Until then, my life in Phonics had gone from the simple: tire, cat, balloon; and then to compound words: watermelon, doghouse; but the first time I encountered a prefix, I knew I was in for something special. Prefixes are the sexiest parts of the English language—they always come with the promise of something to follow. Furthermore, they’re often the first glimpse we young American boys get at a world beyond our own. Those Greek and Latin prefixes get into your mouth and make you move new muscles that, until then, you didn’t even know you had. And while I know it’s a homonym with “arrow,” I knew even back then that a’s and e’s aren’t supposed to go together like that…it’s a little kinky. But then I put aero– in front of that same root word as astronaut, and I discovered the first word I ever truly, truly fell in love with:
Aeronautics: to sail through the sky.
It sounds a lot sexier than flying. You can’t just look at aeronautics and picture it the way you can “cat,” or “tire,” or even “doghouse” or “watermelon” or “streetlamp” or “soldier.” Aeronautics, with its vowels touching like food on the plate or hands on the playground bench, brought with it the imagination. It set my heart on fire. It gave my brain its first fever from overwork. It had to be explained. It had meaning beyond something its own abstraction. Everything aero- meant sky. Nautical meant sailing. It was math—with words!
Since then, I’ve had a number of scandalous love affairs with words. Of course I’ve used them to express, but also to woo, to distract, to inform…and to hurt. You see, I was the runt of my family. I still sort of am. I’m not strong. I often get winded before I break a sweat. I could never beat my father at wrestling, and even with his one weak leg I’m sure he’d still give me a run for my money. So I would beat them with words. I championed my intelligence and wit, while my brother (God bless him) walked the path of the mighty dullard. We were two sides of the coin of masculinity, freshly flipped in the air by a culture we inherited rather than designed.
As I went through puberty and started to discover myself, I watched like a scientist, probing and prodding subjects with more callousness than I dare to admit. I reveled in my strength and superiority. Every time the world sought to prove me weak, or that people sought to establish power over me, I went out and hurt. One girl, after a long absence, accused me of being the chief cause of her going to the psych ward. That was the first time I ever was faced with the destruction that I wreaked upon people.
Thankfully, this was before the dawning of the age of the cyber bully. This was before anonymous little bastards like myself found that they held all the cards.
Years later, I’m in a bar. I’m out of college. A girl I haven’t seen since high school walks in. We talk. We drink. We drink some more. She turns in a way that informs me the alcohol’s gotten to her head and unhindered words are about to flow. She asks me, “Remember that day backstage?”
Oh, I remembered that day. I remembered telling her we were adults, and it was time to fucking act like it. I remembered a pair of scissors being pointed towards my chest. I remember those wide eyes, that silence. I never knew how close I was that day to becoming a victim. She let me know.
“You saved my life,” she went on. Those words I said came back to haunt her. Whenever she thought she couldn’t make it, she told me, she remembered my words. Every time she wanted to quit; every time she threw a tantrum about how unfair the world was; every time it took all of her moral fiber to not just fucking kill someone, I was there, like a goddamned devil on her shoulder. She ended up going to—and graduating from—college. She was the first in her family to do so. I had been with her the whole time. And I wasn’t even there to see it.
Words. That’s all they were. But they had been my words.
This isn’t to cheapen the institutions that are in place to provide college assistance, or even begin the debate about college degrees being worth their price in today’s economy. But before people can go and apply for that assistance, before they can even try to climb a mountain, they first must want to.
I believe you can face a man with destruction, and he will harden his heart to it. But show him the effects of his kindness, and he’ll wake up in the morning a changed man. That’s what I want to do. I might not have a gift; I honed my vocabulary as best I could. It was my weapon. But if I can use this weapon to heal, maybe I can atone for the damage I caused in my youth. That, I think, is what growing up is—looking at the wreckage and figuring out what to do with it; swords to plowshares.
I had started practicing yoga around this time. After the Sikh Temple Shooting in August of 2012, I went with my yoga teacher to a Sikh temple and attended a service. A few weeks later, I found myself wandering into a local Latin Catholic service. I began to remember that, in my youth, I was always a spiritual kid. I was drawn to holy places: grottos and sanctuaries and chapels. At summer camp, that was where I spent my free time.
This wasn’t the first time I’d undergone a spiritual transformation. I had long talks with my voice teacher in college about the loneliness of God, but I won’t get into any of that here. Suffice to say I could see the signs, and I began to walk that road, but this time, I wanted to record it. The Diary of a Fledgeling Yogi first began as weekly status updates on Facebook—I relayed with pinches of humor and delight the little revelations and victories attained during my Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200-hour training. When I realized that the changes were becoming too powerful and too profound to be contained in little status updates, I launched a blog on Posterous, which has now sadly been shut down (though I did archive all of the old blog).
It was that blog that led me to a job as an editing apprentice at elephant journal, where I continued to write. But my yoga practice began to slip.
Midway through 2013, I moved out of my apartment in Cincinnati to return to my father’s house and save up some funds in preparation for the next leg of my journey. It was then that I restarted The Diary of a Fledgeling Yogi as the incarnation you now see. I still have that intention of helping others, to be a voice for the Millennials and to be a line of communication between them and their spirituality, and us and the other generations. I don’t particularly associate myself as a Christian, but I don’t particularly associate myself as a Muslim or a Hindu or a Sikh or a Sufi either. I’m a writer. As a carpenter frames a house or a cabinet, I frame arguments and ideas. I still have scandalous love affairs with words. Perhaps if you keep reading, you’ll learn about a few.
I don’t claim to be anyone’s messiah, and I’m certainly not anyone’s guru. I write because I have questions, not answers. I write because I’m imperfect, and you are too. I write because it’s part of how I actively try to bring happiness and peace to the world. That’s how the world works: if each of us brings a little happiness into the world, starting with ourselves, then the world by the sum of its parts becomes a happier place. I write because I have had the rare opportunity of seeing how words can truly, powerfully, profoundly have an effect on people, and so I know that if these words can reach one person, then it’s all worth it.
We’re all in this together. If nothing else, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
If you have any questions about this blog, or if you would like to send feedback, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I invite you to “like” and “share” my page on Facebook, and if you’d really like, you can follow me on Twitter as I try to figure that whole thing out. I try to update once a week, and I invite you to go check out Music Monday for some great tunes; some for life, some for yoga, and some because—hey, even fledgeling yogis gotta rock out.