“What brought you here?”
When a writing project starts bothering me while I’m sitting in church, I know it’s something I must begin writing. I’ve been reading a lot lately and it’s different. Some things have been sticking out to me. From my book on Heaven by Randy Alcorn and, quite obviously, from John Ortberg’s The Me That I Want To Be, things have been speaking [more like written (why can’t I spell out Squidward’s laugh?)] out to me saying this project ought to be finished. As I’ve hinted at previously, I was piecing together a beginning, a middle and an end in a church service at Sierra Community Church and after a quick conversation with a good friend of mine, I arrived upon the final piece. So, the question nags at me: With all the changes I’ve been experiencing, am I really me anymore?
First, A “Little” Backstory
On February 1st, 2017, I left a bad roommate situation by moving in with Max’s mother, Jo. Max and I have been such close friends, since middle school, that his mother thought of me as a third son right behind Max’s brother, Paul (who’s actually younger than me, but whatever). So, when she was informed that my biological mother, who shall from here on out be called “Julie”, was not being so motherly (or even a good room mate for that matter), she allowed me a room given that I would pay her a low-monthly-cost to contribute toward rent.
In addition, February 1st was also my first day of work at Jack in the Box. Jo was headed off to a three month trip to Australia at that time, so I’d be watching her house and pets even if I didn’t move in anyway. Since I was “working”1 at McDonald’s at the time, she thought she’d try to find me a job a little closer to her house. Upon asking Jack in the Box, she was immediately asked if I could come in for an interview the next day. I arrived at the interview and a few questions later, my first day was on February 1st. The shift to a new job and a new house was so quick, I figured it nothing less than the hand of God at work in my life.
Eventually, I arranged things so I could move out of the bad room mate situation with Julie and not have an eviction on my record if I was out on time and made the correct payments in a timely manner. After leaving that horrid situation, I began to notice the problems with how I was living life and began to make changes. Turns out, employers don’t like it when you don’t do your job and always answer enthusiastically when offered to go home early. I wasn’t making that mistake again. In fact, the first time Sarah asked me if I wanted to go home early, I was so distraught and answered very carefully, ” ‘Want‘ is an exceptionally strong word but if you want me to go home early, I will not object.” Although better than my last attempt, the way I lived was not what one might call respectable.
At the time, life was not incredibly fantastic. Here I was, 21-year-old college dropout, not even living with his own mother but a friend’s. I didn’t have very many friends, hence my desire to return to Redding (which was a plan in the works until June 2017). I didn’t have a place to cook due to a mouse infestation and kitchen organization. I thought, “Why not? There’s a Taco Bell and Jalisco’s [best Mexican food restaurant in Tahoe] just down the street, I work at Jack in the Box, I’ll buy a few 12-packs of soda every month (strictly Pepsi products) and if I need anything else, I can run to 7/11 around the corner! I’ve got nothing to lose and I’m not afraid to die. I’ll eat what I want and God can call me home when He feels I’m ready!”
However, while not changing the way I eat, soon thereafter, the game had changed. I had a good friend named Eric, who drove me to Church activities and hosted the occasional movie night. He introduced me to Heather and Alicia, who also became good friends. At the start of Summer, the four of us actually started our own personal Bible Study group. I became more involved with Third Place and Sierra Community Church. In April 2017, I met someone who I saw a future with.2 By mid-summer 2017, I knew things had to change. I wanted to change.
“I’m just some kid that works at Jack in the Box.”
I was ashamed of myself. How could I expect anyone to respect me? I worked fast-food! I lived on fast-food! I virtually lived with my mother! I spent most of my money on video games! My biggest concern was that my phone bill was paid on time. If I was a woman, would I want me? The answer is no. Who would, right? They would have to think, “What a child! He isn’t looking for a relationship. He just wants to take life easy.” Which is really a shame, because I’m so good-looking…
I needed to change. I want a wife. I’m not too sure about a family just yet but somewhere out there, there’s a woman I want to share the rest of my life with. God’s going to put her in my life eventually. It’s all about the right timing. I better be sure that when she gets here, she can see me the way I want her to see me: As the responsible, Christian adult that God made me to be.
