Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Monday, November 13, 2006

Callings, Part 2

Well, I said the previous post was intended only as some background information to the post I'd intended to make. This is that post. Or...part of it, anyway.

I've been in the ward I'm currently in for almost seven years now. My first calling in this ward was as the second counselor in the Young Men's Presidency. The Young Men's Presidency is, basically, the organization in charge of teaching and guiding the teenage boys in the ward; as the second counselor I was the third and last man on the proverbial totem pole, with both the president and the first counselor above me. (In larger wards, Young Men's Presidencies can also include a secretary, and there can also be instructors separate from the presidency themselves. This is not such a larger ward.)

That didn't last long, though. The first counselor moved away, and I got moved up into his place. Then the other ward that had been temporarily sharing our meetinghouse while theirs was under reconstruction moved back into their own now-reconstructed building; while they were here, we'd had a joint Young Men's program, and the fact that the Young Men's President was a member of the other ward meant that once the other ward was no longer meeting with us...well, I ended up as Young Men's President.

The calling certainly had its ups and downs, but overall I didn't mind it. For all the calumny that's often heaped on them, I kind of like teenagers; sure, they can be intractable at times, but I don't think they're nearly as bad as they're made out to be. And while there were certainly aspects of the calling I didn't like--like trying to organize weekly activities--I actually enjoyed getting to know the Young Men, and building relationships with them.

I was left in that calling for several years--until about a year and a half ago, in fact. Then the bishopric started asking me questions about how I'd feel about possibly being choir director. At first I thought they were going to call me as choir director in addition to Young Men's President--which kind of worried me, seeing as my time was short enough as it is--but as it turned out the plan was to release me as Young Men's President (I had, after all, had been what was probably an unusually long time in the position anyway) to call me as choir director. I was still apprehensive--sure, being Young Men's President was a time-consuming calling, but I was used to it, and I even kind of liked it, and being the choir director didn't seem like the sort of thing I'd like at all. But, well, you're not supposed to refuse a calling, after all, so I said that, well, I wasn't sure I'd be any good at it, but if they really wanted me as choir director, I supposed I'd be willing to do it.

And I did.

And I hated it.

This did not come as a surprise. I hadn't expected to like the calling. It's not my sort of thing. I honestly think that the bishopric had expected me to enjoy the calling--but they didn't know me as well as they thought they did. Yes, I'm musically inclined; I sang in the choir. (Though I was usually late to practices.) Heck, I even write my own songs. Yeah, I like music. But liking music does not equate to liking leading a choir. There's a lot more to leading a choir than that. You have to pick out the songs the choir is going to perform; you have to schedule the practices and performances; and worst of all you have to, well, try to direct people. To get them to pay attention during the practices; to get them to come to practice in the first place; to get them to sing what they're supposed to sing and not sing when they're not supposed to sing. You have to lead them. Leadership...isn't my thing. At all. And okay, sure, being Young Men's President, I was leading the Young Men, I guess, but that was different. For one thing, well, they were teenagers; I felt a little more comfortable being in a position of leadership over them than I did over choir members many of whom were significantly older than I was. And for another...well, the teenagers were easier to deal with than some of the choir members.

(There's one member of the ward in particular who was a real pain to deal with (and who had been choir director himself in the not-too-distant past, so you'd think he'd have known better). I had some requests for the time to be changed from 5:00 to 4:00. I brought it up at choir practice. He complained incessantly; 5:00 was obviously better for everyone; nobody could possibly want to change the time to 4:00; why was I doing this? But some people had approached me about the 4:00 time, so I put the matter to a vote (by e-mail). 4:00 won. He never seemed to believe the vote was fair, and in fact asked aloud at the next choir practice just who had voted in favor of 4:00, apparently meaning to insinuate that I was just changing the time for my own personal convenience. (Which was very far from true; going through all the hassle of trying to get the time changed was anything but convenient for me.) I wasn't sure what to say about this--since the vote hadn't been done publicly, I didn't really feel at liberty to tell him who had voted for 4:00 without those people's permission--but fortunately some of them spoke up on their own to tell him they had favored 4:00. He complained enough, though, that some months later I finally gave in and said that, okay, maybe I hadn't made things clear enough in the last vote, and after all there were some new members in the choir now, so we'd try it again. Again, 4:00 won, though again he didn't quite seem to believe I'd really conducted everything fairly. In his mind, it seemed, 5:00 was better for him, therefore it obviously must be better for everybody else too.)

