Tag Archives: Advice

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Own It

Belonging is a high priority for people, made more complicated by the fact that our minds and hearts can comprehend issues like religion, politics, and philosophy. The more things we can belong to, the more things we can be excluded from, and the more difficult it is to figure out precisely where we fit in. Sometimes we simply don’t want to put names to things, but ultimately, identity comes down to categories. We are all unique individuals because of the unique combination of buckets we fit in to. Of course it isn’t always simple. Sometimes our buckets don’t fit together perfectly for whatever reason, and sometimes we fit better in certain groups than in others. Being human is complicated.

I could probably give you an exhaustive list of every bucket I belong in, but it would be a pretty long list. Furthermore, the list might raise some red flags for certain people. I just read an article about a conference held in Houston for LGBTQA Christians. Several different views on many topics were represented, and it seemed like the whole thing was very balanced. Then I read the comments. They were snarky, cruel, and judgmental, and pissed me off royally. I bring this up because I am asexual and Christian, and that might freak some people out, but in my mind, there’s no issue when it comes to bringing these two aspects of my Katie-ness together. In the same vein, as you all know if you’ve been following me for a while, I love stories, particularly fantasy and science-fiction stories. I’ve read accounts from people who have been judged harshly by their churches for their interest in such things. In fact, at my college, I know that some students’ parents took issue with the fact that we were reading mythology in some of my classes.

Obviously some aspects of our personalities are more important to us than others. My sexuality almost doesn’t matter to me at all. It can complicate things here and there, but it’s otherwise not important. The fact that I’m a total nerd is important to me. The freedom to watch sci-fi movies and play RPG’s is something I value very highly, and I don’t find that it clashes with my faith. These stories take place in different universes, so the rules of this one don’t apply. It’s as simple as that, as long as we are able to distinguish fact from fiction, which is, or at least should be pretty darn easy.

Of course belonging isn’t simply a matter of identifying the buckets we theoretically fit into. it’s also a matter of acceptance. We long to be accepted for who we are by the people around us, even if those people are very different from us. Sometimes we’re the black sheep in our immediate families, or in our schools, but we find friends in odd places. Sometimes we fit into the category of weirdos who don’t have much in common other than the fact that we’re weird. Sometimes we’re just the odd ones out, and in that case, we just have to own it. That’s important. Acceptance is often a matter of recognizing confidence. It seems to be natural. Confidence in one’s self is a sign of strength that people will see and appreciate.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize where we belong and how valuable it is. It’s easy to disregard the fact that, although we may not belong in one “cool” or interesting group of people, we are loved by God, and the people we grew up with, and the new friends we make over time. It’s easy to forget what we already have, and we don’t have to strive for something we don’t need and ultimately might not want. Acceptance that is freely given is extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted, though it seems to be a natural human impulse to do so. Of course it is most important to be comfortable with who we already are, while remembering that we can always be better. As long as we strive for our perfect selves, we are the best we have ever been up until this moment. As cliche as it sounds, the most important person to be accepted by is yourself, so own it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Things I’ve Learned

Do not hate the haters. Hate feeds hate.

Do not withhold from the ungrateful what they do not deserve. Give anyway. Charity feeds love. Love feeds gratitude.

Do not be negative. There is always hope.

Do not judge yourself. Have faith.

Love everyone. Forgive everything.

Prayer Advice From A Total Newb

I’ve been trying to pray more. I’m bad at praying. Last night my friend asked me, “Isn’t praying the same as just talking to God?” Maybe it is and I’ve been doing it wrong, but from my experience, it seems like it’s somehow spiritually and mentally different. I’m not sure how to explain it. It involves getting very close to God, and that’s intimidating. Something I have discovered that’s helped a lot, though, is that prayer starts with humility. If you realize and acknowledge how tiny you are, it becomes easier. In a way, though it is just like “talking to God,” because you have to work through exactly what it is you need. I’ve also discovered that begging doesn’t seem to work–for me at least. I’m not sure why. Generally, I think it’s because God wants me to get somewhere or discover something before he’ll give me whatever it is what I’m asking for. On the other hand, there have been occasions where I’ve just stopped and said, “Hey, listen, this is important to me. Think you could help me out?” and whatever it is will be given.

Despite the fact that I feel I’m rather awkward about it, prayer works for me. I was talking to a kid I mentored about it the other day, and he said that part of the reason he doesn’t believe in the Christian God is because prayer hadn’t worked for him. He asked me if it did work for me, and I told him that I wouldn’t have got through college if it hadn’t been for God answering my prayers. I firmly believe that he’s helped me out with everything from emotional issues to tough classes.

Something else I’ve learned is that you can’t just idly wait for God to answer prayers. A lot of times the answer to a prayer involves you doing something. A lot of time it means trying everything under the sun, and allowing God to push you in the right direction. Sometimes prayers are a little something like this: “God, I’m afraid to do X or Y, so drive me up a wall until I can’t stand it any more and just do it.” That’s worked for me before.

Ultimately, there’s no “standard” or “correct” way to pray. Different things work at different times for different reasons. I don’t always feel sincere when I recite prayers (like the Our Father or the Fatima Prayer), but sometimes I do. On the other hand, a lot of people find it a lot easier to pray if they don’t have to search for the words. Sometimes things you wouldn’t even think of are a kind of prayer, like simply being with someone, and loving them so hard it hurts. The most important thing is sincerity. Mean what you say. Don’t just pray because you’re supposed to. Pray because you want to; because you need to. Remember the good in this world. Remember the good in your life. Remember that God loves you and loves the world, and acknowledge those things because they’re important.

