#338: The Crossword

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Back in the day, when Alex and I first started dating, one of our best routines was hanging out on a Wednesday night and completing the Hamden newspaper’s weekly crossword puzzle together. I remember buying her a book of crossword puzzles back then, probably for a special occasion as one of our series of gifts, and we still have that book and plan on using it again tonight, hopefully. Being in touch with our former selves is a good way of rekindling past memories, and it brings character and nostalgia to our lives. I strongly support doing as many joint activities like that as you can with your partner as a way of building your relationship and making sure it has special attachments to certain things. Our mug collection, for example, has a lot attached to it and each individual mug could be its own blog post on this. Maybe one day I’ll do something like that… As a way of preserving their origins before we inevitably forget them.

Regardless, completing crosswords is romantic to us. I know that sounds super nerdy, and it is, but it’s the kind of activity we can do together that keeps our attention and uses our brains. It’s perfect for the two of us, and it allows us to collaborate and cooperate on an end goal: that is, completing the objective that is the crossword puzzle in front of us. Some puzzles are notoriously difficult and come down to the wire, where we end up having to look up a clue because we simply wouldn’t be able to figure it out with all the available hints and letters. In those moments, we don’t feel too much shame in completing the puzzle; it’s a matter of our knowledge being limited for the time being. That’s all.

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#337: The Job

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Finding a new job can be difficult. First of all, you need to start assessing what you expect from a new job, the kind of atmosphere you want to have there. You have to think of what questions to ask during an interview, and how to handle yourself throughout that process. In terms of long-term jobs, the longest I’ve worked in one place was when I was a high school teacher, because that lasted over a year. But I didn’t enjoy myself there, for many reasons discussed previously in this blog. I’ve also talked about how to ask pertinent questions during the interview process to make sure you get what you want afterwards. It’s a difficult, complicated process, but nothing comes easy in the job hunt.

It might come as a surprise to some people that I’m looking for a new job, but to me, it’s about that time. I feel exhausted doing the same thing every day, and even though my job is mostly fine, I’m starting to realize the hypocrisies and oxymorons that govern what we do. I also feel bad about not having a union, insurance, or a contract of my own, but still being manipulated and exploited regardless of that status. I feel bad about being treated like someone less than a teacher by teachers, because they have agendas to fulfill and aren’t willing to lower themselves down from their pedestals even a little bit. Imagine having a full-time (well, technically part-time) assistant with you 24/7 to make copies and enforce discipline in your class with you? Imagine not having to come up with plans because everything’s already been planned for you? Imagine being that kind of a teacher, and then still thinking you have the right to look down on other assistants. It’s maddening and, more than anything, it makes me want to leave. I don’t need to be here.

#336: The Run

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It’s difficult for me to run these days. I know that’s weird to hear coming from someone who’s 24 years old and supposed to be in my physical prime, but realistically, I’m not. Let’s just be honest with ourselves for a bit.

Running, though, is difficult. I like to walk quickly when I go to the gym, rather than run, because first of all, I don’t like sweating all over the place, which most definitely would happen if I started to pick up the pace much more, but secondly, I like the relaxed pace of walking and getting my steps in while still working out, technically. I’m working on my cardio. When I was in college, I took a class called Walking as my required physical education class for the teaching program. It was fantastic, and we actually walked pretty frequently and got lots of steps in. I didn’t do very much there and I didn’t make many friends in that class, but at the very least I didn’t have to pass a class like fencing or kick-boxing like some other people. (That being said, I’ve been meaning to get back into kick-boxing ever since I quit karate. I’d love to try something like that again.)

There are also “runs” of things. Like running a dungeon, or doing a dungeon run, which incidentally mean two different things. Video games and their lingo are totally confusing and I don’t blame anyone for feeling like it’s too much to grasp at once. Dungeon run is a special game mode in Hearthstone, and running a dungeon is the act of signing up for and completing a 5-player instanced dungeon in World of Warcraft. Is the distinction really necessary? Absolutely not. But it exists regardless and that’s all that matters. Running is just running to me.

