Initial Warning: I was going to write this last night, when my mood was much better and extremely uplifted. I this post should actually be two separate posts, because I discuss two things that I have encountered here since moving to Oklahoma. Here is the discouraging post.
Right after my 4th birthday, my family made the trek to move to Arkansas in hopes of a better home and life. It is safe so say I did not have any friends when I first arrived. I did not really have any friends until school. A year later, it was finally my turn to start school. I had always wanted to go to school because I saw the older kids being a part of it, and I wanted to be like them. To me, school was the place to be; it was the place for cool people, and I wanted to be cool. Public schools, team sports, and various other social events/activities are great ways for a child to learn social skills. Most parents that elect to home school their kids put them in team sports and also put them in classes at their local church. This way the kids can be able to socialize at a young age and learn basic social skills. I am not against home school, I actually really like it. I will be home schooling my children up to a certain point. I want them to learn certain things early on that I think public schools might mess up in today’s curriculum.
I learned my social skills from public school. The first day of school finally arrived. I was so excited. I had my backpack on, and I was carrying my sleeping pad for nap time. I looked pretty stupid, actually, but I was ready to take school on head first! From what I learned in TV on how to make friends, wait, TV did not teach me that. If anything, any show that conveyed a child making friends actually conveyed an awkward/weird kid failing at friend making. I was doomed. I persisted, though.
This was first day of school, I did not have any friends, and I did not know how to make them. I was scared. I was terrified. What if I do not make cool friends? What if I do not befriend a pretty girl (yes, that was on my mind at that time)? I was out of my comfort zone! Extremely out of my comfort zone!
“Hi! Do you want to be friends?”
Those were my first words to two guys that I thought looked cool. It was my attempt to make friends, and it was pretty direct. If life only was easy enough that people would come to you and ask? I had to be that guy for some other people. What was their response?
*Boy 1 looks at his friend and gives a menacing grin*
Boy 1: get him!
*Boy 2 puts Tony into a full nelson hold*
*Boy 1 proceeds to start punching Tony in the gut*
The story does kind of have a happy ending, because one kid witnessed the whole thing and had sympathy for me. His name is Luke and we became best friends in Kindergarten.
I go through elementary, middle, jr high, and high school, and I never have to worry about not knowing anyone. I always had people that I could talk to and be friends with. Their presence, even if we did not talk, gave me the confidence that I could fall back on them if needed. I became adventurous in meeting new people. I enjoyed to socialize. I never was part of the in-group, but I did hone my leadership abilities in the “outcast” groups of each school. Even in college, I had connections to people and regularly hung out with known friends. I went head on to a group called the Razorbacks for Christ, and yes, I was shy at first. I was awkward. Many people’s first impression of me were my attempts to get everyone to try some of the two hottest peppers in the world (at the time). It did not matter, though. I had people that I knew I could fallback on if I ever needed to. I knew failure did not mean I was alone, ever.
A month after starting college, I did hit a huge shock to my system, which was heart break. Now I only had the RFC to fallback on. With many of the students there, I would vent to them about my heartbreak. I opened up fully, and I became extremely close to them. There were 3 people in particular that I became extremely close to because of this venting. It was Sydney Walsh, Drew Viguet, and Jeremiah Jennings. These were the ones that would put up with listening to my teenage nonsense. Sydney especially knew how to comfort me. I have always known girls to be better at listening and talking to. That is why I prefer to talk to girls more often. It is just easier for me. I cherish the friendship that I have with her and many from the RFC. These are godly people that I cannot boast about enough. I am so proud in what God has done in them.
The main point of it all is, I never had to worry about a situation like the first day of Kindergarten. Even in the Czech Republic internship, my best friend Chleb Davis gave me energy to go and be extremely extroverted and take risks to meet new people. That brings me to the modern era. I have always thought that I started to become an extrovert since the end of junior year of high school. I increasingly kept trying to meet new people, and eventually in college, I craved new interactions with people. I would be antsy to meet new folk and invite them to my ministry, or tell them about God. Then my second internship happened. I found out that without an extremely close person around me, I became much more mentally exhausted. I needed more alone time. I still crave social interaction, and I still take the risks, but in the end of the day, I needed to be alone and recharge. The perk of the second internship is I knew some people already. I had some connections, though not as close.
Yesterday, I had my first classes of the semester. I am now a cool masters student. I moved in to a place, which needs it’s own story to describe my experience with it, and now I need to meet new people to become friends with.
This is the moment where I am completely out of my comfort zone. This is day 1 of Kindergarten. I know not a single soul well, and now the risks are risky. This is what I did yesterday to try and meet new people:
- I went to campus 3 hours early to meet people to talk to. I went to the student union (or whatever they call it here) to see if I could find information about social events to meet people. I went to the bookstore to do something. I was antsy! I need social interaction!
- I go talk to the student life office to see what to do. I have not stuttered in years when talking to people. I felt as if I had a social disorder. I was sweating and could not get a complete thought out efficiently. But I eventually met a dude that is the head of the missions department (I think), and we might start talking about an opportunity to send people to the Czech Republic (if they need it).
- I went to the student government building, because I heard they might be a place I could get involved in. I met a few people, added facebook friends, and then got the contact to the chair of the spiritual life committee. I might be able to do something with them.
- I then proceeded to randomly go up to a pretty girl and talk to her! I heard about the ring by spring phenomenon, and so I had to take the opportunity! We had a great spiritual conversation about extremely sheltered Christians that never are able to go deep into their faith because they stay sheltered their whole life. Just going through the motions and having superficial faith. I thought, this girl is great! I eventually found out she had a boyfriend! That was fine though, I made a new friend!
- Then after class I elected to helping a group with cleaning up from an event they had. And this is where the story really gets going.
After helping these guys, I then starting having a conversation with them about the school. One guy low-key was trying to recruit me to his social club. We then got to talking about our faith, and I told them my story to Jesus, and also I told them about my situation with where I am living (that is another story). This conversation was at least 2 hours long. They were so fun to talk to. But what really got me, was after I told them my story, one guy asked to pray for me. I continue to see the Love of God in His people. Even though we do not know each other very well, he still elects to treat me like his brother. This is something that I often do not see with many people claiming Christianity in the world. At my church, I do see it often. I try to be more like that, but yesterday I was humbled. I was encouraged to be more loving both in Agapeo and Phileo, unconditional self-sacrificing love and brotherly love. They told me about their ministries and what they have done, and my heart rejoices. It flutters with joy and my eyes are tempted to water. I was embarrassed that I thought many Christians that go to a private Christian colleges are just going through the motions and not trying to deepen their faith. I am sure there are plenty of those people, it probably could still be the majority, but these that I met humbled me. They also prayed for me after I told them about my disparity due to certain people close in my life that I want to come to God and enter his Kingdom.
This was a good experience. It reminded me of my first day of Kindergarten, but instead of getting beat up, I was encouraged by my brothers. My heart rejoices in them. I look forward to these next two/three years here. Even though, other things in my life currently are not the best – actually they are quite discouraging – I can have joy because of brothers like them.
I will post about the other stuff later. Maybe right after posting this one. That story does not have a happy ending, yet, but hopefully it will! Here it is!