Dear Alice,

Have you ever felt like you’re too (blank)? I have. That blank has been filled with many words over the years. Too many words.

Too fat.

Too soft.

Too feminine.

Too Christian.

Too gay.

Too shy.

Too loud.

Too quiet.

Too. Too. Too. Too. Too many toos. I wish I was just…just.



On Starting Over

Dear Alice,

There’s this song I like called “Start All Over” by Miley Cyrus (when she was still in her Hannah Montana era). One of the lyrics goes like this “out of the fire and into the fire again” and it perfectly sums up how I feel in this moment of my life. I feel like I’m constantly out of the fire just to jump right back in.

I feel like I’ve had to star all over more than the average person. Not to call myself above average, I actually think I’m pretty average, but some of the circumstances in my life haven’t been exactly normal. I don’t know many people who have moved as much as I have, but then again my perspective is limited to that which I have experienced. Sometimes I wonder if I just think that I’m strange when, in reality, what I experience is very ordinary.

Anyway, back to the topic. Starting over is pretty much commonplace in my life. I had to start over after hurricane Maria, then star over again when I was in seminary, then again when I went to my first pastoral appointment, and then the second, and then the third, and then when I quit, and when I got a job, and now I’m having to start again after getting fired. That’s a lot of starts and stops in a short time, especially because all of that happened in about 5 years.

I wonder if I will ever lose the ability to restart. I hope I don’t. I will say, I am tired of having to start all over. I want to be out of the fire for longer than a few months. I need a break from having breaks and a break from clean slates. I want to do things, to live like a normal person (or at least what I perceive as normal), but it seems that those kinds of lives are not meant for me.

As dramatic as that sounds, I don’t think it’s all that bad. Maybe I just need some new perspectives on life and living. I might need to see this as a way to build character and become more effective on whatever it is that I will do with my life in the future. And I know that I’ll probably have to start again a couple more times. Life isn’t simple enough that everyone gets it in one go; some of us need to bump around to find our path forward. Just like computers, lives sometimes need to be forcefully restarted in order to work properly.

All of this reminds me of a recent study topic I’ve been researching. In tarot, there’s a card called The Tower. It depicts lightning striking an ornate tower and destroying it, sending its occupants falling to their deaths as the tower begins to burn. While the symbolism is eerie, the wisdom behind the card is immense: sometimes, the old must be destroyed to make way for the new. I think I’m living in the age of the Tower.

Anyway, I think I have a job interview soon. Hopefully this job will last.



On Finding My Way

Dear Alice,

Life after getting fired is strange. I find myself waking up at odd times and going to bed at even odder times. The benefits of having a routine of a job and a place to go to every day are now gone, and I’m finding myself devoid of things to do with all this free time.

Sure, I can apply for jobs, find places to volunteer, and do so many other things, but the sheer number of things to do is overwhelming. I think there’s something to having too many options that just makes my mind wander. I used to have everything set out. I was the kind of person who planned their days in advance in order to be as organized as possible. Now, I’m lucky if I even look at my planner(s) for more than two seconds.

I’d like to think that this rut I find myself in is just some growth opportunity waiting to happen, but honestly, I find it hard to muster up that level of optimism. Where do I grow from here? How do I get out of this? Why do I have to grow out of this situation?

I find myself wanting to just be rather than do. I spent too much of my life focusing on doing great things, on changing the world, on saving souls and healing hearts. Now I just want to exist in this world. Sure, that’s becoming increasingly hard to do, but I find it funny that some people get their happiness from tearing people down. I want to be the kind of person that builds people up rather than tearing them down. But I think it’s more important for me to focus on myself for a while.

Still, I can’t seem to disconnect myself from other people enough to find my own way. I mean, I spent so much time working and existing in places where I was always second place and everything and everyone else was priority, I guess I just don’t know how to prioritize myself.

I wish I could talk to my therapist about this, but the lack of health insurance makes it so that I can’t talk to him. I could talk to other people about this, but I think it’s safer to talk to you. You don’t offer many solutions, and that’s the best part. You never have opinions about what I should or shouldn’t do, you just listen and that’s nice.

I think I’ll just have to bump around my life until I find a steady path. I thought I found it already, but I guess it was just a rest period before continuing on with the regular bumpy ride. Maybe the seas will smooth out soon. Hopefully, I make it out with most of my pieces still intact.



On Getting Fired

Dear Alice,

Growing up, I never considered job insecurity to be a real thing. I grew up with parents that both had stable jobs, even when they both decided to switch careers, and when my sister went into the workforce she’d landed her first job in her vocation almost instantly. So when I got a job as a teacher, I thought I was going to be teaching there for my whole life; I even made plans about the whole thing. Yet, life has a funny way of hitting me where I least expected it, and this past Thursday, I was fired from my first ever teaching job.

