Summer Writing and Realizations

I feel guilty because I haven’t done much writing this summer (or, err, well, in a while, shall we say). Between finishing and graduating from my M.A. program, moving, finding a job, getting ready to move again, and trying to relax a little, I have not been keeping up with my writing. I have, however, still done some writing and with the summer slowly coming to a close, I figured I would share some of it. So here is my summer realization (one of many):

I realized that I do not regret being single.

I made a list of names of the guys I’ve dated. Then I made a list of names of the guys I’ve been in relationships with. I looked t the lists, and I asked myself, “Is there a name on either list that I regret no longer having in my life? Someone I would be willing to give another shot to?”

The answer to both questions was a firm “No.”

The answer resulted from examining each name, recalling the individual, and assessing how things ended with them. One propositioned me in Boston Common for a friends with benefits relationship and upon rejection of said proposition, promptly left me to walk through the Common to the Park Street Station by myself – at night (this was before Pokemon Go came on the scene and groups of people trying to catch Pokemon made the Common slightly more safe). Another informed me that anything we started would have an “expiration date” of September when my graduate program resumed.

Then there was the one who texted me five months after our first date to ask me out again. He didn’t explain the time lapse or why he would not return texts I sent him, attempting to maintain communication. I tried to give him another chance. I told him I’d be open to some of the dates he asked me on, only to realize those dates would entail me making most of the effort and travel. I declined said dates, citing inconvenient commutes. The more accurate truth was that I was inconvenienced by his insistence on his convenience. Despite telling me that he was looking for something that lasts, I began to see that a relationship with him would only last if I were willing to accommodate him without room for me.

I realized that I was fine with not hearing from him again, that I would instead be perfectly content by myself. It was the summer, and I was single. I had my books, the beach, and my best friends if I needed company. No boys needed.

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One Rainy Day

Today is a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester. I am standing in from of my First Year Writing class, knowing that they realize full well that it’s a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester.

We are in the Personal Narrative Unit, the one where they can pick whatever they want to write about so long as they are able to show the before, during, and after of the experience/event and show why the experience was significant to them in some way. I do not have a formal lesson set out for the day, which is no surprise, so I decide the weather is a fitting excuse to show the twenty minute clip from J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, the video they will need to watch to complete an extra credit opportunity I am giving them, an opportunity almost all of them need. For me, showing the video is an opportunity for twenty minutes of captive attention that will coincide nicely with the end of class.

I show the video because Rowling’s speech can be seen as a Personal Narrative where she discusses more than one experience/event and the impact on her life. Although my students only have to focus on one experience/event that is important to them, Rowling’s speech demonstrates the concepts we talk about in Personal Narrative: showing the significance through use of examples; who they are before, during, and after the experience; and, ultimately, the takeaway from the experience.

As they are watching the video, I too listen and watch the video. I am struck by Rowling’s mention of people who either peer into the metaphorical cage, unafraid of what they might see, or who turn away, too afraid to find out. Rowling’s praise of the power of imagination likewise impresses upon me, and combined with the other part of her speech, I am left mulling over the recent events in my life.

Approximately one year ago I left substitute teaching and the other positions I held in school districts that I had grown to think of as a hybrid between the space where I moved towards becoming an adult and my post-college purgatory. I left to end the year in another school district working as a Special Education Para-Educator, a job that would not only round out my experiences in Education but also mean a daily paycheck.

Approximately one year ago was also when my dad lost the job he held for as long as I could remember. In the loss of his job, my family lost our quasi-stable sense of security that was replaced by the sobering reality that the lifestyle we knew and were accustomed had turned into a ghost – a shadow, a specter attached to each of our lives.

Lastly, approximately one year ago was when I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire to pursue my graduate degree in English Literature. This decision meant that I would have to move up to New Hampshire to be closer to school, leaving my parents and the Boston area for the rural setting of the granite state. A state away and a world apart.

Approximately one year later I am sitting watching J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and I realize that I veil the past. Not hide. Not escape. Veil. I cover the past – my past – with the creation of this new life. New location, new friends, new experiences. This newness makes it easy to mask the past because this newness provides ample opportunities for distractions. Romantic interests, classwork, scholarship, even texting are each shiny lights that help lead me away from the past.

