“Don’t climb mountains so that people can see you. Climb mountains so that you can see the world.” David McCullough Jr.
Informed on countless occasions as I grew up that I’m a little odd, weird, or different, I took on the persona of being an outcast of sorts. I have a tendency to be shy and quiet in addition to thinking and talking too fast. I would much rather converse while walking than sit amongst a group of people to dialogue. And I simply don’t look at the world the same as many of my peers.
I still remember in class explaining how I sometimes observed cars as thy passed by and would consider what story they found themselves in. What struggles, trials and tribulations were they experiencing? What adventures had they overcome? And the realization that each vehicle contained a hero of their own story. Yeah, so this style of thinking was mocked, as you would expect.
Desperate, I suppose, to fit in, I took upon myself a variety of interests. From martial arts, sports, and comics to gaming, trading cards, and writing to science, history and mathematics. I was on the Model United Nations, CIBACS and the football team. I spent my senior year in high school as a Senior Business Liaison. I also watched cartoons, read books, rode my bike, swam, and enjoyed fishing. I did all of this while growing up in a coastal town known for its surfing and beach volleyball.
As I matured into an adult, I traveled the country, living in multiple areas and adjusting to different cultures. I enjoyed traveling, gardening, photography, cooking, and film. I earned a degree in business, worked in retail, studied film and professional writing, before landing a job as a graphic designer in the Deep South. By this time, I had already spent years doing freelance writing, covering mainly entertainment in addition to writing short stories, poems and scripts for graphic novels, television and movies.
Since I was from California, I was often told I was from the land of “fruit and nuts” while in the Midwest. In the South, Californians were known as “foreigners.” Still, I made a lot of wonderful friends who were genuine and sincere. I also met people who spoke behind my back that they thought something was wrong with me.
It really hit me once I returned to California. I’ve been through hard times. I’ve lived in poverty, endured a cheating spouse and a kidnapped child, not to mention losing loved ones. I also had an interesting job as an OSINT Analyst and Data Analyst. I had thousands of cases from which to draw from to dig up some great, at least I thought, interesting conversations. Yet, I’ve found very few people show much interest.
At the same time, I learned to play Magic The Gathering. To the point I competed in tournaments and won nearly every casual match. I loved the mathematical concepts, but it didn’t earn me too many new friends. In fact, most people wouldn’t play me because I won too much.
I dived back into martial arts after years of weight training, I picked up guitar and started to collect action figures. I have also always been highly motivated and driven. I like to learn and succeed. I enjoy getting certifications and licenses. School is fun for me. I figured other people were the same and I was always playing catch-up. It turns out a lot of people mistake passion for bragging, so you need to tread carefully. And if you talk to fast, people mistake you for being rude. And if you ask too many questions, they think you’re dumb. And if you joke around too much, they think you’re annoying. And if you have any depth to your person, you’ll likely be classified as a nerd or dork. Take a stand for truth and you might be labeled creepy.
I’m not good enough. I’m not successful. I’m a loser. A failure. I’m not where I should be. I messed up, again. I’m so stupid. Yeah, these are the thoughts of someone like me who has also struggled with depression. I once thought having all of these interests and accomplishments would make me a better, more interesting person. That I’d make a ton of new friends. It did not. In fact, I’ve had people ask me how I am doing and they walk away as I begin to answer. Like, I barely got out a full sentence.
Why do I bring all of this up? An important realization that dawned on me: I’m not climbing mountains to please other people or so that people can see me. I’m doing it so I can the world. I’m not going to love other people so they will love me back. I’m just going to do it because it’s the right thing to do. I may be the person people can’t wait until I leave the room, that’s ok. I can be polite, kind, and be as much a listener as possible. I can choose to be forgiving, merciful, and to rise above my circumstances.
So instead of murmuring over my situation or complaining this hasn’t worked out, I can press forward, upward and onward. I workout, do martial arts, play guitar, write, read books, watch football, travel, drink coffee, learn to code, interpret data, investigate, do gardening and baking bread, gaming and figure collecting, be a risk taker and entrepreneur, all because it’s what J enjoy. It’s who I am. I took apart a dryer and put it back together and I enjoyed doing my it. My investigative mind is how I was built. My wild imagination is how I am wired. Rather than resist it, I simply learn to excel in those areas I was made for. I enjoy teaching. I love exploring. And I know my weaknesses, I realize my flaws, but I don’t let this drag me into the pit of despair.
Does this make me weird? Possibly. Probably. Most likely. But I find peace in just resting in the knowledge of the one who made me. I don’t go about earning certifications so I can brag. No, I strive to excel at my career because it’s the tool given to me and I want to run this race, a race against myself, to win.
Is this a way of winning friends and meeting new people? Probably not. Be friendly, listen, and be kind. Don’t engage in trying to win people over. Just live your live in as much peace with others as you can muster. Dream big dreams. Make practical goals. And get after it. I’m convinced that when you finally make it to that mountain peak, you’ll not only see the world, but you’ll see that in all the valleys and along the rough terrain, when it appeared you journeyed alone, God was with you every step. And this adventure called life will be worth it in the end.