jordan-whitt-b8rkmfxZjdU-unsplash-crop

Photo courtesy Jordan Whitt

When I was a child I remember recoiling every time I was asked by a well-intentioned adult  "what I wanted to be" when I grew up.

During the early timeline of my childhood, I used to answer with an honest, "Nothing. I plan on being a kid my entire life."

"Oh, that's so cute," the adult would often reply. "Stay a child as long as you can!"

As Peter Pan was my hero, I humbly agreed with that sentiment. I had no interest in giving the cliched answers of "Fireman, Astronaut, or President of the USA." Even as a little child those vocations never held much interest to me.

I wasn't at all curious about what I would "become” in the future. I was only invested in who I was in the present moment. I considered myself a card-carrying Lost Boy who would always be a proud resident of Neverland.

As I grew into my teen years I usually couldn't make it a week without some adult posing the same question to me - however, during this time of my life, the probing was always wrapped in a bit more barbed wire than it had been before.

"What are you going to do after graduation?"
"What colleges are you applying to?"
"What are you going to major in?
"Have you given any more thought to what you want to do with the rest of your life?"

dragos-gontariu-uPqqkccQqtk-unsplash

Photo courtesy Dragos Gontariu

Unlike my peers at the time, I never could find any excitement in providing an answer to those sorts of  inquiries. However, I discovered pretty quickly that saying "I want to remain a child" was not an acceptable answer to those questions. When I would respond with anything other than what was expected of me it would often lead to extra sessions with my guidance counselor and concerned looks from my parents.

Apparently, Neverland has an age limit.

Eventually, I figured out that the more I lied and answered with  "Accountant, Journalist, Lawyer, etc. - the fewer follow-up questions I would endure.  I learned to just say whatever it was that people wanted to hear.

Now that I'm one of those dreaded adults myself I understand why I was being asked to answer those types of questions over and over.  Those folks were just trying to help me come up with a map for the rest of my life.  They were simply attempting to guide me to give my future some serious consideration.

Unfortunately for these dogs, they were barking up the wrong tree.

The truth was I never had any interest in "being" something. To write a script for the next 80 years of my existence on this spinning cosmic marble was an exercise that left me feeling nauseous every single time I attempted it.

I didn't want a plan to follow.  I didn't want to "become" anything. I desired to simply be who I was in the present moment without worrying about who I might be tomorrow. After all, I thought, living like that seemed like it would allow for more surprises and adventure to come my way.

I refused to leave Neverland - and even now that I'm faced with turning 50-years-old, I am proud to say it remains my home still.

Now, of course, as you can imagine, this type of philosophy of not having any concrete life plans has caused me various moments of heartache over the years. Our world is built for people who know exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there. It's not an easy planet for a Lost Boy like myself who never became engrossed in choosing a life path - but, who instead, decided to keep everything an open-ended possibility.

While most of the kids I grew up with became doctors, sheriffs, engineers, CEOs, and lawyers - I have lived the past decades by "living in the moment" without anchoring myself to any single shoreline.  Instead, I have chosen to remain untethered to a dock - and I have drifted in and out of dozens of vocations.

During my life, I have had the following jobs:
Youth Leader at a Church
Pharmacy Technician
Small Business Owner
Congressional Communication Officer
Improv Trainer
Travel Agent
Stand-Up Comedian
Crime Journalist
Poet (right now!)
JR2101758022_10163353052795276_3287360018373935104_n

It's all been a bit of vocational whiplash, that in hindsight, has absolutely increased the difficulty setting of my life. Had I just answered the question in my childhood and picked a life-path to follow, I wouldn't have faced so many long dark nights while wandering in Neverland.

This type of wanderlust has not just been confined to my vocational life. Over the past few years, this untethering has bled over into my spiritual life. I am a born and raised Catholic who has recently left that paved road of organized religion for the wilds of uncharted spiritual exploration.

jeremy-bishop-DLICfSD33as-unsplash

Photo courtesy Jeremy Bishop

I used to have standard answers/responses whenever I got into conversations about God. I would just rely on the script on spirituality I was given years ago during Sunday School and regurgitate those same answers to whomever I was talking to.

Turns out I was being a bit of a hypocrite.

While I was living my vocational life without any guardrails or compass to guide me - I found myself marching in line with all of my other fellow Catholic ants on our way to our promised  eternal reward. Unlike my earthly existence, I was constantly worried about the future of my soul. So, I never questioned anything I had been told about the Divine and remained in the ant parade toward heaven.

That all changed a few years ago when I discovered the poetry that had been laying dormant in my heart for decades.

I never imagined I would have ever become a poet.  It wasn't a literary genre I read or had ever had any particular interest in studying. Just one day, out of the blue, poems started pouring out of my little penguin fingers and out onto the computer screen. These words emerged from my heart like a wildflower on a bustling Manhattan sidewalk.

Becoming a poet has been such an unexpected journey for me. Yet, due to my Lost Boy ways, it wasn't something I questioned.  I just said "Yes!" to poetry flowing out of me.  I don't believe that would have happened had I cast my life in concrete. Being untied to any kind of hard and fast life plan gave me the freedom to embrace what was happening inside of me.