I have no clue why I was fired, but I do know that the reason they got away with it is because of probationary periods. Guess I just wasn’t a right fit for their school. Honestly, I want to be angry about what happened. I want to be mad that I was basically thrown away like a sack of garbage, but, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not. I hold no ill-will towards the school that fired me. They were just doing what they thought was right for their organization, and I, apparently, wasn’t right for the school.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that I was fired. I mean, I went into the job with basically no experience, only having worked for the one place since I “graduated” college, and with what I think was my worst job interview to date. They clearly were taking a chance on me and they must’ve thought I wasn’t worth the trouble. But don’t mistake this as a pity party (even though it might sound like one); this is a reflection on what happened.

In the interest of being fully open, I must say that being fired did suck, but I think I see what they saw in me when they hired me. They saw some potential. They saw someone who could shape the children of tomorrow. In me, they saw a teacher. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to be the teacher they needed me to be. Maybe I was too inexperienced to give them enough reasons to keep me.

I could get stuck on the maybes and the perhaps, but I think I’ll move on to the other side of this coin. Sure, I might’ve learned a lot from this experience, but I hope that the students I had also learned many things. Not just grammar and vocabulary and the basics of public speaking, but also on how to be good people, citizens of the world, members of a community and not just individuals. I hope that they learned that their actions affect others and that kindness is always better than hate. I hope they learned all the things I didn’t teach them from a book.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my students. Probably for safety reasons that I will never understand. But if I could say goodbye to them, I’d tell them this: It was a blessing to be your teacher. It was an amazing experience to get to share the last two months with you and to be in the presence of such amazing kids. You’re all amazing, all brilliant, and you all deserve to be loved and cherished for the rest of your days. I hope that whoever comes after me gets to experience how amazing you all are. I hope I get to see you all soon, maybe in some other walk of life. I hope you learned and I hope you remember.



Bitter Healing

Dear Alice,

It’s been a while since my last public (or frankly private) letter, but I feel I should inform you of various things. After I quit my last job, I got hired as an English teacher! My lifelong dream came true, and now I get to teach a bunch of kids to love language as much as I do. Everything should be great, but sadly reality is much more cruel than that.

While I am happy at my job and I do love what I do, I find myself becoming bitter. Not because of my job, but because of the scars left over from my previous occupation. I feel as if I’m just putting patches on my wounds rather than doing the work of healing them.

I find myself, once more, running away. Running away from the pain of all that happened, running from the reality of what I experienced, hiding behind a facade of anger and bitterness. I didn’t want to be bitter, I wanted to be full of grace in my exit, yet I slowly but surely let the bitterness in. Its warm embrace made me feel safe.

In these past few days, I’ve prayed for the bitterness to be replaced by grace, but I realize that it’s more complicated than that. Bitterness is not something you can just replace, it must be healed. The funny thing is, I seem to not want to heal.

My heart isn’t ready to forgive. My body still holds on to the anger like a sword. The pit inside consumes more and more, but I just can’t seem to close it.

I should probably tell my therapist these things. I know he’ll have some insight. But I desperately want to talk to a pastor, or someone in the faith that understands my pain and my struggle. There isn’t exactly an “evangelicals anonymous” where we can gather and heal from our past. I wish there was.

I’m trying to work on my healing. I don’t really know where to begin. Perhaps I should start by letting go of the pain. Letting go of all the things that happened, just so my soul has a chance to reset while my body begins to heal.

I wish someone would guide me in that journey.




Dear Alice,

I know its been a while since I’ve written you a letter, but I’ve been really busy these past couple of weeks. Soon enough, though, I won’t be busy at all. The time has finally come for my relationship with my current employer to end. I have a meeting next Monday to discuss my resignation letter (you know the one right?) and I hope to tell them that I will be leaving come December.

It feels bittersweet. Yes, I am gaining freedom and I can finally be who I want to be, but at the same time, I am left with nothing but medical bills from mental health professionals and a pill organizer full of antidepressants that I have to take every day. It’s not easy being mentally ill, but it’s harder to be depressed without health insurance.

I know better days are coming. Days when I feel better and not as unhappy as I felt before. Days where I can give my all to a good job, a job I actually enjoy, and not sit in my office pretending to work just so people don’t bother me. Did you know that my issues with concentrating aren’t caused by ADHD but by genuine disinterest in what I currently devote my time to? Because I certainly didn’t. I thought my brain was just wired differently, but it turns out it just hates being forced to work for an organization that I don’t believe in anymore.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll be doing next in my life. I think that I should work in the Church again, but not in a pastoral role. I don’t think I was ever called to be a pastor, I think I was called to be an advocate. I recently listened to “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller, and in this book she talks about the YWCA advocates that were with her during her trial. I think that’s the kind of work I want to do. I want to stand with people in the midst of their hardest times, I want to be there to support and help them find the best path for themselves.

