark time (emotionally and physically) of searching for who the hell I am while acclimating myself to a new place 3000 miles away from home. I spent a few weekends in bed for all of daylight just waiting for Monday to come and work to give me something useful to do. Tunes like Owen and Bon Iver gave me plenty of introspection and, at times, seclusion from the world. My extroversion created an exhausted person at the end of these interactionless days.

Finding my identity in this place has been an ongoing struggle that seems neverending. There have been times, including today, when I've wanted nothing but to return to the city of Pittsburgh where I know who I am thanks to those around me. Days like today where I go to serve with my church community and am greeted by barely anyone because they don't know me can be exhausting for a social butterfly who draws energy from constant interaction. The thought ran through my mind several times that no one would notice or care if I left (even though that's not true) and that I missed being able to do autumnal things with close friends who would call me before I called them. Moving across the country has humbled that narcissistic person who thrived on the affirmation of others.

In the end, this day of nostalgia has led me to one conclusion; my identity lies completely in Jesus Christ. I am not who I am because it's who people say I am. I am who I am because Jesus died for my sins and the sins of the world. I am a servant of the Lord. I serve because it is God's will in my life. I play music, write blogs, spend time with friends, spend time by myself, because it is how I am called to serve God. On the surface, I have the opportunity to create the identity that people see, but why should I create a new identity when my identity is already created? If I can alter who people see so often, then I am not living in the identity that Christ has provided. My identity in Christ is consistently loving. If I am not loving, then it's Jake and not Christ. That's no good because Christ is perfect and Jake is not.

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