Sunday, June 26, 2016

"What Would Dory Do?" - Finding Dory

Going to see this movie was my first time viewing a film before its official release date. Friday is the official release day for most films, but oftentimes a few showings will be available the Thursday evening before. And as early as 6pm, not just at midnight. Such was the case for Finding Dory, and since I'd been waiting 13 years for this sequel, I figured why wait an extra day if I don't have to? Luckily fmost of the people in the cinema with me were ages 13-50, so even with it being a kids' film there were no rambunctious little ones to distract from the fun!

Seen Thursday, June 16th: Finding Dory

One year after the end of Finding Nemo, the regal blue tang named Dory begins to remember the parents whom she got separated from as a guppie. Even given her short-term memory loss, she is able to recall enough details to go searching for themwhich takes her and her clownfish friends Marlon and Nemo far from their home in the Great Barrier Reef all the way to a marine wildlife center in California. The trio gets split up, but thanks to a few new friends, they might be able to not only reunite with each other but also find Dory's family.

"An unforgettable journey she probably won't remember"

What I really like about this film: The characters at the marine wildlife center are the best! I'm a sucker for character development and Disney/Pixar really did their work with this one. A grouchy rogue octopus who's determined to get transferred to an aquarium in Cleveland? A hypochondriac beluga whale? A nearsighted whale shark? A pair of Australian sea lions (Idris Elba!) who refuse to share space on their resting rock with their mentally challenged fellow? AND a ragamuffin seabird named Becky? They're all just too good! I laughed until my head hurt and I could barely breathe.

Dory's memory problems are perceived as a weakness, but it turns out that she is able to survive, go on amazing journeys, and positively influence the animals around her precisely because of who she is, not in spite of who she is. I'd like to hope that this sends an encouraging message to special needs children and their parents especially, since her parents are often shown in flashback scenes painstakingly coaching her so that she won't wander too far and get lost. And even though this happens anyway, Dory is able to adapt beyond anyone's expectations, even her own.

What I don't like about this film: Absolutely nothing! I wouldn't say it's better than the first film, but it's definitely a sequel that's worthy of its predecessor.

Would I recommend it?: Of course! If you are a '90s baby in particular, you owe it to your inner child to go see this film. No one can appreciate the significance of this sequel like we can. Laugh, cry, reminisce, I don't care. Just go see it!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Things People Give Me #26

Turns out paying it forward is rewarded sometimes.

I've been kinda neglecting myself this week and haven't been taking food to work with me the past three days. Been waking up feeling like I just want to get up and get out, so I go to work unbothered, resolving to tap away all day at that computer and not be fazed by any hunger that surfaces until it's time to go home. I've done it before, so I wasn't expecting this week to be any different. Oh, but it was! On Tuesday one department had a lunch meeting and another department had an in-office party, and both had food left over, so I ended up with two full meals on someone else's dime. Then yesterday, in return for making a work-related connection for some people I was handed a Panera gift card and told, "Have lunch on me today". And then today, one of those people gave me a small package of gratitude from their mom. A card, a brownie, a lottery ticket, and a penny to scratch it with. 

What a surprise, it was free food all around for me this week!  I'm not so adept at asking for things, but if it's offered I will gladly take it. Thanks to Barb, Jess, Mrs. L, and my overly-prepared co-workers. I was being lazy and stubborn but still ended up fed thanks to y'all!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

BOOKS! (The Four Agreements)

This was one of eight books that I recently bought at a local library book sale. I only paid $1 for it, and after having read it I think that that was an appropriate price. I don't know. Despite the genre's intended purpose, I guess the cynic in me is always skeptical when people rave about self-help books changing their lives. I'm more likely to be moved and challenged by fiction than self-help, but that's just me. And I'd heard so much about how transformative and revolutionary and blahdeblah this book was, that it got to a point where when I spotted it at the book sale, Meh. Might as well get this one out of the way was all the enthusiasm I could muster. Suffice it to say that I was not greatly impressed. Being introduced to ancient Toltec wisdom originating out of southern Mexico sounds absolutely fascinating, but perhaps the hype ruined this one for me.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

As Don Miguel Ruiz explains it, an agreement is a belief that you accept as true. Once an idea is presented to you and you believe it, you agree with it and to it. You make an agreement, or a mentally and emotionally binding contract with that idea and its source. The problem is, however, that people make too many bad agreements that hold them down. As children, certain agreements are forced on us before we've had the opportunity to consider otherwise, and as adults we continuously fall into the trap of aligning ourselves with ideas that do not serve us. Don Miguel Ruiz assures readers that we can break those bad agreements and form new ones through the power of our minds, of words, and of love in action. That's where "the four agreements" come in.

