When You Apologize – Mean It

I’ve always known this to be true. I was unaware of how much more difficult this would be as I got older. Apologizing to friends, co-workers, family is almost a hard thing to do especially when you know you made a mistake. Recently, I had to apologize to a student who works for me because she was put off by a few things I said to her on multiple occasions. One time, I could chalk it up to a bad day or being distracted, but multiple times? Here’s the worst part, I didn’t even remember the examples she mentioned, but I could tell she did by the look in her eye.

I had to apologize. Not just for what I did, but not even remembering what I did. It would have been so easy for me as her boss to brush it aside and move forward. Seeing in her eyes what the apology meant to her and the courage it took for her to tell me, I promised myself two things. Always apologize when I mean it and pay more attention to words I say.

Sometimes we avoid the apology because it creates an uncomfortable conversation. Sometimes we avoid the apology because it forces us to not only admit to ourselves we made a mistake, but it forces it us to say to another person that we were wrong. Use your apologies sparingly. Don’t apologize just because it will make a fight end faster or because you just don’t care. When we overuse it, the meaning isn’t there when we want it to be. Which is why when you apologize, when you apology, you better mean it.

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Privilege

This weekend I was required to go on a field trip for grad school called the Rochester Reality Tour. As described to me, our class (along with any community members or surrounding schools who wished to participate) would get on a school bus head to downtown Rochester with a few scheduled stops. The trip is designed to be bring awareness to the situation in downtown Rochester – a lot of homelessness, substance/alcohol abuse and among so many others.

Our tour guide (but not really) was an older black man who used to be homeless. He told us his story while driving through downtown and this man truly amazed me. He lost his job over ten years ago, lost his apartment, kicked out of the homes of his family members and turned to the streets. He was able to explain what it means to be homeless in Rochester in such a way that opens your eyes to how some people just fall without a parachute.

I have been so guilty of passing so many homeless people on the street avoiding eye contact, not giving money assuming that my money would be used for alcohol or drugs and that it is the fault of the person of being on the street. It’s definitely not the case. With the man who was showing us around, he was able to tell us that living on the streets brings people to a point of desperation that is so difficult to imagine. People on the streets abuse drugs not because there’s nothing better to do, but can you imagine for being on the street for years with no relief in sight? I have no idea what type of stress that brings and what it would bring me to do. The part that struck a chord with me was our guide saying that the most hurtful thing a person can do is to pretend the homeless is invisible. Part of the reason why Rochester has a true problem with so many people living on the street is because so many people turn a blind eye to it. If I cover my eyes, it’s not really there, right? Wrong. A friendly hello, a smile and yes, possibly some change is enough to bring that person happiness that you or I have never felt.

Many homeless people actually have jobs, but so many owe so much money for varies reasons that most of their wages are garnished and they can never make enough to get off the street. We stopped by The House of Mercy which is homeless shelter downtown. What is special about this particular shelter is that no form of ID is needed to come inside to eat. It was started by a nun in 1985 and has been running ever since. It has provides shelter and food to over million people since it began. I learned so many shelters have so many stipulations before you get a bed or a hot meal that ends up hurting homeless person in need. House of Mercy leaves the door unlocked 24/7 and anyone is welcome. The shelter runs purely on donations and the support of volunteers from the community.

I don’t declare myself an expert on poverty after one experience, but I am more aware of the needs of the community in which I live. We all need to do a better job at checking our privilege and realize that although we may have had a bad day, we struggle with not knowing what to have for dinner or that our iPhone died, there is someone in our own community that unsure of where their next meal will come from. I have not done this tour justice in this blog post, but checkout the website and see what you can do in your own community to give a helping hand.

The Best Gift

Every Tuesday night I have a staff meeting with my RA staff. This week, one of my RAs wanted to have a team builder and she asked us all to bring something of significance to explain. I realize that whenever I have this activity, I always pull out the same item because it means so much to me. It’s a gift that was given to me at my 18th birthday party. Here’s the thing about the gift. It is not necessarily flashy or expensive, but it is thoughtful. It is by far one of the (if not the) most thoughtful gifts ever given to me.

Tonight, I felt weird showing this gift. When I normally show this gift, I tell a story about how I met my best friend Danielle. We met while on a debate club in high school and were introduced by mutual friend because we both like Cher. The mutual friend figured Danielle and I would be friends because we like Cher. I automatically was turned off by the friendship just because of how we met. As it turned out, Danielle was pretty persistent with wanting to talk and I thought she was pretty (teenage hormones). What started out as a “eh” friendship, turned out to be out to be one of the best friendships I ever had. Danielle truly became my person. From sophomore year in high school and all through college, we talked constantly. In high school, it was over AIM and having conversations until way after midnight (big deal in high school). In college, it was not as often because we were off doing our own thing, but we were always able to fall back into things without effort.

