Card, Keys, and Lead

Within the past 3 years of having a part-time (recently full time) job, I’ve encountered interesting and differing levels of following and leading.

Before I go on, I’ll explain how Chick-fil-A (at least the one I’ve worked at) works as far as leadership goes. And, as the visual is likely familiar to most of you, I’ll use a triangle.

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For over a year (2014-15), I worked as a regular Team Member. While a promotion to Team Leader was certainly exciting when it came, there is something that is extremely valuable that I lost when I was a Team Member.

 

The “Team Player” 

While I certainly hope I could have been considered a “team player” with the title of Team Leader and Manager, “Team Player” in a sense was already in my job description in leadership. As a Team Member, working for the sake of the team and your management is more of a choice rather than something you’re getting paid for.

Don’t get me wrong… if you want to live up to that paycheck, I’d more than recommend always being a “Team Player”. But while the attitude is habitual now that it is 100% expected, it wasn’t necessarily when I was a Team Member. It was a constant and conscious decision. Not only is there an immense value as an individual in adapting this work-style, but now looking down from a leadership position, I see the wisdom and sacrifice of Team Members when they decide to “give one up for the team”. This might mean standing outside with the iPad for an extra hour. Hauling bucket after bucket of ice to refill *every* bin. It might mean standing in the window for six hours and forcing yourself to be cheerful.

But there is something else extremely valuable. Now managing, I hugely appreciate the Team Member who has no idea why I might need them to stay in a position or why we have to change a procedure. There are frequently multiple questions that I really cannot answer to a Team Member, but they decide to give me a firm nod, an unquestioning, “Sure! No problem!” and rush to do what I’ve asked. This is constantly a wonderful thing, and does *not* go unnoticed.

 

Cheerleader with a Card and Keys 

Congratulations! Your managers sigh with relief to have another pair of an override card and another key that can change. Now you can officially begin training newbies and are experienced enough to step up in a crisis. Go don that blue and white pinstriped shirt and struggle to find a balance between friend and leader.

Two weeks into being a manager, I look longingly at my Team Leaders. They stand next to the team members and work through the shift. They are in a blissful position where they can handle most situations, but still have someone else to pass on an angry guest to. You have an understanding on how shifts operate and how to help your manager. But you also keep your head in the game and in a position. A former director of mine called us the team’s cheerleaders.

I underplayed my position as a Team Leader. My managers and directors told me I was appreciated, but I didn’t quite understand it. The Team Leader gets to *know* the team. They know when to laugh with them and when challenge them to grow.

 

The End of the Line

As far as the shift runs, the manager is the last one to make the tough calls, handle unhappy guests, unhappy Team Members, or troubleshoot problems with the registers or technology.  It only took a few days for me to start glaring at that phone when it rang and dreading that wide-eyed team member running to me with “Uh…there’s this lady… and…” Actual full “breaks” during a shift, are a thing of the past.

But here’s the cool thing.

I have incredible, fond memories of the managers who took me aside to coach me personally and challenge me to take the next steps in my time at Chick-fil-A. As a Team Leader, I could do a lot of “cheerleading” but once I stepped into the shoes of the manager, I actually have the authority to really grant opportunities to eager Team Members and can encourage them at a different level. I love reaching people, but the most satisfying part is that I’m paying back a debt to the managers that invested in me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. It’s a wonderful thing to turn around and hand the baton to the next in line.

I know I’ll sound cliche saying this, but it has only continued to resonate as true as my roles have changed: Team Member, Leader, Manager… all are extremely important and equally necessary to run the restaurant. I didn’t believe it as a Team Member or a Team Leader. Wasn’t it the managers that ran everything? No. I need you, new hire, veteran Team Member, frightened bewildered new Team Leader. I rely on everyone to try hard at everything and seek to learn something new every day.

 

 

Growth as an individual happens in different positions. There are things I learned as a Team Member I couldn’t have learned in a management position. There are things I learned as a Team Leader that I couldn’t anywhere else. I’ve discovered Team Leader actually fits my natural gifting better than Management does – and that’s something that I know I will take with me for the rest of my life. It’s all valuable. Life isn’t always about scrambling to climb that ladder. It’s seeing the position you’re in with honest eyes, and knowing that you can have a ton to learn right where you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Charm of the Insignificant Street

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There were sights to see. The Colosseum took my breath away. It took an hour I think before I realized I was looking/walking around the real Eiffel Tower. I did little excited giggles inside Notre Dame. I gasped over and over when stumbling upon a palace garden in Vienna.

There are the typical tourist things that I don’t regret doing. While in Berlin, we happened upon a free tour and just went with it. In Salzburg, I spent the best $40 of my life on a Sound of Music tour. (I highly recommend). The Forum and the Colosseum were well worth the ticket price and weaving through the other tourists.

As the trip progressed, my sister and I found that we’d spend a little more time walking. We grew a little less concerned with taking metros and busses to get across the city to the “next big thing” and a little more occupied with, “Hey. this looks like a cool street” or, “I wonder how you get up there. Let’s find out.” We did plan things sometimes. Like… a full hour before we did them. We’d arrive in a city and disregard some of the big touristy things and instead amble around the block and sit and eat oranges in a park.

