770 miles later here I sit in an old favorite coffee shop of mine. No, I did not make the road trip just for the wonderful coffee they serve here, it just so happens to be a bonus. This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of coffee shops that offer succulent variations of the coffee bean, it just so happens that I like the atmosphere here and the coffee is wonderful. It reminds me of a place I used to frequent back in my days in St. Louis called Kaldis. It has been quite a while since I set foot in one but the coffee and atmosphere of a Kaldis is unforgettable. It really was one of the bright spots in an otherwise tumultuous campaign at the sem down there.
To be sure there were other bright spots. I don’t mean to sound so overly critical of my time spent in St. Louis but if I were to be honest it was two years that broke me down emotionally and spiritually. There were those people though, the ones who were the bright spots. They kept me sane, they pushed me further, they challenged me to become something better than I was. You fellow scoffers, you know who you are, I will never forget you guys. So much time has passed since we last sat out by the chapel, smoking cigars, having an adult beverage, our conversation dripping with sarcasm and discontent. So many days and nights have passed since then but in some ways I feel that I am right back in front of that chapel. Why? Because sometimes the only way for me to process what I am experiencing is by having a good sarcastic session of word vomit.
Take last night for example. My sister-in-law had a dance recital which lasted 3, count them, 3 hours. I could not help but be overly critical of what I was witnessing. I found it so ironic that the same parents who would clamor about teens being too sexual and TV being responsible for that sex drive put their kids in a program like that. And yet, I know I am overly critical, but sometimes I wonder if people are critical enough. Thats why I really appreciated that old group of scoffers, we were the critics. Sure, no body outside of our group heard the critiques so who knows if it was even worth the time, but if nothing else we helped each other process what was going on.
But sometimes I feel like that is all I ever do, process. I sit back in my chair, critique anything and everything and don’t throw my hat into the ring because I see it as a lost cause. To be sure there is a reason for this, its called college. Back in college I threw my dog into every fight I could. It didn’t matter if I really cared about the subject or not, I had something to say and I said it, especially when I knew it would take things too far. I felt it was my duty. However, in the end all I feel like I did was piss a lot of people off, except my friends and sometimes even them too. Then came seminary. Every day fellow students and even faculty openly and mercilessly ridiculed people and positions I held or respected. It was funny for them to scoff at people who were pro-choice or pro equal marriage rights. To them those people were just dumb. I knew where I stood and so I began to sink within myself. I wasn’t the only one, my best friend quit and another close friend was forced to leave because he didn’t fit the mold. We were all broken.
However, over the last few months I have begun to find my voice again. I dont know where or how, I am sure it has something to do with the place I am at in life both literally and figuratively. I may not always agree with the positions of my current fellow students or faculty but the difference now is that its ok to disagree and they at least are willing to listen.
But beyond the new sem I am at there is something else different. Its like I am settled. For the last year I have been running from the person I know that I am. Running and hiding because I was scared something would try and break me down again and I would lose even more than I had before. I feel a little like the browncoat hero Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly lore. Broken and for a while just trying to fly and be free of anything that would seek to force him to be something he is not. The sem is my battle of Serenity Valley and to be sure it was one I lost. But now I am in a position to be me again. The group I meet with on Mondays is just a start, I feel like more is to come. Now more than ever I am critical, but the difference is I know I need to use that critique to affect change. I need to use that voice I once lost. And as the great Malcolm Reynolds once said, “So no more runnin’, I aim to misbehave.”