I’ve been asked a few times, why I don’t like to talk about my past. I don’t spend a lot of time associating with people from my past, and I don’t like to include many stories about my life from before senior year in high school. I like to pull from a reserve of stories that begin from my freshman year of college.
My pre-college endeavors were mostly made up of trying to lay low. I was teased pretty much incessantly in elementary school, which resulted in me having quite the low self esteem. Most of my time was spent being defensive, or thinking of ways that I could avoid unintentionally stepping into unwanted situations. For a couple of years, this was the way I dealt with things. Avoiding things was just the easiest way to keep from getting hurt. The solution afterwards became retaliating. Even this transformed from being able to give back what I was receiving, to being full of preemptive strikes. Lashing out at people before they had the chance to hurt me, gave me a sense of some power. Admittedly, this was much more the product of insecurity. As I tried to be able to cope with what was happening to me, I became what I didn’t want to be. I effectively turned into the enemy that I wanted to put in its place so badly. I became a bully. I had a horrible attitude, I didn’t take any “crap”, I was mean, and I did things that only made me feel better.
I went from being someone who was afraid of people, to someone who just flat out didn’t trust people. It would not have been a stretch for someone to call me a loner. Alone time for me was not very hard to find. I actually got very used to having to deal with things by myself. By the time I was getting ready to end my high school times, I was playing with suicidal thoughts. The main explanation for such things, was that I didn’t have anyone around who would miss me if I was gone. Who cared if this random loner style guy decided that he didn’t want to suffer any longer.
Actually, in college, I had a lot of the same loner tendencies. These times, it was under very different circumstances. In this new environment, I was the only black guy. When I went to classes, I tried to count the number of other African Americans present. Usually, the number was less than 3 or just me (inadvertent rhyme). Sereno Hall, my home for the year, was completely devoid of other African Americans. This usually left me wanting to just chill while I was homesick. The best part of things was that there were a group of African Americans that I’d found, but we did not like the same things. This made my journey into semi-hermitude much easier.
When I was in my third year at UC Davis, I was introduced to a group called Intervarsity. It was a fellowship where I found people who were going down a similar path in life as me. No one here was African American, but they were all young Christians trying to figure out their way through their faith, while being away from home for the first time in their lives, working things out for themselves. I made a lot of really good friends here, most of them were people that I would consider to be life-long friends. I made a real effort here to make myself available to everyone. This included me going out and spending lots of time with many people. I found myself over-extending myself a lot while trying to make friends. This monumental effort usually left me feeling burnt out and needing a quarter or so away from people to just recover. I did have great community in Davis however, by the time I really began to appreciate it, an opportunity arose for me to move to Sacramento.
It wasn’t until this week, (as I wait eagerly to hear back from a job opportunity that would take me away from this community) that I realized who I was finally becoming and what I had around me. Over the years, I had gone from a loner person, to someone who forced himself to be social, and finally turned full circle into a semi-hermit again. I was a bit sad at the loss of my Davis community, and I was exhausted with the grind of having to live life in three different cities at the same time. I have seen the joys and felt the blessings of being in a community this year, whether that was being permanently around, or just in the hearts of people who care about me.
I try to forge forward with the new ideas of who I am, not who I was. It is interesting to grow, develop, and change, but it is important to remember what has brought me to this point. It is always good to remember, just to be able to navigate familiar trails more successfully the second time through. It also helps to uncover just how much different I have become. It’s hard to realize that there really has been a lot of work going on in me as of late. Thinking of that elementary school version of me, I can definitely see the difference in direction my life is taking now. Who was that guy? It’s like we were completely different people. I’m excited to use that to my advantage and continue to press on, in the journey of becoming Justin. Whether I believe it or not, things are just beginning to get exciting…