Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rejection Denied

Over twenty-four hours later and I still can't get this girl out of my head (see previous post). I thought that a night of some sleep and a busy day of subbing at a different school and an afternoon filled with an interview for a teaching job for next fall (I'll find out next week whether or not I'll get the job) would dilute some of the emotion and make me feel better. It hasn't. My mind keeps reeling back to that brief 40-minute conversation.

What keeps bugging me is that it was an opportunity denied. I'm used to rejection. I don't like it, but I'm used to it. I might not have like being turned down or finding out there really wasn't anything there, but at least I would have taken the chance. I haven't taken all that many chances in the past, but yesterday I was going to. Instead, I was denied even the opportunity to be rejected. That hurts more than a rejection itself. I don't know why, but it does.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I Just Can't Get a Break

Today, as most other days currently, I was substitute teaching. During the time I had my prep period another class entered the room. It turns out there was another class in the room I was in during that time and they had a substitute, too. The sub for this class was this very attractive young lady. She seemed a bit nervous and remembering my manners, I introduced myself.

"Sorry to take over your class," she said.

"Well, it's not really my class. I'm a sub here today, too."


We chatted for a few minutes and then I left to go get lunch. I wasn't going to eat lunch, but I had 90 minutes with nothing to do. I could have stayed in a teacher lounge area, but I've made it a policy of mine not to visit teacher's lounges. I learned when I was substitute teaching in Indiana that teacher's lounges are kind of evil places--there's so much gossip, negativity, and ill will in those places that it makes me sick. I'd rather stay in the classroom during the time reading a book. Anyway, after coming back from eating lunch, this sub was still in the class room. I walked over to the other desk in the room to lay my coat and book down.

"Do you mind if I stay in here?" the lovely lady asks.


"Are you going to eat lunch?"

I was surprised by the question. Women like this usually don't even know if I exist let alone acknowledge my existence and ask me a question.

"Well, normally I don't eat lunch but I already went and ate since I had so much time."

"Good. I'm just going to stay here if you don't mind because I don't usually eat lunch either."

At this point this beautiful woman was talking to her mom on her cell phone, making arrangements to meet her after school. Then she says to me, "I hate the idea of dating. There are just too many mind games." I'm not sure what to say with this comment and since she's still talking to her mom, I'm not even sure if she's talking to me.

I ask, "Are you talking to me?"

"Yeah. Sorry, just a minute." She then brings her conversation with her mom to a close. "Dating is just so troublesome. Are you married?"

"No. No, I'm not."

"Do you have a girlfriend? Are you dating someone?"

"No. Unfortunately, I'm not. I wish I was, but my luck with women just isn't all that great."

"Well, neither is mine. With men I mean."

For the next 40 minutes I had this wonderful conversation with this lady. She told me about the previous three relationships she had been in and how they had all been pretty serious. She told me about this guy she was kind of seeing now (with who she was struggling with and frustrated with) but really wasn't "seeing" because she had decided she wanted to try to be a "player" (her words not mine) and discovered that she really wasn't. She was torn because she kind of liked this guy, but she didn't think she liked him enough to pursue a more serious relationship. Besides, since they had decided at the beginning that this wasn't going to be serious, she thought he was seeing other people. "I thought I wanted that, too, but I don't. I'm just not like that," she said.

We talked briefly about our faith (something we shared in common). She asked for advice and what I thought this guy meant by some of the comments he had made recently. I told her I wasn't the best person to ask in a situation like this because I had never dated anyone seriously and that I tend not to think like other guys do. But, I gave her the best advice I could. I learned she had attended school at Eastern in business but found the business world too cut-throat and that she was now getting her Masters in Elementary Ed at Lindenwood. I learned that she had grown up in Bethalto. She learned from me that I had grown up in Sorento ("Do you know where Greenville is?" "Yeah, I drive by there to Centralia and when I went to Eastern." "Well, it's north of there."). She also learned that I was supposed to have gone to film school in California and then after that fateful summer of 2001 felt led to come back to school and get my teaching certification. We talked about how we hated head games and asked each other why people just can't be real with each other.

"I just want to get married, settle down, have some babies and build a life with my husband," she said.

"If only life was so easy," I replied.

"So, now you're looking for a teaching job for the fall?"


