A Christian. A Human. (Exhausted and Lonely.)

If you want to be a Christian because you want people to think of you as better than everyone else, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Ever since I was young, I was warned that “the world”–this nebulous entity that was at once everyone and on one–would not understand what I believed, because being a Christian meant being “set apart.”

As a kid growing up in churches and Christian schools, I don’t think I ever really understood what this looked like until I entered college, and by extension, “the world.” No longer a nebulous entity, the world was a tangible reality: my friends, my classmates, people I would meet and would like and would get along with until one of two things happened: my “real self” got too much to handle, or my beliefs would become a sticking point.

It was usually the former, let’s be clear. There’s a reason I’m seeing a therapist right now: without going into to much detail, I’m currently learning to be an appropriate human. It’s a project I’ve put under the generic battlecry of “be better,” at once an acknowledgment that I have a worse and also a statement of optimism that I can learn to be someone who isn’t only good at making friends, but good at keeping them.

But I digress.

In a Christian school, Jesus and the Bible, all the doctrines and tenets, are the norm. Of course, belief in all these things can still be 100% nominal, but at the very least the appearance of Christianity puts you squarely in the majority. I didn’t necessarily like all the norms and trappings of my Christian school life, but I will admit that one thing I miss about it was how much my belief in Jesus didn’t “rock the boat.”

I started typing a list of things I believe that are considered “controversial,” but couldn’t bring myself to put pen to paper for the fear of:

  1. Being misunderstood.
  2. Getting angry comments.

Out here, I am the minority. I’ve taken to jokingly calling myself “the bigot” as a sort of advance warning that my beliefs aren’t always what people would consider “woke” these days.

I’m not as good a communicator as I used to think I was. I’ve realized that now. I’m rarely able to get across that my belief in Christ, my reliance in the absolute truth of the Word of God to guide my life, does not mean I stand in judgment of people who don’t. Or, if I am, I can’t seem to avoid frustrating people when I refuse to accept their alternate, more politically correct (for the lack of a better term? Using woke a second time feels like I’m trivializing things. See what I mean by I’m a sucky communicator?) readings of the Scripture, in favor of my unwavering attachment to orthodoxy.

The best case scenario, so far, is that people assume that all my opinions are based solely on my faith and its “inherent biases.”

(I want to scream that we all have inherent biases.)

I never used to like going to church. I think I’ve talked about how sometimes I can feel like that lone sinner in church, because…well, honestly, because of my own insecurities and a misplaced sense of pride that has me thinking I’m the “worst of all sinners.”

It’s complicated. My brain is a mess.

Anyway, I never used to like going to church. And I never used to treasure church relationships. When I was younger, some of those supposed trusted Christian relationships got a little too legalistic, to the point that it felt like I was being policed. I was told to stop calling my old blog Sarcastic Kitty because “sarcasm” wasn’t a positive personality trait. I was told to stop taking pole fitness lessons because “it didn’t look good.”

As I’ve gotten older, learned to distinguish a little better–not by that much, to be honest–between legalism and faith, I’ve opened up a bit more. I still feel my personality, with all its weird quirks, is “more worldly” than the people I often encounter in church. I do find myself lapsing into a sort of filtered “church speak” with certain acquaintances in the church circle who I’m not particularly close to.

But, for the most part, I’ve become comfortable being my real self in church, warts and all.

I used to think that church people couldn’t understand me, and my non-Christian friends did. After all, my first college barkada were a bunch of super-religious Catholics, and I was summarily excommunicated from that barkada after two weeks, only to be scooped up and more-or-less tolerated by a group who would happily sing-shout every single lyric of the musical RENT in public without batting an eye.

And I mean every. single. lyric.

But as I’ve gotten older, gained and lost friends, found myself in more circles and gotten kicked out of them…my sense of superiority must concede defeat. I used to think I was too cool for my fellow church Christians.

Now, I think they are the only people who understand me.

In public, I’m not my real self. My faith isn’t something I hide, but it’s something I keep under wraps, don’t bring up unless asked. It’s tiring, being misunderstood. It’s tiring, watching someone who enjoyed your company just a few seconds ago suddenly turn a bit more distant upon finding out just what you believe or, worse yet, accepting you only to become increasingly cold when they find out you refuse to change those beliefs.

It’s tiring, because…it all feels a little undeserved? I’m not standing on the corner, picketing at Pride with the Westboro Baptist Church. I don’t post on social media declaring women who’ve had an abortion “MURDERERS!” even though I’m very strongly pro-life. I’m not condemning anyone as an abomination, in any channel, anywhere.

Instead, I accept that people will choose to live the way they want to, even if I would want differently for them. I’ve said it before; my hands are free of stones. I’m will judge you and condemn you for using foundation as a whitening product. I won’t judge and condemn you for hooking up with someone you met on Tinder.

I’m petty and bourgeois and more than a little elitist, but I know how much compassion can mean to someone, that people have a fundamental need for love and understanding, that the world can be cruel and unusual and we all need a hand to hold. I strive to be that hand to hold, not because I’m a saint, but because I’m so incredibly lonely sometimes and I don’t want anyone else feeling this way, dealing with this gaping hole in their chest the way I do on a regular basis.

I’ve been reading the Psalms again. Here’s a bit from them that resonates.

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.

For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4-5 (NIV)

I never used to understand the idea of hiding in the tabernacle, of wanting to be near God to the exclusion of everything else. After all, the world is so. much. fun. There are pretty clothes and breakout rooms and music and KPop boys and friends and jokes and movies and airplanes and new cities and good food and shared stories.

