awkward

Exit 233. Living for the first time.

A few of you, specifically people who have known me long enough to know all of my obscure little-known favorite movies, and probably not many others, will recognize the title of this post as a line from a song in the 2008 movie The Rocker.

Sometimes, I’ll read a book, or watch a movie, or interact with a work of fiction in some way, and I’ll feel like I want to know more.  I’ll want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story, or more about the background of the characters or story. Or I’ll just wonder more about a certain minor character in the story, which specifically happened to me recently while watching this movie.

Critics didn’t really like this movie, but then again critics aren’t me.  The film stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office, the shirtless guy in the picture above, but I never got into that show so don’t ask me about Dwight), singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger (left), some people who became famous later (Josh Gad, Emma Stone, the other two pictured) and other people who were in other better-known stuff (Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Bradley Cooper, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others).  Ex-hair band drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) never got his life together after his friends (Arnett, Armisen, Cooper) betrayed him and kicked them out of their band in 1986. His friends went on to become immensely successful, but the present day finds Fish living in the attic of his sister (Lynch)’s house and struggling to keep a job. Matt, Fish’s 18-year-old nephew (Gad) is in a band with his school friends Curtis and Amelia (Geiger, Stone), and they need a drummer.  After Fish struggles to fit in with the much younger band, the band gets a big break and attracts the attention of a typical Hollywood-weird producer (Sudeikis). Fish gets another chance to live the wild rock star life he dreamed of as a young man, but not quite in the way he imagined. I really enjoyed the story, even if it is a little unrealistic, and the soundtrack is an album that is still in my regular music rotation a decade later.

So about a week ago, this movie came up in a random Facebook conversation with a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I told my friend that it had been a while since I had seen it too, and now I wanted to watch it when I got home from work, which I did.  (In fact, I can remember exactly when I watched it last before last week; it was November 1, 2015, because it was my last date with SN1604 before we broke up the second and final time. She had never seen it, so I showed it to her. But we don’t need to talk about that…)  

Watching it again got me thinking about a certain minor character in the movie.  About halfway through the movie, the band is playing their first gig, and Fish is checking off all of their firsts as a band: first venue, first marquee sign (which has the band’s name misspelled), first sound check, first technical difficulties.  While they are playing, the camera switches to the crowd, where initially unenthusiastic people sitting at tables start paying attention to the music. One girl in particular starts watching the band, nodding her head enthusiastically to the music, and after the show she runs up to the band, blushing, and says “You guys are sweet!” before awkwardly running away.  Fish points out that they have their first fan. The same girl appears in the crowd at several future shows wearing a shirt that says “I ♥ MATT.” At an after-party, Matt tells Amelia that he wants to talk to this girl but doesn’t know how to talk to girls; Amelia gives him some pointers, and Matt goes over to talk to her. At the last concert in the movie, Matt throws his hat into the crowd, and she catches it (again wearing the I ♥ MATT shirt)..

This girl is a minor character in the movie.  No one says her name in the movie, and in the credits, she is listed as “I ♥ Matt Girl.”  But there is an interesting subplot here. In one scene, during the filming of a music video, Amelia gets frustrated at the people making the video wanting to change her look.  She says something along the lines of if they want someone who looks like all the other girls out there, they should just grab one of the girls that are always hanging around Curtis after the show.  But this girl, their first fan, isn’t one of the girls hanging around Curtis. She ♥s Matt, the dorky awkward member of the band. Even the dorkiest and most awkward of us have someone out there who cares about us.

So will I ever have a girl following me around with a shirt proclaiming that she ♥s me?  Doubtful.  Will I ever have someone who feels that way about me, though? I might, I might not. But who knows, it could happen. And it isn’t irrelevant that I have a lot of good friends who care about me.

Exit 135. Careful discernment on my part.

