Spending elementary school in a small town in West Texas is an interesting way to grow up. (I’ll warn you this chapter will be incredibly sporadic as it’s a two page rush through six years to set up high school) I would not realize it then but I missed many things in those years because of my faith. If I had lived in the town where my church was, Odessa, they would have had activities but I lived 45 minutes away so we didn’t do much.
Kermit, Texas where there was not a single Wal-Mart and the biggest events were the school football games. However because they were on Friday nights, the Sabbath, I never got to go. When people asked why, I just said I didn’t like football. Like so many other things doing the right thing for God made it worthwhile. Besides, after I had gotten baptized I’d even taken down the posters of Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin in my room because it felt like putting up idols.
I ran for school wide office and won the parliamentarian role. Even then I loved politics, I ran with these posters where I put my face on a dollar bill that I had cut out with great precision. I didn’t have much of a response when people pointed out I wasn’t running for President. The guy who was running for President, Jared Mills was also the quarterback on the football team and a good guy. I ended up not getting to serve because my mom wouldn’t let me go to the camp because part of it was on Sabbath. When Jared asked me why I hadn’t gone, I said I just changed my mind.
I learned to play trombone. Then and now, music was a lot of fun for me but it was always a mathematical exercise. I never felt rhythm in my body because the Adventist church had taught me that dancing was wrong. I had to miss a few concerts because they were on Friday night or Sabbath.
I never got to go to any of the school socials because they were all on the Sabbath. I never kissed a girl or had a girlfriend throughout elementary but its harder to blame that on my faith. I was incredibly awkward but didn’t realize it. But it was okay. I had Jesus. And he loved me.
I had a teacher, Mrs. Westmoreland, who I still think is the reason I would graduate valedictorian years later. She was my English teacher for the gifted and talented program. Every time that we took a test she would reorganize the seating chart in order of how we scored on the test. I would work hard at always being in one of the top three spots. She encouraged me to break the record for library books (it was measured by taking a test that you took on a very basic computer with questions about the book). I did and to this day my name still is on that plaque although the record would be surpassed.
My cousins still made fun of how big my head was out and two in particular, Karina and Rosalva made comments about how no one liked me. This was awkward and painful. I comforted myself with the fact that I had better grades than they did and felt like generally my life would end up being more successful than theirs. This is too often my very faulty response: to think that because I have traveled much, or am still married, or have my finances order or whatever attribute that this somehow excuses my arrogance or condescension or my general lack of proper form or politeness. It really is not much different or better than the second grade but my mommy loves me mor.
In 7th grade off a bet, I became a vegetarian. This would last over 10 years…off of a bet. So this required my mom making me lunch. She would make me burritos everyday, usually beans and rice but sometimes chile relleno or egg and potato. One day a friend named Keenan didn’t like what they were serving so he asked me for one. I passed on the opportunity to give up my lunch until he offered me a dollar. He liked it so much he started ordering them every day. Then a few days later and a few weeks later, it got to where my mother was delivering 40 burritos a day for me to sell to classmates. They were all prepaid and custom made. My mom would only make me pay for the ingredients and she would let me keep the profits. I had never had an allowance and this was her way of giving me money. I used it to buy a new backpack and gifts. None of it was wisely invested. Eventually the school cafeteria tried to shut me down. They said I couldn’t deliver in the school cafeteria so I started delivering in the hall right outside. They said I was blocking the entrance so I moved it to another hallway. They said I couldn’t take money and handle food so someone else took the money as a favor. Eventually, they instituted my very first rule dedicated to just me. The school actually set up a rule with my name on it that I could not sell burritos. At that point, I hired a friend, Jeremy, the vice principa’ls son to do all the work and I paid him commission. At that point the school finally gave up.
But all of these things, missing the socials, missing the football games, missing band stuff becoming a vegetarian in West Texas, not ever being able to do anything from Friday Sunset to Saturday sunset made me want to be somewhere where I wasn’t so far from fitting in (a desire I still have but perhaps will never reach). A few days before high school an opportunity opened up that “solved” all these problems and dramatically changed the scope of my life. I got an opportunity to go to an Adventist Boarding School: Valley Grande Academy.