Thursday, April 7, 2016

Eight Years

Time never stops marching. That's a powerful truth that most try to forget, some try to escape, and a wise few learn to embrace, but it is a truth to which each of us is subject. The sun rises. The sun sets. Countless morning blends into countless morning, year into year, each moment at once irretrievably lost and each yet somehow eternal by virtue of the universal qualities inherent to it. We go from young to old and then we die and others come, and incidentals often change while fundamentals rarely do.

I cannot believe it has been eight years since I started this blog. On April 7, 2008, eight years seemed (if I thought about it at all) like an impossibly long time, and so it was; I was only nineteen. Eight years was half of my life. Today, of course, things are somewhat different. Then, I was a teenage boy; now I approach thirty. Then, I was a sophomore in college; now I am in the final semester of my master's degree. Then, I was closeted and fearful; now I am out and fearful only of not finding the right man for me. Then, I was immersed in the greatest trauma of my life--my relationship with my parents; now I have put significant distance between us and intend to impose still more.

Then, I was young; now I am still young, but perhaps not so young. I find myself, particularly now that I am student-teaching and in an authority role all day, behaving in ways that are stereotypically "adult." The fashions from my own senior year of high school, a decade ago, finally look outdated. The music I listened to comes on radio stations' "throwback" segments. I don't understand, and lack the ability to correctly use, the lingo currently en vogue among the nation's secondary students. And I find myself increasingly coming down on the side of caution and of respect. Within limits, of course. I believed as a child, and believe now, that the need for respect cuts both ways. But if I'm being reasonable, I'd like the favor to be returned. Of course, every now and again I am reminded of how much left I have yet to do. If ever you get to thinking you're becoming old and wise, having a seventeen-year-old girl confuse you for a student at the school where you teach is a sure way to bring your ego back down.

Above all, though, I'm more experienced. At twenty-seven I have accomplished--and survived--a lot. I've worked in professional environments. I've had professional failures. I've had to admit some of my own worst faults, among them a drinking problem, and have come out a better person for the efforts to redress those issues. I'm more tolerant of other people's shortcomings because I've had so many of my own,

And I'm secure in myself. Not all the way, and not as much as I'd like to be, but secure. Which is a long, long way from the self-conscious mess that was nineteen-year-old BB, apologizing for things that needed no apologies and accommodating those who should have been thrown away. The last year has been one of growth. Let's take a look at how it went.

April 2015: I turn 27 years old.

May 2015: I conclude my first full year of graduate school.

June 2015: I begin taking summer courses to keep myself on time for a 2016 graduation.

July 2015: After years of wanting to do it but not having the opportunity, I begin studying Russian with a private tutor.

August 2015: The second and last year of my master's program begins, and I also start to display the first significant signs of an autoimmune disease.

September 2015: A friend tells me about the Foreign Service, and I begin to research a career in diplomacy.

October 2015: I take the Foreign Service Officer test in the Goldlands and am successful. I use the opportunity to see an old friend.

November 2015: On November 12, my family celebrates the 396th anniversary of my 11th great-grandfather's arrival in Southern State in 1619.

December 2015: One of the most difficult academic semesters of my life concludes with my filing, for the first time in my student career, a formal complaint against a professor. After a difficult Christmas Eve, I make the decision to put more distance between myself and my wayward brother Powell.

January 2016: The largest blizzard of my lifetime delays the start of the spring semester by two weeks.

February 2016: I begin student-teaching, the crown jewel of my education master's degree. Earlier in the month, I travel to the City of Fate to explore the possibility of doing missionary work overseas following graduation. On February 20, after a painful episode in which I nearly lose a friendship, I at last confront the reality that I have a drinking problem and commit to completely foregoing alcohol until at least 2017 (it's been forty-eight days and counting).

March 2016: After a month with 7th-grade social studies students, I transition to a 12th-grade classroom, where I encounter both new challenges and new opportunities. At the end of the month, I begin making plans to move out of my mother's house and in with a friend by May.

This anniversary is different than the others. Every other April 7, I've faced uncertainty regarding the future. Now, in a very core way, I don't; in one year's time (indeed, in six months' time) I will be financially self-sufficient. I don't know what occupation or even what country I'll be in, but I will have a master's degree and will, one way or another, be at last independent. I've never known that before. Now I do, and I cannot wait. I've been so happy to take this journey with you over the past eight years, and to see the journeys you've taken as well. I hope we can continue, in person and online, for a long time to come.