Somewhat Poetic for Once

I should be writing an essay.

I should be making connections between sources in my yellow Honors reader.

I should be finishing my three-page literary masterpiece, answering the question of why I’m at my college.

But instead, I’m here. Talking to you.

Hi. How was your day?

That’s a question that’s begun to annoy me. It’s so surface level. Unless the delivery of that question expresses true interest and invites true answers, I don’t want to hear it.

I want to hear how you’re feeling, how your exam went, how the weather affects your mood. I want to stare at your face and truly contemplate how much I appreciate your existence.

“How was your day?”

No. This isn’t deep enough for me.

Several of my friends are on a technology fast this week. They’ve had a lot of trouble, but I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been enjoying it. I am not on the tech fast. But I like actually talking to people when they don’t have phones in their hands. I like true connection.

“How’s your day going?”

I went to a soup cook-off last week. I critiqued each concoction with vigor, alongside a fellow soup snob. Thought I suppose some of my judgement was uncalled for, since I was almost participating in the competition. I’d found the recipe, and watched over the creation of a spicy taco soup from the doorway of the kitchen.

It was basically a chili. But the team of my friends and their classmate wore crop tops. They were the Spice Girls. One of them was a guy.

“How are you?”

I’ve been playing Dutch Blitz obsessively for the past several weeks. I don’t own the cards. He does. But I ask him to bring them over so much, I probably play more than he does. I love cards.

Cards are connection. Conversations are connection. When I ask how your week was, I want you to spill out your soul. Tell me everything. Tell me the insignificant details. They are significant to me.

I didn’t think having friends would be my problem. But it is. Suddenly, I find myself among friends, not strangers, not acquaintances, but friends. And all I want to do is sit with each of them in the hall and just be.

Or play ukuleles together, or sing along to childhood classics, or talk about the deepest parts of ourselves, or just sit.

But I can’t devote myself to them. And they can’t devote themselves to me.

There are papers to write.

I’ve had three exams in the past two weeks. I am exhausted. I want to go home. I want to sit in the hall with my friends and be. I want to forget that I’m here for an education.

Is this how it begins? Those students who go to college, not for college, but for seeming nothingness?

I cannot be one of those students.

But that doesn’t change my feeling.

It is pleasant to sit in a quiet theater, but more so one that is filled with sound. To sit beside one regarded as dear, and to whisper to one another when the time is right. The actors are splendid, the music grand, did you see her train trapped in the door frame?

Perhaps this is only me.

Perhaps I am not wasting my time here. More poetic lines have flowed from me in these minutes than have flowed all day.

Maybe my essay will be better for it.

Or perhaps I will collapse into my bed, gazing into the world of a good book, even though it is one I have already read.

I must work.

Friends will not change my fundamental feature: I will work.

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Get Up and Greet the Person Next to You

I didn’t realize this was a prevalent part of a Sunday morning. Not until last week.

“Does your church do this?”
“Do what?” he asked.
“The ‘get up and greet your neighbor’ thing,” I laughed.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Doesn’t yours?” his friend asked as we settled back into our seats.
“No.”
“Wow.”

“Wow.” I cannot communicate the tone of disbelief in his voice with my own words. I could feel his surprised hesitation push against me and my history.

My church doesn’t have a designated part of the morning when we shake hands with people. We don’t have to.

Everyone at my church knows everyone else. There are some we know better than others, but we know names. We know hearts.

My home congregation doesn’t need to be told to greet each other. It’s a way of life. There are warm welcomes and hugs automatically. New faces are greeted with genuine interest. People catch up on the events of the last six days without being asked.

I never knew this wasn’t the norm until I left. I never realized how unique and beautiful my home church was until I didn’t have it anymore.

Nearly every church I’ve visited thus far at college has had this as a staple of the service. As an outsider, I can say that I do not feel edified afterwards. As a visitor, I’m already nervous. Shaking hands with strangers does nothing to make me feel a part of the Body.

And for me to be considered the odd one…that’s odd to me.

Why don’t more people intentionally come to church early? Why do we squeak in the door in time for the first song to begin playing? Why don’t we know more names? Why do we have to assign greeters? Why?

Why is it abnormal to know one another as a congregation?

