Right now, my life is pretty rad. I get free lodging. I get to experience the rest of this year and next with six wonderful peeps. I get to experience Christianity in a whole new light. I get to go on retreats and experience nature in its finest form! I get to experience my first full-time job. And the best part, I get a ton of free food! I do not live a life of financial riches, yet I feel enriched each day.

I do feel I am missing something important, though. Throughout my life, I have surrounded myself with people I have immediately clicked with and with people I would not have qualms with. In these relationships, tension and conflict existed, but rarely would that tension and conflict lead to a state of interactions that became especially awkward and of ill-feelings. Maybe a few of my relationships have gotten to that point, but never has it been an ongoing feud or an immediate thing that I needed to deal with. I either left a failing relationship and moved on or I dealt with whatever the relationship issue was and resolved it quickly. Right now, I do not have the capacity to leave several of my relationships. Nor have I done enough to address or remedy the issues in several of my relationships. This might be the first time I’ve been compelled to maintain relationships that aren’t so easy to maintain. Even if I wasn’t compelled, I must remind myself that it is important going forward to fixate my time and efforts on addressing whatever needs to be resolved. If I want to combat my feeling of losing out on relationships with lovely people, I must act promptly.

For my spiritual sake, for my sanity, and for the happiness of those I am attempting to cultivate a healthy relationship with, it is imperative for me to change. Change is not easy, but I, over the course of my time with LEVN, have been told that I need to work on several things, particularly my communication skills and listening skills. I have concrete things to work on! I once thought I was okay at communicating and listening to others, however, more than few people have told me to work on these skills, so I must be wrong. Is it easy to make these changes? Heck no. Still, learning to adapt and to alter my behavior to be more responsive to the needs of others is what will guide me in my endeavor of cultivating healthy relationships. It is important for me on a personal level and it is key if I desire my relationships to endure going forward. That is what I’ve been told, and I truly hope these advices will push me towards a better path.

Nevertheless, it has already been demonstrated to be a difficult endeavor to journey on. How is it possible to connect with others and empathize when I have a different perspective? How and when will I be able to express my feelings when I am told there is much that I must work on to alleviate my harms on others? How should I come to terms that I have indeed harmed others? How can I envision myself changing behaviors that I never thought were so harmful? How do I be the person others need me to be? I still ask these questions and ponder more.

Though I have pondered these questions in the past several weeks, I cannot yet confidently answer them or even imagine how to answer them. The last time I had to reflect to this extent and needed to answer difficult questions was when I was beginning as a student of sociology. I questioned my privilege as a white heterosexual man. I questioned my privilege as an American. I questioned a lot. Now, for the first time, I question my very core as a person. A person that routinely interacts with others. Did it really take this struggle with a few of my peers to realize that I’ve been finding shortcuts to escape those I do not respond well to? Who knows, but what I do know is that I must find ways to connect with others, listen to others, and communicate in a manner that does not disrespect the other. I am thankful for these advices even if I fail to show that appreciation.

I remember now the advice my aunt and uncle gave me before I applied to LEVN. The gist of this advise was to be uncomfortable. Up to this point in my life, I think that I’ve resisted the fact that I could be entirely wrong in what I find to be the case; I think that I’ve jumped ship whenever a situation felt out of my control and not worthy of my time; I think I’ve done so much to avoid being uncomfortable that I’ve ultimately missed opportunities to grow. I cannot do this anymore. Even if I feel to my core that I am right, I must question that feeling. I must ask of my peers to lift me up in my time of struggle. I must be uncomfortable to then find comfortability in all other areas. There is so much work to be done, but life tends to favor growth.

Altogether, changing and entering uncomfortable situations may be what needs to happen to position us forward. I have heard throughout my life that change is bad. I have heard that while we ought to listen to others, we should not change ourselves for the sake of others. Starting now, I would like to scrap both of those sayings. I must say that I am worthy of change if it is for the other. I must say that I am willing to listen to others. I must say I am willing to be myself and will build onto myself to bring joy to others. We are not self-made. We are made with the other and I will not hold back anymore the opportunity to grow with others.


– Zach

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California