Well, to be honest, I guess this all started with the death of mother, Carolyn Ann Walker, in 1996.
I had just completed all my upper division work for my bachelors at UC Santa Barbara. I even walked in the graduation ceremony that year. (I still consider myself a graduate of 1996, even though my transcripts say otherwise.) Anyways I came home that summer, ready to finish my coursework and really graduate. That’s when my life really changed.
My mother got ill in August and slowly died over the next 5 weeks. I was scared, angry and alone. My mother had been my word for so long that when she died, I went into a trance. I made poor decisions out of grief and felt very alone for the first time in my life. I can remember coming home from the Renaissance Faire (I was an actor,) and just breaking down and crying for no particular reason. One time, my niece Brittany, who was six at the time, saw me crying un-consolably. She walked up to me, took my hand and began to pat it gently, saying “it will be alright, Jason.” Eventually it was alright. If it wasn’t for Kathleen Bourque, Bill & Cathy Jacobs, Steve Gillian, and a host of other people, I probably wouldn’t be here today. They got me through.
From 1997 to 1999 I slowly grew out of my grief. I eventually got back on my feet and started teaching. I learned so much in those two years about surviving but not enough about living. I met two of my best friends, Russle and James, along with my buddy Brett. I also fell in love and got married. I participated in a grand adventure and said good bye to everything by moving to Colorado in 2004. I bought a house, got a couple of dogs and started working for Denver Public Schools. But always in the background was the fear.
Fear that I wasn’t good enough. Fear that said I was ugly, stupid, lazy and would never measure up. Fear that no one liked me or that people pitied, instead of respecting me. Fear that lead me to make stupid choices about my health and my relationships and my career.
My first three years as a public school teacher were difficult, but rewarding. I felt proud about the work I did and I had the respect of my administrators and my peers. But the last six years were awful. I felt like I was being judged, then watched. Opportunities passed me by. My fears lead me to become insular and avoid people and relationships at work. I was afraid I was going to do or say something to make everyone hate me.Well I felt harassed by some of the administrators at my school in 2013. I had been there 8 years, living in fear that I would be put on an “improvement plan” and then fired. (Incidentally, in 8 years at that school I NEVER saw a teacher actually “improve,” on an improvement plan and keep their job. But I digress.)
After one particularly galling meeting, my frustration and anger at being harassed lead me to a fateful decision. I really believe God told me “You’re not coming back to this place.” So I resigned. The freedom I felt was euphoric! And the intimidation stopped! They had no power over me anymore so they left me alone. I even began to stand up and support other harassed teachers in the building. Then it occurred to me that I was no longer living in fear. I had lived in fear so long that I had forgotten what real peace felt like.
When the school year ended I was sure I was going to fine a job right away. But, I was wrong. I did find something else; my peace of mind and self respect.
I wrote fiction for the first time; My wife and I became much closer; I started helping out in her business; I had a piece of fiction chosen for an anthology; I finished my Masters degree in U.S. History. I lost 30 pounds.
Do you know what the most oft repeated phrase in the New Testament is? BE NOT AFRAID! I think that’s significant. For so long I made choices out of fear; trying to conserve what I already had, being miserly and playing “small ball,” to borrow a phrase from baseball. I can’t do that anymore. I gotta swing for the fences! Take chances and live with courage!
I’m not done with this journey – not by a longshot. But I know this is the road I have chosen and I will not go back. Join me and we’ll see the sites together!