"High school right? In what?"

"English and speech."

We chatted a few more minutes, but by then the bell rang and students were entering the class. She had to go back to her classroom and I had to stay in mine. She came over to borrow the tv and DVD player, another couple of times to ask a question, and once more to bring back the tv/DVD combo on the cart. We only talked for maybe a total of 45 minutes. Not much time at all in the grand scheme of things. But by the end of that time I was completely enchanted with this woman (I won't mention her name). Now, granted, this lady was extremely physically attractive: about 5'7", blond hair, blue eyes, great skin. She could have worked as a model. All the high school guys were whispering to each other, "Did you see the hot sub in Room such-and-such?" That was part of it, I'm sure because like I said at the beginning, girls like that usually don't notice guys like me at all.

There were moments of obvious flirtation. As a male, I admit that I don't pick up on body language and nonverbal communication very well. But there were winks nods and a bit of laughter. It was all very jovial, but it was there.

But there was something more. In that short time, we had connected. There was something about this woman that I found irrestible. I wanted to immediately get to know her better. In the past, I haven't been very bold in matters like this. I'm still like a twelve-year-old kid when it comes to women I like. I don't know what to say. Usually my words come out all wrong. I get tongue-tied, my stomach turns in knots, and sometimes I break out in a sweat. Then, for whatever reason, my request for a date or my revealing of my feelings is met with refusual and rejection. It wasn't like that this time. My stomach was turning a few knots, but I had said all the right things and I knew what I was going to do, for better or worse. I wrote my phone number and email on a piece of paper and after school during the few moments before we would head down to the office, I was going to speak with her, give her the slip of paper, and ask if she wanted to go out.

The final bell rang. The last of the students left the class. I sauntered over to the class next door and she was gone. I looked all over the department, but she was nowhere to be found. "Ms. So-and-So's already left" someone said. What a blow that was.

Gone. Gone for the day. Gone out of my life. Here was a chance. Here was an opportunity. I was going to take it and now it was gone. All I have is a name. I have no way of contacting her.
There is no hope I will see her again.

It's really bummed me out and ticked me off. I just can't seem to get a break.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No One Writes To Tom

Many years ago I read a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled "No One Writes for the Colonel." The story is very slow and moving and kind of sad, yet surprisingly optimistic. The Colonel, in the story, is an old man who lives off his pension. He can no longer really work at any jobs and he and his wife depend upon his pension check for his survival. However, the check doesn't arrive when it's supposed to and each day the Colonel returns from the mailbox empty handed.

Ever since I read that story, I've often said to myself, "No one writes to Tom" because it sure seems that way a lot. I was the guy in high school who when he graduated did his best to stay in contact with my various friends and acquaintances. It was harder back then than it is now because the Internet had just entered the popular conscience. I wrote letters, made phone calls, and sent messages via the new-fangled e-mail. But, no one wrote to Tom. I did the same thing when I graduated college and for the most part the results were similar. I've only gotten two care packages in my entire life (both from my friend Kandi). As the confusion mounts, I find myself struggling with lonliness and for whatever reason it seems that yet once again, no one writes to Tom.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comfort Versus Contentment Amidst Confusion

I’m feeling kind of confused right now. Confusion is nothing new to my life. I’ve grown used to it over time. In fact, confusion has been one of the few constants of my life. It seems that I live in moments of great peace and comfort that are followed by incredibly long moments of confusion and unknowing. It’s been this way since I graduated from the 8th grade and had to start attending the larger county high school that fall. Minute moments of comfort followed by large conquesting periods of confusion seems to have characterized my life ever since: the first time I asked a girl on a date (and was rejected), when I was trying to decide where I should go to college, when I graduated from high school, when I went to college, when I was originally rejected from the theatre department, etc.

I’m kind of in one of those periods of confusion right now. I’m trying to find a teaching job for the fall. I honestly have no idea where I’m going to end up. I have some idea where I would like to be next year and though there have been some prospects, nothing has been anything close to a definite. Ideally I would like to stay somewhere semi-close (within about a 125 mile radius) of where I am now so that I can act in a play I’ve been wanting to act in for a long time next fall. In all honesty, that’s the only real reason I want to stick around (the show is a dream show for an actor and opportunities like that don’t come along very often). I’m willing to relocate to other parts of the country, but I really, really, really want to do this show in the fall. The opportunity to perform in a show like this is rather rare. So, there’s that whole thing going on. That struggle is tied to my summer as well. Summer plans and hoped for plans might not come to fruition (e.g. returning to Camp Timber-lee) if things for the fall don’t come into line.

