And to All a Good Riddance

As the grotesque mass of space garbage we call 2016 hurtles toward oblivion, people everywhere are cheering the prospect of a new year. Myself included. We’ve proclaimed this the worst year ever, what with a most bizarre election cycle, the deaths of numerous beloved celebrities, raging wildfires and natural disasters, and the opening of the first seal of the Apocalypse.

2016 wasn’t that great a year for me personally, either. I lost my first car. I lost my second car. I wondered where in the world my story was going, though, to be fair, that’s every year.

But 2016 also wasn’t all that bad. In fact, in many ways, 2016 was my most momentous year yet. And as I write this final post of 2016 before embarking on a much needed holiday escape to Eden, I wanted to be intentional about remembering the good chapters of 2016.

They’re actually pretty great ones.

I moved to Asheville.

That summer of 2012 working at a Christian boys camp in the Blue Ridge will always rank among my most magical. I vividly remember those weekend treks into Asheville — a chance to escape and recharge from a fulfilling though hectic week with preteen kids. A chance to explore the strangeness and quirk of Asheville while embracing the strangeness and quirk in myself.

Never in a million years did I think I’d call this eclectic city home just four years later.

On the outside, I don’t fit in here. I don’t have hippie clothing. I don’t have dreads. I don’t have a single piercing or tattoo or Subaru. I don’t have a Bernie lawn sign or bumper sticker. I’m not vegan.

And yet on the inside, I resonate with this city. I resonate with the weirdness. We all come to this city because we don’t fit in out there. We’re fiercely independent and spiritual and creative. We bike. We hike. We love coffee. We believe in the power of art.

We believe in us.

I started a new job.

I moved to Asheville to start a new job with a brand new nonprofit, and it’s been the best full-time job of my life. Now, to be fair, I’ve only had exactly two full-time jobs in my life. But this one is way better than suffering — I mean, surviving — in the woods for an entire week at a time.

Whether I stay at this job for another month or year or decade, I’ll always be able to look back on this experience and say, “Wow. I helped launch that thing.” I started as a mentor back in February as part of this new school’s flagship crew, and this fact elicits much pride for me. I literally painted the walls of that building. I started teaching a weekly writing workshop and the entire math program without a single teaching certificate to my name.

I got bath salt at last weekend’s white elephant staff holiday party.

Beyond that, I’ve met a dozen kids who have become my heroes, fighting their various addictions as I learn to fight my own.

My ex-roommate became my roommate again.

There’s little I love more than when life comes around full-circle. When we return to a pivotal though vacated place in our lives, when we teach a lesson we once learned ourselves, when we reunite with a long lost friend.

When my ex-roommate left California, I never thought we’d dwell in the same building again. But then a few years passed. A few more chapters turned in our respective stories. Good ones, less-than-good ones.

And then, what do you know: life wrapping around like the faithful return of sunrise.

How great it’s been to reminisce on old times while forging new ones together. I couldn’t imagine the last year without a faithful friend to join me on countless Blue Ridge explorations and even some creative endeavors.

I started a podcast.

A little-known pipe dream of mine these last few years has been to start a podcast. I never quite knew what I would want to talk about — traveling? struggling? Survivor? — only that I wanted one.

I hit the road for nine months and fell in love with the medium, listening to long-form shows about Christianity and creativity and, yes, Survivor.

Podcasts: a chance for the written word to breathe new life in audible form.

My ex-ex-roommate and I have now produced eight episodes of the YOBcast, and I’m so proud of this show and the community formed in its wake. My brothers and I are simply gathering around a microphone and telling real stories. We’re laughing and we’re bonding and we’re letting others in on the conversation.

We’re helping people all over the world know they’re not alone.

I launched a Patreon.

Fundraising has always been the bane of my existence. I hated doing it with my Christian high school’s Christmas catalogs, the ones with the little wrapping paper samples in the back. I’ve grown cynical toward people who “raise support” for ministry jobs when I’m not entirely sure what this “ministry” entails.

Couldn’t they at least work part-time at a coffee shop to make ends meet?

Two years ago, I felt guilty asking people for money to help me complete an epic road trip and, one day, produce an epic book of my adventures. To my humbled joy, those people supported my Kickstarter and my dream.

I haven’t forgotten about your support; believe me, I want that book to be finished more than you can know. I’m believing in 2017.

It’s still hard asking for money, if I’m being honest. But now that I’ve launched a Patreon, I’m also feeling affirmed and validated for the content I’m producing — blogs, podcasts, videos, even community in the form of a Facebook group and regular video calls.

Your Other Brothers started out as a little thing me and my friends wanted to do, and it’s turned into something that other people want to be part of, too.

For the first time since publishing Struggle Central, the work I do feels meaningful: the long hours in a coffee shop, the outlines and the edits, the recordings and re-recordings, the scheduled calls and email replies and even face-to-face visits.

After only a few months, Your Other Brothers is currently raising $710/month on Patreon, and the possibilities are truly endless as to where God will take this community, this brotherhood, this movement next.

I traveled and welcomed travelers into my home.

2016 was another epic year of travels. I ventured to the Midwest for an annual summer retreat with my other brothers. I traveled to Virginia for my sister’s college graduation. I traveled to Eden for a weekend with my grandparents. I traveled to Nashville and Chattanooga and up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I traveled home to Georgia, and I traveled from one corner of Asheville to the next.

But beyond my usual assortment of travels, this year will be especially remembered as the year I first welcomed travelers into a home of my own.

I hosted my first Couchsurfer after using the website to walk into 40 other people’s homes. And then I hosted approximately a dozen other strangers-turned-friends from all over the US and Northern Ireland and Poland.

I hosted my parents and my brother and my sister and her husband and showed them around my new town.

I hosted friends from Minnesota and Missouri and Tennessee and Georgia and Alabama and Maryland and Delaware and New Zealand.

Everyone who slept in my home signed my wooden daybed with permanent ink, a proud tradition, and each one has blessed me more than he or she will ever know.

For whatever reason, these folks from coast-to-coast and ocean-to-ocean saw me worthy of visiting. Over and over. All year long.

And, to think, it only took me 29 years to reach this realization.

You know. Maybe 2016 wasn’t all that bad.

But still.

Good riddance.

  • Jim Kellogg

    I love reading your blog, Tom. Keep striving, creating, and being.

  • naturgesetz

    Lots of really great stuff there! Glad you assembled it in a single post.