How to be supportive

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Sometimes people need suggestions for how they can be supportive and help. I know from personal experience how easy it is to get hung up on the idea that you have to say something to show support. You don’t. Not at all. Often times just being fully present and listening is exactly what the other person needs.

 

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Problems are like old shirts (and other insights)

I’ve already established that I lived in my head for many months between being laid off from my job and moving to Alabama. While a lot of my journal entries were chasing after total understanding, obsessing over things that I couldn’t change on my own and just worrying about all sorts of things, there were also some moments of epiphany. Moments of clarity. These happened especially when I took time to slow down and just be quiet. Be still. Not chasing after things or trying to check off all the items on my to-do list. And I thought I’d share a few of those.

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Living in your head can promote insecurity

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In the months between getting laid off from my job and moving to Alabama in August (I did apply for the fellowship and was accepted), I did a lot of journal writing.

I filled four notebooks (averaging 70 pages each) in a matter of six months. Yes, I lived with pen and paper. So while I’m grateful to have some documentation of what I was going through at the time — what I felt, my worries and fears — what isn’t addressed is also quite telling.

I lived in my head.

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An unexpected twist

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So exactly two weeks after that NET retreat experience, I went to my job as normal. And my supervisor called me into her office. There, I was joined with our human resources representative.

Very matter of factly, my supervisor explained that today would be my last day. I was being laid off. They had decided to dissolve the “new business” sales team, redirecting everyone else into different positions. There was no need for me.

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Hearing God speak

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Being with the youth group was awesome and challenging. I gave a few talks and eventually lead some small group discussions. The talks were scary and I was certainly nervous the whole time, but I got up there and I did it. A few people made a pointed effort to thank me for sharing, no matter how raw the delivery was.

What I enjoyed most was being part of this community, having the opportunity to be involved in some way. I was learning more about my faith, and seeing it in action meant everything. I really reveled in the teens’ enthusiasm.

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Misery in the advertising world

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As I mentioned before, this newspaper where I worked had four sales teams: two teams splitting the geographic area of the paper’s local market; new business; national. When I came to interview at the paper, I was initially interviewed by the manager of the national team, but for some reason she decided not to go with me. Then I met with the “new business” manager and somehow got that job. So, I was a bit intimidated to interact with the assistant for the national team, thinking she must be a major office whiz.

I remember an opportunity I had to work a little bit with that assistant. We were trained together on how to manipulate the database information to generate various reports for our respective teams. It surprised me that the other assistant seemed to have no idea how databases worked. She wasn’t computer savvy at all, but she dressed more corporate. And I couldn’t help but think that was a major reason why she had gotten that position. It’s all about appearances, right?

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Working in the advertising department

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Part of my experience working at the newspaper in Los Angeles was helping with the sales department. I was drafted to assist in building up the classified section of the Spanish language monthly they published, trying to establish quality job offerings rather than the usual bar tending or janitorial positions.

I was excited to be part of a paper that wanted to improve the quality of life of readers and members of the community. But I didn’t speak much Spanish and I wasn’t a sales person. So, that was tricky.

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An invitation to help with youth ministry

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I had known this woman for many years. She was my P.E. teacher when I was in grade school and always involved in school activities.

During the summer before I left for California, I had helped in small ways with the youth group. It was something to do and a way to be involved. I enjoyed being with this group, but I didn’t have high hopes that I was actually able to offer more than chaperoning assistance.

Yet when I returned from Los Angeles, the youth minister approached me and invited me to join her team. I know I hesitated, wondering if she was asking the right person. So there was a compromise. She invited me to check out the regular Sunday night program. No strings attached. I could come, see for myself, and join or choose to walk away.

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After Los Angeles: Transitioning back to SC

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By early September 2007, I had finished my year of volunteering in Los Angeles. I still wasn’t sure what to pursue as my next step. I applied to various jobs but nothing panned out.

Part of my growth while in California was being exposed to the world of journalism. I realized I enjoyed that kind of writing, but it was challenging to approach strangers and ask for their feedback. I was a small fish in a big pond; I felt like I was thrashing around trying to make things work. But there was some excitement nonetheless, a bit of a thrill with figuring out how to piece many little parts together into a finished story, even if the interviewing aspect was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. (If you missed them, you can read the pieces I wrote for my San Francisco assignment and the personal article on my brother becoming a priest.)

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When ‘introvert’ isn’t a complete description


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During the summer of 2007, as I was wrapping up my year in Los Angeles, our little volunteer community took some personality inventories.

I don’t know why we took these assessments at the end of our volunteer experience. Perhaps it was meant to serve as confirmation of behavior and preferences rather than uncover new insight. I walked away with some enlightening information and yet there were still plenty of questions.

I learned I was considered very introverted. Scoring 9 or possibly 10 out of 10.

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