There’s also the struggle I find myself facing between comfort and content. Contrary to general perception (and as is the case with happiness and joy) comfort and content are not the same things. One can be quite comfortable and not at all content and by the same token one can be quite uncomfortable and totally content. Ideally one would like to be both comfortable and content, but that requires great temperance (balance) and is difficult to attain and even more difficult to retain. It’s easier just to be comfortable and to fool oneself into believing you are content. That’s what most people do. We go through our lives not pressing out the best in each moment because of some unknown, tricking ourselves into believing that because we’re comfortable where we are at, we’re content. In actuality our souls are crying out to live inside, but we refuse to listen because it would make us face things we don’t want to face and so we muffle our souls’ cries with the downy softness of modern comfortability. But I don’t want to just be comfortable. I want to be content and if I had to choose between the two my heart of hearts tells me I’d rather be content than comfortable.

I do know what it is to be content. I’ve been content before. The problem right now is that I don’t know if I’m currently content and am struggling with a bit of discomfort or if I’m just comfortable and am trying to hide my discontent. I can go anywhere in the world if I want to and begin a completely different occupation and career than I am in now. I’m once again at a crossroads and people wouldn’t think it too strange if I set off west right now. This could be my chance to completely get away. There is so much I want to do in life. I want to travel more. I want to make a movie. I want to see some of the things I have written published. I want to write for The New Yorker. I want to meet, befriend, dine, and discourse with the elites (whether they are movie stars, publishing giants, athletic elite, etc.). I want to run The Amazing Race with my cousin. I want to get on Jeopardy!, beat Ken Jennings winning record, and gain for myself a footnote in the annuals of pop culture. Yet, I also want to settle down. I’ve lived a fairly nomadic life for the past several years. I’ve lived in four different states and have worked at a variety of different jobs. I’ve seen a bit more of the world than many people in my hometown even know exist. I need a home base of operations. I want to have a home of my own. I want to fall madly in love, get married, and spend time building a different life with my wife (whoever that woman might be).

So, what will happen? Will I get an English teaching job in the southern Illinois area for the 2006-2007 school year? Will I return to Camp Timber-lee for another summer? Will I end up packing all my worldly belongings in a wagon and towing it behind my dying car out to Oregon? Will I act in the play that I’ve been wanting to act in for the past several years? Will I finally get that call that gets me the interview for Survivor, The Amazing Race, or Jeopardy!? I do not know. Right now, dear readers, I’m just struggling between comfort and content amidst confusion. It’s not easy, but it sure makes things interesting.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Today's Trivia

Sauerkraut, the common German vegetable dish of cooked cabage, actuallly was first invented in China.

Camels' milk does not curdle naturally.

I LOVE LUCY was the first television show to broadcast reruns It happened in 1953 while Lucille Ball was on maternity leave.

A sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure.

The famous Apache warrior and chief, Geronimo, rode in President Teddy Roosevelt's inaugural parade in 1905.

Potatoes were the first food grown in space.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Open Your Eyes

"My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time.
These memories,which are my life--for we possess nothing certainly except the past--were always with me...
...These memories are the memorials and pledges of the vital hours of a lifetime. These hours of afflatus in the human spirit, the springs of art, are, in their mystery, akin to the epochs of history, when a race which for centuries has lived content, unknown, behind its own frontiers, digging, eating, sleeping, begetting, doing what was requisite for survival and nothing else, will for a generation or two, stupefy the world;...
...The human soul enjoys these rare, classic periods, but, apart from them, we are seldom single or unique; we keep company in this world with a hoard of abastractions and reflections and counterfeits of ourselves--the sensual man, the economic man, the man of reason, the beast, the machine and the sleep-walker, and heaven knows what besides, all in our own image, indistinguishable from ourselves to the outward eye. We get borne along, out of sight in the press, unresisting, till we get the chance to drop behind unnoticed, or to dodge down a side street, pause, breathe freely and take our bearings, or to push ahead, outdistance our shadows, lead them a dance, so that when at length they catch up with us, they look at one another askance, knowing we have a secret we shall never share."
---Charles Ryder, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, p. 225-226, Evelyn Waugh.