Now. I'm all for when Indigenous voices are heard and heeded. I'm all for when Indigenous wisdom and beliefs are propagated for enlightenment as opposed to dilution and thoughtless consumption. But I just don't understand the hype about this particular book. Ruiz has a lot of useful and worthwhile ideas, but I've heard a lot of them before. I feel like if you have a measure of common sense and have had some decent moral upbringing or instruction (both of which are relative, I know), then most of what Ruiz writes is nothing new. Take each of the agreements, for example:

Be impeccable with your word (say what you mean, mean what you say, and  use your words for good in a way that uplifts rather than injures).

Don't take anything personally (what someone thinks of you is none of your business, and as long as you don't consume the negativity that people give you and spread it around, it won't affect you).

Don't make assumptions (communication brings understanding, so don't claim to know what's in other people's minds and don't expect them to read yours).

Always do your best (be disciplined about doing what you need to do in order to be fulfilled, but don't beat yourself up about whether your best is the best or not). 

Not too many novel ideas, if you ask me. However, I also know that no matter how often people hear the same thing over and over from others, sometimes it has no effect until they hear it from a certain individual, in a certain context, put a certain way. Then it suddenly makes all the sense in the world and seems easily applicable. What's old news to me may be revelatory to others.

With that said, I think that The Four Agreements' major appeal lies in its delivery. Ruiz's assessment of society and human interactions as they are currently is grim, yet he's exceedingly optimistic and certain about the alternatives. Maybe you've heard it all before but you've never thought much about "energies" or the power of your own words. Maybe you've never considered that love can exist everywhere, starting with yourself. Or the prayers! Now I did especially enjoy the prayers for love and freedom that Ruiz ends the book with, as they speak to real needs that people are suffering from right now. So that's something, at least. Basically, The Four Agreements has its merit, but I'm not sure it's worth the hype. I'm sure that anyone could draw relevant points and inspiration from it, but don't expect it to be your crystal ball or anything. 

Favorite quotes:
"Imagine that every single time others gossip to you, they insert a computer virus into your mind, causing you to think a little less clearly every time. Then imagine that in an effort to clean up your own confusion and get some relief from the poison, you gossip and spread these viruses to someone else... The result is a world full of humans who can only read information through circuits that are clogged with a poisonous, contagious virus... the chaos of a thousand different voices all trying to talk at once in the mind" (41). 

"I love you just the way you are, and because I am your creation, I love myself just the way I am. Help me to keep the love and the peace in my heart and to make that love a new way of life, that I may live in love the rest of my life. Amen" (138).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

BOOKS! (An Untamed State)

Ever since I started this job at the end of March, I've been slipping when it comes to reading. Inexplicably indecisive, helplessly unmotivated, so many books started but not finished yet. For this reason I'm grateful that I pulled An Untamed State out of my to-read stack. I read it in three days; I would've finished it sooner but I haven't yet mastered the art of staving off sleep at will for consecutive nights. I found out about this book from the author herself; she mentions it and the trauma of rape in her essay collection Bad Feminist. Reading that made me want to read more of her work, and when I found out earlier this year that a film adaptation of this novel was in the works featuring the dream director-actor team of Gina Prince-Bythewood and Gugu Mbatha Raw ('Beyond the Lights'), I rushed out the next day to buy it.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Mireille is a Haitain-American woman vacationing with her husband and child at her parents' home in Porte-au-Prince. One day she sets out with her little family for a day at the beach, but is kidnapped in broad daylight from in front of her parents' mansion as soon as the gates close.

