Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.

27Aug/09

Passions

Author’s Note: To those of you looking for information regarding the discontinued NBC soap opera, you will be dismayed. Furthermore, this post will not deal with Dictionary.com’s first five definitions for the word “passion,” three of which deal with “sexual desire.” Sorry to disappoint.

Editor’s Note: This post is long. Also, it is a relatively “personal” post, instead of the usual commentary on life in general or specific things in society of interest. If you’re not interested in reading something personal, just move along…

Producer’s Note: Yes, the Author and Editor are one-and-the-same. Or is that two-and-the-same?

Why is it often so hard to figure out what you truly enjoy doing the most? I’ve never been a big fan of the career aptitude tests some high school students take to help guide the college major selection; I’ve always believed that an individual will know what is right for them to pursue, whether as a college major or a career.

I must admit I’m having a little trouble with this myself, though.

Most people know me as a music guy. I play trombone. (Or, if you know me from church, perhaps you know me as that drummer who plays some guitar on the side.) “So where are you teaching now?” I get asked by old friends and acquaintances, those who knew me during my tenure as a music education major at Ball State. Though I appreciate the conversations, I hate having to answer that question, largely because I don’t have one, “perfect” answer.

Brief aside: I don’t think it’s right that we, as a society, put so much importance on our jobs that when we meet someone it seems the only important things to find out are “what’s your name?” and “what do you do?” Nonetheless, this is the world we live in…

I am set to start working on Tuesday, September 8th, as a substitute teacher in Lawrence Township schools. I am thankful for a job (albeit a “full-time” job at “part-time” wages), but it’s not my life’s dream. I don’t take any particular joy or pleasure in teaching, especially middle-school kids (which is where I will be). It’s not my strongest suit. So I find myself daydreaming about, applying for, and occasionally even interviewing for other jobs (especially ones that are actually full-time and salaried!).

The problem is, as I sit there thinking, I cannot seem to settle on one or two main things I enjoy doing, things I am passionate about. Dictionary.com’s sixth definition for “passion” is as follows:

a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.

I have too many things that I have some level of fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for. I’m struggling to “limit” myself by choosing just one as a career and relegating the others to the “hobby” category (and, in reality, doing away with some entirely for lack of time and/or funding). Here I will hash out a few ideas.

Music

Music has always been an important part of my life. I love listening to music of all kinds. I enjoy making music, whether playing trombone, playing drums, playing guitar, playing bass, singing, or even arranging music. I do enjoy teaching music, particularly being in front of an ensemble and making music through the players in front of me (again, why I would enjoy high school/college over middle school).

I’m just not sure that it is something to do professionally, full-time. I have said since finishing high school that if I could get a full-time orchestra gig, playing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, or the Cincinnati Symphony, or Cleveland, etc., I would love that. To get paid to play my trombone is awesome. (I am fortunate enough to be playing with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra “full time” this year, but the MSO’s full-time is still very part-time.) The reality is that it is very unlikely that I will ever win a full-time orchestra audition, so I cannot bank on this.

Computers

Literally as long as I can remember, I have been using computers. 8088, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, PII, PIII, Celeron, Centrino, AMD, Motorola (PowerPC) Mac, and Intel Mac, I’ve had them all and used them all. I installed an internal modem with my dad and my grandpa (his dad) when I was probably 8 years old. And yes, I helped, because I wanted to jump ahead to set the jumpers (yes, those) before my grandpa was ready to move to that step. (I recall this because of his reaction, which taught me a small but important lesson: “One problem at a time.” I don’t always remember this lesson very well…)

But what to do with my computer skills? Many friends and family know me as the go-to guy when it comes to fixing/building computers. And yet, lacking any formal certification or training, I’m not terribly marketable to potential employers who want someone with “proven” computer chops.

I have had some good friends of mine suggest I start my own computer-repair business, starting by just putting fliers on mailboxes and going door-to-door in area neighborhoods. This may in fact be a terrific idea, but I’m terrified of 1) not making it financially, especially as I’m building [and I don’t have enough in savings to truly invest in a start-up project], and 2) the notion that, even in that arena, no one will trust my abilities and knowledge because of my lack of certification: why would they pay me to fix their computers when they could pay someone from the Geek Squad to do it? (And trust me, I have about a million answers to that, but that’s not the point here… and no offense to any Geek Squad employees reading this; I’m sure you’re all lovely people.)