We “missed” some things. We didn’t see the Vatican City. We didn’t go into one of the museums in Florence that had the famed statue of David. We didn’t feel stressed about being on the wrong side of Pisa without time to see the leaning tower. We didn’t go to a concert in Vienna. We didn’t sit on a balcony in Paris and drink wine and eat cheese and stare at the Eiffel tower. We didn’t tour the castle/palace in Prague.

I got home and when people found out I’d been in Europe they’d ask if I’d done such and such. I’d say no.

“Oh! How could you *not*?? That’s like… the *best* thing there! That’s soooo sad!”

 

In case you’re wondering, don’t *ever* do that to someone who’s been abroad. Maybe they were sick or tired or didn’t find out about it until too late – or maybe they decided to do something else. You just make us feel bad. We doubt what we *did* go do and are now worried about having missed this grand adventure that apparently we waved aside.

I’ve gotten better at shrugging at these remarks.

“Well. I couldn’t do it all.”

That’s true. I do wish I’d seen some of Michael Angelo’s things in Rome. I also wish I had had more money to spend. Or more time to hang out in a city. Or an insane amount of energy running around. But do I wish I’d been more stressed about not missing anything.

Nah. Not really.

There are a few things I didn’t plan, that I just let happen, that I love remembering, seeing pictures of, doing. It was that “insignificant” street that I walked down with my sister (not a tourist in sight) that made it real for me. The Eiffel Tower is pretty, but it feels a bit fake, like Disney Land, when the only people around are other Americans (or Asians. Those people know how to live their life and travel!).

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I felt like I was really in Paris when my sister and I crawled up on the ledge on a bridge just after sundown and waited for the Eiffel tower to begin to sparkle at a distance. When she and I accidentally wound up on that “rich” side of town where our tank-tops and shorts made us look really awkward, and where we expected to get kicked out or run into a celebrity (or both).

Salzburg became real when we walked and twisted around those streets to try to figure

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best. cat. ever.

out how to climb up that mountain. When we took a shortcut through a neighborhood and looked behind us and saw the mountains. The Sound of Music became real when we walked down a street, got back to our hostel, looked at a video clip of the movie and squealed/screamed when we realized we’d just come down that street.  When we went down a little path and found the world’s friendliest cat (just like Austrians! The world’s friendliest people!), which we petted for a good while. When we found a church and sat quietly in the back watching a nun take care of the flowers by the alter.

Florence became real when we decided we were just going to walk across that city and

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content pigeons

not take busses. It was real when we stopped, bought gelato, had it melt all over our hands, and walked across the bridge as the sun began lowering in the sky. It was real when we sat one evening in the square and I did what I always wanted to do: feed pigeons who flew and landed on and all around me (aka, feed really fat birds while the painter beyond us looked on in amusement at those silly Americans girls)

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unhappy lost gal

Berlin even became real when we got lost, couldn’t find out hostel, and got stuck in a
McDonald’s with no luggage and limited communication. (that’s another story)

Rome became real when we sat in a park near our hostel and ate oranges and watched kids run around and play. When we bought my sister some shoes at a random stand because her’s were falling apart. When I realized we’d walked right next to the prison where Peter and Paul were kept, and then we went back to see  it.


The Czech Republic became real 
when

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hobbits

we took a 12-mile hike through the countryside. Walked along the highway. Laughed at the sheep with long tails. Swung our arms and legs like proud hobbits when we decided we were practically in the shire. Moaned when it was longer than we thought. Climbed over fences to get at wild blackberries. Groaned and wanted to cry as we had to quickened our pace right at the end to make it to a town to catch a bus.

Versailles was real when we lounged outside the golden gates and ate cheap, yesterday’s bread. When we took really good, cheesy, silly, dramatic, pictures in the gardens and laughed.

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we’re so “glamorous”

I could have gone and done all those “big things” everyone thinks I ought to have done. But I think I would have come home feeling like I’d just been to Disney land. I’m not sure I would have had the reality of navigating foreign streets, listening to another language, and walking down a random quiet street. I don’t want to whiz by on the top of a tour bus and take pictures the whole time and be in a magical land.

I might stroll down the Champs-Élysées like everyone else, but I also might take a turn down another insignificant street and actually enter the city for what it is outside the tourist busses and flashing lights.

 

-CJ Jean

 

The Impact of a “Free Hug”

Have you seen this man?? 

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His name is Ken, actually. But I when I tell people about him I always say, “Yeah, just google “the free hugs guy” and he’ll come up”. I found out his real name after I ended up following/stalking him on Facebook. 

I remember turning on the TV and staring at the Boston Marathon bombing. It took me a little while to understand that it was actually happening.

A year later, I saw a video of this “Free Hugs Guy” standing in the marathon, giving out hugs. I also remember seeing videos of him hugging police officers.

I cried.

A couple times. 

Maybe a few. 

Okay, I still cry every other video that comes out.

But that’s beside the point. 