Fortunately for her, her father is one of the golden sons of Haiti who made it, having moved to America and established a certain fortune that has up until now allowed her to live in luxury whenever visiting her mother country. Unfortunately for her, her father is one of the golden sons who made it, and he's too proud to relent to demands for her ransom out of an indignant fear that he might lose all he's built to countrymen who are now beneath him. His stubbornness costs Mireille two weeks of her life, wherein she is repeatedly raped, gang-raped, beaten, starved, and tortured day in and day out until he pays up. Usually kidnappings such as this are strictly business, but her chief captor has a personal vendetta against rich returnees like her father. The cruelty he inflicts on her is a way to live out all his sadistic, sex-loving, woman-hating fantasies, but it's also payback. In his eyes, this is simply the price that rich Haitians have to pay for not spreading their wealth around to their fellows.

This novel derives it title from a passage in which Mireille describes the necessity to devolve in order to survive. She forces herself to forget all that she is or was or had, finding an empty and numb place inside herself that will allow her to endure all that's being done to her. She can no longer hold onto her humanity, but rather trains her mind to think of herself as a wild animal "existing in an untamed state" (190). For the first half of the novel, readers follow Mireille through some of the most horrible moments of her kidnapping until she is paid for and released. During the second half, readers accompany her as she stumbles along, recovering and fighting even against herself to assemble a life that makes sense to her.

Mireille's journey is hellish and raw and unspeakable, and her healing process is triumphant but by no means smooth or full. And yet, one of the brightest and most redeeming elements to this story is her relationship with  her husband Michael. Theirs is the most consumingly passionate, realistically feasible relationship I've ever read on paper. Their love is so, so deep and beautiful. Their relationship is work like any relationship is, and at times they both consider turning away. But Mireille never has to try too hard. She doesn't have to change herself or do any convincing. She is herself, and Michael loves all of that self, ultimately standing by her even when neither of them know who she is anymore.

An Untamed State is rife with descriptions of the body, of fear, of memory, of pain, of loss, of desperation, of rage, of secrets and unanswered questions, of shrinking away, of endurance, of fighting back, of post-traumatic stress, of healing that progresses but is never complete. All of which are descriptions that I think only certain people with certain experiences would've been able to write in truth, though I'm sure it doesn't feel like any privilege to be able to do so. As a survivor of gang rape herself, Roxane knows and reveals certain sensations that only someone who's been reduced to her/his body could relay with as much dignity or justice as she does. This is her testimony. Nevertheless, at the same time I suspect that nearly any woman who's been here long enough would be able to connect with Mireille. Learning to shrink, bend, break, silence, yield or otherwise grossly inconvenience oneself for the benefit of the men around us solely because they are men and we are notthis seems to be a cruelly typical experience for women, even in seemingly benign instances.

Roxane Gay dedicates this book "For women, the world over". Well this young woman honors your trials and thanks you for giving of yourself to write this novel. You are a treasure and a mighty force in this world. Thank you, Roxane.

Favorite quotes:
"He kissed me so hard I felt his lips in my spine" (64).

"It was important to remind this man that I was not merely meat for him to butcher. I was a woman. I was a mother and a wife and a daughter. I needed him to leave something of my body for those who loved me" (85).

"She told me my name and that I had a husband and son waiting for me. She told me I was safe and I was loved. She said these things over and over until I was able to believe them" (303).

"I've always been the fighter and that has worked for us but I don't... I can't do it right now. You need to be the fighter. You need to fight for me and for us, or you need to walk away... It's mostly easy, Michael. Either you can fight for me until I... until I can find my way back or you can't. And if you can't that's fine. Or it's not fine but it is out of my hands. I'll let you go. You'll let me go... I can't fix me and us at the same time" (321-322).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BOOKS! (Battle Royale)

 I saw the film when I was in high school and the franchise briefly resurfaced in my mind when its loosely-related American counterpart first blew up a few years ago. But I wasn't interested in reading the book until my final semester of college when one of the students in my Japanese literature class used his end-of-semester presentation to address the Japanese education system, youth behavior, and governmental authority within the context of the novel Battle Royale. He made such a convincing case for the book's merit that I thought Hey, maybe I should finally go ahead and read this thing. So I did.