Who will he be? What will he be like? . . . because I want to get there.
On the twenty-ninth of June 2018, I was at my job at Jack in the Box when I received a phone call. The month of June at Jack in the Box had not been well. They were cutting back my hours and I had a feeling this was the time they were finally going to let me go. With that in mind, I applied to three different positions at Harrah’s/Harvey’s Lake Tahoe. The week prior, I had participated in a panel interview which I thought didn’t go incredibly well, to be honest. Noticing that this phone call was from a (775) number, I was not going to miss this call. I go into the back and quietly answer the phone. “This is [so-so] from HR, and I heard from the Hotel that they want to offer you a job as a Front Desk Agent.” Stay calm, Christopher. It’s just a job.
“THE NEXT STEP IS WHAT IT IS!!!!!”, my mind screamed.
I could not be more filled with joy. Talk about a step up! I was so thankful to God! They said my first day of orientation was on the second of July 2018. There was not a doubt in my mind, this was the job for me. Social interaction with guests— not “customers” –, a lot of computer work, and just a little bit of math? I was virtually made for this job. In fact, I was so confident of my success, right after the phone call ended, I walked straight to my boss, Booe, told her I needed the second and third off for orientation and put in my two weeks notice!
I’ve been through it before, the only thing that would make this job “not work out” is a lack to do my job well (which was learned from McDonald’s) by trying to balance two jobs at the same time (which was learned from trying to balance Jack in the Box with Applebee’s). When I got home, I went straight to my email and accepted the job offer and the email said I was scheduled full-time. Wait, what? WHAT!?!? This is not only the job I was made for, but the job I was looking for! I was so happy, I took a screenshot of the job offer, named it “LOOK WHAT JESUS DID.jpg”, and sent to my best friend Max because he would get the reference. So as to say, I wouldn’t have time to keep Jack in the Box around anyway.
When I went to orientation, it was a full class of us learning about the company and the different jobs we would take on. The highlights that I took from the class were that I’d be there for a long time if I wanted to be, I’d get benefits after three months, and my schedule. Stability in a job is what I like to feel and one of the many things I didn’t enjoy about Jack in the Box, so the fact that Harrah’s/Harvey’s cares about their workers and consistently have at least forty hours per week means so much to me. Secondly, benefits were something I looked for in a job as well because I didn’t qualify for MediCal (they said I made too much money, which is a joke). Finally, I got my schedule and it was more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined as it allowed for me to attend regular church activities! This job was granted to me by my Heavenly Father.
Changing the Place of Residence…
Since I knew I would have the proper income, I started thinking about new places to live. Living with Jo was affordable and allowed me to feel like I had a little leg room and an understandable landlady if I wasn’t able to make rent on the unfortunate chance I didn’t make enough money from my job. However, I felt that if I continued to live with her, I’d always be living with my second mother (who actually was a lot more of a “mother” to me than Julie). In addition, because I had that additional cushion of safety if I couldn’t make rent, I couldn’t respect myself.
All my life, I’ve always been living with someone or had a person to look after me. Through my adolescence, my father always looked after me. After high school, I lived in Max’s house for a while before moving in with my dad who moved to Sparks. After I left Sparks a little under a year later, I moved to Los Banos with my sister, Alyssa. After I moved away from Alyssa, I moved back to Tahoe with my brother, Michael, during which time, my guardian(s) (if you want to call them that, I basically did) was a married couple, Eric and Elizabeth Soldahl. Afterward, I moved to college where my guardian(s) (if you want to call them that, I basically did) was another married couple, Michael and Anna Bowen. After that, I moved back to Tahoe with Julie (the bad room mate situation I spoke of earlier). When that didn’t work out, I moved in with Jo. I was never alone; I was never responsible to myself; I was never responsible.