I don’t know exactly how to do that. There’s not exactly a college that prepares you to be an advocate. But I think going to a seminary is a good start. I want to get my MDiv., even if it is just for me. But I do think it will help me to better understand people.

I don’t know where I’ll be in a few months, but I do hope that I am happy with my choices and that I am able to find a path forward.

I do know this, I’ll probably still be writing to you friend.




Dear Alice,

I finished therapy yesterday! I never thought I’d be the person to have to go to a partial hospitalization program, but I did and I am better for it. I learned a lot (as mentioned in my previous letter) and I am still learning. I think the greatest thing I got from therapy was time to think. I really, really needed time to just think and process all that had been done to me and that had happened to me.

Now that I’m in this in-between time of post-therapy pre-returning-to-work, I start to think about recovery. I know I have to keep up with my meds (which now have a higher dosage) and I have a follow up appointment with TWO psychiatrists so I can get different opinions on what’s going on with my head, but I have to think about other things to do to cope with my depression and anxiety, as well as keep my mind and body healthy.

I think I might start taking walks. Now that I have more energy in the mornings due to reduced stress, I might be able to take a walk every now and then to get myself moving. I always hear that exercise is good for the mind, and I have to admit that I was happier when I was exercising. Sure, I did it for the wrong reasons, but I did feel better when I was doing it. I know I don’t have to do a lot, just about 10 minutes of exercise a day would be good for me, but it’s hard to start. I think that’s the hardest part.

Another thing that I might start doing is practicing being grateful. Many times during therapy we were told that Depression is obsession with things that happened in the past and Anxiety is obsession with things that will happen in the future. I have to learn that I cannot change my past and I can’t control my future, all I can do is focus on the now. My counselor also mentioned that I need to acknowledge feelings and thoughts as what they are, not as crazy hypotheticals. If I allow my mind to wander in the hypotheticals, I can get lost in them, thinking of things that never happened or things that aren’t true.

Mental illness, I’ve noticed, has a lot to do with what is true and what is not true. I hesitate to use the word “fake” as things can be true and fake and not true and real. My thought are real but they are not true. To dwell on things that are untrue only leads me further down the path of despair, so I think I need to focus on things that are true and be grateful for the things that are good.

To be honest, this sounds a lot like what Paul told the Philippians. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” I have to focus on what is true about my feelings and my situation rather than what is not true. Example: I feel scared, I feel hopeful, I feel anxious. All are true, and all are being felt right now, but they are not who I am. I am not anxious, I am now scared, I am not hopeful, I simply feel these things.

Things are looking up, dear friend. I hope to find a path forward soon, but in the meantime, I think I’ll stay in the dark for a bit while longer.




Dear Alice,

Guess where I’ve been theses last couple of days? Outpatient Clinical Therapy. Every day, I go to the local psychiatric hospital, leave my phone behind, and enter into intensive outpatient therapy with a bunch of people who are in a similar journey as mine. We talk about healthy ways to cope, our struggles, and the things we know to be true about ourselves. It’s very wonderful. I even made friends!

This process has helped me realize many things. First of all: my workplace is a little abusive. So much is expected of people in my position with very little tools provided for us. We’re set up to fail and we are blamed for our shortcomings as if they were completely our fault. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very much aware that we (speaking for people in my position) are not perfect, we’re human after all, but to be blamed for failures that happen because of lack of tools is not right at all.

The second thing I learned was that work is the main cause for most of my issues. Due to the constant pressure I feel to attain a level of performance that’s (if I’m being blunt) really flipping impossible to attain, my body and mind have fallen out of alignment. My insides are at war with each other, which has caused me a myriad of health issues. These issues aren’t just of the mental health capacity (though those are harder to identify and treat) but also of the physical capacity. Did you know that depression can cause (or worsen) hypertension (something that I have had to deal with since I was 18)? How about diabetes (something I was recently diagnosed with)?

It’s interesting to see how the mind and the body coexist and cooperate with each other. How a disease (depression) that exists in the mind can deeply affect what happens in the body. How our inner self is deeply linked to our outer self. To me, these inner workings of humanity hint to our divinity. We are divine in nature, both our bodies and our minds. We contain multitudes. And as multitudes do, they sometimes fight. The multitudes of our minds fight with the multitudes of our bodies. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

War is being waged inside of me, but there is a hope for peace. If I learn how to care for my mind and my body, if I unlock the secret to aligning them once again, then the turbulent waters of my multitudes will transform into a calm lake, or at least a steady river. There is light in the darkness.

As I drove to my parents’ house where I’m staying while in OCT, I thought about the sisterhood of light and darkness. One cannot exist without the other. Light without darkness is blindness, darkness without light is consuming. I think God gave us the gift of darkness so that we could grow, and then gave us light so that we can flourish. I might be in my darkness right now, but I am growing, day is dawning, and I hope for the day where my flourishing comes. For now, however, I focus on growth, transformation, and the inner self. Healing in the darkness so that I can shine in the light.

