Monday, May 6, 2013

Being Who We Were Created To Be

I'm not going to lie, friends. Life has been a struggle the last month or so. I'm at a constant internal conflict over so many things and rarely feel like I get a chance to let it all hang out. There was a time in my life when I was an open book; saying the things I thought without much restraint and doing whatever felt right at the time without much thought. Following my emotions got me into some good situations (packing my car and moving to Washington) and into some difficult situations (packing my car and moving to Washington).

To be frank, I've lost my edge and kept my mouth shut far too much as I've settled into the passive Washington state of mind and it's driving me nuts. I haven't verbally processed things much because I am so tired at the end of the day that I don't want to talk about anything of significance with anyone. Besides, how am I supposed to tell my community that I feel like I'm lacking community or my girlfriend from Washington about the things I don't like about Washington without feeling like some judgmental self-righteous know-it-all prick? I don't know. Maybe there's no way.

Here's the thing, though: these things are true. I miss the community I had in Pittsburgh (where I spent the first 26 years of my life, of course) and there are plenty of things that annoy me about Washington (balanced with cool things like the current immaculate weather and general presence of bodies of water).

I've been a verbal processor all my life and need to embrace who I am. I talk when I think. I have opinions and like to share them. Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong. It's who I've been made to be.

When I first moved here, the first thing I made sure people knew about me is that I'm from Pittsburgh. I bleed black and gold and always will. It probably annoyed people how much I talked about Pittsburgh; what life was like there, how we did things, how great the Steelers/Pirates/Penguins are. I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not. It's who I am and always will be.

A few months ago, a friend of mine pointed out something incredibly significant in my life. We were talking about how people in Biblical times worshiped idols, how we still do that today, and how those idols tend to be our identity instead of Jesus. When talking about what it was that we identified with instead of Jesus, I jokingly/seriously said Pittsburgh. My friend Ashley pointed out a few weeks later in another conversation that Pittsburgh definitely is an idol for me

It's the gold standard of what a place could be in my eyes. The ethnic communities founded by Italians, Germans, Irish, etc. The unified black and gold colors of every team. The healthy balance of a low cost of living with a big city arts scene. The way that small ideas like the Saxifrage School (which I spent a few months helping to plan) can get big-time recognition in the Wall Street Journal (as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; recognize the skyline in that Death Cab shirt on the left?). 

I've kept my eyes on Pittsburgh instead of Jesus when choosing how to do anything in my life. Instead of focusing on the community around me in Tacoma, I'd always think about the community in Pittsburgh that I left behind. 

For the last few months since that conversation, I've shifted. I've been living more in the world around me and investing in the community I have here. Here's the problem, though: Pittsburgh is still and always will be who I am. The decisions I make, the way I see the world, how I interact with people; it's all Pittsburgh. No matter where I am, I'll always be a yinzer. I'll always want to watch a Steelers game instead of going to church. I'll always pine for Yuengling no matter what amazing craft beers are nearby. I will always seek hard-nosed, genuine people and music who don't give a shit about holding back who they are for any reason.

I've been slipping slowly into the lukewarm passivity of the northwest as a result of not being true to myself. While I don't find any fault or problem in addressing the fact that Pittsburgh has been an idol of mine, I'm learning that it's also important to not remove it from my identity. I owe it to the city that raised me.

So what does this mean for my life and the Kingdom of God? Hopefully it means going back to being a genuine, outspoken, community-focused individual. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I was always the person rallying people together for parties and gatherings. While I don't have a killer back deck for these gatherings anymore, that doesn't mean I can't still be a party-starter. Bringing people together has always been a gift of mine and I'm doing the Kingdom a disservice by keeping to myself.

It means going back to being the dry, witty, sarcastic individual who's hard to read if you're not familiar with me. I'd be sorry for being this way, but I'm not sorry. I used to make people laugh. Sometimes at other people's or my own expense. Worrying so much about my own image or the over-sensitivity of others has never been much of a concern until I moved here, so it's time to go back to my old ways. It's who I was made to be.

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