Dear Rhett and Link, February 11th, 2020
While I'm absolutely going to link this blog entry in my newly formed Twitter, my thoughts on your Lost Years Ear Biscuits episodes will in no way fit into the confines of a Tweet. I hope that you read this, because I am going to do what you asked: share my story.
I'm going to begin, though, by saying that I had just accepted the "cover story" so to speak, that you guys had been engineers and then left those jobs to transition fully to becoming YouTubers, fulfilling your teen promise to one another to create something great. And like you've acknowledged, that basically is what happened, there was just a lot of personal stuff left out, which you've been kind enough to indulge to all us Mythical Beasts over the past month.
My maternal grandmother was raised Catholic, and it probably goes back a few more generations than that. In any case, though, it follows that my mom and aunt were raised Catholic, and when I came along, my mom raised me Catholic. I went through the normal course for Catholicism - being baptized as a baby, Communion at seven, Penance when I was about nine, and Confirmation when I was 13. I attended CCD through grade school, (I don't remember if I had to attend in middle school,) and after I was Confirmed, my mom stopped bringing me to church week after week, and we just went on Christmas and Easter.
I'll be honest, all those CCD classes, the Sunday church sermons, I didn't retain a lick of it. I don't remember ever reading anything from the actual bible. It was just teachers and priests telling us "this is what happened, this is how you should behave, these are things you shouldn't do." I knew (and know) the Our Father, but I couldn't rattle off bible verses. I still can't, except for John 3:16.
Well, when I was 12, I'd made friends with a girl my age whose father was the pastor of a Baptist church in the town next to mine, about a ten minute drive away. One thing I needed to do for my Confirmation was something like 12 hours of volunteer work and I was really worried about being able to fulfill that, because I used to be an incredibly shy person. I could be outgoing in certain scenarios, but as far as selling myself? No. Never. So I was thankful when my mom thought of that pastor and asked him if he had any volunteer job leads. He said I should come volunteer for the Vacation Bible School that his church did for a week during the summer. So I did, and much to my amazement, I actually found myself really enjoying it. I was a teacher's aid, essentially, and it was great seeing so many little kids excited to be there and singing the songs that were played each morning. And the lessons were things that made sense to me. I could see how these things could apply to everyday life.
So, I went back a second summer, before my freshman year of high school. Then a third, before my sophomore year, and that was where I met the Youth Group leader's son. Instant crush. This guy was cute, we both liked the Beatles and other classic rock, and he was something of an outsider among his peers, the same way that I was. Luckily, we exchanged numbers before VBS ended that summer, and he invited me to come to Youth Group that Sunday. So I began going to the Baptist church's Youth Group; yes, mostly because of my crush, but for the most part, I actually did enjoy Youth Group. Going Christmas caroling to the old folk's homes and hospitals in the nearby area was one of my favorite things. Much like the two of you, performing was a major draw for me. Any time I could be in front of an audience, I wanted to take it. Of course, this was hindered greatly by my shyness and lack of self-confidence, but those drawbacks didn't stop me from dreaming about becoming a successful actress/singer/performer on stage or on screen one day.
Well, the pastor's daughter and I had met in a "student enrichment" program in middle school. That basically means that a school in the area gave permission for students from that school and surrounding ones to go there on Saturdays for ten weeks for different activities/classes to learn new skills or try something fun. There were gymnastic, magic trick, cooking, sculpting, drawing, ballet, jazz, and a plethora of other classes a kid could sign up for. And the biggest one for me, the one that I took from 6th through 8th grade, was the acting class. Students met in the auditorium, did some ad lib stuff, we were told what play or segment of a play we'd be doing, and at the end of that ten weeks, we'd put on a show for the families and anyone else who wanted to come. The pastor's daughter had been in the acting class with me the second and third year I did it, so she knew I liked performing. It was around October of my sophomore year when she suggested I join the Baptist church's choir, and if I came one Sunday morning, I could talk to the choir director before the service began.