Battle Royale by Takami Koushun

While on the bus headed for their class trip destination, Shuya and his 41 junior high classmates are gassed before being re-routed and dropped off on the evacuated island of Oki (a fictional island off the coast of Takamatsu city, the very real capital of Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku). Upon awakening, they're informed that they've been randomly chosen by the government's computerized selection system to participate in "the Program". Since 1947, fifty ninth-grade classes throughout Japan have been selected annually to participate in this battle simulation. Shuya his classmates must kill each other, and if someone doesn't die at least every 24 hours, the collars fitted around their necks will explode, killing them all. Only the student who survives at the end will get to go home. With the help of his best friend's crush and an unlikely ally, Shuya is able to survive by working as part of a trio... but for how long?

One key difference I noted between the book and the film is the stated purpose of the Program. In the film, the Program moderator tells the students that they've been nominated to die by their teachers for being so unruly; it's the ultimate punishment, a state-authorized "good riddance". However, in the novel's dystopian world, the Program is heralded by authorities as a combat experiment whose data will allow the military of the Republic of Greater East Asia (Japan) to better defend citizens from perceived imperialist aggression from the American Empire (USA). At least that's the public story.

What political leaders and bureaucrats don't tell citizens is that the Program is actually a fear tactic, meant to instill terror and suspicion among citizens so that they develop neither the solidarity to band together nor the courage to rebel against the government.The death of thousands of young people is a necessary sacrifice that will maintain societal order so that the Republic of Greater East Asia can progress. Like the Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale, the Republic of Greater East Asia is a totalitarian regime in transition. A system's been implemented long enough and with enough force to get citizens to adhere without a fight, but not enough time has passed for the desired psychological compliance to take effect among the entire population, especially the youth.

Reading this novel can be somewhat daunting because once the game starts you realize that there are 42 adolescent characters of interest in this group, and you have to painstakingly read the details of how each and every one dies. What kept me going was the riddle of each fight or death scene. Okay, Takami Koushun has brought these people together in this moment, with a certain history between them, armed with such and such weapons, personalities, abilities, and intentions. Who'll make it out of this situation, and how will they achieve it? Part of the novel's intelligence lies in repeatedly posing this relevant social question: How well do you really know people, even the ones you see every day? Both the film and the book take situations and escalate them to show how anything can set people off against each other, especially with fear and paranoia added to the mix.

It's fascinating what such a high-pressure situation brings out of these teenagers. Most students kill because they're afraid or caught off guard, but some are alarmingly zealous about playing and winning the game. The male villain is a murderous boy named Kiriyama who was literally born with no emotions, and the female villain is a murderous girl named Mitsuko who's been misused and abused her whole life and is always out for #1. There's a friendly girls' compound that turns fatally unfriendly due to a misunderstanding. One student even uses his weapon to solicit sex from (read: threaten to rape) a female student he's always had a crush on, and when she refuses he tries to kill her. Even Shuya and his allies can't avoid getting their hands dirty. But who wins the game? That's for you to read and find out. Battle Royale certainly isn't for the squeamish, but since the film is significantly bloodier and more visually disturbing, I'd recommend watching it first so that you can come to the novel at least a little desensitized. Maybe.

Favorite quotes:
"I think that history moves in waves... Come a certain time, and a certain set of circumstances, this country will change, whether we do anything or not. I don't know if it'll be a war or a revolution. And I don't know when that time will come. Maybe it never will... I want satisfaction. I want revenge. Even if the only result is getting to feel self-satisfied, I want to strike a blow against this country. That's all. As for whether that'll bring about any reform, well, I have major doubts" (232-233).

"Good people are good people─in certain circumstances, anyway. But even good people can turn bad. Though maybe some of them stay good all the way until the end of their lives. Maybe you're one of those people... But that doesn't matter. I just decided to take instead of being taken. I'm not saying it's good or evil, or right or wrong. All I'm saying is that's how I want to be" (427).

Sunday, June 5, 2016


This weekend my friends and I went to Grand Haven and Grand Rapids for a short but much-needed getaway. We celebrated each other, rejoiced in our surroundings, swam in Lake Michigan, enjoyed some delicious food, and overall had a refreshingly great time together doing new things and exploring new places. The link to the photo album is below. Enjoy!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Road Trip. (Answered Prayer 3)

This is another story about answered prayer. Take it as you will.

