A Real Rattlesnake Turns 4 years old this August.
As I’m trying to be more “professional” online and less scattered overall, I’ve been thinking:
Why keep up this old, wracking hulk of a blog?
Why keep writing on it? Why keep sharing the links on social media, especially when there is so much content on these old pages – things I myself have written – that saddens and infuriates me?
Well, for one, maintaining this site forces me not to obfuscate or erase the past, which is my constant tendency. Keeping up this blog stands as a pushback to my self-preservation instinct’s collapsing star. If you want to go back and look at the unfortunate things I once thought, here I am inarguably naked, laid bare by this artifact.
When I started A Real Rattlesnake Meets His Maker in August of 2012, the summer I participated in a Cru Summer Project, I believed a lot of different things about God, the world, and myself. It causes me such acute pain, a spiritual cringe really, to look back on most things written here. I’ve changed so, so much.
On a good day I can follow a couple of my old signposts along the trail, walking backwards through some stranger’s thoughts about the world and all the divinity infused here. Keeping all these old posts up leaves a reverse bread crumb trail that, from comments I still get, I know is helpful to others in their Exoduses out of spiritually abusive evangelical and fundamentalist communities.
But clicking on a random post I wrote back when I thought LGBTQ relationships were sinful, for instance, makes me feel like I’m unnecessarily keeping the racist relatives around. Many posts feel cheap, disrespectful to myself even, reviewing them years out.
However, the dramatic reflections on spiritual and sexual trauma and searching splayed across these pages and the loss – and staggered regaining – of my religious faith is not the only story here. The fundamental re-conception of core beliefs I have undergone in the four years since my blog began was issued, in part, from newly-claimed and discovered identities. The boxes I would have checked on a census even just two years ago compared to today would differ radically: when prompted, I would have penned a different kind of faith, written down a different race/ethnicity, noted a different sexual orientation, even a different name.
It is already difficult for me as an ENFP (and an Enneagram 7) to hold onto old relationships and to keep close personal friendships, despite a fairly wide-reaching social network. Add to that natural proclivity the incredible and inexpressible distance I have traveled over these past few years, and you will almost certainly find a lot of confusion and pain from loved ones.
How to begin to account for this secondary (and tertiary…) adolescence with even dear friends and family who, knowing some former fragment of me, are now left with a crude sketch of who I’ve become? They can only approximate, hurling innocent questions like torpedoes. B-7? C-9? Playing this game leaves me with a sense of shame. It is easier to reinvent, to obfuscate, to deny access – or to ignore that these seismic shifts have taken place.
How to maintain these old relationships with integrity when there is so much to account for? Easier to jettison the cargo, make a beeline for the nearest shore, and let who follows will.
I was never taught how to hold onto the past.
Last night while having dinner with friends I traveled to Cuba with two summers ago, all sorts of emotions came suddenly welling up. I have not let myself be consciously in touch with memories from even two years ago. It is too painful to imagine the past, when I was distinctly captive to a certain kind of faith. A past splayed all over this blog, a past of distinct racism and sexism and heterosexism and, of course, using only capital ‘He’ to refer to God.
“Can’t relive the past? Why of course you can!”
I am nothing like Jay Gatsby. I don’t want to relive the good old days: I want to immolate the past. I want to purge its stench from my flesh, excise its signature in my brain. Even the good memories have become tainted with an embarrassment of who I was, who I allowed myself to be.
But those memories cannot escape us. We are littered with the past. If not defined by it, at least caught in its pull. I am not Kenji without Ryan, and Keone. I am not a mainline seminarian without my Roman Catholic and nondenominational evangelical roots and faith. I’m not a Nikkei without having been socialized into hapa suburban whiteness for most of my life, not myself as a writer or a boyfriend or a brother without my struggles with clinical depression, without divorce and coming out and understanding both my and my mother’s queerness. I’m simply not me at all without my tongue and pen, without my brash Spanish in Honduras and Costa Rica, street evangelizing in San Diego, and on long walks down Havana’s Malecón. I’m not me without Twitter, without brightside and holy friendships, without Carry the Fire, the Reformation Project, and the Killjoy Prophets.
When I think about it, I am everything like Gatsby. I am re-invented. I am no more a paragon of “wokeness” and allure than James Gatz could claim the mantle of the rich young ruler. (Gatsby must have been an ENFP also – often we are not sure what we are beyond the warped, crumpled projections of your deepest desires.)
For now, this blog will remain up, as a honest tool for myself and others, to help close the mental and spiritual gap between then and now. I’m done trying to be appealing or hip with these posts. I love the white Christian mommy and daddy bloggers, and I’m not one of them. The times I’ve loved this space most have been when I could be forwardly vulnerable in such a way that other people felt okay saying: “…me too.” I think if we can stay in that place, there is real hope for the stories that will be continue to told here as I navigate what’s next for A Real Rattlesnake.
Like Gatsby, like all of us, I’m inextricably bound up in each of my old testaments, fully indicted and fully known by all former versions of myself. I, too, believe in some divine, impassable light, an orgastic dream that jets out year by year before us. It eluded us before, but no worries – tomorrow we will lean forward, re-imagine ourselves, brush off the keyboards, and break ourselves open to the world again. And one fine morning…
So we blog on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Happy four years. I am so grateful for each one of you reading this.