What I didn't expect was how these poems I was writing would start to untangle the knots to organized religion I was tied to.  This poetry that was emerging from me challenged me to step out of any parade and go straight into the woods of spiritual mystery and wonderment.

churchemmanuel-appiah-KDA3p8BkFkQ-unsplash

Photo courtesy Emmanuel Appiah

Once I have opened my heart to other ways of experiencing spirituality, I formed a much closer relationship to God.  I was no longer as concerned with the salvation of my soul as my daily pursuit of miracles and wonderment. I am no longer conversing with the Great Love while sitting with my hands folded in a church pew - I am connecting with the Divine in rainstorms, by serving others and through exploring previously uncharted areas of my heart through my poetry.

My whole life I have resisted the concept that I would need to "become" or "change" to fit the standards of our mad world.  I wanted to stay free to be able to discover parts of my soul I didn't know existed.  I didn't want to put myself in a box that I couldn’t escape from.

Yet, I was content putting God in a box. Like I said, I was being a hypocrite.

These days, I am allowing my relationship with God to have the same freedom I have so desired for my vocational life.  I am allowing my spirituality to surprise me every day. I am allowing for the Divine to reveal itself to me in whatever form it arrives in.  I am allowing for doubt. I am allowing for mystery.  I am allowing myself to find God in places I had never considered before.

Now, after 48-years, I feel like I am actually starting to "become" something. I am becoming a better witness to the Divine. I am becoming a seeker of God. I am becoming a joyful spiritual wanderer.

I'm not sure how that will look on my resume, but it's all such an adventure.

jrbook280494886_10165910627570276_850495378720750217_n

I'm starting to realize that the less my heart moves the heavier it gets, the more dust it collects, the less kindness I feel. But when I let my heart constantly stir like a cotton candy machine, the lighter and sweeter it becomes.

My relationship with my Creator has turned into a wide-mouthed Wyoming river. Every bend is a new revelation. Sometimes the flow ebbs me into a comfortable eddy and other times it became a rapid where my stomach ends up in my throat.

Just like a river is constantly evolving, my spirituality is always changing and becoming something new every day. It's said that we can't step into the same river twice. I find that sentiment to be true when it comes to my connection with God. Every day the Divine changes forms to meet me where I am at. Every day the Great Love invites me to enter the flow as we explore Neverland together one river bend at a time together.

To live as moving water - to flow from one natural wonder to the next - is how I want to spend the rest on days left with God. To be a part of the flowing mystery of this wonderful mystery of existence.

So, now, I wish I could back in time and answer the question that hundreds of adults asked me when I was a growing up.

I think I would answer it a bit differently.

"John, what do you want to do when you grow up?"

"I want to become a river.”

Books By John Roedel

Me: Hey God.
God: Hey John.
Me: Change is coming.
God: It always is.
Me: I hate change.
God: You shouldn't. Life is constant change.
Me: I just want things to stay the same.
God: No you don't.
Me: Um - yes I do!
God: If things never changed than you would take everything for granted. If the sun didn't set you wouldn't miss it when it was on the other side of the world. If winter didn't come you wouldn't miss warm summer breezes. If the people you are close with didn't leave or pass away than you wouldn't cherish every moment with them. If you didn't age you wouldn't appreciate your youth. The music of your life is changing it melody and rhythm all of the time. All things change. The good and the bad. Happiness can come and go - just the same as your suffering. Nothing on Earth is forever. Your life is an adventure of persistent transition.
Me: Change is just so scary.
God: I know - but think of it like taking a new breath. You can only hold onto one breath for so long before you have to let it go and draw a new one in. That is how your physical life works. Sometimes you have to let old things go in order to make room for the new. Try honoring each of these breaths you take as the gift that it is. Honor each person in your life as the miracle that they are. Honor every moment of your life because each of them are unique and will never come back around in the exact same way again.
Me: Easier said than done.
God: It always is.
Me: I want time to slow down so I can appreciate how my life is right now before change comes.
God: Oh, I know a secret to slowing time down quite a bit.
Me: You do?
God: Yeah - it's called gratitude.
everything is moving
so so so fast
my hair is graying
my friends are leaving
my eyes are failing
my children are growing
my heart is transforming
my days are a blur
but God's love
for me moves
in slow motion
when I rest in
that slow love
the sun crawls across
the sky
the spring flowers take
their sweet time
blooming
my beloved friends
linger on my heart
like a piano note
that won't fade away
the words of love
that come from my
wife pour out like
maple syrup
when I rest
in slow God's love
and honor each
moment
and whisper a soft
"thank you..."
to the ear of the Divine
time slows down
and change doesn't
seem nearly as terrifying
journal279425904_535029464848555_213305009851946213_n

  • John Roedel

    John Roedel is a writer. He is very short, and has yet to be confused with Jude Law. Also, he is a comic who unexpectedly gained notability as a writer and poet through his heartfelt Facebook conversations that went viral and became an Amazon best-selling book titled, Hey God. Hey John.: What Happens When God Writes Back.

    He is the author of five books—Hey God. Hey John, Any Given Someday, Untied: The Poetry of What Comes Next, Remedy, and his latest work, Upon Departure, which explores through poetry the concept of our grief as a natural wonder that terraforms the landscape of our world in increments.

    Offering a sincere and very relatable look at his faith crisis, mental health, personal struggles, perception of our world, and even his fashion sense, John's writing has been shared millions of times across social media and lauded by fans and readers worldwide. He teaches at universities and retreat centers across the US, blending his trademark comedy with creative exercises, journaling, dialogue, and introspection to help people fearlessly embrace and share their personal stories.  Find out more at johnroedel.com.