Thursday, September 13, 2012

Essays for sale!

Oh hey. Hey there. Did you think I died? 
Not dead, no worries. And BAM! I come to you with an urgent request today. Real Simple magazine, my first and only magazine subscription, is running an essay contest that I've been meaning to enter for months now. Of course, the deadline is 11:50pm today, September 13th. The contest theme is "Think of a decision you regret--anything from a ridiculous choice of prom date to a serious lapse in judgment--and tell us what that mistake taught you about yourself." I have 3 potential essays I've thought about submitting (below) and I need your help choosing one:

1) "Almost a Philanthropist" -- This will be familiar to anyone who's read my blog. I've made only slight additions for the purposes of this contest.
2) No title yet for this one. I warn you, this one is neither light nor fun to read, but it's the first topic that immediately sprang to mind for this contest. I wanted to write about it because it's the most meaningful for me, but you will not hurt my feelings if you don't pick it. Warning: deeply personal.
3) "Queen of the 4th Grade"-- Lest you tire of hearing about my elementary days of glory, here's another tale of my former idiotness. Sort of along the lines of #2 but lighter.

Now, be a dear and read my dribble and comment back (today!) about which one you think I should submit. Constructive criticism is welcomed too, you extra milers. I love you forever and ever!

--Stef Star

1) I graciously accepted the seat that was pulled out for me by my date, and smoothed a napkin daintily over my lap to cover my prom dress. I felt beautiful, if only for the fact that I was surrounded by Salt Lake City's elite and almost counted myself as one of them for the evening.
Seated around me were some of my favorite co-workers and their guests, all looking shined-up and ready for something exciting to happen. After our black-tied servers brought us a delicious meal, the emcee began the live auction. In this economic downturn, the bids were slightly disappointing, but some items were sold for inexplicably high rates--like an enchilada dinner for 20 people that sold for $3,000. This boosted my confidence and my desire to step off the bench and join in the game—not for any real amount of money, of course, but I always want to do my part to get rich people to spend money for a good cause.

My ears perked up when a trip to Mexico was mentioned. It seemed like it would be a popular item, since some of the other, less exotic trips had sold fairly easily. Before I knew what was happening, my hand shot in the air as soon as they opened the bidding. I should have listened, because the auctioneer started the bidding at $3,500.

Gasp.” (From those seated at my table.)

Crickets. (From everybody else in the room.)

...Going once.

It was a curious feeling, like swimming underwater, but with superhuman laser-pointing eyes that zero in on one man with a microphone, making his way to my table...

....Going twice.


Heart. Palpitations. Sweaty. Palms. Swallowing bugs with less-than-daintily open mouth.

In my desperation, I turned to the nearest bid-spotter and hissed—that's right, I hissed, because a lady under duress does not raise her voice or use foul language to make her point—she hisses. So I hissed, "What are you doing? SELL THIS THING!" To which he enthusiastically responds "Oh no, you want this. This is cool!"

The nerve of that guy!
Apparently he loves sick kids more than my financial well being. Oh, my dear beneficiaries of the Ronald McDonald House, I love you. I really do. But I also love making rent. And not starving. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why nobody in the room is making a peep. Too busy eating your shrimp scampi, Mr. Millionaire? Excuse me, Baroness of the Backless Dress to my right, but could you spare a couple grand so I can sleep tonight? Contrary to my appearance and polished demeanor, I do not in fact have a hospital wing named after me. My perfect posture is merely a ruse, to mask the fact that I'm only here for the food. And to look hot in my prom dress.

Meanwhile, the silence in the room had reached bone-crushing density and the widened eyes of every person at my table threatened to dislodged themselves at any moment. I was on the verge of some quite unladylike outlets for my panic, i.e. tearing out my hair and jumping frantically on the table, when a voice pierced the fog of my certain demise. One, clear, six-figure salaried voice of mercy fought through the din and massaged a rhythm back into my heart with his sweet, affluent cry of "$3,600!"

...Sold! For $3,600!