A few days ago, I ran into a family that I’ve known for almost 11 years, but who I don’t see too often anymore.  More specifically, I’ve known the parents for almost 11 years; when I met them, a few weeks after I moved here, the wife was very pregnant with the first of the four children they have now.  The dad of this family is one of the pastors of the church I attended from 2006 through 2015, and both the dad and the mom have done worship music at this church.

It was good to catch up.  But the whole time, it felt a little awkward, like the feeling you get when you run into someone after burning your bridges with them.  Don’t get me wrong here; I do not consider anyone in this family to be someone I burned a bridge with.  I really am glad I saw them.  It just felt awkward in my head because I didn’t exactly leave that church on good terms.  It had nothing to do with any members of this family, or even anyone at that church, specifically; the reasons were a combination of feeling like there was no place for me there anymore and not agreeing with the direction that the leadership wanted to take the church.

This awkward feeling is nothing new.  There are many unresolved hurts from my past, and some of the people involved I still cross paths with occasionally.  Every situation is different, but often, with people I was once very close with, I find myself honestly wishing that we could be friends again.  But it’s not always that simple.  Subconsciously, what I really want is for things to be exactly like they were, in my head, before the hurt ever happened.  But that is embracing an unrealistic alternate reality that isn’t true.  Things change, people show their true colors, and I can’t just shake off being hurt and let everyone walk all over me and treat me like crap, or else it’ll keep happening again and again.  It definitely requires careful discernment on my part, on a case-by-case basis, whether to keep those who hurt me at arm’s length or let them back in.

This post is kind of turning into a stream of consciousness… but all this was in my head the other day.  Back to the pastor and his family who I saw the other day… they are definitely not people I want to keep at arm’s length, because, as I said, the reason I left that church was not because of them.  Last year, on one day when I was particularly frustrated at my old church, that pastor messaged me later suggesting that we sit down sometime and talk about why I’m so angry about all of that.  I sincerely meant to get back to him after I had a chance to process why I was so angry, if there was something else at the root of this frustration, but I never did, mostly because I never really took that time for processing.  Also, I was dealing with a lot of things emotionally all right at the same time, and I was always busy with work.  But some of my recent soul-searching revelations have been tied to the roots of this anger, so maybe I’ll have to take him up on that offer soon… or at least get back in touch with him to say what didn’t get said last year.  And maybe there are other people I need to get back in touch with and say things that haven’t been said.  And maybe there are still others who I need to cut out of my life for good, because at this point keeping some people in my life might do more harm than good.

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.

Exit 75. Everything cleared up at just the right time.

I didn’t get a chance to write anything this week.  I have a lot of thoughts running around in my head, and I’m not sure how much of it I want to share with the world.  So I’m posting something I wrote in December 2010, which seems timely again because it’s about a lunar eclipse, which we just saw recently


Monday night [December 20, 2010], there was a total lunar eclipse. I’ve been looking forward to this since June, when I stayed up very late to watch a partial lunar eclipse. (For those of you non-astronomy buffs, this is the one where the full moon turns red.) But as the day of the eclipse approached, I started to think that I was going to miss it. It rained hard all weekend, and it was supposed to continue raining well into this week. It rained during the night, and most of Monday was cloudy, although it only rained briefly, and lightly for the most part.

I was driving home during the early stages of the eclipse. I had the moonroof open (glass closed, but the cover pulled back so I could see up), and every few minutes when it was safe to do so I would look up briefly. I could see that the moon was getting darker, but sometimes it was also covered by clouds so that I couldn’t see it very clearly. I figured it would still be worth watching, but that my view would be interrupted by clouds and maybe reduced to a dull red glow at times.

I got home just as totality was beginning. I looked up and saw clouds drifting across the sky… but something amazing was happening. They were all moving away from me. Within less than a minute, I had a completely clear view overhead in all directions. I could see the spectacular red moon very clearly. And not just the moon, but to the south I saw Orion, with Canis Major and Minor behind him, and the Pleiades ahead of him, and behind me to the north Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. Everything was completely clear. I grabbed a blanket, bundled up, and lay on the back patio for an hour and a half just watching the sky. It stayed clear the whole time… not a cloud in sight. And when I finally did go back inside, after about a fourth of the moon was lit again, I could see clouds in the direction of the Big Dipper, probably ready to come back my way soon. But everything cleared up at just the right time.

