In order to thrive…

I have been writing so much about my life lately as I try to force myself to pursue my more creative interests. Yesterday, since I am, again, not enjoying my new job, I went to Work Source. Work Source is a resource I finally decided to check out to get myself the heck out of the same industries I’ve always worked in. Namely, these are cash handling, food service and customer service. While nice to bide my time, these are not remotely the types of jobs I truly want to be doing. And now that I’ve come out, I made a promise to my mom and myself that I would push myself more creatively. So, at Work Source, I learned about ways to find better jobs and I took an aptitude test. I have a tendency to thrive most in careers focused on creativity and in social services. In that order.

The thing is, my life is a constant remembrance of every single thing I ever dismissed due to religious beliefs. One such opportunity I dismissed was going to school at an Art Institute. It was expensive, I didn’t know if I could really thrive creatively (if I was good enough) and, my personal favorite, I feared the dark influences inherent in art school. I wasn’t ready to be a light to such a dark place. It’s crazy to think now, how much I wanted to change the world but felt like the evil was so overwhelming. No wonder I was constantly writing back then and planning and brainstorming how to be more Christian. I thought the whole world was out to get me, I needed all the help I could get. Today though, I know that the world is not this terrible horrible place full of perspectives I have to change forcibly as if I’m in battle with an unseen evil. The world is full of unique, deeply creative people with hopes, dreams, and fears. These people are not automatically the subliminal evil to my overriding good. They are just working to make ends meet, following their passions and letting their ideas out to breathe. This is more than I can say for myself in the last few years.

Since ministry school, I have been stunted and trying so hard to find myself. The thing is, when they tell you that you have nothing to offer, nothing about you is special unless you live your life for God, when everything falls apart, so do you. I don’t know how to live my life for me. I’ve never tried. So instead of vibrantly engaging my life, I’ve gotten lazy and just watched TV shows and movies, looked online at art, or read copious amounts of fanfictions. I’m living in another world and longing to be a part of it. And finally, finally, I am creating. Yesterday at Work Source, I followed a link to The Art Institute of Seattle, I requested a brochure. Soon after, a woman contacted me.  She had a smile in her voice and an authenticity about her that I hadn’t experienced in awhile. Maybe she seeks to lure me into debt and the program, but I get the feeling she understands what I’m going through personally and how that has affected my art and self expression. I’ve been thinking lately about how much better at art my friends were than me in high school, even though in elementary school I was essentially hailed as a prodigy. (I didn’t draw stick figures so they thought I was incredible.) I had three teachers who taught me art in high school. But only one who taught me drawing. I thrived in Mixed Media, I plodded along in regular art. And I thought that was because I was bad at it, but I wasn’t. I just had the input of a singular teacher.

What I’m thinking is this: I love art, singing, writing, drawing, sculpting, more than anything. But I’m trying to get by with just a basic knowledge of each of them, as if not knowing is the same as being bad at something. This is also, of course, a cult thing. The idea of you expressing your own feelings in writing or in some concrete presentation, if it wasn’t prophetic and made in prayer, it wasn’t good. God was more important than your opinions, your self-expression, your happiness. So I thought that if I trained myself to be better at things, it was warping who he made me to be. It was assuming that I knew myself better than he did. This is why I insist on no longer being religious. This was detrimental to my personality. Now that I can put my finger on what went wrong, I have hope that I can journey to find my creativity again. I can have someone to help hone my skills in all these aspects of myself and then someday, I will thrive in my artistic ability. It’s hard to admit I’m not good enough on my own. It’s harder to admit that connecting with God about this doesn’t feel right to me. I need to stand or fall on my own merit for once. If I want to change the world, I have to start with me. God or no God, if I’m not me, I can do nothing.

I want to make a difference in the way I want to make a difference. Not in a way that is tempered by religion. I want to see diversity in filmmaking, representation from talented actors from all walks of life. I want to write stories that are deeper than I’ve written before and I think  the best way I can do that is to be trained and challenged at the Art Institute. I’m excited, whatever life holds for me, I will create.