As I sit listing to Rowling’s words, I begin to register that I simply did not come to this new place in my life; I arrived here through experiences that span beyond approximately one year ago. Experiences where I not only peered into those dark cages, but also extended a hand to those stuck inside, hoping for someone to extend a hand to me.

The power of imagination was another topic that I was struck by in Rowling’s speech. I am a writer, but I am not the writer I used to be. Once I wrote for both others and for myself, creating worlds and narrations that were drafted because I wished to engage in the craft of writing. But in this new life of mine I feel I have become a passive writer, skillfully composing works because they are required of me instead of out of the enjoyment of allowing my unbridled imagination to seize my fingers and cast my attention into the abyss of inspiration.

Where is that individual I remember being? Did I shove her in one of the moving boxes neatly labeled with the contents inside and conveniently forgot to unpack her? Did I think I could erase her by becoming a new self in this new setting? Or worse, did I cut her up, using only those fragments I thought would look best with the new image I was creating?

Perhaps none of those possibilities. Perhaps she is shackled inside me, wanting to be set free from her cage. All the while I dangle the key in front of her – painfully, tauntingly – until a time when the pushes and pulls around me see appropriate to unchain her, one link at a time so as not to become overwhelming.

Today I choose to begin the process of unchaining her. As I write this, the key starts to turn and her wrists slowly move.

 

On Trying to Avoid Freaking the Freak Out: Project Thankful #226

Tomorrow is the start of classes for students.  My students.  The 24 students who are signed up to take my class where am listed as the Instructor.  Tomorrow is also the start of classes for myself as well since I am a student as well as an Instructor.

Yeah, I am trying really hard not to freak the freak out right now.

Everything right now is a hazy, abstract image characterized by fluctuating swirls of constants.  I know what I have planned for my students tomorrow.  I know what my homework is for my classes.  I know when my assignments are due.  Yet, what I know keeps being shuffled around by what I feel.  I feel nervous, confident, insecure, inauthentic, knowledgable, and experienced all at once.  Mingled with those constants I listed, and I am somewhere between being grounded in the reality of my situation and gasping for oxygen at the high altitude of the mountain of my current anxiety.

What’s keeping me from totally freaking the freak out?  Fear.

I know, pretty weird answer to give.  But fear is something that can be controlled.  It’s something that must be understood in order to dissect its electric tendrils, examining the triggers so as to formulate a way to respond to them and their aftermath.

And so fear is what is keeping me from totally freaking the freak out.  More specifically, my understanding of my fear.  Fear of failure is one of my biggest fears I carry; tomorrow’s situation is exacerbating that fear. Yet, what’s keeping me from being paralyzed by this fear is my experience with this particular type of fear.  Heck, I’ve been dealt some crappy cards in my life, and sometimes I’ve made crappy decisions with those cards.  But whatever happened, I made it through to the next level.

“There has yet to be a problem that has ended the world.”  That’s what I tell students and others when talking about school related anxieties.  It’s not just the world, however; the same applies to my world.  I keep moving forward, through the fears, anxieties, and pressures I face.  Because that’s all any one of us can do.

Project Thankful: Reason #224

In a couple of weeks, I will start my journey as a graduate student as well as starting teaching.  The couple of weeks before a semester begins are always the most chaotic, leaving one feeling with a sense of “How is everything going to get done?”  Between student loans (or as I like to think of them, adding time to my debt sentence), homework (yes, even before classes officially start I have assignments due), lesson planning, and transitioning into a new living space, it’s overwhelming to begin to think about all that is on my To Do list.

Today was such an example.  First, I had to call the cable company about my service.  Next, I had to call Financial Aid about my Fall bill.  After that, I had to complete Entrance Counseling for my graduate loans which not only took away time, but also optimism about my financial situation.  To cap it all off, I had laundry I needed to do.

By the time I was finished with as much as I could do for today, the couch was beginning to look like my best friend.  I sat down, and I realized I had two choices: to wallow in the “Why me?” of how much I have going on right now; or, to keep moving forward.  Because when life gives us a challenge, or challenges, those are basically our two options: dwell on the negative; or, continue to go on, using an inner calm to put all that negative into perspective.

Whenever my worrying starts to creep into the Red Zone, I remind myself of the things that calm me down.  I like to think of them as my anchors, the things that cause me to pause.  Some are little, but hey, sometimes it’s the little things that can make the largest impact.

