My Life as a Divergent

Are you Divergent? What does that even mean? A quick google search for the definition of the word yields the following:


dĭ-vûr′jənt, dī-


Drawing apart from a common point; diverging.

Departing from convention.

Differing from another.

To take it a step further, and to edify for those who aren’t privy to popular culture; the term (as I’m using it here) comes from a futuristic social science action film directed by Neil Burger based on a 2011 novel series by Veronica Roth. In this film the world’s last remaining civilization (or so they believe) is divided into “factions” that determine how a person will work and live for their adult lives. The separation of children from parents can occur upon the ritual that determines what faction that an adolescent at the age of maturity decides to join (there are tests done before the ceremony that tell them what faction they will belong to; however, the choice is left to the individual). In this film, the term divergent refers to someone who’s test revealed inconclusive results – meaning they will have traits that help them to cross faction boundaries. The main character in this film, Beatrice, finds out that she is divergent and will never “fit” into a faction. They (divergents) are to be removed from the population.

Ok, we get it, Shadow. Now get to the point. The point is that I believe that I may fit this definition, as we all probably do to some extent. However, my life has been a smorgasbord of experiences and while some things seem to “fit” perfectly at times, all things fade and I have never been able to stick with anything for long enough to really call it a “fit”. I’m not complaining. I love my life. What it has been, mistakes and all; as well as where I think I’m going to go in the future. My career has been a mishmash of pursuits in different (divergent) directions (politically as well as morally, ethically, and religiously). I’m sure as I’m writing this that there are more cases of this than there are cases of those who have stuck with something for a long time and had great success. What’s different about me? Nothing other than that I happen to be writing about it.

Yes, yes. The obvious point to the movie is that we are all divergent and were never meant to be divided into factions. But have we been? Well, let’s take a look. There’s the division of people into “left” and “right” politically. Not everyone claims a side, but everyone tends to lean one way or other at any particular time. I think it would be impossible to walk the line today. Personally, I try, (the word “try” being key here) to keep an open mind about everything. I am sympathetic to issues on both sides of the aisle, and I try to keep politics out of my art; but is that really even possible? I have been told I lean more to the left, but I have voted with both sides and even got caught up in the mania (albeit to a very small degree) surrounding Donald Trump. I think there is a lot of propaganda and lies being told out there, where one could easily get seduced by the gentle suggestions of someone claiming to be a “truther” or a “Christian”, while at the same time condemning half the country to hell claiming they are members of a global cult, cabal, whatever. I have seen a lot in my time on this planet, and I don’t doubt that there are Satan worshippers along with Christ followers around every corner. I just don’t put my eggs in the basket that believes that all Christians and their prosperity culture are going to heaven and everyone else, the “sinners” are going to perish. Another “faction” we use to divide ourselves. In my case, I have gone from being raised in a devout Christian home and being indoctrinated into the Christian belief system from a young age, to teaching myself out of necessity that it’s okay to question what you have been told and even your beliefs at times in order to really learn what your ACTUAL beliefs are. I believe in God; I believe in Jesus Christ as savior; but I am not a Christian. Not if that means blindly following a religious system of rules, principles, theories, and concepts that Jesus never came to establish and that I have witnessed being used to justify some of the worst so-called “sins” of them all. I won’t rely on any man to bring me to the Father, besides Him. But, I digress. The point is, this is another area where I am “divergent” from the norm.

Not enough? Well lets now take a look at my career. I started out going to Art School, as a talented painter and burgeoning musician. Was interested in painting and sculpture, but the pragmatic side in me (perhaps influenced by how I was raised) convinced myself to study Graphic Design so I could get a respectable job. The artistic impulse proved difficult to suppress in my efforts to design graphics for clients (or assignments, as I wasn’t working professionally yet) which made the curriculum challenging. I had moments of brilliance followed by instances of idiocracy. In my frustration and confusion (I really wanted to study painting at the time) I decided to join the military of all things. I needed money to continue my education. Furthermore, I was going to try out for the Navy Seals! One minute, I am a reclusive, pacifistic artist. The next minute, I am trying out to be a trained killer! I did make it to the training, I just did pathetically poorly at it and dropped out after a week. I did manage to complete Search and Rescue Swimmer training and so I got to do a lot of cool stuff as a result of that; nothing that involved shooting guns or killing people. When I left the military I went into manufacturing for about a year then back to being an artist then back to manufacturing. I completed an MBA and a Master of Science in Supply Chain. After 6 years at a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, I resigned with no clear plans for the future. Decided to get into information technology. Started school again. Got hired by a Community college as a programmer. Then went to a manufacturing firm as programmer. Then got FIRED. 

All the while that I was doing all of these different things, I was practicing my art and developing as a musician in my spare time. In fact, it became the only consistent thing over a 15 year period after I left the Navy. Specifically, in around 2015 I began recording myself on guitar. I have been making sometimes several recordings a day on my iPhone and MacBook for nearly 8 years now almost without missing a day. There are times when it wasn’t practical, but I think I’ve made up for it with the quantity of work I sometimes accomplish in a single day. I am now studying again. At a TOP school for MUSIC of all things! Will this be the thing that fits? Well, as I write this my path may be taking a turn. I would like to continue the musical journey, and this education seems to be what I need right now to keep my life from seeming too chaotic (I’m creating art all day – it lacks structure BIG TIME!). I am also learning immensely from this path of study, whereas when I studied business it was for a degree and to make money; somehow it didn’t stick too well. My brain and heart don’t “get” certain things. My brain “gets” music – somehow, and to some degree. My heart even more so. 

Finally, I feel that all of this experimentation educates my art. So if not all of us are like this to some extent, then at least I hope that maybe some other artists are. My art is informed by my life. I learn by experience, which is why music and creativity is easier for me. I have “experienced” what it is like to create music, or a painting, or whatever. If that makes me divergent, I guess I’m okay with that.

Shadow Lake

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