I really miss college.
Scratch that. I miss parts of college. Mostly, I miss living in the dorm. I lived on this hall that was known for causing problems and for staying up all night to play MarioKart or to watch Dog the Bounty Hunter. In other words, we were driven by impulse, consumption, and entertainment. And we loved every minute of it. We sucked at homework and even worse at being polite. I mean, some of my friends peed in a water gun and sprayed it in someone’s mouth, for God’s sake.
It was awesome.
One time, we did a trading spaces thing, and another set of guys transformed our room into a womb, covering the walls in red sheets and even hanging gigantic representations of a sperm and an egg. It was epic. And disgusting. But oddly comfortable and safe.
In the cafeteria, we were loud and obnoxious, notoriously known as “The Table of Kids Who Don’t Wash Their Hair,” and we made the biggest, most badass ice cream cones in the world. And then smashed them in people’s faces.
We were terrible people. And I didn’t mind. In fact, I miss it.
“10 years from now, what do you hope your life will look like?”
When I first met my friend Mallory Roth, I accidentally asked her what she wanted to do after college. I was barraged with reasons why such a question was utterly ridiculous. I quickly repented and begged her forgiveness.
I got to thinking about what she had said, and it reminded me of something. Right after the new year kicked off, as I sat at the Coffee Ethic, enjoying a cup of the house and reading, this random dude approached me from the Springfield Free Press. He told me that he was taking a poll and was curious what people intended to do or change about the coming year. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I hope I make it through.” Something that was then quoted in the paper and made me the “most famous person” my mailman knows, which he likes to remind me of often.
So, with those two experiences in mind, I have to insist that this question is both ridiculous and surprisingly well-worded. Most of the time, when someone asks a question of this nature, it is centered on what someone wants to do with the next ten years. That kind of question is a waste of my time. I don’t even know what I want to do today; how the hell am I supposed to be able to predict 10 years into the future?!
But this question is a little different. It asks, what will life be like in ten years. I may not know the details of what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be living, but I can say that I hope my life in ten years is filled with love, community, and beauty. I can say that I want to be a person who incarnates Grace to everyone I meet. I can say that I want more patience with and more indignation against injustice.
I can’t tell you what I want to do in the future, but I can tell you what kind of person I want to be.
Hilary and I drove up to KC for a wedding this weekend. As soon as we showed up, Dwight and Jean excitedly wished me happy birthday. Jean then pulled out a big bag and handed it to me. Inside was a waffle cone maker. At first, I was speechless. Hilary and I had seen this particular gadget at Macy’s last week and loved it, but we had decided against it for the sake of frugality. So, one week later, to find it waiting for me at the bottom of a gift bag was a wonderful surprise. I jumped up and down a couple time–I know; I probably get too excited about stuff like that–and thanked Dwight and Jean ecstatically.
And why wouldn’t I? I’m gonna make my own waffle cones. Like everyday.
When I was in high school, I dated this girl. Actually, I dated a lot of girls, which collectively may constitute my favorite mistake, but I can think of one particular girl who truly represents all such mistakes. I dated this girl for quite awhile, and it was awesome. We had some really good times. But after awhile, I got bored or something. I remember becoming insanely discontent. Part of me wanted the relationship to be over and part of me was really, truly happy with things. As a result, I started treating her really badly. I would pick fights, intentionally “forget” things she had said, and change plans on her. I was very intentionally trying to make her break up with me, so I wouldn’t have to do it. And when she finally did, I was hurt more than I could have thought. I was desperately heartbroken. For a loooong time. I didn’t know what to do with all of my hurt, so I sat through it. I waited it out. And when I finally did get into another relationship, I did the exact same thing. And the next girl, too. And on and on.
So why would this be my favorite mistake? Because it was a mistake. Despite my intentions, it was unintentionally painful. And because I learned nothing from it. Could it even be called a mistake if it were somehow justified?
