Prelude

“I’m putting in my two weeks.”

My supervisor stared across the table at me, wide eyed in excitement. “You got an offer?”

We had been talking about me leaving the company for some time now. I was bored with my monotonous work. Every Monday there was a dread of coming in. When the alarm blared on Monday mornings, all I could feel was anxiety.

But the truth was, there was a dread about life inside or outside of work, and there was an anxiety that greeted me not just on Mondays, but every day.

Desperate and hopeful, I applied for a number of outdoor therapy jobs. I had to get out of Colorado Springs. Instead of blindsiding my boss with a notice, I invited him into the process and would let him know as soon as I heard back from any of the companies.

But I hadn’t heard back from any of the companies.

“There’s not a job offer.” I told my supervisor. “But a friend wants me to help move his mom from Colorado to Arizona, and I need to get out. I’m not happy here.”

My supervisor nodded his head and told me he’d put it in the announcements. Although I lacked a lot of emotion, I truly was happy. Something was gonna change, even though I wasn’t sure what that “something” was. But something had to change. The last six months had been horrible. In the wake of a breakup, I struggled to even function. I needed to jolt my system with cold water, and apparently that cold water was in boiling hot Arizona.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Great… another human unable-to-cope-with-a breakup story. Here comes a Taylor Swift chorus.” Pump the breaks. That’s not exactly what’s happening here. Not to diminish the power and pain that exists in breaking up, but this was a bit different. This relationship changed everything for me.

On June 3rd, 2016, I came out on Facebook in a loooooong 36 minute video, stumbling over my words and repeating myself over and over again. Up until a few months before this, I had been planning on marrying a woman. Not any particular woman. It’s not like I was dating someone. But a woman. Definitely a woman. Even though I was looking at gay porn an hooking up with men. But definitely a woman. I was gonna marry a woman.

But then I met him… and it changed everything. So much so, I decided to go public with it, and that cost me a lot.

Friends from Bible school, high school, and church disappeared. Not violently like a car crash, but subtly, like turning down the volume on the radio after deciding there’s nothing good to listen to. They just faded away.

Family also suffered. I had been living with my parents for a few months. But after some conflict, I moved out… and that one was not with a fade. That one was more of an abrupt collision.

One text message and a stuffed backpack later, I was searching for a place to crash for the evening. After some frantic searching, I landed in a house I could not afford. I needed a job and ended up working for a software company answering emails all day.

I pulled away from people, scared to be vulnerable. I pulled away from God, scared He’d break this relationship, leaving me with nothing. I retreated into myself and into this person.

Life became a panic, surviving one day to the next. What was dreaming? What was hope? To be honest, most of it was wrapped up in this person. Dreams of raising rascals. Hopes of our love being more than tolerated by the people around us. Maybe it could one day be celebrated.

It was as though I had pulled all my funds from all areas of life and deposited them into one person. After all, everything else was deteriorating. I needed to invest where I had a viable future.

But there’s a problem with this methodology. What happens when your only account becomes volatile? What happens when you haven’t diversified your relational portfolio? Will I use another financial term to give symbolism to my relationship?

I’m not saying my ex was violent, but I am saying that the relationship was violent on my soul.

We were extremely sexual, and it freaked me out. Anxiety about how to navigate gay sex consumed potentially months of my life. I remember crying to myself, thinking I now had to bottom even though I hated it. I felt trapped in confusion and panic regarding anything related to sex with my boyfriend, even though I didn’t want to be engaged with sex to begin with.

We didn’t share a lot of interests. He loved guns. I was a pacifist. He wanted to stay in Colorado Springs. I wanted to travel the world. He was a loud conservative. I was a quiet moderate.

But probably he hardest part was he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Fear and pain had driven him from the church. And as hard as I tried to incorporate Jesus into our relationship, he refused it. I was left alone in my pursuit of God, when I always wanted to share that piece of my life with my partner.

If I were looking at this as a normal human, I would say, “Oh! We don’t work. We should end this.” But there was a problem–this purchase had cost me everything. Now I was gonna lose it? The fear of losing the only thing I had left crippled me. And if that wasn’t enough to keep me in this relationship, something had coupled itself with my fear–need.

My ex and I filled holes in each other. The cliché of “you complete me” was no more true than in our relationship. Where I was strong, he was weak. Where he was weak, I was strong.

But the problem with any relationship built out of need instead of love is just that, you don’t actually love the person. You need them. And when the person doesn’t meet your needs, you resent them. We call love patient and kind. We say it’s not self-seeking. But love built out of need isn’t any of these things. Is that love at all? Or just selfishness disguised as affection? But it was true–we both needed each other. And what happens when someone or something threatens to take away the thing you need? You panic. Anxiety conquers your mind. And we had a lot of threats.

