Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A Reminder to Myself

In a month, I'll reach an anniversary to which I am unproud. Unfortunately, forgetting the incident would be silly and callus. As a punishment, I was forced to write a reflective letter to my best friend. The letter meant a lot to me, because it was the first time that I could actually articulate all of my feelings on what had happened. The scary thing was that I almost lost it. I was cleaning up my files a few days ago and almost completely deleted the letter from my computer. As this is a day of rememberance...I thought I would put up my own reflective letter to Ian.

"A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning out my garment bag that I have taken with me on every trip I have ever taken. In one of the pockets, I found an old letter that had been given to me by my friend, Ian. It was like one of those poignant moments you see in movies, where you are not sure what the letter is, but realize that it has some importance. I opened the letter and began to re-read its contents.

The last paragraph struck me pretty hard: “And beyond any of that, this just seems like a good place to write it…dude…you’re my best friend, and I believe in you like you don’t even know. I want you to win more than you do, I think, because…well, you know. You’re awesome. Everyone knows it. And starting tomorrow, it’ll be a part of history.”

Memories came flashing back to me of my experience at Nationals with my best friend. Holding his hand, waiting for his name to be called at awards. Pepping him up before a day of competition, when he was not feeling his best. Him being there when I found out that I had lost my final round of competitive debate. Thinking back to all of these memories, I realized once again how much they meant to me.

I look back wondering how everything could have changed so dramatically in so little time. How could the person involved in some of my most cherished memories also be so involved in the scariest moments of my life? How could things have gone so wrong, so fast?

The answer I guess is pretty easy…literally and figuratively.

Being roommates was tough on Ian and I. While Ian and I were good friends, good roommates we were not. We simply had different needs for where we lived and what we expected from each other. Those differences created much of the conflict we experienced. Every time the other did not meet our expectations, an argument would ensue. After I finally had enough of our bickering, I decided it was time for me to move out.

I decided the best way to tell Ian was by emailing him my intentions and striking a deal with him to end our fight. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be the best of moves. When I got to the apartment, Ian was visibly upset. I checked my email to find an unkind response to my letter.

Instead of talking it out, the emailing came back and forth, getting more aggressive and spiteful with each tap of the send button. Then hateful and demanding words were traded. Finally, the pushing began and with that the blows. With everything happening so quickly and our emotions not in check, our escalating actions now seemed inevitable.

I have looked back several times to figure out what I could have done to have prevented the altercation. Should I have just continued to live with Ian at the apartment? Should I have simply walked away the moment I realized things were getting hostile? Should I have moved my stuff out earlier? Should I have just talked to Ian about my need to move instead of emailing him my concerns?

The best answers probably were that I should have walked away when I realized things were getting out of hand or at least stayed more in control of my emotions. While I was aware that telling Ian I wanted to move out would hurt him, I should not have been as careless in my way of telling him. I should have physically told him my plans and been present during the moment. Not to make sure my property was more secure, but to be there as his best friend and as his roommate. Emailing Ian was avoiding the issue and a way of avoiding him. It was unfair to him. It was unfair of me to simply expect that he would just be “okay” with me moving out.
At the very least, I should have been able to keep my emotions in check. I should have walked away, cooled off, and then came back to discuss the issue. I should have not let what I was feeling about Ian cloud my judgment, nor should I have let it guide my resulting actions.

The entire incident and resulting effects have been one of the scariest moments in my life. Everything was happening so quickly that it was difficult to get my bearings. Then once I started to get my bearings, I was even more confused. After the incident, I thought everything was all right when Ian and I hugged right before I moved out. Those thoughts were crushed when I heard of charges being filed, lawsuits being explored, and threats being made to my education & career. It was scary because I could not get in control of the situation. The only thing I could do was watch and wait to see what would happen next.

I had to watch my ability to coach be suspended. I had to watch my best friend lose his ability to do the one thing he loves most. I had to wait to see how all of consequences for our actions were to play out. Most of all, I had to watch my best friend slip away from me.