While I just want to brag/advertise what this person does, it made me think and I’ve realized how it has continued to change the way I interact with the world. 

I don’t necessarily just want to discuss what he does, though it’s important. Here’s a  video that will sum it up pretty well (DISCLAIMER, there is content/strong language from some very angry protesters). What I do want to talk about is how he’s changed my thinking, even if it’s been in a small way. 

Picture me, this white girl. Raised in a generally very safe home. I’ve lived through some very tough financial situations, but overall, I’m very blessed. I still have both my parents married. I was raised in a Christian home and am a devout believer. I was homeschooled. I have a college plan that is fairly sound. I have a job. I have friends. And I realize that I am far more privileged than so many people.

It’s extremely difficult for me even to continue and figure out how I want to express how my world is altered. This photo may help some things:

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This women would have disgusted me. I want to puke when I see this mocking face, laughing voice, treating this man like trash because he’s black.

Ken is still hugging this woman. He’s smiling, though it is probably extremely uncomfortable. He doesn’t turn and lecture her. He has stood between people and had “lively” discussions, but he knew he couldn’t get anywhere with this lady. There was no way talking to her would solve any problems when she wouldn’t listen anyway. So he just did what he could. He hugged her. 

What this has done for me is beyond racism. It has helped me drastically in how I look past people. Being generally “cute and clean cut” (as one of my jazz peers put it) I tend to maybe sidestep a little from someone who is dressed darkly, with piercings and skull/nude pictures on their shirts, big baggy pants, skimpy attire, etc. I tend to move further away from men, white or black, if I’m walking alone.

But I also have been able to see myself in perfectly safe situations, and still duck my head when walking past someone who seems a little intimidating. Two rather frightening looking girls became the main people I talked to in classes this past semester. There was a black guy who was somewhat large and buff, who I got along with really well when the rest of our class had giant arguments/discussions. 

I recently purchased a “Free Hugs” Tshirt. I needed a challenge. I needed to be okay with letting people who were different get close to me. I still needed to be safe, of course. A girl walking by herself is always at a slightly greater risk. 

Ken could hug a women who was belittling him and telling him he was trash. I think I can afford to be a white girl who might look approachable and available to anyone (though, there are some who roll their eyes at my Tshirt and move away from me). 

This is beyond a hug. It’s beyond a Tshirt that may look corny or weird to people. With or without the shirt, I want to be that person who can look someone in the eye when you walk past. I want to look like I’d just give out a free hug anytime, to anyone.

I wish I could spend this entire post just bragging about this “Free Hugs Guy”, but just describing a little of what he’s done for me is putting my word count beyond what they recommend for blog posts.

Check him out. He rocks. I have no idea what his faith is, what his political convictions are, and I’m not sure I care. He’s doing this right. 

Here’s to one of my heroes of today whom I’d love to meet. 

“Fear and hatred will cease to exist when love is in abundance.” – Ken 

https://freehugsproject.com/about-free-hugs-campaign/

-CJ Jean

Mexico Appreciation

Being a graduated senior and having prepped for a reception and open house, I’ve gone through far more photos of the things I’ve done or general pictures of me than I’d ever care to see. Mostly, they were from Europe. Visiting 5 countries and 9 cities does demand a few more photos and certainly more attention. But when I thought of my travels in general, there is a more subdued but definitely powerful experience that I found in Mexico.

Europe and Mexico were so drastically different. One was extremely fast paced. The other was slow. Europe was valuable in that I discovered where I might like to go back and spend a slower-paced few weeks of discovery. Mexico, I learned to love the jewel as it was around me.

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Hiked up a pyramid and taking a selfie while getting a weird look from a stranger

It’s funny how different my time in Mexico was from my time in Europe. Europe was full of the suspense of getting on trains, reserving hostels, navigating cities, and seeing the sights. I loved it. But when I think back on Mexico, my general vibe from memories is
feeling like that was a place much more like home.

It was seven weeks. Longer than in Europe, plus012

I generally stayed in one main location, hosted by one incredible lady, met only a few people I spent my time with, and fell into a pattern of doing some school work, walking down the street to buy fresh juice, spending the afternoons rotating through a few different people, and the evenings with dinner and half-way understood conversation.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of random incidences that I remember so clearly. Every small moment was appreciated. I was basking, soaking in every moment.

The ladies at the juice stand.

The lady at the little store who told me her 12 year old son had a crush on me, “that American girl”

The old lady who stopped me on the street and began talking about goodness knows what.

Volleyball at a family reunion (which occurs…just about every month).

Listening to an English Poetry competition. People kept thinking I was there to judge.

Having at least three different cakes/surprises in my birthday week.

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Exploring ancient ruins

I suppose you could say that the Mexicans taught me how to slow down and enjoy life. Which is part of it I suppose. More importantly, I think I learned how to enjoy small, tiny moments of life. I met people with incredible stories. People with heartbreaking stories. People who stuck closer together. People who were rejected. The odd freedom of ignored schedules, and the maddening consequences of people who think that “3:00pm” actually is the same thing as “6:00pm”. The appreciation for amazing food. Jokes where I managed to catch the story, but didn’t understand the punch line. Bad and hilarious translations. The way you had to go around the room full of 40+ people and kiss/greet every. single. one.