There’s nothing wrong with asking people to get up and greet one another. It just hurts my heart sometimes, knowing that those brief moments of shaking hands and smiles are the most fellowship the church knows within the actual service.

I don’t mean to attack congregations for not being like my home. That’s the beautiful part of the church! I’ve enjoyed exploring new places, new teachings, and new denominations. I simply wish that communion with one another as people and believers extended over the whole Church until it was the norm.

 

Stranger to This World

I used to think camp was diverse.

What a place to be, for someone like myself! All these people who believed a little differently from me. I always felt a little awkward, knowing at least one person in the room thought speaking in tongues was evil. It was kind of hard to make friends, since the only person who knew what it was like to be from a church like mine…was my cousin. From my church.

I thought that was diversity.

I thought that was generally the extent of Christian beliefs, in regards to differences of opinion.

I thought Baptists were the most traditional denomination; and that Presbyterian and Protestant were the same word; and Pentecostals didn’t wear pants because Tim Hawkins said so.

Let it be known now: I was wrong.

I came to college: a Reformed Presbyterian college.

Y’all, there are Baptists and Pentecostals and Evangelical Frees and Reformed Presbyterians and Orthodox Presbyterians and Presbyterians and Non-Denominationals and Calvinists and Catholics and the list goes on.

There are a lot of opinions out there, my friends. A lot of opinions about a lot of things.

I can hardly have a meal without free will vs. predestination, or sprinkling vs. immersion, or baptize the babies vs. don’t baptize the babies, or anything like that coming up.

We haven’t even gotten into some of the debates I could bring up.

What about speaking in tongues? The prophetic? Supernatural healing? The supernatural in general?

Heaven help us when I feel comfortable enough to breach those topics.

What’s strangest to me is that, I always felt out of place at camp. I had trouble making friends. Even now, I look at the friends I have from camp and they’re just that: friends. The most basic level of friend, because I guess…I guess I never felt worthy enough to be friends with anyone there. I didn’t think anyone would like me. So I didn’t try hard enough, and I was always a little bit of an outsider.

But now I’m here. At college. Surrounded by all the opinions that could possibly be held.

And as much as I feel out of place sometimes…especially around my Presbyterian friends…

…I still have friends.

Somehow, this nondenominational charismatic dork has managed to befriend all the denominations, from Baptist to Catholic to, yes, Presbyterian.

How can we overcome these differences?

I don’t know. But I was just able to sit with some people playing cards. Listen to another writer share their plan for a book. Chat with someone about playing music, especially the ukulele.

Am I just overlooking the differences? I don’t know. Not every moment can be a theological discussion.

I think I’m learning that I’m not the worst. I’m not unlikable. I’m not. And if I try, I can have friends.

Sure, I have to bounce back when things don’t go how I think they will. Have to resist being petty. Keep myself from jealousy and disappointment.

But I’m making friends, guys.

Real, tangible friends. Right down the hall. I could go knock on their doors, right now.

I’m not going to, because it’s late and that’s a jerk thing to do…

…but I could if I needed to.

That’s the other thing I’m loving here. We are all from different backgrounds. We don’t all believe the same things. But if anyone has any kind of problem, we can come together by the name of the same God and pray in His name.

I don’t know. That’s really cool to me. Really, really cool.

So yeah. I miss camp. I miss the closeness I developed there over five years, even though I never let myself get close.

I pray this college experience will surpass and overshadow that.

Because as much as I feel like a stranger here sometimes, I can belong.

And someday, they’re all gonna find out how crazy I actually am.

Fictional Characters

Hi, my name is Lexi, and I care about fictional characters.

People think I’m dumb because fictional characters don’t exist. They think that when I claim to care about fictional people, that I’m saying I don’t care about real people. Or, that I care more about fictional characters than real characters.

No.

That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that yes, it matters to me if Sue and Sean are going to be together by the end of this season of The Middle. It matters to me whether or not Gabby St. Claire marries Riley Thomas by the end of Squeaky Clean Mysteries. It matters to me that DiNozzo left NCIS and McGee has big shoes to fill. Mr. Darcy matters. Jo March matters. Cory Matthews matters. Samwise Gamgee matters. Becker matters.

They matter.

People keep telling me that they don’t. That they’re fictional characters. “They’re just fiction.”

