Appalachia, Blogging, Buddhism, Environment, Faith, Family, Friendship, German Heritage, German language, Gratitude, Growing up gay, Living in Hawaii, Marathon training and running, Middle Age, Philanthropy, Poetry, Quakerism, Teaching, Writing
In my third year of writing this blog, I’ve scaled back.
In my first year I posted every day except weekends and holidays. In the second year, twice a week. In the third year, just once on weekends with a narrower focus: poetry.
As I posted a few weeks ago, and received a wonderful response from readers, I recently had a poem accepted at an international exhibit. It’s one of a very few of my poems, although it’s far from perfect, that I’m quietly proud of.
I’m proud of the 24 marathons I’ve completed, but poetry is different. I had my first poem published when I was 7! I won many national awards in high school. I guess I expected that I would be a good poet, and, truth be told, I think I could be a better poet!
But I also realized that were I too self-involved and tried too hard to be a better poet, I might lose out with other desires in life: to be married, to be a father, to be a good athlete, to encourage other young people who may be facing struggles I did, albeit in a different environment, as a teenager in the Edge of Appalachia trying to figure out who he could be and survive while figuring it out.
I’m going to skip decades here.
I survived. I still write and publish poetry. But I’m also legally married to a wonderful man I’ve been with for 17 years, father of a stunning daughter, and work as a “Facilitator of Philanthropy” at a Buddhist high school in Hawaii where I also have the honor of teaching German and poetry.
Most students and faculty/staff at the school are not even Buddhists! But it is the only high school in the United States with a peace-based curriculum based on Buddhist teachings.
And once a year or so, I give a Dharma Talk, a kind of public testimony, at a Friday morning service that is attended by all students, most teachers and staff, and others at the school.
Pretty funny for a Quaker to give a Dharma Talk, but I’m glad I did.
Here is my edited version of my talk yesterday:
How many of you feel like you live in two worlds? I have most of my life!
I grew up on the edge of Appalachia. German was always part of my life. When I started school, I had to go to speech class for years to sound more like an all-round American boy!
Later, I received a scholarship to study and teach in Austria, and then live in Germany with my family. Living in two worlds has its rewards!
For most of elementary, middle and high school, I could not decide whether I wanted to be a poet or an athlete. I decided to be both!
As a teenager and as an adult, I realized, “Oh no, I’m a gay guy living in a straight man’s world.” I really wanted to have a child and be married.
I’m also a Plain Quaker in a modern world. In my professional life, I embrace technology and love texting!
In my personal life, I drive my Buddhist family crazy every day by turning off lights and refusing to have a mircrowave in our home.
I’ve learned that it’s perfectly fine to live in two worlds, especially if you are authentic to who you are.
For all of you [teenagers], enjoy finding that out. Discover your worlds and thank you for letting me share some of your excitement while you do so in our safe, welcoming environment.