I may have shed tears.

The collective sigh of relief from those near me was a substantial boon to our depleting ozone layer. My heart found the will to go on, my kids thanked me for their college funds, and my prom dress went to the cleaners...for reasons I find unladylike to describe.

This experience not only threatened my heart and my pocketbook, it taught me something: Being impulsive can have disastrous results, but it almost always makes for a good story. Sometimes doing something crazy just for the sake of making a memory is what makes life interesting.
2) Honestly, I have only one real regret. I know that sounds arrogant, as if I've conducted everything in my life flawlessly. This being far from the truth, I've thought over the countless small things that, sure, I would do differently if I had them to do over again. But regrets are things that keep you up at night, that come to visit at odd hours and leave you wondering how things would be different, like that old high-school crush you never had the guts to ask to prom or the team you wanted to try out for but chickened out. I have few, if any, of those kinds of regrets, and none that have so deeply shaped who I am and how I think as did that one night with Adam.

We met as restaurant servers during my last summer in college. I was 3 months away from leaving for a study abroad in Italy, which I have since learned is the perfect recipe for falling in love. We fell fast and hard and we talked about how ridiculously talented and crazy our kids would be. Is there anything as beautifully blinding as first love? As fast and as hard as it was, it happened when I was only 22 so I was painfully naïve. I bloomed late, you could say. Really late, actually. Maybe as late as 22. Needless to say, my dating experiences were few and the romantic conflict I was most acquainted with up to this point was unrequited love.

To me, Adam was an exhilarating mix of passion and dark humor. He made a summer working at a greasy buffet fun, which is no small feat for a girl who hates every customer who walks through the door (the service industry is not a great fit for me). He would catch my eye from across 20 tables of increasing obesity and wink or pull a face so I would stop scowling at everyone. Or he would just look at me in my clunky, no-slip restaurant shoes and frumpy, food-spattered apron, smiling like I was the sexiest thing in the world. And when I got myself fired because I decided to “explain” to a customer that no tip was unacceptable, he was the one who rallied the rest of the servers around the idea of having a statue of me erected in the restaurant to pay homage to my defense of the working class.

Adam oozed wit, talent, charm, and...potential. I could talk for hours about his potential. I say potential because, well, at that time he sure had a lot to figure out. He lived at home, had no car, and he was a little lost in school, hopping from major to major and dreaming so big it would take your breath away. He was debilitatingly compassionate, the shirt off his own back kind. He was also reckless and impulsive, prone to depression and anxiety. I saw little of those darker sides at first, though in retrospect I see they were always just beneath the surface of his enthusiasm.
After about a whirlwind month, he started to drop hints about how he wasn't good enough for me, how he had certain “issues” that he was always trying to figure out. It took awhile for him to eventually tell me that depression runs in the family and he was exploring medications and therapy to help his own early signs of it. This shook me up a bit, since I've lived a somewhat charmed life. I grew up in a comfortable home with a healthy and happy family, and though we've had our struggles like anybody else, at that time the weight of his words seemed completely foreign. I talked as best I could with him about it, but mostly we kept things light and fun. As long as he was up, he was around and making me laugh, so I figured none of it was too much for us to handle.

Not long after we started using words like “love” we hit a rough patch, but I don't even remember what started it. I know he started feeling distant, like he was slipping away from me. One night he came over and his shoulders hung so heavily. We went out to the back yard and laid side by side on the trampoline and talked. He started to really talk this time, telling me details about his childhood and family that were not light or fun. I listened to it all and ached for something to do or say to help. Then he came to the heaviest part: He said he was currently struggling with an addiction that was far from being resolved. He had worked with therapists and church leaders and had been unable to make any real headway and was so defeated by that. He said this unapologetically. He said it like a man on the edge of a cliff, resigned to the worst version of himself and offering it up for me to take or leave. With this declaration, he stopped talking and his unasked question hung in the air: Could I still love him now that I knew everything?

I said nothing.

