Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Like My Neighbors I Am

our world...
quiet places, undisturbed stillness
working in my element
I improve my corner of the world,
making it liveable for others

By Pudelek (Marcin Szala) (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I weave invisible walls to protect me and mine.

I like to curl up in a nest that I've made.

I like the night hours because things are still and less busy and noisy.

I don't like to be disturbed in my home.

So like my neighbors.

They close doors behind them to shut others out.

They protect their children with walls—seen and unseen.

They block the world out with ear buds, trying to make a corner their own.

They scurry to their jobs, working to make the world a better place for others.

We like dark, quiet, undisturbed boxes.

We spend long periods of time waiting for something to come along.

We avoid sunlight, and awake from our droning stupor in the early morning and evening hours.

In moments when people scare me, in my fear I might seem unattractive, even vicious.

But I am so like them—Why be afraid?

Because they don't see how alike we are. 

My neighbors—so similar to myself—try to kill me. 

So I hide.

—Hairy Wolf Spider
By Thomas Shahan from USA (Eye Arrangement of a Hogna Wolf Spider) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Preparation

I got interviewed for a radio bit a few months ago. It was really cool—I got to go into the studio, wear the cool headphones, talk into a huge fluffy-looking microphone. I went without too much preparation. The interview was only a few minutes long, and it was about an article I had written, and about people I had interviewed. I thought it wouldn't be too hard.

I was in for some discomfort. My interviewer asked me (before the interview) what I wanted to talk about. I didn't know exactly. The things he wanted to hear about (what it's like teaching abroad, history of Kazakhstan, or more about what it's like to live abroad) I didn't necessarily know much about. I was stuck giving some generalizations and shortened versions of stories I remember them telling me. I left feeling like I didn't convey much when it could have been a fun interview.

Preparation would have made that encounter much less painful. It's not fun to be unprepared. Let's not even talk about how lame it is to sound dumb as soon as sounds come out of your mouth. And to appear like you're not really conveying what you want to. Yup, preparation would have made that go better.

Preparation is running things through beforehand. Figuring out what your purpose is. Planning out what you will say. I learned (again) that I'm not good at doing that on the fly. I needed more preparation before I slipped in front of the microphone.

Doctrine & Covenants 36:30 "but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

But preparation can take many forms. Preparing for an exam could mean hours of sitting with a textbook and notes spread out in front of you. Or it could mean talking with classmates about the course material. Preparing for giving a speech in front of a crowd could mean some time giving your speech to a mirror. Preparing for an interview could mean running through potential questions or getting more familiar with the background of the topic you're going to focus on.

That's where I messed up—I didn't anticipate being asked questions about current events in Kazakhstan, or the pros and cons of different teaching methods, though those were both loosely related to the topic at hand. I wasn't prepared to give my opinion on the feature story I wrote—I was only ready to give a report on it.

So while I did prepare, I didn't prepare correctly for the ordeal (yes, I would consider it an ordeal) ahead of me. It stands to reason that different kinds of performance demand different kinds of preparation—but sometimes we just can't know what kind of preparation is required until we've performed that particular kind of task before. That's a good reason to try new things and at least get your feet wet in several different activities—you'll have a better idea of what kind of preparation you need before doing that again.

But my lack of preparation, in this case, was more than an instance of the wrong preparation. It was also a lack of confidence. And forgiveness.

Sometimes you can't prepare for all the possibilities. In that case, building your courage and stepping forward might be the best kind of preparation you can do. Learning to go with things as they come is another kind of preparation. And not beating yourself up about what happens, the mistakes you WILL make. The scripture doesn't say "If ye are prepared ye shall not mess up"; it says "ye shall not FEAR." And one thing I fear is the bite of self-criticism that comes after not living up to my endlessly high expectations (like doing an excellent job on my first-ever radio interview). How easy that should be to overcome (it is, after all, my thoughts)—yet how intrenched it is. In that case, I think a great preparation for future performance is to forgive yourself for mistakes or "failures" in past performances. Resolve to be kind to yourself after doing something new, or something you know is hard for you. Then you will be prepared, and not give yourself more need to fear.