So I'm new to both Dhamma Wheel and the dharma. I came across Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, and numerous other teachers a few years ago, and took their words both as a comfort and a challenge: I can be happy, but I have to be willing to change myself to do that. I live in Tampa, born and raised in a small town near Brooksville (FL), and am currently a graduate student, tutor, and occasional handyman and doer-of-odd-jobs for my living. About to leave academia with my master's and take my chances in this 'real world' I keep hearing about.
No credentials whatsoever, apart from having read a lot about the dharma, and living a life that's become increasingly marked by awareness of dukkha. I was frequently depressed to the point where I wouldn't even get out of bed. I self-medicated through intoxication, which only dug me deeper into my depression. Meanwhile, my life was rolling along just fine (in one sense) and rolling by without me (in another entirely). I quit drinking and withdrew from my social life for a while. Started meditating, mostly zazen and mindfulness meditation. I was trying new things, because I couldn't soothe myself with alcohol anymore. So one evening, I started meditating on metta. Benefactors, loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and when I got to enemies, I curled up on the floor and started sobbing.
So it came to a point where I sat in my sweatpants, alone, and took the Three Refuges. Didn't care if I meant it or not. I wasn't a member of a sangha. I barely understood the basic points of the dharma. The Buddha was just some over-privileged prince in some long-buried Indian kingdom who had a spiritual experience and wound up saying some pretty good things sometimes. I didn't care: the metta meditation experience I had about did it for me: the dharma was worth committing to. That was about two months ago. I recite the Refuges and the Five Precepts frequently, many times a day, because the Pali is beautiful, the meanings are even more beautiful, and because I think taking refuge is best taken as an iterative process of intention and discipline --- not the kind of sudden 'conversion experience' from my Baptist upbringing.
So here I am. I'm intellectually sharp but emotionally stunted. Over-educated white male from a working-class background, stuck in a weird place at a weird age in a weird time. A little more than freaked out about life these days. I do some dubious things sometimes and hide behind the good reputation I built up in less selfish phases of my life. I'm figuring things out as I go along. I've been broken and feel expansive, because it means I get to put myself back together. I know dukkha and don't want to play anymore. And I really do want all beings without exception to be happy, safe, healthy, and that they love freely. I want to help where I can.