#335: The Pepper

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Sometimes I like to eat peppers. Not like, raw peppers but some green peppers on my sandwich can go a really long way towards improving the flavor profile. (Did I just use the term flavor profile unironically? I’ve never done that before…) Peppers are a fantastic addition to a sandwich, along with jalapenos, to boost its spicy, crunchy taste. Realistically, I don’t eat peppers that often, and the last time I had one was probably the last time I went to Subway or the last time I ate stuffed peppers for dinner, whichever comes first. My taste in peppers comes mostly from my taste in spicy foods in general. I just love anything that has a buffalo scent to it. It’s how I’ve been introduced to a lot of foods for the first time, through buffalo or hot variants of them. For a long time, I’ve been kind of a picky eater, so to try a hamburger for the first time in years, for example, was huge. I remember my cousins bought hot sauce from their local Trader Joe’s for me because they knew I loved it. It was very sweet of them.

I love peppers mostly for the heat they bring to a meal, but in reality I do also enjoy the other aspects of them. The crunch when you bite in, how natural and juicy it tastes. It’s unlike the other fruits in that I wouldn’t eat it alone, but I’m fine eating it with other things as an addition, as I talked about earlier in this. Peppers allow for interesting combinations of flavors in foods that might need the addition.

Did I make you hungry all of a sudden? Sorry about that, that wasn’t exactly my intent in writing this. I just wanted to discuss a topic I’ve never really talked much about before!

#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

#333: The Listener

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Here’s a picture of dog ears, because this post is going to be about the act of listening to other people with purpose.

Listening is an underrated, undervalued action. Listening proves that you’re paying attention, it proves that you care and are attentive to other people’s worries and concerns. Listening is underrated because people too often speak without thinking first, without taking into account what the other person is feeling. They speak and speak and nothing really makes sense because they’re not following the conversation intently or actually caring about the other person.

I learned to listen more than speak recently, thanks to a conversation I had with my girlfriend, and I feel incredibly grateful for that lesson. It’s not the same just talking over someone else and being condescending and rude about it; you have to actually demonstrate that you’re paying attention before the other person can engage in the conversation with you.

As an introvert, I sometimes listen too much without taking the turn to speak. I have the problem on both ends of the spectrum: talking too much and listening too much. Being capable of both ends does allow for me to see things from both sides. I get to realize what it’s like to be the recipient of them all. Being introverted means having limits to your talkativeness, depending on who you’re around or speaking with.

Being a listener is underrated, yes, but not every one is one. We’ve established that much already. How can we change that so that more people are willing to listen rather than speak? First of all, it involves emulating that practice in all things we do, even in small conversations between partners. It involves working tirelessly from top to bottom, making sure people are more patient and understanding with each other.

#332: The Independence

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Instead of talking about American independence, today I’ll be discussing a bit of my own personal experience with independence. Usually independence is connected with ideas like liberty and personal success. Living on your own shows that you’re an independent person, someone capable of being a mature adult. At some point we all have to branch out on our own, take care of ourselves on our own, and make decisions on our own. Living independently is owning up to those responsibilities and embracing them. It’s not shying away from your obligations to yourself and your personal health and well-being. Independence is difficult, don’t get me wrong, but it’s achievable and it feels great. Nothing compares to having a place to call your own, where you get to make the rules, pretty much. I don’t know if I was ever expecting this to happen at so young a time in my life, to be completely honest.

There’s also another aspect of independence that I’d like to discuss, and that’s being an independent teacher. When I was teaching at the high school level, I had a classroom all to myself and it felt great. I was able to direct students and teach them all about English. I gave it my best, but sometimes your best isn’t enough to make yourself feel happy about how you did. Sometimes you need to try things differently. Being independent means figuring out when to make the right decisions for you and your health, even when those decisions might seem crazy or unpredictable or even rude at the time. You have to eventually make the choice between yourself and other people, and if you don’t choose yourself at least once or twice when it really counts, you run the risk of losing your identity and personal feelings. I don’t want that to happen.

