Friday, May 18, 2012

Dear Little Chemist

Dear little chemist,

For a week, you have the joy and frustration of performing qualitative analysis.  A few days ago I gave you your very own vial containing ‘unknown’ crystals.  You were given possibilities of what may be inside, but you must figure it out armed with a keen eye, chemicals, and a handy book of instructions.  Not too bad…right?

Former students do a wonderful job of providing intimidation and anticipation so that you become understandably nervous, excited, and slightly terrified to begin. 

looks like koolaid...but I promise you won't like it
didn't they tell you to never trust white powders?

brought to you by seafoam green

The quote on our board on Day 1, from Yoda, was “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  That’s a grand piece of advice, don’t you think?  So exciting (tongue in cheek)…unless you’re actually expected to begin something you’re unsure of.   You’re doing things you’ve never done, and don’t know what to look for next (onset of panic: check).  I’m serious when I say that it is quite terrible to begin something that will likely fail on its way to success.  I told you there was a chance that you'd walk up to the counter to tell me your guess and you'd be dead wrong.  Today, that happened to you four times.  I saw your eyes get big and tears well up behind those goofy green goggles.  I could barely take it.  You're a smart guy, but those crystals wouldn't let you commit identity theft.

It seems you did all that work for nothing.  What’s worse is that you have to turn right around and march back to your lab bench, back to the same rotten vial, and figure the stupid thing out.  To make matters unbearable, it seems that your peers are clipping along at interstate speed while your map blew out the window.  (Although I know you won’t believe me, half of them are in your shoes, little man.)

no I do not take pictures of students in the peak of frustration...but this comes close to  what I see 

I knew you’d get frustrated.  I knew you would doubt yourself, and you knew it too.  I even told you yesterday, “I know you will struggle with this, and that's okay.  When you don’t trust yourself, trust me.  You’ve just got to keep going.  Trust that you have everything you need.”  Another nice piece of advice, but oh-so-tough to follow when the rubber meets the road and you have to move though you know not where or why. 

Minutes later, you came and asked for a piece of hydrion paper (this laboratory wonder is used to confirm a certain chemical…little did you know it was going to reveal your unknown!).  You had no clue you were so close.  I did, and it was agonizing to keep a straight face.

I knew it would be unfair to you if I celebrated before your time had come.  There is more to this project than just getting the right answers.  It’s called bolstering your backbone.  When – not if, but when you get the wrong answer, I don’t want you to crumble.  With all my heart, I want to see you rely on memories, resources, creativity, encouragement, and above all Trust.  Trust that your time will come; Trust that revelation will happen as you take risks to try new tests and techniques. 

this illustrates your face the best: half shock, half victory.  

On April 6th, I accepted a job to teach chemistry at another school.  Yes, I am excited, but I meet my new students on August 15th.  So for four months it seems like all I’m doing is leaving…leaving students I love, leaving a school I love, leaving activities I’m involved in, leaving a city I love.  Not many signs of new beginnings yet, you know?  

I was taken aback by how clearly my situation matches that of my students.  There is an anxiety that arises in the face of the unknown, and stays until fears are resigned.  Sometimes it seems that my fear can be relieved by an answer, but I know answers don’t provide the deepest relief.  Deep peace comes from being in this with someone: Jesus Christ.  He has been to Hell (fear, loneliness, angst, darkness) and triumphed with His light.  I’ll stick with Him.  In the midst of our "unknowns", He wants us keep going, walking, loving, doing although we do not understand the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of it all.  And to have Faith in what we know through memories, thoughts, desires, and promises that our joy will be complete.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ain't no sunshine

I had one of those days.  That turned into a week.  Insert a little foot stomp and crossing of the arms.  

Rewind to a Sunday Mass in college; the priest shared that one time in Seminary, he was feeling awfully ‘on top of everything’ with prayer and things of that sort, so he asked God to let him suffer for those in need.  He thought he could handle it, you know.   As luck would have it, the next day he started feeling sick, and a couple hours later really sick.  He told us “Just hours before, I asked to suffer, and now I was sitting on the floor, miserable, begging God to take it away…now!”

We all laughed at the story.  Probably because it’s sooo true.  

I love the sunshine, and when it's in front of me, I promise I'll never forget it.  But when the gray actually rolls in (literally or metaphorically), I forget how the sky looks when it’s blue.  Especially the high-of-45, windy-and-can’t-decide-if-it’s-really-raining days.  Those get me.  I try to remember the blue skies, but they’re just too easy to forget when the sky is printed in grayscale. 

It’s a toughie.  And I’m not sure if it gets much better with least not on my own.  But I am quite sure that it gets better with company.   Especially the kind of company that knows how to stick it to the gray skies.  Those people are the best, yes?  Indeed.

Read this on a gray day…or a sunny one.  camp patton  Enjoy the company.  

 the nice sunny day
said cloudy day.