I’ve realized how little language matters when a people and a culture decide to include you despite the fact that you understand less than 50% of what’s being said. I hardly remember the language barrier. I just remember the people, the laughs, the times we had.

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The back of the pickup truck

I think Mexico was the first step into my developing love for different cultures, different people, different countries and their systems. I learned to get comfortable in their shoes and life, and I learned how different people can be. When I got to Europe, I learned more about Parisians/Frenchmen, Germans, Czechs, Austrians (<3), and Italians. Slowly uncovering the specifics about Mexico made me realize how much I actually *didn’t* know about a people, and how long it could take to fully understand a culture (I hardly understand my own). That prepped me for my trip to Europe when I realized that there was actually very little I was seeing within those countries and those people. Understanding that you probably know very little about a thing is what sets you up to be better able to actually begin learning.

When I think about the countries in Europe and what I’d like to understand, there’s really only one thing to sum up an entire culture.

What do they value?

Mexicans value family. They value education. They value their culture and their ancestry. They value parties and having a good time. They value children. They value independence. They value the outdoors. They value music.

Learning all that is what has changed the way I see people and culture and life.

What does the rest of the world value?

 

-CJ Jean

 

For Your Sake?

Everyone dawdled.

“k…bye Mr. Ford…”

No one really wanted to leave.

You’d think that after political tension, cultural differences, and even some racial struggles to understand one another, we wouldn’t really care whether it was the last class there or not.

You’d think *I* wouldn’t care.

While writing a previous post about the discomfort and necessity of being in a diverse crowd, this Jazz class was at the forefront of my mind. It was in this class where I tried to reach out to students who rolled their eyes at me, made fun of me, ignored me. But it did gradually change.
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A thought came to me a few days ago when I began asking why.

Why was it this, dirty, confused little class with people who didn’t try, who smoked, who made jokes about sex and drugs. Why was it this class I felt closest to? Why were we all closer as a group of students in this class than my other two classes? I’d grin walking into this class. We’d make really dumb jokes and ask lots of questions. There were times I felt rejected, but that was gradually overcome. They’d share a joke with me. Echo things I said. Walls were broken down. We’d make fun of Mr. Ford and he’d make fun of us.

But why? These are the same people who told me the “white man” was their enemy to my face. These were the same people who passively made fun of my Christianity. I had told them I had wanted to understand, and confessed that I didn’t. I thought they wouldn’t listen. They acted like they didn’t hear me. But I wonder if they did. I wonder if they look at people a little differently now.

It sounds like a complete paradox. I can’t both be hated and loved in the same class, can I?

The students were talking about how they hated their other classes, and yet when Jazz was dismissed for the last time, no one moved. We usually high-tailed out of there at 12:50, but we hung out for another 5-10 minutes until Mr. Ford made us leave.

The thought that came to me as I sat somewhat slouched in my chair in the auditorium with my feet up on the empty row in front of me.

“Does God bless an entire group of people, an entire class, for the sake of one person? For my sake?”

I think of old testament stories about God sparing a large group of people for the sake of a couple who were faithful. I’ve thought of entire buildings or people groups that behaved differently because of one person. Or was it for the sake of one person? Did they, in fact, do nothing but give a place to God?

I’ve fallen in love with jazz. I’ve fallen in love with diversity. This class has motivated me beyond anything I had before to be challenged by an entire group who felt and thought differently than me.

I can’t help but wonder if that class would have been different if I hadn’t been there. Would these students have gotten along? Would there have been just as many laughs or friendships? Would people have been as close? Would they not care about the class ending?

I’m not saying at all that I personally changed that class at all. If you stripped every bit of God out of me, I’d be completely insignificant. But that was the class I cried out to God for. The class I’d pray for when I entered, and the people I’d pray for when I left. My presence only existed because God decided He wanted to walk close by me.

I am reminded of the authority we have in God. Because of Him, did that class belong to me? Could I have stepped inside the room and claimed the chairs, the walls, the lectures and the people, all for the glory of God? Do I have that authority?

I don’t truly know whether or not God blessed an entire group of students for my sake. But I do know that through the difficulties and lessons through that class, God blessed me for my own sake. And it’s a blessing I’ll take with me onto a different campus this fall.

 

-CJ Jean

 

A Tribute to Chick-fil-A

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Just a casual opening shift…

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Working on your birthday

As I pulled through the last stages of finishing high school, I realized how much of my education and general “know how” about making it in this world came from working three years at a little restaurant nearly overflowing with popularity.

My operator is moving on to another location, and as I watch the team beginning to divide and go their separate ways, I realize how much has been invested both in me, and how much I’ve personally invested in it.

Three years, most of high school. I’ve learned when to say yes and when to say no, how to function with decisions within management that I liked and that I didn’t, and how to not only “get along” with a team of what is almost family, but thrive within it.

People have come and gone. It’s weird to think back on some of the people I liked most that I only worked with my first six months or so.