After serious reflection, I find that I am not proud of myself. I reacted badly to a bad situation. I hold others and expect them to hold themselves to a higher standard of friendship, honesty, kindness, and excellence. In this instance, I failed. I failed to encourage communication between Ian and I. I failed to leave a potentially hostile situation. I failed to get help when I realized I was in over my head. I failed at being the person I have always expected myself to be. While I understand my failures, I also know that I am not solely to blame. As said during our mediation, we both share an equal responsibility in our actions.

The relationship Ian and I shared was always a competitive exchange of words, feelings, and thoughts. Our competitive nature was a brotherhood of sorts. On many occasions, I have commented that Ian was like my brother. He was someone that I loved like my brother, unconditionally. No matter what wrongs were committed or times he apologized to me, I always forgave him. In this case, it was something I did the moment he hugged me right before I moved out.

I assume that I have now lost my best friend, even though I always hope that is not the case. I have not replaced Ian, nor have I gotten over his friendship. If I could start over and “retry” that entire hour over, I would give anything. I would give up the debate team, my other friends, everything I own, and everything I love to have one more chance at making that hour go “right.” It only took an hour for everything to go “wrong,” when in fifteen minutes things could have said or done differently to make everything turn out all right.

If anything, this entire incident has shown me my own faults and failures: as a friend, a roommate, and a brother. Ian’s letter is still something I keep in my garment bag. It will continue to travel with me wherever I go. It is something that will always remind me of the good times we shared before there ever was one that was bad. As for now, I can only hope the bad times will end and the better ones will begin once again."

Monday, September 09, 2002

Michigan Adventure

As you probably know or could at least surmise, I work at an amusement park in Kansas City. Our company, last year, bought out a little known park in Michigan called...Michigan Adventure.

I've thought about for a while how aptly the park is named. I too have started my own Michigan Adventure.

This is the first time that I've really been away from home. (Three hours from Kansas Ciy never looked so good.) This is the first time that I have lived away from campus. This is the first time that I have lived outside of Missouri. Each of these becoming a little more scary as I waited to get on a plane to come to Mount Pleasant. As for now, I have no complaints. The weather is nice, the humidity is low. I have my own room, with my very own bathroom. The apartment has ethernet access, a washer& dryer, dishwasher, and a deck. The town is much bigger than Kirksville, lending there more things to do and get in trouble. I have an office, a dial out code, access to Lexis-Nexis when I'm away from school, and real responsibility.

It's everything I dreamed a graduate assistantship would be and more. The classes are great...challenging, but not too challenging. The faculty is always around to give ou a helping hand and the other GA's are a support-system like no other.

But still with all this "stuff," I still miss the people I've come to love and cherish. The Carmack's, Marie, Ian, Abby, Tyson, Matt, Biscuit, Bell, Kevin...and even Todd. I miss my forensics/friendship family. I have everything I wanted to get, but it still doesn't seem like enough. It sometimes feels as if I'm a scared little boy, stranded in the grocery store because I wandered away fom my parents. I want to make a fit, go insane, be sad...but in the end...I know if I can get through it, I can survive the other tests ahead. The real tests...the ones that make up life and living. So, I put a brave face on with my reading, homework, and coaching.
This weekend the team underwent a forensics workshop. Finishing up cases and negative assignments, practicing rounds, memorizing speeches, and finding new interp pieces became the order of the day. It was the first time I really connected with the team...that I wasn't this overbearing coach trying to turn their team into Truman North. We finally understood for what and why we were doing this forensics activity together, hand in hand.

It really was a beauiful moment.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Well, I'm back to posting again. A different venue...sure. But, as Harms said...he wants to hear my witticisms once again. (It's only too bad that he can't have me as a judge and read my ballots.) It'll be like I'm starting from scratch here, so be patient...I don't want anyone frothing over themselves when I don't post three days in a row (Marie :) ). There it first post in a new state, at a new school, in a world. Gosh, I wonder if growing up is always this hard.