That started me on the road to attending the high school class Sunday school (we were all divided up based on age and grade,) and then the church services. I was pretty faithful in going from my sophomore year up till I was 19. But then something happened.
I'd made a friend at the end of my sophomore year. He became one of my best friends for that summer and someone that my Best Friend had gotten together with, but then once my junior year started, his mom completely freaked out and started accusing me and my Best Friend of all sorts of craziness towards her son, and insisted that we never contact him again. (This whole thing has its own long story.) Anyway, my Best Friend and I were devastated because neither of us were good at losing people we cared about, especially when they were torn from us in such a painful, confusing, damaging way.
Several years later, that guy and I reconnected, though he had to talk to me in secret since he was still living at his mom's house and she still hated me for whatever made up reasons she had. In the course of talking to him at that point, he confirmed something I'd suspected back in high school, but hadn't been able to have any adult take me seriously about: that his mother was not only dangerously controlling, but emotionally abusive.
Even though we had to talk in secret, he wanted to find a way to talk to my Best Friend, preferably in person, and explain everything from that dark period in our high school memories. The only problem was, my Best Friend and I have never lived in the same state as one another. I'm in New Jersey, and back then, she was in Staten Island, a good hour drive away. They'd gotten together back in high school because she came to visit me and basically lived at my house over the summers. So, we planned. We figured out a day that he'd have several hours free when we'd be able to go up to Staten Island, talk to my Best Friend, come back to New Jersey, and he could go back to his house.
To this day, I'm not exactly sure what happened, but his mom got tipped off. An argument, or more accurately just her screaming at him, ensued, and he actually ran out of his house. He showed up at mine sometime around nine pm. My then boyfriend was there, and the three of us talked. Somehow, it was suggested that he should talk to the pastor the next day. After all, they attended that Baptist church as well, and he actually was part of the choir (something I'd never followed through on,) so the pastor would *have* to listen when one of his flock was in trouble, wouldn't he?
The answer is no. Later that night, his parents called mine, demanding that we send him back over to his house, and insulting/threatening them, me, and my then boyfriend. Then, one of the nosy-est, most gossipy hens from the church called my parents, making it seem like we were harboring a fugitive, and "how dare we keep him from going home, don't we know how panic-stricken his mother is??" (to which I can't help but give a sarcastic laugh, to this day,) and eventually, he did decide to go back to his house, though he promised me he'd show up at the church the next day so we could all talk to the pastor.
He never showed up. But my then boyfriend and I persisted, regardless, because we wanted to help him and figured that if the pastor could step in, maybe things could improve somehow.
They didn't. That pastor basically told us that what went on behind closed doors in their house was none of our business or concern, and even told my then boyfriend that he had no right to want an apology for the threats and insults she'd hurled the previous night. Things reached a climax where I ended up running out of the church and across the street to a park where I ended up on my hands and knees, sobbing. Because what good was the church if they were refusing to even listen to someone who knew someone else needed help?
Rhett, your words about the spiritual crisis you went through really spoke to me, because that's exactly what I felt at that point. How could there be a God if He let things like this happen to people? How could there be a God, one who was supposed to be so just, no less, if He had vessels in the church who refused to even listen when one of their flock was suffering?
I took the time to really think about it. I know I considered things for days, but I'm not sure quite how long of a period of reflection and questioning and doubting there was. In any case, I did come to a conclusion. I decided that I still believed in God, but not the people who claim to be under Him.
All of that happened almost 18 years ago, and I've attended maybe five or six services at that church since, for specific reasons, like when my mom decided to officially become a member and asked that I be there when she was baptized into that church. About a year ago, I took a religions class because it was a requirement for graduation. (I attended community college for my AA, go poke your fun at community college, Rhett, then went into the communiversity program they have. That means I was able to get my BA through a 4 year school that worked with the community college, and at a reduced price rate. And yes, I was a very late bloomer as far as initiative for college.) Anyway, the school on the list that offered a BA in English is a Catholic college, which is why a religions class is a graduation requirement. Let me tell you, that class did more for turning me towards atheism than anything else I've experienced! And then, funnily enough, it was reruns of Touched by an Angel that brought me back closer to belief.
