Month: January 2016

Exit 91. Oh, @#$%, I do know her.

Last night, I was at a friend’s birthday party.  When I got there, I scanned the room to see who was there.  I saw some people I knew, some people I recognized from previous birthday parties (I’ve been to all of her birthday parties since 2013), and some I didn’t seem to recognize at all.

The party was in an older house in an older neighborhood in Sacramento, and there is only one bathroom in the house.  About an hour and a half into the party, I was waiting in line to use the bathroom.  The bathroom door opened, and out walked one of the people I had spotted in my initial scan of the party and identified as one I didn’t know.  I smiled and said hi, as I usually do when I come face-to-face with party guests I don’t know.

“Hi,” she said, with a strange look on her face as she walked off.  By strange, I mean it wasn’t the friendly hello that usually comes when I’m about to introduce myself to a guest at a party whom I don’t know.  There was something significant in her response.

It hit me about two seconds later, as I walked into the bathroom and closed the door.  Oh, @#$%, I do know her, I thought.

I didn’t recognize her until I saw her face, because she has significantly shorter hair now, and I hadn’t seen her up close in my initial scan of the room.  I met her at this same birthday party two years ago.  Over the next few weeks, we started exchanging long Facebook messages, which then led to two dates.  On the way home from the second date, I asked her something like “what are we,” and she said that we were casually dating and seeing if things could work out.  Four days later (and this was right around Valentine’s Day, I should point out), she dumped me by text.  (I told this story in more detail here, in Highway Pi #42.)

I think it hurt so much because I felt like I deserved at least a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, not just a text.  In particular, I didn’t understand what had changed in those four days.  I suppose I was fortunate to at least get a text, though, because apparently the trend these days is to dump people by not saying anything at all, just refusing to answer communications and disappearing out of the other person’s life.  That’s just immature and cowardly to me.

I didn’t say anything to her the rest of the night last night, and she didn’t say anything to me.  I hate being in that awkward position where I don’t want to talk to someone, or someone doesn’t want to talk to me.  But I think that’s just part of life.  There have been times when I was able to reconcile with someone who had hurt me (I wrote about one in Highway Pi #19, for example).  But I can’t expect that to happen every time.  Everyone is different, and every ending friendship and relationship is different, and I can’t change people.  That’s okay.  The best I can do is move on.  Sometimes I’ve been in awkward situations with people, and I can’t always figure out if I want to stay friends with them or not.  That’s okay too.  Healing takes time, and usually it depends on the other person as well.  I just hope all of these situations sort themselves out in time.

The rest of the birthday party went really well.  To this day, I still don’t know if my friend who was having the birthday ever knew that her friend and I went out a couple times, or that she dumped me by text.  I didn’t bring it up.  There was no point.  I was having too much fun with other people who are actually fun to be around.

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Exit 90. Am I really qualified for that?

A few days ago, I had an observation and evaluation at work.  (This is perfectly normal; I’m not in trouble or anything.  All teachers get evaluated periodically.)  In my school district, some observations are planned in advance, and some are unscheduled.  This one was unscheduled, and I felt like it couldn’t have come at a worse time.  The day before, I had missed half the day because of a meeting, and I felt unprepared because of this.

However, the meeting with the principal afterward went well.  She had entirely good things to say about what she saw.  She also said that she could see me being a leader among teachers eventually.  I’m not sure exactly what she means, but I’m thinking either she means that she could see me being involved in more committees around the school eventually to make decisions about the school and the curriculum.  Or maybe she could see me being the department chair someday, if the current department chair steps down.  The principal also said that she would want her own children in my class someday.  I feel like this is a huge compliment.  I’ve spent enough time in difficult teaching situations feeling like I’m just barely keeping my butt out of trouble that it’s nice to hear these kinds of things from my supervisor.

Her own children are younger than the students I teach, so it is entirely possible that I may in fact have her children in my class someday.  That’s going to put a great deal of pressure on me if and when it does happen.  I’ve taught the children of coworkers several times, including twice this year, but never the children of my principal or vice principal.  But it was her other statement that really struck out in my mind, that about being a leader.  I have a really difficult time seeing myself as a leader.

This came up another time recently at work.  I was in a meeting with just four other teachers, and some of the district math coaches, to discuss some issues related to the advanced 7th grade math class.  There is only one teacher at each school in the district who teaches this, and I’m it for my school.  It felt kind of weird being at this meeting without anyone else from my school.  I was the only one there to offer specific input from my school, and I could potentially be influencing decisions without anyone else to represent my school.  I think I did fine, but it still was not a position I was used to.

This isn’t just about work.  I have a hard time seeing myself as a leader anywhere in life.  I have a hard time picturing that I might actually have a wife and children someday, like being the leader of a family isn’t something I’m capable of.  I’ve had multiple friends suggest that maybe I should deal with my difficulty in finding a church group by starting a group of my own.  This is scary.  Am I really qualified for that?  I have a lot I should probably clean up in my life, and I don’t know the Bible as well as some people I know.

