Why I’m Sad and Why I Might Run Away

I don’t often “vent” on this blog. I usually reserve such emotional outpourings for my journal. Or if I’m feeling courageous enough, with a trusted individual or two.

To all who have personally suffered amid the snotty sniffling presence of a Tom-meltdown, I vigorously apologize.

In these two-plus years of blogging, I’ve often considered the “point” of my blog. Is it to be funny? Am I that quirky writer guy?

Or am I here to be super emo? Am I that uber-vulnerable blogger who doesn’t know his boundaries?

Clearly, I’ve tended more toward the serious than the silly in recent months. Writing a book about your personal struggles will have that effect on your blog, I suppose.

My messy memoirs aren’t completely contained within a 162-page book. Indeed, in the wake of Struggle Central, I have struggled.

I am struggling. And I want to run away.

Run Away

Photo courtesy Vincepal, Creative Commons

Apparently, I’ve been very sad lately. But hey, don’t just take my word for it; in recent weeks, total strangers have approached me and told me this very fact.

“Hey, HEY,” the gym guy repeatedly called after me, literally chasing me down from the locker room. “Why are you so down?”

And said the hairdresser as I plopped down in the Awkward Chair of Death: “You can smile, you know.”

Oh, hey, nice to meet you both. Are you normally this intrusive?

So anyway, there it is.

I’m sad.

The world has seen and confirmed.

But why?

Why am I so sad?

Oh, I don’t know. It could be the disbanding of my small group last fall. It could be my church’s year-and-a-half-long state of “transition.”

It could be that one significant friendship that fell through.

It could be that my dearest friends continue falling in love and getting engaged, leaving me increasingly isolated and self-conscious among the decreasing number of singles. It could be my jealous selfish heart.

It could be that all this miscellaneous tutoring is starting to get to me. What was once so adventurous has become tedious. It could be that I wish I could fully make a living on my writing already.

It could be that I live so far away from so many precious people on the other side of this continent; it could be I’m afraid of the life I once had over there.

It could be a quarter-life crisis.

It could be the thrill and the throbbing fear to run away from all of this.

TMZ: Camp Ridgecrest at Chimney Rock

When I wrapped Struggle Central last year, I took great care to ensure the ending wasn’t a contrived Christian cliche. I hate few things more than “Christian” works that tie pretty bows on a complicated world of problems and pain.

No.

I have a relationship with Jesus, and yet I am sad.

It doesn’t mean Jesus is failing me or that I’m necessarily failing Him.

It just means this is life.

For the record, here are some additional “quarter-life confessions” to tack on as a PS to Struggle Central:

  • I don’t believe I belong in southern California anymore.
  • I don’t see myself serving any marked purpose here.
  • I keep losing friends.
  • I fear losing more.
  • I question my relational worth.
  • I have lost much of the vibrant story I once lived here.
  • I am hesitant to invest any further in this suddenly scary place.
  • I fear more inevitable unbearable loss to come should I stay.
  • I want to run away.

It’s a story I’ve lived many times before; it’s the story we all know.

You step down from the mountaintop, and the struggle resumes.

In one sense, I feel oddly at peace. After all, I’ve written a book about the rhythmic tides of struggle and redemption. My human hurts aside, this simple fact of struggle no longer confounds me.

Why, of course I’m struggling again. These are the seasons; this is life.

This is the story: a complicated conflict-ridden story with chasms and climaxes aplenty. A story of strife, and one ultimately of triumph.

And so.

I’ll be honest with y’all.

I feel like I need to run away in a few months — like, permanently run away.

I am a “wanderer,” after all, right? Would it be that wrong if my single twenty-something self packed up my Mitsy once more and wandered to another corner of this country? To run away and secure a brand new setting filled with foreign characters and refreshing unforeseen story arcs?

Start over?

I have some wild ideas for the summer. Some of it makes sense; much of it doesn’t. I don’t want to jump the gun on Mission: Run Away just yet, but I do want to start talking it out.

I hope you’ll oblige me by listening and praying.

Despite my current sadness, it’s comforting to look back on a literal book laced with redemption.

I know that further redemption is coming. I don’t know when exactly, or what that redemption will even look like, or even where. But I do know it will wash over me like a cold tide on a sweltering day or a blazing whirlpool on a frigid one — whether I run away or not.

He is my first.

He is my last.

He is my future.

He is my past.

Alas, the glorious bookends are already set on either side; it’s the stubborn middle matter that remains my task. Our task.

  • Right there with you. But I feel like you already know that. Good on you for writing and sharing, brotha

  • Rebecka

    Ah yes, feeling sad and stuck in the middle myself. Thank you for your honesty.

  • Thanks for your transparency and openness in sharing your struggles, Tom. Keep pushing ahead, man!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Dan. Appreciate your reading and commenting. Pushing ahead…

  • Marshall R

    Tom, I’m praying for God to give you real love and community.

  • Amy

    Have you considered speaking with a therapist about your feelings? Many people think that therapists are just for the super crazy people, but actually they can be very helpful third party advocates for anyone who finds themself struggling. They’re essential professionals at struggling. Writers are some of the most likely people to find themselves in a state of depression which can come from prolonged sadness. Don’t be a statistic. If your sadness and confusion continue to bother you please get some advice from the struggling professionals. Praying and listening to God is wonderful, but sometimes God uses people to give us guidance and direction as well.

    • I’ve spoken with many friends who have gone through counseling and therapy, and yeah, I’ve never looked at them as “crazy” or “messed up.” They’ve spoken very highly of the experience, and I do think I’d benefit from something like that too. I guess finances would be the big hold-up there, but it’s something I’d love to undergo someday.

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  • I wanted to reply the day I read this but I didn’t really know how. I think too many things struck me close to home.

    What I can tell you though is this: life is a dynamic, ever shifting thing and I don’t think we’re ever meant to settle. This, of course, goes against every single stinkin’ desire I have. I want to find the church I’ll be in for the rest of my life, find the community I can get comfortable in, find the state, the city, the whatever where I can make a nest and stay.

    Unfortunately that never seems to happen. Churches change, communities change, the world changes and the more we cling to what was the less we’re able to embrace what could be. That’s why it is so great that through it all we cling to Jesus. He is probably the only thing that has gotten me through every bout of loneliness, every sinking failure, every moment I believed it was me that was the issue and that I am so flawed and undeserving.

    I’m glad you could be open and honest. I second what Amy mentioned in her comment: therapy is awesome. Therapy doesn’t fix things but it helps us come to grips with the fact that we’re not always in control, valleys happen, and we can be okay even in the midst of crap flying everywhere. If you stay in Southern California I’d suggest checking out the Hope counseling center because they do sliding scale therapy with trainees (that’s where I engaged in therapy for a year and a half and it was perfect). Otherwise, your insurance may cover some of it, or you might be able to find other practices that offer sliding scale fees. If you ever have questions, feel free to ask.

    All in all, I love you. Here’s to living in the valley. Just don’t forget: You are God’s beloved.

    • Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts, Katie. I appreciate them and you so much. Life is indeed dynamic and ever-shifting. It can be thrilling and it can be disheartening. Something I regret not emphasizing in this post was that I’m so beyond grateful for many precious people in my life, both here in SoCal and around the world. I don’t for a second feel “alone” or “sad” in the sense that I think nobody out there loves me or cares. Things aren’t necessarily “ideal” right now, but I am still so very blessed.

      Much love back to you!

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