Month: July 2014

Exit 13. Be the right one.

I had a topic ready for this week’s post, but then I decided that it might not be the right time to share that particular thought on a public blog.  I’m busy enough right now that I’m going to have to recycle an old post.  I wrote this in August of 2009, except that I have replaced the name of the individual mentioned here with an astrocode.  I’ve never given her an astrocode before… let’s call her Kapteyn.  I’ll add something at the end too.


I had an interesting thought today, an interesting new take on something I’ve heard and thought about many times before.

The other night, I was talking to Kapteyn on Facebook, and it’s a long story how this came up, I swear I wasn’t just sitting around moping about it because I had nothing better to do… but I said something about how it was so hard to find that special someone, and she reminded me, among other things, that the most important thing in finding the right one is to be the right one yourself; work on that and everything else will work itself out. I’d heard this before, but it helped to hear it again.

But I was thinking about this a while later, and I thought, no, it doesn’t really help to hear this again, and being the right man isn’t what I need right now. Don’t get me wrong; I completely agree that working on myself is a very important part of finding and maintaining a relationship. I believe that a successful relationship is between two already healthy people rather than two incomplete people looking for a partner to fill their holes. But I’m questioning whether being the right man is enough for me. I can do all I want to be the right man, be respectful, listen when she needs to talk, be honest, work on my relationship with God, but none of that means anything when I have such a hard time knowing how to pursue a woman in the first place, how to communicate that I’m interested without scaring her away. Working on all that above stuff won’t make it any easier to clear up the confusion I still deal with over all the mixed messages I’ve received over the years, and all the lack of logic and rationality that is inherent in human interpersonal relationships. It feels, to put this in terms that my geeky friends would appreciate, like I’m a stranger to love. You know the rules, but I don’t. Again, not to imply that I disagree with what Kapteyn said, but she’s never been in my situation. She’s 20 and almost engaged, and while I don’t know everything she’s been through every moment of her life, it’s hard to believe she knows what it’s like to be single at my age and how hard it is to meet people with similar values.

But then I got to thinking some more. Maybe the problem isn’t in what she said, but in that I was interpreting it way too narrowly. Maybe there’s more to being the right man than my relationship with the Lord and how I treat women. Maybe being the right man includes learning to be confident and having a positive self-image and letting go of things in the past. Maybe being the right man means I’m not afraid to take risks and do new things, to take a bite of the apple God gives me instead of letting it pass by and waiting for an orange that’s probably never going to come. Maybe being the right man means recognizing that things aren’t always going to be perfect and not giving up when they aren’t, but instead picking up and moving on and learning from the experience. Maybe that’s where I need to work on being the right man. And in that sense, Kapteyn was exactly right.


 

Back to 2014.  I told Kapteyn back in 2009 that I was going to write about this conversation, but I haven’t talked to her recently, so she doesn’t know that I’m posting it again.  She’s 25, married to the guy that she was “almost engaged” to in 2009, and they’re expecting their first child soon.  I’ve reread this post several times over the years, because it’s something I still need to remind myself of.  And I’m still failing at finding that special someone.  I’ve come to realize over the last couple months that my own unrealistic expectations may be playing a much larger role than I thought in my lack of dating and relationships.  And being the right one means not holding on to unrealistic expectations, like what I said in 2009 about the apple and the orange.  I haven’t exactly resolved this internal conflict yet, but that’s a post for another time.  But the taking risks and doing new things, the positive self image and letting go (♪ ♪ “LET IT GO, LET IT GOOOOOO, CAN’T HOLD IT BACK ANYMOOOOORE…..” … oops, sorry) of the past , those are things I can and should continue to work on.

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Exit 12. I chose poorly.

This image has been circulating among my Facebook friends again.

2words

I always have the same answer whenever I see this: “‘Stay home.‘  And I’d write it on a page torn out of a 2010 calendar, with July 17 circled.”

That’s an oddly specific response to a whimsical question, but there’s an oddly specific event that affected my life in far-reaching ways, and I’ve always wondered if life would have turned out differently had that specific event not happened.  This has been on my mind again the last couple months, because I’ve been seeing this meme again, and because that specific date, July 17, just occurred again recently.  (Of course, when I actually post that answer, I’m just being annoyingly vague, to see what others’ reactions will be like.)