My family

My cat

Chocolate milk

Chocolate

Reading a book

Facebook

Closing my eyes and forcing myself to listen to what’s outside my windows

Going outside

There are more (including more that involve chocolate).  For now, I think I’ve regrouped enough to tackle another item on that To Do list for today.

 

Refusing to be a Benchwarmer

I refuse to be a benchwarmer.

I refuse to engage in bench warming behavior as it pertains to my career, my relationships, and my personal life.

In other words, I refuse to hold myself back.

A benchwarmer is someone who holds a spot for someone while that someone is off somewhere.  A benchwarmer agrees to be said benchwarmer through a verbal agreement between the benchwarmer and other, second person whereby the other person asks/tells the benchwarmer to “Watch/Hold my seat” while they go off for an indeterminate amount of time, only to return at their convenience.

I used to be a benchwarmer.  I didn’t move forward with my career because I thought what would come by moving forward from where I was at in my career would make me lose my seat, make me lose any opportunity whatsoever to have a career or that any move from where I was at in my career wouldn’t end up being a move forward; rather, it would just be a different spot in the same row.  I was also a benchwarmer when it came to relationships.  I’d meet someone, we’d date, but then they would tell me, either directly or indirectly, that “It’s just not a good time right now (fill in the blank with any number of “reasons” aka excuses).”  So, I would enter in a benchwarmer relationship where I would allow myself to hold a spot for this person in my life, believing that they would eventually come back to take their seat next to me.  Finally, I would be a benchwarmer when it came to my personal life because I would allow things to remain as they were when it came to my family, my friends, my habits, my hobbies, etc.

Do you know what kind of a life a benchwarmer has?  A stagnant one.  Just like stagnant water, a benchwarmer can only attract one thing: mosquitoes.

Nothing good comes out of being a benchwarmer.  Because when you’re a benchwarmer, all you do is wait, and you end up missing a lot of the action.

 

New Habits – Project Thankful: Reason #220

Today, I signed into my email accounts to check my mail. Judging from the numbers of new emails I saw in my inboxes, I would say I haven’t checked my email in a few days.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed I haven’t checked my mail in a while. Every week, I seem to be disconnecting from email earlier and earlier. At first, it was on Saturdays; I would not check my email the following day (Sundays), but I would resume my checking emails again on Mondays. Then Saturdays became Fridays. And now, Fridays are bordering on Thursdays.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the “Mail” app on my phone synced to the primary email address I give for my work and school, and I check that quite a bit. The other accounts, however, I do not check as much. And I’m good with that.

When did this new habit of checking email less often, of being less concerned if the world is going to end if I do not sign into this account or that account to see if *gasp* someone sent me a coupon for 15% this weekend only?  I was looking over past “Project Thankful” postings, and I think my more relaxed attitude about email might just have something to do with this writing project.  Because the people and things I am most thankful for, the things that inspire me to write these posts, aren’t found in emails or inboxes or on the Internet.  They are found in a time and space know as Life, something that has existed before computers and Internet and even cell phones.  And Life?  Well, it will continue no matter how many emails I get.

Project Thankful: Reason #198: The End of My Post-College Purgatory

I’m ready to move on.

I woke up this morning, and I knew that I’m done with my post-college gap years.  My post-college purgatory has ended.  It’s over.  Three years of working in a field I never thought I would end up in, that I started out with no background or training in, and I’ve made it through.  My resume, which I once struggled to put together with relevant experiences, now boasts multiple positions listed under ‘Relevant Experiences.’

How did any of this happen?

When I first signed up to be on districts’ substitute teacher lists, subbing was going to be a job I thought would only last for one year until I started grad school.  That was Grad School Applications Round 1, when I was applying to grad school in part to continue my research but more to feel like I was doing something productive with my life.  Although I was accepted into a graduate program at a Boston-area university, I ultimately had to decline the offer due to financial circumstances.

The plan for my life fell apart, and I found myself facing another year subbing.  Subbing was not all that I did, however.  Impressed with my ability to work with students, the director of an alternative program at a high school reached out to me to tutor some students.  Looking back, I think it was my experience tutoring that began to consciously stir the idea of working with students as a career path.

Year Three…well, Year Three made me realize that while I do want to work with students, I want to teach at the college level.  Not at the high school level.

1 full day + 2 half days = the rest of the 2013-2014 school year.  When the bell rings on the last day of school, it won’t just be a break for me; it will signal the end of a part of my life and the beginning of another.