Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Time to go

I just put the final box in my car. The walls of my apartment are white again. Using the skills I learned over fours years as a BYU custodian, I've removed all evidence of my existence from the refrigerator, toilet, and shower. I'll leave my keys on the table on my way out. Someone else will make memories here soon.
Tonight I move on. Provo and BYU has been my home for the last seven years. I've left before, for internships, and a mission, and long vacations, but I've always come back. Provo was my home base--where I let my roots sink deep and branches stretch wide. I've invested in relationships in this town and I'm receiving healthy returns.
As I was packing over the last few days I've come across all kinds of notes and pictures and little treasures that remind me of the events of the past seven years. I finally pulled out a notebook and broke my life down into semesters and started writing down all the images that were flooding back into my memory. I can honestly say that these have been the best years of my life. So much good has happened to me. Some crap has happened too but all that bad stuff just kind of gets consumed in the good and blended into a product that tonight I can enjoy. I drove across campus this evening just as the sun was setting. The snow-covered mountains surrounding the valley reflected orange. The trees were white and pink with spring blossoms. The grass was green and freshly cut. Everybody looked so friendly--so familiar. And it is familiar. I feel at home here.
Today was my last day at my favorite job ever. I didn't tell any of the kids cause it would have hurt too bad for me to say goodbye. A sixth grade boy came in today, as he does every single day at recess to ask if I'd missed him and to talk about the girl he's too afraid to talk to. A whole playground of elementary school kids yelled my name as I walked by the soccer field to go to my car. I almost broke down crying right there.
I talked to some of the most significant people in my life today--the friends I've made since coming here. Recently returned missionary girl called twice on her way home from California to keep from falling asleep at the wheel (like she did three years ago). I chatted online about travel plans with my half-Brazilian roommate who I'll meet in Mexico tomorrow. I talked with Cranguy online at the same time about registering for classes (I remember helping him register for classes before he even came to BYU). Peculiar Mormon called just to say hi and to see how I'm doing. I stopped by Gilmore Guy's apartment to give him the food that was left in my freezer. His apartment is my second home. Pinetree texted to see if I wanted to do anything. These are the kind of friends you never want to let go of, the kind of friendships I don't imagine I could ever replicate. I know these friendships and the others I've made here will last, but they will change too and I really just don't want anything to change. I'm scared that nothing will ever be the same. I'm scared that life in Provo will keep on moving at full speed while my life turns boring. I'm scared of being the stranger at Church on Sunday and I'm scared of being the newbie at work. I'm scared of driving unfamiliar streets and shopping at grocery stores that aren't Macey's. I'm scared of change.
It all just kind of seems so silly, to be leaving something that feels so good. But deep down, I know it's time and I know I'll be just fine. Maybe things will just keep getting better and better. Maybe I'll be so lonely that I start dating girls just to have something to do. I really don't know what will happen. I guess that's the point.
Yeah, it's time to go. I'm keeping my Grandma awake waiting for me in Salt Lake. She said she'd have food waiting for me. I'm gonna publish this then pack up my laptop and head to my car. It's time to move on. :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Slow Down

From a fortune cookie: "Life is a journey. Stop running."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I have a friend...

So readers, I have a friend and he has a problem (seriously this isn't me). My good bud Gilmore Guy who tries very hard to fight off his various suitors got a little overwhelmed toward the end of the semester and ended up accidentally dating a girl. So here's his question:

"I hope you don't mind me using your blog as a way to generate some discussion on a topic, but I would like some perspective and I figure your readers might have something to say.As you know, I date. Sometimes reluctantly. Sometimes I enjoy it more than I expect. I think underneath this young gay guy front, I'm a middle-aged married man who is content to be married to a kind-hearted woman and together raise a few good children. I've always wondered, as many of us ssa lds guys do, is it fair for me to get married?
You hear so many stories of gay men who get married despite their attraction to men, only to cheat on their wives (whether with another man or just in thought or via internet). It makes everyone miserable and it often ends in divorce. In fact, many of your readers may be married men who currently (or formerly) found themselves in this state.
Is this an accurate representation of married men who feel attracted to men? Do they all feel like they are living a lie? Are they all questioning their marriage, their testimony, and their self-identity? Are there any of these men who live happy, relatively "normal" lives and content themselves to dealing with the challenges that face most married men, with same-sex attraction being a lesser concern? The blogosphere (and many of your commenters and their subsequent commenters) is full of jaded, disappointed, or confused LDS gay married men. Is this an accurate representation? Perhaps only disgruntled or conflicted men turn to blogging; the happy ones don't feel the need. We never hear from them.
So I guess my question is, O Visitors to Veneno's Blog, are there happily married, gospel and church believing, ssa married men out there? I'm not looking for hundreds - in fact, I'd be happy to hear from even a handful. But I want to know that there's hope. I believe it is there and I will believe it's there regardless. But a little proof now and then is nice."
--Posted by gilmore guy to so this is it at 4/19/2006 11:47:10 PM

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's True

I had a whole bunch of these stickers on my mission to give to little kids and the like. It being Easter and all today, I feel like I should just say, in case you ever wondered, que yo sí tengo fe en Jesus.

