Back in 2007, while finishing up my work in Tennessee with Students for Life of America, I began to think about what I ought to do next. One idea that was particularly appealing, especially considering I very much enjoyed working with college students, was to go to grad school in the hopes of one day teaching my knowledge and passion in political science. However, before I did so, I wanted to reach what I saw as the zenith of campaign work by getting a position on a presidential campaign. During this time, I discovered Ron Paul and, after several months of concentrated effort, secured the position of grassroots director for the state of South Carolina on his 2008 presidential run.
After the campaign concluded, I began to study for the GREs and contacted several of my former professors at the College of William & Mary for letters of recommendation. In 2009, I applied to a half a dozen schools in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. I was surprised when I didn’t get accepted at any of these institutions. I reasoned that perhaps there were too many people seeking too few positions. Undeterred, after I finished my work for Delegate Phil Hamilton in Newport News, I applied to these same schools again the following year. And, once again, none accepted me. As you might imagine, I was quite confused. According to their posted data, both my GRE scores and my GPA from my undergraduate studies were more than acceptable for all of the schools I applied (with the lone exception of UNC-Chapel Hill).
Curious, I contacted all of the grad schools in the hopes of getting an answer of what happened. After a multitude of phone calls, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville finally offered a clue. They told me that one of my professors wrote a negative letter of recommendation. I could scarcely believe it. Why would a professor agree to write a letter of recommendation and then use it to sabotage one’s efforts? I traveled to William and Mary to see if I could figure out what had happened. After I explained what UT-K told me, the first professor I spoke with was quite cordial and offered to write another letter should I desire it. The second professor acted in the same manner. However, I was shocked when the third treated me brusquely and told me that he wasn’t particularly interested in writing me another letter. As you might imagine, the whole affair was quite disheartening. I left campus feeling dejected, not knowing if I would ever be able to accomplish my goal of getting a graduate degree in political science. At the time, I felt that this incident was the greatest betrayal I had suffered in politics, but, as the years went by, I realized that it was merely a prelude for the greater treacheries that were to come.
Although I continued my work in politics, I worried that I would be forever stuck in the rut of campaign work and partisan politics. Although folks told me that I was quite good at what I did, the work became increasingly less fulfilling and fellow campaign workers and politicos became increasingly nasty.
And so the years passed. My dream had been crushed but not completely destroyed.
In late 2015, I thought about applying to grad school again after having the opportunity to serve as a political science tutor for a JMU student. However, given some personal and financial difficulties arising partially from being blacklisted from a number of employment opportunities, I thought it best to wait another year.
Then, in 2016, I resolved to give it another try. While visiting my aunt who lives in Tennessee, I took the GREs in Knoxville. I then visited several campuses, found a new recommender while retaining the other two, and sent my applications to four schools.
This time, I was accepted everywhere I applied: the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, West Virginia University, George Mason University, and Virginia Tech. While West Virginia and VA Tech were new to me, it was my third attempt at UT-K and GMU.
One of the schools has made an offer for a graduate assistantship which comes with a tuition waiver. As you might imagine, it is presently my top choice. However, as another school has hinted at the possibility of funding too, it is also still in the running. One of my professor friends told me that grad schools like to play games with their financial aid, so I suppose it is possible that one of the other schools could come back with an offer of their own. Either way, the deadline for a decision for three of the four schools is April 15th, so my decision will be announced in the coming weeks.
It took eight years and two previous attempts, but, as the saying goes, it seems that the third time’s the charm. The dream is deferred no longer! Grad school here I come!
Rather than delve into current politics, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss some of what I’ve been up to in the last several months (as my posts aren’t quite as frequent as they have been in the past. Well, as some of my readers might remember, in the spring semester of 2015 I served as a political science tutor for a student at JMU. It seemed he appreciated my services and hired me again for the following fall semester too. However, in December he graduated and although I haven’t spoken to him since then, I certainly hope he has found meaningful employment wherever he happens to reside.