Now I can finally tell you what happened today! After service with Grandpa this past Sunday, I found myself seated with my aunt at her dining room table while she prepared the spread for the afternoon's Memorial Day barbecue. With a knife, a bowl and potatoes in front of her she diced spuds for the potato salad while giving me another one of her auntie wisdom speeches. Life is about being happy, you should chase the desires God has put your my heart now while you're young and have little to no obligations holding me back... and so on. Booming throughout the house during this conversation was Kirk Franklin's latest album, Losing My Religion.

I've listened to Kirk Franklin's music my whole entire life. Whole. entire. life. Literally! I grew up on this man's music and have never not been a fan. However, I wasn't wowed by the first two singles from Losing My Religion, so I didn't jump on it right away when it was released in November. Having bought it six months late, I'm in awe at the artistic growth and the depth of conviction that pours from every sound on this album. For example, "Road Trip" is like my personal testimony with a nice foot-stomping groove. "My World Needs You" manages to meld desperation and joy in the same 7-minute song, and the climax sounds like a chorus of angels is crying out for the world. 

Anyway, this album and a recent Kevonstage video about Chance the Rapper have got me reflecting on Christians' duty to be open and to draw people in lovingly, and how so many of us have missed the point and striven to do the exact opposite. I was put on this earth to love, not to judge. And how can I claim to believe what I believe if I don't love people and show it? And how can I claim to love people if I don't pray for them? So all this week I've just been listening to this album, reading scriptures and praying. Listening, reading, praying. 

One of the people I prayed for was my best friend D, who called me on Memorial Day to tell me about yet another incident that's added to the troubles that've piled up for her in the past two years. But she talked about it with such humor in her voice, and right after our conversation I asked God to bless her resilient spirit and to put something in her life that would take her mind off of things and help her remain joyful. Cut to this afternoon, when my other friend S texts me at work inviting me on a trip to a beach on the other side of the state this weekend. D was welcome to come too! D and I were so unbelievably excited to have this spontaneous chance to get away and visit somewhere new, and when I thought about it I realized that this blessing was two-fold.

You see, I'm a traveler. I've visited a new place very year since freshman year of college, and I promised myself that I would keep this up. But this year my prospects haven't looked too good. Due to limited time off and a certain savings goal that I've set, going abroad hasn't been a viable option, and neither has the idea of spending a whole week in a city out of state like Ma and I have done last year and the year before. I tried to get Ma excited about Toronto, but she thought it would be too expensive and wouldn't help me with planning. Then I thought to get away to Baltimore and visit a friend there, but that friend's schedule ended up being too full. So I figured, Welp, maybe I just won't go anywhere this year. And then this happened. Yes, it's still in Michigan. Yes, it's only a weekend. But it's somewhere new! Not only that, but I don't have to plan anything, I don't have to arrange transportation, I don't have to pay for accommodation. I basically just have to show up. Easy!

And the thing is,  I should've prayed about this but I didn't. I honestly forgot. I was thinking about it so much that it didn't occur to me to pray about it. So I learned something new today. God's so funny and knowing that sometimes He'll answer prayers that you hadn't even thought to pray yet! All I can do is say "thank you" and laugh. Pack a smile, 'cause this road won't be easy, that's how Kirk Franklin's "Road Trip" begins. Well I'm going on my own road trip this weekend I'm going to smile as much as possible all the way!

This is going to sound bizarre, but even after spending so much time I don't know why I've written all of this. I'm not a prayer warrior (yet), I'm still plenty bitter and confused about some things. In short, I'm still learning. But I feel like I'm changing. And when I got that text about the trip I just felt called to write about prayer. Prayer doesn't always work the way you want it to, but I'm believing that it works. The answer to prayer may not always be clear or immediate or what you wanted it to be, but I'm believing that no prayer goes unanswered.

Sharing a Pew with Grandpa. (Answered Prayer 2)

This is another story about answered prayer. Take it as you will.