I had no words. I have all the words in the world now, since I've had 8 years to conjure them up, but then? Silence. I made the mistake of thinking I had time to consider what he'd said and that he owed me a few moments to process and evaluate. Could I still love him now that I knew everything? Of course. But his everything changed everything. I was so hurt by his confession, because I hadn't yet learned that the world doesn't revolve around me. All I could think of was how this would affect me, affect us, affect him as he related to me. These thoughts started doing a dizzying dance in my head and then, after what must have seemed like hours to Adam, he got up and left.

When someone bears their soul, it is an act of love. It is a raw, pleading, desperate cry for love. And when that person is the first real love of your life, he deserves an immediate reward for his bravery, a quick assertion that what he's given is recognized and appreciated. I didn't recognize the precious few moments I had to extend that love and instead wasted the time in silence. I could feel that something big had changed after Adam left, and cried like I'd never cried before. Then I drove straight to his house and pled with him to just give me time to think. He nodded his head, granting me all the time in the world, but eventually I saw that those selfishly silent moments under the summer stars sealed off his heart to me completely. Things were never the same. Our relationship didn't officially end there, but how we kept going for the next several months is a story for another day. Though we eventually broke up and moved on to different lives, my heart still breaks when I think of what he must have felt when I let him down like that.

I have studied those moments continually over the years. At other times I've been shown my naivety and have hopefully dealt with those situations a little more gracefully, but I'm still learning just how important it is to react with love to people who need love. I imagine some future day when I have a beloved child of my own, someone with wit and charm and all the potential in the world. This child musters up the courage to tell me something he's done that he knows will disappoint me, and it does disappoint and hurt me deeply. But instead of saying nothing, I will waste no time and say, “I love you so much. Thank you for telling me. I'm proud of your honesty and we'll figure this out together.”

I don't know if those words would have changed things for Adam. I don't know that we would be together now if we had figured things out, because a lost relationship is not the source of my regret. I know that what I actually lost was an opportunity to extend real charity in a moment when it was needed most. I hope and pray I will not miss those opportunities in the future.
3) I peaked in fourth grade. Socially, that is. No really—it was all downhill from there. But for one school year I enjoyed a vantage point high above any other I've since attained, from the very top of the 10-year-old caste system. I was popular for some reason, and I knew it. For the most part I chose to use my powers for good, and benevolently bestowed my attention on others with fairness and equity (a rotating schedule for who got to sit by me at lunch saw nicely to that). I can talk about this with candor and only slight exaggeration because, of course, none of that popularity stuck with me and I became just like any other normal, awkward kid later on. And since most of what is important in elementary fades with time, much of what happened that year is laughable. But as Queen of Mrs. Barlow's class, I made some decisions that I regret. And those decisions, unlike the heady power of popularity, have had lasting effects on me. They have shaped me. One such decision:
It was a typical day in school, during reading time. I spotted a boy across the room who had probably been in my class since kindergarten, but I'd never really paid attention to him. His name was Jared and he was a nerd, by any 4th grade standards. I impulsively decided to try a little experiment with him. I gestured a sort of 'watch this' to a few nearby friends and proceeded to catch the boy's eye. I smiled. I winked. I think I even made a kissy face at one point. I basically declared love to him from across several desks. And he ate it up.
Throughout the day I kept it up, but only from a distance. He started passing me notes, embarrassingly full of compliments and adoration. I don't think he loved me as much as he loved the fact the a girl was paying attention to him for the first time. And, well...that girl did happen to be at her social peak. Anyway, I thought it was so funny that he would fall for it so easily. I remember distinctly thinking it was funny that I could make someone think I liked them just by looking at them a certain way.
When I grew tired of the game later that day, I just stopped cold turkey. I didn't even make eye contact with Jared, and passed his notes back unread. He was understandably confused, but I don't really remember anything else happening after that. Because for me, the experiment was a success and I moved on to other interesting things.
I'm ashamed that this was not the only unkind thing I did that year. It was never my nature to be a bully, but in looking back I can see several examples of my hurting other people by being thoughtless. I can honestly say that the game with Jared was not done maliciously. It was not even done all that consciously—I never thought to myself “I want to hurt this boy's feelings because he's not cool.” I thought of a funny idea and I ran with it. I'm fairly certain that I was working with half a brain at best. It was only years later that I saw this little game for what it was, and for me to learn that kindness is a decision. It is a conscious thought. Kindness happens on purpose, because it doesn't always come naturally. So often when I find that I've hurt someone, through words or neglect or humor or even vanity, it happened unintentionally. But it happened all the same, because I failed to think. I thought of myself first and realized too late that my actions have an effect, whether I intend that effect or not.

