Being an adult is not child’s play. In many ways, I am an independent man, a self-starter, and as mature as my beard. Some might even say wise beyond my years, but I’m far too humble to accept that kind of praise.
In other—potentially more important—ways, I am still living out my adolescence. I’m not talking about the fact that I still eat peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwiches for lunch with Spider-man gummies, or that I still ask waiters to cut everything from my burgers except the meat, cheese, and buns. Though those might say a lot about my youthful mindset, I have found some other facets of my life that are potentially harmful to my wellbeing and general survival as a human.
Since moving to Dallas in August, I have fallen into my fair share of small misfortunes. Two weeks into teaching, I totaled my trusty Suburban in the middle of a rainstorm. A woman jerked into my lane and took the party van right out of my life. I hated the size of that car, but I loved the ability to carry 8-10 friends at all times. It was a measurable way of knowing I had friends.
When the police arrived on the scene, though the woman accepted blame for the accident, the cops gave her the umbrella they brought. It is an unspoken rule that the driver not at fault should get the umbrella in a rainstorm, but these officers seemed more concerned with chivalry than road rules. Go figure.
So here I am, standing in the rain for two hours on the side of the highway, telling a Dallas sheriff that it doesn’t matter that I’m an adult living on my own, I still need to call my dad to ask him where to get my car towed. Later, when he gave me a ride in the back of his police car to the Jack in the Box, I knew I wasn’t being punished but I felt like I was in trouble so I stayed quiet anyway. I also tried to take a selfie in the back of the police car, but the product looked like I was in the back of any car so it wasn’t even worth it.
Without a car for a month, I managed to unknowingly give my debit card information to someone who spent $11 at a Mexican restaurant with a disconnected phone line. Very convenient. I cancelled my card and ordered a new one, lived on $40 cash for two weeks, then realized that perhaps they had forgotten to send a new one, which was indeed the case.
While waiting for that card for a third week, I dropped my phone in the toilet because I wanted to make sure another personal disaster awaited me at the end of the debit card saga. I couldn’t replace the phone because I had no card to pay for said phone, so I went without a phone for two weeks and sent messages over Facebook like a dinosaur. It was a liberating experience, but I also spent a lot of time wondering how many people would remember I existed when I got a new phone.
After attaining a new car, card, and cellular, I really felt like life was looking pretty good for me. I was feeling courageous, so I decided to try my hand at household tasks to pull my weight in the apartment. One Sunday morning, I ran a dishwasher for the first time in all of my life. I put the dishes in, fired it up, then got in the shower feeling proud. When I came out, I thought, “Man, the apartment smells great. Very soapy.
Note to dishwasher novices: Dishwashing soap and dishwasher soap are apparently NOT the same thing. I’m still not sure what the difference is, or which brainiac decided to name them practically THE SAME THING but the difference does involve the kitchen being flooded or not.
I came out to the kitchen to see the soap monster rising from the ground to deep clean the kitchen floor, and started panicking. I immediately began to shovel soap into the sink with just my boxers and the last of my pride going down the drain with the dishwashING soap. It was the classic movie montage of a young adult learning he really doesn’t know how to do anything.
On top of everything, I got into a heated debate with an online store about the download of the new Justin Timberlake album not working and then my car battery died on Friday while on the way home from Half Price Books. I barely made it home amidst the sputtering of my car and the honks of people trying to tell me that my lights were out, but make it I did. Just in time, too, for me to spend five hours on Saturday with my family and friends helping me put a new battery in my car.
You might be asking why it took five hours for a simple exchange of batteries. Well, the thing about not having a battery in your car is that if your car can only be opened by remote and the remote only works if there is a battery in your car, then you have to break into the hood of your car to get the battery into your car to get the car open again. Classic, right?
I truly feel as if Lemony Snicket is narrating my life right now. But that’s okay; I am learning a lot about how to wash dishes, which friends know how to break into cars, and why we don’t use our phones while peeing. It’s all very crucial information to my becoming an adult.
A common question my friends ask of me is, “What is your life?” My life is an accident waiting to happen. I am not just accident-prone; I am accident-destined.
All of these minor misfortunes have made me think about the moments we fall into by mistake. I’m no Good Luck Chuck; most of the things that happen to me are seemingly not on purpose.
And yet, here I am in Dallas, living in the city I have loved since I came to see my first show in Deep Ellum in 2005 (Panic! at the Disco, because I was SO emo). I never thought I would end up here on a permanent basis.
I never thought working with teenagers in churches throughout college would lead me to become a teacher, the job I feel I was born to do.
I never thought loving rap music would help me talk to 7th graders about why Kendrick Lamar is a lot like Ponyboy from The Outsiders, and what they can both tell us about not giving into peer pressure.
I never thought that being bullied in the 6th grade and then struggling through college to find a self-esteem would help me tell insecure preteens that they will love themselves if it is the only thing I teach them.
I never thought that starting a band in college for fun would turn into playing shows at the very same place I saw my first show, and having friends come out and tell me I inspire them to be who they are and say what they feel and live out passions they used to only dream about.
I’m beginning to feel like my life, though full of accidents, is very much on purpose. Despite the mishaps I seem to be a magnet for, I am also drawn to living a life full of meaning that can be an example to others. I am not a how-to guide for being a responsible adult, but I am a how-to guide for trusting that we are not here by chance.
We are not living in the places we are living, doing the things we are doing, with the people that we are with, by happenstance. We are very much where we are because we are meant to do something important in the lives of the people around us.
I am still wandering through this world lost, kicking myself for every stupid stroke of bad luck I fall into and every real regret I carry. But I am no longer wondering what I am here for; I am the only one who can do what I was uniquely and specifically put here to do. For my students, for my friends, for my family, and for God.
It’s time we stop living like everything is an accident. You are on purpose. You are here to do something only you can do. You are a piece of the puzzle, purposely and purposefully made.
Even if your life is full of misfortune, you are fortunate enough to make the moments that really matter count. Just remember: The dishwasher soap goes in the dishwasher. It’s really not that hard.