Let’s recap for those of you who didn’t know me in 2010.  By the way, when I’m telling stories on my Facebook page, and I don’t want to mention names, I have this tradition of using names of planets, stars, comets, things like that as pseudonyms, and some of the stories I tell on here involve the same people multiple times, so I’m going to start doing that on this site too.  I should also point out that I’m still friends with everyone in this story except one (Acrux*), and I haven’t told them that I would be writing this, so hopefully they won’t be hurt or offended by anything I’m going to say.  That is not my intent at all.  I’m just trying to state facts and tell a story from my perspective.

On July 17, 2010, a close guy friend invited me to a party that I didn’t really want to go to at first, because I knew I wouldn’t know very many people there.  The party was hosted by people from another dancing group, not the one I usually go to, but there were a few people who were part of both groups.  Not knowing many people would have been the perfect excuse to talk myself out of going (in case I got a warning to stay home from a future version of myself), but I decided to go anyway.  I ended up knowing around a third of the people there.  I had a great time, mostly because for over an hour, I had the attention of a really cute girl.  We’ll call her Mimosa*.   I’m usually pretty oblivious when someone likes me, but that night, the way she was acting, looking at me, and the like, made me wonder if there was something there.  I should point out that, at the time, she was a college student, and I was older than her by well over a decade, not exactly within the healthy range of age differences.  I had a Facebook friend request from her the next morning, and we spent the next two weeks exchanging five-paragraph-long messages pretty much every day.  I had a party at my house a week later, and she showed up for part of it.  Someone else who was there noticed that she was making googly eyes at me the whole night, and asked me about her a few days later.  Like I said, I’m normally pretty oblivious to someone being attracted to me, but having someone else notice it really helped boost my confidence in the sense of making a so-called move.

(*The stars Acrux and Mimosa are also known as Alpha Crucis and Beta Crucis.  I’ve used those other pseudonyms to close friends before, referring to these same people.)

That led to a brief fling of a few days involving lots of kissing, which is much more than what usually happens on a first and second date for me.  What made it different that time was that I was tired of being cautious, I hadn’t kissed anyone in over three years, and whatever I had been doing the rest of my life wasn’t working, so I figured I would just go in off the deep end and see what happened.  What happened was, a few days later (this was now mid-August), Mimosa told me that we were just dating casually and I could date other people.  That really hurt.  This was different from any dating-like experience I’d ever had, and I thought it was special.  But I should add that I really did feel (and always have felt) like she never meant to hurt me.  It makes me really sad to know this, but in this culture, it is my dating practices, not hers, that are unusual.  From her end, what happened was all perfectly normal behavior.  (By the way, Mimosa, if you ever read this, I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize yourself in this story, so please, please know that I am not writing this to criticize or shame you, or put you in a bad light.  I hope this didn’t come across that way.  I still consider you a friend, I have never wavered in my belief that you never intended to hurt me, and I know that what happened had more to do with misunderstandings than anything else.)

So, back to the topic of writing a note to myself in the past…  naturally I was so hurt that I wished that none of that had ever happened.  It’s entirely possible that I still would have met Mimosa had I not gone to that party, but it would have been at dancing a month or so later, and those circumstances most likely wouldn’t have led to a fling.  We may have gradually become good friends, and I would have realized gradually that she wasn’t my type, without being hurt finding out the way I did.

There’s a lot more to the story, though.  Through August, I was still showing up at the place where Mimosa and the others from the July 17 party went dancing.  She told me that she had a friend, Acrux, who “I would probably really like.”  I wasn’t sure if she was trying to set us up, or just saying that we’d get along; remember the whole thing about me being oblivious.  I met Acrux in person in September, and at first I thought she seemed kind of full of herself.  But that group of people kept inviting me to their parties, knowing that Acrux and I would always be the oldest and most sober people there, and therefore want to hang out together.  In December, Acrux and I spent five hours in the back room just talking, and I started to think maybe my first impression of her was wrong.

