The technology specialist at my school said his goodbye to me today by reminding me that I only had one more day of having a 2 at the front of my age. To which I responded that I didn’t have days but hours left, and then I smiled and turned away, got in my car and drove home. Now that the moment is here, I am caught up in a strange mixture of things. For one, I’m focused heavily on tonight’s comedy show, trying to make sure that all the premises for the jokes are in my head, that I’ve got the phrasings and timings right. Having been a performer for most of my life, I know that this is the time to start to relax, though, and that working through it a little more at this juncture has limited positive impact. So instead I’m making dinner, listening to a Saves the Day record and just allowing myself a moment to breathe.

30 freaking years old. It’s going to take me a while to get used to it, just like every other birthday. This one is obviously different, as it’s been 10 years since the front number changed. I still don’t love it, but I also know that it is inevitable at this point. Giving up isn’t something I’d ever be interested in doing, so I must press on. I find myself mulling over all the things that people have said about 30 over the last years, months, weeks and days, and I come to one conclusion: there is no one way to respond, and that’s okay. I’m me and I’m going to respond to this in a way that is exactly me: with a strange combination of uncertainty and bravado. It’s sort of my way. I slide in and out of an unusual mixture of self-deprecation and vomit-inducing cockiness, one weighing out the other rather nicely, most of the time. And that, my friends, is how I’m going to handle turning 30. It took me 30 days, but that’s what I’ve come up with. Nothing terribly moving or thought provoking, but it is what makes sense in my head. It’s how I keep the sanity.

Tonight I’m going to laugh my way straight into tomorrow. And tomorrow I’ll have to deal with a bunch of 7th graders who won’t know it’s my birthday and wouldn’t care anyway, at a job I won’t have anymore once June 13 comes along. Tomorrow will pass and then it’ll be Wednesday and I’ll have to go on with year #31. Then 32, 33, and so on.

And then we’ll do this all over again at 39. Maybe by then I’ll be dictating my blog through a chip in my brain. Or maybe by then I’ll have a little something more figured out. I don’t expect to, though. That just wouldn’t be my style.

 

God bless,

Robert

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I was actually born in Mother’s Day 1984. My mother likes to joke that I ruined her first Mother’s Day, although I like to respond that without me–her firstborn child–she would not have enjoyed Mother’s Day from the motherly point of view, but would have, instead, been having brunch or something with her mother. Because of this, though, Mother’s Day is always easy for me to remember; it also means that sometimes my mom and I get to share the day.

It’s happened just a few times since the year of my birth–1990, 2001, 2007 and 2012–but it’s always a pretty special thing to share that with my mother. The dates won’t match up again until 2018 when I turn 34, so it’ll be a while, but it’s cool nonetheless. My mother and I are a lot alike, you see. While I am the spitting image of my dad, my mom and I connect on a different level. Like her, I’m more reserved in my ways and would prefer the company of a few close friends than a bunch of people I don’t know any day, unless there’s a stage and then I have what my dad referred to as extroverted introversion. My dad and sister are the high energy pair, to the point that it exhausts my mom a little when it is just the three of them. When it’s all four of us, at least we have each other to bounce the crazy off of. For this reason, my mom and I have a special connection, even if we’re not always communicative about it.

It has certainly been a trying last few years for my mother, and to honest it’s weighed on me more than I might have let on. It’s the introversion in me that doesn’t allow me to really talk about it, but I do try to make sure that both my parents–especially my mother–understand how important they are to me. I still look to them for direction and advice, and they are extremely aware of the things that drive me. They have always supported my dreams and goals, and for this I am eternally grateful. There aren’t enough words.

If you didn’t get a chance to tell your mother how much you appreciate her today, you should do that as soon as you can. It’s really something we should be doing regularly, but it is very easy to get bogged down in life and forget. I know I get caught up in that a lot myself. It’s not because I don’t want to remember, just that my mind tends to wander and get wrapped up in the anxieties of life.

The great thing is that my mom is always there, no matter if I forget these things some times.

 

God bless,

Robert

Here’s an admission: I dread making platonic friends more than I do meeting women who I might find attractive and/or am interested in dating. This is true. It’s the introvert in me, I think. And the fact that while I am loyal to a fault, it also takes a little while before I can trust someone to the point that I can call them a friend. Once I feel that, I find it hard to let go, but it does take time. Sadly, I cannot remember a time where I actively pursued a friendship with another guy on my own without some sort of force pushing us together. My friend Ryan, who just graduated today from film school at UNCSA, we met because he was at the church I began attending when I moved down the Carolinas. My roommate and I met because he got a job at the school I was teaching at. My oldest friend, Josh, lived down the street from me when we were in middle school and I probably would have never allowed him to get very close to me except that he was remarkably stubborn in his resolve to be friends that he eventually broke me down and we are still friends to this day.

