Instead of warning and preparing me for the coming hopelessness and vapidness of becoming an adult – and the mind numbing, soul crushing drudgery that would come from sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours a day for 40 years – my parents were teaching me that their personal beliefs were facts. Not just facts but gospel, and if you didn’t believe in what every shred of logic would tell you is impossible, you’d spend an eternity burning. It’s seems crazy I know, but unfortunately this is what they were teaching.
In most of the memories I have of my mother from my childhood, she seems sad. As a kid I couldn’t figure out what was wrong – but as an adult I’m starting to understand must’ve been weighing on her. A lot our parents were battling depression, though without today’s scientific understanding, it went undiagnosed.
They didn’t have the wherewithal to see that this was due in large part to the triviality of their menial day jobs. And why would they? They didn’t see any alternative.
They were systematically taught to be grateful to have a job at all. They were told they’re salvation lies within the church. But there were only lies within the church.
The church said there was valor in poverty, while simultaneously mandating everyone tithe 10% of the little money they had. This is the place they took me, wasting the little bit of free time they were afforded.
If I’m ever able to escape these racing rats and afford to have a child, I want them to strive for more than to spend their lives waiting, waiting for retirement, waiting for heaven. I want them to know that heaven can exist right now in this present moment, and they’re the only one who can create or prevent it. The church wants you on your knees begging for forgiveness until you die. I want to stand up and take what’s mine right now.
It seems like I’ve been sitting and waiting my whole life. Waiting for bells to ring in class, waiting for 5 o’clock at work, and waiting for church to end as a kid on Sundays. I hated being there and just like everything else, I wasn’t paying attention. I was too occupied with my own thoughts. I was always chastised for never paying attention. But I ask, am I a bad listener or were they not captivating?
Not only did I have to to church on Sundays but also various weekdays since I was in the youth group and choir.
It wasn’t all bad. The pastor Reverend Stephens was a revered and mysterious man. He would tell the congregation he had literally seen the devil in his kitchen.
He had gotten into trouble with senior ranking members of the church for breaking into their masonic temples, presumably an attempt at exposing their secrets.
He would openly admit to selling and doing drugs in his younger days. I liked him.
The church also gave me reigns to explore my creativity. I directed a play about a conversations between W.E.B Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. I wrote and performed essays on black history, all to tremendous praise from the church’s many members.
The choir had a performing arts component called ‘Vision’. We’d be dressed as mimes in all black with our faces painted white doing choreography that mimicked the words to gospel songs. After we did ‘We Shall Behold Him’ by Vickie Winans, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
The lyrics went over my head at the time but now I admit, powerful stuff. Even if the song is all bout how great it’ll be to die.
That’s the church for you, always looking forward to, yet somehow still afraid of, death.
But as you know, the kids there didn’t really like me. The were older and way more experienced coming from the inner city. I learned more about the streets from them than I did about god from the adults. That might have been a good thing.
‘Vision’ took it’s act on the road. This would’ve been an opportunity for the adults to teach us entrepreneurship and the extreme importance of making money for ourselves, particularly creatively. But that’s not what they did. All it meant for me was spending more time cooped up in vans with my headphones on listening to my music, traveling with bullies.
So while church was an escape from all that I had going on back home, I still needed an escape from what I was going through there. To be honest I think I preferred dealing with the static I had back home, my friend to enemy ratio was more in my favor there.
There was one kid in our group who was really nice, her name was Ellicia. She was never mean to me and always seemed to be smiling. Talking to her was a much needed relief from dealing with the other kids.
I didn’t know her too well so I didn’t cry when she died. She shot herself in the head with a shotgun. She was 13 years old. She was adopted but her birth parents had abused her terribly. I heard they put out lit cigarettes out on her as a baby.
Her foster mother continued to come to church, she always seemed heartbroken yet somehow serene.
Someone who I got along with a lot less was Terrance…