And you know what else? Kindness isn't always easy. Being mean is easy, because meanness makes people laugh and feel tough. Being kind sometimes is an unpopular, uphill battle. I know that because later on in school (after the other half of my brain started forming) I noticed the new class nerd sitting by himself at lunch. I remembered my mistakes and chose to sit by him and share some of my candy with him. It wasn't a big deal, but those small acts earned me a lot of ridicule. Funny though, I have no regrets about that story.
I have no idea if Jared remembers that day in 4th grade—For all I know he's gone on to great fame and fortune and is dating a supermodel—but I can't forget it. It was the start of something I'm still working on: Thinking before acting, and choosing to be kind when given the opportunity.

Monday, January 30, 2012

To my sons

Just look at Edward and Bella! Sigh.
They're like Adam & Eve in an Abercrombie ad campaign.

Assuming I have some menchildren in the future, I'm directing this post to them. I know a little something about how to treat a lady...because I am one. Here are a few helpful tips about how to be a man. A real man. A man worth being. A man like Edward.

--Be helpful. If you see a woman who is working hard at something and you're in a position to help, offer to help. Of course you're more prone to do this if the woman is your girlfriend, your wife, or a good friend, but the concept applies to all women (all people, for that matter). This might cut into your football watching or something, but developing the habit of helping instead of pretending that you don't see her traipsing back and forth making several trips with heavy boxes will go far in making you a good person. Is it required? No. But it's what decent human beings do.

--If you take a girl on a date, you need to talk to her. I don't care how hard it is for you; practice in the car beforehand or with your mom or something. Repeat to yourself: I asked this girl out, which clearly means I thought there might be SOMETHING interesting about her, so I need to talk to her. Ask her questions. You may have to pretend interest in the topic at first, but if you really try and really listen, pretended interest can become real and then you're actually talking. Don't put a girl through the agony of silent dates.

--If you want to date a girl,  it never hurts to score some points with said girl's friends or roommates. I don't mean ask them out first or flirt with them too, but I mean be friendly and fun with them as well. Girls like it when their boyfriends get along with her friends. And if you end up dating this girl and thereby practically live at her house with her roommates, be considerate of the fact that it's not your house: See first bullet point above. Don't hog the TV all the time. Don't eat the food her roommates make and then escape before helping clean up.

--The best advice I can think of for how to treat a girl on a date is to make her feel awesome. It's a compliment to get asked out, of course, but it's also a compliment if a date is engaged, makes eye contact, introduces her to people they meet, and has put some thought into the date. Making a girl feel awesome is not that hard--it doesn't require flowers or poetry or cheesiness or elaborate plans (at least not at first). Just some attention will do, kiddos. Repeat to yourself: I asked this girl out. I asked her. Make it clear that you want her there with you.

--If you like her, act like it. If you don't, stop acting like it.

--Go to school and get a job and all that grown up stuff. It's pretty attractive.

--If you're afraid of something you need to do, practice doing it in whatever capacity you can. If commitment is your fear, start committing to stuff. Even if it's just an activity, a road trip, a church assignment, even...a sandwich--Commit to it. If taking risks is your fear, start skydiving. Practice makes perfect.

