Introduction: Target Practice

Last winter, someone asked me, “so what experience in your life has defined you most?”
I clutched my cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee nervously. “What?”
“You know, like what has changed you more than anything else?”
It’s funny to think of our “definition” in turns of experiences. Most of the time, people identify themselves with categorization words, like those red, blue, and green containers that preschool teachers put toys in. Or like a librarian –“This one goes in the Fiction Section under CE.” Most of the time you will hear people describe themselves with words like Muslim, Democrat, Socialist, Presbyterian, or Globalist. Or by a certain job–plumber, preacher, professor–a certain station in life–in menopause, mid-life, elderly, teenager–or a certain lifestyle–diabetic, vegan, alcoholic, OCD. These categories afford a stereotype. Like EVERYONE knows that all pre-teen girls love Starbucks coffee, mismatched socks, romantic dystopian characters, and going to the beach with One Direction blaring on the stereo. EVERYONE knows that homeschoolers are socially awkward, culturally indifferent, and naiive to the point that words like “lesbian” and “vodka” make their eyebrows go up. The problem with stereotypes and categorizations is that they are only partially true. And a half-truth is much worse, and much easier to believe, than a full-out “yes” or “no” lie.
That’s why it is interesting to think of defining yourself in terms of experiences. The places that make your heart feel at home, the people whose eyes can melt your obstinance with a glance, the trip that left you with more than just $5 souvenirs. Those things that feed your memories and fuel your everyday existence. The things that no words could ever describe, and no explanation of them would ever be enough.
You know what they are. Who they are. Think about them right now. How have they made you who you are today?
For me, the two “defining” experiences of my life were also the most painful. One was my salvation, which came after two years of doubt, despair, anger, contemplating suicide, and trying to find God while at the same time pushing Him away. I remember that it was two days before my fifteenth birthday. I remember the sun was setting over the field, and a breeze was racing through the uncut grass and whisking across my face. I remember my neighbor walking a chihuahua.
The second defining experience involved a scandalous, but beautiful relationship. I remember him holding me on the porch, how his eyes looked when they were stained with tears. I remember being on my knees, or in my bed, tossing and turning, praying for answers. I remember sitting at my computer, numb as I typed why I could no longer keep the promises I had made for “always and forever”.
Those are points in my life, the things that smash me against a wall and throw darts every time I see the field, hear a song, see a silver Avenger. The memories are like glass shards that my bare feet continually walk upon because there’s no other way to get through them.
But they also are the things that have verified my target. By that I mean where I’m headed. What my passion is. What I’m searching for. What my future holds. What my purpose is. Because verifying my target doesn’t just define my memories. It defines my infinity.
So what’s your target? Where are you going? What does your life revolve around?  It might have taken you a couple missed shots and alot of target practice to find it. But sitting there, reading this, you know what it is.
The point in all this is that everyone is defined not by words, but by experiences, people, and passions. Those things control who we are. Who we become. But even more than those “defining” memories, every person has a target, something they are fixed on. Something that even the most defining experiences cannot deter them from. Something that they believe in, something that they will fight for, breathe for, sweat for, bleed for.
I know what mine is. What’s yours?

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