Halfway through the fall semester of 2016, I received an email from another JMU student, this time a student was looking for assistance in her world history class. With the experience from the previous year under my belt along with my knowledge and passion for the subject, I took the position. I quickly discovered that much of her class was an exploration of political world history, knowing about leaders, peoples, and the relationships between them (which sometimes led to armed conflict). Given that politics is such a passion of mine, I already knew much about topics such as WWI, WWII, the Shah, the Cuban Revolution. However, I was surprised to find that the professor explored areas as life in German Southwest Africa, the writings of Mao and Mussolini, and the lives of average women in the Soviet Union. As such, I ended up spending considerable time in Carrier Library, reading through the assigned texts. In some ways, it is ironic given my undergraduate degree in government; I felt more confident of the subject matter than the previous political science class I tutored and yet spent far more effort preparing for this one.
Were there frustrating moments? Absolutely. For example, I was greatly disheartened to discover that although the third exam covered world history from about 1880 to 1945, the only question on the test was about Afghanistan. With so many political and societal upheavals going on during this time period, it didn’t make sense to me why the exam would be so narrowly focused. After all, it was supposedly world history, not merely the history of one country in Asia and their relationship to the British Empire.
Nevertheless, despite this setback, I found this tutoring experience to be particularly rewarding, and I don’t mean monetarily. Yes, I did receive payment for my efforts, of course, but I really enjoyed learning more about world history and sharing this knowledge with my student. Sometimes, I would explain more about world events than what was presented in the assigned readings, including details of what happened prior to them as well as how they changed the future. I began to look forward to our sessions eagerly; sometimes they were weekly, sometimes they were multiple times per week. We worked hard to get through the textbook and the other articles.
Now that it’s over, I have to say that that I enjoyed this job more than any I have had since I began writing this blog back in mid-2008. There was something about learning new material alongside my previous knowledge and then imparting this information to aid my student’s success. Although I wish that I could say that I was able to transform this student’s failing grade into an A, as I did with my first student, given that it was a good bit later in the semester, I’m happy that she ended up passing the class. And, she told me that if she took another history or political science class, she would be certain to reach out to me again.
At this point, I have no idea when or if the next student will seek me out and my next tutoring opportunity will come along. But, I hope that it does, because I really enjoyed it. And, as they say, “find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” One day we will see a return of Joshua, the Tutor, or perhaps even Joshua, the Teacher, or Joshua, the Professor.
For those visiting this site looking for post-election thoughts, I apologize for the lack of new material. As some of you may know, last Saturday I suffered through food poisoning and then, shortly thereafter, fell ill with a nasty cold and an ear infection. Although the doctor tells me I am now on the mend and have been medicated, I still have a persistent cough and cannot hear properly yet.
Anyway, putting politics aside for a bit, I wanted to tell you why today is a special day for me. Four years ago today, I attended my first service at RISE United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg. Back then, I had no idea what RISE was all about nor what I was getting myself into; I was simply following the calling of my heart. Although I suppose you can say that I first went hoping to win the affections of a certain woman, I ended up finding something else, something unexpected.
Prior to discovering RISE, I hadn’t had a church family for a number of years. From time to time, I would visit a new church, but nothing seemed to fit. And yet here I am still, four years later. Now does that mean I never miss a Sunday? I’d be lying if I said yes. But RISE has become my home, as it has for others in the community. Not since high school graduation have I stuck with the same church for such a length of time. However, back then, the church was chosen for me.
In some ways, you could call RISE the church of misfits, those who do not fit neatly into the rigid and premade duties that some other churches require. To be honest, it is an imperfect church (though if we are honest with ourselves, every church is) but unlike some places, it is open about its imperfection. It doesn’t pretend that the folks who go to RISE are the world’s greatest saints, that perfect knowledge and salvation rests with that church, and that the rest of the world is comprised of little more than sinners and heretics. Then again, if everyone acted and thought in perfect lockstep, there would be no chance for dialogue and no prospect for either growth or change. Their often repeated mission statement is “mending God’s creation together”.
Although I suppose I could make a specific list, let me just say that I am grateful for not only the folks who lead RISE, but for many of the attendees as well.
Yes, I wouldn’t have predicted many of the journeys that I’ve shared with the RISE community from late 2012 to the present day. What is next? Where will we go from here? Who can say?