Yesterday I went into work to finish up all the paperwork to register for a school activity I was a leader for at the time. I was extremely scatterbrained during finals week and wasn’t on top of getting stuff turned in. Yesterday was the deadline to get it turned in, and in order to do so, I was still waiting for two other things to happen. One of the students hadn’t yet turned in his permission slip. I spoke with his guardian the day before and said that I would need it dropped off at school by noon in order for him to participate. Also, another school employee had forgotten to sign his part of the form. I spoke with him on the phone the day before, asking if he would be at the school any time in the next 24 hours; he said he would, so I put the form in his box and told him to give it back to me when it was done. So I got there and checked my box… the permission slip was there, but the writing competition proctor agreement was not. I went through the motions of copying everything I had and filling out my part of the registration form, hoping that he would show up while I was still there… but when I was done making copies, he still wasn’t there. I didn’t want to keep calling and keep bugging him; even though I would be perfectly willing to go wherever he was at the moment, as long as I could still make it to the office where I had to drop off the paperwork and back to my neighborhood in time for my dentist appointment two and a half hours later, I didn’t want to be annoying about this, especially since it was my lack of responsibility and focus that put me in this situation of rushing around in the first place. So I was sitting in the office, debating whether to call his cell phone vs. call the office and ask if it was okay to register without that form and deliver the form in January… and about a minute later, I see him driving up. I got the form signed, drove it out to where I needed to drop it off, and made it back home in time to have lunch before my appointment. Everything cleared up at just the right time.

Paul writes to the Romans that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6). In all the details of the Christmas story [remember, I was originally writing this at Christmas time], it’s easy to overlook the fact that this happened at a specific time for a specific reason. Thousands of years had passed since the time of Adam and Eve. Why didn’t he send the Savior sooner? Why did God choose the time of the Roman Empire over any other time in history? I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but he definitely had his reasons. During the time of the Old Testament, his people had a lot of things to learn the hard way. They went through many periods of turning away from God and then turning back. They had good kings and bad kings. They were conquered by other nations and taken into exile. In all those experiences, not only did God’s people experience their need for a Savior, but when God sent Jesus into the time of the Romans, he was able to use that experience to turn expectations upside down and weed out the true believers from the posers. The posers wanted a Messiah who would kick some Roman ass, but instead he sent one who spoke of humility and faith and selflessness. Had Jesus come at a different time, that message might not have had the same impact. Jesus came at just the right time.

I made a list of goals at the beginning of 2010. Yesterday morning, as I was riding my bike, thinking about how I was coming very close to my goal of biking 1000 miles, I got to thinking about other goals that I had not yet accomplished. One of them, the one I had code-named Phobos in that original post, remained unaccomplished; this was probably the most difficult of all the things I had hoped to do in 2010. I was almost out of time, and I didn’t know if I’d get the chance to do this. (Well, I suppose i could do this any time, but the nature of this activity is such that certain situations are more likely to lead to a more positive outcome than others.) Last night started out kind of disappointing. But then a window of opportunity seemed to open up… and just before it closed, I took the chance.  It was a very awkward conversation that did not lead to the desired outcome, but I tried, and that was really the point of Mission Phobos.*

Everything cleared up at just the right time.


[*In case you’re curious, “Mission Phobos” was to ask a total stranger on a date.  The very act of asking that night led to a very awkward response, we never went on a date, and we really didn’t speak again.  But I tried.  I set the same goal for myself in 2009, and it did happen; it didn’t last to the end of the second date, and the girl is happily engaged now in 2015, but we’re still on Facebooking terms.]