Since the time of last writing, I have gotten engaged. Yay me. I'll take your congratulations and warm wishes at your earliest convenience.
For anyone who has been probing my mind during the weeks after my long trip, you'll know that the engagement and subsequent move to Vermont to be with my fiancee and subsequent looking for a job in Vermont and subsequent getting back onto the ordination track are all not surprises. Who knows why, but the trip helped me develop patience which, apparently, is a virtue.
Here's the thing. My friend Alexandra has said to me from before graduation till now that I should spend this free time of mine consuming as much as possible. Mostly that's what my five-week trip was about. As a writer or artist of any kind, experience is always a good tool to have in the Bat-belt. And by experience I don't necessarily mean life experience, as in love, relationships, break ups, having kids, etc. All that matters, yes, but I also mean talking with people--a lot of people--from all over the place, different regions, different backgrounds, different countries; I mean seeing new landscapes and flying in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon; I mean walking almost three miles in Chicago, alone, at night, just to see the Blackhawks; I mean everything. Without doubt I gained a lot of experience in those five weeks. Yet, that's not at all the most important development from the trip. Instead, I thank God for patience.
You see, though I am only 25 years old, soon to be 26, I have serious generalized anxiety. Some of it stems from my total lack of desire to live life--you know, supporting myself and a family, paying bills and whatnot. But most of my anxiety surges forth from two other sources: Catholic guilt (I'm not a Catholic, but hey, Methodists believe that we can, through Christ, become Christianly perfect... and I'm definitely not there), which is outside the purview of this blog, and an urgency to succeed. I have almost certainly talked about this before, but to be a good writer, to be a good anything really, I'm pretty sure that you can't be patient. You can't sit around, working 9-5 or whatever you do with your life, thinking that your life is going to work itself out and that one day, bam, you'll be successful. Certainly, there are some people who wake up one day and find themselves successful, but a) they aren't artists, and b) I guarantee that, consciously or not, they took some serious initiative to get where they do, though they may not have been originally aiming at some vague success. As a writer, or artist, you have to work hard, intentionally. You have to hone your skills, not just by doing the craft but by thinking about it and trying new things. You have to advertise and push yourself. You have to recruit help in advertising and pushing yourself. All of it takes time, and once you realize how much time it takes, you realize that we humans are mortal. Once you realize that we are mortal, well, urgency kicks in.
While I was on my trip, though, I suddenly realized a number of things. First of all, I have been fairly productive in the first year of my real life, whatever that means. One book is about to be self-published, once the cover art is completed by the wonderful Alexandra, and another book is sitting in the wings to be published book # 2. I have written a handful of poems that I like, over twenty essays/articles, a few short stories, and a quarter of a novel. On top of that, I have clear notes detailing other ideas, of which I have many, that I haven't yet started work on; notes that can guide someone else to finish my work, if they so choose and in the case that I pass away, which is my greatest fear. The only reason I may think that I haven't been productive is that I do have so many projects that I want to work on. If I change my perspective from what I want to do and have yet to do, to what I have finished, then suddenly I feel so much better and realize that I can complete projects if only I give myself time. The key is to focus, put my head down, and just do something. But really the key is to stay calm, know that I have been productive, and be patient with my work.
I guess the fact that I was gone for five weeks trying to purposely not do much of anything helped me gain perspective. Sure, if I die right now, I won't be famous now or, probably, ever. I will, however, have produced and done enough to make my family proud. Not only that, but I think that I have produced enough for future generations of my family to be guided, or at least provoked into deep thought, spiritually and mentally by my work. I've always said that if I can reach one or two hearts and minds and help them be better people in this crazy world then I have done my job. If those one or two people happen to be a grand or great-grandchild that I never meet, then so be it.