I was raised in the Catholic Church by two old school, conservative Catholics. My siblings and I went to church every weekend and every holy day of obligation. I went through Religious Education, all the way up to Confirmation; my Confirmation name was Francis, after the Saint who loved the animals (because animals are awesome).
Growing up, my young mind could not comprehend that there were people who were not religious; only bad people who did bad things could be “atheist” (I didn’t know they were called that, at the time). As I grew older, I developed the understanding that not everyone was a Christian, or even religious (and I didn’t realize that not everyone who was religious was Christian; I remember a conversation about Jews not believing the exact same thing as we do, for example.) Kids at school who had been Christians began to decide that they were atheists, and some of the more seemingly-intelligent people that I encountered in the world-especially on the internet-gave strong arguments against religion that I felt were wrong, but I couldn’t really respond to.
I’ve talked about the group of friends I made in High School in the past, and also how that group started going to a College Bible Study together. At first, I would say about half the group was Christians, and the other half was atheist, Wiccan, or whatever. A bit after college, however, pretty much everyone was going to church; the majority of the group was going to a local “Four Square” church. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I will say that I do like the pastor there-he was the father of one of my classmates throughout my school days. I always felt welcomed there, and while I always felt welcome at the Catholic Church as well, this other church seemed less focused on tradition, and more focused on developing a relationship with Christ. While I still generally went to the Catholic Church a lot (and even sang in the choir with my mom), I would go to that Four Square Church, too, and talk about not being sure if I would remain Catholic. Made my family happy (my sister decided not to make me her son’s godfather).
Growing up, religion was always a part of me, and a big influence on me. My mother taught me to pray, praying with me every night at bedtime.
She also taught me love and kindness. She also taught me to respond to the count of three, to eat my dinner (even if I had to sit there for hours without eating it), and that “life is tough.” All in all, she is a pretty patient woman (she’s married to my dad, after all). One of the things both she and my father taught me, however, was that Democrats are immoral, disgusting, mean-spirited people, who just want to be allowed to do whatever they want to do, like being sexually irresponsible and against the church. So growing up, I was a Republican (well, in spirit at least). Mostly, they seemed fixated on one issue: abortion. It was a very bad thing.
At High School and on the internet, as with religion, I began to realize that not all good people were Republicans. In fact, I got the sense that a lot of people felt Republicans were stupid, although I didn’t fully comprehend why; I didn’t really know any other issues, besides abortion. I did multiple reports on it throughout the years, which didn’t change my opinion from that of my parents’. Slowly, however, I got the idea that Republicans were for the rich class, and in bed with corporations more than Democrats.
They didn’t care about the environment, or poor people. But… ABORTION. So I didn’t really pay attention to any other issue, and the first time I could vote, I helped vote W back into the White House. I was taken aback that my brother and his wife voted for Kerry; I didn’t know how to handle my brother being kinda liberal (they were still pro life, though, so that was good).
As I got older, I met more people who were gay, the first of them in High School. Then when I went to Yellowstone the first summer I worked there, my roommate was gay. I’d talk to people online who were gay or bi or whatever, and… the vast majority of them were pretty nice, or at least decent. My parents have been very against gay marriage… I just think they should do what they want? If they’re not hurting anyone, and they feel like this is right for themselves, who am I to get in the way of that? Perhaps it took a bit of time, but that became my opinion on most things; let people be themselves. Even if it conflicts with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t know who’s going to Heaven or Hell, and I’m pretty sure no other human being does, either. So let people be, and be nice to everyone.
However, on most things, my friends have generally been fairly conservative, to go along with my parents’ worldviews, for the most part. So this helped me to keep my viewpoint that illegal aliens shouldn’t be allowed to stay, because they didn’t follow the rules to be here, and if the rules aren’t upheld on that, why have rules at all?
Besides, the Democrats just want them here so they can illegally vote Democratic in elections, amirite? I also thought for a long time that the Iraqi war of 2003 was justified; I listened to explanations on why there had, in fact, been materials necessary to build WMDs in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was evil and ousting him was a good thing, etc. Well… his former military helped form ISIS, whom the current Iraqi military RAN from. So the destabilization of the region is largely due to our involvement, and also, my argument about rules is a slippery slope, illegals account for 1/3rd of our agricultural output, and rounding up and deporting them all would be incredibly expensive (although I do still think that the Democrats really want the illegal immigrant vote).
Around the time I was leaving to join the Air Force, Barack Obama was running for his second term in office against Mitt Romney. I did not vote for either candidate, because I didn’t feel that either represented all of my interests. At the time, I still would’ve preferred Romney beat Obama… but still; progress.
