Recovering Addict of Public Attention
I used to be out there in the mud
Running after the prize with all the others
In a bloody game,
A no-rules contest of King of the Hill
I got the wind knocked out of me and was put on the sidelines
Where I can see more now than I ever have.
I was angry at first, and there are moments
When I still am.
Now that I sit
Where I can see more than I ever have,
I am doubtful that this is a game I want to win
Step one: Make yourself strong.
Step Two: Tell everyone you’re invincible.
Step three: Run after what you want, even if it makes you a murderer.
And it’s guaranteed that you will murder at least one, and that is yourself.
I found this out as I was watching the game from the sidelines
And that’s when I decided,
I don’t want to be king of the hill anymore
I only want to be a version of myself that isn’t throbbing.
This poem is for those who have become casualties in the race to the top. For a while, I was lost in the cycle of looking for validation by being the best at everything—by being popular, exciting, talented, beautiful. Here's what I found: sometimes God teaches us by saying no to what we ask for. And sometimes, he teaches us by saying yes, then letting us realize that nothing but him is enough. My story is the latter.
I left my college town almost two years ago. Throbbing from isolation. Swelling with both the desire for intimacy and the deafening fear of someone getting close enough to realize that I was a fraud. I managed to draw crowds to see me perform, yet kept the curtains tight enough that no one really saw me. There were those that tried to love me, and I would break their hearts the moment they got close enough to really know me. I had a trashcan full of disposable relationships.
The truth is that I believed, I truly, wholeheartedly believed, that I was unlovable. I knew for certain that if anyone knew me, really knew me, they wouldn’t love me. And because I really believed that, I made myself as lovable as possible. I became a winner. I became the strongest and the fastest and the bravest. But it wasn’t just enough to be good at things. I needed to be recognized for it. I’m not talking about healthy validation from friends and family. I became an addict of public attention, and addict of success.
So I got into my car and drove away through the mountains to a nowhere-town in Ohio where there were a number of people who had loved every version of me for nothing more than simply existing. It was more than driving away from a city. It was driving away from the past. It was driving away from the person I didn’t want to be anymore. The poem above is a reflection on my time chasing things that couldn’t save me, and a reflection on my time sitting out to recover.
I thought I was the one that decided to leave my college town, but now I can see that it was God’s favor. And sometimes favor doesn’t come in the package we expect. I had always thought favor meant promotion, money, connections. But this time, God’s favor meant that I have to sit out until I’ve healed up and am ready to get back in the game. So I’m here on the sidelines, not singing, not recognized, not important. It’s taken longer than I thought for God to erase the word “unlovable” and replace it with “wildflower.” I’m still watching him write new names for me, like “loved,” and “gift,” and “joy.” And as I’m being patched up, songs will come. And soon, I hope. (Can I get an Amen?)