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I told my family…and now I’m telling you

So my family came to visit from California and it was an experience to say the least. I always forget how convinced my happy-go-lucky, friendly, exuberant family worries that I’m too serious. I actually find it fairly hilarious because, while I do love a good serious conversation, most people who know me, think of me as a dork who makes them laugh. I’m awkward sometimes and I have a bit of a deadpan sense of humor, but I do see the light and the color in life. I just don’t only see the light, or only see the color. The reason I’ve taken to saying that I see life not in black and white or in gray but in color, is because I believe life is filled with nuance, a change in hue, and deepening of a shade, a lighter tint in the corner of the picture, all the colors and differences serve to give a picture its clarity and its dimensionality. This is how I see myself and this is how I try to see the rest of the world. That being said, my poor family is dealing with an apparent complete change in persona when they come to visit.

Because most of my life was spent finding ways to better more completely commit my life to Jesus, they’re a little thrown that now I cuss, I talk comfortably about sex and I listen to a lot of secular music. They are also very taken aback, I think, by how conservative “Abortion is evil, gays need to not be gay” Erin turned into liberal “people need to be able to make choices, even if we don’t like them, let the oppressed people have a voice” Erin. And the biggest surprise for them was definitely that I went from “being a gay is a choice” to “Family, girls are cute and I’ve always thought so. In fact, I think I’ve mostly thought that and I don’t want to hide it anymore.” In other words, once purity-driven, Christian conservative Erin turned into way super gay, nonreligious, liberal Erin between the last time they saw me and now. It’s gotta be a lot to take in. But I’m really tired of hiding myself.

The thing is, in this blog, I think I’ve communicated myself as an ally. From a perspective of Christian thinking, I’ve been expressing that it is so wrong to make so many people feel so unsafe to be who they feel they are. But now that I’m on the inside of things rather than commenting from afar, I have a new perspective. It’s not just who we feel we are, what kinds of people we think we’re attracted to, we just…are who we are. And, if I’m entirely honest with myself, a lifetime of being absolutely petrified over the concept of people thinking I’m gay has destroyed my confidence in so many ways. I haven’t been clear on this blog about this, so it may come as a bit of a surprise, but let me paint you a picture of my life as a closeted lesbian super Christian.

It all started in middle school when I found some lesbian erotica online, the erotica was overtly sexual in nature and very few stories had to do with the nurturing that happens in relationships, especially between women. When I became a super Christian, I was twisted with guilt over how much those stories affected my mind. But I kept rereading them in order to better report the horrendous authors who wrote the disgusting stories… that I…kept reading. Sometimes, to reassert my total straightness, I would read hetero romance stories with sex in them and they were fine, mostly, the stories were the weirdest fanfictions and fantasies a twelve year old Christian girl could imagine. Eventually, I kicked the habit, fearing that the stories would destroy my innocence and really hurt me in the long run, but not before I noticed my friend’s butt wiggle when she walked. I remember noticing, staring, and after she left, throwing myself on my bedroom floor in a temper tantrum for two hours afraid I might be gay. But, gay wasn’t really concept to me. I was more upset that the stories had gotten in my head so much that I checked out a girl friend’s butt.

That was what started it all. Fast forward through to my brother’s babysitter who told me she loved me, and when I gave her a look of confusion and slight disgust (my homophobia ran deep), she said “like a little sister.” Nobody had ever said they loved me before, not so completely and sweetly. She went to youth group, so I went to youth group. Then I discovered God and went to youth group for me. I was constantly trying to choose youth group over everyone else. I met this girl with the bluest eyes I had ever seen, they were like diamonds set in sapphires and I couldn’t not befriend her. She became my best friend, but when she told me I was hers, I chickened out, I couldn’t reciprocate, I just told her the youth group was my best friend and I lost opportunities for a deeper friendship, and I daresay, for more. At any given moment in high school, I would genuinely rather be sitting all over my girl friends, holding their hands, cuddling them at sleepovers, listening to them talk about things that were important to them, spending every waking moment with them. But that feeling was especially reserved for my friend, the girl with the sapphire eyes. When I finally told her she was my best friend too, she leaped at me and squealed with joy saying “Oh, Erin, I’m so happy!” I probably blacked out a bit when that happened because that moment of her jumping to hug me was so wonderful, I never wanted her to let go.

