Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

9.09.2011

Rectifying a Dearth of Me

It seems my posts have been lacking in original content and writing lately, as I haven't been making the time for it. In an attempt to rectify that a bit while still not really making time, I'll share something I've written for another context. My workplace is slowly working through our staff, doing short profiles on our intranet. I got a bit carried away answering some of the questions, since the person who writes the profiles will picked a chose and few quotes and interesting bits from the "interview" questions and the final product was much shorter than what I gave her. But since I went to all the trouble, I thought I'd share the whole thing with someone besides her. I didn't really revise or edit this for sentence structure or clarity since she'll be working it over anyway, so I'm sure it's more than a little convoluted and rough at times.

Where did you go to high school and college? What was your major?

I began school in *****, where I was born, but we moved to *****, where my parents were both from, when I was 7. We were still in ***** for my first year of high school, but Dad got a new job at ***** High School the summer after. Thinking a move was imminent and not wanting to change schools mid-year, my brother and I decided to commute with him to school. Unfortunately, we didn’t move until the following summer, so we made the 50-55 minute country drive both ways every day for a year.

I finished high school in *****, then considered some pretty serious college prospects. However, my goals for school weren’t all that clear, so I figured if I could just take general classes anywhere, I might as well do it cheaply. I decided to stay home and start school at ***** Community College, where I received a vocal music scholarship. After two years of taking things that sounded interesting, I found I’d earned an A.S. but no direction.

I took a semester off to work and decided I definitely didn’t like that, so I went back with the idea of becoming a wildlife biologist, planning to transfer to ***** State University since I’d heard they had a good program. However, during the break of my first three-hour meeting of my Chemistry II class, after spending an hour-and-a-half remembering how much I hated my Chemistry I class, I walked over to the admin building and withdrew from the class. Then I looked at the other classes I’d taken to fill out my schedule so I’d be full time, saw that one was a Shakespeare class and the other was The Oral Interpretation of Literature, and realized what I loved more than anything in the world was reading, studying, and sharing my love of books and stories.

So I finally understood I was meant to be an English major. But what to do with an English degree? I’d been intentionally avoiding the idea of becoming a teacher since both of my parents and many members of my extended family were, but I had to admit it was a pretty decent route to go. I’d been planning to transfer to ***** and they had a big teacher program, so I ended up spending the next three years there getting my Bachelor of Secondary Education in English.

However, I emerged from those years with a strong interest in learning more about religion, to find out if my liberal beliefs had the biblical and theological foundation I thought they did (since all I saw in media and popular culture made me doubt it) and how I might beneficially apply them to the world. After a trip to Princeton and considering some other options, my then-wife and I moved to *****, where I spent three years at ***** getting an academically demanding, praxis oriented, 90 hour Master of Divinity degree.

Then, nine years removed from high school—and after rejecting the idea of pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Theory/Ethics—I accepted I was going to finally have to get a real job. Before I found either a church job or a teaching job, though, I was offered the position as Librarian at ***** High School in *****. It was an intimidating thought to jump into that kind of thing with no preparation or training, but it seemed a good fit for me and expectations were very low, so I accepted. That started me in pursuit of my M.L.S. at *****. Four years later I had it and came [here].

How long have you worked [with us] and in what departments/branches?

I started [here] in August of 2002 as a Youth Services Librarian at [a branch]. I don’t remember the date, but some four-ish years later I was transferred to [a different branch] in the same position. A few years after that I decided to give the Branch Manager position at [yet another branch] a try, but quickly decided that wasn’t what I was after at the time and six months later returned to my position at [the second], where I remain to this day.

Did you participate in the Leadership Development Program? If so, how has that experience influenced you?

It has made me into a power-hungry, Machiavellian master of manipulation and devious maneuvers, attempting to take over the organization from behind the scenes as a shadow without notice, for my own personal gain.

I mean, yes, I participated in 2009. I think my biggest takeaway from the experience, as cliché as it sounds, was confidence and self-esteem, an ability to accept that others looked to me for leadership and a self-concept that began to include the thought of myself as a leader. It has allowed me to take on new roles in new ways, such as leading the Youth Services meetings, giving presentations and training sessions, and being more active as a leader both in my local units and in system-wide work.

What has been your previous work experience? How has that contributed to your growth?

My first work experience was doing chores around the house for my mom. It didn’t take me long to figure out that she was so particular and controlling about having things done one exact way, that if I got it wrong enough times she’d just take over and do it and I’d be released from the duty. As I grew older I began to realize I was much more responsive to her requests for help if she would explain what needed to be accomplished and then allow me achieve that goal in my own style and with my own methods; when she was more trusting and hands-off about her management style, I felt more respected and was more motivated to help and do quality work.

In middle school I started delivering an after-school paper route for a bit of spending money. In high school and college I joined my dad and some other teachers each summer as we painted (and sometimes shingled) houses around town. I think both of these were good lessons in being responsible and working hard to get jobs done. As a learning experience, this worked nicely in tandem with my time at McDonald’s my first two years of college, in which I regretted after the fact how lazy and irresponsible I had been, deciding I needed to grow and improve because I didn’t like being that person.

There was also a semester waiting tables at Applebee’s and one delivering pizzas for Godfather’s while in college. I think the biggest thing I remember from that was my Applebee’s manager telling me I did a good job, except I needed to “get over the quiet guy act.” “What act?” was my immediate thought to myself, but it was a good self-awareness for how I came across to others.