The interesting thing for me is, I've struggled with belief and blind faith and things like that probably since I was about 9 years old. And what began it was a friend of mine was over at my house and for whatever reason, we were talking about CCD or church or something in that general subject area, and I remember him saying to me, "Sometimes, I wonder if there even really IS a God."
I don't remember what I said to him. I don't remember any particular thoughts that went through my head then. But I've always remembered that moment, because that was the moment, even if I didn't realize it then, when I began questioning things.
Link, you mentioned not feeling that connection as you got older. Squeezing your eyes shut during sermons because you wanted to feel *something,* some kind of connection. I related to that so much, because when I started attending the Baptist Church, everyone there, even the other teens in the Youth Group, seemed to have this true relationship with God that felt completely foreign to me. And it wasn't even that I didn't believe in God; I did, I just didn't understand how these people had cultivated this close relationship that seemed so out of reach for me. Yet even though it seemed out of reach, something in me still yearned for it. But the more I didn't grasp it, the more I felt like a fraud, and the more of an outsider I felt in that church and the youth group.
In fact, I remember the first time I felt truly connected while in that Youth Group was when the Youth Group leader's son and I were hanging out on our own for a bit during a Youth Group retreat in October of my sophomore year. It was when all of us were getting fast food and everyone else wanted to go to Taco Bell, but he and I opted for Burger King. So we agreed to meet back up with the group after eating, and went to our choice of fast food meal. Anyway, while we were sitting there enjoying burgers and fries, we got to talking, and he admitted to me that after the retreat, he probably wasn't going to be at Youth Group for awhile. When I asked why, he said it was because he was really struggling with his faith and actually felt that he was more agnostic than believer. I told him I felt much the same way, and how I wished I could feel as sure as everyone else in Youth Group seemed to.
The second instance was the summer before my junior year when I went to Creation with the Youth Group. Creation was basically a week-long giant Christian Woodstock, (though obviously without the drugs, alcohol, and nudity.) Concerts played the majority of the day with numerous Christian artists, and we camped out for the duration, enjoying the concerts, bonfires, trekking around the nearby hills, and supposedly really getting back to nature in order to get a closer relationship with God. Well, at one point, instead of a performer playing whatever instruments, singing whatever songs, there was a speaker. He may have written Christian books, I'm honestly not sure. Unfortunately, I don't even remember his name. But he got up there and talked about doubts. He talked about wavering belief. He talked about questioning God's plan. And he encouraged anyone in the audience to stand up if they were struggling with their beliefs. Stand up if they wanted a closer relationship with God, but weren't sure how to achieve it. Stand up if they wanted their faith to be stronger.
I stood up.
I was in no way the only person in the crowd who did, of course. But I felt like here was someone, strong in his faith, who talked about those doubts, those questions, those wishes. And not only did he talk about them, he *acknowledged people felt that way.* That was huge for me as a soon to be 16 year old.
But I had problems with the church. The evolution/creation issue never arose for me. I knew there was at least one person in the Youth Group who believed in the literal interpretation of the seven days God took to create everything and then rest, but I'd watched Inherit the Wind by then. (Mostly because of Gene Kelly, but still, I'd seen it.) And I don't know if it was that film that spurred this belief in me, but I felt Creationism and evolution could go hand in hand for the simple reason, who are we to tell God how long a day is to Him? How can any human be so arrogant, so condescending, that he thinks he can definitely speak for God? God's "day" could very well have lasted hundreds, thousands, or millions of years. In which case, his creations could have changed over time, whether by His design, or by the time He sat back and watched them on earth.
