Friday, June 22, 2012

#249 - Value

Editor's Comment: To ensure credit goes where it's due, the below is written  by fellow SAL blogger Glen McGee.

Last week I broke. I thought I had reached this point before. The first time breaking came a week before I left for Los Angeles when I cried my eyes out in a car with a friend. I cried harder than I ever had before. I thought that was the lowest point. It wasn't.

Last Saturday was. It was then that I found my soul torn inside out. It was then that I truly broke down.

I think too much. Overthinking about things I shouldn't. They shouldn't matter as much as they do.  I dwell on these things.  I relate to the movie Inception because the tiniest seed of an idea can land in my mind and it will grow and spread like a cancer. It's obsessive and disconcerting.

I should mention that my breakdown last week was prompted by an Instagram photo.

But let's put that into context.

My whole life, all I have ever wanted was to be valued.  I wanted to fit in. I wanted to know that I was a person people wanted around. I was always taught, however, that ‘the world’ doesn’t value anyone. It will chew you up and spit you out like a dip of Skoal. The only shot you have at finding value is to find it in the church. Because Christ values you, so will His followers. That’s what I was taught. What I was taught and what I actually learned were two drastically different things.

I took the warnings seriously:

‘The world’ will hurt me.
‘The world’ only wants me for what it can get out of me.

I pursued value in the church, but I never found it.

See, in the Apostolic movement there are is a small criteria by which value is measured:

-Are you a preacher?
-Is your father a preacher?
-Are you a musician or singer?
-Is your last name well known in the movement?
-Are you extremely good looking?
-Does your family have a lot of money?

If you didn’t answer yes to at least one of these questions I have some bad news for you. 

See, no one will tell you you're not valued. You just kind of don’t exist.

Growing up my best friend was an incredible musician. He got to be very, very well known in the UPCI. If I said his name you’d know exactly who I’m talking about. To be clear, we’re still friends, he’s a great guy, and there is no, nor has there ever been, any ill will. But I caught wind of how things were going to be early on.

He called me once, when we were roughly 14, to let me know there were some people getting together. It was kind of the ‘cool’ clique in our church. So I called someone from the youth group to see if he could pick me up. I wanted to hang out with my best friend. He obliged and came and got me. Halfway to the destination he called his sister to see if he needed to bring anything. She heard me in the background. She asked who was with him. He said it was me. She told him to take me home. And he did. I wasn’t welcome. Even though it was my youth group, we were all the same age, and they were just going to watch a movie at someone’s house, and my best friend was going, I couldn’t come. I walked back into my house confused. I was confused at what happened. I didn’t understand. I thought about it. Thought way too much about it. Figured out what happened. Concluded the obvious. I wasn't wanted.  I got sad. Became dejected. And then I wallowed in my defeat.

This was how things were from then on. Like clockwork.

My friend and I went to a camp in another state every summer. He played his instrument. Girls loved him. Everyone knew him. No one knew me. Even though we were at each others side 24/7, everyone knew me as _____’s friend. That was my identity. The only significant thing about me was that I was his friend.

I went to camps, conferences and youth rallies. I tried to blend in. No one wanted to know me. I had no value. My parents met here. They had value. Not me.

I decided to change. Tried to make myself more valuable. Taught myself the art of overcompensation. I thought, since I had no talent, no well-known name, no money, I didn’t preach, and I'm not even moderately good looking, that I could ‘wear’ my value. I became fashion obsessed. I spent my meager grocery store paycheck at the mall, every week. I grew out my hair. I took weight loss pills. I thought they'd value me then. I thought the girls would love my designer shirts. I thought guys would be impressed by my suits. 

No one did. No one noticed. I was still a loser. Valuable clothes on a valueless man.

I graduated. I gained weight. I lost the last little bit of value I had managed to hold onto.

So I changed again. This time, the setting. I changed the scene. A chance at a new identity. I changed churches. I befriended the musicians there. I became best friends with a different well-known singer. A best friend to this day. My first two years at the church I was known as ______’s friend. People came up to me. ‘Hey, where is _____?’ ‘Hey do you know where ______ went to eat?’ ‘Hey do you have ______’s number?’

My identity didn't change. Just someone else's friend. That was my value.

I did fall into a circle of friends, a few of which I remain friends with. I voiced these fragile emotions that I had bottled inside of me. The stuff you're reading about now. These sentiments got out. My insecurity began to be preyed upon. Fellow church people posted unflattering pictures of me, knowing I was self-conscious.

A photo of me was placed side by side with one of a Sasquatch. “It’s so funny! He’s big!”

I started working out. I was mocked. Facebook groups were created. “Body By Glen – Everyone join!” There was laughter. I cried.

