I have been too many things to count. I have been a twinkle in the eye of a sixteen-year-old boy. I have been a sperm fast and true and thus a firstborn. I have been dirt poor and filthy rich. I have eaten moldy bread and field peas for days on end in Appalachia and savored Russian blinis and beluga caviar beside the Caspian sea. I have drunk sulfur water from dirty wells and the golden nectar of Château d’Yquem.
I have been a boy with a forbidden book, burning, burning. I have been a thirsty student. I have been a newsie, a doffer, a short-order cook, and a janitor. I have been a scholar and a gentleman. I have been a son, and a brother twice. I have been a dream and a dreamer. I have been a religious celebrity and thought a god. I have been the swell of a penis in hiding. I have been all smiles at day and bitter tears at night.
I have been too good for my own good. I have been a reverend, a holy ordained minister. I have been a worship leader for legions. I have been a painter and aficionado of the nude body. I have been a musician, an artist, and a chef. I have been a creator, an innovator, and an entrepreneur. I have been a song, a play, and a sermon. I have been a masturbator, a masticator, and a fornicator. I have been seduced and I have seduced. I have been scorned, shamed, and judged by those who are as guilty as I.
I have been a friend, a lover, and a playmate. I have been a husband and a father twice. I have been a lover thrice. I have been a saint, a sinner, a hero, and a heretic. I have been a beloved child of God and his forsaken bastard. I have been blessed and I have been cursed. I have been smothered by the rules of religious prudes and strolled naked on the disencumbered beaches of Greece. I have been an extravert and an introvert. I have been comfortable in my skin and in others.
I have been a hermit in the wilderness. I have been applauded by tens of thousands and jeered by the same. I have been a faithful mentor and I have been forgotten. I have been cocky. I have been pure and loving and kind to children (a priceless gift of life) only to be estranged. I have been imperfectly perfect and perfectly imperfect. I have been a child, childish and childlike. I have been loved and I have been hated. I have been a role model and a guide. I have been a punching bag and a joke. I have been an Appalachian redneck, a Texas outsider, a Georgia cracker, and a Florida native. I have been lost and found and lost and found again.
Yes, I have been contemplating all I’ve been. I knew, somehow, there was always a risk of becoming lost, losing my way, losing my very self in those decades of doing and striving. I did not know that I would be shamed and ghosted for remembering, being, and becoming.
But now, at long last, I have found a world for me, for all that I am and can be, for the whole me, not just the little parts. Not one where I have to squeeze as much of myself as will fit into a tiny square hole. The one that my church, school, family, and job duly ordained for my throbbing and thrusting and growing circle of life.
Because now, I am the bright promise of the sunrise, the hope of morning, the highest noon, lazy afternoons, the happy sadness of the sunset, and dreams at moonshine. I am the earth, wind, fire, and water. I am free, sensual, curious, and communal. I am a guide, a questioner, and an encourager. I am a companion.
I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. I have grown up to become a little child. So if heaven is real (highly doubtful) I suppose I am now allowed to enter it. You know, if the Bible is true (again, highly doubtful) the Matthew 18:3 thing.
Of this, I am convinced. All of who I am cannot fit within the bounds of institutions, holy books, nor the words of this page. Because when they go away where am I? I have been too many things to count, but now I am only one. I am me.