My biggest problem with the Baptist Church was always in relation to other religions and how they viewed who would make it to heaven. I don't think Baptists are alone in this, but Catholicism seems to be the butt of many jokes and jeers and insults in other sects of Christianity, and I remember feeling so weird and almost ashamed that I had grown up Catholic because of the things said by the Youth Group members about the Catholic church and its beliefs. And what really annoyed me was how, especially the pastor's daughter, would talk about people who had a different belief system. How she was "so sad that she wouldn't see her Jewish friend in heaven." I never said anything then because I didn't have the self confidence or the bible knowledge to back me up, but I'd always think something along the lines of, "Okay, when exactly did you ascend to heaven to see who was/will be present?"
I touched on this before, but I said that watching Touched by an Angel reruns did more for me than anything else in recent memory for my faith. I've noticed that as I've gotten older, I've gotten further and further away from God. I've even begun wondering if the only reason I believe at all is because it's a habit. Just something I've always done. I've never known differently than to accept that yes, God exists. Watching that show, though, it's just so excellently done. Even when they're talking about something like abortion, there's no blame. There's just the angels, who have come to the humans, talking about God's love, God's acceptance, God's forgiveness. It was in many ways wonderful watching these episodes and feeling like this is what people should be striving to be like. Like you said, Link, just loving people, as many as you can.
And I remember one night, after just having watched about three episodes of Touched by an Angel that day, I went on Facebook and what was the first thing I saw? A post condemning women who would choose "murdering their child" (abortion,) from someone who claims to be such a firm believer in God and His teachings. That little bubble I'd created for myself, where I could pretend that that show truly represented Christians, was broken. Because where was the love? Where was the compassion? Where was the forgiveness? Where was the understanding that some women may be forced into a horrible position where something like that is their only option?
Much like you two, I don't have things all figured out, and I feel like I relate to you, Link, in that I'm still processing exactly what it is I believe. But I'll tell you guys this: it's an honor to me that you would choose to share your stories with all your fans. Parts of both of your stories relate to me and touched me in different ways. The intellectual way you went about things, Rhett, and the desire to feel that connection, Link, those both resonated with me so deeply. And I cried at different points during both of your tellings.
I know what I do believe, and here it is: I do believe there is a God. And I'll tell you exactly why. I've had other such sequences of events in my life, but this is the most recent. I started working at Pizza Hut in 2012 and met a guy who's become one of my best friends. That guy showed me a YouTube video in 2013 of a water balloon popping in slow motion. Sometime in 2018, I was browsing YouTube and had probably just watched a How Ridiculous video and thought to myself, "Hey, he showed me that slow motion balloon popping video years ago. I wonder if I can find it." I didn't, but I did find the Slow Mo Guys channel and their Giant Balloon June videos. I watched a handful of other ones, but mainly kept going back to the five or so giant balloon ones. Then in April of last year, they released the slow motion saber video, featuring a couple of other guys, one who joked about the other not being allowed to use sharp things, and the other who couldn't saber the bottle until his fourth try. And because of those two things, I decide I had to find out what the deal with this guy and sharp objects is. So I looked into it. And I found compilation videos. And then "Will It's?" And then so many others. And at just the perfect time, because I'd just gone through a break up and needed the laughs so badly.
I believe that those seeming coincidences are too perfectly timed to just be coincidences. I believe that God stepped in and guided me to you guys, the same way other events have perfectly fallen into place in my life to give me an opportunity to talk to someone, get me in the right place at the right time, get me away from a person or place, etc.
I'm not by any means encouraging you to believe as I do. I think everyone has to go on their own journey. But I did want to share mine.
In closing, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for bringing me so many laughs. Thank you for bringing me to tears (both happy and relatable) on multiple occasions. Thank you for being wonderful role models. Thank you for sharing such personal details and aspects of your lives. Thank you for The Book of Mythicality and The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek. Thank you for encouraging so much positivity in others. Thank you for so much more than I can even name right now. But lastly, because you were the ones to begin it all, thank you guys for being your Mythical Best.