Years passed. People matured. They forgot the jokes. I was again forgotten.

But I wasn't ready to forget them and certainly not ready to be forgotten. So I determined things in my head:
I will show them value. I will start a career. One with value. I’ll work in the movies! They’ll have to value that. Who will make fun of me then? I’ll move to Hollywood. I’ll become an agent, like Ari Gold. No one makes fun of Ari. Ari runs Hollywood. I want to be Ari.

I went back to school. I majored in Film. I got an internship. My big break. I’m on my way! I am meeting people! Famous people. Like, hey I know that guy, he was on TV! And she’s been in movies! I’m doing it big. What’s that? Another Facebook group? Intern by Glen? Hot coffee and cold cuts are my specialty? Why? Why still? What does it take? They laughed. I cried again.

My church. My youth group. My friends. Why. Why can’t I be accepted.

I worked. I worked hard. I advanced. I got another internship. “Hey, can you pick up Jim Gaffigan from the airport?” YES! “Do you want to meet Mila Kunis?” DO I?!

I got a paid job. Hey there’s Topher Grace! And James Franco! I’m so cool! What’s that? More posts in that group? More attacks? But I’m not an intern anymore!

I worked even harder. I impressed people. I got a phone call. Transformers 3? I’ll do it!

Hey some church people are in town! I’ll take them to set! Oh crap, I forgot my badge. Can we still come in? But I know the locations manager! Sorry guys, I left it at home. Wait, you’re making fun of me again? You don’t believe me? Seriously? What does it take??

I got my next movie. This one is it. I’m gonna crush it. Oh him? That’s Sam Raimi. Yeah he knows me. Am I ‘in’ yet?

Hey friend, what does that girl think of me? The one I have a huge crush on. Oh you asked her? What did she say? Why can’t you just tell me? It’s that bad? Am I that ugly? Ouch.

I’ll go even bigger. I’ll work even harder. Do I accept the offer? Of course. Hello Los Angeles! I’m starting anew. I’ll forget all the hurt. I’ll make my own value. Master Cleanse? Sure. Raw Vegan fast? Did it. Juice diet? Yep. P90X? I'm in.

Look at the scale now! Down a hundred pounds! Yeah! I look good? Oh thanks coworkers. I’ve got a long way to go though. Oh hey friends back home. Yeah I miss you guys too. Sorry gotta go, hiking up the Hollywood Hills.

Last week I check Facebook. I see that my old youth group is working that NASCAR fundraiser I ran for them a few years back . Oh hey, that hot girl just posted a picture on instagram. Odd. The picture mentions my name. But it's a picture of that kid from IBC.  He is sticking his gut out. He is sticking his gut out and drinking a Coke. My name is on that picture. That kid is mocking me. He's pretending to be me, in the picture. But why? I don't live there. You hate me that much? What did I do?

I was still just a joke. To them, I'm worthless. Still valueless. I don't have the name, the looks, or the talent. I've got nothing for them. Please, just leave me alone.

By this point, I had nothing left. I’d spent the emotions. I had given all I have. I couldn't bring anything to the table. Couldn't find the emotions to sustain. That's when I broke.

I have more stories and examples, about myself and about others. It’s all painful to talk about, to think about, to tell. But it’s all real.


 Two pieces of advice...

1: For you who may feel unwanted and without value:
It’s a myth. The world will not chew you up and spit you out. The church will. It did me. You DO have value. Some self-important girl or guy with unjustifiably high standards doesn’t determine your value. If you don’t feel you have value then make your own value. You can. I did. I’ve dropped all the weight. I live in a prestigious city. I work in a prestigious industry. It’s still not acknowledged by church people, but their reality isn’t real. The ‘world’ doesn’t think like that. Ok, to some extent they do, but that’s why you have to do what makes YOU happy. Live for yourself. Live for today. This life is all you have. 60 – 80 years or so. Don’t waste it chasing the value dangled like a treat on a string. Make your own.

2:  For those in church leadership roles:
 Please, please don’t do this. 90% of my feelings of depression, isolation, worthlessness and lack of value was perpetuated by people in leadership roles. Pastors and preachers catering to the valued. Don’t do that. There are kids on the sidelines. They're watching the basketball game. They're watching the musicians practice. They’re hidden, in the corners, in the back, out of sight, out of mind. They’re face down in the carpet at the altar. The tears are falling, but they aren’t interceding. They’re begging God for value. “Please, let someone come talk to me.” They want to be noticed. They want to be accepted. Their last names aren’t well known. They don’t play, sing or preach. They don’t come from money. They don’t have many friends. They’re hurting. Some suicidal. I know, I thought about it. Came close once. Drove halfway to the bridge with tears in my eyes. Don’t let them make it the whole way.