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A personal touch on the coffee pots

JMac
Andrew
Maxon
Tom
Bekka
Moises
CJ
Maleah

And all those faces I can picture so well, whose names escape me.

It’s weird too, to think about the people who I was with for the entire three years.

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what you do when it’s slow

Alexis
Byron
Jill
Sandra
Chris
Edgar
Gia
Kristi
Mr. Guy

(to name a few)

 

 

And all those who have come along since I’ve been there.

 

Emily
Christina

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My phone has been stolen by these two ladies

Allison
Hannah
Braden
Brittany
Josh
Abby
Myya
Jasmine
Erin

(to name just a few more)

Some of the most bizarre moments is when I can turn around and glance down the front counter and realize that I’ve been there longer than anyone. That I’ve trained nearly everyone there. I sometimes exchange glances with Alexis and realize I’ve known her longer than nearly everyone in the restaurant. Things change so fast. Sometimes I’ll take a month off for travel and come back to find a team that is completely altered.

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pretending we’re sports fans

New leadership, new hires, people gone, changes in management.

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broken fridge

I haven’t always liked everything that has happened. But I don’t think I really expected to. My first year was completely starry-eyed and wondrous. Once I hit leadership things changed, but they were good. I learned how people can sigh with relief that you’ve got promoted and how people can glare at those keys on your belt and try to ignore you out of spite. You learn to roll with it. You learn who you go to for help. You learn who to ask to help you grow. You suddenly discover who it was who decided to invest in you and trust you.

(Thank you, Alexis and Chris)

The leadership is about to completely change for me this summer and it will feel like a new job even though I’m working in that same, lovely building. I’ve just about already said goodbye to that part of my life. My timeline there has gone hand-in-hand with my time in high school.

There has been one lesson out of those three years that I think is the one that will stay
with me:

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goofy grin of bewilderment upon promotion

Ask questions. Ask those above you how you can improve and grow.

I asked questions and gained friends.

I’ve asked questioned and have been challenged.

I asked questions and gained mentors who cared.

I asked questions and got a raise.

I asked question and was handed a pair of keys.

I’ve asked questions and have been given projects.

I asked questions and was given young (sometimes frightened) teens to train.

I asked questions because I cared. I wanted to understand what was going on around me, why things were the way they were, why was it done like this, who does what, how this worked…the list goes on. Sometimes a newer employee will come to me and say they feel like they need a raise or a promotion, or whatever. I tell them to go ask someone how they can get better. They can come to me and ask to be taught how to do a task. They can go to a manager and ask for a review.

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I get to be Anna

All those teas spilled, milkshakes splattered, fries dropped. Guests’ laughter, sassy coworkers, slow whistles, teasing and pranking and giggling and singing after the doors were locked. Crawling on the floor and scrubbing dirt and mold. Getting sprayed in the face with goodness knows what. Running through a storm and getting drenched. Hosting birthday parties and little kid hugs. Free milkshakes and pats on the back. Invented recipes that either tasted terrible or amazing. Contests and bets and getting out early and leaving after midnight. Breaking records and answering the phone. Calling back into the kitchen and mucho love!!!

Here’s to you, Chick-fil-A. To those who invested and trusted me. To those who made me believe in myself and gave me confidence that I actually could do this thing called “being an adult.”  Thank you for entrusting me to take care of guests, of new employees, creating a positive atmosphere, and helping others to grow.

It’s been my pleasure.

 

-CJ Jean

 

A Little Dirt

Hiding isn’t good for me.

Last fall, I got comfortable being mainly at home, going to work in my safe little Chick-fil-A, doing online classes, pondering my explorations of Europe, and getting cozy with my little ways I help around the house, and become involved at church.

I began to feel just a little dead inside. I can’t quite explain it, but other than the way I banged my head on the kitchen table over the half-semester statistics course,  I was faced with few challenges. I don’t mean school challenges, relationship challenges, or challenges that arose from work. I still had all those things of course. But I’d flip through the bible at times, and toss it aside and heave a sigh. My cushy life was a tad bit boring. I was doing things, and I was busy and stressed, but it was still a little boring.

When I stepped back onto the community college campus this spring, I began to understand why I was a little bored.

In my comfortable, privileged, white-girl, Christian life, I need some push-back. I need people to throw me dirty looks, cuss, mock Christianity, and brag about sleeping around.

 

A couple years ago when I was in Mexico, I was hit with the reality that I knew what I believed, but I didn’t know why. I was faced with a girl my own age, wanting desperately to find meaning. After throwing curious glances my way for six weeks while I spent time with her and her family, she suddenly demanded a why. I believe I was only able to give her a why because I had spent those six weeks wading through some murky and dark habits and behaviors. I had begun demanding a why both from God and myself.

SF+Considers+Fee+Cigarettes+Offset+Cost+Cleaning+FQhHT84Jhsal.jpgBeing around teens and adults who blow cigarette smoke in my face and talk trash behind their friends’ backs, force me to again come to the question of why I picked Jesus. Why I need to read my bible. Why I continue to walk toward Truth and Light.

