#241: The Second Sleep

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I get up in the morning when Alex works 10-6, so that I can drive her to the train station on time. It’s a lot easier than having her walk the whole way there, and plus I get to see her rather than not. It’s a positive no matter how you look at it. This tradition began around February or March, give or take, after I started my new job but before I realized it was convenient for me to drive her, too. Now that it’s summer vacation, I have no excuse not to drive her, and I agree. It just works out well, as a way to get me up earlier without inducing too much grogginess. Nothing wrong with waking up at 8am, right? Right?

I still get some anxiety driving, especially after the most recent incident, but it’s worth it so I can drive her to her destination on time. I sometimes miss these days, especially when Alex returns to working 9-5 or 8-4 instead. Those shifts are much too early for me to drive her, so I sleep instead.

But when I get home from driving Alex, I sometimes go back to sleep. It’s my second sleep, you could say. I like waking up early, but sometimes it’s necessary to go back to bed after having a long, long evening playing video games on the couch. Being a teacher during summer vacation means that, after all. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going to bed a second time, waking up a second time, and feeling totally, completely refreshed all over again. Who doesn’t want that?

My second sleeps are reserved for the days when Alex works 10-6, but I revel in them. It’s another great bonus of her working those days, and even though it might seem the same as just sleeping the extra hours, it’s not.

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#240: The Cool Teacher

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Being the “cool” teacher isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. On the one hand, kids like you and potentially admire you, and you don’t have to worry about being given tough treatment by anyone, at least the ones that like you. But on the other hand, you’re left without meaningful connections. You are forced to always be in nice mode, even when someone makes a mistake. It’s difficult to call someone out after they’ve gained your trust and believe in you as an adult. I know that’s a normal and expected understanding for teachers to have, but it’s a downside of being the “cool” teacher, for sure.

It is important to remember that your job isn’t to get them to like you, contrary to what people may say. Even though getting them to like you is a big bonus, and goes a long way to having a constructive, collaborative classroom environment, it’s not everything. It’s never everything. Their education comes first, and so too does your teaching. They won’t receive a quality education if you focus so much of your efforts on being “liked.” You need to separate that distinction in your head in order to be a good teacher, as it’s something I’ve heard from a lot of my colleagues as well. “Being liked is nice, but seeing their test scores go up is a bit nicer,” one of them said to be once. I know it’s a cynical perspective to have on things, especially the test scores comment, but there’s a grain of truth to it also.

Effective teaching does involve a degree of likability, though. You can’t be an omnipotent tyrant standing at the lectern, endlessly insulting students. Even if you have an unruly class, even if you’re still “teaching” them, that’s not effective teaching. There’s a balance between being liked and being likable.

#239: Social Media

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Social media is funny. For starters, it allows us to connect across the world with friends we might never hear from otherwise. Without Facebook, I probably wouldn’t know a damn thing what my friend Rachel, who lives in Australia currently, is up to. It’s nice to see updates from friends who mean a lot to me, even though we don’t talk super frequently. I also have friends on there much older than me, people I met and became acquainted with during my various internships, and whom I owe so much of my professional success to. It’s nice to see them comment on my professional updates, especially when I’m really trying to take care of myself more. Social media is what allows all this flourish, and I’m thankful for it in that sense.

Though, social media also gives me anxiety from time to time. Sometimes I think life would be simpler if I didn’t constantly see updates from people I went to college with, telling me what they’ve been up to since then. Some of them are completing their second year as teachers, and while that’s very exciting for them, it leaves me with a feeling of emptiness. Not everything I do needs to be compared to other people’s lives, but social media almost encourages us to compare the two. It’s a part of social media’s DNA. Every post you make, every story you upload, every status you write, every like you share, every click you make, everything eventually is tied to someone else, and it’s connected to your online profile, either through Google, Facebook, or what have you. The people who “like” it, the people who ignore it, the people who are online but have better things to do. It’s tough not to take personally.

Was social media a mistake?

#238: The Grind

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The Grind. When it comes to grinding out experience, reputation, currency, gold, whatever I need in order to push forward in World of Warcraft, I’m used to it. Back when Burning Crusade was current content, I remember the first grind I participated in was the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation grind. You had to hit exalted in order to get all the good stuff, so obviously I wanted to get there pretty badly. As a kid in middle school, I didn’t realize the predatory practices of games at the time, and I didn’t quite understand how the rep grind was designed to make me want to play the game more and more, incentivizing total commitment to the game every day in order to maximize the reputation I earned each day. That’s what life on current World of Warcraft is like, too, now that they’ve added two new reputations and two new zones to explore: Nazjatar and the Ankoan, and Mechagon and the Rustbolt Resistance. (Rustbolt almost sounds like Rustbelt, which is kind of funny.)

