When I became non-religious, there was a period where I felt like my mind was being torn in half. The scaffolding that held up the structures of who I was had crashed down, and I was forced to reconsider everything.
That takes one sentence to write, but let me assure you, it was an overwhelming amount of work.
When I was a small child, I used to have a fear that I would walk downstairs and discover that my entire family had turned into monsters. Still watching tv and lounging in the house, but all untrustworthy villians. That’s a little bit of what its like to go through that process I went through. Things you once felt kinship with now felt like they were out to get you. I don’t mean that I then (or currently) view religious people as villians. Some of them, but not all and not even most. I do view some of the things I used to accept as villainous.
Its very uncomfortable to reconsider, and that’s why none of us ever do it, unless forced.
So why even try? One reason is to rid yourself of that sewer line of ceaseless existential dread.
People worry about little things, thats normal. But the big questions of life and what everything means, they can never be silenced. For me it manifested in strange ways.
I remember being 22, newly married, living in a house we just bought, well liked in our church and playing on a worship team. And yet somehow, there was this panic. This submarine alarm system going off that I had missed something. That I was being cast incorrectly in the play of my own life. It was nobody’s fault. My ex was/is a good person, so were most of the people we went to church with. And yet I felt trapped.
Luckily, we got the chance of a lifetime. A bizarre invitation to move to a country I couldn’t find on a map to be worship leaders and work with kids. I didn’t even want the job at first, but I knew it was somehow right. I never wanted to mix my religion with my money. And that was a good instinct. Working for the church probably sped up my departure from it.
Not because anything bad happened, but because no one else seemed to be able to hear the sirens.
We did our best for 2 years. I remember coming back from some kind of missions trip in England and we were taking the long train ride home from Copenhagen central station and I remember just wanting to cry. I was about 26 at the time, and turning 26 hit me really hard.
At 26 I woke up and realized that all I cared about was being an artist. At the time a songwriter. I was good at it, I thought so, everyone said so, why wasn’t I doing more of it?
Part of the reason why was because addressing the sirens will cost you. I strongly believe that facing these deep conflicts inside of myself cost me my religion and maybe my marriage. I was changing, and as I floundered to find something I could call my own, there was a long process of me sucking at it. Of needing to share every shitty idea I had. Of craving validation for a cake that hadnt baked all the way yet.
Thats why nowadays I almost hate asking people to come to my shows. I love the love of strangers most of all. The only other people’s opinion besides strangers that I value is fellow artists.
For the rest of my life, I will remember and be wiser because of that feeling I had, of living the wrong life. Its the feeling of being on the phone and the battery dying but not having the courage to say what you need to.
I will never make that mistake again. Thats why current me has such a priority of doing exactly what I think all the time. I bought and am renovating another house. I went to the world championships. I take on big comedy shows when I can. I confront assholes. All of this because I know the terrible terrible pain of being a serving man with no courage to be an outsider.
When you leave the tribe, the adventure starts. When you return, the adventure ends.
Whoever you are, its not too late to lead your own adventure. To divorce the old you and all of us struggling, well meant intentions. To make peace with your best guesses and make some fresh updated 2019 you goals.
Do that, and the misery you encounter will never be as heavy as the misery of knowing the real you was wondering around the world like a ghost waiting for your courage to catch up.