There are days where I can turn my face upward, see the dirtiness around me, and yet feel God’s smiles and embrace. I feel beautiful and loved and I feel safe in His care when I tread through the same people who are crawling in agony of their meaningless lives filled with trash they feed themselves. I walk off campus and shake the dirt off my shoes and go home.

There are also days where I walk out of my jazz class, climb into my car, and cry. I cry because my peers don’t want to talk to a privileged white girl, and especially not a Christian one. I cry because they can’t see how badly I want to befriend them. I cry because they can’t see the insane love God has put into my heart for them. I cry because I can get angry with God for telling me to be a friend to these people when they seem to hate me. And I also cry because it hurts when people roll their eyes because you point out that drug addiction is still killing celebrities. They don’t want me to “judge”. They don’t want me there. They don’t like it when I can be in a conversation and then quickly exit it when they begin talking about sex and drugs. I cry because I hate how listening to cuss words coming from their mouths make them echo inside my head, even though that is not who I am.

I’m the person they see straight through. The person that makes them uncomfortable. The last person on earth they want to be around.

I’ve realized that with all that frustration, anger, tears, and pain of being rejected, I still need these people. I need that crowd of the lost to remind me why I’m found. I need people to talk trash around me to remember why I stepped back into God’s garden. I need to see people with no identity to remind me that I know exactly who I am. I need people who don’t know the truth, to remind me I have a book full of truth in my bag, and I need to pull it out and fill myself up with it. When people brush past me because I’m too “clean-cut”, I remember that Jesus was also mocked and ignored and rejected.

Once I remember all those things, I begin to see a mission in my life. I understand Jesus a little better. I understand why I keep managing to smile and talk to my peers.

I need to get on my hands and knees and crawl around a little in this world. I need people to press me a little, mock me a little, perplex me a little. I need people to point and laugh a little, so that I can turn around and look at my life, and see theirs, and remember why. 

Don’t hide, Christian. Sometimes you need to walk around and get a little dirty. You need to remember why.

-CJ Jean

 

 

 

 

 

Your Feminism is Squishing my Feminism

While I’ll save the intellectual, well-thought out important debate to my older sister, I still have a slight complaint with the world I live in and their political correctness.

I’m not going to debate, I don’t want to discuss politics. I’m the one that turns and runs with my fingers in my ears when someone wants to discuss who should be in charge of what, and why this law is bad, etc. etc. I prefer my world in which I act according to my conscience and walk with God in every day situations.

But…

Take me, the cross between high-school and college student right now. First off, I do want to add a disclaimer on my upcoming complaints and say that, yes, I’m actually highly enjoying Art Appreciation. In general, I love my no-nonsense teacher, and she likes how engaged I am in the class. We get along capitally.

So, we begin to study women in art. And then we sidetrack and study some women and their rights, Victorian all the way to present. Still somewhat relevant – no one is complaining.

My first problem:download.jpeg

In general, the expected consensus is that we are all supposed to agree that women were terribly abused in their rights, (Need to emphasize the upper-class, here. Not necessarily talking about the working-class women) practically forced to wear corsets, stay in the home, forced to have children (le gasp!), forced to be religious and pure (double le gasp!!), and forced to obey their husbands (triple le gasp! Pardon me if I faint dead away).

In further discussion, the textbook and my instructor would have us believe that while the women were forced to stay home while society thought it was totally okay if men went away into the houses of prostitutes all the time. “Nobody cared what [the husbands] did” (- actaul quote from my teacher). But oh no, those poor women… they had to stay home and couldn’t go the prostitute’s…wait, what are we even talking about again?

I’m kind of confused at this point. My art-turned -history teacher now is wanting me to first accept that all married upper-class men force their wives to stay at home with the kids while they go gallivanting off to clubs and prostitute’s homes all the time. And yet she also wants me to shake my fist and say it’s not fair that the women can’t go… too…?

Like I mentioned before, I do get that it’s a little stupid that women couldn’t go out (couldn’t, aka, where looked down on if they did) to cafe’s, public places, etc. But please. Are we really taking it to how it’s not fair that the wife and husband can’t go cheat on each other equally? Why are we making a point about how couples should be sexually independent of each other instead of say… why maybe prostitution is a bad thing…?

These poor male fellows in this class are twiddling their thumbs, biting their lips, and staring at their desks while us girls are supposed to rally and pump our firsts in the air about the injustice of it all.

 

My Second Problem:

Besides the expected “tisk tisk” from me about how it’s not fair that women couldn’t act foolishly like “all” men did (really. you’re going to say that all of the husbands did this? Not one of them didn’t visit prostitutes and stayed loyal?) I’m also supposed to sigh in sadness at the art of the women in the homes with kids.

I mean… isn’t this the most tragic thing you’ve ever seen?

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Let me tell you a side-story, which is the first thing I thought off when shown a picture (similar the the above) and told to sigh in sadness about it.

I was visiting a school, talking to an AP US History class teacher, trying to decide if I should take the class there. I asked what we studied. He pointed happily at his textbook: “Only this! That’s it, and you get the score!”