The twelve breakups. The uncertainty of the future. The lack of God in our relationship. The uncertainty of if this was right for me. The… you get the picture. There was a lot. But I refused to see any of it. I pushed it down. He was moving in August, and I didn’t want to ruin this. “Enjoy this while it lasts,” I’d tell myself when the panic became too much.

But emotions demand to be heard. The more you ignore them, the louder they get, till they become a despondent child that no longer cries. Learned hopelessness sets in.

That’s where I was from January to May of 2018–learned hopelessness. The anxiety had always been there. I just learned to live with it, and even though the source of this anxiety was gone, the anxiety remained. That was probably the hardest part. I had stripped my life of the source of all this anxiety, but it was still there, and I didn’t know why. I couldn’t fix myself and doubted everything.

I doubted the breakup. I doubted the future. I doubted God. I doubted myself. It was as though I had nothing to grab hold of anymore. Every day was a gray blur of surviving. My days were passing without color and life. Something had to change, even if it was just a trip to Arizona to help a friend move his mom.

But I was in for a surprise. The day after I told my boss I was putting my two weeks, I got a call from one of the companies I had applied for. I had completely forgot about the phone interview we scheduled!

“Is this a good time?” The recruiter asked. I was smack dab in the middle of downtown Colorado Springs. My car was at least five blocks away.

“Yeah! This is a great time!” I lied as a Harley blared passed me.

Over the next hour, I knocked the interview out of the park. We were laughing. He was talking to me about job details. I was excited. Turns out, when I have a well-this-is-screwed attitude, I interview well. I relax; I’m honest, and for some reason, recruiters like that? Whatever.

At the end of the call, he offered me the job and I accepted, thinking this must have been what I actually quit my job for. But as soon as I hung up the phone, the smallest feeling stole the joy I had from saying yes–a small unsettling.

Although all of this “made sense”; though security would be provided, and I would love my job, something was off. Something deeper than wisdom. Something in the gut that said “I’m not sure”. And it kept coming back like a song you can’t get out of your head. It wasn’t a no. It wasn’t a yes. It was a simple “I’m not sure about this”.  That’s the best way to describe it that. My gut simply felt unsettled and unsure, and it was driving me nuts.

In spite of the unsettling, I pressed on. I had to move out of my current living situation. I would be moving to Utah in less than a week! Small problem. Strep. Thursday morning, I woke up, unable to make it to work. Come Friday, my boiling hot skin and pathetic voice had caused some coworkers to pity me. They showed up to my house and help me move. As I picked up the largest boxes to prove a point, they screamed at me to sit on a bed and rest so I could get better. I’m not the best at listening.

But finally the sickness forced me to go outside and get some air. When I did, that obnoxious unsettling was there to greet me. I couldn’t make it shut up. How could I rest and get well when I was being nagged by this thing?

Then I prayed.

“God, I’m so unsure about this. I feel like it might be wrong, but I’m so not sure. I need help. If this is you telling me not to go to Utah, give me something else other than a nagging feeling. It’s not enough. I need more.”

At about 11 at night we had unloaded the last boxes into my parents’ guest room. I began to undress, burning with a fever. I had to get to bed. I was starting to get catatonic. But that’s when I heard her.

“Brandon,” it was Marcy, an old family friend that helped me move all day. Marcy came up the stairs, pulled my face into her hands, and stared into my eyes. It was that super intimidating stare too. Like where they switch from eye to eye, peering into the depths of your soul. But I couldn’t fight it. I had no energy.

“You and I both know you’re not supposed to go to Utah.”

And that was enough.

I emailed my recruiter the following night, letting him know I wouldn’t be going. I then texted my friend, Dallas, telling him I was coming to help him move his mother.

Few years back, I lived in Mumbai, India for two months. They say the air quality in Mumbai is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. When I landed in the UAE for a layover, my lungs gripped at the air. “Oh! That’s what clean air tastes like.”

I had learned to breathe in an existence saturated with anxiety. As soon as I sent the email, I was breathing clean air again. The anxiety was gone, and all I could think of was “Oh! That’s what peace tastes like!” I had forgotten.

But what about after Arizona? What about a job? What about a house? To be honest, I didn’t have the answers for those questions. I had ideas of what I would do after Arizona, but that didn’t matter. I had peace. For the first time in a long time, I was “breathing the free air again”, to steal Gandalf’s words. And with that peace, came a gentle knowing that hope was near. Life was near.

Color came back into my face, not just because I was burning up, but because of that breath of hope. And breath brings life.

Monday I quit my job. Tuesday I said yes to a job offer. Thursday I got strep. Friday I moved. Saturday I declined the job offer. Monday I flew to Phoenix where my good friend Dallas and his lovely wife Ariel (soon to also be good friend) awaited me. We were bound for the middle of the desert–Sierra Vista, and who knew that life lived in the desert.

Stay tuned on Instagram for the next leg of this journey.

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