--Don't use foul language in front of girls. (I would say don't use it at all, but...the transcripts from certain episodes in the privacy of my car would incriminate me). Some girls are cool with it, but I would assume, to be safe, that they're not cool with it and make an effort to curb your bad language and dirty jokes. Maybe you'll find that diamond in the rough who swears like a sailor just like you do, but err on the side of caution until then.

--Read about the love languages and figure out yours. Then figure out hers.

--Be honest. Be brave. Be dependable. Be a man, yo.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Best Two Years

Dearest Huntington Beach,
Surprise! Happy anniversary!!! I hijacked this blog so I could publicly tell you how much I love you. I want everyone to know how happy I am that we've been together for TWO YEARS! I hope you're not embarrassed that all of our friends are going to read this...but I don't care because you deserve the attention. xoxo

Many of you may not know this, but HB and I met a long time ago on a road trip with my freshman year roommates. Best trip ever. We were determined to discover all of California, even the weird parts, so we hit every beach we could possibly fit in (including Long Beach, which is not exactly known for its beach...but I digress). My first impression of you wasn't great, or very memorable. Little did I know what lovers we would become later on.

It seems like only yesterday that I pulled up in my exhausted Corolla, anxious about where Gretch and I would sleep that night, but practically bursting with excitement about our new relationship. I drove your tree-lined streets and gushed over all the cute houses, amazed that this was my new life. Once I found a place to live, it was rough for awhile. Every couple has their issues, but I can honestly say I never once doubted you. My eyes wandered a bit, toward Santa Monica, Newport Beach, even--dare I say it....LA--but I always came back to you. We spent a lot of really intimate time together in those first 6 months, when I had few friends and little energy for anything but curling up on your beach in my spare time. Every day, when I had to wake up at the butt crack of dawn and kiss you goodbye to battle the 405, I vowed that one day I would leave all that behind and stay home to devote myself to you completely. It took some doing, but I finally did it and now we're happier than ever.

Here are some of the things I love about you:
--Running on the beach
--Surfers, all day long, every day
--Chronic Taco, Cafe Allessa, Tuna Town, Liquor Store sandwiches, Thai Silk
--Your killer sunsets
--Our rooftop
--Volleyball on Saturdays
--Biking everywhere together
--Friday farmer's market
--The Pierside Ward (RIP)
--That one best day ever: Volleyball, lunch, hot tubbing at the Hyatt, etc
--This house
--Salvation Army and yard sale furniture
--Taco Tuesdays

I could go on and on. Of course it hasn't all been bliss, but it's all been life changing. You've been good to me, and your insane cost of living seems to be worth it every time I step out my front door. I'll stomach the parking tickets, the weed smoking next door, killing of all my rooftop plants, and the occasional possum,, this is love.

Cheers to a great two years!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Old me, meet now me

Direct quote from my journal, February 17, 2003: "I just spent a whole entry talking about boys. I am so lame! I hope I'm the only person who ever reads these journals. But who can blame me? All my friends are getting hitched, so it's kind of a boy-focused stage of life."

Oh, ho you think the Me of Ages Past would be embarrassed to know that I just shared that with the entire world? Not much she can do about it.

There are several indicators that I have a little too much free time today (besides the glaring fact that I'm blogging at 9am), one of those being that I just read my entire journal from the years when I was 19 and 20. Those were very formative years for me--The pages are filled with stress and worry about what to study in school, where to spend my summers, how to stretch my thin income, and....boys. Boys boys boys. See my previous blog entry for more information about that trend. Reading one's former self is not a comfortable experience, if you're me. It's cringe-worthy, most of it. I have to sift through a lot of mess to get to the heart of who I was and to see if that girl is still in me. I simultaneously conclude that I have both changed completely and haven't changed at all.

