In Which the Point is not Arrival

I think I can talk about tattoos all day. All day, everyday. Tattoos are awesome to me. Some tell stories, some don’t. Some look like an one-eyed inmate with cataracts did them and other’s look like they cost thousands of dollars for a celebrity artist to complete.  But ultimately, regardless of meaning or appearance, all tattoos go through the stages of itching and swelling.  Which is one reason why you probably want to make sure it looks the way and means what you want it to because you’ve got to do some suffering in the process of it retaining it’s permanency. I’ve currently just got two tattoos, a fact I’ve stated before so I apologize for my insistent redundancy. I want more, but I’m trying to save money right now so ink is currently at the bottom of my list of necessities.  Since mine are visible, as they are on my forearm and wrist, I get a couple of ink admirers who will compliment them. And most often I hear, “I want one! But I don’t want to go through the pain.” I usually try to calm their nerves and assure them that if their pain tolerance is high that they should be okay, but most often I think, “if you can’t endure the process, you can’t get the results.”And that’s true for most things in life.

We are a very destination oriented people. My pastor calls us the microwave generation. We’re in a hurry to get what we want, with less work. So instead of throwing those frozen chicken pot pies in the oven to cook, we’ll put them in the microwave though we acknowledge that they taste better fresh from the oven.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing because our generation is continuously creating systems and inventing technology which does things faster and more efficiently. I remember dial-up internet with AOL. God, that was a dark period in history….Ma used to fuss at us everyday during the summer because she would be calling the house to check on us and couldn’t get through because we were on the internet. Doing what? God only knows. I can’t even think of any useful or entertaining things that we had on the computer back then. But other times, faster and easier isn’t always better. Yet and still, no one likes a journey. NO ONE. You. Yea, you right there. NOT EVEN YOU! I can think of a thousand things I would like to do which require patience and practice, and it’s the patience and practice part that gets me every time. I’m currently trying to learn to play guitar and chord transitioning is eating me alive. My fingers start fumbling, my chords are distorted, I can’t move fast enough. It’s even more frustrating than when I took piano.  But I also realize that if I want to play guitar like Lianne La Havas then I need to continue to practice. God didn’t see fit that I should be a musical prodigy (thanks for nothing 4-C Jesus!) thus I have to hang in there and keep practicing.

Maybe our issue is that we can easily see the success of our peers on social media. We look at their Mercedes or their budding careers and can only see their achievement or their “arrival.” But rarely do they allow us to see their journey.  Some of them struggled in school and failed a class two or three times.  Some worked low-rung jobs to pay for school. Some may have dropped out and then re-enrolled without anyone knowing.  These are things that we often do not witness. And quite honestly, we ensure that no one knows that we might be scraping along in our journey, too.  I’ve never posted a job update or school update on Facebook. I rarely talk about my personal struggles on other outlets because you always have someone who comes along with a shady post saying that people should stop crying on Facebook about their problems. Or worse, once they hear about someone’s struggle they use it to demean or berate them. So we internalize the feeling that not arriving is shameful. While I’m not advising anyone go out there and start stripping to pay for college, I tip my hat off to women who do.  I don’t have the stamina, flexibility, or upper body strength for that so I probably wouldn’t make enough money to buy a 6-piece nugget from McDonalds. But they work a legal job, save their money, and use it for their books, rent, daycare funds, tuition, whatever it is they have to pay for. And I can’t look down on their arrival because their journey did not fit my idea of what I thought a journey should look like. I very much look at common illegal activities such as drug dealing the same way. Yes it’s illegal and no I wouldn’t advise it. But some people are doing what they can to get what they need. They just want to keep their lights on or help their parents with the mortgage, and they don’t have access to a job for whatever reason (because note that the largest portion of drug dealers who are busted come from lower income neighborhoods with poor school districts) But sidenote: if you deal with drugs and you get a certain amount of money, take a portion and invest in stocks or a business. This way you can let your money make money without you being involved in a dangerous illegal activity.  So there’s that. But the issue also stems from our society being so focused on the goal. We see all sorts of wealth and riches flashing before our eyes on television or on the internet. Yet, the same society that exposes us to the “American Dream” doesn’t provide everyone with the proper, legal avenues (journeys) to possibly attain it. So you end up with crime for survival. That’s my sociology tidbit for the day.