The above passages are beautifully written. When I read that, I think to myself, "Why can't I write passages as powerful and moving as that?" There are some parts of this passage that I strongly agree with. For instance, I believe that memories are important. In fact, the greatest fear I have is of someday getting some disease (e.g. Alzeheimers or Parkinsons) that causes me to slowly to be unable to relate to the world, having my memories chained at a place where only I can retrieve them at random moments, and to become trapped in an external cage of idiocy.

I don't believe, however, that "we are seldom single and unique." I believe that each of us a unique person. The crux is that so often we choose to wear masks in which we hide our true selves so that we don't appear single and unique to others. We seem so afraid to be ourselves, so afraid of who we are. We long for others to know us as we are, yet we rarely let others see us as we really are because we believe that they will like and even love the masks we wear better than the real us. If a person doesn't like us because of a particular character we are pretending to be, it doesn't hurt as much. When we do this, we aren't truly living. We are just existing and existing is so much more easy than living. After all, to living causes extreme pain. Living causes us to face things as they really are. Living brings with it a host of problems that we can easily avoid if we just exist.

I don't want to live that way. I don't want to live wearing masks. I've tried very hard to be real. I don't want to be fake. I don't want to just existent. I want to LIVE and to live fully. I want to live deep and suck out the marrow of life. I don't do this all the time. I hate to admit it, but there are times that I put on my mask and, like David Aames in VANILLA SKY, believe that people would prefer to be around a fake me than the real me. When I think of those times it can depress me. However, I do know that those times aren't the majority. I know that even though it is so easy to just exist, I'm usually not just exisiting. I'm doing more living than just exisiting. As difficult as this is, it brings me not only great joy, but happiness as well.

Relax, "open your eyes."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Job Interview

A few days ago, I had a job interview. It was for a high school English teacher/theatre instructor position. I'll find out Friday what the results are. Should I be offered the job, I will not be taking it. To begin with, they weren't offering to pay much money--I would be able to earn just as much if not more working at an office job full time; I've gone through enough schooling to know that I should be able to get more even as a 1st year teacher. Secondly, the town was in a rather small, remote place. I'm not against teaching in a rural area--I mean I grew up in a town of 650 people. However, we only had to drive 15 miles to get anywhere. This place, even though it was off the Interstate, required about a 40 mile drive to get anywhere and size-wise it's not even half the size of the town where I went to high school.

Not only that, but parts of the school have been condemned. A couple of the English teachers who interviewed me gave me a tour of the school. When we came to the library, they said something like, "This used to be a jewel of the school, but we can't show you it because it's been condemned." The doors were blocked of with yellow tape and bright signs. The school board still has no idea what they are going to do, several months after parts of the building were blocked off.

Finally, the location of the town will be a factor. I really have no idea where I'm going to exactly end up next year or what I'm going to be doing. From my past experiences I know that the best laid of plans can be totally washed away if I don't seek the leading of my Lord. I have to be open to the possibility of anything happening. However, at the moment, this is how I see things happening for the fall: either I get a job in the general vacinity (a roughly 100 mile radius) of where I am now so that I act in some projects that I might never get the opportunity to do again or I end up somewhere in/near the suburbs of Chicago or I move to Portland, Oregon. With that in mind, I've looked into a few other options as well. Considering all of this together and after much prayer, I'm convinced that if I'm not in the general vacinity of where I am now I will be moving far away. In my mind, ideally, I would stay around the general vacinity teaching somewhere next year and then moving out to Oregon the year after that. I don't know if that is what will happen, but that's how things seem to be at the moment.

There is something that has been calling me on the west coast. For a very long time I thought it was L.A. However, I don't think that's it anymore. One day I will get to L.A., but I have no desire to live there anymore. Instead, there is a far more beautiful country that I have seen where I was at more peace than I have ever been in my entire life. It's a place where despite the constant sprinkling of rain, there are green trees everywhere and cities don't look as scummy as many I've been to do. It's a place where a bookstore takes up 4 buildings and an entire city block. As the Gonzo the Great once sang, "I'm going to go back there someday."