How can they not understand the correlation between fictional people and real people?

I love fictional characters. I love their successes and their flaws. I love when they fall down on their faces, and when they choose to pick themselves back up again. I love their blossoming relationships and crushing defeats. I love them because they feel real to me.

Fictional characters are supposed to feel real, because if I can love something fictional, then how much more can I love you?

Yeah, you, real person. You who keep mocking me over this very issue. I love you regardless. You’re still my friend. I see you in your talents, passions, flaws, and mistakes, and I love you anyway.

You know why?

Because I didn’t give up on Mr. Darcy when he was acting like a jerk.

I didn’t lose hope when Percy lost his memory and he and Annabeth were separated.

I didn’t walk away from the March family when they grieved the loss of Beth.

Fictional people are representations of real people. That’s what they are to me.

And for me to love fictional people means I can love you better.

The Bellowing of my Soul

I want so badly to write something cohesive. But I have no cohesion to offer you, dear reader. I have only my scattered thoughts and emotions.

Perhaps we’ll talk about my writing. That’s something I haven’t had the chance to discuss in so long. But maybe it only feels long to me.

I want to write. I was struck with inspiration this morning as I recounted my next story. I could feel the impact of it. I love these characters. I love what they represent. I love their stories.

This is normally the point in the year when I would be planning my next story. NaNoWriMo will soon be upon us.

…but I am not doing NaNoWriMo this year. For the first time in six years, I won’t have a new manuscript come December. It doesn’t feel right.

But even if I were to write, what would it come to? I’m not ready for this new story I’m developing. So, would I write a charming romance? I have no romance left in me. I have been drained of my feelings.

I would likely write a cynical piece exploring political themes and social practices. Potentially the next great dystopian hit? Unlikely.

So I sit here. Not writing. Not even blogging, because I have found myself incapable of finishing the thirty drafts sitting patiently for their moment in the sun. So many ideas, simply…blocked.

Am I stuck?

No.

Am I?

I keep gathering ideas. But I can’t seem to write them.

What did I do today?

I played guitar for the first time in months. As quaint as the ukulele is, I do prefer the guitar. The robust sound permeated my room and gave me the freedom to sing, to yell, to scream.

Perhaps I scream when I play. If the music is lively enough to cover my voice, I increase my tones until every part of me has joined in the making of music, of this song. I can’t imagine what it sounds like outside of my room. But within my room, it is me in the purest form. Playing something meaningful. Singing, not to sound beautiful, but to feel. To say something. Saying something may come with a voice crack, or the scraping of my vocal range. But I don’t care. It’s me, and that’s all that matters.

I wish I could take my guitar back to school with me. There is no place to put it, and it is unprotected in its soft case. And I’m sure no one within one hundred yards would appreciate it.

But how I wish I could be myself.

I only shine through briefly through the ukulele. The light strumming you hear, the gentle tone of my voice. That is a piece of me.

But I am passionate, deep, feeling, everything reaching down within my soul. Guitar reflects that.

I miss writing. I miss pouring myself and my experiences out onto a page under the guise of fictional characters. I miss my Becker and all of his friends. I miss crafting scenes. I miss being who I was. Who I am.

And I wish for the day that I can just be me, and those who would choose to walk alongside me in life would find me that way.

I’ll be the girl bellowing in her dorm room, pouring everything she is into the song she sings.

I apologize if it sounds obnoxious.

But it is who I am.

And if it wasn’t midnight right now, I would pull out my guitar and be.

Exhaustive

For over a month, with the exception of one day, I have showered at 6:45 in the morning. Without fail, the water has woken me up and gotten me ready to face my day of studying, homework, and classes.

Until today.

Until this morning, when the water did nothing to affect my drooping eyes.

So here I am. Tired. More tired than I usually am.

Somehow thinking that this is an appropriate time to write a blog post.

College is hard, guys. As I told my friend the other day…it’s like preschool, because naps.

But it’s not like preschool, because it brings you to the breaking point in literally 0.06 seconds.

I’ve just been existing in my little disciplined world, desperately searching for the balance between work and fun. If such a balance exists. But it must exist, I simply haven’t found it yet.

No, instead I am waffling back and forth between being an excellent, studious student who studies…and being creative.

