I fall apart

In my 28th year I have finally realized my bane. Christians are always struggling with some kind of sin. Lust is a common admission among men in church small groups. Many will spend too much time, money, and thought on being accepted or liked. Pride is, of course, the trump of all sins. But I haven’t heard many well-meaning citizens of heaven admit to an achilles heel like mine: insanity. I’m off, and more than just a little bit. The definition of insanity is to continually attempt the same action under the same circumstances and expect different results. Imagine putting a pot of water on a piping hot stove and watching expectantly for it to turn to ice, over and over. I am insane. Nice try grabbing coffee with me and talking me through my current bout with insanity, accountability partner. You can’t even trust what I am writing right now. I’m an unreliable narrator, that cooky neighbor who waters himself, and an incorrigible Spades partner who sends all the wrong signals. Thank God they found a field that would take me: education. Let me give you a window into my tom-foolery.

Once when I was working at Serve the City (a service project) in Brussels with my brother and sister-in-law, we listened to a speaker convince us that, no matter our current trappings, we were only a short series of events and several days from finding ourselves homeless. Everyone was touched by his speech, except for me, as I knew if all else failed I could always turn to modeling. I vowed to myself a long time ago that I would never commodify my body unless homelessness was only the alternative; either that or accounting. And if things had gone a little bit differently last Monday you may have seen me in your local J Crew window, donning assortments from their winter collection. As I am every Monday, I was all over the place at school. One minute I was teaching complex mathematics; another I was teaching soccer to 4th and 5th graders, selfishly inserting myself in the game and sweep-kicking the ball directly into little, fragile Isabelle’s right arm. It also may have been the first day she overcame her fears and supposed “sore back” and joined the class’s activities. Here’s to hoping it wasn’t her last. As I was leaving school I groped into my backpack for my scooter lock key, only to come up empty. I searched everywhere, but no key. I was going to have to find another way home. Kind Mr. Stewart, a younger but more experienced colleague, was leaving the school as I searched for answers.

“Jon,” I called to him, a fellow Jon, “can I get a ride to the metro?”

“Sure,” he said.

I explained to him my predicament and he seemed to sympathize as one who has dealt with similar circumstances. Later riding in his 1986 Toyota Tercel I realized this must have been true when I manually rolled my window all the way down, which somehow resulted in the passenger door opening as we were moving, some sort of gerry rigged miss hap. He also may have misspelled “handout” as “hadout” on the board last Friday, and when I pointed it out to him he may have responded, “It’s going to be a long Monday.” As we were getting into the car the penny dropped. I had lost something else.

“Um, I just remembered that I forgot my wallet at home this morning,” I confessed, “Can I get a few dollars for the metro.” Just then I realized I had become homeless.

“Yeah, of course,” he said, “you can just use my metro card.”

“Great,” I said as he handed me his card, “this is really helpful, but what I really need is some money. You see, my family is stuck in Tennessee, where our car broke down and I don’t have any money to fix it. I just need enough money for a bus ticket to Knoxville. It costs twenty dollars. Please, sir, I am really in trouble.”

Here’s where the insanity comes into play. This situation could have been avoided had I not come to school scrambling from a rushed morning, where I deemed a forgotten wallet a lost cause because I was already late to work, which wouldn’t have happened had I woken up on time, which would have happened had I gotten enough sleep, which might have happened if I had gotten my stuff together at ten o’clock and gone to sleep by 10:45 like I promise myself I’ll do every morning when I arrive at school unkempt, stressed, and tired. But I never do it. Every day is bookended by an epiphany in the morning and folly at night. Maybe I have short term memory loss and I need to tattoo findings on my body so that I can remember Sammy Jenkins and go to bed earlier. Maybe at any given moment I’m so entranced by the possibilities of the present that I refuse to see the wisdom in planting a seed for later growth. Or maybe I’m lazy and lack discipline.

Either way, here I lay in my lab coat and rubber gloves, setting my alarm just a little later than normal to make up for my late night, crossing my fingers that 30 minutes is enough time for an eggs and bacon breakfast, a shower, and a shave. Maybe this time.

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