Still, I tried not to show that I hated the calling as much as I did, and I think for the most part I succeeded. Not in being a good choir director--that's not something I was ever cut out for--but in not making it obvious how much the calling vexed me. And I tried to do as well as I could in the calling, even though it was clearly not something I was ever really going to be good at. I did get a lot of compliments about the choir, and though I have no way of knowing for sure how sincere they were I tend to think most of them were genuine. I replied that it really wasn't me that deserved the compliments; it was the choir members themselves--and I meant that. I had no idea what I was doing as choir director, and if the choir was performing well, certainly very little of that success could be laid at my feet. (At one point last year there was a special stake musical event, in which as one of the acts I directed a bilingual joint performance between our ward's choir and the choir of the Spanish-speaking ward that shares our building. The person putting together the program for the event included a brief biographical blurb for each of the performers (that is to say, the soloists and the people playing instruments, not each individual member of the choir), and asked me what I wanted included about me. I said that I didn't think I should be included at all; I wasn't really performing, just directing the choir. Later on one of the choir members came up to me and told me he thought I should have been listed in the program with the other performers; I told him I had actually requested not to be...)

But it wasn't the fact that I wasn't good at it that made me detest so much directing the choir. I can certainly enjoy trying things I'm not good at; heck, I don't think I'm a particularly good artist, but I still try to do my webcomic. I just don't like being in a position of leadership; I don't like directing people...and that, more than anything else, far more, really, than the music, was what being a choir director was all about. It was my calling, so I'd make the effort, I'd try to do my best...but I hated every minute of it, and hoped desperately to be released from it soon. I wasn't really expecting to be released any time soon, though...after all, I'd been in the Young Men's presidency for about four years before they finally released me from that.

I did get some respite at the beginning of the summer. One of the counselors in the bishopric took me aside and told me that they had decided to give the choir the summer off. Instead, the ward music chairperson would be arranging for soloists and small groups to provide musical performances for the meetings. They had made this decision, he told me, to leave me more time to concentrate on finishing up my schoolwork. I wasn't sure it was really going to make a significant difference to my schoolwork, but heck, I wasn't about to argue. (Especially since by this point I'd finally come to terms with the fact I didn't really have any reason to believe in the church or in God, so I maybe wasn't as motivated to try to do my all in my calling as I used to be. Though, really, even if that hadn't been the case, I probably still wouldn't have put up an argument here.) If they wanted to give me the summer off, I'd take it.

So I had a summer blessedly free of choir responsibilities. Near the end of the summer, though, we started to gear things up again. All the more urgently because the bishop had complained about the lack of musical performances over the last few months, apparently having forgotten that the bishopric had told me to take the summer off. (The performances that were supposed to have been organized by the ward music chairperson never materialized, probably largely due to the fact that the ward music chairperson was at that time quite pregnant and not in much shape to be organizing much of anything.) So, we were to try to get the choir going again as soon as possible.

Except that didn't end up happening. Or at least, I didn't end up doing it. Because a week or two later, I was told I was going to be released. In retrospect, it seems likely now that the reason was because someone had recently moved into the ward who the bishopric thought could do the job (not that there had been any real shortage of people in the ward who would have been better at it than me before that, but apparently the bishopric had thought otherwise). At the time, I didn't care why I was being released. I was just glad to be getting out of that horrible calling, much earlier than I thought would happen. I didn't even care much what calling I'd be getting next (it seemed quite likely I would be getting another calling soon...that's usually the way things work). Almost anything would be better than being choir director.

This is not the end of the story I was planning on telling. However, it is once again becoming quite late, and I think I'll leave off here for now. Some time in the near future: Part 3.

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