Attitude

LIFE LESSONS

- Words Thomas Stichbury

Author Jedidiah Jenkins

On the eve of his 30th birthday, Jedidiah Jenkins quit his job, and cycled from Oregon to Patagonia, on a quest for self-discovery that saw him reconcile his sexual identity with his Christian upbringing. Sixteen months, 14,000 miles and a tonne of chamois cream later — “I got the kind with a minty tingle so I was having a blast down there!” — Jedidiah wrote a bestsellin­g memoir of his trip, To Shake the

Sleeping Self. “I knew my life was going to speed up and leave me behind if I didn’t sit behind the steering wheel,” he explains. Jedidiah Jenkins’ To Shake the Sleeping Self – plus his new collection of essays, Life Streams to the Ocean – are out now

My favourite quote is, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” (John Muir) My favourite author is John Steinbeck. I enjoy a story, but I enjoy language more. And no one strings a thought like him.

I’VE HAD SO MANY INCREDIBLE LETTERS FROM PEOPLE COMING OUT TO THEIR FAMILIES, USING THE BOOK AS A TOOL TO HELP THEIR PARENTS OR FRIENDS UNDERSTAND THEM. THAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST GIFT, SEEING IT USED AS A TOOL FOR UNDERSTAND­ING AND HEALING. My happy place is the seat in the window by my bird feeder. I watch the birds all day.

My biggest fear is a rabbit biting me. Their mouths are tiny, and their teeth are razor blades. I was a C-section… meaning I didn’t pass through a vagina. And I’ve never fooled around with a woman, so that makes me a platinum gay. [THE SCARIEST ENCOUNTER I’VE HAD WHILE TRAVELLING WAS] WHEN MY

FRIEND WAS TRYING TO BUY COCAINE IN CARTAGENA,

AND I WAS BACKUP. STANDING IN THE ALLEY IN THE DARK, LISTENING TO THEM SPEAK WORDS I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND, THERE WAS SUCH A CHARGE IN THE AIR. IT WAS FUCKING TERRIFYING.

I grew up in a very Christian environmen­t in Tennessee. I was scared to come out, but I did it [in my] senior year of high school. I wanted to get it over with before I went to college. I didn’t want my friends to think college had ‘changed’ me.

[The first person I came out to was] my high-school guidance counsellor. I told her because it was her job not to be judgmental. I cried harder than I’ve ever cried since… Once I survived that and she was kind to me, I told my friend, Carla. I told her because she had said once in passing, “I wish I had a gay best friend.”

My mom was very upset. She still struggles with it. She has decades of Church teaching that told her that the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ leads to Aids and death. But she loves me more than anything, so it’s a bit of a battle for her. My dad was fine with it. He’s been judged for so many things in his life, he’s too tired to judge others.

The last time I cried was when I fell in love with a guy who wasn’t ready to be with me. Or maybe he just didn’t want to, but he cried, too. It was a summer romance mess. The last time I got angry was when a Viking clown stormed the American Capitol.

I SHED THE IDOLATRY OF CERTAINTY YEARS AGO. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT OR WHO GOD IS, AND I DON’T THINK GOD MUCH CARES. TO ME, LIFE

IS A SPIRITUAL, VISCERAL, PHYSICAL, SENSUAL MYSTERY — AN UNFOLDING — AND I’M LOVING IT.

My most annoying habit is having to pee every three minutes. If I could give my younger self a piece of advice it would be, “Invest in Tesla.”

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