Saturday, June 09, 2007

half birthdays and my second 16 years

So back on my 32nd birthday (32, by the way is 2 raised to the 5. Which is kind of kewl because most people are never going to reach the next number raised to the fifth, so it's really the only time in your life when you'll be anything to the fifth. but I digress) I posted the negativity avoidant 4 minute version of my first 16 years. So my lovely sister Rachel asked "when do we get the next 16 years?" I'd been planning to do them on my half birthday, may 6, which passed a little over a month ago. Here they are at last.
My second 16 years, the 4 minute version

So when I was 16 years old I was home schooling for high school, and had a pretty mellow schedule. I finished all my high school maths by the end of 10th grade and then had to slog through all the other subjects with no more maths to look forward to. Alas. I was done with 11th grade when I was sixteen, and then I mostly goofed off for a whole year so that I didn't graduate until I was 18. I got lots and lots of boomph from tons of universities all over the nation because of my rather high college placement exam scores, and then I foolishly decided to go off to the $30,000/year Seattle Pacifica University, where I entered the honors program and suddenly found myself surrounded by other people who were as smart as I was, a very unusual experience for me.

So at 19 I was working 40 hours a week at domino's pizza, going to school full time, and commuting 100 round trip miles a day between my parent's house and university (staying on campus would have bumped up the cost to over $40,000/year.). Plus I believed back then that it was a really really bad idea to go into debt for education, so I wouldn't take any loans. All this led to a running out of money, motivation, and energy at about the same time and I dropped out of school.

I worked a series of dead end jobs for a number of years, kind of ... drifting. I was also gradually working my way into rather a lot of trouble, which I didn't realize at the time. I was also increasingly involved in the sect I had been involved in since the age of 12. I helped us transition from hymnals to overhead projection of song lyrics. I had a little voice training from my pastor's wife (who has a music degree) and her daughter (who is quite the vocalist, actually), and I picked up a guitar somewhere and taught myself to play.

I had a terrible awful crush on a girl for the first time, and I never told her--just tried to avoid it somehow. I wrote a few songs. I learned to square dance, and my lovely sister and I used to go to square dances with some other friends. My sister and I became pretty good friends. I became the go-between for my parents and my sister when they couldn't seem to communicate. Everyone thought I was really.... "godly" and maybe even "mature". I got really really good at pretending--two faced--one face for my church friends and family, and one rather lonely and evil face. I both hated myself and thought I was better than other people, all at the same time.

I got involved in political campaigns for right wing republican candidates. I memorized the whole book of proverbs, in the king james translation. I went on fishing trips and hunting trips with guy friends. I learned to speak in public, doing 3 minutes on world missions every Sunday morning at the sect.

I went off on a two year missions trip on MV LOGOS II, and learned to keep watch over big generators and enormous main engines. Every Wednesday morning I cleaned out the sewage filters and Mateus told me that’s what Jesus would do. I visited some 20 countries and met and befriended people from more than 30, and lost my tiny little sectarian worldview without even realizing it, and when I got back I didn’t fit in anymore.

I met and fell in love with a beautiful Australian girl and we wed on a beach in Australia. I got 4 new brothers and 4 new sisters.

I found out that my granddad is a pedophile. I worked as an auto mechanic for 4 years. We had two beautiful daughters. I got into recovery. I got sick of being hurt by churches and stopped going. I integrated my two faces. I became real. I found my no. I started to find my yes. I stopped being a Christian. I went back to university. I came to understand the fundamental theorem of calculus. I started learning how to be otherly. I started blogging. I started listening to people. I started to get over being afraid. I started to move toward being happy.

Names from second 16 years (I could tell stories about all of them). Matt and Karen, and John Z and John Sheunemann, and Peter, and Rachel and Tom and Sam and Seren, and David and Gretta and Meg and Eowyn and Coco and Chad and Shawn and the Thomases and Brandie and James and Stephen and Mike and Tom and Bill and Wendy and Doug and Robin and Dennis and Judy and Danica and Joe and Simon F. and Myles and John Ramey and Simon and Eva and Dirk Jan and Jason and Kathy and Kat and Buddy and Bruce and Ellen and Val and Tiffany and Jake and Andrew and Sammie and Mateus and Andy Juliff and Andy Kiwi and Dileep and Cliff and Tracy Lai and Estafania and Tom and Alex and oh golly I could just go on and on and on but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the story.