So, when my friend, Nick Stewart, got married and moved out, his two roommates, Kyle and Barret, were looking for a replacement room mate. Now, he got married in May. When I first heard that the room was going to be available, I let both Kyle and Barret know that I wanted to move in but I was still working at Jack in the Box at the time. I told them that I was looking for a more stable job because my job with Jack in the Box was dwindling and after I found that job, I’d be ready to rearrange my life and move in with them. After I got my job with Harvey’s, that ambition was now a possibility.
As soon as I got my job at Harrah’s/Harvey’s Lake Tahoe, Kyle and Barret were some of the first people to know. Shortly after I got the job, I met with Kyle and Barret at their house. I told them I wanted to give it about a month at the new job to ensure its stability and average income but that the eventual relocation was almost a certainty. Afterward, Barret drove me to Third Place and, because of some issues I was having at the time, I actually wanted to leave early.
As I was leaving, Pastor Noah caught me before I departed and asked me what was wrong. I will not reveal the issues that I was having at the time but I will say that I suspected they were a result of my shift in self-development. I explained that I wanted to get a better job that can offer me full-time and benefits as well as move into a more respectable place of residence both so that I can prove to myself my responsibility and come closer to the creation God desires me to be. Ignoring the rest of that conversation to prevent myself from revealing too much, I’m going to tie this back to the idea that it all has to do with becoming the responsible, Christian adult that God made me to be. I moved in with Kyle and Barret on the fifteenth of August 20183.
Time to Grow Up
[for all my readers familiar with the Holy Bible, I know that this verse is out of context but for the sake of the theme, I’m going to use it]
When I had moved in, I got my own room. It already had a queen bed and a desk and a large bookshelf. When I moved in a few things, Jo said I keep a few things from the old room. Most things, like the office chair or the two (yes, two) minifridges in the room were already mine but I kept the bookshelf as I have many books leftover from Shasta Bible College. In addition to my bookcase, I set up my laptop on the desk and added my second, larger monitor to the laptop’s right. I also set up my Xbox One and television next to my bed. I bought a headset because all sound from the Xbox can be played through the headset even if I put my TV on mute. When I play games like Halo or watch Rick and Morty through Microsoft Movies and TV, I’d rather not have my roommates have to listen to the rather crass language in either. Though, Rick and Morty might not be as big a concern as it once was.
Not to say that I want my roommates to hear or see the vulgar entertainment value it might try to offer, but so as to say that I don’t find it very entertaining anymore. It might just be because I’ve seen every episode too many times or maybe it’s because Rachel helped me to see just how unfruitful it is concerning my relationship with God. Much in the same way, I don’t find Vine compilations on YouTube all too entertaining anymore either. At the time, I thought, “Give it a week, they’ll be funny again.” To this day, they’re not as entertaining as they once were. I suppose it could be considered a good thing, considering my spiritual life and eventual roommates. After my relocation, I had ambitions to rearrange my room and started moving around my expenses.
I began to envision the room without the queen bed. I’m a small guy. I don’t need a bed of that size in my room. I kept the full bed at Jo’s only because it wasn’t really “my” room but I was told that a friend of Kyle’s had use for the queen bed if I wanted to get myself a twin bed to free up space. So, I began by looking at the cost of mattresses and supports. While always making sure I budgeted so that I could have rent ready by the due date because I’m a responsible adult [obnoxious chuckle I imagine you’d hear from a high-class British gentlemen], I purchased a twin mattress from Walmart and sheets and the box spring from Amazon. Soon, this will be my room.
Soon after I began moving stuff in, I started putting books on all the shelves. After I did so, I took a good look and thought of how many books I have and considered my ambition to read them. I looked at my desk and saw my computer with the dual screen, “what do I use that for again?” Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft Movies and TV… Logos, but I hardly ever use that. For a while, I’ve been thinking that any computer screen would be bad on my eyesight anyway. I could afford to put the laptop and larger screen away, install Logos on my Surface Pro 3, use my Surface whenever I have something I’d like to do on the computer, and switch mainly to reading books. …and that’s what I did!