For a month, I stifled my creative side. I didn’t let it have a peep, except for a few moments playing an instrument. As it is, most of my creative ventures have been squashed in coming to college. I’m too busy to write a book. The conditions are too restraining to try and cook. I’m not supposed to read for fun (even if I had time).

Perhaps it was natural, then, that my creative side burst through like a ninja kicking through a boarded up doorway of a condemned house. And then took over everything, for an entire weekend. And continues to have a considerable hold on me.

want to be creative. But I want to do well in school, and suddenly, I have three different concepts clamoring for my attention: success in school, success in project, and success in relationships.

Oh, and success in sleep.

Sweet…sweet sleep.

I need to begin my work for the day so I have cause and justification for my afternoon nap.

Feelings

Hello. My name is Lexi, and I am a logical person.

I like to characterize my feelings as at a constant conflict with my mind. That is to say, it is rare that my feelings and mind will coincide.

Often, my nonsensical feelings are beaten down by the complete sense of my brain.

Perhaps that is why I do not understand how to approach feelings.

Today, I had to face feelings. It is a very long story with many personal details which I do not prefer to indulge in. Regardless, it was a prolonged meeting that had to happen eventually: and I thank God that it happened in a manner that left both parties as unscathed as possible.

As I walked back to my dormitory, I wasn’t thinking very much. That is to say, the emotional burden of five years that I had finally verbalized had yet to float to the forefront of my mind. It arrived when I reached my room, and I sat on my bed, trying not to cry.

I’m unsure why I felt the need to cry. In all accounts, the conversation went surprisingly well.

See, there I am. Being logical again.

Denying myself the emotion that I felt.

What did I feel?

Incompetent. Slimy. Empty.

I do not know how to deal with these emotions.

So my brain logically works through what happened, removing the aspects of humanity and depth. My brain sorts the entire ordeal and gives me a verdict.

But I still felt like crying.

So what am I left to do?

How do emotions work? As a teenage girl, am I expected to move from potential romantic interest to potential romantic interest in sheer moments? What constitutes a sign? Are my peers correct, that dating without the intention of marrying is okay?

What do I do if I like a guy and I can’t make sense of the long term? Do I accept the short term? What will I gain from that relationship that cannot be gleaned from a friendship?

HOW DOES ONE EVEN BEGIN TO INTERACT WITH HUMAN BEINGS OF THE OPPOSITE GENDER WITH WHICH ONE HAS NO PRIOR CONNECTION?

I don’t know.

I know my philosophies on dating are unproven. Quite unproven, as I’ve never dated at any point in my life. But logically…logically…they should be sound.

Also worth noting is my cowardice. I choose what is safe. Shawn Hunter of Boy Meets World has what is referred to as reckless spontaneity.

I have what is referred to as Cory “The Cory” Matthews. You meet a person when you’re both in strollers, you know each other unbelievably well, you fall in love, and you end up together.

Except I don’t still know any stroller buddies.

I don’t have any long-time friends, really.

So what am I to do?

Take risks?

I’d really rather not.

But perhaps that’s what I’ll have to do. Maybe, just maybe, this college experience will stretch me beyond the classroom. Maybe I’ll learn to juggle both my disciplined approach to schoolwork and friends.

Perhaps someone will teach me how to be fun.

Or maybe I’ll just stay in my room and not interact with people.

Because honestly, that seems like a solid option, too.

People have to be worth it, though.

Don’t they? I can’t honestly claim to be a writer and love characters if I cannot honestly love the people that God made.

So I guess I’m off on an adventure.

Real peril. Things I must do. Things I cannot do. Choices I have to make. Consequences I must face.

Bring it on, feelings.

(Just…take it slow for me, okay?)

Rantings of a Tormented Mind

I’m not a fun person.

It’s true, I’m not.

Shocking, I know.

I call myself a “Mom Friend” for a reason. I have a tendency to nag and take on an overly mature standpoint in most situations. There are good points of this too: I remember to bring snacks, and I ask people about themselves and what makes them who they are.

But honestly…I’m a pretty boring person.

I hate that about myself.

I can’t tell jokes in person. Even if the delivery makes sense in my head, nobody laughs. I can write amusing things, when I have the opportunity to edit and refine them. But you can’t refine live conversations.