Okay, I guess he wasn’t understanding me. I inquired further,

“Like, what historical documents and stuff to you study? Or American Literature and such?”

“Pffft! We don’t do that! I want you do have a life!”

Ouch. Apparently, don’t have a life. He completely misunderstood what my questions even meant. Apparently this gal doesn’t have a life if I want to read…like…actual history documents and such?

This was the same sort of effect that this Art Appreciation class has had on me.

“See these women?”

“Yes…”

“They have to obey their husbands. ”

“So?”

“They stay at home.”

“And?”

“They raise their kids!!! “

“…”

“Isn’t that just awful?? They aren’t allowed to have a life!”

“Well. I guess I don’t want a life. I’ll be seeing you. I’ll just convert to an abused woman and stay crumbled in agony in the house married to a dishonest husband who leaves every night and surrounded by wailing children I must teach to read and play the piano. Because that’s not a real life. By doing all those abused women-y things, I’m no feminist.”

There were problems. I’d like to vote. I’d also like to not where a corset. I’d like the freedom to go swing dancing, walk downtown with friends, etc. I have those freedoms now. And I do want women who want careers to be able to go get them. My sister (I swear) is going to be the most awesome and obnoxious first-lady someday or something.

I’m not informed enough to know if there are still problems in the light that there were a hundred and ten years ago. I’d argue that the inequality of today comes from the general acceptance of pornography, gentleman’s clubs (I hate driving through West Virginia and Missouri and a local street in my home-town), and the stripped down celebrities like Lady Gaga who seem to abuse my privacy and do more damage to women identity then all those  men who apparently underpay us.

But that is a discussion I’m not really qualified to argue about.

For now, excuse me while I crawl into my anti-feminist role of getting married and raising kids at home.

By the way Art class, your feminism is sticking out its tongue a little rudely at my feminism and calling it the problem. I’m not sure that’s really fair.

-CJ Jean

 

 

 

Childhood Reflections-Letting go and Thankfulness

I’ve fulfilled a childhood dream this year. 

I went to Salzburg, Austria and did the Sound of Music Tour. I ran along the little roads Julie Andrews did, ran across the Do-Re-Mi bridge, ran up the steps pointing upward, and felt completely and utterly like a child again. When I tried to explain it to me, the closest I could get was saying, “It was like a city where I just walked through my childhood again.”
My mom put on the soundtrack in the car unannounced once and I broke down sobbing. I’ve watched the movie again recently and cried sporadically nearly the whole time. I had done it. I had never thought I would and yet it had happened. I had touched my childhood again and it was forever stamped on my heart.

I’ve noticed an seemingly odd theme that has constantly been reoccurring this year for me. It’s been just the past month where I’ve realized this isn’t just a coincidence, and as my life is unexpectedly taking turns I wasn’t looking for, God has been bringing up my lovely childhood and reminding me of what in my past and lead me to be who I am today.
I’ve recently been so focused on the future and only the immediate past. As a high school student frantically finishing up my last year, working part-time, and figuring out my plans for college, I’m guessing this is actually a pretty common thing. The ‘future’ is all that is discussed, all that people want to know about, and that deep dark hole that I, alongside with other young adults, are peering down into with wide-eyes.

 

Earlier today, our house glowing with our old Christmas decorations, my family watched some home videos. They were from a Christmas twelve years ago, half a dozen kids all under the age 13 were running around, gasping at decorations, opening presents, running back and forth between a newly opened gift and hugging my parents saying ‘thank you’ (we never really did the Santa Clause thing).

In our home videos, there’s a random clip around the Christmas season of my parents filming six-year-old me, asleep and curled up on the couch next to the sparkling Christmas tree. For some reason, it was a punch to the gut and I felt six years old again. I did that for so many years. I’d sleep next to the tree, and I remember one magical night where I went to sleep underneath it, hearing some electric spinning ornaments, and seeing the lights dancing between the (plastic) needles. I wanted to do that again, I wanted to play those imaginary long-running games/stories where I’d be a princess and I sneak around the house and play-act it and hoped nobody would see. I used to crawl into closets and close my eyes, praying and asking God if I could go to Narnia. I used to climb up trees as the sun was setting and sing (thinking no one could hear me) songs from Annie. I’d trot around the basement with my siblings and play ‘town’ (named Musicville). We’d organize and play week-long games with our stuffed animals to the music of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Vivaldi. Runaway Castle was a pre-planned game with the same character out on our playset, tents out of sheets and fighting our evil royal relatives who would try to poison us. We had swords and fought our couch, pretending it was a monster. The trampoline was once Rivendell and the playset transformed into Helms Deep-tomato cages became orcs.
Even with the constant messy tangled hair, a million little siblings, difficult financial times,  and a couple years where I would cry multiple times a day,  I had my absurd romantic mind (…maybe I still do), optimism, slight bossiness, and a extremely affectionate nature (I couldn’t stand it when people were upset), all of which, to some extent, carried onto who I am today.