After I put away my computer and started reading more books (like Black by Ted Dekker which I already finished, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, The Me That I Want To Be by John Ortberg, or the Holy Bible by… God), a few more things began to change. I felt the desire to play video games on my Xbox as a pass-time significantly decrease. Xbox merely served as time apart from God. In addition, I really didn’t have all too many games I needed to finish. …or really wanted to complete, for that matter. Kingdom Hearts III when it comes out in 2057 maybe but books also encouraged a healthy spiritual life. For a long time, I’ve recognized video games as a factor to help pull me away from God. Maybe it was the fact that I had roommates, maybe it was the fact that I had Christian roommates, maybe it was the step I took in responsibility toward adulthood. Whatever the reason may be, I just don’t feel the desire to play video games as much.
The next change I have to speak on is a bit obscure but it really hammered in the idea that I was changing. A few days after I stopped using the computer as much, I was at work earlier than I usually am and I thought, “Why not get some pizza from Straw Hat for lunch?” I went up to the casino floor into Straw Hat and bought a personal sized pizza and went to the employee cafeteria to eat and grab a soda. The pizza was not good. It didn’t satisfy my taste buds! What!? That’s crazy, Christopher! Everybody likes pizza! That’s not even the craziest part! After I got home that night, I made myself a quick snack before bed. I prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pulled down the sour cream and onion Ruffles from my kitchen cabinet and ran to my room to grab a Pepsi from my minifridge. The peanut butter and jelly was delightful and the chips were crunchy and tasty but one sip of that Pepsi and I felt sick to my stomach. “Give it a week, I’ll get over it.” That was over a week ago. I’ve tried having pizza with soda at least three times throughout the week and they always make me feel less than terrific. I’ve always loved pizza and Pepsi has always been my soda of choice. Who was I becoming?
“Then I… wasn’t who I am?”
Before you start to think that I’m eternally finished with these things (if you haven’t thought that already), let me put a few things straight. I bought all three seasons on Microsoft Movies and TV, so there’s nothing stopping me from watching Rick and Morty. There’s no one blocking YouTube in order to prevent my search for random vine compilations. I can still eat pizza if it’s convenient and not too hard on my wallet. I still have four cans of Pepsi in my fridge4, not to mention the eight extra cans of Mountain Dew, either Voltage or Livewire (though, I honestly try to avoid them). Most importantly, because it was the most dramatic change, I still play the occasional Xbox Live session with a long-distance friend. Obviously, I’m on the computer to compose this blogpost. My point is not that these changes have permanently changed me but that I’m proud to denounce my interest/desire for them.
There’s an episode in Rick and Morty where each member of the family is having flashbacks to fake memories because [insert long explanation that wouldn’t make sense]. In said episode, Rick “remembers” a time when he was freaking out about a Nintendo 3DS sale at– Walmart, I believe –, and he was telling everyone about the terrific sale while handing out the 3DS consoles he already bought. When I saw an $87 pair of wireless headphones on a Prime-exclusive sale for $17, I immediately tried to call Rachel to get a mailing address since she lost a pair of wireless headphones one day while we were walking to church. Shortly after the call ended, the scene from Rick and Morty flashed quickly through my head and I chuckled at it’s similarity to my situation. However, every time I try to watch the show, I can’t find it funny anymore probably because I’ve laughed at them so many times, I can withhold my laughter long enough to see it for the vulgar, spiritually-opposed show that it is.
