Growing up I found my identity in mastery. I had a gift to be able to figure things out and do them well. School was mostly a joke to me even throughout my college years and I found success in my job. Being accomplished was a comfort to me: when I came home crying in third grade because I felt like I had no friends, it was a consolation to hear that some of my troubles relating were due to my abilities. Success wrapped itself around me and became what defined me, became my drug.
If you don’t already know where this is going, it’s an introduction to a great irony. I’ve learned as much in my years to judge with great suspicion anyone who seems to have things going really well; someone who seems to “have things figured out.” Nobody has it all figured out and nobody is without their own issues. Some people lay out their problems in front of everyone else, others hold it in private. This is me, and you should have been suspicious too.
The great irony then is that I’ve struggled in the most intense way for years with what have been personal failures in the greatest degree. I’ve been difficult to live with and bitter to my wife and followed in the footsteps of my father, whose demand for control was only matched by his need to hide problems and appear fine on the outside. I have failed and failed again to live up to my dreams and expectations, spiraling into defeatism and grochery.
It’s very difficult to let down the smokescreen, and while several of my close friends have tracked along with me throughout the past couple of years, I have tried to keep it mostly hidden from the outside: it is incongruous with my identity: the one who succeeds.
The honest-to-goodness truth is that for most of my life I have been emotionally unstable, scarred from a childhood of shouting and manipulation, perplexingly dependent on having friends nearby, and plagued by depression and anger.
These and other maladies have been continually more difficult to resolve with my faith, which tells me they are the exact kinds of things Jesus wants to take away from me. I haven’t been willing to let them go, and I haven’t been willing to give in. I am the one in charge; I can master it!
At the end of a long journey, I believe I have hit the bottom. I’m not into drugs, not into prostitution, not running away from the law; just plain old spent and foolish and hopeless. I have to kill this terrible identity if I will ever conquer this dark part of my life and draw nearer to God; so now you know – I’m not a success.
I’ve been running a lot the past couple of years. My job at Automattic has helped me to run away time and time again. Each voyage of great adventure has brought with it a marked note of let-down; that my opportunity to see the world was also an indictment on my inability to cope with the stresses as home and with the man I had become.
I’m done with that journey, tired and ready to go home, hoping that I haven’t completely ruined the home I have to return to from my own destructive habits. I will be grateful for your prayers as I learn to repent and try to be reborn into a more honest and life-giving identity.