Finding (or Making) My Place

The past two years have been full of revelations and surprises for me. I had my position eliminated at work nearly two years ago, and I’ve been stuck in a job I hate ever since; I’ve had my church service closed down for reasons that I don’t fully understand but that I don’t feel like rehashing right now; I’ve discovered that I am fully expendable and replaceable in a number of other groups with which I have had involvement. I did not expect any of these things.

And the big crisis, if it can be called that, with which I have been struggling has been simply trying to figure out my place. I’m trying to figure out how I relate to others, both as individuals and as members of a group. I’ve been trying to do all the right things in all the right ways, because I always believed that’s how you ultimately succeeded.

However, as I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been realizing that most of what I have believed about my place within groups has been inaccurate. I have inexplicably built my expectations around my own (self-perceived) importance to the group, only to learn that it’s never as significant as I thought.

This surprises me not only because I have learned of my own relative insignificance, but because my usual attitude has been to assume I am not important to a group. I am the sort who assumes that when I am gone from a group, my absence is not really noticed. But somehow, in the past two years, I had finally reached a point where I had started to believe that maybe I was important, maybe even integral, and I took a lot of pride in that.

My pride isn’t there anymore.

And to make matters worse, my public display of dissatisfaction upon realizing that I was not as important as I thought has led to consequences that I should have, but did not, foresee: I am now embarrassed to participate in these groups.

My co-workers, for example, know how much I hate my job and how much I want to get out of it. I’m embarrassed at times, now, in team meetings when there is talk of potential openings in other departments… but only if you’re meeting the current role’s goals (which I never am).

My church family knows how much I was hurt by the dissolution of our service. Now, I’m embarrassed to even comment on their Facebook statuses at times, because many of them are valiantly trying to continue onward with church, and I still can’t stand the thought of setting foot in the building that used to feel like home.

I was honest with several people in ComedySportz about how I’ve felt lately in the troupe. Now, I’m embarrassed to even show up there some of the time.

There are even other things, like: when I sold my first book, eight years ago, I had sold almost fifty copies just in pre-sale, ultimately ending up with over 100 sales. Here I am, eight years later, with a cheaper book, easier to get through many channels, and it’s been out for several weeks, and I have yet to sell thirty copies. I guess I expected more would have sold early on… and the fact that they didn’t has led me to be embarrassed any time I consider posting again on Facebook that it’s available. (It’s not that I’m counting on the sales to skyrocket, or that I need the income — although that’s certainly not a bad thing — it’s that I guess after all the praise people gave me for the first book, I just kind of assumed that copies would sell based on what people knew about me or my writing.)

After so many years of self-doubt, it felt good to have some pride and confidence. And so much of that has been shaken to its core in the past two years.

I’m now spending way too much time trying to figure out what I should be doing to re-gain that pride. (And before anyone starts, this has nothing at all to do with my family; of COURSE I am proud of having a stable and happy marriage of 14 years and a beautiful baby girl, and I am proud of the husband and father that I try to be. If I were able to spend 100% of my time JUST being a husband and father and not worrying about work or creative outlets or anything like that, I’d be the luckiest man in the world.)

I wish I could somehow magically see how things would unfold if I changed my situation. What would happen in terms of a job search if I quit my current position next week? How would anything change for anyone if I left ComedySportz? I’ve already left my church, and it’s plugging along without me just as I expected it would, but I’m able to see ways in which I have changed, and that’s mostly what I would want to see in these other scenarios. Would I actually be happier, or am I stuck with a terminal case of believing that the grass is greener elsewhere?

Fortunately, my logical side is working to prevent me from making rash decisions. If I quit work next week, we’d be in a heapload of financial trouble. I can’t leave there until there is a viable alternative, or until I am forced out. With ComedySportz, I’ve given myself a deadline to figure out what I’m doing there; knowing that deadline is out there in the future, I’ve stopped myself from walking away from it several times. (And in case you’re a CSz-er reading this and you’re surprised by it, please understand that I would be walking away not out of some self-pity for not achieving the goals I wanted to achieve, but because during this time that I have allowed myself I need to figure out whether it is possible, emotions being irrelevant, to achieve what I want to achieve… and if not, I need to focus my creative energy on other outlets.)

So it’s quarter past two in the morning, and I’m no longer sure if what I’m writing is coherent.

But the point of all of this is, I know who I am. I have a pretty darn good sense of who I am, although occasionally a particular emotion does surprise me. What I don’t know, and what I’m trying to find out, is what effect, if any, does any of that have on the world around me? Because I’m not content to have no effect, and I need to know what extent of effect is acceptable.

It’s not enough for me to be. I need to do.

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3 Responses to Finding (or Making) My Place

  1. sara says:

    We miss you at church. And even if the larger church doesn’t realize it, they need you. I understand your reluctance, but I just thought I’d throw that out there. Every time we go to church, we find something else about Sojo that we loved, but maybe didn’t even realize it until we didn’t have it anymore. However, we have also heard some very compelling messages over the last several weeks; and we’ve realized that the most important thing for us about a church is that the Truth doesn’t get watered down. We would not only love to have you give it a try, but like I said, the church needs your creativity and gifts.

    I read Nathan’s comment on this post awhile ago, and it really hit home for me. It helped us to turn a corner a bit in terms of our mourning over Sojourn closing: http://burnsidewriters.com/2012/06/08/how-do-you-find-a-church/comment-page-1/#comment-45835

    All that to say, I’m sorry that you’re struggling with your various roles outside of the house. It sounds like it has been one thing after another for some time, with no easy ways out.

    • strangedavid says:

      Sara — somehow this comment ended up in my spam. No idea why. I didn’t see it until today.

      For me, I appreciate that the Truth doesn’t get watered down… but I need to feel as though the relationship is more than just me and God. I have that wherever I am. And BECAUSE of the relationships I built in Sojourn, going to a Main service — even if I were sitting right with you and all my other Sojourn friends — it would almost feel like that awkwardness you feel the first time you see someone after a breakup where you agreed you’d keep it amicable. The warm feelings are still there, but with a totally different context that isn’t as meaningful.

      The whole idea that a church the size of Grace “needs” my creativity and gifts… I’m not convinced. A church like Grace posts that they have opportunities, and then turns people away because they have too many volunteers to fit their vision.

  2. strangedavid says:

    I also just read the comment that Nathan made, that you linked to.

    I partially agree with him, but I would counter his argument. If it’s my responsibility to “fix” a church that I find, all of which have problems… if it’s my responsibility to go and serve no matter whether or not I enjoy the church… then my question becomes, why do I need the church? Why can’t I go be and serve and do without a scheduled time spent being miserable?

    Yes, perhaps the church (whichever one it is) could use me. But so could millions of other people. I’m not Jesus, and I can’t fix everything; as much as we are meant to serve, we’re being dishonest with ourselves if we pretend that we don’t need to GET something out of the church relationship as well.

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