I was a counselor at two different camps for three of my summers in college. Those from the area may know the second of these, ***** south of town (I was there in ’94 & ’95). These were great experiences since I lived my first seven summers at a camp that my parents directed and because they gave me an opportunity to work intensely with youth while I finished up my teaching degree. I both had a lot of fun and learned a lot, particularly about my style for building a rapport with youth and engaging them.

While in seminary I worked with a youth group for two years and with an entire congregation as the pastor’s intern the third year. I also interned as a hospital chaplain. From this I especially learned about congregational dynamics and leadership, group and interpersonal relationship dynamics, and empathy.

During those years I also learned the ***** [city] landscape after growing up in ***** small towns. We rented a third floor apartment in ***** area our first year before buying a house in *****. My youth group job was with ***** Presbyterian Church up north, by ***** High School (and *****, which came later). The hospital was in ***** and the intern position was ***** Presbyterian Church in *****, and I was involved in my then-wife’s job at ***** High School in *****, especially attending lots of sporting events since she was the cheerleading sponsor. We also earned extra money as summer and after-school care for a couple of families in *****, driving them to golf and tennis lessons at ***** and other country clubs in the wealthy areas and supervising their activities. These were not only good geographical lessons, but cultural and socioeconomic ones as well.

Then I spent four years as the librarian at ***** High School in *****. First and foremost, I learned I love being a librarian from that experience. I also learned my biggest and best Readers Advisory lesson, that if I wanted the students to read I had to order what they were interested in reading, books with characters and experiences they could relate to instead of just award winners and titles off “best of” lists. Also that they trusted each other’s recommendations much more than mine, and that the best way to develop a “culture of reading” was to get them talking to each other about books. I also learned that a cluster of individualistic mavericks does not make an effective unit or promote a good organizational culture, and if they refuse to work together they’ll fail as a unit regardless of passion or commitment.

What do you consider to be your strengths? Weaknesses or foibles?

Talking about my experiences is much easier than talking about myself. Plus, everyone hates these kinds of questions and I’m no exception. Anyway, I’m just rambling a bit as I mull the subject and figure out how to approach it.

I’ve been told many times by many people that writing is one of my strengths; although often many of these same people seem annoyed by how much I write when I let myself get carried away, so they seem to like it but only in limited quantities. ;-)

I think I’d have to admit to a definite reflective, analytical intelligence as a strength; although that comes with the flip side of indecisiveness and inaction as I consider things from all angles.

I think I have a passion and excitement and genuine engagement about what I do; although I can then feel strongly about things I feel threaten it in some way, coming across as oppositional or negative at times.

When people tell me I’m a nice guy, most of them seem to really mean it, and I like to think I deserve it.

I’m sure there’s more, but I’m running out of enthusiasm for this particular question at the moment.

What are you reading now? What’s the book you’re recommending to friends these days?

I just started reading the adult nonfiction book True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-fact Society, by Farhad Manjoo and listening to the J mystery The Ring of Fire (first book of the Century Quartet), by Pierdomenico Baccalario. It’s too soon to tell yet if I’ll be recommending these.

I just finished with Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, which is a great young YA book by a masterful writer and one I’ll gladly recommend to anyone. Even though I read Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely a couple of years ago, I keep finding myself referring back to it and highly recommend it to everyone. And I’m still trying to get more readers for Kathleen Duey’s A Resurrection of Magic YA fantasy series while I anxiously await the third book (the first two: Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars).

Oh, and I recently loved Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, by Patton Oswalt, though know it really needs to be consumed in audio format. As a follow-up to my Leadership program experience, I learned a lot from How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Vordak the Incomprehensible (with help from Scott Seegert). And Last Night I Sang to the Monster, by Benjamin Alire Saenz really moved me.

What do other people think is the most interesting thing about you?

Oooh, that’s a good question! I’ll have to ask some of them, because I’m curious to know.

“Anyway, from my perspective, some of the more interesting things about you are that you went to seminary school, that you remain good friends with your ex-wife, and that you're amazingly eloquent about explaining your ideas.”

“Your ability to answer inane questions.”

“You have really interesting food tastes. Very eclectic and strange combinations. And you have really diverse interests. I’d call you a Renaissance man.”

“Your obsession with the Tour de France?”

“Your analytical brain.”

Anything you want to add about your personal life and/or hobbies?

I’ve gotten away from it in recent years, but I had a lot of fun doing triathlons for a while there. I’ve been active my whole life and still enjoy vigorous physical exercise on a regular basis.

I love the Tour de France.

I still enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons on occasion.

My favorite recording artists are Peter Gabriel and They Might Be Giants, although I love many others.

My favorite color is rainbow.

Mt. Dew is the drink of the gods.

I identify in many ways with what you find at this link (although I like to think I’m of the kinder, gentler INTJ variety).

My personal file on the G: drive is named “The Secrets of Tom Riddle.”

I haven't engaged or even read her in a long time, but I take perverse pride in the fact that the Annoyed Librarian, of all people, once held me up as a prime example of civil debate: Just out of courtesy, let's try to avoid ad hominem attacks. For the record, I may disagree with many of you, and some of you, like Degolar, I've disagreed amicably with on a number of occasions. But my disagreement with people on particular issues doesn't mean I think they're stupid. I try, though I don't always succeed, to focus on ideas and not personalities. Of course that could be because I don't have a personality. In the comments here.

Anything else you want to add?

Seriously? Are you sure you want to ask that at this point in the proceedings?

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