I ended my first last week of my undergrad career by meeting one of the the classes I am TAing for. As we were going through the syllabus, I was nodding along with the professor I saw looks of terror come over the collective face of the room. What was being laid out seems daunting- foreign terms, extensive final project, and a bunch of reading. I remember sitting through this same syllabus, trying to suppress the feeling of fear from showing on my face. That got me thinking- How can I aid their learning and experience in this class? What did I find helpful that will be applicable to them? I hope that I am able to be more helpful than hindrance as they are attempting to learn the basics of academic research of Communication Studies.
I do not write how I speak. Though I try to convey my everyday vernacular in my writing, I cannot capture the full essence. I cannot capture the smirk when I successfully slip “y’all” into a semi-formal conversation. Nor can I capture the delicate pauses between sensitive phases as I search for some sort of nonverbal cue that what I am trying to convey is understood.
Nor can you read the depth of my empathy when I try to console a friend who’s world is collapsing down around them. The nuances of emotion reflected in my conversational tone is lost in my clubhanded choice of words.
When reflect on the words that are written here, what do you hear? Detachment? Power? Sadness? Happiness? A smile? A Grimace?
No surprise- you can’t see my face, hear my voice.
I feel like I have been here before. The day before classes start. The indecision to do some thing fun and exciting or start setting into a weekly routine. I feel so ill prepared going into this semester- I have little anticipation for this semester’s start, not because the courses are uninteresting but I feel like I am just trying to get by. Same introductions, same anxiety trying to find classrooms, people to sit next to…
I fear that I am doing it again. And by “it” I mean the slow process of closing myself off to every thing in my current place to prepare for the move to the next. Screw that mentality- at this point it is beneficial for no one. I have been down this road before and in it’s wake lies frayed relationships and half-ass work.
…and I said that this summer I discover that found rest amidst a full schedule is practiced differently than had I thought. I always thought television and YouTube videos was one of the best ways that I refreshed myself; rest through distraction. However, I found that this fell short this summer. What really refreshed me was playing my guitar. It did not matter if I was singing along or learning a new song. The opportunity to express what I was feeling in that moment opposed to trying to distract myself from what I am feeling refreshed me. Distraction was not the answer for me to deal with stress. Engaging what I was feeling allowed me to put everything on the table so I could see what I was working with. Making music is better than hiding behind random noise…
Missed a day… well, darn. I moved into a dorm, thus marking the start to my final semester at Biola university. I had dinner with my old roommate; we reminded about past time and what had transpired this past summer. He had worked as a house painter and I worked at summer camp. I was reminded that so much had happened in the last two years since we had meet. I have develop a friendship with my (ex)roommate that I could have hoped of fathoming even three years ago. There is a depth of conversation and intimacy that is rivaled only by my relationship with my parents. This is what a long term relationship looks like, built on shared space, time, and experience that I have only experience in a short-term camp setting. I see the value in good friends.
Today I spent the day with my niece and a nephew. It made me wonder what it would be like to have kids. Would I be able to give grace and love when tested. We made breakfast together- They wanted to do everything: measure, mix, and flip. We went to the park- it took what seemed like forever to get them dressed and out the door. We had lunch- trying to find food that would be agreeable was difficult. It was a lot- it required me to breath and remind myself that I was working with children. Do not mistake sentiments for my feelings for my niece and nephew, I have much love for my niece and nephew greatly but I had forgotten how much energy and patience it takes to care for children. Today has been a great reminder.
This is only a small part of a conversation I had this summer with past students this summer who was teaching the Gospel to young students. They were struggling with moralism- the idea of being able to gain salvation from God by being a “good person.” The Gospel tells that this is inherently wrong- salvation is a gift of God; however, often Sunday School programs presents Christianity as a game of moralism. Kids are told to obey the ten commandment and God will be pleased and if God is pleased then life here will be grand and they will go to heaven. The idea of relationship with God is neglected; the warning of hardships that will be endure for the sake of the Gospel is neglected. So the question is now: How ought we present a relational Gospel to youth?
My second full day in San Diego- I have made an effort to the walk every where. I am in no rush to get any where because I do not have an agenda. I walked to a little diner for breakfast and walked to a local coffee shop, Better Buzz Coffee- it is an effort to slow down and enjoy the world around me. After a summer where I was constantly moving from one task to another, an intentional slow down is necessary to center myself in preparation of school. School is slower pace, though provoking and a huge amount of intentional interpersonal relationship. The rigor of the school is different than my summer maintenance job. This summer showed me that I have to rethink how I rest. Summer forced me to engage in new activities and abandon old ones.