For my 18th birthday, Danielle made me poster with a letter attached. It as a Cher collage of some of my favorite pictures. Danielle made it as something I can take with my to college and to remember her by. Ever since that day, this collage has lived wherever I have lived. Even when I had to temporarily relocate this summer while the hot water was being worked on in my residence hall for a few weeks, I took this with me. It is something that makes me feel at ease and gives me a taste a home. It reminds me what it was like to have such a great friend with that person never needing to ask for anything in return. After we graduated college and spent time transitioning into real world jobs, Danielle still did her best to keep in touch over text. There was never a detail we kept from each other (most of the time) and she is truly one of the most patient people I have ever met.

I felt weird about showing this gift tonight because for the first time, I couldn’t tell that story. I could not tell about how Danielle and I are so close and talk all the time. This summer, Danielle and I had a fight. Truthfully, I had a fight with myself texting Danielle and Danielle decided she had enough. In retrospect, it is amazing that Danielle didn’t drop me as a friend sooner. At some point, it became the friendship where I asked for everything in return and somehow it was never enough. I took for granted that no matter how mean I could be there, Danielle would still be there. I had to learn a lesson the hard way this summer about what it means to lose a friend as an adult. While I like to think that most days I’ve proven that I can function without Danielle, there are days when I just miss it. It has been instinct for long to have her be the first person I talk to in the morning. Danielle got me through some of the darkest times in my life all while being hundreds of miles away most of the time. I needed to be more patient and I needed to be more understanding about what her needs were. I don’t blame her for deciding to take a step back and not talk to me – there’s no way I can. I showed Danielle a pattern of behavior that said that I wasn’t willing to change and Danielle showed me that a person never deserves to be treated that way.

As sad as it is to lose Danielle, I still smile when I think about her. Danielle taught me something major about what it means to be an adult. I have to learn how to let the little things go, love a little bit more, forgive more often and understand that truly isn’t about me all the time. These past few months showed me that I can’t depend on her and I needed to learn how to survive on my own. It’s not fair to take out my bad days on someone I love. It was never fair to manipulate situations that made her feel like the worst human being. I’m glad I had a chance to realize those things and I am glad I had a chance to realize it with her. Whether or not she knows it, her last act in our friendship was the biggest act of love a person could show me – she forced me to grow up.

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The best gift ever. Thank you, Danielle.

15 Things We Forget To Be Grateful For

Thought Catalog

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1. The moment we wake up in the morning.

That moment when you open your eyes and breathe in a new day — it in itself is a wonderful blessing to live and see the world another day.

2. The pale blue sky, the summer rays and deep blue ocean.

Nothing feels more ‘alive’ than sitting on the beach and just taking in everything around you — that fresh and liberating feeling of admiring Nature as Time gives you halted seconds of beauty.

3. The love, care and support from our parents.

Parents are our most crucial lifelines. They are there from kids until we grow old, and will never stop supporting us until we reach our dreams. You can call them a nagger, but they will always be your greatest source of strength.

4. The high school friends who were there throughout the years.

These guys remind you…

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Being Alone vs. Being Lonely

It’s such a fine line. There are moments when I come home from work and it’s quiet in my apartment and I assume I’m lonely because I’m alone. Then there are weekends when I have absolutely no plans and I stay in PJs for two days in a row. While sometimes that’s something we all need, other times, I desperately want someone else there.

The truth is, since I am alone, I am never sure when I am just alone or I’m lonely. I definitely know the feeling of being around people and still feeling lonely. It’s so hard to tell when you live alone and you’re single. Most days, I enjoy the time I have to myself. I like not being accountable to anyone’s time or having family obligations (pros of living six hours away from family). Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when I enjoy having plans and the company of others. There are just days where time goes by slowly and I can’t help but think about how lonely I am. I don’t believe today was one of those days, but weekends leave me with being alone with my thoughts for two days. It’s always struggle to be social at work Mondays after so much alone time.

I don’t necessarily believe one is worse or better than the other. I just keep hearing there’s a difference between being lonely and alone. I know it’s a fine line, but I don’t know where that line is.

Relationships Make Me Nervous

A year and a half of being single and I would like to think I’ve got a handle on this being single thing. I went through all the ranges of emotion following my relationship. I was ecstatic at first because of I felt like a Mack truck was lifted off of me. I was a little sad because I really did lose my person – she is the only one to this day who can probably tell you what I think about something before I’m given a chance to think. I was angry because why didn’t she fight to keep the relationship going (in retrospect, she did this with full effort for months). I was disappointed with myself because once I realized what my mistakes were (oh, there were many) I wanted to rewind and have another go. Finally, I’m in a place where I am content with it all. I feel that we needed to end things. It would be so much easier if I was angry with her – I’m not. I always hope that she finds better and finds someone that can give her all the things I couldn’t because no one deserves it more. So, now, that means it is ultimately my turn to finally move on past it all.

Truthfully, I really have tried. I started to find peace within myself and be happy with who I am. I spent a lot of time seeking happiness from other people and things that I ultimately would end up sad in the end. Now, happiness isn’t limited to that one awesome day or that one awesome text. I’ve gotten so much better with finding joy in each day and with doing little things just for me. Sometimes that means a big spending spree at Target or treating myself to coffee instead of making it myself. Everyone always said that I needed to work on myself before I truly moved on and it is definitely still a work in progress.

