The summer before heading to Alabama, I continued to be actively involved with the youth group, slowly becoming more comfortable in that role. We went to a big conference that summer in Atlanta. There were various talks throughout the weekend but then our group broke up into smaller groups for discussion. Leading and facilitating these discussions always made me nervous.
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.
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.
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?
I’ve shared about how I found a group of young adults in the Southern California area, a group I spent a fair amount of time with. There was one memorable weekend of traveling to Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park for a two-night camping retreat. About fifteen people participated on the weekend, but I only knew one person before going.
At the beginning of the notebook where I found the details of the sensory walk, I saw that I purposefully sought out to renew my journaling efforts as a way of learning more about myself. It was an effort for record, accountability and self-discovery. I had gotten away from this practice and my creative writing especially during my senior year of college because of my student teaching responsibilities.
Over the course of my time in Los Angeles, I made an effort to re-engage my creative side. I had a few books with writing prompts to help me focus on something. One of those prompts meant going on a detail hunt. Take a walk and jot down all the interesting details you observe. Focus on sensory impressions. And while looking for the extraordinary, don’t ignore the ordinary.
I wish I had pictures of many of these items, especially the trees. I found their formation fascinating. Sadly, I didn’t take pictures. While I doubt many of these items will be as intriguing to someone who hasn’t walked this neighborhood, I figured I’d go ahead and share anyway.
Among the biggest challenges in this volunteer experience was figuring out a way to adjust to living with a roommate. The final two years of college, I didn’t have a roommate. As a junior, my roommate transferred to a different room the first week of the semester and I never got a replacement. During my senior year, I was able to live with a family I met through church. I lived with other people, but it wasn’t the same thing as having a roommate.
But the focal part of this new experience was living with someone much older than me. The best way to explain why this relationship was so challenging is that we were polar opposites. This was truly my introduction to the differences between extroverts and introverts. She was a solid extrovert, and I was a bottled up introvert.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last 9 months with this blog. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to explore and dive in to these moments from my past, to better understand who I am. I’m working on improving the way I view myself and what I have to offer to others, and I’ve made a lot of progress. Still plenty more to go, but at least there’s improvement.
I’m trying to think more positively about myself. See myself more as others see me (the ones who have a more balanced view of me), rather than just zeroing in on the ways I’ve fallen short. Those negative moments shouldn’t be the things that define who I am or how I measure myself.
I take hour-long walks around my neighborhood at least 4 times a week. This time is used more for brainstorming and reflection than a focus on speed and exercise. The physical activity is secondary, honestly. I feel better after the fact, but the real accomplishment is happening on my phone.
Instead of simply thinking about topics and hoping I remember the wording once I’ve returned to my apartment, I have taken to typing these thoughts into the notepad app on my phone.