My point is simply that my extreme introversion and fear of rejection in some ways extends to other people besides just pretty girls. I have a lot of people I’d consider pretty solid acquaintances. But I only have a few people that I’d consider very good friends who I can talk about life with. Experience the world with. And the older I get, the harder it gets to establish those relationships. I’m fine with it to a certain extent because it forces those relationships to have some substance, and as an introvert the establishment of stability within the relationships I do enter in to is vital. On the other hand, if I’m let on my own because the world changes, then I’m stuck.

I say all this because I’m starting to realize that those changes are on the horizon. My roommate is all my engaged at this point. It’s an inevitability at this point that doesn’t even require speaking of–suffice it to say, I will be back on my own as far as the living arrangement situation is concerned within a 12-month time span or less. Ryan is on his way to Wilmington, NC, and while this is still within driving distance, as he has been for the last 4 years, there’s something more final about this move. He’s not going to school and coming back on long weekends or for the summer. This is a move made with extreme purpose, and the 4-hour one-way car ride is enough to make the trip a less than regular thing.

I do not say all these things to make anyone feel guilty about choices or to convince anyone to stay where they are and stop allowing life to happen. If it were me, I’d be making the same decisions they are, so I cannot fault them for it. I say this because I think we often overlook the importance of platonic friendships for men simply because we assume that they don’t mean that much. I’ll say that this is for sure an incorrect assertion, and that especially at this time in my life, where I’m dating anyone and with no realistic possibilities of that happening any time soon, my friends play a bigger role than they might otherwise. Life happens, things change, I get this. And it’s not as though I want the change to stop, or that I can’t deal with the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows. It’s just the anxiety of knowing that I might have to start over, even just a little bit, is a little much to take sometimes.

In my quieter moments, I’m aware that everything is going to be okay. That I will survive this change. That certain people will always be there for me no matter what. It’s just that sometimes those voices in my head are far too strong. And sometimes I wish I had a mute button for them.

 

God bless,

Robert

I did not see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty when it came out in theaters. The combination of very little time, a lot of films coming out around the Christmas season and some less than stellar reviews led me to having never seen it. But I came up to Winston-Salem to hang out with my buddy Ryan (who happens to be graduating from film school tomorrow, too…congrats, buddy!), and so he put on the movie as we were having some pizza and relaxing at his place. Having seen the film, I am both upset that I didn’t get to catch it on the big screen and slightly perturbed at film critics. Oh well. At least I got the opportunity to see it at all.

For those who haven’t seen it, the story revolves around Walter Mitty, a kind of shy guy who works at Life magazine in the photo negative department and loses a negative that is supposed to serve as the cover for the final issue of the magazine. Walter is the type of guy who doesn’t take risks in all aspects of his life, which is why he’s held the same job for 16 years and why he has trouble talking to Cheryl, a woman he works with, on whom he dotes but can’t/won’t take action in that regard. But when a clue leads Walter to discover the location of the photographer, he takes it upon himself to hunt the man down in order to find the negative. He embarks upon a fantastic adventure to Greenland, Iceland and beyond. 

I found myself connecting with Walter in a few ways, mostly regarding how he interacts with the people around him. I get the introversion and the inability to connect with people without a great deal of effort. I’m not good at that either. But it isn’t really the specifics of the story that I really connected with, but more with the themes the movie conveys. It’s all about taking chances, getting outside of your head and doing rather than just thinking about doing. I think I said this before, but I struggle a great deal with over thinking and underdoing, if you will. In many ways, I really feel like this is the reason that I’m in the places in my life I am now. Rather than taking opportunities as they come, I back off and look for safety, for familiar. 

Maybe that’s the wrong way to go, too. Maybe I need to push past the regular and take some chances. It all comes back to the way that Cheryl describes “Major Tom” in the movie: “That song is about courage and going into the unknown,” she tells Walter, “It’s a cool song.” Maybe it’s time to be courageous every once in a while.

To go into the unknown.

 

God bless,

Robert

The new year of the NFL officially began tonight with the first round of the draft. I’m a big NFL fan, and it’s been nice in the last few years to finally be able to see my San Francisco 49ers being competitive again after a decade of poor play. The Niners have gone to three straight NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this season will bring us. The Niners selected Jimmie Ward with their first pick tonight, and even though I’ve never heard of the guy (he went to Northern Illinois), I’m hearing a lot of good about his skills and his ability to play multiple positions on the back end of the defense.