The years 2010 and 2011 were a bit of an anomaly in my life, in that there were a lot of women interested in me.  In February of 2011, I was kind of seeing someone who was unconnected to the rest of this story.  We’ll call her Aurora.  I wasn’t too sure how I felt about Aurora.  Twice within the same week, I had Facebook chats with two women who both pretty obviously implied that they were interested in me.  The first, Diphda, was someone I had been on one date with in 2008, which she initiated, but that led to some weird tension for a while.  The other was Acrux.  I didn’t want to do anything while I was still seeing Aurora, but shortly after things formally ended with her, about a month later, I made a date with Acrux.  We were officially a couple about another month after that, and by then, my opinion on wishing I could change history had shifted completely.  I no longer wished that I had never met Mimosa, because if that were the case, I never would have met Acrux either.

Acrux moved away a few months later, in August, and we didn’t work as a long distance couple.  More specifically, being apart from each other brought to the surface a number of issues that I had successfully ignored through the first few months of our relationship.  We broke up on New Year’s Eve.  (I referenced this in #9, under “Faithfully.”  I didn’t create this blog to bash my exes, so I won’t tell any more of that story.)  So my opinion on the changing history subject changed again.  I’m back to wishing that I had never been to that party on July 17, but not so much because I wouldn’t have gone through all that heartache.  It’s more complicated.  Were I to have the opportunity to change history, I would rather delete the Mimosa-Acrux chain of events this from my timeline because of what might have happened during that period had I not dated Acrux.

As I said before, Diphda, another woman unrelated to the story, mentioned once that she wondered what we would be like as a couple.  At the time, both of us were kind of seeing people that we weren’t sure if we had feelings for.  I chose to pursue things with Acrux instead, and by the time Acrux and I broke up, Diphda had met the guy that she’s still with now.  In hindsight, I feel like I chose poorly.

lastcrusade-knight_5449

After Acrux moved away, I had been talking with a female friend on Facebook, Markab.  She and I talked a lot for about a month, and once she even drove all the way out to my neighborhood to get Starbucks with me (that’d be about a 40 minute drive).  I couldn’t tell if she was trying to send the message that I should break up with Acrux and get together with her–I’m oblivious, remember–but I do remember that she seemed very interested in talking to me back then, and after Acrux and I broke up, she said she was glad because Acrux wasn’t good for me.  It’s a moot point now, though, because Markab is engaged.  Would I have had a chance to date either of these women had I not met Acrux?  At this point, I can only wonder.

Of course, this is all moot, because I can’t go back and change history now, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be in similar enough circumstances to learn anything specific from this.  There is no point in dwelling on what might have been.  The reason I chose to pursue a relationship with Acrux instead of with Diphda after ending things with Aurora was because I had been interested in doing just that since the party three months before, when we had spent five hours talking.  Even though Diphda had mentioned the possibility of us being good for each other, she had also made things a little weird in 2008 when we first met, and the last I had talked with her, she was of uncertain status with someone else.   And the reason I didn’t try to make anything happen with Markab was because I was still with Acrux when that happened, and I believe very strongly in clearly ending one relationship or dating-like experience before starting down the road to another.  (This seems to be yet another difference between me and many in the younger generation, sadly.)  Maybe I didn’t choose poorly after all.  Maybe it’s just life, mixed in with circumstances and bad timing.  It’s interesting to think about how things could have turned out differently, but there’s no point in wasting a lot of energy on it because there’s nothing I can do about it.  Going through heartache like this is a natural part of life.  I’ve learned from these experiences, and that’s what’s really important here.

Exit 11. That same kind of situation, except now I’m on the other side.

I got recognized in a crowd the other day.  I’m famous.

No, not exactly.  And it wasn’t from this blog, although that would have been awesome.  “Hey!  I know you!  You’re that guy who writes Highway Pi!  Can I have your autograph?”  “Sure.  Anything for my adoring fans.”  Actually, if someone I didn’t know came up to me and said that, I’d be really scared, because I’ve never used my last name or a photograph of me on this site.

