Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Just Can't Find a Simple Way to Say Goodbye

Today was an unexpectedly sad one. I'm leaving a job I only held for two months (not due to my own deficiencies, it's a seasonal position, lifeguarding) and six hours out I'm already missing some of the spectacular, hilarious, and soap-opera-y characters I met there. Some goodbyes I expected, even prepared for, but others caught me off guard. (I'm not using real names for the privacy of the individuals discussed.)
Emma: Another guard at the pool I've become pretty close with. It was an odd sensation, to be stuck with another human you don't know at all for up to eight hours and, when the pool is not busy, talk to them. It essentially meant that we got pretty deep into each other's lives pretty quickly. I could recite for you the names of her friends and boyfriends and tell you at least ten funny anecdotes about various combinations of those people. I could also rattle off a decent version of her belief statement and life goals. I'm sure she could say similar things about me. But now, this person who in two months has gotten to know me inside and out, I may likely never see again, an that's weird. I expected to hug Emma, I even sort of planned to. But she steeped out of my cr to her family waiting in the driveway and we parted with a promise to meet up in D.C. sometime over the next year  and visit. Goodbye, not as it was anticipated.
Marcy: Not someone who I'm particularly close with, but someone who frequents the pool. A middle-aged woman whom I've had several interesting conversations with. I didn't even realize she knew it was my last day until she was walking out of the gate. She stopped to wish me well for the year ahead and hope that I'll be back next summer (which, honestly, I probably won't). Unexpected goodbye.
Mark: This guy reminds me a lot of my dad and his friends. He has kids a little older than me and I've talked a lot to him over the summer about school, and plans, and future. He's funny and great when he plays with kids. Admittedly, the first day I met him I got a tiny bit of creeper-vibe, but it has vanished completely hearing him talk about his own kids and showing interest in my life. I expected him to say goodbye I suppose, but more of a "Have a great year," kind of deal as he walked out. Instead I got a tight, I-care-about-you, dad hug and a warning to stay safe and work hard. Goodbye, better than I thought.
Jess, Tim, and Joe: Joe is a four-year-old, off the walls, crazy, adorable kid at the pool. He's spent the summer playing mini-lifeguard for Emma and I and is clearly a smart and talented young man. As his parents got ready to leave, I walked over and asked for a hug and said I had to say goodbye. This exuberant, happy little kid started crying and screaming at me. I wished I hadn't said anything, he'd be too young to know the difference and would probably forget in a few weeks that I ever wandered into his life. His dad gave me his card (he's a part-time photographer) and said to look up the album of Joe pictures and keep in touch. He added his and Jess' phone numbers to the card and they walked away. Jess yelled back from the parking lot something to the effect of "Come back when you're 21 and we'll show you how to party." More than I...wanted goodbye.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jumping In

And so I find myself at a very different time than I anticipated standing on the edge of cliff overlooking a very different view. The last five years of my life have not really gone as planned. Somewhere, in a now long-lost fantasy I was going to be doing what I'd always done and getting different results. But, now, I'm looking at a very new landscape from a vantage point I couldn't have imagined five years ago. Parts of me have always been afraid to dive into something unless I'm 100 percent positive about the outcome (or at least the best and worse possible outcomes). And, right now, I have no idea of the outcome, but I think it's time to take a leap (sorry, Kierkegaard, I know you're rolling in the grave for the misuse of that phrase). I try to stand by a strong even-if-it-doesn't-work-out-you-learn-from-it policy, so this is me, looking for a new teacher. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Taxi Driver

Recently came across this on Facebook. True or not, it's compelling.

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.'

'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive
through downtown?'

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly..

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired.Let's go now'.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hakuna Matata

You can run from your past or you can learn from it. I've recently been mentally revisiting some of my past decisions and interrogating how I now feel about the choices I made. Some things I've known since the moment they happened, for example, I've always known that quitting dance was the stupidest thing I ever did. Earlier this year I got a message from a friend apologizing for lots of things she had done years before and I found it didn't make me feel any better about the solidity of our friendship (I also learned that radical honesty is not the best policy). Her apology seemed like it was more to make her feel better than to help me. So, now, I am faced with a compelling desire to apologize to someone, but I know that, even though I might feel better having done it, for them, it will just open old wounds. And then I am left with a desire to at least be supportive and present even if I can't apologize, but I think even that might be too much (or at least this person knows me well enough to figure out where it's coing from). So, you have to put your past behind you. I have to abandon some good memories (and bad memories, but you have to take the bad with the good) to let  other people keep living. Mostly, I'm afraid I'll forget. For as hard as it was, I learned more about myself than I have before or since, and I miss that, even though I don't miss the situation. It's our problem-free philosophy?