 

This Christmas season has only just begun, and has been painful. It hasn’t just been realizing I’ll be leaving for college or a job (or both) very soon. My life is taking a dramatic turn I hadn’t foreseen, circumstances I can’t really go into on this blog. But it’s hit me this year, that this isn’t going to last. True, childhood had already pretty much ended for me. But my siblings and I have still managed to all sleep together on Christmas eve, and go down the stairs to find our tree. We decorate cookies, play silly games, eat cereal,  and forget that half of us are now at least teenagers (or twenty-somethings). This could be the last year this happens like this.
I don’t know what is going to happen or when, but I’ve been reminded of how precious my life has been thus far, how wonderful my parents, and loyal my siblings, how beautiful the weird traditions that have been invented, and the million inside jokes. I’m going to have to leave this home at some point, and seek out another. My parents have spent over twenty years of their lives building a home, with beautiful relationships, safety, memories, and a devoted loyalty. Somehow, I have to figure out how to build something similar. It was so easy to take the safe world my parents built around me for granted. Somehow, I’ll have to build another one for myself and others. I don’t know how they’ve done it. I didn’t realize how short a time I’ve been able to rest within it.

When I was little, Mom would put up a star on the wall if I managed not to cry all day long. I would sit with my ear pressed against the speakers when music was playing. In violin group recitals, I got bored with some songs and played the advanced part to things even though I wasn’t supposed to and had never officially been taught it.
Narnia, Ralf Moody, the Lord of the Rings. Classical Music, Disney, Bambi, Annie, Beauty and the Beast, Veggie Tales, Liberty’s Kids, Clifford. Walks to the park, adventures in the yard, learning to swim, throwing rocks at my best friend’s brothers from their treehouse, playing overly dramatic and romantic games, fictional crush on Prince Caspian, my dog dying, my family moving, my first real understanding of Jesus and understanding what it meant to follow Him. K-Love and Christian music. Developing love of music. My first *actual* crush. Writing my first novel, learning the cello, having more friends. Moving across the nation. God teaching me hard lessons and pushing me to make painful decisions against the crowd. Doctor Who. Giving up my crush…because I was only 14 and I was being ridiculous.
and somehow, whether with High School, or my first job, or hard things my family went through, (or all of the above) I stumbled out into being an adult.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I’m overflowing with gratitude for my parents and family, now that I’m gradually drifting away and will have to eventually step permanently out of the front door. It’s something I can’t express. I’m basking this year in memories and the feelings of childhood. The home videos help. Having been in Salzburg fulfilled a part of my longing I didn’t know really existed or could be fulfilled. Maybe I learned I can still be a child when I’m away from home…maybe I’ve learned these memories can come with me when I move out and begin building my own home. Maybe I learned about the priceless preciousness of it all.

Somehow, in weirdly happy and nostalgic tears, I’m learning how to both let go, and treasure an indescribable beauty of my childhood.

Further up, and further in,

_CJ Jean

The 1940’s Fashion Experiment

Allow for a blog post on a random experiment.

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I like the 1940’s, okay? The music, the poofy skirts, the eyeliner, the bright red lipstick, the high heels (I can’t wear for the life of me), and of course the hair…

Like any gal, I don’t mind spending some time looking nice. But I don’t like applying makeup every day, blow drying my hair and curling if I can help it. If I’m not going anywhere, I won’t dress like it. And when I am, I do the minimal amount of work to look presentable, because I’m lazy like that. Besides. I tend to look decent in a tight pony-tail, so why bother doing anything else?

But what if I could get away with a style that’s not really around anymore…yet…I love it?

That’s right.

Enter 1940’s hair experiment.

Curled with fingers and pinned tightly while wet. Wrapped in bandana and slept overnight (slightly uncomfortably, but I was struck with a sudden determination and I fell through with it)

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Next morning:

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Letting it down

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As you can tell from my slightly discomforted face in the above, it wasn’t turning out quite like I had wanted it to. I had curled it probably too hastily the night before, and it was more ‘crinkled’ than ‘curly’. As I let down each little bunch of hair, I was needing to re-curl it with a curling iron, which I was not happy about. Because I’m an impatient person, and standing with a hot stick next to your head while you stare at your reflection and breathe is just awkward, okay?  Even when you are alone in the bathroom.

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And I’m just about done. Much re-curling, lots of hairspray, and combing out gunk I had applied the night before that turned out useless. Oh well.

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A few awkward shots, because I hate taking selfies. I just do. I whined the whole time, my brother could tell you.

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By the end of the day, without much care throughout, it still looked decent

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But this is the coolest part to me:

I went out like this, got bewildered looks from my coworkers and managers. What I didn’t get was teasing (even in a friendly way) about how I looked like I was from the 40’s. Instead I got compliments. The style and fashion is likely familiar, and yet, not seen in a light that makes it weird to wear in today’s world.

This is so great to me, because personally, I dislike the modern fashion(s) and I love that I live in a country in which I can do things like this.

I love mid 1900’s American History, especially the music and style. And for some reason, it fits me perfectly. Yesterday taught me to be a bit more confident, and that there’s nothing wrong when you enter the world with your own personal style… even if I maybe stole it from Peggy Carter and Vera Lynn. I don’t think anyone caught on…

-CJ Jean