Now, during this time, I was still a super Christian, I was supposed to be pure and choose the perfect guy, so I would look. Guys were… attractive… I liked their faces… but if a guy didn’t have an awesome personality and a tremendous love for Jesus, I couldn’t be bothered to care about him. This is perhaps why my attraction to girls was so strong during this time of my life. In a time of puberty and adolescence, I couldn’t go after all of the guys to distract myself from how pretty girls were. So, instead I noticed very specific girls. And I noticed them so much, I literally could not get them out of my head. Sapphire eyes was one girl of course, my best friend who sang me to sleep sometimes at sleepovers, and laid on my chest and loved to surprise me all the time. Another girl was drama girl with cute shoes. She was in my English class and I remember just watching her, and being so mad at myself for not being able to keep my eyes off of her. I convinced myself that I wanted her shoes and I…I could probably talk to her s…someday. The next term drama shoes girl was in my PE class and my Art Class. I loved talking to her. She was so interesting, though a little self-deprecating and I was floored that this beautiful, lovely and talented girl had so many insecurities. Once, I was reading my Bible, and she wouldn’t get out of my head, so I read a verse and was like “Oh, this applies to her, thanks God… I’ll…I’ll umm try to tell her you told me this.” And after a term and a half of readying myself to tell her “God’s encouragement for her life”, I came up to her stuttering and completely unable to stop. I was so embarrassed. But she was the sweetest about it because she knew me and we were cool.

The funny thing about all of this, and there is more, much more to come for this story, is that, I don’t remember being uncomfortable because they made me nervous, there was that. But mostly, I just always had my mind on the concept of kissing them, and approaching them, I tended to just be aware of their proximity and kindness and it made my heart melt. Drama shoes girl was wonderful, a distraction from Sapphire Eyes. But nobody had so far compared to the intensity with which I came at the exuberant kind cheerleader. I remember meeting her in her sweats after she came back home from a run. I was picking my brother up from her house since he had been hanging out with her brother, I felt so grown up for some reason. Then she bounded over to me, introduced herself and melted me into what I now know was a puddle of gay. I was instantly enamored. She was beautiful! She was goofy, friendly, Christian and she was not a mean cheerleader. I think that part of my very sudden catapulting into falling for this girl had a lot to do with her character traits. My whole life, I had written “Perfect Friend” lists and this girl was everything. For an actual month, I didn’t see her again, but she was never far from my mind.

I saw her at a youth worship thing and we sat on the couch and I literally told this beautiful, enthusiastic cheerleader that I had been obsessed with her for an entire month since we had met. Obsessed. This girl didn’t bat one freaking eyelash, we stayed friends and I always feared I was coming on too strong, but one day she wrote to me and said to me “Thank you for making the first move in our friendship, I’m so glad you did.” It’s silly how often I look back and say…yeah you came on way too strong…they hated you. Because… they really didn’t. In fact, sometimes it feels like it was reciprocated. Another entry for another day. Anyways, after telling my new friend I had actually been obsessed with her, I decided on a name for my condition, the situation in my mind that made me notice girls and not be able to get certain wonderful ones off of my mind, I wasn’t gay. Of course not. I was obsessed! So each girl that I took notice of and who sat in my mind for a significant length of time, whose clothes I took note of everyday and whose every word about every subject I remembered with ease, they were an obsession. I couldn’t possibly be in love with them. I was just obsessed!

When that inventor of obsession cheerleader girl announced suddenly that in a month she would be moving to New York (across the country) I completely lost it. I started bawling my eyes out in my next class and was sent to the office for counseling. I spiraled into a depression and I squeeze every single bit of time I could get out of being around her. I noticed so many things about her in that month. She had certain mannerisms, warts on her hands even with being the most confident and gorgeous girl I had ever met, she had the strangest and cutest observations. One time she peeled a mandarin, then peeled the white inside the mandarin and remarked how the mandarin had pores. It was just so random and adorable, I still can’t eat a mandarin without thinking of her and it’s been nine freaking years! When she moved, I failed a math class because I was writing her letters telling her how much I missed her and what was going on without her. Even when she was gone, I waited for the phone to ring, I remembered every detail of her and I would cry because she wasn’t coming back. Oddly enough, she did come back a few times, and I was a mess almost every time, so nervous to see her again. Obsession… it can really (platonically of course)  make you a total useless lesbian.