The Error of My Ways

A clean-shaven face greets me in the mirror these days. I shave every morning at least and sometimes again during the day. A couple of weeks ago I was one of the kids on campus who consistently defied the honor code with several days of nasty stubble. I think I look better with the stubble covering the skinny parts of my face and it helps me feel a little manlier. I’m sure my stubble doesn’t affect my spirituality--it didn’t even seem to scare children.
If you read the letters to the editor in the Daily Universe you’ve probably seen the recent escándalo about shaving and the Honor Code. For awhile that debate just fueled my resolution to grow out my facial hair and stick it to all the self-righteous, self-made-honor-code-enforcer pricks. I was feeling kind of rebellious. Then I read a letter a week or so ago that hit the core or the issue. The issue isn’t whether or not facial hair is wrong or not--that can be debated. The issue is that I signed the Honor Code understanding that it meant I’d have to shave regularly. The issue is the value of my word. So, though I disagree with the policy, I’ll live by it.
I love BYU. There’s plenty to criticize about the details but the way everything comes together is amazing. I only have two more days of school here---ever. Honestly, I’m sad to go.
While I was caught up in the rebellious spirit, I got all excited about Soulforce’s visit. In the end, I think I was wrong about them too. They seemed to stick very firmly to their agenda—full approval of gay sex. That’s a lot to ask from a school that frowns upon even heavy kissing between straight couples. There’s no way in hell that BYU is going to suddenly change its policies to allow actively gay (having sex and not even trying to stop) students to attend BYU. And while the right or wrong of BYU’s conservative attitude can be debated, that’s not really the point. The point is, Soulforce knew that they wouldn’t influence BYU. Instead, they came to BYU to make a scene, to be arrested and take pictures to put on their website to prove that conservative bigots are ruining their lives. Really, BYU was very nice to them. Soulforce had to pretty much ask to be arrested, yet that became the headline in all their press releases. Soulforce also severely twisted facts in their press release, like saying that

“Brigham Young University's student conduct policy prohibits LGBT students from attending the school. Students who are found to be LGBT face suspension or expulsion. In addition to this policy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has opposed the equality and dignity of LGBT people, in church and in society, with particular virulence.”

That is simply not true. Soulforce seems to define Gay as someone who has gay sex. I hate that people try to characterize the LDS church as some dark enemy. To do so, they have to pull out obscure quotes from the past and twist facts. The truth is, and anyone who has spent time in the church knows, that the LDS church is amazingly helpful to all of its members, even those who consider themselves gay. The church policy is one of inclusion. The church confirms that feeling gay is not a sin at all. Having sex with another man is sin and is subject to disciplinary action just like any other sin. The point of that action is repentance and growth, not to beat the sinner down into a self-deprecating corner. Some random church members are pricks—some of these pricks might even be bishops and stake presidents and somebody may have encountered these people… I haven’t. I have only felt love and acceptance.
I really liked the people from Soulforce. They seemed sincere and decent and they seemed to listen when we talked. I hoped they’d come in and open a forum for discussion to start to help the gay students at BYU with what we need, like realizing how many people deal with the issue and how hard it can be and that it’s not something we did on purpose and we can’t just pray it away. I want BYU to be the type of place where I could tell people I feel this way and get hugs and deeper friendships instead of being referred to the honor code and being shunned. I want the BYU counseling center to increase its ability to serve the SSA population and actively reach out to students who may be struggling without knowing where to turn. I want the Church and the Honor Code to more clearly define what is “homosexual conduct” that violates the Honor Code (or offends God). Soulforce brought up some good topics—like the fact that many Latter-day Saints feel like suicide is the only acceptable way to reconcile their feelings. That’s a huge issue that needs to be discussed. I’m afraid Soulforce purposefully polarized the issue making discussion impossible. When they characterize BYU as the evil Nazi regime and themselves as the noble martyrs and refuse to budge, communication dies and they end up in handcuffs (only no handcuffs were even used). But you see, they never wanted to talk to anyone. They never wanted to help me to make BYU better for me and people like me. They want to bring BYU down, and I’m not for that. Like I said earlier, I came to BYU because of the atmosphere. I don’t want to tear it down, I just want to be able to talk about the stuff that needs improved. I don't think I can do that any better today than I could last week at this time. Today BYU students just have more reason to believe that gay people really do have an agenda and that "feeling attracted to people of the same sex" pretty much means having sex with them and hating the church/BYU

A couple of BYU students went out on a limb and participated alongside Soulforce giving speeches and carrying lilies in the memorial for suicide victims. I really appreciate those people. I know they took a big risk and I know they were more closely aligned with my interests. So thanks to those guys and girl.
Anyway, I typed that really fast and wish I could make it clearer. Basically just wanted to get it off my chest while I'm still a BYU student.

For a much more fluid discussion of Soulforce’s visit, see these two great summaries by my buddies:

  • Blueshorts

  • Master FOB
  • Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Open your eyes tonight


    Invisible Children

    A documentary made by three young Americans. "Invisible Children" exposes the effects of a 20-year-long war on the children of Northern Uganda. Children who live in fear of abuction by rebel soldiers, and are being forced to fight as part of a violent army. More than just a movie, this film has inspired a movement to take action and create change in Africa.