So here’s the story.  I was at a concert on Friday night.  This show was a three hour drive from my house.  I have family in that area, I grew up in that area, and I went to the concert with my cousin.  This really drunk guy in front of me at one point turned around and said, “Hey, is your last name [insert my last name here]?”  I said yes, thinking that was someone I had gone to school with at some point in my childhood, or possibly someone who was in a class or on a sports team with my brother, since he didn’t know my first name.  I said I didn’t recognize him, and he said, “Not me.  That girl right there.  She says you were her teacher a long time ago.”  I asked him when, and what school, and the information was accurate; I was in fact a teacher at that school during that year.  It was 11 years ago that I was her teacher, and the school was over 100 miles from where this concert was.  I asked her her name again, since I couldn’t hear what the drunk guy had said.  Normally this would have been one of those really awesome wow-what-a-small-world, what-have-you-been-up-to-the-last-11-years moments, except for one thing.

I don’t remember her.

She didn’t seem too upset or put off by that.  She said it was a long time ago, and she understood that I’ve had a lot of students since her.  I even went so far as to ask who her friends were in 7th grade (which is the grade I taught during the year in question), and if she remembered what period she had my class, hoping that that might jog my memory.  She said she was quiet and didn’t have a whole lot of friends, and she only remembered one friend’s name.  I do remember her friend by name, although I don’t remember that girl very well either, just the name.  And if she was correct regarding the period she had me, I remember her class being one that was mean to me, so I’ve probably blocked it out of my memory.

I realized something yesterday.  I mentioned in #7 that I had a pen pal in the ’90s who I recently tried to track down and get back in touch with, and she didn’t remember me.  What happened Friday night was that same kind of situation, except now I’m on the other side.  This girl who I used to write to years ago meant a lot to me.  I didn’t have a lot of friends during that time, I was going through some difficult transitions in my life, and she was always there to be kind and encouraging, not to mention nice girls who look as good as she did often didn’t pay that much attention to me.  But from her perspective, being cute and young and friendly, she had a whole lot of other guys competing for her attention, so one of them is much less likely to stand out almost 20 years later.  As for what happened Friday night, a middle school student only has five or six teachers each year at the most, so each one is a lot more likely to leave an impression on a student.  I can still name all my teachers from 7th grade, for example.  But from my perspective, I had around 160 students each year, and I had hundreds more students each year after that.  It’s only natural that I would have forgotten a few over a span of 11 years, and I don’t think it makes me a bad teacher or a terrible human being for having done so.

Still, though, I like running into and hearing from former students.  I wish I could remember them all… well, at least all the ones who weren’t mean to me all the time.  There are a few that I’ve stayed in touch with all along, and a few more who have tracked me down on Facebook over the years, and a few more whom I have gotten reacquainted with after running into them somewhere.  It’s nice to see what became of these people whom I knew as preteens and teens.  And it’s always fun to hear what they remember about my class.  This girl I saw on Friday said that she liked my class, and that I was always helpful.

I’ve never mentioned my line of work on this site… but this fall, I will be returning to the public school system.  Maybe I should do something differently at the end of the year to make sure I remember these students.  I’ve saved yearbooks from every year I’ve taught before, and if this new school does a yearbook, I’m planning on continuing that practice.  Maybe I should save a copy of each year’s class rosters too.  Or maybe I should just let life take its course and not feel so bad about forgetting some people from the past.  I don’t know.  Something to think about as I get ready for the new school year.

And as I started writing this last night, I was telling someone this story, completely forgetting that I had just told her this same story 20 minutes earlier.  So maybe my memory is just going bad as I’m getting older. 🙂

Exit 10. I believe that soccer can coexist with baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.

The FIFA World Cup is going on right now.  For those of you who aren’t sports people (if that’s you, keep reading, because there’s more to this post than sports), FIFA stands for “Fédération Internationale de Football Association.”  For those of you who don’t know French and don’t have a very good grasp on the obvious, that means “International Federation of Association Football.”  Association football is the game that those of us here in the USA usually call soccer.  Every four years, teams representing their countries play each other in a month-long tournament.  Thirty-two national teams qualify for the tournament, organized into eight groups of four.  Each team plays three games, against the other three teams in their group, then the top two teams in each group (that would be 16 total) play each other in a single elimination format (losing team goes home) until there is only one team left (meaning that a team would need to win four consecutive games, after the initial three, to win the World Cup).