Politics

“What? Michael can’t even read!” Yes, politics. There are times that I get very deep into reading, listening, and learning about current events and issues and historical events and issues, and at these times I feel that I would love to be involved on some level in politics and current events. That might be as intense as actually running for some local office. That might be as far from that as just writing and commenting about issues. As anyone who truly knows me can attest, I am very opinionated. I wish I had the time (the “reason”) to spend truly becoming knowledgeable about issues. If I did, I would love to use that knowledge to help make a difference.

Law Enforcement

Yeah yeah, it’s dangerous. But what kind of a man am I if I am more concerned with my own physical safety than the safety of others? I enjoy a certain level of risk in most things I do, so that wouldn’t bother me. I am respectfully aware of danger, though, not recklessly unsafe. I am also very alert, perceptive, vigilant, aware of my surroundings at all times, and I would love to use these traits to help protect and serve others.

Some may know that I already have gone as far through the application process at Fishers PD as they would let me (about halfway, I finished 37 of 68 when they took the top 34 to the next level). I am just about to start the same process with Indianapolis Metro PD. Fully aware that IMPD is statistically a more dangerous jurisdiction than FPD, I still want a foot in the door to the world of law enforcement. (And let’s be honest, despite the increased crime rate in Indy versus Fishers, only six IPD/IMPD officers have died in the line of duty since I was born over 23 years ago; with all due respect to the deceased, that’s not that terrible.)

Summary

These are just the main four areas that come to mind as I am writing this. If I had to pick just one of even those four to focus on, it would be very difficult – a near-tie between law enforcement and computers. Computers I have more experience and direct knowledge about, but I feel that I have a great aptitude toward both; I probably would receive more direct pleasure from law enforcement. See my quandary?

I enjoy serving people. I think that is apparent in what I’ve already written as well as in what I didn’t write about: my recent history, college experience, and full-time employment with a church last year. I’m just trying to find the best way to use the gifts God has given me to serve Him by serving His people. This should be a happy experience, and it mostly is, I’m just struggling to find the best fit for me. The job market isn’t helping much, to be sure, but ultimately it is up to me to make an opportunity for employment.

31May/09

Fourteen Days

In fourteen days, I will be married. So unbelievable. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought marriage was for all those “grown-ups” who were done being young and having fun but wanted to raise kids.

Alas, here we are.  After a near-two-year-long engagement, Natalie and I are getting married in weeks’ time, in Indy.  I cannot wait – both for the ceremony itself and the beginning of the marriage.  (Additionally, I’m just ready to “move on” to a new chapter of my life.)

Natalie and I have both grown so much the past few years, and I am certain now that we are ready to get married.  Two years ago when I proposed, I knew we weren’t yet ready to get married right then, but I was confident that we would be, and confident that it was Natalie I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, share everything with, and, yes, raise children with.  But I’m happy to say the Lord has worked in us in so many ways, through several important people, particularly over the last two years.

I’m also very much looking forward to becoming an official resident of Fishers.  Don’t get me wrong – Muncie’s been great to me the last five years.  In fact, I actually have grown quite accustomed to the “small town” feel (yes, people from truly small towns: it’s a “small town” compared to what I grew up in).  I feel that I have made as much of my home as possible, particularly in the past three years since I moved into my house off campus.

But I really like the Town of Fishers. It’s located just across the county line from where I grew up (we lived literally six blocks due south of Fishers), so it’s pretty familiar. Our apartment seems nice and quite large, and I cannot wait to set up our home.

I move in six days; I have already packed most of my stuff. These next six days cannot pass quickly enough!

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24Jan/09

Ten Steps for Resolving Couple Conflict

So, let me explain… truly, don’t read too much into this.  Basically, I had this laying around my house, wanted to keep it but wanted to throw the piece of paper away, and don’t have a scanner.  Thus, I’m posting it here to save it digitally, in a sense… in the cloud, I suppose.

At the same time, it is a bit interesting, and perhaps thought-provoking.  Feel free to read and comment, as I guess I am posting this for a *little* more than just the purpose of it serving as my online backup, haha… anyway, it’s from the “PREPARE/ENRICH Program” Natalie and I did as a part of pre-marital counseling through East 91st Street Christian Church.

Ten Steps for Resolving Couple Conflict:

  1. Set a time and place for discussion.
  2. Define the problem or issue of disagreement.
  3. How do you each contribute to the problem?
  4. List past attempts to resolve the issue that were not successful.
  5. Brainstorm.  List all possible solutions.
  6. Discuss and evaluate these possible solutions.
  7. Agree on one solution to try.
  8. Agree on how each individual will work toward this solution.
  9. Set up another meeting.  Discuss your progress.
  10. Reward each other as you each contribute toward the solution.
25Aug/08

Pride is a Killer

So, this has been a bit of a tough week for me... for so many reasons.  It's also been a great week, for some of the same reasons, frankly.  All details aside, let's just say I've had a couple significant blows to my ego.

