I would like to think of myself as a pretty positive person. I like to surround myself generally around positive people. Ergo, I tend to stay away from negative people. However, here's what interesting: I wasn't always this way. I was a melancholy, self-deprecating, person. I was always one of the most intelligent children in all of my schools but I didn't like the responsibility and attention that came with that exposure.
Even as a child I had issues with my self image. Although I got messages from church, like "god don't make no junk", and positive messages from my family, my experiences exercised a greater influence on my self perception.
During my preteen years at a predominately Black middle school in Detroit, I got picked on every day because I was one of the smart kids in school. They used to call me "white boy" because they erroneously equated intelligence with skin color. The girls used to call me ugly because I was a little overweight and I wore thick glasses. It didn't help my case that the teacher would point me out and tell the students in my class that they should be more like me.
I internalized all of these negative messages and made them my reality. I was always sad and I kept to myself and I didn't have any friends. No one wanted to be friends with the smart kid, not even other smart kids. Folks kept their distance from me. I felt really alienated and alone.
During this time, I started to spend lots of time at my local library, reading all kinds of books. The books that really got my attention dealt with Greek mythology. I started learning about the Titans, sea monsters, Poseidon, Pandora, Prometheus, and of course, the Pantheon of other Greek gods. Reading this ancient literature took me to a time where gods intervened on behalf of heroes. Foolish humans suffered the wrath of the gods, by stepping out of their ordained place in the cosmos. I absorbed and memorized these stories with the accuracy of an ancient Greek bard reciting the tales over a campfire.
I also attended church regularly and I started to distinguish myself from the other youth in the church by studying and memorizing the scripture with the same degree of attention that I gave to the classic Greek stories. By studying the scripture more and being able to explain it with precision allowed me opportunities to teach others.
This new attention in church made me feel good about god however I still did not feel good about myself. I devoted more time to studying the Word, yet I still felt alone because none of my peers in church cared about the Bible and god like I did.
By the time I got to high school, I still felt really alone and the self loathing became part of my personality. However a light shone on the horizon that gave me a glimmer of hope. That blinding light called puberty, changed my physical appearance, but it did nothing for my mindset. I got a little taller, thinned out, and changed the way I dressed. Before high school, I cared nothing about fashion, all of a sudden, I inundated my parents with requests for name-brand clothing.
By having this self loathing mentality, I could never see how people treated me. I kept believing that everyone in the world would treat me like those kids did in middle school. I lacked confidence in myself in every area except when it came to christianity. That was one area where no one could touch me. However a new struggle would await me.
Before puberty, I really didn't care much about girls or sex. I enjoyed reading, playing outside, and church. Now I had to deal with mixed messages: Messages from my body and messages from the Bible.
I started to become really attracted to girls, but my low self image and lack of confidence kept me from talking to them. This self deprecating became part of my personality. Even when I did successfully approach girl and get them interested, my negative mindset caused me to self sabotage any potential relationship. I justified the self sabotage, by saying that "I have to remain pure for jesus and save myself for marriage."
However I ended up having sex as a teen. Even with my negative self image, I was confident enough to meet someone who liked me and I liked her. After we had sex, I felt great, but super guilty.
I started to think of my natural sex drive as a curse from the devil. I started to pray that god would take it away from me, so I could be a vessel. I continued to excel with the bible teaching and started to feel like I had a special calling on my life. Yet, I totally disliked the fact that I was a sexual creature.
This low image of myself affected me for 21 years or a large portion of my life. This negative outlook played a role in my career choices, my relationships with people, and unfortunately my former marriage. I was sad most of the time, yet people would come to me for words of encouragement.
I was known in the body of christ as one who always had a "word". I would help and encourage people; their lives would make significant strides but my life would get continually worse. Physician, heal thyself! I would pray to god to take away these negative feelings, yet he never answered those prayers and I was left feeling more sad, more empty.
It wasn't until I started to question my faith that I started to see the dawn of a new day in my life. I am grateful for the professional counseling I received during my divorce that helped me see who I really was. I am also grateful for the countless hours in self-reflection that enabled me to reboot my life.
When I let go of god, I started to feel better and I started to see my sexuality as a natural part of who I am.
As I write these essays, they tell a particular part of what happened as I evolved past christianity and god concepts. There were so many processes that were occurring, I may never pinpoint everything that took place. What I do know is that I am a positive person today who lives to make the world a better place for those who will come after me.