(Coffee beans are all I could find when searching “grind,” even though it’s unrelated to the topic. I like having unrelated pictures attached to these blog posts, though.)

In other words, the grind is a long, arduous process of completing monotonous tasks over and over again in order to achieve a result that’s gated in some way by an arbitrary restriction, such as reputation or gold or something like that. In this case, in order to get flying on all my characters in the new areas, I need to hit revered with both of the new factions and then explore each new island, too. It’s a process, but I’m used to it by this point. I’ve done it on almost all of my characters, so there’s nothing holding me back.

#237: The Fireworks

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Today is July 4th, which means today is fireworks day. Fireworks all night long, across the city skyline and heard from our apartment regardless of distance. Fireworks blaring upward into the air, exploding in an instant or in bursts, and then descending quickly back to the earth, to pollute the streets with firework residue. Imagine being on the streets of Stamford watching the fireworks at 8pm, only to then be a sanitation worker the next day, forced by the city to clean up the endless parade of messiness on the ground. I would hate to be that person, but I can relate to them very much so.

When I was younger, my father loved the fourth of July. It was probably his favorite holiday. We used to have a large house together, with a large backyard where we invited pretty much everyone we knew to come over for a large party. Hot dogs, bounce castles, outdoor pool, radio music, tents and food and more. They were a lot of fun, and I got to hang out with my friends over the summer so that made it all worth it, but perhaps the biggest waste of all was my father’s incessant need to fill up the sky with fireworks. He bought thousands of dollars worth of fireworks every year, every fourth of July, just to impress his friends with how much money he was willing to throw away into the sky for big explosions. Imagine if he had saved that for our college educations instead? What if? Hmm.

It seems self-serving, but ultimately it was for us, too. We wanted the fireworks just as much as he did. It represented something special to us, a sort of familial tradition passed through time. It doesn’t happen any more, for obvious reasons, but when it did, it was special.

#236: The Insult

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This won’t be a negative blog post, and I plan on establishing that early so that anyone worried about me because of the title can have their concerns eased. This is about an insult I received indirectly via a game I was playing, and what my feelings are regarding this common feeling.

In Persona 5, at one point while all the characters are studying together in the cafe to prepare for final exams, Ryuji, the slacker character, says, roughly: “What’s the point in English anyways? It’s not like we’re gonna use it in the future…” The irony here is that, of course, this game was developed in Japan and they’re referring to English as a second language, because the game was translated and localized into English by a different company. After this event, another character in the story named Ann said: “Yeah, what’s the point in figuring out what an author is thinking? It’s no use.”

Obviously, there’s more to it than that, so let me explain quickly. When an English teacher asks you to deconstruct an author’s thought process, what they’re really asking you to do is prove that, when you read a given piece, you can grasp the author’s intentions in writing it. Are they biased? Reliable? Motivated by other reasons? Can you tell this by gleaming information from the written text? Can you prove it using said evidence?

Of course, these characters are teenagers and not literature teachers. They’re mostly immature and humorous. I don’t take what they say always seriously, and I don’t think the game intends you to either. It’s all in good fun, which is what makes the game so enjoyable in the first place. I just wanted to use a moment in the game as a jumping off point for a conversation about the purpose of English classes.

#235: The Playstation

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Today, it’s time to talk video games again. I’ll be talking more in depth about the specific games I’ve bought for my playstation in a future blog post, but for right now, I’m gonna discuss the playstation itself, my history with Sony products, and everything in between.

I used to own both a PS2 and a PS3, though I didn’t play either console very much. I remember playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PS2 when I was young, and I definitely put tons and tons of hours into Kingdom Hearts (both the first and second ones) when they first came out in the early 2000’s. Jimmy and I had a race to see who would beat the second one first, and I won even though I was on a higher difficult level than he was. That’s one thing I pretty much always lord over him to this day, and will continue to for a long, long time. That’s just how our friendship works.