Ma and I went to Louisville for Memorial Day weekend. It was my first time seeing my relatives since the New Year and since getting my job. On Sunday morning we made our way to the same church our family's been attending for decades, and since most of the cousins my age weren't there, I sat next to my grandpa. We shared the hymnal during the responsive reading, with me softly reciting the words on the page while he mumbled along, not allowing himself to get frustrated about his eyes not following as quickly as he wanted. And while the rest of the congregation rose to sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", I stayed seated next to him so we could harmonize as a duo. It was such a sweet moment. 

Around this time last year my grandpa got so sick that we feared he wouldn't make it. Stroke, pneumonia, weakened eyesight, foggy memory, inability to walk. Yet here he was sitting right next to me. Before last year I would have never seen him cry, or if I had I probably would've pretended not to see it. On Sunday he got emotional during a hymn, and I handed him my tissue packet while smiling directly in his face. Last year we considered it immense progress for him to be able to move along slowly with a walker. On Sunday he hightailed it in and out of church with his cane like it was nothing.

Of course, we can't take the credit for his recovery. All we know is that we prayed, we all made adjustments for him, and he's still here. Even though he'll probably never be the Grandpa he used to be, he's still exceeded everyone's expectations. And he's taken his time doing it. Almost 80 years old, and he's re-learning the same lessons that I'm just now learning. How to not be hard on himself. How to honor and appreciate rather than scorn his limits. How to let frustration pass as quickly as it comes. How to make the best of the way things are now. 

Pastor Sewell once declared in a sermon that we're all the product of someone else's prayers. I know now that Grandpa is a product of prayer. 

(I'm bringing it all back to square one in the next post. Stay tuned!)

Answered Prayer 1

That One Time God Gave Me a Job. (Answered Prayer 1)

This is a story about answered prayer. Take it as you will.

Something great and unexpected happened today, and thanks to it I've been inspired to write about prayer, which has been on my mind quite a lot in 2016. But before I can get to what happened today, I need to start with what happened during the first quarter of this year.

Back in December I quit my part-time job and willingly re-entered the danger zone of full-on unemployment. I didn't know what I was going to do and I couldn't be sure when something better would come along, but I knew I needed to quit so I did. Predictably, I overestimated my ability to withstand complete uncertainty and consistent rejection, and December, January, and February had me in a really low place. To my surprise I actually got an interview for a program in Japan, but I was so overwhelmed by how inadequate and inept I felt that after panicking for three days straight I backed out and cancelled. February was probably the worst month, now that I think about it. While I was greatly distressed, however, I was also learning a lot about faith. I'd started going to a new church in the fall, on New Year's Day I started a Bible In One Year reading plan, and then in February I joined my new church's praise and worship team. I've been a Christian my whole life, but since graduating from college I'd become bitter, doubtful, and despondent about many things. So through these habit changes I began to confront how I thought about myself, about life, about what I've been given and what I should do with it, about church, and about the Word itself.

The praise and worship thing was short-lived (maybe I'll go back soon). But before one of the services that I sang in, I heard a prayer that changed my life. During before-service prayer on February 28th, Paster Sewell prayed passionately about people who'd become bitter and cold-hearted due to life's disappointments, and about people who believe in God's power to transform and bring good things to others' lives but don't believe the same for their own. He kept repeating, "Soften our hearts, Lord. Open our eyes. Open our ears." He also prayed for all the unemployed in that sanctuary, encouraging us to ask God to give us jobs and place us where He sees fit. And I hunched over in my seat with head bowed, hands folded, and eyes closed, crying because I'd realized, Oh my goodness. He's talking about me. I am that hard-hearted person. I had plans to sing at the Music Hall Jazz Cafe jam session later that evening, and as usual I contemplated chickening out. But in that moment I prayed harder than I ever remember praying before, asking God to soften my heart, to give me direction, to open me up to what he's trying to say, to give me the courage to use the gifts He's given me as a vessel for all the good things that He wants to bring to people within my reach. After that, service was beautiful and I followed through at the jam session. That was enough for me, and I thought that was the end of it.