After a summer filled of first dates (some second dates) and awkward text message, I feel pretty confident in stating that I’m ready to actually be in a committed relationship. The issue is – I’ve gotten way too comfortable with being alone. With relationships, I work on full blast or nothing. There are days where I think there’s no way I can be with someone again because I love my alone time too much. Other days, I’m naming our future kids. The truth is, I really just met this person and I am terrified of the unexpected. In my last relationship, we were friends before we were dating and it was a seamless transition for the most part. I really don’t know how to do that take-it-slow-and-it-will-build-into-something approach. I’m not saying that we need to get married next weekend, but I am never sure how slow is too slow. I suppose it is not an exact science and whatever is meant to be will be. In the meantime, relationships are weird and make me nervous.

Here’s the thing. I dive in head first. Each and every single time. I can’t help it – it’s who I am. I’m so guarded that when I see a good opportunity to just go for it, I do. I know that this has a high chance of me getting hurt in the end. It’s just that I can’t navigate the waters with someone who is taking it slow after I’ve already made the dive. It’s neither one of our faults – just that we have different expectations and different ways of getting involved. I keep telling myself that I will stop putting too much other there too soon, but I am reminded that there are no rules to dating. I know as the guy I am supposed to act not interested, but I can’t help it. When I really like you, I want you to know it. In my world, there’s no reason to keep that a secret and take it slow.

Friendships Are Complicated

Friendships have always been complicated for me. A lot of has to do with the fact that I am naturally a guarded person. It’s not that I am not willing to be vulnerable and open up, I am just not going to willingly volunteer information. It takes a while to build trust with me and I know that about myself. Growing up, I was burned so many times by people I thought were friends that I feel like it has permanently scarred me. I also feel that the people I’m friends with do not consider me in the same category of friends that I consider them.

In life, friends typically fall into these categories:

Acquaintance: This isn’t a bad spot to be with a friend group. You see this person every so often, wish them the best on Facebook birthdays and maybe consider getting dinner or drink with this person every six months just to remember what they look like.

Good Friend: This might be a friend you text a few times a week, give up information when prompted and meet up once a month or so to keep the title of “good friend.” This is not the person you text when something awesome happens to you and can be a person do not even think of text until they text you. I usually see this person as the one that you make plans with a week in advance and then the time comes and you’re all, “I don’t really wanna go anymore.”

Best Friend: This category gets tricky. This is a category where you can start to get hurt because there are all these expectations that you’ll talk to this person constantly, information about each other is a two-way street and you can stop everything for this person. This type of friendship comes about not necessarily because you want to be best friends with someone, but because you’ve known them for a long time. Either you’re friends from middle school or freshman year of college. Since there is so much history, you feel obligated to put this person into this category when more often than not it ends up being a chore to maintain at times. However, sometimes this friendship kind of great and it works out – sometimes.

Your Person: This is the friendship that is effortless. This is the person that wants you to tell them what time you woke up in the morning and you can’t wait to share such meaningless info. This is the friend that can talk you into and out of everything and tell you what you’re thinking before you think. This is the person that hears through the grapevine that you had a terrible day so they surprise you with all your favorite things. This person is who keeps you sane. This is the person you trust more than yourself.

For me, most of my friendships never quite leave the good friend stage. For me, I’ve placed people in the best friend category while I was only really in their acquaintance category. Having this unbalanced friendships are tough. What makes it harder is when you never have the someone that you’re person. What’s worse is when you lose someone that was in your my person category. I’ve lost two of the people this summer and while I still survived, I am still not quite sure what to make of it or what to do about it. It’s hard and lonely. Friendships are complicated.

I’ve taken an inventory of my friendships lately and it’s looking like the clearance rack at Wal-Mart. I’ve two people who were in the “my person” category. I’ve recently had a friend I considered to be a pretty close friend (I’m probably in her acquaintance to sometimes good friend category) move out of town for a job and I haven’t heard from that person since. In fact, hearing from that person a month before they were leaving was pretty rare and getting together to say goodbye seemed like the last thing that person wanted to do. A close friend got married in May and now this person is off doing married people things. There’s another friend who has moved a job  and another one moving to Denver at the end of the month. Do I smell or something? Everyone is moving!

While people moving for jobs, school and a change of pace isn’t them saying “I don’t want to be friends with you,” the fact is these friends weren’t all that close to me anyway. So, now that they’re all gone, there is definitely no reason for any of them to text or call. Considering that I have at least a solid 8 months left in Rochester, friendships are going to be necessary. I’ve had days where I’ve gone three days without getting a text message and nothing makes you feel lonelier than that (sad, but true). So, this post isn’t meant to be a woe is me type of post, but more of a, how do I make friends and keep them? Better yet, how do you make friends and keep them? Ideas appreciated!