I got into the early web, and it was really attractive. I had all these friends that were hackers in high school and designers in high school. They were getting hired directly out of high school and going to work in California at these huge startups making great salaries. This was an exciting kind of heady time for that industry. I ended up moving over to another large corporation as their Senior Web Designer as a young guy.
I got involved in what is called straight edge hardcore music. I was really involved in the punk rock scene, playing in bands, djing and doing different things. I got really into art. I got really into writing a zene.
In some ways, I was living the materialistic dream. Galleries on the weekend and trips to New York City and Boston constantly, intellectual discourse in interesting restaurants. I was living the Epicurian life and I was miserable. It was so intensely self-centered.
I lost my job. My girlfriend and I broke up. I ended up back on my parents’ couch in South Carolina with no career, no significant other, no place to live, all of my stuff in the back of the 93 Honda Accord and just wondering what was going on.
My grandfather was a Naval Intelligence then he was an NSA Executive.
My mother’s family on the other side were highly educated. My grandfather was heavily involved in the music scene, actually owned a nightclub during Woodstock in the 1960s.
My parents got me a subscription to Discover Magazine and a copy of the brief history of Time when other kids were reading sports pages.
I’m fairly athletic. I’m sports inclined. I had friends that wanted to play. They wanted to do things like rough-house and wrestle. I was more interested in reading astronomy.
My grandmother went to Harvard as well. I think she saw talent in my abilities. She started pushing me more and more toward being successful in this arena. I really crumbled under the pressure.
That’s what my using drugs were about. It was about running. It was about running from that. I had gone from taking the SAT in the seventh grade and being recognized by Duke and being recognized by the National Merit Committee to failing out of school.
I was fifteen or sixteen. I came home, I was stoned. I was laying on my bed depressed. I was so depressed. I thought I will be dead by the time I’m thirty.
My father came into my room and sat down on my bed. He became a believer during the Jesus movement. I have seen him go through so much just to put food on the table. He went through seminary. The way that he cares for other people through his ministry. He said, “You know Chris, the Bible is fairly clear about men and leadership in the church. I am willing to give this life up for you if you want to continue in this lifestyle”. My father in relaying that to me transformed my understanding of what it meant to love another person. I gave my life to Christ there on my bed.
God had to put me through the crucible to understand that He loves me and that my identity is not wrapped up in my success.
If was intellectual, if was into the punk rock scene, if I was djing or playing in a band and doing these things that I wanted to do the people would see only the side, the highly curated side that I wanted them to see. When you get close to people, you have kids and you get married they act as this transformative pressure. You reveal yourself in intimacy. Then you have to learn how to love. You actually have to learn how to love. You have to learn how to be exposed as a failure.
Right after Erin and I got married, I left this Art Director position I had, and I didn’t want to do design anymore.
I was working at a coffee shop. I wasn’t being really a good provider whatsoever. I got a job working for a design group. I ended up getting fired from that position.
I showed up where Erin was cleaning houses. I walked into the house, it was about eleven o’clock in the morning. She said, “What are you doing here?” We had just found out that we were pregnant with our daughter the day before. I was just feeling completely gutted thinking here I am again. For all of the work I have put into this and all of the posturing I have done, I’m just not good enough. Erin just accepted me. She accepted me. She said, “Oh, okay. We will figure it out. It will work out.”
For most of my life I never really thought that love could be that.