In any case, as I said before, BMT was hard, and going to church on sundays got me through it. In Tech School… I started to not go every week. Getting up on a Sunday morning was hard, because I didn’t want to do anything (leaving the Squadron was always a pain in the ass, because you had to check out with CQ. Also, I think I was probably already starting to get depressed, but yeah). When I got to Little Rock, I would sometimes go to church on base, but I would often go out to Fort Smith to stay with my girlfriend and her family, and I could never quite convince her to go to mass with me… so we didn’t go. And I stopped going even when I stayed on base; I decided I wasn’t really getting anything out of it, because I didn’t get a sense of community from it as per I didn’t talk to anyone. I would make an attempt to at least watch mass online, but that was about it. I wasn’t praying much that first year, either, and when I wasn’t with my girlfriend, I would drink, surf the net… and get lonely and depressed.
Then… my fiance broke up with me. I’ve talked about this before, and how I was devastated. The first month after that, I focused on getting in shape for my PT Test so I could go home in December. After the December visit home… I was in a dark place. We were talking a bit again, and even discussing seeing each other, but then, she stopped getting online. I would get messages from her on fb sometimes, mostly that she needed more time, and that her parents didn’t want me in her life anymore… and then even the fb messages stopped. Her internet went down, forever. In this time, I would sit in my dorm room, thinking. A lot. About dark things. I had had previous thoughts of suicide one time, very briefly, as we drove over the river in my hometown when I came home to visit. That was a desperate desire to not leave home again. This… was about control. Because if she wouldn’t talk to me, then maybe I would cut my throat with my knife, and THEN she’d be sorry! …I never actually did that.
In mid 2014, I began listening to christian radio shows on Sundays, and praying every day. There was this program out of Cleveland called “Truth for Life,” which I would listen to in the mornings while I drank my coffee before work. In the winter, I started going back to mass on base, and signed up for a Bible Study. There had been a Bible Study I’d been going to in NLR… but they were a bit conservative and judgmental for my tastes. The time that one of them said “Some people in this room are not going to Heaven,” I decided I was out. It didn’t help that when I went to their church, after service, they would just ignore me, and I would stand there awkwardly. Also, their pastor would talk about tithing every week, and how you were evil if you didn’t… Meanwhile, his church is super extravagant, with monitors everywhere, a full choir, an orchestra, and a worship band. A bit too much for me. So I didn’t get along with them. I also didn’t get along with this D&D group, who I yelled at and got kicked out of. I felt like I wasn’t getting along with anyone, pretty much.
Anyway, I went to that Catholic Bible Study on base, and it consisted of me and three old people… They were nice, and I went for a few weeks, but then I moved off base, and getting up for it on Sundays got really hard… I felt really bad for not going anymore; the leader was a very nice man who gave me lots of encouragement. Meanwhile, work had been shitty, and it just got shittier. I was losing my patience with everyone and would yell at them, I think I’ve covered. There was one person who was consistently really nice to me-she helped me a lot when the breakup happened. I started hanging around her a lot, which she didn’t seem to mind, but I had this thing about poking people in the side; people back home would get irritated with it sometimes, but didn’t make a big deal about it. Some people in the office… they got really angry about it. She didn’t like it either, started to be unfriendly, and when we talked about it, she let me know. So I stopped doing that for a while… but then a couple months later, I did it again a few times. Then she told me I wasn’t invited to her wedding, and it made me really upset (even though I couldn’t go anyway), and I just stopped talking to her. Then I got pulled into the Commander’s Office and was served a No Contact Order. They seemed to think more was going on than the poking, apparently.
After that, I just isolated myself in a corner. It seemed like every time I had a disagreement with someone, I would get pulled into either the First Shirt or the Superintendent’s office, and talked to about my attitude. So, I mostly shut myself off from people.
My new supervisor was a really nice guy and helped me out a lot with my move and stuff, so I would talk to him and help him whenever I could (or felt like it; I was also starting online classes then, and would try to do all the work at work). Other than that… I think maybe three people noticed the change. One of them was an individual I liked to refer to as “The Little Shit” (he asked me to refer to him as such when I wrote about my time at LRAFB, heh). Also, the very nice supervisor, who I should all more often and see how he’s doing. Also also, the nice new Superintendent, who noticed that I was being isolated. Nobody else really seemed to acknowledge it, however.
When I moved to NLR, I started talking to my brother on Saturdays, so that helped. I looked forward to our talks on Saturday mornings about as much as anything. He and his son would also play Minecraft with me, and that was good. There was also this old Jehova’s Witness who would come to my door and talk to me about his church and the Bible.