Part of this is just the usual self-confidence issues that I’ve dealt with all my life.  I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing in life.  Sometimes I feel like I’m still a scared little kid who should be doing what he is told.  I’ve experienced so much rejection, I’ve had many ideas shot down, and I’ve been neglected and ignored many times.  Because of this, I’m just used to seeing myself as insignificant.  But that is really no excuse.  I’m just selling myself short.  I shouldn’t let that kind of fear and negative self-image stop me if there is really a way I could be using my gifts to lead others.  God did not create me the way I am so that I could hide from the world.

Someone also pointed out recently that some of the best leaders are the ones who don’t necessarily think of themselves as leaders.  Many who confidently work their way into positions of leadership care more about themselves than the group they are leading, and their leadership style becomes arrogant and self-serving.  A good example of a more reluctant leader would be Moses.  God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and called him to lead the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, despite the fact that Moses repeatedly told God that he would not be a good leader (Exodus, chapters 3 and 4).  I don’t know that there is an opportunity to be a leader staring me in the face right now, but maybe it’s something to think about and watch for.

After all, I have to grow up sometime.

Exit 89. Silence.

“Oh, I know, the silence was the loudest thing I ever heard.”

“And silence that speaks so much louder than words of promises broken.”

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  Silence says a lot.  When you interview for a job, and they say they’ll get back to you, and they don’t, that means they don’t want to hire you.  I’ve been on dates many times with women who say that they had a good time and want to see me again, but then I never hear from them again, and if I attempt to contact them, my attempt is ignored.  So, basically, they lied when they said they wanted to see me again.  Actions, or lack thereof, speak much louder than words.

Even in situations of less pressure, like within a platonic friendship, silence speaks loudly.  If someone wants me in their life, they’ll make enough time to show me this.  If they keep blowing me off, and it becomes a pattern, I’m not going to go out of my way trying to convince them that I still want to talk to them.  (By the way, I’m not being passive-aggressive here, and this message is not directed at one specific individual who has been ignoring me.  It’s just something that’s been on my mind in general the last few days, influenced by many experiences both from my past and the pasts of my friends.)

Sometimes I feel like a bad friend, though.  Sometimes I get busy with work, and life, and then I feel like hiding from the world for a few days, and I forget to make time for people.  So I’m going to stop writing now and go answer some messages.

Exit 88. Now I understand what is going on.

I considered myself a Catholic until age 20.  My mom’s family has been Catholic on both sides for as far back as anyone can trace.  I was baptized as a baby, I had my first Communion at age 7, and I went to catechism (somewhat analogous to Sunday school in other branches of Christianity, but not on Sundays) through most of elementary school.  But I always found church somewhat boring.  I typically went to Mass once or twice per month.  I stopped going to catechism around age 12, mostly because the other students were just as mean to me as the other students in school.  I never went through confirmation as a teenager.  I made an effort to go to Mass every week once I started college, and I continued this for another two years, when I began attending an evangelical church.

I still go to Mass once a year, on Christmas.  This is because I am always with my Catholic family on Christmas.  This year, I also attended Mass with Mom the weekend after Christmas, since I was still visiting my family at the time.  As I said, I found Catholic Mass boring as a child, but as an adult, I don’t find it nearly as boring.  The primary reason is that now I understand what is going on.

Catholicism has a lot of interesting reputations among people who aren’t Catholics.  One that tends to come up often among other Christians is that Catholic Masses involve a lot of elaborate rituals, as opposed to a more personal relationship with God among evangelicals and mainline Protestants.  This is definitely true, there are elaborate rituals in a Catholic Mass, but this does not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive with knowing God personally.  The Catholic rituals and prayers have their roots in deep and meaningful worship experiences.  The candles and incense and elaborate stained glass windows create a mood of reverence to honor God, his Holy Scriptures, and the presence of Christ in the bread and wine, as Catholics believe.  Many of the words in the Catholic prayers and songs come directly from the Bible.  “Glory to God in the highest” — these were the words of the angels in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born (Luke 2:14).  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna! [Save!]” — these were the words of the crowds when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; John 12:13).

I understand this as an adult, now that I have learned more about the Bible and about the history of Christianity.  But that begs the question… why did I not know this before?  And why do so many people lack so much knowledge about what they believe?  Of course, I may have learned some of this eventually had I continued with catechism and confirmation.  And I probably would have continued with catechism and confirmation had I not felt bullied and ignored at church.  My mom taught catechism and confirmation for many years, and she often had stories of students who were only there because their parents made them go, with no effort or involvement from the students or their parents.  These were the kind of students who bullied me.  And I don’t mean to criticize my catechism teachers, but I don’t remember any of them really making an effort to reach out to me, at least in the way that some of my regular school teachers did.  (Not all, but some.)

This is not just about Catholicism.  I know many people who claim to be adherents of a particular religion, yet they do not always know or understand core tenets of what they say they believe.  As a result of this, their lives do not show that they have been transformed by their belief systems.  This results in inaccurate perceptions and stereotypes of certain religious belief systems.  I don’t have children, and I imagine it is quite difficult to find the balance of teaching children accurate truths about one’s belief system, in an age-appropriate manner, while not watering it down to the point of losing its meaning.  But parents and faith communities who want their children to have their lives transformed in the same way that the lives of the adults have been must find a way to do this.