By Brian Cheatham
I love Alexis' vision for 2019: Community. I see myself as an integral part of that vision, and I hope that many of you do as well. By now, I've had the pleasure of meeting many of you. Most Oasians have seen my sweet wife, Lindsay, and our rowdy kids, Talon and Anita. What you probably don’t know is that until recently, we had felt completely alone for years. I'd like to share a bit about my family and our story to express why this community means so much to us.
Lindsay and I met over 11 years ago while we were in college. She had just moved to Texas from Kansas to attend the Art Institute for culinary school, and we immediately hit it off. We started spending all of our free time together, and I fell hard and fast. Little did we know, Lindsay had become pregnant on her last encounter with her ex-boyfriend before leaving Kansas.
When we both found out what had happened, I was left with the toughest moral dilemma of my young life. As the Clash once sang, Should I Stay, or Should I Go?
I’d been raised in a Baptist home and still considered myself a Christian. My relationship with Lindsay challenged everything that I had been taught. Everyone advised me to move on and separate myself from the situation. Friends and family made judgments about Lindsay's character. We were just college kids being kids, and we made mistakes. Rather than judging her, I identified with her. I knew that it could have easily happened to me. I had found someone special in Lindsay, and I wasn’t going to ghost her. Staying by her side, not knowing what our relationship would soon become, was the first truly humanist thing that I had ever done.
We were so young and naïve. Now that we've been married ten years, I know I made the right decision. But that decision had a lot of unintended consequences: instant poverty, limited social life, limited career options, limited education options, and more. It was a struggle. I had my head down trying to make a career path. Then, we were surprised with our second child! Suddenly I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I had to figure out how to finish college while working full-time and parenting. I didn't have time for community. All I knew was work, school, family.
Meanwhile at UNT, my studies in ancient history, archaeology, and astronomy convinced us that we had been indoctrinated and that the evidence for Christianity was lacking. I also spent a semester learning the history of food production from ancient times to modern day America. What I found terrified me as a young father. It brought out the first hint of activism in my life. I desperately wanted to change the food system. I read a book, Just Food by James McWilliams, a professor at Texas State, when I was deciding where to go for graduate school. I considered continuing my education to become a history professor, but a single idea in Just Food led my family down a rabbit hole that would consume the next five years of our lives. Toward the end of the book, Mr. McWilliams concludes, "Given the ecological and economic viability of aquaponics, food would be significantly more just if this unique form of aquaculture became the future…”
Here's where my naivety came in: I had never so much as grown a pea plant to maturity, and suddenly, I thought I would save the world by creating an aquaponics enterprise. I built gardens in my house, my backyard, my garage, and eventually we moved to Mineral Wells to grow food commercially. I was obsessed. We felt like the only atheists in a rural town with a church on every corner. We were alone, and we lived in utter isolation for over five years.
Everything changed for us when I “came out” to my brother. It was Thanksgiving 2017, and we finally had the talk. It was so satisfying to tell the truth, and I discovered that I had been scared all those years for nothing. It turns out that my family still loves me, even though they disagree.
My brother, Luke, had been trying to convince me to work with him in the financial world for five years, but I never accepted. I desperately wanted to blaze my own trail; however, I saw the wild success that he was having, and I knew that this was a big opportunity for my family. After our religion talk, where we laid out our reasons, he still wanted me to work for him. Finally feeling open and accepted, I decided to make the move to Houston and completely change careers. It has been a daunting task to learn financial strategies, from investments to insurance, when I had zero experience. But I have gone from knowing nothing about finance to being licensed in insurance and one test away from being fully licensed and registered with FINRA as a broker. I’ve been performing the role of Executive Assistant at Diamond Client Group, and I’ve had the privilege of learning from my brother, the president of the firm, throughout the process. It has been the best decision of my married life. We went from complete isolation, to living near friends, family, and meeting Houston Oasis!
Coming to Oasis for the first time was incredible. We had never been in a room of humanists. Now we are surrounded by like-minded people on a weekly basis. Despite fighting introversion, we have made tons of friends. We love being able to speak openly. We love the music and the discussions. We love that our strong-willed children have been accepted. And most of all, we love that we no longer feel crazy and alone. Thank you all, and I look forward to building a strong community at Oasis for years to come!