October 19, 2009

Things I wish they told me after graduation

Sometimes, life moves at a crawl, and sometimes it moves really quickly. For the last few weeks, it has moved quickly.

For the last few years, my defining struggle has been to find my first full time job. 40 hours. Big paychecks. Rent due. Grocery shopping. Health insurance. It was the big hurdle, which when cleared would finally let me see some purpose, some direction, with clarity.

In the last few months, I came to appreciate that time. In the years after college, I obsessed over getting health insurance and income, seeking the definition and direction in a career. Life crawled.

But simultaneously, I lived a few pretty incredible memories. I spent a summer working in Orlando and got my work into a nationally-distributed publication. Later, I would see my name in a magazine on the rack in a bookstore in Grand Rapids. I went to Africa, slept in a tent with shreds of nylon between me and some hungry, loud hyenas. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I learned phrases in Swahili, fought a wildfire, showed films to burgeoning crowds in the waning daylight before the skies glittered impossibly with the Milky Way. I saw that life in ministry, though unspeakably difficult, was full of joy, meaning, purpose. I came home, got really good at delivering pizzas, answered the call to go back to summer camp and be the old guy on staff. And I loved it.

I didn't notice this at the time, but: I lived. While I was waiting for a career, I found ways to fill the cracks in my life, and they became life, became memories. I wouldn't trade them for a cubicle.

But life sped up. A few weeks ago, I got a call for a job. Come down for an interview, they said. I did. And suddenly, a job offer. I took it. Years of struggle, at times painful and exhausting, shaking my fist at a God whose patience dwarfed my own, met with solution.

I liked wondering, waiting. I became accustomed to it; it became a familiar, comfortable foe. And now it's... gone. I miss it.

Can you tell that I'm sliding into cubicle life with a touch of restlessness? If this is the thing you're looking forward to, for meaning, for life, I can tell you that this is not where you will find it.

Lest you worry that I'm miserable, be assured, I am not: Restlessness is not misery. The last few years of my life, I was restless at times, but I was never miserable. I am not worried about where I am. Man has had to till the fields since the first guy screwed it all up for us and I'm eager to put in my work. And to be honest, today was only day one and it was good. This will be a good place to work and I'll probably enjoy it.

If finding a career, or a beginning to one, was a hurdle, I've cleared it. But there are a bunch more hurdles. There's a lot to figure out about where to go from here. That familiar, comfortable foe isn't totally gone.

(In the meantime, I'll just bang on me drum)

October 6, 2009

Game 163

I can’t fault anyone for not caring about baseball. It probably has the least action of any team sport, especially out of the ones that are nationally televised. No other sport has stretches barren of action like baseball. Ground out. Fly ball. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. Pickoff move. Pickoff move. Pickoff move. Foul. This is not the hard-hitting, breakaway touchdown-running game of football. It’s not the fast-paced head-to-head contest of basketball, hockey, or soccer. It’s a bunch of guys who spend the majority of three hours standing in the grass between opportunities to wave a piece of wood at a little piece of hurtling cowhide.

To be sure, my attachment to baseball is purely sentimental. I couldn’t pick this game up now. But I’ve been with it for years. I fell asleep to Ernie Harwell’s voice as he called games when I was a kid. All I knew was that the Tigers were the good guys, and if they won, I won. I didn’t know anything about pennant races or playoff rotations or magic numbers then. They were awful for years, but loyal fans stayed with them, assured that winning seasons would return, and they did. So I’ve got emotional stake in them, my team.

Today, I consider myself as big a baseball fan as I have ever been. Never have I cared, thought, or known more about baseball than now. Last week I went to a game when the Tigers had a chance to clinch the division, to ensure a playoff spot, and I literally dreamt of baseball the night before.

Tonight is their biggest game of the season. And unfortunately, it’s drenched in disappointment. If I would have written about the Tigers last week when I wanted to, this blog would have been a lot different. But much has changed since they were up three games with four to play. The reality is: they shouldn’t have had to play today. They shouldn't have needed game #163. They should have clinched long ago. You can count on one hand the teams that have dropped a seven game lead in the last month of the season, and none has ever blown a three game lead with four to play. No team has ever failed to make the playoffs leading their division since May 10.

Tonight, they have to win to get in, and they have to do it at the Metrodome, potentially the last Major League Baseball game ever to be played there. And they’ll have to play with the off-field drama of Miguel Cabrera, the MVP candidate who went drinking with the opposing team over the weekend, during the most important series of the season. Not only did he go drinking, he went heavy-drinking. Like, blow a .26 on the breathalyzer heavy drinking. (If I remember my Responsible Decisions classes from middle school, that means something like 26 beers.) He went home and got into a fight with his wife. She called the cops, and the general manager had to pick him up at the police station in the morning. That night, with scratches on his face from his scuffle, presumably still drunk or hungover, he went 0-for-4, just like he did the day before, and the next day he went 0-for-3, effectively ending any MVP talk. He’ll play tonight, and he’ll get booed. He’d get booed at home, too. I’d boo him. I don’t know why he even played on Saturday. He should have been benched. Hungover, scratched – the guy shouldn’t have been batting cleanup.

But all of that aside, they still have to play the game. They’ve still got a chance. And I’m still going to watch, because it’s my team. While they were fading away over the weekend, epic-failing to end the season, Tigers fans everywhere gave up on them, groaning, mourning the end of a season filled with, apparently, false hopes. But if they win tonight, it’s all forgotten, the season will be a near-miss but a success nonetheless.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if they can win, there’s a great story in there. If Rick Porcello, the 20 year old rookie, can win the most crucial game of the MLB season so far – not just for the Tigers, but for any team – it all wraps up nicely. The Rookie comes through, the story continues, and that knucklehead Cabrera gets off the hook for nearly killing our season. We’ll begin to think about the Yankees, who clinched weeks ago and haven’t really played a meaningful game since. We’ll talk up our pitching staff, we’ll look ahead to the ALCS, the World Series, and we’ll dread a rematch with the Cardinals.

So, the game starts in less than an hour. Maybe you’ll be into it, maybe not. I assume that by the time you read this, it will be long over and we’ll be looking at the Yankees or we’ll be looking at firing and trading a few select staff and players.