I don’t have much to say beyond that. I was never a really good athlete myself, but I have always enjoyed being a part of a team, and having a grip on a specific team as a fan is one way to do that. So here’s to a great rest of the draft and off-season, and I’m super excited for the season to get started. How long until they kick things off?

God bless,

Robert

T.S. Eliot begins his seminal work “The Waste Land” with the oft-quoted line, “April is the cruellest month,” but I’m beginning to think that Eliot is a little off in his assertion. It’s starting to seem to me that May is in fact the cruelest month of them all.

I’m also concerned that I’m going to start connecting my birthday each year with bad news. The last two years, I have received bad, if not unsurprising, news in May. I’ll stop beating around the bush, I guess: I was told today that I am not to be offered a contract for next year, making me, as my soon-to-be-former principal put it, “a free agent” and free to begin looking for jobs again.

I find myself with mixed emotions on this. On the plus side, it gives me an opportunity to hopefully get myself into a higher grade level than middle school, which is actually where I’ve wanted to be all along, but haven’t, as of yet, been able to get there. It also means heading back out onto the interview circuit, which I rather loathe, and watching my spending over the summer as my weekly unemployment checks come in. For sure, I’m glad that I have that as an option, but it certainly would be better to have a salary and the knowledge that I have work once school starts up again.

All in all, however, I really believe that a better option is coming down the road. I don’t believe that God has just tossed me out into the wilderness with no intention of guiding me along the way. Judging from last year, it won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, as the job hunt isn’t exactly my favorite kind of hunt to embark upon. But if this means I get to move into a better place, somewhere where I’ll get an opportunity to really stretch myself and truly use my skills as I believe I’m fit to do, then I’m all for it.

Of course I’ll appreciate your prayers and pleasant thoughts along the way. And if you know of any opportunities that come up that you think I might be good for, by all means, let me know. I’ll wide open and excited to see what’s coming along next.

 

God bless,

Robert

Throughout the course of this blog series, you’ve heard a lot about a few major things that are taking place in my life these days. Music, teaching, comedy and, of course, turning 30. This particular blog entry is going to bring most of those together, because I just returned home from one of the largest messes I’ve ever seen grace a stage of any kind, and it got me thinking about the word “excellence.”

I don’t think we as a people really work that hard to be excellent at most things we do. We settle for “oh, I got the job done, so who cares if I did my best” or “whatever…it doesn’t matter anyway,” even when we know we’re capable of being better. I see this in my 7th graders all the time. Rather than make an effort to get an A or a B, they settle for passing. Or they settle for failing because trying would require too much effort. I saw this tonight on stage at The Comedy Zone.

I was helping out with the Fight Night competition, an opportunity for people who are trying to make it in the comedy business to have some stage time and, for the top three, to move onto a bigger competition later in the year. The top three also walk away with prizes, and while they aren’t life changing numbers, it’s cool to be recognized. Tonight, I saw nothing but train wreck after train wreck take the stage. People were unprepared, disrespectful and mostly dabbling in low-brow humor that any idiot who has seen an Adam Sandler movie could come up with. I kept looking at the other people who were there helping out (and some of the employees who work there) and asking why these people were allowed on stage. I’m not pretending to be an expert in the field, but I have been on stage enough to know that you don’t go up there without being ready. I’d say 95% of the people who got up there tonight had no business anywhere near the stage. They shouldn’t have even been allowed inside the building. To make matters worse, the guy who “won” the competition wasn’t even funny; he just brought the most people, and walked away with a cool $100 to top it off.

The evening wasn’t a wash, though. For one, it made me feel better about what I’m about to do for my graduation set on Monday. And secondly, it made me feel more confident about when it’s my turn to take the Fight Night stage on June 3. I’ll be prepared. So even if I don’t win, as least I’ll know I did right by myself and by the audience.

Then I got a nice little surprise in my email inbox: a rough first mix of the first song for my upcoming worship album. That’s all I listened to on the way home. It’s not ready for public consumption yet, but I promise as soon as I have a song that is, I’ll be ready to share it with everyone who wants to hear it. I’m excited at how it’s coming along so far, and I look forward to hearing the rest.

I leave you with this for tonight, mostly because it is so very appropriate in terms of the idea of striving to be the best I can be in all things. I’m not always the best at this. I get down at work because it’s exhausting and the kids are not cooperating and things aren’t going as I planned. I don’t want to give my all in those moments, even though I know better. I don’t always work my hardest to the be the best friend, son or person I can be, because being right is difficult because it’s going against the current. It makes me think about what Paul said to the Corinthians about this: “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-25). Again, I’m not perfect at this, but I would like to think that I am continually striving to be better.

Without that, I’m just spinning the wheels and going nowhere. And if I’m not going anywhere, then what am I doing anyway?

 

God bless,

Robert