‘Microchallenge’? More Like ‘Soul-Searching’

If you keep up with Busted Halo’s Advent Calendar – and why wouldn’t you? – you might have figured out that, while today’s Microchallenge may seem simple enough, it’s actually completely not. Well played, Busted Halo. Here’s what it says:

“Write down the words ‘love,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘patience,’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘forgiveness.’ Next to each of them, write one thing you can do today for yourself or others to express those qualities.”

Here’s what happened.

Love: Because I’m currently trying to figure out what my next step in life is, as are many recent college graduates, I’m living at home. That can be quite the adjustment for a twentysomething who had four years to get used to living independently and according to his own schedule. Also, I don’t know why I’m talking in the third person. But it’s a difficult change – families are nothing if not style-crampers. So, in the spirit of getting closer with my family and to complete the love portion of the Microchallenge, I will be more intentional about a major part of love: honesty. I will tell everyone in my family exactly what I think they should change about themselves and their routines to make my living at home easier.

But really: All of the above is true, except for the part where I promise to be painfully honest with my family members. As difficult as it to live at home sometimes, I’ve never doubted in my life that, when all is said and done, my family will always be there for me. There is nobody I love in the world more, and when I think about how trivial the things that I get annoyed about are, it really puts things in perspective. For example, my mom will subtly hint to me that she doesn’t like my favorite red sweater when she says, “I don’t really like that sweater.” Or my dad will try to get me to cut down on my TV-watching time by providing color commentary for every single show I watch. In the service of love, I’m going to remember how little these things matter, and how spot-on my mom’s fashion sense usually is and how funny my dad’s commentary can be. Unless Modern Family is on, Dad, then please, just for 30 minutes.

Compassion: In the spirit of compassion, I will not force my 13-year-old brother to pay me to spend time with him.

But really: Part of compassion is generosity, and another part of it is genuinely caring about the well-being of another person. In case you don’t remember how life was at 13, I can recap for you: It sucks. I’m not proud that I have this mentality I fall into every once in a while where nobody else’s time is as important as mine. And that definitely comes into play sometimes when my brother wants to spend time with me. But when I think about how much I would have liked to have had a sibling to talk to about those awful, awful years, and when I think about what an honor it is to be looked up to by someone as awesome as my little brother, I realize my ego needs to take a backseat and I need to start being an incredibly inspiring mentor. I mean, good brother.

Patience: In the spirit of patience, I will try to avoid calling potential future employers on the hour, every hour to check the status of my application.

But really: As many recent graduates who were successful in college will tell you, not having a job is not easy. College is a womb where you’re supported and you have incredible resources to become the person you want to be; the real world is the delivery room where your mother is forcing you out and the doctor is holding you by your ankles and slapping your rear to get the circulation going. Also, you’re screaming. But for many people, including myself, success and fulfillment in the real world don’t come as easy in the world as they did in college. That means I’ll be rejected, probably more than one or two or 12 times, and will need to be persistent before I find a job that will take me, and it means that I’ll need even more persistence if I want to find that place where I’m truly happy. It does not mean that I am unsuccessful or that I’m missing something huge. It means I’m 22, the economy is struggling and these things take time.

Tolerance: In the spirit of tolerance, I will not wish uncomfortable things upon the people who tell me how awful they think Coldplay is and how I completely lack taste because they’re one of my favorite bands.

But really: No, really. I’m an opinionated guy, and when I talk to other opinionated people, things can get tense if we disagree. It may not be about Coldplay – it may be about something far more something consequential, like an aspect of the Catholic Church or something political. I’m a huge believer in the First Amendment and the importance of (mostly) unhindered self-expression, though, and if I want to say that without being hypocritical, I need to not only tolerate different viewpoints, but try to understand them and where the person who’s stating them is coming from. Just typing that gave me headache, so this part of the Microchallenge is looking good.

Forgiveness: Twitter went down briefly on Wednesday. I forgive you, Twitter.

But really: The things that require our forgiveness are often the silliest, most trivial things – but sometimes they’re not. While I should let my brother know we’re in the clear for his unauthorized touching of my iPhone on November 17, I should also think a little more intentionally about the fact that my life went through a huge, completely unexpected change in September: A six-month trip I was planning to Vietnam fell through at the 11th hour because the person who was helping me plan it couldn’t come through on some major promises. I pulled out with no Plan B, lost a lot of money and was reeling for weeks afterward. I’ve contended with what’s next in my own life for a while now – it’s time to start the long, probably arduous process of forgiveness.

Your turn.