All in all, we all have to start somewhere to end somewhere. It would be nice to start at the finish line, but it’s impossible. And yes, some people are fortunate to start closer to the finish line than you, but it doesn’t make them better than you. And if they arrive earlier it doesn’t mean you’re inadequate.  We should accept that much of life is a process. Very little in life doesn’t require waiting. So instead of yelling at the cashier working the register or the CSR who picks up after you’ve been on hold for thirty minutes (mostly because it’s not their faults. And if it is, still be kind. Don’t make people’s life hard just because you’ve got your panties in a knot) understand not everything is immediate. And don’t judge someone else’s story or journey. If they’re still working their way through the muck and mire that is adulthood, then strap on your rubber boots and help dig them out. Or encourage them. Pray for them. Share your journey with them. Let people know they are not alone and that they have nothing to be ashamed of.  And don’t be shady about it either. Don’t get on social media talking about your new car and how you worked harder than everybody and they’re still struggling and “hahaha look at me now!” Don’t be flashy about your arrival. As much as I think Black Youngsta is the funniest person on the planet, I think he needs to watch himself carefully. It’s okay to relish in your success, or even reveal the extent of your achievement so that your peers who had similar struggles will know they can make it too. But don’t use it to down others (especially women. I dislike when they use “bitches and hos” so much. We understand you don’t mean all women. But this misogynistic culture has got to stop). And please…PLEASE….if someone shares their journey with you, intentionally or unintentionally, don’t be the nosy neighbor who has to find out every detail. If you see scars on someone’s arm which probably means they used to self-harm don’t ask them a thousand questions or stare at them. It makes people self conscious. And don’t think you’re entitled to every detail in their lives if they do share a bit with you. It’s weird. Stop it.

So that’s all for today.  I’m off to do literature and algebra before I watch my cartoons.

 

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In Which I was Encouraged

I’ve been staring at my title trying to reconcile with the fact that “encouraged” is spelled correctly because I’m having one of those moments where words don’t look correct…Moving on….

Those who are currently in school, or know people in school, are aware that this time of the semester is riddled with mid-terms. You smell that? *inhales deeply* that’s the smell of coffee, stress sweat, and tears.  Other than finals week, this is the most stress inducing period of school. So far I have taken three exams and have two left before my trial finally comes to an end.  Now I’ll spill on my grades because it relates to what I’ll say later.  I took my Spanish Exam first, about two weeks ago.  I only missed one question on the exam, but I would have actually made a perfect score if the exam allowed us to go back to previous questions and change the answers (it was a computerized test). Unfortunately our teacher’s requirements did not permit this *side eye* Thus I missed a question even though I literally realized my mistake on the following question.  BUMMER. Such is life. Yesterday I took my Algebra exam and surprisingly came out with a 98. You’re talking about somebody being excited????  After borderline failing AP Calculus senior year of high-school ( I had a D every semester…except the semester I had an F) my confidence in my math skills shattered so this was definitely the boost my deflated ego needed. This morning I had my exam in Marriage and Family, which has proven to be my hardest class second to Algebra. The class is interesting and I honestly love the materials we study; at the same time, it’s reading heavy so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ve been managing to maintain an A in the class, but today….today I made a B on my exam. Now you may say, “Amber that’s still passing. Why are you whining?” BECAUSE I CAN! No but really, I don’t like to make below A’s in class because for one, I’m a full time student and have ample time to study. Therefore I should be able to study efficiently and diligently enough to make an A on an exam. Secondly, I’ve sucked at a lot of things in life. Basketball? Sucked. Dodge-ball? Sucked. Popularity? Sucked. But I’ve always done well in school. As a result, much of my identity is tied to my academic performance. Don’t be like that….it’s a slippery slope, my friend. Due to this my confidence took a hit when I didn’t perform as well on the test as I believed I should have. I know, I know. It’s such a shallow complaint.  But regardless of the shallow depths of my complaint, I was still upset with my grade. I’ve been messaging my aunt, since she was the relative most adamant about me returning to school, giving her updates on my grades.  I texted her today to let her know that I made a B on the exam, thinking she may say something about me needing to study more or something along the lines of what I would say to myself.  After an hour, she messaged me back saying she felt like cheering and telling me to keep up the good work. And that almost made me cry. Almost….I tend to be a bigger crybaby when I’ve consumed coffee which is unfortunate since I love me some coffee! But her message was truly touching because it’s the encouragement I needed in that moment.