The other day at work, all the international students that arrived to work in America for the summer were leaving so my supervisor ordered a pizza party for them. In the office of the hotel, there sat a pepperoni pizza atop a combination pizza from Costco. I used to like Costco pizza. Very much, actually. I had a few slices. They did make me feel less than fantastic but there was nothing wrong with the taste. The same goes for Pepsi or any other type of soda. There’s free drinks at work and Harrah’s/Harvey’s is one of the very few people who endorse Pepsi products so I’ll occasionally have a cup on my lunch. It’s not that my taste for Pepsi or pizza has gone away, I just physically realize that they’re not too good for me.
Now, the biggest change was undeniably in my use of electronic devices. What happened was I put away my laptop and second monitor and pulled out my Surface Pro 3. It’s really a lot more convenient. Honestly, I find it a comfortable replacement for my laptop. I only turn it on when I want to write posts like this or check Facebook since I uninstalled it from my phone5. After the laptop went away I stopped using the Xbox. I’ll turn it on if there’s a movie I want to watch on Microsoft Movies and TV and I want a larger screen or if my friend from Shasta Bible College wants to play a multiplayer session of Halo but other than that, the few other times I’ve turned it on, I find everything to do on the Xbox unattractive. Which was a really big change for me.
While observing all the changes in my life, I began to consider writing them down. The thought stayed with me for a while and when I was at Sierra Community Church on Sunday, the ninth of September 2018, I knew it was time. While sitting at the kitchen table that night after church, I had a conversation about this document’s composition. I told my roommate about the changes I’ve been experiencing. I told him that there’s been a dramatic change in how I use computers and that computers were such a large part of my life before, I wondered if I was still me. That thought stemmed from the books I’m reading. In Heaven by Randy Alcorn, he speaks on how the present earth will be redeemed and transformed into the New Earth in the age I so desperately look forward to. More directly, I began to read The Me That I Want To Be by John Ortberg. Ortberg expresses that God created you to be you and he emphasizes on not trying or pretending to anyone else. So the question arose: Am I still me? Who am I without computers? My roommate put in his two cents: “Well, that would have to mean you were those other things.” I needed to hear that.
End of Line/The New Me
I am not those other things! I am me; nobody else. Noticing that I don’t use computers as often anymore and the effect that it had on all surrounding areas of life, I am awestruck by the incredible, amazing and stupendous work that only God could do in my life. There were so many times I thought to myself, “if I could just let go of computers and turn to reading more and eating less; that’s the mountain separating me from the life God wants me to have.” There was always a reason to keep using the computer and there was always a reason to turn on my Xbox. Not anymore.
But Christopher! Computers are such a big part of you; who would you be without them? And video games are so much fun. And the Xbox can do so much more than simply play video games. The Xbox can also allow you access to your favorite shows! Watch, just turn it on, one last time…
– My Sinful Nature
Finally, I can move on and although I chose my path, I cannot dismiss that the Lord directed my steps the whole time. I wouldn’t have let go of computers and Xbox if I didn’t have incentive from my bookshelf and limited desk space and I wouldn’t have the bookshelf or the desk if I didn’t move in to my own room and I couldn’t have afforded rent for the new home if I didn’t get the new job, and I’ve even told my supervisor that the job was unmistakably, without a doubt in my mind, a gift from God! I am none but thankful to God for allowing me a better view of the real me and I’m thankful for all the steps He’s directed me towards to get me here.
1Air quotes because I was actually working less than 16hrs/week.
2Rachel and I are not dating. There is nothing special between us. However, I will admit that there was a time when she motivated me to be better than I was because I sought a significant relationship with her. We’re just really close friends.
3Technically, I moved in with them on the twenty-second because I was still housesitting for Jo on the fifteenth of August and my schedule wouldn’t allow a “moving date” before then but still, I paid for half of August’s rent. Officially speaking, I moved in on the fifteenth.
4Make that three; I had one with lunch today.
5In addition to uninstalling Facebook from my phone in attempts to prevent my use of the mobile device, I’ve stopped listening to my “I’m Rocking Out” playlist in exchange for my “Classic Study” playlist actually.