Anyhow, I think that’s enough philosophy for now, better rest up for tomorrow. Hope you are well, friend.




Dear Alice,

I fear that I am coming undone. I thought I have achieved the balance I so desperately desired, but it feels more like my life is coming apart at the seams. I feel sick, tired, lonely, and hopeless.

I keep trying to ask for help, but it would seem that I am not critical enough to receive it, despite how often I feel as if I’m treading water, keeping my head just above sinking. It feels like I’m staring darkness in the face and I am left with a choice: either to step in or run away.

I don’t know how things got to this point. I think it’s an accumulation of feelings that I’ve kept hidden in the deepest parts of myself that I’ve recently had to let loose. Perhaps it’s the result of avoiding the reality of my environment for 5 years. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been running on empty pretending I’m full.

Honestly, Alice, I don’t know. I don’t know anything. It feels like my life is no longer under my control and that I’m just a piece in some twisted game of chess. This is the part where I’d say something brave, as if I were the hero in some fantasy novel, but I have no brave words to offer. All I have is this heaviness inside.

I don’t think sadness is the right word for what I’m feeling right now. I think despair is better. Despair: to be without hope. I feel like I don’t have hope anymore. Like a compass without a north, I feel directionless. I don’t know where to find the path forward.

The concept of the dark night of the soul comes to mind. The mythical rock bottom that St. John of the Cross wrote a poem about. But the name is deceiving, for I am not experiencing a single night, but 5 years worth of darkness. They say you are transformed at the end, but with no end in sight, I am unsure of what I am becoming.

I think that’s what terrifies me the most. The uncertainty. I’m used to a certain level of uncertainty (I mean, I’ve lived in 3 different places in the past year alone), but I’m at a point in my life where nothing is certain. Everything feels shaky and unsure.

I thought sending my resignation letter would make me feel at peace, yet it has been the source of my greatest anxiety. For I fear what is to come and the consequences I must face. The fallout of this situation might be more costly than I can bear alone.

But I have to keep going. At least for now. I owe it to myself to make it out of this. I owe it to that bright-eyed kid that thought becoming a pastor would make all things better. I owe it to the kid who dreamed of a better world. I owe it to the kid who cried bitter tears when he realized that the world was more broken than he could fix alone.

So I believe I must step into the dark rather than running away. Perhaps the dark has something to teach me. Perhaps I will become someone better after I have walked with the dark for a long time. I t is time I face the dark and not run away.



A note to the reader: be not alarmed by what you read here. I am safe. I am cared for. I am getting help. It just takes a while before the people who can help can see me. The problem with living in a colony is that medical care is not very accessible, and due to my current condition, there are a lot of hoops I have to jump through. If you wish to reach out, you may do so, but it might take me a while to reply. But do know that I appreciate those who reach out and I do value your concern. Love, Alex


Dear Alice,

As I sit in the same bookstore/coffee shop that I frequented when I was in college, I am flooded with memories. Most of them good, some of them not so good, but all of them very valuable.

It’s interesting, really, missing the person you used to be and being excited to meet the person you are becoming. On the one hand, I grieve that young boy who sat in this very seat, wrestling with things he didn’t yet understand. I feel for that kid who was entering the world of independence for the first time, eager to discover what the world had in store for him. I used to think he was stupid for dreaming so boldly. But I see now that he was wise beyond his years.

I often think about my 18 year-old self and I wonder how I managed to handle all the emotions I had at that age. The simple answer is that I didn’t. I would bottle them up and tuck them away to a secret part of myself, so secret that I wasn’t privy to the information stored in that place. It’s funny to think about now, that shy, reserved boy became the person I am today.

I wish I could go back and have a conversation with him, I’m sure he’s got interesting things to say. Maybe one day I’ll be able to talk to my younger self, but for now, I will be happy to share his memories.

Memories are a powerful thing. They can heal and they can hurt, they can mobilize and paralyze. My memories usually just make me feel too many things at once.

I recently found a picture that my high school friends gave me. It features a collage of my face as Miley Cyrus’ wrecking ball from the Wrecking Ball video. I can’t believe that, after all these years (almost 10!) I still have it. It survived all the moves, hurricanes, decluttering attempts, and time.

I wonder why I kept it. I think it’s because it reminds me of a simpler time. I don’t necessarily talk to the friends that gave me that picture, honestly, I doubt any of them remember even giving it to me. I may not spend every day with them anymore, but I still keep up with them through the magic of instagram. They look happy and at peace with their lives. I’m glad they’re doing well.

I think I’m gonna end this one here, Alice. The chair at the coffee shop is getting uncomfortable and I don’t want to pay for parking. I’ll talk to you soon.