Gaining One's Definition

Sergeant Young Zay, The Gun-TotingTenderoni.

Sergeant Young Zay, The Gun-TotingTenderoni.

I have a pet peeve. Shit, I have a lot of pet peeves now that I think about it.

For instance, I hate when people use the same big spoon for all the food trays at a summer BBQ. Your punk ass wanted to use the same spoon to scoop everything on your plate and now the potato salad has tinges of spaghetti sauce, greens juice, and reeks of a chitterlingy after-taste that just won’t go away no matter how many grape Sunkists I try to wash that shit down with.

Fuck you very much for that.

I also hate when people say “no homo” or “pause” after saying something that other people may perceive as gay…as if “no homo” is like some homophobic way of saying “Bless you” and acts as a force field that stops you from catching any of this highly contagious Gayness that’s apparently been floating around (Not really).

Fuck you very much for that, too.

But of all pets peeves, I think the one that irritates me the most is when at any given moment while I am under-the-weather or my life is as pleasant as someone taking a shit in a hot tub with me in it, I’m told, “Pray,” or that I need to go church, or “Let go and let God.” It’s as if the mere act of drowning my sorrows in Knob Creek whiskey and letting God deal with the rest is all that is needed to return happiness to my thrift shop of a life.

It’s like, “Damn. You’re just gonna make me a Christian, huh?”

But trust me, I get the intent. I understand that they generally mean no harm by their closed-minded religious suggestions. It’s just that I find it incredibly frustrating that people predetermine your faith and assume the belief system you hold is also the belief system they hold without ever considering that you may be of some other faith.

Like, maybe you’re Muslim or maybe you worship inflatable fuck dolls. They wouldn’t know because they didn’t take the time to ask or consider not everyone is Christian. And I hate that.

But I didn’t truly find God until after a nervous-ass deployment to the Middle East, when I realized I deserved the respect of having a difference in spiritual awareness...while also not being judged for it.

Back in 2006, I was a Marine sergeant that managed to avoid all previous deployments overseas. I was not eager to go over to the Middle East to fight and help kill other poor people — so I did everything I could to dodge that shit like the plague. Fortunately, it wasn’t until a majority of the hostilities had calmed down that I was finally tapped to go play in the big-ass sandbox and build sandcastles for six long-ass months on behalf of the War Hungry Wypipo of America.

And I am going to keep it completely real: I was scared, y’all. Nervous as fuck. It felt like I had to boo boo for a good eight months straight before I actually deployed out there. And before we actually headed out that way, I entertained every worst possible outcome that could happen while over there fighting some bullshit war.

I mean, I imagined dying, obviously. But not any honorable-type shit you would see in the movies, like taking a bullet to the heart then taking my last breath with my head between the titties of a beautiful woman. No, I imagined being caught butt-ass naked in the desert heat, then having multiple AK-47s shoved up my ass or being strapped to a chair and forced to listen to Lil Scrappy’s mama sing me love songs for hours on end.

It was during this time of uncertainty that I really started thinking about spirituality. It was then I really wanted to make sure I was right with God because I didn’t want to get to Heaven and have the gatekeepers tell me, “Naw, homie, you may as well turn your ass right back around, dawg.” Nope. I wanted to make sure I had the right damn answers. But it was hard to search for answers initially because Christianity tells you that you’re going to burn the fuck up in a holiday resort called “Hell” if you ever question God.

So I was stuck.

You see, growing up, my household wasn’t extremely religious. And despite our fam going to church as often as Easter comes around each year, we subscribed to Christian ideals and therefore, by default that made my little punk ass Christian too. The truth of the matter, though, is I low-key side-eyed a lot of what I was told and taught…and eventually, I began to wonder if the Bible was even legit at all (I know, I know. Burn my ass at the stake now). But never did I voice these concerns aloud. I made sure I kept that shit to myself…

...until many years later.

Jump back to this time of pre-deployment and I revisited all the questions I’ve ever had. Only this time, I decided to act on them.