Monday, July 9, 2012


Saturday night I enjoyed the culmination of Road Rally, and annual event for the youth at my church. It is essentially a scavenger hunt on wheels which ends at a church members house we we camp-out and have a service. The group returned to church the next morning, some tired and some overwhelmingly excited for the special guest of the morning: our old minister was going to be giving a guest sermon. If I went to a christian church, one would have thought Jesus was about to enter the building. Perhaps the largest contingent of youth that has ever attended a service they have not been designing sat in the front row (well, actually some of us sat on the floor to provide chairs to others). The sanctuary was the fullest I have ever seen it in my life (and my life is longer than that of the church, at least this building). At first, I was mesmerized by this turnout and the resounding first hymn (which happened to be one one of my favorites). It bordered on magical to feel that powerful a sense of community again in a place that has felt dead to me for so long. I love my church, which has been one of the safest, most accepting, and most fun places to grow up, but it has, for a while, felt decidedly devoid of the magic, intensity, and community that I remember from my childhood. Part of that is growing up, everything seems less romantic than it did when I was six, but much of it was a loss of spiritual and societal grounding when we lost our long-time minister and his family. They were a driving force in our church community the entire time I was there. He came the sit with my parents in a waiting room while I was in surgery; his wife came to "tea" with my mom and I every spring; I took art classes with his daughter. Like a grandparent the dies when you are young, I remember this man and love him, but I am being forced to admit that I never really knew him, and certainly do not now. For a long time, I have fantasized about moving close to his new congregation in California, and of one day having him officiate my wedding (which, ironically, was part of while he was there, marrying the brother of one of my best friends to another friend's older sister's best friend). And as he gave his sermon, which discussed us being on the precipice of the "Emerald City" (we are about to welcome a new, permanent minister) I started to cry. Partly because of the beauty of everyone coming together, but partly because of how wrong he is. Seven years ago, we stood before that city's gates, having built a new church and started a new era. But, seven years later, he can still bring us together in a way we have never been able to manage ourselves. Clearly, we are doing something terribly, terribly wrong. I am also being forced to face a feeling I have known I had for a long time, but always tried to ignore. I'm confident that he and his family leaving was the first time I ever really felt abandoned by someone I cared about. I didn't understand at the time, and quite frankly still don't, why we (and in my younger mind, me, specifically) weren't good enough for him. Since his departure, I have seen four more ministers come and go and I would be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit that I think that has been seriously detrimental to the quality of our church and the spiritual experience I have had there. I am interested in having a minister I can get to close to, confide in, and grow under the mentorship of. College has particularly led me to the realization that that is something I wish I had (which I acknowledge is odd for someone not involved in a particularly theologically organized institution, but I feel it nonetheless). I have not had a minister I trusted or was very interested in getting close to at all in a very long time and then it occurred to me that, for as much as we feel like these are people who truly care about us, it is still a job for them and can never be divorced entirely from that. This leads me to more current events. In two weeks we will welcome a new minister. I'm very skeptical about the whole thing, largely because of some comments from my grandfather, who was on the Ministerial Search Committee. I feel bad for not giving him the benefit of the doubt, but having gone through five ministers in my life, two of whom I disliked, two of whom were acceptable but didn't last long enough to enjoy, and one who could have been a second father, I just don't know that I can ever get that back again. I thought seeing him would make me feel better about everything, but having done it, I think it just makes me feel worse. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bombs Bursting in Air Gave Proof Through the NIght

Of all holidays, I think the Fourth of July has been one of the most interesting and eventful almost every year. I have laid under the Baker Park fireworks with family and friends, I have watched them in rain, and cried through them. The Fourth has seen me make some of the best decisions of my life and get caught in the awkwardest moments. Ironically, though, it it one of the holidays I care the least about on principle. I am not a patriot. I have never considered myself patriotic (in fact forced or unfounded patriotism is one of my biggest annoyances). I owe no allegiance to this flag or country or government. What I do owe my allegiance to are the people this country is home to. Sometimes we seem to forget what the symbol stands for, and that turns me off of the symbol. It seems to me that if we celebrated American people rather than a document written before our great-great-great grandparents were born we'd take leaps toward more united states and citizens.