But lately…I get it. Because in front of God, or with the few Christian friends I’ve managed to keep despite my superiority complex, I can say anything without fear of offending. I can be myself without the pain of being misunderstood.

Because it gets exhausting, having other people’s idea of what your faith means becoming their substitute for your actual identity and motivations.

Because all the clothes and friends and adventures and music and food and memories…they really do stop mattering when you watch someone’s face turn hard and their air turn cold because they’ve found out just what you believe, or that you refuse to change your beliefs.

I’ve become disillusioned with just how awesome this life is, to be honest. I wouldn’t mind moving on to Heaven already, to sit at Jesus’s feet and just praise Him and not have to worry that I’ll be misunderstood or that I’ll offend anyone or if I’m making sense.

If you want to be a Christian because you want people to think of you as better than everyone else, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Believe me. I know.

[Worldwide Handsome Day, 2019] In Seoul (demo ver.)

Two years ago, I was in the middle of what I have now come to learn was an untreated depressive episode, compounded by major life changes: new job, going back to school, my band breaking up. I was turning twenty-five, an age where I felt people are supposed to have at least some their life together and have something to show for it. Instead I was starting over. I was lost. I was scared. I wanted to give up.

A friend introduced me to KPop, figuring having something else to focus on would help. Instead, I fell down the rabbit hole that is Bangtan Sonyeondan, and fell “in love” with my bias, Kim Seokjin and his solo song, AWAKE. Listening to the lyrics–ones he’d written himself and pushed for, having been rejected 20 times–made me feel like someone had finally understood where I was: knowing I would never fly, but wanting to run a little bit longer.

That year, I would release the first original I would write in Jin’s honor. It was called “Golden,” and it promised that, though I knew Jin’s “legs might get tired” from “chasing down the sky,” the love he put in the world would be worth the exhaustion, because it would always come back to him. I truly believed that for him.

In hindsight, I guess, I also wanted to believe that promise for myself.

“Golden” started something of a tradition: every year, I would record something in view of a December 4, 12AM KST (December 3, 11PM Manila Time) release. It would be a song that was for Jin, but also for me–a recap of the year that was, of the things I was learning, of the person I was becoming as I kept running, just a little bit longer, the way Jin sang that he would.

This year, I find myself in a similar place as two years ago. I am facing major life changes: withdrawing from school, applying to a new course, my job growing in new ways, leaving the org I co-founded. I am turning twenty-seven. I still don’t think I have my life together. I still doubt I have anything to show for the years I’ve spent existing. I am still a little lost. I am still scared.

But I don’t want to give up anymore.

While I am, in many ways, the same girl as I was in 2017–lacking in many ways, making a lot of mistakes–one thing has changed over the years. I’ve slowly learned to let myself believe that I can be better. That I if I just keep running a little longer, when I look back, the distance will be like I flew from where I was to where I’ve ended up.

A few nights ago, me and my two “PD-nims,” Carl and Nik, had discussions on projects for 2020 and 2021. Nothing’s solid yet, but there’s something. I won’t pretend that I don’t still grapple with the negative feelings, the fears and frustrations, that haunted me two years ago. But I’m more hopeful now.

In 2017, I found a song someone wrote for himself, and it gave me hope. This song, written two years later, is a product of that hope, of that idea that if you can just run a little bit longer…things can get better. And they do.

To Kim Seokjin, who will never read this: thank you for your song, which felt like a hand to hold when I needed one.

And, to everyone else who has been a part of this journey so far: thank you for listening. Let’s keep running together, for just a little bit longer. ❤

~ Frankie

[poem] Things I should do now that you’re gone.

1. Write poetry again. Write about love. Write long lists. Post it all on the blog I made because I knew you were reading. Where I stopped posting because I knew you were reading.

2. Take more selfies. Share them: on my stories. On the fake IG account I told you about but never let you find. On my timeline, set to public, with detailed descriptions of outfits, hair, makeup. Stop hiding that I am as vain as you told me I shouldn’t be.

3. Make a lot of first drafts. Post them. Make things quickly, in bursts, sharing them just as quickly. Post in the middle of things, unfinished, in process. Expose people to the mess of making, so people can see: there is no magic, no bolts from the blue. Only mess and mistakes. Only hoping for better.

4. Sing high. A lot. Because I like how it feels, how it sounds when I hit the notes right. Because it will take a lot of tries to get those notes right. Because I will never learn if I do not try and fail and try and maybe it’s too late, at this age, to challenge my range instead of leaning into it…but I’ll never know unless I do.

5. Stop pretending I don’t still hear you. Because I do.

6. Admit that, if I’m honest, I did not love you. No, I loved the idea of you, of us, of the roles the roles we played: the boy wise beyond his years and the girl who hung on his every word. In a small way, I made you my world; loved the safety of you telling me what to do, who to be, who to become. Tried to follow it to the letter until I realized I couldn’t, didn’t, didn’t really want to.

7. Accept that you never knew me, because I’d never allowed you.

That, from the moment we met, when I chose to pretend I didn’t know things when I did, I set a precedent. I crafted a first impression, and allowed you to run with it. I chose to play the role of the girl who needed your shaping: Eliza to your Henry; Galatea to your Pygmalion.

8. Admit that, in the end, we didn’t have love but validation.

I wanted to make someone proud of me.

I needed it to be you.

9. Accept that sometimes…I might still miss needing you.

10. Promise I will ever need anyone as much again.