Yesterday, I went mini-golfing with my wife and my friend. My friend found an extra golf ball on the ground, so he picked it up. Almost immediately after that, a woman on the hole ahead of us hit her ball off the course, through the chain link fence, and across the street. My friend simply handed her the extra ball and smiled. When she turned around and walked away, my friend said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
The reason that my failed high school relationship is my favorite mistake is because it didn’t happen for a reason. Or rather, it happened for a reason (I certainly seemed to cause it), but such reasons served no purpose. In other words, I accomplished something entirely by accident that I had never intended to give to myself or to anyone else.
Maybe one could say that I must have learned something from that experience. I must have been changed and formed in some way, which I suppose is true. But then I suppose–if I’m not mistaken–there would be no mistakes. This is not to say that everything happens for a reason–a sentiment I simply cannot get on board with, mostly because I think it’s just too easy for fortunate people to say so. It is to say that there are no mistakes. Everything we do is on purpose, and mistakes are impossible. In order to truly be a mistake, such events would have to be entirely unforeseen and useless. They would cost time and gain nothing.
I can think of one pure mistake. One day, my father-in-law stood outside a store facing the parking lot. A woman approached him from behind and grabbed a healthy handful of his ass. Neither looked at the other, assuming that acquaintance was obvious. After a brief pause, they glanced at each other and realized that he was not her husband, as she had thought, and she was not his wife, as he had assumed. She stumbled through an apology and walked away awkwardly. The beauty of this mistake is that it served no purpose or gain whatsoever. Although, I guess he did get felt up.
Maybe it was a mistake to write this . . .
This summer, I’ve been working for Touchpoint Autism Services, hanging out with kids and adults with autism. What I appreciate most about the job is that it requires me to state everything positively. We aren’t allowed to use phrases like “Don’t do that.” We have to find ways of expressing positively what we want the kiddos to do rather than constricting them by what they can’t do. And we are supposed to praise every little thing they do that is good. It’s a very particular kind of technique for a very particular kind of communication, but I think it’s a kind of communication that I have mostly neglected in my pessimism and cynicism. I tend to be very negative, finding the things I hate about every topic or idea. I suppose that’s my inheritance as an “academic” (if such a thing exists, and I might rightly be mistaken for one). Academics are rigorously trained to spot the weaknesses in every argument, but Touchpoint has dared me to find anything I might enjoy and to highlight it.
Interpersonally, positive communication is just nice sometimes. Every once in a while, I like to be told what I’m doing right, even if it’s fairly insignificant. Otherwise, the only feedback I really receive from people are harsh corrections. I’m gonna try to take that with me when I leave Touchpoint (later this week); I’m gonna try to find the little things that people do and to honestly express how much I appreciate those things.
Since school got out, I’ve been working 40 hours a week. This kind of thing has cut severely into my schedule. I’ve also been reading a bunch of fun-fiction and spending a lot of time with friends and family. I haven’t spent near as much time reading or thinking explicitly about theological or philosophical issues. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing theology. Sharing life with my wife and my friends is an explicitly theological act. Resting and recovering from a long year at school is theological. Everything is theological. Everything that I do reflects my experiences with the Divine. Unfortunately, some of those experiences are more positive than others, but I can’t deny that every moment of my life is profoundly meaningful, especially the mundane ones.
All that to say, I haven’t really had much to say lately. I’m not sure that I’m at a place where I can really express theological thoughts in discourse and words and such. And I don’t feel bad about that. Not even for a minute.
Most profoundly, I’ve noticed the amazing wonder that happens with food. Yesterday, I had biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs at my aunt’s house for breakfast. I sat and chatted with my aunt and my grandfather, enjoying stories and laughing. For lunch, Hilary made marinated turkey burgers and a huge fresh salad. My aunt, Clutter and his dad, and Hilary and I sat there for an hour just talking about food. Then we had Pineapple Whip to top it all off. For dinner, Clutter made pulled pork sandwiches and grilled asparagus; Hilary fixed some peaches and cream sweet corn. Tonight, my friend Lindsey is coming over, and we’re all going to do some serious baking.
We’re lucky to live where we do and to be able to enjoy such delicious food. But all of this food has been a reminder to me that it isn’t what’s on the table that matters, it’s who is around it. And everyone is welcome at Christ’s Table.
Last week, we had some folks over to sit around a kiddy pool and read some poetry. We started the night by listening to this poem (watch out–there’s some language in it):