Today happens to be rather bittersweet for me as it marks the anniversary of the death of a friendship. Through my adventures in politics I have met a multitude of people, some of whom I have had the honor of calling friends. I discovered this particular person about six years ago or so. Over the years we had many adventures together, we talked about politics, we ate together, we sang karaoke together (if you can imagine that!), we even celebrated our birthdays together as they were only a few days a part. However, if you want to know what people truly think of you, try running for public office.
Unfortunately, when I ran for office back in 2014, I ended up losing several people I considered my friends as they publicly opposed my candidacy, backed my opponents, and some were downright nasty. During the campaign season I was visiting one of my other friends when she got a knock on the door. After discovering it concerned politics (a subject which doesn’t really interest her) she called me to the door. Imagine my surprise when I found this now former friend out campaigning door-to-door with two of my opponents. It was a moment that breaks one’s heart. However, I consoled myself that it was just politics and I shouldn’t let this one campaign, even though it was my own, ruin a multi-year friendship.
Therefore, when in January of last year I was invited to meet a nationally known Republican politician, I invited this friend to join me on the adventure, which she did. It took some time to get to our destination and the trip was fairly uneventful. Unfortunately, although the organizers of the event had promised us one-on-one time with the official, we were only given the slightest of moments to say hello and snap a photo. When we returned back to Harrisonburg, this friend posted the photo of the two of us with this elected official…well, sort of. One third of the picture was missing and I had been cropped out. I asked why this had been done and was told that this friend was seeking a position within her party and she worried that being seen with me would hurt her political ambitions.
That move reminded of another event which took place several years earlier. At that time I was fully smitten by a woman who I supposed you would say was the “Yer Jalan Atthirari Anni“. One day she held a party and invited her family, a handful of her closest friends, and me, perhaps about eight of us in all. After the event, she posted a multitude of photos of the day on Facebook. Unfortunately, I noticed, much to my dismay, I was in none of them. I asked her why I had been excluded, but she didn’t really offer an answer. It was an exceedingly painful truth to realize that I was little more than her “dirty little secret“, to be used and discarded whenever I proved valuable to her.
Although I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus, these experiences made me think of a Bible verse. In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (NLT). I have friends who are Republicans. I have friends who are Democrats. I have friends who are Libertarians. I have friends who are apolitical. I have friends who are Christians. I have friends who are atheists. I have friends who are gay. I have friends who are straight. I have friends who are white. I have friends who are black. I have friends who are women. I have friends who are men. I have friends who are rich and I have friends who are poor. Do some of these people annoy me from time to time? Of course, such is the nature of humanity. Do I agree with them all of the time? It is impossible. But, I would not be ashamed for the world to know that any of these people are my friends. If I were to treat any of them in this fashion, I do not believe that I could rightly call them a friend.
It is unfortunate that sometimes we are so caught up in ourselves and fail to reflect upon how our actions could negatively impact others, especially those we call our friends. Although I try to act differently, I’m sure that I’m likely as guilty of this transgression as anyone. If I’ve insulted a friend I hope someone would let me know for I hate to mourn the death of a friendship.
In previous years my single friends often refer to Valentine’s Day as “Singleness Awareness Day”, often seemingly bitter about the fact that they do not have a person with whom to share the day. I certainly understand the frustration, as 2014 will mark another year out of many that I am alone.
Yes, it is easy to look at couples with a certain amount of jealousy. However, this year my perspective has shifted. If you read this blog in late 2012 or early to mid 2013, you know that during portions of these timeframes I experienced very powerful and, one could argue, life-transforming feelings of love. A multitude of days were punctuated with great hopes, uncertainty, and terrible fears; unfortunately, the grand adventure didn’t end particularly well. I snapped the above photo while with the Sarvis campaign in Lynchburg on July 28th, 2013. At that time, some small part of me wanted my dreams of love to hold fast even though they had already more or less melted away like a pile of snow in a spring thaw.