I don’t know how to flirt. Lots of girls can just casually throw themselves at guys and come off as cute. As a human being, I am not socially capable of just being…girly. I end up being mom-like again.

Even if I was able to “flirt”, as the whippersnappers call it, I’d have no idea what to do with any attention directed back at me. I’m nervous around guys, even though I get along with them much better than girls. I read into anything that happens, and respond to anything immature, teasing, or flirtatious with a few fantastic options: a) give them a weird look, b) outright reject it, or c) awkwardly attempt to subtlety reciprocate it but it doesn’t end correctly?

Generally, I’m just a stick-in-the-mud. I’m too busy thinking about the consequences of fun to actually engage in it. I’d never be caught in a compromising position, no matter how innocent.

I honestly don’t know what kind of a person I am. I don’t know where acting ends and I begin.

I’m the kind of person who will stay holed up in her room to work on a project: be it homework, writing, or planning of some sort. I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to mess up. I don’t like teasing or being made a fool of. I torment myself when I make mistakes. I like to stay on top of things, to think on things instead of explore…

When you add it all up, it makes a pretty boring person.

It makes me wonder how I have any friends at all.

It makes me wonder how long my friendships will last.

I used to think people were just intimidated by me. Now I think they look at me…and it isn’t that they’re afraid. Instead, they’re filled with disinterest.

I’m no good at talking about what I’m good at. If I talk about writing, I sound like I’m bragging. If I talk about Robotics, I sound like I’m talking myself down.

I don’t know how to tell people that no, I don’t want to go on a walk. No, I don’t want to go to the gym. No. I just want to stay in my room or stay in a centralized location and have a good talk or play a game of cards or just make a genuine connection with another human being.

I’m too afraid that no one will want to spend time with me if I don’t compromise.

So I compromise. I go on walks. I put socializing in front of homework in hopes for some good memories.

Because I hate to be alone. I hate sitting in the new dining hall, trying to smile enough that I don’t look angry…but of course, not so much that I look crazy and happy for no reason. Trying not to search for familiar faces. Trying not to feel left out when people sit away from me. Trying to not feel like…I don’t deserve friends.

I’m no good at being friends. I don’t like to do anything fun. I don’t know how to empathize when things go wrong.

This is just a jumbled mess of thoughts because that’s what I am right now. A jumbled mess of thoughts. A tortured mess because I feel terrible about myself and my sensible brain is doing its logical thing to remind me that yes, I am a terrible person. A boring person. I have no one to talk to.

Except my cousin, but he has his own homework to attend to.

What is wrong with me? Do I compromise? I’m sorry that I don’t like dirty jokes or hints of them. I’m sorry that I’m uncomfortable with profanity. I’m sorry that I don’t like going on walks. I’m sorry that my natural reaction is to remove myself from those situations.

I was really excited for college for friends. I honestly was. So far, I haven’t been doing too swell. I don’t have anything in common with people here.

What made me think I could fit in here?

I keep telling myself that once people understand what kind of a person I am…the good qualities that I have…I’ll finally have friends.

But is that what I want? People who see what I’m capable and evaluate me on that? “Hey, she’s doing really well in this class, we should hang out.”

That is if I do really well in my classes.

I’m a cyber schooler. I’m not used to this…live classroom setting. I’m used to chat boxes and knowing people for their intellectual prowess instead of their bodies. I’m used to rolling out of bed and swiveling on my chair, not hiking between buildings.

I’m starting to feel as if I ran away from my hometown. I ran because I didn’t like what was facing me there, so I thought if I moved far, far away and experienced something new, everything would change.

Well, here I am.

Still bad at making friends. Still bad at making connections. Still without people who I genuinely connect with.

Still a perfectionist. Still a “freak about grades”. Still driven by performance.

I’m pretty sure there are cheaper ways to figure out that you’re a boring person and that life just isn’t going to be like you want it to.

I wish grades were enough for me.

I wish I didn’t look around at all the couples around me and hate how unwanted I am.

I wish I didn’t envy the friends the girls around me have made in only a week’s time.

I wish I was content with myself. Truly as independent as I seem.

Because honestly, guys? I’m not. I’m just a boring ole stick-in-the-mud dork who lives in her imagination and analysis and will always remember to bring you a water bottle and a snack, just in case.