Like I said, I’m not very good at prayer. I feel like I could be a million times better, but the point is that God listens. It doesn’t matter how eloquent or knowledgeable you are. What matters is that you’re making an effort to communicate with the God of the Universe in a meaningful way. In effect, you’re  saying “I have no idea where I’m going. You drive.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

What I Want To Tell You

What I want to tell you is not what you will want to hear. I want to tell you that you should forgive him. I want to tell you that you should let it go; move on; live and let live. I want to tell you that Jesus loves you. I want to tell you that Jesus loves him, despite the things he’s done–despite the things they’ve all done.

I know you won’t want to hear that. I know you won’t believe it. It’s hard for me to believe it, too. But I do believe it. I may not like it, and I may not understand it, but I think it’s true.

I want to tell you that forgiving someone and allowing them to continue what they’re doing–what they’ve done is not the same. Forgiving means letting go of your anger, seeing someone as nothing more than a broken person, and moving on. Forgiving doesn’t mean going back. Forgiving doesn’t mean that what they did is okay. It means being free. It means no longer being defined by what happened to you. It means finally being able to love.

You don’t have to forget. In fact, you shouldn’t forget because what happened was important, and you can learn from it. Others can learn from it. Remembering makes you a better person because you won’t make the same mistakes.

I love you, and I want you to be happy. I want you to forgive and let it go, but I’m afraid to tell you. I’m afraid you’ll get mad. I’m afraid you won’t understand. I want to let you know that I’m praying for you, but I don’t know if that would mean anything to you, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Writing A Road: To Somewhere Great Or A Dead End Job

I hadn’t looked at my friend’s Facebook in a while, but I looked there just a little while ago, and something she had posted two hours before made me feel a little worried about her. I miss her a lot and I just hope she’s doing ok (she’s away at college this year). She suffers from depression, and sometimes she gets into funks. I hate to see her like that. I’m in a bit of a weird situation right now because I care about her and I miss her and I’ve been praying for her, and I’m not actually sure how she’d feel about that. I know from experience that it can sound phony to nonbelievers when Christians say that they’ll pray for so-and-so. I don’t know if it’s better to tell people or not, but I went ahead and told her. I just hope she knows that I mean it seriously and that she can at least sort of appreciate it. I just wish that she could know God because it really does make everything so much easier.

I’ve been having a bit of a stressful weekend. A different friend of mine slept over my house last night because we were having a party with family and friends. We ate a lot of food and stayed up late, which was great except I had to get up early to sing in church this morning. I was going to get a bunch of homework done on Friday except I had a minor seizure (I’ve had epilepsy since I was small but it’s been controlled by medication up until this point), so I felt crappy and then angry all day. Before the party yesterday I went to the doctor and had some blood work done. They should know what’s wrong fairly soon. In the meantime I’ll take a little extra dose and that will hopefully keep it under control. That’s most likely what they’ll have me do anyway. The point is that I have a lot of stuff due next week, and I only have a few days left to do it.

The friend who slept over last night is also an English major. Today before she went back to school, we were talking about how neither of us really knows what we want to do with our lives. I know without a doubt that I want to write. The trouble is that I really don’t know what I want to write about. I love writing my blog because I get to do some experimenting here, but I don’t know what kind of subject matter I would like to write about to make a living. I also don’t know what kinds of writing jobs pay a lot and what ones don’t. Quite frankly, I’d like to make a decent amount of money. I’d like to be able to at least live comfortably, and I would like to have some extra money because I would like to be able to help people, and I think I can say without a doubt that you need some money to be able to do that. I don’t know that I’ve given up on the idea of being a pastor, but I must admit that recently, the idea has lost a bit of luster. I’m not sure why. I want to write… but I would like to somehow glorify God and spread His message in what I do. Oddly enough, I haven’t been able to figure out a good, solid way to do that.

The thing I don’t want to do is become just another writer or just another pastor or what have you. I don’t want what I have to say to be lost in the wind; to blend into the sea of what every other writer, pastor, beatnik, etc is saying. I know this is the fear of every person who thinks they have something important to say, and what scares me more is that I don’t know how to deal with it. So I suppose the problem isn’t exactly that I don’t know what I want to do; it’s more that I don’t know how to do it.

I think another part of the problem is simply that I love art. Information and art can serve largely the same purpose. The difference is that information is passive and art is active. I want to be active in getting my point across. I want to be the obvious spot of red on the black and white photograph.  I’m also not sure I would be able to accomplish what I want to if I end up working for someone. If someone is telling me what to write, I’m not sure I would even be writing about what I’m interested in. Yet another problem is that I have no idea how to get anything published. I wrote a few children’s stories last year and I spent over 12 hours trying to figure out how to get them published, and I reached no conclusion. I found that many publishing companies were scammers and many of the ones that weren’t wanted ludicrous amounts of money to publish material. I’m currently working on recording an album of original music, and I’m dreading looking into getting that published, but I want to because my songs definitely get my point across (at least I think so).

Well, I’ve got to get back to the grind. I might sleep and get up early…. Alas, the plight of a college student….. If anyone has some advice and/or information that they could share, please leave a comment. That would be very helpful and I would really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance.