Our theme for the month of June is “older and wiser.” Writers were asked to write a response to one of their previous pieces. Today, Christina responds to her August 2021 post, “I’ll Just Be in the Other Room, Fainting.”

Let’s go back to the beginning.

At the time I wrote my very first post for the post calvin, I was two years out of college and still living in Michigan. I didn’t know I would move to DC in a year or go back to school or that the place I now work even existed. I had people yet to meet and an entire chain of grocery stores to discover. 

The inciting incident for my first post was when I got lightheaded after giving blood but stoically attempted to not pass out in front of my roommate. I’ve given blood a few times since then and am pleased to report that I’ve not felt poorly any other times.

While I looked for jobs after finishing grad school last year, I had a nice list of things to do before (Lord willing) I had the opportunity to surrender all of my weekday daytime hours—things like go to a few more museums, take the special recycling to the special recycling place, and figure out how to better manage the dry skin on my face.

And, to donate blood. That one I did do. (Yes, thank you, I am still a good citizen—although not as good of one as I’d be if I had actually dropped that recycling off.)

I went to a different blood drive and came back to a different home and a different roommate than the summer of 2021. I had a new diploma tucked in the corner of my room and lots more confidence navigating public transportation (and writing post calvin pieces). But I don’t think I told my 2023 roommate I had given blood. And if I had started to feel faint, I’m not sure I would have let her see.

I suppose “likelihood that one will alert their roommate to feelings of illness/wooziness” isn’t a traditional metric of personal growth, but it’s a data point. And I wish I had made a little more progress in the time since it last came up.

“It just turns out that I’m really intense about trying to hide moments of physical weakness.”

Still pretty true.

“I think I was so caught up in trying to appear competent and grown-up that I tried to shut down any and all signs of weakness.”

Definitely still true.

“As much as I’d like to blame the pandemic for the distance I feel in the acquaintanceships I have in my new town, my brief fainting spell the other day shows me that I’m still terrible at being visibly flawed.”

This one too. Even though we’re past the pandemic and I’ve not felt faint in front of anyone recently, there are still plenty of other quirks or accidents or missteps that I’m afraid will be perceived as flaws. So best keep them hidden, just in case.

But sometimes, and I like to think slightly more so now than then, I show my hand a little bit. 

Last summer I had to get new license plates. Back in my building’s parking lot (after getting towed on my birthday while at the DMV trying to get said plates—a story for a different time), I gave my best effort to loosen the rusty screws. I recruited WD-40 and each variety of screwdriver in my toolbox but the rust just wouldn’t budge.

A guy stood next to his car a few spots over, and I was awash with frustration and self-consciousness, hoping he would just please go inside so that I could struggle in private.

But he didn’t. He was new to the building and waiting for his friend to let him in. And you know what? I asked for help.

And he couldn’t get them loose either, but it was a friendly and brief interaction.

I abandoned the task and started mentally preparing to take it to the mechanic Monday morning. But after church that Sunday, I answered honestly when someone asked how I was doing and I told them about this annoying car thing. One of the pastors ran upstairs to grab the church’s power drill and offered it. I borrowed it gratefully, went home, and tried again with renewed hope. 

I still couldn’t get it loose.

But I was grateful for the help, said thanks anyway, and asked when a good time to return it would be. Instead, he asked “Would it be alright if I came and gave it a try?”

Would it???

He and his wife were there within the hour, waving away my apologies. He ended up not being able to get it off either, but wow I appreciated the effort. That series of events became a bookmark for when I really felt like a part of my church, and it made me want to ask for help more often. Because it felt pretty nice.

It’s still not my first instinct, to allow someone a peek at my weakness or to ask for help, but I keep believing just a little bit more each year that there are times when showing someone my hand might be a pretty good idea. Not just because they might be able to help make the problem go away (although that’s great), but because I might leave the interaction actually feeling better about myself—because I’ve been reminded that someone cares about me. And that feeling feels way better than the feeling I get when I think I’m coming off as cool and independent and need-less.

 

P.S. For anyone wondering, my Ann Arbor roommate Brianna did read that first post and she was incredibly kind about it and pleaded that I let her know if I ever felt like I was going to pass out around her. And writing this reminds me that she texted me ages ago and I never responded. I will do so now!

 

Honorable mention:

In “Dear Posterity” I said that I hoped when scholars in the distant future analyze my journals they’ll conclude that I had learned “how to live justly, how to spend [my] time well, how to make hash browns like the diners do.”

I have in fact learned how to make some mean hash browns.

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