Then I was back to Diamond Sapphire Eyes. Despite being my best friend, she had no idea that I was going through my friend leaving and was hurt that I hadn’t told her. I had been so focused on that wonderful cheerleader that I couldn’t even talk to other people for awhile. Diamond Sapphire and I were at a sleepover with all of our friends watching Mama Mia and my beautiful serene angel of a friend had fallen asleep on my arm. I just looked down at her peaceful sweet face and looking back, I think I wanted to admit it to myself that I was in love with my best friend. But, as that realization dawned on me, it flew out just as quickly, when she leapt out of the bed were all sharing and started dancing to the end song “Waterloo.” I was dumbstruck, she was the most adorable spaz and watching her being her was pretty much my favorite thing to do. Eventually, I tried to sleep in another room, and she came to run her fingers through my hair and sing to me. The song she chose? Elephant Love Medley from Moulin Rouge complete with the moon singing in Italian at the end. She always made me laugh so hard because she was the strangest most exuberant person but the softest and loveliest and I was so often amazed that she was my friend.

I think that what they don’t tell you when you hear about the general concept of homosexuality is that you are going to fall for the little things, it’s almost never just about sex. You just fall for a person, who they are, including their gender and it just doesn’t even matter. Because they are the most wonderful person in the world and if they love you back, it would be insane not to take that leap and let them continue that love. But it also does matter because girls are soft and sweet and wonderful, and if I had a girl who wanted me like I wanted all of these girls (and more, this story never ends) I’m pretty sure I would fall to pieces with happiness and contentment.

I am gay, perhaps even a lezzing lezzie who lezzes, as I joke with my friends. I just really like girls so much more than guys. And I finally told my conservative Christian mom and brother and they are surprised and confused but also very supportive. Because they saw me in high school and all throughout life and in every single one of these circumstances and many more, I was bawling my eyes out almost daily. Because, I think, I knew. I knew that obsession was the silliest excuse ever and that I had gigantic crushes on some of my friends. But I kept inventing new reasons for why I was so drawn to certain girls and why I would rather be cuddling a girl and why I thought about kissing girls all the time. I’m just…gay. And it’s not only valid. It’s not only okay, there truly is nothing wrong with that. But it is completely beautiful and amazing and fantastic and it feels like the pieces are falling into place. Girls are the most wonderful creatures on this planet. I am so happy I can say that now.

 

Where do I go from here?

I think this is the shortest amount of time I’ve given myself to write a potentially heavy post pretty much ever. So, I’ll try to keep it short, since I have about ten minutes to write my guts out.  I’ve been giving up on this blog. Disillusioned, and frustrated with all that religion has put me through, and everything it’s done to many many others, I just didn’t want to write about it anymore.

When I created PVX Pearls, it, like everything else, was supposed to be anchored in God. I wasn’t supposed to deviate or recognize any other experience, all that I created, that was supposed to be about God. And I hate that in saying all of this, I have to think about the past. I’ve really never been one of those girls who could just get over it. I dwell in the past and the negative aspects of my life that come from the past more than anyone else I’ve ever met.

Pearls was meant to be a desperate attempt at positivity when it all seemed so dirty, so boring, so bland. But that attempt was also a God-thing, again, like everything else in my life. So now that I’ve lost it, now that I can claim myself no longer Christian, where on earth am I supposed to go from here? Everything seems so bleak some days, and wonderful other days. Christianity twisted and molded me into a shell of a person, afraid to express herself. I fought back once, and Pearls was born. Maybe if I fight back again, I’ll find something else happens.

It’s interested to note that I did. I fought back, in Modesto. I wrote scathing Spoken Word poetry and I read it out loud to people who were in the thick of the thing I was mad about. And from that experience, I created Pearls. I thought I was railing against religion and the people, never God. But now, I’m done with God. I don’t feel the need to weigh in on the concept. But I do want to be there for people who have struggled.

