I’m a thirty-something writer, struggler, and wanderer named Thomas Mark Zuniga – TMZ, if you will.
Or if you won’t for all the connotations with that awful entertainment tabloid site, Tom works too; that’s what most people call me.
I grew up near Philadelphia where family and belonging and life melded into something that felt perfect. Something like my own personal Eden.
Then I moved to northeast Georgia at 12 — and I learned of life beyond Eden.
A quiet kid only made quieter by acne and an 800-mile move from all he’d ever known, I endured bullying and isolation throughout middle school and high school. After graduating with an English degree from the University of Georgia in 2009, I despaired over my direction in life.
A year-and-a-half removed from academia while working the customer service desk at Kmart, I gambled on a cross-country move to southern California despite never having set foot west of the Mississippi.
My four years on the west coast changed my life. I climbed out of introverted isolation, joining a church, getting baptized, and embracing my not-so-hidden passion for writing and a very-much-hidden passion for youth involvement.
For the next several years, I worked with kids academically, recreationally, and therapeutically. I tutored kids of all ages at learning centers, a middle school, and various Starbucks and Panera locations. Beyond the academic school year, I worked at Christian summer camps in Wisconsin and North Carolina.
In 2015, I donned a backpack and worked with teens in wilderness therapy in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After nearly a year of roughing it in the wild, I returned to indoor plumbing and air conditioning as a tutor and mentor at a boarding school for teen boys in drug and alcohol recovery.
Today, I work “full-ish time” as editor of Your Other Brothers: a web community navigating faith, homosexuality, and masculinity. Together. I also drive for Uber and Lyft on the side and accumulate no shortage of stories along the way.
Several years ago I wrote my first book, Struggle Central: a chronicling of my struggles and the climb toward redemption.
A few years later I wrote my second book, Running To: the story of my return to the East Coast by way of 48 states, 6 provinces, and 26,000 miles. For nine wondrous, arduous months, I lived on the road in search of home.
For the last few years, I’ve called that home Asheville, North Carolina. Though I’m always prone to wander.
Feel free to contact me and follow me on social media: @thomasmarkz. Reach out any time. I always enjoy connecting with readers and fellow wanderers.
I’m glad you’re here. It’s lonely but lovely out there; won’t you wander with me?