There were a number of reasons that my aunt’s text encouraged me.  For one, it was nice to be reassured that my “under performance” was not as big a deal as I thought it was. And secondly it reminded me of my relationship with God. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but I watch Steven Furtick’s sermons online each week. I started this tradition last year because while I worked at the hotel I never had Sunday’s off so I couldn’t attend church. Even though I’ve quit the hotel (because I’m obviously a quitter) I still watch each week because I genuinely enjoy his teachings. At some point this week I heard either him or the campus minsters at the church speak about how even when you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential or you feel like you slipped, God is still cheering you on. Don’t ask me which sermon. My brain is brimming with facts about cohabitation, distance formulas, and libertarianism so I can’t remember. But to me, my aunt’s message was God reminding me that God still sees the best in me.

This reminder is not only in regards to my grades but in my life in general. I’m hard on myself about everything I do. If I mess up I don’t handle it like, “Ah, well it happens. Get em next time, tiger!” It’s like, “What is life? Why am I failure? Why is crustless bread higher than regular bread? Woe is me!” I hang on to failure like I’m breastfeeding it, nurturing it, raising it.  I have a hard time letting things go. Most times I have to take a deep breath and chant, “It’s not that deep. It’s not that deep. Yea but I coul-IT’S NOT THAT DEEP!”  Thus when I fall short I’m thinking God is responding the same way that I would. We get this thought in our minds that God is shaking his head at us and questioning how he could have created such a flawed creature. When really he’s waiting to pick us up, dust us off, smile on us, and tell us keep going. And he never stops rooting for us.  A couple of weeks ago Pastor Furtick had a guest pastor speak and at the end of the sermon the pastor admitted to losing his job because of his alcoholism. As a preacher you have to imagine that was hard on him. It would feel shameful and embarrassing because you’re supposed to lead your congregation, but you’re struggling with an addiction which has now become public.  He ended up going to rehab and the weight of his condemnation burdened him to the point where the ONLY thing he enjoyed was walking and watching the sunset.  It was during one of these walks that he said God spoke to him, telling him, “I’m not done with you yet.” And that’s such an uplifting message because when you’ve fallen, whether intentionally or unintentionally, if you allow God to work towards your renewal and restoration he will. But that’s if you allow him to. So I’m trying to learn to take my disappointments to God in prayer and say, “God I know I didn’t do the best I could have or should have done. But I can’t hang on to this any longer. I’ve allowed myself to cry about it, but now it’s time to get back on the move. You’ve still got good plans for me and still see the best in me so I know that this isn’t the end.” As Pastor Furtick said, “God is the God of our dead ends.”

Now I do plan to change up my study habits and try to study harder, but at the same time I know that this slip up is minor in the bigger scheme of things. Of course, someone may be saying, “well I did something really bad! I mean…REALLY BAD,” which may be the case.  But God always allows for correction and always extends forgiveness.  One of the campus ministers from Elevation Church said in his devotional yesterday that forgiveness is a gift. It’s not just a dreadful shot to help you get well. We shouldn’t look at forgiveness as burdensome because needing it means we screwed up. But we should instead look at it like, “Wow, God loves me this much that he’s giving me forgiveness. He’s giving me the opportunity to start over again.” I know this may seem contradictory to what I said a couple of posts ago when I spoke about the infamous pastor accused of sexual assault by a few young men. But there is an important difference that must be noted. While sin is equal in God’s eyes, no sin is greater than the other, it is not in society’s eyes. So we take certain blunders more seriously, such as rape, murder, assault, etc. It is also vital to make sure people are aware that these things do not go unnoticed nor should they be tolerated because they harm others. Was I harsh in the way I said it? Yes. I tend to have the terrible habit of typing a post in the height of my emotional distress and thus being very abrasive. I later considered the fact that I could have maintained a strong stance but with a more gentle approach. Yea yea, I’m working on it.  At the same time, I stand by what I said about those issues being prevalent and needing to be addressed. But we have this habit, in general, of equating the world’s punishment with God’s forgiveness. Truly, if you commit a crime you will suffer some sort of punishment because we are not immune from the laws of this world. But if you have committed a crime or done something that would be deemed serious and you wholeheartedly ask for God’s forgiveness he will give it. This may not block repercussions, but it does make you right with him which is ultimately the most important thing. I know that’s difficult for those who have suffered to hear because I, like many people, have a hard time with forgiveness when I know I’ve been wronged. So I know those who have been wronged are justifiably upset. But it is still the truth of the matter that forgiveness is always available.

So I’m going to go ahead and wrap this post up. I’ve got to finish my philosophy for the week because I sense that this man’s exam is going to be tough.  Hopefully I helped encourage someone today. If not then just forgive me for crying about my grades; I am, after all, a sensitive little muffin.