I have no great thoughts to impart here, but just allow me to say, pride can be a killer, and it can be so easily a problem without even realizing it.  If you had asked me two weeks ago if I had a problem with pride, I would have said no way; sure, I can be a little arrogant on a small thing or two here or there, but I have no significant problem.  Unfortunately, I have learned that's not the case.  Actually, though it's unfortunate that it's been the case, I'm very glad that I found it out now, before any more time went by.

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3May/08

Graduation

Unbelievable... not that I ever actually thought I may not graduate, but I still can hardly believe that this day is here now.  High school graduation was one thing, but college graduation was always the lofty, far-off goal to which most all of my classmates and I attained, but it nonetheless always seemed so far off.  But it's here.  Tomorrow.  Well, actually today, given the time.  It's surreal.

And most of all, I'm just struck by the mixture of emotions.  I cannot remember the last time I had this diverse and extensive a collection of emotions all at the same time.  I am relieved to be done with student teaching.  I am happy to be graduating.  I am proud to be graduating magna cum laude, even if I didn't follow through with the Honors College.  I'm happy to be moving forward.  I'm optimistic about my job.  I'm sad that I'm going to be leaving friends (or, more accurately, I'm sad that my friends are going to be leaving me).  I'm nostalgic about the times we have had together.  I'm reminiscent of the activities and fun we've shared that will not happen again.  I'm apologetic for the times I've screwed something up (and Lord knows there have been plenty of those times).  I'm humbled by the presence of such fantastic friends.  I'm repentant to God for the way I've acted at times over these four years.  Most of all, I'm just a bit stressed over the enormous transition, milestone, and turning point that is graduation.

I pray for the Lord's guidance moving forward, as the inevitable dispersion of friendships and relationships takes place and the wonderful, if not uncertain, new chapters in our lives begin.

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6Feb/08

And now back to our regularly-scheduled program…

Whoa, it's been a year - more than a year!

Regular posting will resume very soon. Several very important things have transpired since my last post, and they bear mentioning - but not for a few more days. Check back again soon!

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16Oct/06

Keep On Shinin’

So I've decided life is hard. Okay, I suppose this is no huge revelation to most people. But seriously. I've attempted to help a couple friends deal with some stuff this weekend, and I dealt with some personally too, and sometimes life sucks.

You know what's amazing? God is good. God is great. God is God. I don't always remember (or even immediately believe!) this when stuff's all going wrong. And man it can be hard to convince others of this fact.

Look around. See all those blessings? No, I'm not just referring to the "stuff" in your room (but that too). An friend of mine who has a heart and mind for God bigger than I think I can even understand has been going through a lot of stuff lately. Just today she posted a note in which she described her feelings. But then she decided to list the blessings in her life: college, nature, friends, hugs, Starbucks, prayer, music, and the Bible, among others. We all need to do this more. When things aren't going "right" (at least according to our limited-scope perspective on our lives), we don't often remember the good things. God has blessed us with everything, starting with our very lives! And if the fact that we have breath isn't enough, his ultimate depicion of his love on the cross oughta do it.

Guys, God's love is amazing. Unbelievable. Phenomenal. Indescribable. When life's got you down, stop. Pray. Remember God's grace. Ask for help. Take comfort in his love. There, it's my new acronym - PRAT.

I leave you tonight with lyrics from Third Day's newest album (Wherever You Are). The song is titled Keep On Shinin'. If we have received God's grace and love, then we need to share it with others! This song encourages a continued outpouring of his light. (More on continuous outpouring in another post.) Goodnight, and God bless.

Keep On Shinin'

It feels like forever since I can remember
It seems like it's always been this way
Keep the good news to ourselves, like a secret we'll never tell
I don't know why we've been so ashamed

But changes are in the air, sparks are starting everywhere
And oh, what a sweet, sweet sound
With millions of voices, singing new choruses
Leading the way to higher ground

Keep on, keep on shinin'
Wherever you may be
Keep on, keep on shinin'
For all the world to see

Having faith in the long run is easier said than done
It's hard to live out in the light of day
You're bruised and you're battered, your dreams have been shattered
Your best laid plans scattered over the place

Despite all your tendencies, God sees it differently
Your struggle's a time to grow
And you, you're a miracle, anything but typical
It's time for the whole wide world to know

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