The very next day, Monday the 29th, I got an email from a nearby company that I'd applied to work for but then forgot about. The HR rep told me that the position that I applied for was no longer available, but there was a different position that they wanted to consider me for if I was interested. She interviewed me over the phone the next day, March 1st. The following Wednesday, I went in for an in-person interview. They called me the next day, March 10th, to tell me I was hired. And then my first day was on March 28th. For over 9 months I'd been applying and agonizing over finding full-time work, and exactly 1 month after I prayed that prayer, I had a job. Never directly applied for it, didn't submit a cover letter or references, didn't even know it existed until the HR rep contacted me. And now here I am, employed.

I tell this story to say this: Follow through. Seek guidance and follow through. Maybe you'll follow through and all you'll get out of it is being able to say that you did it. Or maybe you'll follow through and something extraordinary will happen, like it did for me. Either way, whatever you've been putting off, whatever might be uncomfortable or painful but that you know in your heart of hearts will be for your own good, pray about it and then do that thing. God is a provider who blesses preparation, but you have to follow through.

(Don't worry, I'm going to bring this back full circle. Got another prayer to write about, and then I'll let you know all about what happened today. Stay tuned!)

Why I Quit My Part-Time Job

**Note: This post's writing was spread out between December 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2015. I had many thoughts that I wanted to suss out, but I also wanted to wait until I was in a position where posting this would be the least likely to hurt any of my prospects. I'm posting this now as a reference point for a series of stories that I'm currently writing about answered prayer. Enjoy.**

On December 1st, 2015, I made a decision  that I had to stick to. I suppose one could also call it taking a risk. I was originally very grateful to get this job. I felt like less of a loser, having graduated and being able to tell people I had something going on, even if it wasn't the something magnificent. But it was never supposed to last forever.

I find that I'm  having a hard time shedding my former skin as a student, and I still approach many things with a student's mentality. So when September rolled around and summer ended, but I was still at the store doing the same thing I'd been doing since June, I got itchy. I'm so used to autumn ushering in a new phase of life, that I felt, surely something's supposed to be different  right about now. But everything was the same. By that time I was starting to feel the familiar onset of restlessness that creeps up on me when I'm bored, as I do get bored easily. But I didn't  have any alternatives, and I didn't  have a "real" reason to quit, so I decided to stick with it.

Lo and behold, that restlessness grew and morphed. Not only was I bored, but I was sad. And tired. Weary and anxious, even. The longer shifts and unrelenting monotony together were one thing. But having to smile in ungrateful faces, to be affronted with rudeness and negative energy and assumptions of entitlement, to pretend to care about why you're here, what you're  buying, why you're  buying it, and how much you think you know about blahblahblah. It got to a point where I spent my days either dreading going to the store, or counting down the hours until I could go back home when I was there.  Every day I went in, I felt more and more unlike myself.  Like a robot. An empty robot whose energy and internal grip got whittled away after each shift, no matter how many positive vibes or good intentions she'd originally entered the building with.

The people I worked with were always phenomenal. Kind, helpful, knowledgeable, talkative, understanding, efficient, high-achieving, proud of their work. And though the work often felt restraining to me in its repetitiveness─educative, yet limited in its capacity to fulfill─it was by no means bad work. And I was absolutely excellent at my job; I will give myself that. But customers. Oh customers. They are the beings who confirmed for me over and over that retail is not my ministry. In November I told myself I'd wait it out til January 1st, 2016; use my last hurrah to experience what antics the holiday season would bring and earn as much as I could. But then I returned to work after Thanksgiving and I just. couldn't. do. it. anymore.

And so, without anything coming up next or anything to fall back on, I put in my notice on December 1st. I noted my last day as December 15th. They scheduled me on the 15th and the 17th. Thus, December 17th, 2015 was my last day working at the bookstore. This, my first job, had its perks and its good, better than good, and sometimes even great moments. I learned and gained so much! I regret nothing! But it was time to move on. By quitting, I gave myself permission to unburden myself. And so while it might've been an unwise decision, and now I have even less of an idea of what I'm doing, I put myself first and made the best decision for me. And I feel good about it. Better than good. Even great. I can withstand being a broke fool for a while. At least now I have a little more time to breathe and strengthen my resolve.

"Thank you and have a great day!" June 1st, 2015-December 17th, 2015. R.I.P.