The Hike

First couple of days of college have been…interesting. Of course, it’s still Welcome Week, so I haven’t started any actual schoolwork. (Except for combing through the online school module for syllabuses and consequently pre-stressing myself out.)

Yesterday, they decided to have us do challenge courses. As a general rule, I tend to hate challenges courses with everything that is within me. To make matters worse, actually getting to the challenge courses required a bus ride and a hike.

I don’t mean a “walking up the hill” hike. I mean a hike. I didn’t realize how long or how steep it was, and was pretty much out of commission before I even got there.

Once I arrived, we had a little warm-up to the actual course part. The getting-to-know-you games included awkward elevator encounters, dinosaurs, and pool noodles.

Then we got to the low ropes course.

They split us into two groups and had each team start at either end. We would eventually have to cross paths while trying to balance on wires. If anyone fell, everyone started over.

I began having flashbacks of challenge courses past. Dangling from a wall for the third time, bruised and scraped. Ridicule from inability to balance on a log. Repeatedly army crawling through the dirt.

I did not want to go.

But I did. And you know what? I lived to tell about it.

Granted, I didn’t make it the entire way. But I successfully navigated across a swinging log (while desperately clutching people’s hands), across a wire (while desperately clutching people’s hands), and across a set of twisting blocks (while desperately clinging to a rope).

I’d say it was a pretty successful day.

…except for tripping down a steep gravel incline and sliding like a rock star across a stage with his guitar.

Still don’t know what I tripped on.

I’ve just been making great first impressions.

Like yesterday, when I greeted someone I passed along the walkway.

“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m good, how are you?”

“I’m alright, how are you?”

Steve-Carell-Facepalm

I’ve also followed the wrong group (almost into a building), sat awkwardly by myself in a booth waiting for something that I didn’t know anything about to start, and been late for a class.

I’m hoping all the awkward is happening now so it will be a rare occurrence later.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll write again when I get a spare moment.

…I assume that will be in four years.

True Worship

This summer, the youth at my church decided that we wanted to do worship. So far, we’ve sung and played on two Sundays. We’ll have one more before I leave for college.

As we’ve been preparing and practicing, we’ve noticed a lot of repetition in modern worship music. So much so that we’ve felt the need to supplement additional melody or musical changes.

After all, repeating You make beautiful things with minor variation can only do so much. Now, I don’t mean to say that repetition can’t be beneficial in worship. In fact, among our group, I was one who didn’t always find that monotonous.

Regardless, this has brought up within me questions of true worship. Do I truly worship God when I sing to Him? I was recently at camp again, and I was surprised to feel…almost nothing. I had memorized the songs, and I sang them. I knew my voice sounded pretty. I knew that the combination of the voices I could hear sounded even more beautiful in my ears. But I felt…nothing.

Then I heard something. A shout. At first, I thought someone was injured, and I waited a moment for a counselor to escort a camper to the nurse. Instead, I heard another shout. A cry. A yell.

One of the senior high campers that week was struggling, though I don’t know whether it was a mental or physical handicap. Regardless, I listened to him shout out to the living God. No shame. Nothing holding him back.

I thought to myself, In God’s ears, those shouts are probably more beautiful than my singing.

To us mortals, the boy was disruptive. It’s hard to keep track of the beauty of our own voices and music when someone’s heartfelt cries are echoing.

I am in no position to judge hearts. But I do wonder, because I wonder it of myself…

How often are our arms raised out of a genuine inability to keep them down, because the living God must be praised? Or are we raising them because others are raising them? Because the bridge of this song sounds powerful? Out of habit?

For those who are comfortable in their own voices, do we sing well because we want to bring glory to our God? Or because we like the sound of our voices among the others?

For those who are uncomfortable, do we sing loudly with no one to impress? Or do we keep ourselves quiet?

True worship is not singing. It doesn’t require a guitar. Music is powerful, and true worship can be experienced through music. But I think true worship would be to mean everything you sing to your Father; and then living it out because of your love for Him.

That’s my new goal for myself: just like love isn’t about feelings, worship shouldn’t be about feelings. Even when I feel nothing, I need to remember what I’ve declared to my God and act on it.

Join me?