Monday, August 27, 2007

Make it a Great Day

So I started my new job two weeks ago today. For the first few days I felt like I was the brunt of some sick joke, where there's lots to do and everyone knows the rules but me. I do NOT like being uninformed, nor do I like wasting time (at work, anyway), so I can hardly stand the combination of the two that leaves me feel ineffectual and ignorant. Each day of the first two weeks, I would wake up and give myself a pep talk that went something like this, "I am going to learn so much today. I will only get better at this. I will never again be as unqualified for this as I am in this moment." Thankfully, I believed myself each day, and the thought that the only place to go is up really inspired me and helped me reconcile myself to the ugly truth that I am not yet an expert at what I am doing. I suppose it's a good thing, because how pathetic would it be if I went and got my master's to prepare me for this job and then I figured out everything there is to know in the first ten days? That would be sad. Thank goodness that is far from the case.

Amidst a few late nights of working and the crazy busyness (for the first week, I spent most of my time just making lists of all of the things I needed to accomplish - forget about actually accomplishing anything) I must admit that there have been some moments of sheer desperation. Moments when I thought, I am not smart enough for this job, I am not qualified, I am NEVER going to knock out this to-do list. I hate feeling like that (as I'm sure everyone does!) and when those storm-cloud thoughts came on, I tried to quickly rein in my thinking and cast it in a more positive light, because I'm one of those corny people who strongly believes that, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." (I don't know who said that and I'm much too tired to look it up, but I wholeheartedly agree!) I think our perceptions of ourselves significantly shape our possibilities, which is probably the reason optimism is so dear to my heart.

Yesterday I was calling a parent to set up a meeting and her voicemail message ended with, "Make it a great day." I hung up and thought about that for a few seconds before getting back to the frantic pace that is my new job. I'd heard it before, of course, but in light of my recent struggle to remain sane (and positive) it took on a new meaning. We can't just wake up and sail through each day expecting things to fall perfectly in place, throwing tantrums each time we don't get our way. Our moods cannot be shaped only by our circumstances, or you'd rarely see people smile at one another. No, we have to wake up each day and decide to MAKE it a great day. For me, that means taking a deep breath and a different perspective when I hit a snag at my new job. It means I take time to enjoy the sunrise for a moment when I get caught at a long light. It means I can take comfort in the underlying peace and hope that pervades my life even when the monotony of day-to-day life buzzes around my spirit like a fly circling round a picnic table.

I'm glad I didn't get a hold of that mother so I could hear that message. Now all I have to do is spend the rest of my life making each day truly great.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Things I Wish I'd Never (A Miniseries)

Things I Wish I'd Never Done:

While this particular post topic could take me ages to cover, I have narrowed all of the things I wish I'd never done down to one thing: the one worst thing I have ever done. It is with deep regret that I recount this story, as it grieves me to relive it in my mind and it reveals to the world (or at least the handful of people who actually read this) what a terrible person I truly am.

To tell this sad story, I must first set the stage. My family had worked together to build a house on a hilltop in Fredericksburg, Texas (this has nothing to do with the story except for the fact that we lived on a hill.) I was a Junior in high school and was the head drum major of the marching band, "The Pride of the Texas Hill Country". Although in some places this might qualify me as a nerd, this position was rather revered in this quaint Texas town (at least by the band geeks!) and I believed myself to have some sort of special social status (or at least the power to blow my whistle and start 150 some odd people marching across a football field...) My brother Garrett, the poor victim in this harrowing tale, was a Freshman at the time. He was into shopping at thrift stores and was a lowly trumpet in the marching band. Each morning I left extra early for school in order to unlock the band hall and make sure everything was right with the world before the school day began. Plus, it was the "cool" thing to do to hang out with your friends in the band hall until first period, and I was into all things cool at the time. My father was a teacher at our high school and always came to school in his car about 20 minutes behind me. So that's the background. Now my tale of woe shall begin...

It was a morning just like any other. I was ready for the day and was about to head out the door with Garrett, who always rode to school with me so that he, too, could hang out in the band hall. I called up to him from the foot of the stairs to let him know his ride was leaving. And that's when it happened. He tromped down the stairs in an outfit that was unacceptable to my preppy high school eyes. I looked him over: dark blue T-shirt with the word SPAM printed in bright yellow on the front, light blue thrift store slacks, and finally, black army boots. It was then that I was possessed by the evil spirit of teenage sisterhood. "Is THAT what you're wearing?!" Garrett did not see my point of view and he headed back up to his room. I would like to say that, vain as it sounds, I was looking out for my little brother's best interest by keeping him from wearing what I considered to be a fashion abomination, but that would be a lie. What I really cared about was not having to show up at school and walk into the band hall with a fashion abomination trailing behind me. Well, maybe it was a bit of both, but at any rate I was not going to wait around any longer to give this walking fashion faux pas a ride to school.

I headed to the car and took off down the hill. (Remember, I wasn't leaving him without a ride, because Dad would be leaving shortly with the second shuttle.)

It was later that day when I saw Garrett in band that I found out how sad this story really was, how horribly black and evil my heart was, that I was the WORST sister in the world. Garrett entered the band hall and - gasp! - he was NOT wearing the SPAM outfit!!!

He walked over and, still in an understandably sour mood, said, "Why'd you leave me?"
"I left you because you were taking too long and it was time for me to leave."
"The reason it took me so long was that I went upstairs to change. I came running down the hill after you but you just left me."

It still sends daggers through my heart to think of that moment of revelation. The revelation that this poor guy had actually LISTENED to his snotty sister and was trying to appease her (even though looking back he had a MUCH better fashion sense and was actually able to pull off what he wore by his sheer coolness). The revelation that I had gone off and LEFT him, my first friend in life and one of my best friends in the world. The revelation that I was a shallow mess with no hope of being truly cool - a wannabe - and that I had wounded my brother with my hurtful words and judgmental attitude. I have never felt so low, so worthless, so much like a fraud, as in that moment.

Years later, Garrett and I laugh together about this event. But even if I can laugh about it, there's still a part of me that cries inside as I picture what I would have seen had I looked in the rearview mirror - the sweetest boy, in different clothes, running down the hill after the car, wondering why I'm leaving him when he did all that I asked him to, even though it wasn't my place to ask.

I wish I could go back to the foot of the stairs. I wish I could have applauded him for being different and daring rather than taunted him for refusing to be a clone like myself, like so many teenagers just trying to fit in.

I'm sorry, Garrett. I wish I'd never...