    See the film tonight and learn what is being done.
    Wednesday April 12
    7:30 p.m.
    JSB Auditorium

  • Invisible Children Website
  • Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Soulforced

    Soulforce's Equality Riders have come and gone.
    I just discovered that BYU has a nightly newscast. Here is their coverage of the visit (in Windows Media Player):

  • April 10, 2006
  • (The second story)

  • April 11, 2006
  • (The lead story)

    Sunday, April 9, 2006

    20 Reasons to smile tonight

    1. He and I had a good talk tonight and there's at least hope things will be okay.
    2. I met the people from Soulforce and they're cool. I'm anxious to see how things play out tomorrow and Tuesday.
    3. I met more gay people; including several lesbians (one who goes to BYU), and a former quasi-stalker (he appeared unimpressed).
    4. I went on two dates with girls this weekend and got two hugs.
    5. I got free food from Tucano’s this weekend.
    6. I'm going back to Tucano’s on Friday.
    7. I watched the Young Ambassadors and a sweet Ballroom Concert this weekend. Cranguy is an amazing dancer.
    8. I danced with two different girls and had a dancing sword fight (brooms really) with two guys at work.
    9. My teacher didn’t tell me I needed “more confidence” after my waltz test on Wednesday.
    10. I look forward to dance class now instead of dreading it.
    11. I bowled 155: one spare and three strikes in a row.
    12. I liked a song I heard in the bowling alley and found it on I-tunes within minutes of coming home. It's Ever Blazin’ by Sean Paul
    13. The weather was amazing this weekend.
    14. I have a ticket to Mexico City for the end of the month.
    15. I have my room to myself until then.
    16. My room is clean.
    17. I finally found another pair of 30x32 jeans at Hollister this week.
    18. I've stopped caring about school.
    19. My hair is just the length I like it.
    20. I'm updating my blog a lot.

    Watching for Soulforce

    Soulforce is coming to campus on Monday. If they stand in Brigham Square you can see them and the student reaction here:

    I never wanted to feel like this

    Hurting people I love
    In High School, I had a total crush on a kid named Noah who ran track with me. He was strong and confident and at the same time soft and gentle. We were slowly becoming friends, which was cool. One sunny day we were all out playing frisbee and I passed the frisbee his way only he was distracted and didn't see it coming so I ended up pegging him in the face. He crumpled over in pain. I want to die.

    Being my own worst enemy
    Watching home videos at Christmas time, I become increasingly annoyed by myself. My voice, my movement, my jokes, the way my clothes fit...everything seems wrong. I want to disappear for days because I don't want anyone else to have to deal with me.

    Living a lie
    In fifth grade, I was George Washington in the school play. I loved acting in those days and participated in several plays and drama classes inside and outside of school. I could do amazing things with my prepubescent voice. I could go high and low and do all sorts of accents. I would change my voice frequently to fit whatever fantasy world I was living in. One afternoon as we were practicing the play in fifth grade, I commented that I couldn't remember which voice was my "real" voice. I really couldn't. Today I have just one voice but a dozen personalities. I can’t remember which one is really me.

    Crashing and burning
    As my senior year of high school came to a close we all felt like we were at the peak of our existence. After senior prom, four kids from my school were heading home along the dark roads of suburbia. Feet were sore from dancing. Teenage hands were touching tenderly. The car stereo was blaring. Minds were whirling with the exhilaration of the night and the moment. The turn came a little too soon and Daddy's Beemer was going a little too fast. One panicked scream escaped and the car crumpled around a tree. Life comes screeching to a halt.

    Impotency
    My oldest brother and my dad paced the kitchen fighting about something again. The volume increased with each argument as did the harshness of the words. My brother threatened to run away or break my mother's china. I watched from the family room as the family I loved seemed to be tearing itself apart. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I ran to the kitchen and yelled for everyone to just be nice. My brother was the first to tell me to shut up and mind my own business. Then he started yelling about me, saying that I cause just as many problems as he does but my parents never get mad at me because they think I'm a “goody goody.” My dad told me I wasn't helping and to not worry and just go to my room. I stood silently as four eyes focused on me, reeking of detest. My mind raced to think of something to diffuse the tension. As I felt my face muscles begin to tighten, I knew the tears were just seconds away. I turned and ran upstairs to my room where I slammed the door and crouched on the floor. The screaming continued as I cried one of those full body cries where the entire body shakes. Everything I know how to do just makes things worse. I pray and hope that somehow, in some way, my agony will mean something.

    Earlier this week, I felt all of those feelings again. I’m a little better now.

    Saturday, April 8, 2006

    A new record

    I'm getting better at communicating.

    When I got a cell phone about this time last year, I managed to keep my talk time below my 300 weekday minutes each month. I also managed just fine without text messaging.

    In March, I set a new record for cell phone usage:
    Total talk time: 2101 minutes (more than 35 hours)
    Text messages received: 263
    Text messages sent: 241

    I may never beat this record.