#331: The Church

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One of my friends recently confided in me about her return to church, and her general spiritual journey recently. She’s undergone some philosophical changes related to church and what it’s like to be religious and have faith in the 21st century, especially as someone in the LGBTQIA+ community. I understand her skepticism and interest, and how those can combine into a legitimate feeling of angst towards religion in general. I haven’t been majorly religious in awhile, not since I was a freshman in high school at least, when I decided to drop out of the catechism program and abandon my Roman Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t without the consent of my parents, though, and even though my grandparents would ask about it afterwards, it never became a hot topic at our dinner table discussions. It was always just swept under the rug or people pretended like it didn’t really exist as a problem to them.

In my eyes, going to church is still an act of personal growth. You’re reaching out to something greater than yourself for validation and inspiration. It’s heartwarming to see, at least when it’s not being weaponized as a tool to oppress minorities or other marginalized groups. You’re using your time for an actually legitimate reason and it does make a lot of sense to me. Just because I don’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate others who go there. As an adult, I understand that how you decide to use your free time is important. You can devote as much time as you want to your hobbies, but ultimately, if you want to succeed as a person, you have to focus on what makes you happy. And sometimes that involves being around other people and chanting hymns with each other. What’s not to like about that?

#330: The Toilet

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So, our toilet has been broken for about six days now. We’ve had to walk down the hallway and use that one. It’s not a bad walk or anything, and it’s all inside, but still, it’s deeply inconvenient and annoying to have to risk seeing people in public while having to go pee. It’s a step in that direction that I don’t really need in my life, if that makes any sense. I’d rather not see people while I’m walking down the hallway, and I’d rather keep to myself. In the middle of the night, when the rec room and gym are all dark, it feels even weirder to see them. I like the stony silence of the hallway, but I hate the walk. The walk is definitely the worst part.

There’s also the fact that I can’t go there when I’m in a hurry. In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, or when I’m just rolling out of bed, I don’t want to have to run somewhere else instead of just using the toilet in my bathroom attached to my apartment. Crazy how that works, right?

The other annoying thing is that the apartment place hasn’t really been answering us about this issue. They’ve just been petty about it and have kept to themselves, rather than actually finishing what they’re supposed to. We haven’t called the maintenance hotline yet, but that’s supposed to be only for emergencies, so we’ve avoided it mostly for that reason. In this case, though, it’s become an emergency, and it’s about time it gets fixed. When the time comes for it to get fixed, we’ll probably give hell to the office afterwards for taking so long to do this. I’m hoping that we have a somewhat reduced rent due, if that’s at all possible.

#329: The Club

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One of my coworkers and I are great fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and if you’ve read this blog before, you probably already knew that. I’ve played the game for a long time, still don’t totally get it, but I try my best with what I have and I improvise a lot of the time to make sure things make sense. It’s not easy to just pick up the game and become familiar with it without having a really talented DM in your group who’s willing to show you the ropes. I’m joining another group soon that’s going to have a very experienced DM, and I’m super looking forward to having a better grasp on the rules.

But besides the point, we are starting a Dungeons & Dragons club after school for the next eight or seven weeks on Wednesdays. It’s something we’ve both been looking forward to, as a result of other mutual interest in the game, but also because we know it has a lot of educational benefit to students. Imagination, creativity, role-playing, mathematical thinking, creative problem-solving and ingenious maneuvers. This game is full of ways to keep players on their toes and force them to think differently before moving into a task. There’s really nothing like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The educational benefit is clearly there, and I know that the students get excited thinking and talking about it. After our first meeting, I gained some people’s favor by discussing it with them afterwards. I think being relaxed and open about it is the way to go, and you can’t stress them out too much with the details. It makes sense to get them excited and everything but as a teacher you have to keep a calm demeanor no matter what. I’m looking forward to this week and whatever next week entails.