The World Cup is huge in much of the rest of the world, even bigger than the Olympics in some countries.  In the USA, not so much.  Soccer is not the dominant sport here.  American sports fans tend to pay a lot more attention to baseball, American football (the kind of football with yard lines and touchdowns), basketball, and in some regions, hockey.  But soccer is definitely becoming more popular in the USA.  The USA did not qualify for the World Cup at all between 1954 and 1986, but since 1990 the USA has qualified for every World Cup, advancing past the group stage four of those seven times.  Major League Soccer, the top level professional soccer league in the USA and Canada, has expanded from 10 teams at its founding in 1996 to 19 today.  Sacramento has a new lower-level professional soccer team which, for some games, has drawn bigger crowds than many MLS games.  If these crowds continue, Sacramento will likely be considered as a possible future MLS expansion site.  And of course, city parks in many places around the USA are full of kids playing soccer on the weekends.

I’ve always had kind of an ambivalent relationship toward soccer.  I’ve never particularly disliked it, but I don’t really follow it or make much of an effort to watch it.  I have no family tradition of watching soccer (compared to, for example, making day trips to San Francisco with my family a few times every year to watch Giants games, or watching Joe Montana win Super Bowls for the 49ers on TV as a kid).   I already have teams to follow in the other four sports I mentioned above.  My watching of soccer has been limited to watching the students at the school I used to work when they have games, and watching the USA national team in the World Cup sometimes.

But while watching this World Cup, I made an interesting discovery, something that I started to notice about myself during the 2010 World Cup and am finally fully ready to admit: I like soccer.  I enjoy watching soccer.  I think soccer games are exciting.  And I really should make an effort to follow soccer more.

Fans of other sports, particularly American football and basketball, always make a joke about how soccer is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  I really don’t know where this comes from.  They must not have been watching the same games I was watching.  Usually such sentiments are borne of the fact that soccer games, at least at the professional and international level, are usually very low scoring.  So many of the games during the World Cup have been decided by one goal, with final scores like 1-0 or 2-1.  But I don’t think that makes the game any less exciting.  There is a lot more to this game than scoring.  The way the teams set up for goals and defend provides excitement in itself.  And, more importantly, a low scoring game is more exciting because it makes everything so tense.  One goal, one mistake, each one can end up being so huge.

There are a lot of important life lessons to learn from soccer.  Soccer teaches patience.  Goals don’t come often, and it takes a lot of work to set up for scoring a goal, just like in real life.  Soccer teaches that your actions have consequences.  As I said above, one little mistake can have huge consequences in the final score of the game.  And at the World Cup level, soccer is a bit of a humbling reminder that the USA isn’t the greatest country in the world at everything, and that we have a lot to learn from other cultures.

Soccer fans have a different culture than fans of the other popular North American sports, it seems.  They cheer for their teams differently.  They have a different vocabulary as well: a jersey is a “kit,” a field is a “pitch,” a tie is a “draw,” and a game-tying goal is an “equalizer,” for example.  Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t turned into One Of Them.  I believe that soccer can coexist with baseball, football, basketball, and hockey.  I’m not going to turn into one of those soccer fans who puts down other sports as inferior and roots for the USA to lose on principle.  And if so-called true soccer fans are unwilling to embrace me as a soccer fan because I’ll be going for the USA in the World Cup and because I’ll continue to watch American football, and call it football, then maybe I don’t want to be one of you (see Exit 1 on geekbullying, for example).  But I don’t care what those people think, nor do I care with soccer haters think.  I like soccer.

Since the USA was eliminated Tuesday on a 2-1 overtime loss (I haven’t figured out yet what soccer fans call overtime) to Belgium, I haven’t really kept up with this.  I didn’t watch any other World Cup games this week; I spent most of my sports time watching baseball, as I am doing right now as I write this.  And I haven’t been to a Sacramento Republic FC game yet.  But I plan on doing so eventually; there are four teams and four games left in the World Cup, and the Republic season lasts a couple more months.  It’ll be fun.  And I have a new culture to learn, and some new life lessons to learn.