I still remember the first time that I wanted to leave.
They say that home is where your heart is. But being born into a broken home infers that you are born with a broken heart. My parents divorce wasn’t something that happened to me. It was something that happened before me. I think. I don’t actually know if it happened before or directly after my birth, but the hospital pictures of just baby me and my dad and me and just my mom…
I came into this world to two parents who had broken hearts. Their only child before me died 10 months prior to my birth. He was 2 months old. My brother’s death ripped my parent’s young marriage apart. By the time I first opened my eyes, the love that my mom and dad shared had slowly rotted it’s way into sad stone. It’s mold smelled of bitterness and drifted towards one another, towards deity, towards death, towards life.
It was probably also the first time that I cried and there wasn’t anyone or anything that could make it better with a bandaid and a kiss/hug. The reality of the long term affect of my parent’s decisions prior to my life was becoming clear to me. My dad was driving me back to my mom’s house after spending the weekend with him. I wanted to see him more than every other weekend. I also wanted to play basketball and football with my neighborhood friends more than every other weekend. But I was only 6 or 8 years old. For the next 10 years or so I was going to have to deal with the deck that I had been given. As an adult you grow accustomed to that. But as a child, it was so hard and confusing and unfair. My heart was torn between my dad’s house and my mom’s house. While at one, I would think about the other. What would it have been like to have my dad and mom live in the same home and raise me? Knowing them both, it probably wouldn’t have been good. But I wondered.
I was realizing the struggle/sadness that I was born into. Not of my choice. Not something that happened to me along the way and drastically changed everything. It was just what I was born into. And for the first time as a kid riding home with my dad being shipped back to my mom’s house…I was sad about it.
And I knew that this was the way my life would be for quite a while.
And I wanted to leave…
But I was just a kid.
I grew up very uncomfortable with change. I liked that we had mostly the same meals cooked at home on a regular basis. I liked that I knew what my weekend schedule looked like (playing sports with peers, watching sports late at night by myself, great church with the best youth group around). My unorthodox lifestyle of switching homes every other weekend had become “normal” for me and I didn’t like for that to be disrupted.
And despite all of this…I wanted to leave.
When I was about 20 years old I was offered a job in Georgia. It was a dream type job for me with someone who was a mentor of sorts in my life. I wanted to take it so incredibly bad. But I knew that I was not done in Orlando. I had to finish school first. And that broke my heart. I was ready to go.
The summer that Brittany and I were engaged to be married we spent in Maryland. We interned at a church there. A short time after my internship was over and I was back home in Orlando, that church called. They were looking for a youth pastor. I was on the short list of candidates. I had a couple of interviews and they were very interested. Unfortunately, I still had not finished my degree at UCF. And I knew that I owed it to those who had invested so much into me to obtain my degree, that I could not stop now for the sake of a job elsewhere. There were a lot of reasons I had taken some time off from college. But the truth is that it was my responsibility to finish what I had started. And although I wanted to leave, I was not done in Orlando. Again I had to decline a great job that I would have loved. I was broken hearted. I was ready to go.
To make this story much shorter…I have always wanted to leave. For a ton of reasons. I lived in Orlando for 28 years. I spent way too many years, but I finally did get my bachelors. Brittany and I had always known that we wanted to move. But we had to get some things accomplished before we could seriously consider that option.
So we both finished school. At the same time we both became almost radical about paying off debt. We completed what we needed to complete in Orlando. I helped my church, Eastpoint Fellowship, get into a new building. I felt that I did the best I knew how to finish at the church well and to leave my position better off than it was left to me. That isn’t an indictment of how it was left to me. I would strive to elevate the level of excellence no matter how great something was left into my responsibility. And I truly feel I was able to do that. Right now Eastpoint is being led in worship by someone who was a mentor to me. Someone who I felt was the best worship leader in Orlando. And someone who I know will raise the level for the next person to come along and take the torch at that position.
If I stayed in Orlando, I would have grown old and bitter. That would have nothing to do with most people’s experience there. But for Jason, this is what I have left after years and years of it:
– Driving multiple times a week past the area of Orlando that my mom lived her last years. Seeing that Walgreens sign off Lake Picket reminded me of the tragedy of a 2 years daily watching my mom die. Going to pick up her multiple chemo pills…
– Christmas in Orlando. Worst moments of my life. I spent Christmas after Christmas after Christmas running myself ragged trying to make sure I met everyone’s expectations. Make sure to hit your mom’s house for breakfast, dad’s house on the opposite side of the city afterwards. Step dad’s home back on the east side at some point. And every time you left one of those places you felt the sadness in the eye’s of that homeowner that you had to leave and drive 20 miles somewhere else. Christmas also represented the time when my mom and stepdad told me they were divorcing. So that was always in my mind as I drove around the city. While many celebrated Jesus around that holiday, I questioned weather or not he cared about me.
– UCF. I don’t think I’ve ever wrote about this. But I hate UCF. They tried so many ways to screw me out of more and more and more and more and more money it is unbelievable. I had classes the semester that I dropped to go to AZ to be with my mom during her surgery to remove a tumor. I dropped the classes 1 day after the add/drop deadline. I didn’t realize this as my life was a bit in a scramble. The next semester when I went to register I found out I owed around 2K. I spoke to someone who kindly told me I just needed to appeal the amount owed for the previous semester. I hadn’t actually attended any of those classes. I made my official appeal. And officially the university denied my appeal and stated that I must pay for those classes I never attended before I could enroll in any future classes. I don’t dislike UCF b/c I grew up a Gator fan. I dislike them b/c of this. By the time I was able to pay for the 2K on my own, the list of classes required for my degree changed and included an additional 2 full-time semesters of courses that previously wouldn’t have been required.
These are just a few of the things that I have endured, but now I no longer have to. I totally understand that I can’t run away from memories. But I believe, after 28 years…it is ok for me to run away. I have some incredible things to look back on in Orlando and thank God for. But now it is time to move on for me. Now it is time to follow the God-given desire to move.
And we have done just that.
Until Part 2…