The Screwtape Letters chapter 8 response—or, “I’m feeling relatively lonely recently.”

Chapter 8 of The Screwtape Letters is about the natural undulations inherent to human nature. The Patient is currently in a “Christianity trough” in the ups-and-downs of Christian life. Every chapter that I read (or the class reads) is incredibly relevant to me and the world today.

As students are teaching/guiding the class, we have specific response questions to do. This chapter’s was something like “imagine that for the next two months, you have late assignments [our school penalizes 10% per day, stopping at 50% off] and still are assigned more and more, making even more late assignments, you’re getting into fights with your family members, don’t have a good time when you hang out with friends, and don’t have the funds to do what you want. On top of all that, you have several quizzes and tests every few weeks.”

This response prompt is so relevant to me, especially about the friends, that it hurts. I haven’t really felt a place among my classmates save for a few close friends. The problem seems to be that I’m involved in so much extracurricularly. I’m on my school and church’s sound and lights team, do middle school ministry at my church, work at my school after my studies three out of five days of the week. I’m just “the guy that’s always there” and get left out of many conversations in my classes. Even the one class I feel welcome in I’ll have to leave next week to start a new semester with Digital Photography.

What’s worst is that everyone thinks that I was at this school for my Freshman year. Well, I was overseas for the whole year. As one person described it, “Chris, we always feel your protective presence!” I have no idea if that’s good or bad, but what I do know is that I was left out of many class-bonding experiences that my class had in 2010-11. Among other things:

  • My class ousted the most-despised teacher in the school because of his sexual harassment of girls in any grade. Keep in mind that this guy was married, too. On top of showing gender-based favoritism (and harassment—not that equal-opportunity harassment is good), he also disliked Asians… too bad that half of our grade, if not more, is like that.
  • This was the year that the 3/11/11 earthquake happened in Japan. My schoolmates were out for over a month, taking classes and discussing online. While school was out, students were helping with whatever relief they could do, between asking for donations in the busiest parts of Tokyo and aiding in immediate relief.
  • Right when people seemed to be getting over the earthquake’s effects and graduation was drawing near, a Senior was involved in a motor accident which suddenly ended his life. The chapel that the school had following his death, was, obviously, filled with emotion with people who’d never think of doing so hugging each other.

It just seems weird that I haven’t been together in the bonding experiences in the worst trials, yet everyone thinks I was there. The more I think and write about it, it probably means I don’t even need to be in this grade because I pose no specific purpose to it “always being there” and all.

As for the other things, like school work, I’m taking seven classes out of the seven periods that we have every day, with no study hall at all. The only day I have free to do homework right after school (place and time I can concentrate the most) is Thursday. If need be, I can move things around, but it’s not ideal for myself or the others that are either hiring me or expecting me to be practicing with the chapel band. Next year is going to be equally stressful if I do take all the classes I’m anticipating to, which are

  1. Bible & PE (required)
  2. Spanish III (personally optional, but I want to learn more)
  3. AP Psychology
  4. Physics
  5. AP Calculus
  6. English (required)
  7. Japanese Culture/Global Issues (required)
  8. Computer Programming/CompSci (before school, so no schedule conflict yet and possibly a one-semester class)
  9. Art I (one semester)
  10. Yearbook (year-long class)

Those are eleven classes, of which four are required and one is before school. I’d need nine periods in the day to do what I want to do. I also have my job, which I can quit next year, but don’t want to. My service activities surrounding worship and other things are going to take at least ten hours out of every week. If I want to join the Student Council and am elected to do so, that’s another average of two to four hours out of my week. I can hardly do independent study, and Senior year is supposed to be even more stressful than Junior year because we have a thing called Senior Comprehensives where we need to find a global issue, present on it, and offer solutions for it as a year-long project. There’s so much that I want to do, but not enough homework time, motivation, and relaxing time.

Re-examining (and challenging) myself.

When I was a Freshman and Sophomore, I was fairly prideful about the fact that I had a sense of direction in life. The university I was aiming for was decided, as well as my major there. However, in light of more recent events, I’m finding the need to re-evaluate the plans I have for my future not because they’re bad plans, but because there are so many uncertainties it is confusing me.

A year ago, I wanted to go to LeTourneau University, a small Christian university specializing in computer science and engineering (especially aviation), topics that I find great interest in. There, I was going to take their “Aircraft Systems Computer Science Concentration” course. Ever since going on GT last summer, though, my desire for Christian ministry has been realized even more. I am really lost at what I want to do, in addition to satisfying my parent’s desires for myself. No matter how much I want to respect my father’s wishes, it seems like he wants me to live a linear, impactless life of graduating high school, going straight to get a Bachelor’s, then getting some sort of job where I’d wither and die after working for 50 years. I know it’s a generational thing where his generation wants to provide a future for their children, while my generation regards rebellion and independence as virtues.

In examining my current situation, I find that I’ve been spending more time on consumption rather than production. I’m consuming TV episodes like a flame consuming kerosene-soaked cloth. I’m endlessly reblogging on Tumblr. I enjoy doing things like cooking, writing, and knitting, more than consuming, yet I’m spending more time consuming than producing because it’s so much easier that way. Ironically needed, my school’s theme this year is “Do Hard Things,” taken from the identically titled book. I’ve learned that by challenging myself, I’ve increased my writing ability by blogging and discovered new, yet enjoyable, skills like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator editing and knitting.

In absent-mindedly consuming (reading is active-minded) I quickly lose time and essentially tie my own noose because of procrastination. From what I learned over the summer, I believed that this year would be a year of restoration/healing. I’ve seen relationships that have been broken between myself and others being rebuilt, and there is still some way to go. But this next semester, I want to start challenging myself in more ways than I have before, including touching the guitar that’s sitting in the corner of my room, playing more than an Em chord.

This next semester, but also starting now, is going to be full of new challenges. I’ll be taking a Digital Photography and Graphic Design class that’ll teach me better photography and framing techniques and polishing the Illustrator, Photoshop skills that I’ve started working on. I’ll commit myself to reading at least three chapters of my Bible per week, as I’ve severely lacked devotional time.

Challenges, challenges…