Surprisingly maybe, I actually enjoyed these talks. Finally, around September, I joined a group for returning Catholics, called Landings. Before that, I’d actually been going to the catholic church in NLR (well, one of them), and decided I would like to get to know some people in the community. These people were also older, but there were a lot more of them than at the Bible Study on base, and around them, I felt at home almost immediately. They were very nice and welcoming. When I told them my story up until that point, I was a bit worried, because I included everything. They thanked me for my story, gave me hugs, and prayed for me a lot, heh…
I say I told them “everything,” but I didn’t tell them about my knife. There was another time, too; at my apartment, on a Saturday. I had been talking to my brother about how much I hated it there, and how I had no control over my life. Later that day, I started drinking… quite a bit. I thought about the control thing again, and decided that I was gonna take my knife and jam it in my throat. As I was getting up to do this, my phone rang; my brother wanted to play Minecraft. So I did that instead. The memory of almost doing that the next day really worried me, and I let my brother know. He advised me to let everyone know, because they would tell me how much they loved me, and that he and his family loved me too; his son really loved me. So I made a journal on Tumblr, posted it to fb, and everyone told me how much they loved me. It definitely made me feel better.
Towards the end of October, something happened at work again; the tv. It was driving me insane. I was trying to concentrate on work or whatever, but it was loud to the point that I had to listen to it. I put up with it for weeks, tried to turn it down, got bitched at. It was slowly causing my anxiety to rise, until one morning, I got in an argument about it and just left the building. I called my superintendent, who had told me that I could ask to leave if I was having a mentally bad day (my supervisor was not there, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone else there). She told me I could leave, and that she would tell people what was going on, but I decided I needed to go back to get my stuff. I was just bee-lining for my stuff and the door, hoping no one would talk to me, but a couple people demanded my attention-and I ignored them. One of them was the section chief, who decided to give me paperwork for insubordination. She told me I needed to never do that again. I didn’t know if I could “never do that again,” so I decided that I needed to talk to my psychologist about getting out.
Meanwhile, I made some good friends with people at Landings, including a family that invited me to Thanksgiving. However… It was a week until my PT test, and my waste was like 2 inches over what it needed to be for me to pass. I’d been working out, but apparently not hard enough.
I also couldn’t do a mile and a half in a passing time anymore. So I worked my ass off every day with the PTL, who sacrificed his time for me, and for that, I’m grateful. I ate as healthy as I could, and damn it, I PASSED. By the skin of my ass. I never wanted to take another PT test again; it was too hard. Another reason to get out. Then, I went home for a whole month in December, the first time. It was great. It felt like It would go on forever… and then I had to go back, and it was the hardest goodbye yet; another reason to get out. And one of my new supervisors sent me a text, telling me to come in early on Monday, while I was still connecting flights in Chicago. Didn’t ask me how I was or anything. That pissed me off. Another reason to get out.
I went to another Landings session as a helper, as well as a Bible Study some of the Landings people did in the interim. I also started hanging out with these guys at times other than Landings, and it was great… but I knew I was getting out. My psychologist had diagnosed me with Avoidant Personality Disorder, a diagnosis that would get me administratively discharged. In the meantime, however, I was going to church more than I had since being in the Air Force, I was praying more, I felt closer to God. And then I got out. Not before having to pay back over $2,000 in tuition assistance that I apparently filed incorrectly, getting accused of fraud and almost getting into even more trouble… it was great. Also, I had to wait, wait, wait on paperwork, not knowing when it was gonna be signed, not knowing where it was, etc… and then when it was all signed, I had like 3 days before I was discharged. So I could not plan anything ahead of time. I had to wait in my apartment for 3 weeks before TMO could send people to get my stuff. It didn’t arrive here until a month and a half later. And most recently, they decided they overpayed me over $800 on my last check, and demanded it back. God Bless the US Air Force!
During my time in the Air Force, however, I learned some stuff about life; the entire world isn’t contained in my tiny hometown. There are lots of people who don’t live their lives the way I live mine. Most people aren’t immediately judging me upon talking to me, and probably can relate on more stuff with me than I realize. A guy from Saudi Arabia and a guy from Jordan are two of the nicest people I have ever met. People who grow up poor have very little chance to be not poor ever, even if they work their asses off as much as they can. If the environment is ruined and the Earth becomes unlivable, there won’t be any babies to save from abortion (but abortion is still an abomination; I won’t budge on that one). The US is not necessarily the best or most just country in the world. I can get away with yelling at people, but I’m probably better off practicing being calm and letting it slide. Loving people and showing compassion is the best way to be a christian. Most importantly: the Catholic Church is home, and Pope Francis is awesome.
Also, I registered with the Pacific Green Party. I’m probably a hippie, now.