I always forget that it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. I’m afraid to feel, to do well in life, to write and have people actually respond to me, but it’s also the thing I want most in the world. I may be done with God, and customers at my work may have the greatest capacity to annoy imaginable, but I am not done with every day people. I am not done with me. I am not done with Pearls.

Analyzing theCult I Lived Part 3- Purity Culture

Before I went to ministry school, I was offered an opportunity to travel the country with a group called Silver Ring Thing. They were a group, much to my excitement, dedicated to protecting virginity and teaching teens to wait until marriage for most kinds of affection. It was common in this purity culture to feel that relationships in general were  dangerous for your heart, your sexuality and your faith.

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Analyzing the Cult I Lived Part 2- Blessed Are the Persecuted

Having walked away from the all-consuming fire perspective on God, that his love and his message were absolutely the most important thing, the true defining factor of a Christian, I can begin to see where I stopped caring about Jesus and kindness as much as caring about achieving absolute conversion. We started considering ourselves “true Christians” because we didn’t want to only do church on Sundays and drink, curse and fornicate every other day of the week. It was presented as a push back against the hypocrisy that appeared to be so prevalent in Christianity. Continue reading

Analyzing the Cult that I Lived Part 1- First Church and the New Youth Pastors

I haven’t published a post in a while and the reason is that because I’m not sure who reads my blog, I am afraid of who I might deeply offend and hurt. But, it has occurred to me that whoever reads my blog should know that it is in fact my blog. My thoughts are in it. So I say this: Whoever you are, if my blog is causing you concern for my spiritual life, don’t worry about me. If my blog is boring you or you’re irritated by various grammatical errors, I do apologize, I would love your feedback. But until I get someone who speaks up about my blog to me, I shall simply write what I wish and see what happens.

I’ve recently experienced an onslaught of past memories especially with regards to religion and the kinds of wonderful things I refused to let into my life by virtue of my Christian faith. In experiencing this onslaught, I began to really think upon and explore what Christian means to other people who are Christian.

It does not seem to be the same upbringing that I experienced.

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The Color of Creativity is Worth the Risk

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When I was in ministry school, I had this epiphany that had been building up inside of me for quite some time. Hollywood, like anything else  is made up of people who have dreams, hurts and pasts that drive them forward. It occurred to me that every creative effort, no matter how small or uninspiring had some merit to its founder. Continue reading

Mourn The World’s Loss: A Tribute to The Boy I Never Knew

There is this grotesque culture out there that enjoys laughing about the misery of others, or they simply love to hate. At one time, I was a part of this culture. As a young child, I hated the popular crowd by virtue of their popularity. I always assumed that every person who was well-known and constantly-mentioned was evil, mean to me and entirely deserving of my spite. Now, as an adult, I realize that most of them did nothing to me. They were polite and easygoing but we never hung out. When some of those kids I knew from age 8 began to party, do drugs and sleep around, I expected a karmic vengeance for their behavior. I imagined they’d eventually end up strung out or stuck in a rut. That’s what scares me about how we express Christianity. We are so nonchalant about the inevitability of these consequences, as if that’s what being a Christian is about. But it’s not, it’s about love, kindness, everything beautiful that you can imagine– that’s God and that’s what I as a Christian wish I had reflected better throughout my earlier years of life.

People who laugh at the misery and misfortune of others, no matter how inevitable such an end may seem, are all over the world, and unfortunately, many are Christians. When a picture is taken of a gratuitously obese person, it is spread all over the internet for people to gawk at and comment upon, reducing this human being to a massive object and dehumanizing them.

When my brother fell off a small cliff and smashed his lip and broke two teeth while he was drunk, everybody saw the picture and they were laughing. Here, a young man, whose life was about to start, catapulted from high school, had experienced something painful, humiliating and physically scarring and people were making jokes about it. I was making jokes about it.

A boy who in high school had been known for rash decisions dove headfirst into a shallow river while drunk and paralyzed himself from the waist down. I knew his mother, I worked with her. She was heartbroken and rushed to live with him in a different state and take care of him.

