Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How I Spent My Winter Break

After a month-and-a-half long break, I just returned to seminary for my second-semester. Naturally, this means I've been seeing a lot of people who I haven't spoken to since mid-December and we are all asking each other the same obligatory question, "How was your break?" As I've answered this question multiple times, I've realized that what comes out of my mouth sounds terribly depressing. As I'm sitting here, I'm literally laughing at how bad it sounds. In the hope that you will do the same, here is a list of 9 memorable things from my break:

1. My girlfriend and I broke up.

Obviously, this is a sensitive topic that shouldn't be discussed in detail on a public blog. All that needs to be said is that a relationship I was in for two years ended, and of course that was not an easy thing. Around the time this happened (before and after) I wasn't good for much of anything except lying in front of the space heater I got for Christmas.

2. I tried (and failed) to work on a Semlink class.

I am part of a scholarship program that requires me to take 10 courses a year. It's pretty much impossible to take more than 4 courses a semester without going insane, so that means I have to take some courses outside of the normal Fall and Spring semesters. Feeling ambitious, I thought I would start an online course during January and get the majority of it done over break. I signed up for Contemporary Theology, a course that analyzes and critiques modern thought movements in Christianity, and I was excited to get to work. I listened to the first two lecture MP3s, but before I could go any further I needed to do the reading for the lectures. I ordered the first text - John Cobb's Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition - for $0.01 on Amazon and waited for it to arrive.

One week passed. No book. Then a second week. Still no book. Finally, three weeks after I placed the order and with only three days of break left, a package arrived. I opened it and found this:

Those postmoderns and their flimsy, man-centered theology!

3. I tried to watch Mad Men.

Supposedly, this is a really, really good show. The critics are unanimous, it has an 8.7 rating on the IMDB, and it's won a ton of awards. President Obama even wrote a fan letter to the show's creator to thank him for his work. In light of all these accolades - and considering that it's an AMC show (the network that already broadcasts two of my favorite shows, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead) - I thought I'd give it a shot.

I managed to stick it out for a whole season, but when the first episode of the second season paid little attention to any of the plot lines that had kept me watching in the first, I decided to stop. The show has great production value and solid acting, but I rarely got the sense it was going anywhere, and the few times it did seem to be going somewhere it would just suddenly stop and shift it's attention back to not going anywhere. Peggy's pregnancy, Sterling's heart attack, and the return of Draper's kid brother were all interesting to me, but none of those events had satisfyingly significant repercussions, and, even more frustratingly, none of them led to any substantial character transformation.
Maybe I gave up too early. This seems to be one of those dramas that takes its time. After one season, though, I felt kind of ashamed for spending as much time watching it as I had. This is a very dark show. It is not a show with "flawed heroes." It is a show without any heroes at all. Characters move from one illicit dalliance to another and after awhile its hard to tell whether the writers even want the audience to be shocked or saddened by their affairs. I don't think I'm going to continue with it.

4. I got sick. 

I had been doing so well. Usually, when something is going around I'm the first to fall, but last semester I managed to remain healthy while all the guys on my floor were dropping like flies. I started to feel a new confidence in my immune system, but that confidence ended over break. One afternoon I was helping my Mom do some shopping and I walked into a Wal-Mart and felt like the car ride had made me unusually queasy. It was all downhill from there. I spent the next three days in bed feeling sick to my stomach, trying to soothe myself with crystallized ginger and Netflix.

5. I injured my vocal cord.
 The Saturday after my bout with illness, I thought I was well enough to sing and play guitar at Tabernacle (our weekly church service). Our set list included a great new song, but it was especially challenging for me to sing ("This is Amazing Grace" by Bethel Live). It ended up being a great night of worship and I'm so glad I was able to be there, but after barely talking - never mind singing - for most of the week, singing "This is Amazing Grace" really took a toll. The next day, I felt like there was a knot at the top of my throat and had difficulty swallowing, which I later came to realize was most likely due to straining my voice the night before. A week later, I still couldn't sing without my voice hurting. I tried to sing again last night and I only made it through a few choruses before the knot in my throat started to come back. I'm hoping it will recover with another week of rest, but I'm realizing just how much I hate not being able to sing. I bought Bethel Live's new album and I've been listening to it a lot. I like it, but every time I listen to it I have to stifle my desire to sing along or pick up my guitar and play the songs myself.

5. I went to the ER. Twice.

The morning after the Saturday I hurt my voice at Tabernacle, I went to visit some friends in New York. While I was there, we went to a church planning meeting at a pastor's house. When the meeting was over, several of us stayed to socialize and he offered everyone cigars. I declined the offer, but I did inhale about 90 minutes worth of secondhand smoke.

When we left the house, I realized I wasn't doing so well. My chest was feeling tight and I felt like I couldn't get enough air. I was also having trouble swallowing, which I later came to realize was probably due to the vocal injury from the night before.

After about eight hours, I felt like my symptoms were getting worse, not better. I tried breathing fresh air, taking an inhaler, taking allergy medicine, changing my clothes and washing my hair - nothing seemed to normalize my breathing. So, around midnight I asked my friend to take me to the ER.

The short version of this story is that I didn't sleep at all that night and I actually ended up going back to the ER a second time to have an EKG around 5am. After seeing an allergist the next day, it seems what happened to me was the result of a perfect storm: my body's depressed immune state made me more susceptible to the cigar smoke, which apparently I'm allergic to. The allergy led me to hyperventilate, and then the resulting tightness in my chest and shortness of breath led to anxiety which led to more hyperventilation. The vocal cord injury - which I didn't recognize at first - heightened the feeling that I couldn't breathe and made my reaction feel even scarier.

Whatever was primarily responsible, my breathing took days to feel normal again - almost a week.
From now on, if this happens I am running away

7. I got sick again.

Because of the exposure to cigar smoke and consequent all-nighter, I completely relapsed into the stomach bug I had the week before. Once again, I was confined to the couch for about three days and the house for the following two. Basically, I lost another week.

8. I had to cancel 7 appointments with friends.

There were lots of friends I wanted to catch up with over break, so early in January I started making appointments to hang out with people. Looking at my calendar in early January made me feel happy: I was going to get to see so many old friends! Unfortunately, most of those appointments were scheduled for the two weeks I was sick. In total, I had to break about 7 appointments. Bummer.

9. My car needed to go into the shop. Twice.
 My dear 1998 Toyota Sienna Minivan was not sounding very good at the beginning of break. Then it went from sounding bad to feeling bad (poor acceleration and rumbling). I feared it was gasping its last. Fortunately, none of the problems were too severe and it should have a decent amount of life in it yet, but I still had to take it into the shop twice and pay money I wasn't expecting to have to pay. I'm praying it gets me through the rest of seminary.

So, there you have it. Hopefully this semester will be a good break from my break.  

1 comment:

  1. Don't worry about that Semlink class, I have been working on an independent study since June of last year.