And then, right in the midst of laughing and shaking my head at the things I used to say, I come across a list. In October, 9 years ago, I made a spontaneous wish list of sorts, declaring all the things I wanted and wanted to become. I still do that sort of thing today, so not much has changed there. But as I read about the deepest desires of my 20-year-old heart, I was taken back to that time of my life. I remembered what it felt like to want those things and feel like they were so far away. Pipe dreams. A wish list is just that, right? Dreams that you fling out to the universe and longingly pine for, with no expectation that even half of them will come true. I remember that feeling--the taste of  frustration at my own weaknesses, combined with a barely-containable excitement about all possibilities that lie before me. I remember that feeling because I still have it, all the time. But what's crazy about today is that I can check so many things off that list I wrote in 2002. Without knowing it, the last 10 years have brought me really close to all of the things I wanted to be. Of course there is much more work to do and infinite wish lists in my mind, but I'm amazed at how far I've come in realizing my dreams. In that entry I said "How much of that will really happen, or is even possible?" I love being able to answer that question now.

Time is a funny thing that way. I tend to wish it away, or want it to speed up to help see me through some current frustration. I found myself doing that just yesterday. I used to do that all the time--wish that I could just fast-forward a few months, a few years, or whatever. Well, it turns out that wishing away time is one wish that always comes true. I feel like I've just fast-forwarded to 2011 and am wondering where the time has gone. I feel sad about that, but also I am overwhelmed by gratitude for my life. I have been blessed with experiences that seemed like crazy dreams ("I want to go to Italy and learn Italian" or "I want to do weddings and floral design") and I've also learned through the hard things ("I don't want to work somewhere that I don't love"). Some of my dreams have changed ("I want to weigh 110 pounds") and some will never change ("I want to be an amazing, memorable writer" and "I want to be a positive influence" and "I want to be really, really good at something, like guitar or piano.") I'm glad to see that much of who I was is still who I am, and that at the very least I know I've been passionate.

I am filled with hope today. I hope that I continue to hope. My wish lists are less specific now ("I hope I'm learning what I should" and "I hope everyone feels loved by me") but no less real. And, thanks to my abundant free time today, I've learned that my wish lists are actual possibilities. Just give me another 10 years or so.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fisher of men

Confession: I have been boy crazy my entire life.

This statement, of course, comes as shocking to nobody who knows me. Being a boy crazy girl has its perks, you know: I always have someone(s) to talk about, think about, dress up for, get excited about, analyze, etc. And I always had little boyfriends growing up (before junior high happened). Even now the laws of statistics determine that with so many objects of my affection, I'm bound to get at least a little flirting in every coupla days or so. But I'm thinking today about some of dark sides of crushing (gosh, that word "crushing" should really only have dark sides when you think about it).

The ratio of nets cast into the waters of love compared to actual fishes caught is alarming. I figure that over the years I've invested some of my heart in roughly...435 boys (15 per year x 29 years) and I've ended up having that affection returned roughly...75 times. And of those who've returned my affections, only maybe 15-20 of those have netted a relationship of some sort. Don't question these numbers, by the way--it's science.

So, to sum up:
Boys desired: 435
Boys desiring me: 75
Boys following through with desire and actually dating me: 15

I'm batting a 3% rate of return on this particular investment.

Now, maybe if this were a money market account, I could feel good about that. But it's not, and I don't. So, math whizzes, life coaches, summoners of the dark arts (Jenny Morrow), ask yourselves what you would do in my position. I need to boost my rate of return to, say, 100%. No big deal.

I have questions:
--I'm still young, so the finance guys say "take risks". Done, doing, will do, thank you. Does that mean I cast more nets? More and more and more nets?
--The emotionally scarred would say that a heart can only be fragmented so many times before it ceases to function (actually, I'm pretty sure doctors would say that too), so perhaps the best course of action is to pull in the line and work on patching up the leaky spots until I'm in safer waters. ?
--Economists will tell me to use not more nets, but better ones. Part of my problem is that I run around gleefully throwing around anything that remotely looks like a net and then I might catch a little fishie who remains caught only long enough to find the nearest hole and wriggle away. Or, sometimes when I'm on a roll I'll catch too many fish in one net and, a la the Faithless Disciples, my net breaks and sends them all a-scurrying. How does one improve the net?
--I think most people would probably tell me to never, ever take an analogy this far.