I remember getting down and praying to God to forgive me for the spiritual search I was about to go on and to forgive me for all the times I ditched school to beat off to movies on the Playboy channel. I prayed that he not send me to Hell and not fuck me up with a bolt of lightning to my dick and balls. I even asked that he/she provide me with guidance and answers to my hundreds of spiritual questions. And I’ll be damned, as soon as the next damn day, that’s when my life took a big turn on a spiritual level.

Something in me told me to sit down and write out all the things I believed about life and people and spirituality that wasn’t influenced by Christianity but instead influenced by my own understanding of the world. Once I had a list of shit, I typed in all these things and the very first search result led me to the Bahá'í  Faith.

I read about what the faith entailed and came away completely and utterly impressed with all that was said:

Firstly, the Bahá'í  believe that all religions have an element of truth and therefore, they study all religious texts equally. And yep, I agree with that.

Secondly, they believe in equal rights among men and women and fuckboys and hoodrats. I was skeptical, at first...but yeah, I agree with that, too.

Thirdly, they believe in lessening the gap between rich and poor. And shit, my broke ass was tired of coming up with clever ways to mix hamburger meat and Ramen noodles so I was def down with that.

Finally, they believe that it isn’t necessary to worship at a building like a church or mosque. So sit at home on Sunday and watch football? Hells yeah! Shiiidddd, I’m down for all of that. I truly felt in my heart that God sent this information my way so that I could watch the Bears get their asses kicked on Sundays and next thing you know, I find myself registering to become an official Bahai – which allowed me to meet other Bahá'í that lived near me.

And everything was cool at first, but then things kind of took an awkward step backward.

I found Bahá'í showing up at my crib unannounced. I started getting letters on a daily basis that nagged me and begged me to meet with them at other Bahá'í's houses. And to me, as an introverted person, I found the faith was just far too social for me to continue to deal with. So in the end, I threw up the deuce and left the Bahá'í Faith, but my spiritual quest for some gawd damn answers continued.

Over the course of several years, I studied books, watched videos, even listened to speeches about finding spirituality within myself. Unfortunately, several deaths happened in my family and some experiences relating to those deaths exposed me to whole other parts of life and questions that I never knew I had. Fast forward to present day, and I now consider myself a spiritual person that believes in God, but does not adhere to a specific religion. And that’s really the point of this ramblefest.

Faith, especially religion, is something that is extremely important to the Black community. Church has always been a center of strength and unity and spaghetti fish fries. But it’s important that we acknowledge that we have reached a point where information is much more accessible. And as a result, we have a lot more questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” and “Can ghosts get head from living beings? If so, there’s a few people I’d like to haunt.” The truth is some of us have simply spiritually outgrown religion.

I’m just a tad bit older than the Millennial Generation, so my coming-of-age experience also includes life without the internet and other Stone Age shit. But true Millennials are more likely to have questions regarding faith, and I’m here to tell you that is perfectly okay to question religion and the things you have been taught for the duration of your life. You are not required to simply accept what someone adheres to.

Some of you reading this brilliant shit I just wrote may have questions about faith, spirituality, God, and what happens when we die. Please know that you are not alone. Also know that I am not saying following a religion is necessarily bad. I’m not even saying abandoning that religion is even good. I’m just saying that you are the only one that can reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of your faith.

You and you alone are the one going to Heaven or going to Hell or whatever place we go after we die for not sharing those “I Love Jesus” memes. So make sure you live a life on faith that YOU believe. Not what you’re told to believe or what you think you should believe. And that right there is what it really means to find Gaining One’s Definition.


Zay Ilarraza-Boyed is an afro-latinx from Chicago. He's the creator of and is a fluent speaker in Sarcasm and Brilliant Shit. When he's not joyously kicking down a kid's pillow fort, he is online trying to do the write thing. More Zay: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Zay Ilarraza-Boyed

Zay is an afro-latinx from Chicago. He's the creator of and is a fluent speaker in Sarcasm and Brilliant Shit. When he's not joyously kicking down a kid's pillow fort, he is online trying to do the write thing. More Zay: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook