At ten years old, an age when few other kids still believed, I was devastated by the sudden realization that Santa was fictional. When my brother’s best friend, Kevin, a boy who had pestered me relentlessly throughout our childhood, announced to us that he knew exactly what we were getting for Christmas that year, I responded with the biggest eye roll I could muster. He was not deterred and proceeded to list off each item that would be under the tree, claiming that he had seen my parents exiting the store where the gifts had been purchased. What a smug jerk! Why would he intentionally try to ruin Chrstmas for us? I dismissed everything he said, pretending like I hadn’t heard. Besides, he can’t know everything we are getting. He doesn’t know what Santa is bringing this year.
Christmas morning came, and as I eagerly surveyed the room to locate the presents intended for me, my heart sank. The gift left out by Santa was one of the items Kevin had named. I busied myself with my new toy, making sure to keep my back turned away from the rest of my family, hiding the tears that I could not hold back. As soon as I was able, I retreated to my room where I unleashed the full extent of my sorrow and disappointment. How could he not be real? Hadn’t I heard him speak to me? Was it not him who had provided me with years of comfort throughout the abuse I had endured? Was it not to him that I had poured out all my hopes and fears, hurts and failures every night before bed? Why would grownups sell us such a lie? If he isn’t real, is anything? I was a bit young to be going through such an existential crisis, especially on this, the most joyous day of the year for a kid. But the thread to which this revelation was connected, once pulled, began unraveling a foundational piece of my childhood, which left me feeling more alone than ever before.
It was shortly after the Santa debacle, in the middle of my 5th grade year, that I began pulling away from some of my friendships and old interests in favor of getting lost in books and writing. It could simply be that as we approached middle school it was a natural time, developmentally speaking, for us all to start shifting into more preadolescent versions of ourselves, but I for one was feeling disenchanted and was beginning to have a lot of serious questions about life and meaning and purpose – about whether or not we were alone. It was the beginning of a philosophical hunger in me that would only deepen over the years. I no longer had a name for who I was addressing, but ten-year-old me continued to speak all that was in my mind and heart into the darkness of my bedroom, asking all of the questions that weighed on me, unsure if anyone could hear me, but hopeful.
Thankfully, it would not be long before I at least had an answer to that last one…
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…and it will be given to you”James 1:5