Sigh. You're right. Maybe I just need to grow up and realize that it's possible to choose who to invest in, and that not having crushes on everything male with a heartbeat is something to consider. But even as I think that I feel sad, like a huge part of me would just be snuffed out by the part of me that finds it prudent to be cold and unfeeling and careful. NEVER! Ahem. Never.

Hummmuna hummuna hmmmm.....
Meh. I think probably I have less control over this than I think I do. I am me and apparently, that means I am a fisher of men. Analogy back on, yo.

Monday, July 18, 2011

As of today, I am debt free!

Monday, June 13, 2011

If I were a rich man, yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum

Late-night blog rant that I'll probably regret in the morning....ready....go:

I had a little 6-year-old student I'll call D for just about 5 weeks. Cutest thing ever, but let me tell you about the rollercoaster ride she put me on. I asked her awhile ago to list some songs she likes so we could learn them on the piano, because students will usually get much more excited to practice and/or perform a song they know, right? Well, she had recently seen Fiddler on the Roof and fell in love with "If I Were a Rich Man". So I went home and listened to it about 65 times, and came up with a little kid arrangement that I knew she could do if she worked hard. When I came to our next lesson and played it for her, she lost her mind with excitement. She threw her arms around me and thanked me and promised to do everything she could to learn the song in time of for our fast-approaching recital. And during that lesson, she sure kept her word! She was focused. She was working. She was very unlike a 6-year-old in her tenacity. I left that lesson rejoicing, considering a musical connection made and a testimony born of hard work and dedication.

That lasted until our next lesson, where D could barely play a short three-note section of what we'd learned, and spent the whole lesson exhibiting ADD like I'd never seen, repeating "piano is hard" about every 5 minutes. My little, naive heart broke. It really broke. I left that lesson feeling like such a failure. The scariest part of that feeling was not that I'd failed as a teacher, but that one setback in my student's progression so easily broke my heart like that. It took the wind right out of my sails. Instead of taking it in stride and chalking it up to a bad day, in one fell swoop it cut my motivation right out from under me and I wrote her off. Just like that.

Frightening, isn't it?

Then comes the inevitable onslaught of questions: Am I an idiot for thinking she could play that? Did I push her too hard? Is this simply a lack of experience kind of thing, since I've been a teacher for about 5 minutes? Are all children rotten little monsters who hate doing anything that requires work?

I'm learning that I have very high expectations for people, including myself. I realize the story above is embarrassingly dramatic, but I really did experience those highs and lows based on a little thing like Fiddler on the Roof. It may not be so bad to have such high expectations, except for the part where those expectations are not met (which they rarely are) and the resulting crash into despair. Tell me, mothers, how do you handle this with your children? I'm terrified to have children because I'm terrified they'll disappoint me.

That last line made me a little terrified to post this...we'll see if I actually do.

God hasn't blessed me with children yet--which obviously is a very good thing for now--but what I have been given instead is a Relief Society full of women for whom I am now responsible to be a good example to, to care about, to pray for, and to hope for...which I do my best to do. The problem is that I don't think I've really learned about agency yet. Two months into it and I'm already bitterly disappointed when I see girls who don't try very hard or who just...aren't that awesome at churchy things, you know? It's not like I feel they've disappointed me personally--I know they don't owe me a thing--but it's like they've betrayed my hope in them. It's difficult for me to avoid sometimes feeling like my efforts to get people to change (or to get myself to change) are an exercise in futility...that in the end, that little girl doesn't want to practice piano, or this girl just doesn't feel like coming to Relief Society today. Heck, sometimes I don't feel like going to Relief Society, so it's not the end of the world, right? I'm not any better than them and I have plenty of examples of girls who blow me away with how amazing they are. Still, disappointment will come throughout my life. What I need practice in is shaking it off. I need to be able to maintain hope in the face of disappointment. I don't want unmet expectations to mean that I have no more desire to try. If it's having that effect on me, then I am much more impatient than I ever thought. Sigh.

Not my best day, you could say.