Social media is familiar with the constrains of a hundred forty characters (140). There are those who have mastered the art of capturing an audience with a text message. I could hope to do that, but alas, it will not. But a 140 words I have hope. A hundred forty words works out about a one and a half minute speech. I think I can compose a short stream of consciousness better than a witty comment. I am going to try a writing project- write a body of text limited to 140 words about what ever comes to mind. It is an exercise in doing something daily that I enjoy but not always motivated to do. Free writing is something I have always wanted to do better, but never took measures to do so. So here I go, four weeks.
I am staying with cousins in San Diego, for something I am going to call a vacation. In all reality, I came to Los Angeles for a wedding, could not move into school housing early, and had little desire to drive back north to Sacramento- I have been meaning to go to visit San Diego, but have never found the occasion; so a week of lag time, family in the area, and no agenda was fortuitous.
They live a stone’s throw for Mission Bay, I have quick access to the baywalk which can get me all around the bay with no car traffic, my only regret so far is not bring a bike. Today I am taking time to explore Mission Beach area. I am excited to wander this tiny strip of land and see what the day will produce.
During this last semester, I have been in a quandary. I visited the doctor the day after I returned to Biola to get a physical. I could tell you a riveting narrative of my visits to the doctor’s office over the following weeks, but at this moment it seems pointless to put words to the paper that have no purpose in hasting the conclusion of this post.
So long story short, I was found to be in good health except for my blood pressure. Well, my blood pressure and weight- the doctor told me that it was my weight and weight lifting that was causing my high blood pressure. The doctor prescribe me some medication and told me I had to lose weight, start doing cardio, change my diet and stop lifting weights.
I was quite angry, to say the least. I was fine with doing cardio and curbing my diet to lose weight but the prescription for medication and telling me that I must give up lifting weights is what angered me. He was asking me to give up an activity that I enjoy immensely, so much so that I block out time in the week to go to the gym, no matter the course load. I have written about how weightlifting is a way I deal with stress. He was asking me to give up something that was more or less a large part of my identity.
So I did what he asked: I started taking the medication, I cut back on the amount of food I took in, I started doing the prescribed cardio work, and I ceased lifting weights. No squats, no deadlifts, no overhead press, not even bicep curls. For the next few weeks I did not step into the weight room and took the time set aside for weights to be put into cycling. People asked me what I was doing and I was ashamed to admit that I had to give up weightlifting because of such a condition. Deep down I felt like a part of my identity was being denied me- I was thrown into a funk.
In the first week I lost eight pounds. That was cool.
This was in part to the medication. It forced my body to shed a bunch of water weight. I started carefully tracking my intake, shooting for 2200 calories a day; down from the ~3000 I was shooting for in the fall. There were positive effects of the weight lost. I was feeling more energetic. I was sleeping better at night. I was not profusely sweating with any little exertion, such as walking to class. But still I was in a funk
After a few weeks of not being in the weight room, I decided to start lifting again. The doctor had restricted it because lifting at maximal weights caused high inter-abdominal pressure which negatively effect blood pressure. I started to work in the 40%- 55% range of maxes with higher reps. I took things slow and modified the program to be less “pressure creating.”
However, I went to test my maxes, to see how far I could go- I failed out of a 455 squat and more than 5 reps with 405 seemed impossible- when at the end of December 2014, these were numbers I could confidently walk into the gym at any day and put up. This was extremely disheartening. I had lose something that made me who I am, what people knew me for.
I was questioning if this was worth it, losing the weight. In losing the body weight, I lost something I had worked for so hard- these numbers. I had put so much time and effort in hitting these milestones. I was forced to confront the reality of where I found my identity. Was it in my strength? Was it in my physical appearance? Was it in my body image? I knew in mind mind that none of these things would bring me lasting satisfaction, no matter how much I enjoyed the pursuit of strength.
I was reminded as I was attending a midday prayer chapel at which we recite form prayers. Part of the prayer is a reminder of where Christians ought to find their identity. It is not in the roles that they have, their success or failures, or the labels people put on them. It is in Christ- the core of my identity is found in Christ alone not in my activities or roles. This reminder was extremely freeing, the weight I felt from believing that I did need to be known by my deeds was gone.
To date, I have lost about 20 pounds in about 12 weeks. I am not really checking the scale anymore; but when I do, it to make sure I did jump up or down five pounds. I have maintained a level of cardio and I am working to add volume at a moderate weight for my lifts. I am preparing for a summer at camp.
People have noticed and acknowledged the change and I see a change in my physical appearance. I went on to select a pair of dress pants to wear for a presentation- 4 of my newest pairs were two inches to large in the waist- I had to pull out a pair of kakis that I had not worn in 4 years. So I have lost weight and lost strength. I miss being able to walk in the weight room and being comfortable under the weights I was under 3 months ago, but it feels good to wake up without the unrelenting creakiness. I cannot allow my body image or physical ability be the core of my identity- that must be found in Christ as a new creation, but this does not deny that my physical appearance and physical appearance is apart of who I am.