JadeEJF said...

It's neat to read about your life. I suppose I should probably do something similar sometimes. Lots of things are different since the last time I wrote a short bio. Do you mind my asking which sect you were a part of?

Benjamin Ady said...


Not at all--questions are always welcome. I was part of a fundamental, independent baptist, king james only, anti-homosexual, extreme right wing republican war mongering (I could go on) church in Monroe Washington from 1987 until 2001.

Anonymous said...

dear ben,
i grew up in a church where most people seemed to figure out their lives by eighteen, get married at twenty-one and have children at twenty-two (that's the female half anyways, add a year or two for the guys). i've always felt like marriage and kids were the beginning of the end. your story gives me hope and a sense of freedom to... and this seems like such an obvious thing... continue to grow and change.
thanks for sharing.

Benjamin Ady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megs said...

Thank you for sharing some of your story! I'm honoured to be part of it!

Thank you for sharing some of your story!


Benjamin Ady said...


I'm stoked to hear that my story helped create space in which you could hope and gain a sense of freedom. The church you grew up in sounds like a difficult place for a lady who wanted to perhaps do some other things first and marry and/or have kids a bit later, or not at all? Here's to freedom AND community, if such a thing is possible =)

JadeEJF said...

Oh dear :/ That does sound stiflingly terrible. Anyone that's KJV-only gets poo-pooed by me on principle. I like its language from time to time, but it's *clearly* not the best translation out there.

And as for the rest, well... phooey on that too. :P I think your description solidly hit just about every bit of Christian churches that embarrasses me, and makes me uncomfortable in calling myself a Christian! Except maybe legalism, but maybe that falls under fundamentalist? IMHO, legalism is the worst and most insidious of church-centered sin. It, too, is poo-pooed by me! :D

Justin said...

THeres lots in there. THank you, Benjamin. But I did want to say that I'm deeply saddened -- and angry -- to hear about your Grandad.

May I offer a reflection: It appears to me that you are not ex-Christian at all. But you are ex-sect, ex-Republican, ex-two-faced, ex-narrow, ex-churches-that-hurt, ex-fundamentalist, ex-KJV. I guess a little like Jesus was ex-sin and ex-injustice.

From what you have written, about the only thing you are not is ex-Christian.

Tell me I'm wrong!

Benjamin Ady said...


Far be it from me to tell you you're wrong.

You're wrong =)

No. Just kidding. I mean what the hell is "wrong", anyway? I guess we have to ask ourselves what we mean by "christian", don't we? What *I* mean is "Someone who buys into the things Jesus *said*, and who is trying to on purpose *do* and *say* followingly/likish Jesus.

By this definition, I don't call myself a Christian because while I like *some* of the things Jesus says, and I want to act like that, I have two problems. The first is, I can't and I don't act like that, despite wanting to. And the second is, *some* of the things he says strike me as completely and totally off the wall, and I altogether disagree with him (sometimes, anyway).

Justin said...

OK. Thats fair.

Which things do you disagree with? (I think I've heard some things before.) And why do you disagree with them?

(Have you noticed how hard it is for almost anyone to disagree with Jesus? Heck, you get athiests who struggle to disagree with Jesus. Its why they attack the "Institutional" Church. and "Organized" Religion. Much easier than disagreeing with Jesus.)

But I digress -- what did he do or say that was IYHO crazy?

Benjamin Ady said...


This is just first off the top of my head. Jesus says that God is way nicer than us and will give us what we need--you know that bit where he says "Which of you, if your son or daughter asked you for a fish to eat, would give them a live king cobra? And so forth. Well, if you, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God give good things to those that ask him?"

This is problematic. I mean it's true in the sense that God *does* fail to give good things to those who ask in the same way that human parents fail their own children. And he does fail much more spectacularly than human parents, in one sense. But it seems to me that this is the opposite of what Jesus is saying. 30,000 children will die today from poverty, and another 30,000 tomorrow. And their parents, in many cases, are crying out to god for the food and water they need for them. approximately 600 civilians will die in violent ways in the one smallish nation of Iraq this week. so many in that nation and around the world are crying out to god for the violence to cease. It is inordinately clear that god either cannot or will not give good things to those who ask him in many if not most cases. So I disagree with Jesus on this. I think he is just way out there.

Justin said...

Benjamin -- I do mean to respond. I've been on vacation...

Will do so when I get back to NYC...