Yesterday, I taught a lesson for Sunday School. Talk about feeling incredibly intimidated and out of place. The last time I taught a lesson I was surrounded by an audience I understood. I could easily make a reference to Sex in the City and joke about homosexuality. (Sadly, I'm not kidding). However, yesterday was a completely different experience. I felt like my words stuck together and my thoughts didn't seem to have a point. Anyway, I didn't decide to write in this blog as some self-deprecating review about Sunday performance. Instead, I haven't been able to shake the experience I told at the end of class to put a little "real life" application to what I was attempting to teach.
I was eighteen and a freshmen in college. It's unbelievable to me that that was ten years ago. Ten years never seemed to go so fast as time does now. Anyway, that first semester was a blur. I remember a lot of sunny days sitting in some bizarre and tucked away room with some bad smelling man telling me how easy Calculus could be. No matter how many hours I spent in that forsaken "Help Room" (which really should be re-named at some point) I never understood a second of Calculus. I'm not kidding. The entire class was one big question in my mind. I had no idea how to come up with an answer...or even how I passed with a C plus. Anyway, I digress.
That first year, though basically failing every class, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. For the first time I had a group. I had a group of people I loved hanging out with and seemed to like me. We all were athletes, we all were loud and we all got along. For the first two months of college I went out a lot. I went to every bar and every off campus party. It wasn't that I really enjoyed these nights, I just enjoyed being along for the ride. Eventually, this inclusive fun wore off. I became nothing more than a glorified designated driver. One night we were out at some off campus party. I remember our captain, Karen came over to me and told me my teammates and roommates were ready to go home. I was sitting outside against a car talking to someone who wasn't drunk. To this day I don't remember who that was, or why in the freaking world they were sober. Anyway, I didn't want to go. As I tried to protest, I looked over Karen's shoulder and saw my teammate, Courtney, fall down the stairs. Once, that kind of stuff happens you don't really have any grounds to protest.
With the help of most of my semi-drunk teammates we managed to shove three of my roommates into Courtney's car. Unfortunately, the fall down the stairs didn't help to bring any clarity to the situation and the three of them were convinced they were not drunk enough to go home early. Therefore, as I pulled away they started to open the door and try to jump out. We played this cat and mouse game for awhile, and finally, I conceded that if they fell out of the car I was not going to feel bad. Finally, after running a few stop signs and committing a few other traffic violations (you see, if I stopped they would try to jump out...therefore, to remedy the situation I decided to just keep the car moving)...we ended up back at campus. By this time they were all convinced I was of the devil and only sent to judge them. As we got out of the car, they started to lay into me. They told me I was nothing more than a self-righteous Mormon, who really didn't belong at this school. I can't even express the sadness that moment brought to me. I thought for two months I had constructed the most believable facade. I was fun, I was a partier, I was the "open-minded" Mormon. NOT self-righteous and most certainly different. That's what I didn't want to be. But, in a moment that hope of mine came crashing down. In a second I was no more than simply called out. After tearing me apart they demanded me to drive them back to the party. Defiantly, and may I say, completely out of character, I grabbed the keys and threw them into the sea of cars. I told them if they could find the car - they could go back...which they did - only they walked.
I will never forget that walk back to my dorm. I remember the stairs that led up from the parking lot to the dorm. I don't think I made it to them before I completely broke down. I was exhausted from going out, and I was sick of playing a part I never liked. That night I cried myself to sleep and prayed for the first time to be really heard. That next morning I emailed my mom the story and she emailed me back Doctrine and Covenants 122:7. I had never read that scripture before, but once I did, it became my mantra at school. Basically, if the jaws of hell gape open to take you down...be patient...because all of this is for thy good and shall give thee experience. (paraphrased of course). "Give thee experience." I couldn't shake that phrase. I didn't know then what that meant, and maybe I still don't. But, as life went on from that fateful day, to my senior year to my mission, it started to make more sense.
I'm not sure why I recount the story I just told yesterday. Maybe because it was such a pivotal time in my life and really defined how I was going to look at life.
Or maybe, because as long as I live I don't think I'll ever be able to shake that night from my memory. Lately, I've been getting in touch with old teammates of mine. It's been six years since I graduated, and I still feel those feelings of being an outsider. I still feel like they categorize me as that "different one." However, I have no regrets. I guess the desire to be utterly accepted - if it be during a Sunday school lesson or as a young kid in college - never leaves.