On the PS3, I remember playing a few hours of God of War 3, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Little Big Planet, and a couple other games that I can’t totally remember. That about sums up my whole experience with the PS3, in a nutshell; I can’t totally remember much of it, and I regret asking my parents to buy one for me. In reality, it was because Kingdom Hearts 3 was on the horizon, or so I thought, and I knew Sony would ever release it on a Playstation console. Unfortunately, they skipped a cycle and released years and years later on the PS4. I also haven’t played any of KH3 since buying it, although I do plan on getting into that at some point in the future. Just not while I’m still rushing through Persona! That’s my top priority!

#234: The Website

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Building a website isn’t easy. No matter what service you end up using, be it WordPress, Squarespace, or what have you, it’s never a simple process, no matter what the websites tell you in their advertisements. I’ve heard from countless podcasts how Squarespace is the future of personal website designing, for example, and part of that is probably because of the deliberate wording of the advertisement itself, but it’s not what it claims to be, at least from my experience. Making a website that looks the same as countless other carbon copied websites is not enough, in my opinion, to sell me on the service.

When I was unemployed for awhile, my therapist recommended I consider making my own website, that way I can advertise my services there while still pursuing the job hunt elsewhere. I knew about Squarespace because of the podcasts I listen to, and I decided to try it out while I had nothing to lose. Why not, honestly? Maybe I’d get some emails from interested people. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen much, probably as a result of me not advertising the website very well. There’s the other thing: Squarespace doesn’t advertise for you, you have to do that on your own. You just pay for the domain and the services.

If I were pursuing a different professional career path, I could definitely see the potential of making my own website, as a sort of updated resume that keeps track of what I’ve done over time and shows to the world what I can do. I know of a few writers and graphic designers who keep professional websites for themselves, and that feels like a great use of resources. However, not all of us are in those specific career fields, so I’m not sure I’d recommend making a website for yourself unless you really needed one.

#233: The Jerky

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Here’s a chicken. You know what this is about.

Time to discuss one of my absolute favorite snacks, one that I’m currently munching on while I type: jerky. Whether it’s beef jerky, turkey jerky, salmon jerky, whatever is out there, I’ll probably eat it. Preferably without much sugar used, though I know that’s asking a lot sometimes. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to jerky is the amount of sucralose or excess, unneeded sugars sprinkled all over the dried meat to give it a sweeter taste. It doesn’t need that! It tastes perfectly great on its own, I’ll have you know! Seriously, I could just eat dried meat without any added shit whenever and wherever. It’s not difficult to imagine what that would be like, bringing some jerky to school with me or on the way to work. It’s a great morning, afternoon, and evening snack; no matter the time of the day, chow down on some tasty jerky without regret. That’s how I do it.

When it comes to memories of jerky, I have a distinct memory of driving to Trader Joe’s with Alex while we were still in Boston, picking up some salmon jerky, and leaving it in my backpack for months after we got back from there. I still had the salmon jerky in my backpack when I went to work one day, and after feeling especially busy and tired and famished, I ate it. It didn’t taste bad at all. In fact, I think it tasted good enough that I would recommend having it again. It was just that good.

Jerky, no matter what shape or size it comes in, is always special to me. So much protein, so much tasty goodness. Nothing really more to say about it than what I’ve already mentioned, I guess.

#232: The Surface

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There’s so much we think we are aware of, just from looking at the surface of things. It’s easy to do so. As humans, I don’t think we want to admit sometimes that everything around us is complicated and difficult to gauge at first glance. We’d rather accept simple answers, simple solutions. Think back to all the morals you were taught in grade school; the end result of every successful Disney movie is a simplistic statement about love or honor or courage or what have you, and those are meant to realistically change everything in our lives. It’s hard to take them seriously sometimes.

That’s not to say that we all aren’t motivated by different things. And there’s nothing wrong or faulty about accepting the logic of a Disney movie. All I’m saying is that life is too complicated to reduce down to a single, monolithic resolution. Not everyone will benefit from hearing that “love always wins.” Does it really? What about the families separated at the border, the sons and daughters sitting in concentration camps? How does that moral pertain to their lives?

When it comes to how we live our lives, mental health is so crucial, yet it’s increasingly difficult to tell how a person feels just from looking at their body language, or their outer self. The inner self is often different, impossible to ascertain with just a glance. I think my terrible feelings of anxiety and depression as a teacher for a year were masked by my usual, happy-go-lucky-looking self when going about my day at work. I tried not to make it all too known. And when people found out about my mental health troubles, so few reached out to help, thinking instead that I was either overreacting or just pretending. It’s terrible to be doubted by people that are supposed to trust you.