Like so many facets of life, the whole journey had its positive and negative consequences, but if I could focus on something positive for a moment, that experience led me to a whole host of new friends, political contacts, and a faith community in the form of the RISE Methodist Church in Harrisonburg. Prior to that time, I had been without a regular church for a multitude of years, and I must say that I was glad for the opportunity to participate in worship with these new brothers and sisters in Christ.
The fact that I could discover love, even a strained, confusing, and often one-sided variety that it was, gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to find that exceptional woman with whom I can share the rest of my life. This Valentine’s Day message is for her.
As I posted on Facebook, RISE has honored me by asking me to join in their mission trip to Guatemala next month. Although I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve, I do remember that one of my cousins met his wife on such a foreign adventure. It is important to be mindful of opportunities when they present themselves. Then again, I hear you often find love when you least expect it.
Friends, if you are single, don’t be bitter about Valentine’s Day. Do I need to tell you that it is better to be single than to be with the wrong person? I cannot count how many couples I have seen who are terrible for each other; nevertheless, due to the fear of being alone they make decisions that lead to unhappy marriages, dysfunctional families, and, ultimately, troubled children. No one deserves to be subjected to an abusive relationship. And, conversely, if you have succeeded in finding that special someone, remember that despite what the ads tell you, materialism isn’t the mark of true love; love isn’t properly measured by dollars spent but rather the strength of your relationship and your willingness to give of yourself to each other for the happiness of all.
But, then again, you may ask what do I know? Obviously, I don’t have all of the answers. Otherwise, why haven’t I found the right person yet?
Best wishes to everyone on this Valentine’s Day, both to the couples and to the singles. And, the next time Valentine’s Day comes around, I hope I can share a remarkable woman with the readers of The Virginia Conservative.
May each of you find that man or woman of your dreams and may you experience a love that surpasses your wildest expectations!
Given that today is Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day for those of us currently not in a relationship), I thought it appropriate to take a pause from politics to discuss the subject of love. Recently at church, I was reminded of a love story that had a very profound impact on me growing up. It is the story of Jacob and Rachel that begins in the 29th chapter in the book of Genesis (that’s in the Bible for you non-Bible reading folks out there).
For those unfamiliar with this tale, let me provide you with a brief summary. Following the wishes of his parents, Jacob travels to his ancestral home to find a wife. While there, he meets Rachel, his first cousin, and falls in love with her. (Hey, suppress the shouts of “incest!” it was a fairly common practice back in those days.) Although details of Rachel’s appearance and personality are extremely limited, we are told that she “was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure” Genesis 29:17 NLT. Jacob speaks to Rachel’s father, his uncle Laban, and agrees to work for a period of seven years in order to win Rachel’s hand in marriage. (Again, before you decry the idea of trading one’s daughter for labor, one has to take into account that they lived in a different culture and time period where such arrangements were the norm.)
Although we don’t know the full extent of their love, it is obvious that Jacob must have had pretty powerful feelings for Rachel. After all, could you imagine working for seven years, (yes, seven years!) just to be with the person that you loved? But the story of Jacob and Rachel doesn’t simply end when Jacob’s term of service has been fulfilled. Laban, being a rather devious fellow, tricks Jacob into marrying his eldest daughter Leah, instead of Rachel. Now this development raises all sorts of relationship questions between Leah, Laban, Jacob, and Rachel, but as this post focuses on Jacob and Rachel, we’ll set those issues aside for now. Now, I would assume that if any of us were to find ourselves in Jacob’s shoes, we would likely be exceedingly upset, feeling horribly cheated. Nevertheless, driven by his devotion for her, Jacob agreed to work another seven years for his uncle in order to call Rachel his bride. Although we don’t really have any insight into Rachel’s opinions in this biblical story, I’d very much like to think that the feelings that Jacob felt for Rachel were reciprocated. The story continues for several more chapters, but as it exceeds the purpose of this article, I’ll stop here.
Personally, I found the idea of finding a Rachel of my own quite appealing, so much so, in fact, that I crafted a version of her into a character in my second novel (which will hopefully be available for public consumption at some point in the not-so-distant future). Of course, that does require me actually finishing it). Although there were some trivial differences between the fiction and real life (including, not surprisingly, having a name other than Rachel), in an unbelievable stroke of fortune, by the end of 2012, I believed that I had found a woman who could very well be my Rachel.