A young actor overdosed on drugs and died. The whole world judged him in his demise and they judged his company on earth: the staff of the show by which he was made famous, his girlfriend in life and in the show, even his parents. People made assumptions and posted them as fact.

People judge, people hate, people act like they know. Myself included. But the truth is, we don’t know. I don’t know. Even though I’m a Christian, I know absolutely nothing. And I am paralyzed as I consider this most recent tragedy: the loss of a barely-acquaintance. I met him when I was 8, but I never knew him. He moved on with the party crowd, but beyond that, I didn’t know much more. Yesterday, while casually perusing my Facebook Feed, the confused, hurting wall post of an old “bully”-turned-friend stopped me in my tracks. He had been killed as a pedestrian walking on the highway and hit by two semi trucks.

I knew I didn’t know him beyond the rumors, beyond the fleeting moments at Science Camp when I looked at him and saw beyond his popularity status, I knew. But I didn’t care. In the middle of the bus, states away from where the horrific scene happened,  I began to cry. He was eight when I met him. Eight years old. And now he is, was, is 22 years old. And, people that once made me feel tormented are now grieving the loss of a dear life-long friend. And so am I and I feel like I don’t deserve to care. I don’t deserve getting to think about who he was. I didn’t ever think about him while he was alive. Why should I get to consider him and his friends now?

I am praying against what well-meaning but totally off-base things might be said to my friend. Things that Christians say to console those in grief. Things that Christians think or speak behind their backs. See, the world laughs at misery. Homeless people are the brunt of a joke, drunks are comedic relief, heavyset people are sent viral. But the fact that Christians join them, The fact that Christians say in our Bible Study times and as we fellowship, that homeless people are on the streets because they aren’t smart enough, driven enough or sober enough to make it in the world, or that drunks put themselves in danger and need to accept the consequences or that heavyset people need to diet or exercise or even sometimes be shot (people are cruel on the internet) scares me to death. It’s missing the point. What is lost here is a life. And the nonchalant attitude that God takes people when it’s their time or that people who party on earth will face an eternity of torture is what poisons Christianity. The afterlife and the cause of death are not our concern. Someone had life, had breath, had an impact on the world, and now, they don’t anymore. Their influence is halted, never again to be resumed. And people who knew them are affected. Hurting, crying, confused. Nothing makes sense. That’s how grief works. Let’s stop trying to make sense of grief and grieve with the broken. Let’s stop giving them platitudes and quick answers and just cry. Let’s stop blaming the victim and just mourn the world’s loss.

The world is a different place today because he is gone. I never knew him. Not that well. But his life mattered. Whether I let him matter to me or not.

Remembering 2014 and what led to the Birth of PVX Pearls

Moving into ministry school was the catalyst of courage that created PVX Pearls.

Prior to the move, my compassion extended to the people I know, and always within the context of strict personal adherence to Modern Pentecostal Christianity (being loud and excited about Jesus and the Bible with friends and with strangers). Being a part of a broad approach to ministry training made me want to do things differently, to have regard for each individual aspect of every person, including the rich, the famous and the twisted. I had always longed to write and was even given an outlet with Spoken Word writing through the church. I wrestled with the concepts that before I had tried so hard to ignore, and, in so doing, I found much more of myself and the kind of person I truly longed to become.

Coming out of it all, I was spiraling, there were so many thoughts clouding my mind, my heart, my attitude. For a short time, I was done with church, determined to think purely for myself and finally be me without having to “destroy myself to raise Jesus higher.” But, then I found a certain camaraderie and community within those who shared my once so dearly held beliefs, and I was reawakened to a newer, deeper form of my faith. One that believes in absolute truth, and very honestly, in God and everything he actually stands for, but does not believe that she, or anyone else, holds that truth absolutely.

All this being said, we enter a new year. I live in another state, my world is entirely different and my choices are like none I’ve ever faced. I miss California. My family, my friends, even my first church (my second will always hold a deep place in my heart, hope they know that.) And I will miss 2014 and the changes it brought. Therefore, I wish to post something now, that I never posted, because it was written prior even to ministry training. This post will be posted above the current one. Hope you enjoy! And feel free to share your thoughts!