So what happened next, you might ask. Well, if you scroll down a few posts, you come across a poem, seemingly out of place among the myriad of political topics. Unfortunately, some love goes unrequited. Drawing from personal experience, unrequited love is perhaps the thorniest kind of love imaginable and, as this love is not the love of Jacob & Rachel, it is not the love I seek. I’ll confess that I’ve have mourned this realization every day for the last several weeks which is why you find snippets of this story recently embedded in the Virginia Conservative. Although it is a different kind of love as it is platonic, within the larger liberty movement must I continue along that path relatively unappreciated as well? Writing prolifically about the matter in a series of unsent letters and short stories has helped quite a bit, but a shredded heart is not something that can be mended overnight.
Even with all the setbacks of life, hope still survives. So wherever and whoever you are, and whether we discover each other tomorrow or it takes another full fourteen years of effort, I dedicate this post to you, my wonderful Rachel. And it is my sincere hope, good reader, if you have not yet found that special person, you too will one day come across a Rachel or Jacob of your own.
Thanks for reading and happy Valentine’s Day to everyone.
You may have noticed that updates have been sort of light these last several weeks. Well, I’ve been dealing with a bit of sorrow. About a week ago, Tiki, my 18-year-old Siamese cat, died after an extended period of illness. Now although losing a pet is not the same as losing a close friend or relative, it still can weigh heavily upon you. After all, she was a good and loyal companion who will be sorely missed.
And yes, before you ask, despite being a New York Giants fan, I didn’t name her after Tiki Barber. After all, I got her back in 1992, a full five years before the Giants drafted Barber.
I wanted to share with you a few more photos of my cat as well as a rather amusing story. Back in August of 1998, when Tiki was six years old, I was busily packing up the family vehicle before I headed off to college in Williamsburg. After loading up my car, I put a few of the bulkier items in my parents’ minivan such as my computer, bedding, suitcase, and the like. Right before we were set to leave, I looked around to say goodbye to my cat, but she was nowhere to be found. As went back to the vehicle, I discovered her as you can see in the picture.
They say that Siamese are typically a smart breed of cat, so I guess she figured something was amiss. As so many of my items had already left the house, I suppose she didn’t want to be left behind. Unfortunately, given the university’s policies, I could not take her with me.
She was a strange, but colorful, animal. Much like a puppy, she would often follow me around the house and, until she went deaf, would usually come when called. Tiki was a vacuum; she would suck up just about any foods she could find: meats of all kinds, cheese, crackers, chips, insects, and even ice cream from time to time. She had a bizarre habit where she would chew on my socks right around where the tendon meets the heel. I can’t tell you how many socks I lost to her. In her youth, she would attack the shoes of any stranger who came near her. When I would take her to the vet or if I tried to force a pill into her mouth, she struggled mightily and would foam as if she was infected with rabies.
My, my…she was a pretty good-sized cat in her day. Once her kidneys began to fail about a year ago, she lost a lot of weight. Around a week before she died she refused to eat anything and dropped below six pounds. Trying to force-feed a cat is a difficult task, but I kept hoping she would recover. Despite my efforts, she continued to wither away like a flower in the hot sun. In the end, her time came at last.
What more can you say about a faithful and constant friend like Tiki? Although she can never be replaced, I hope my next cat is of the same calibre.
I hope your Labor Day weekend is going well. I just wanted to send you out a personal note. As some of you know, when I’m not working in politics I have been in the retail industry, selling and demonstrating gaming products to the community. Such has been my life, on and off, for the past five years or so. Well, I’m afraid that those days are over. Yesterday evening, my employment suddenly came to a close. Due to financial difficulties, I was abruptly released. Although I’ll freely admit that I have been searching for political work once more, I don’t have anything new confirmed and so I was, at best, at least two weeks away from leaving. So now here I am, another statistic in a troubled economy, madly scrambling to find my next job before my savings are reduced to zero. But as for you, the reader, I hope that you will stick with me through this rough patch until I escape this downward spiral.