#255: The Do-Over

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Not everyone gets the chance to restart, to begin anew, to refresh one’s life completely. To do things over again.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, and deliberately not thinking, about what to write for this blog post, but I finally feel capable of getting some of my thought process down on this page.

There’s a famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that I often return to, one that I have hanging up in our apartment as a reminder to myself. Here it is:

“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

For what it’s worth… Not everyone has the opportunity to start all over again. Some people lack the financial resources to just upend their lives and begin wholly anew. It’s certainly not an easy trial to undergo. I remember feeling overwhelmed, busy, and completely distraught over my decision to leave my first teaching job, full of regrets and future visions. If only I knew what the next few months would hold for me. I regretted spending time treading water, doing nothing while saying I was doing something. “I hope you make the best of it” is all that matters. Try and try again, and eventually your attempts will bear fruit. You just have the make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt.

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#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.

#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?

#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.

#227: The Last Day

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Do you remember where you were on the last day of school? I have an image of sitting in the back of Ms. Sieviac’s math classroom, in homeroom, with my friend Jimmy. We were grouped in alphabetical order by last name, and we had close last names. Imagine if life were as simple as that; you could make friends with people in adulthood easily thanks to being grouped together by how close your last names were to each other. If only life were so easy now! I wonder where Ms. Sieviac is now, probably enjoying life in Florida or wherever she decided to retire to.

There’s nothing like being together with all your classmates and peers throughout the years, sitting together in one or separate rooms, and signing each other’s yearbooks back and forth, exchanging phone numbers with people who care to keep in touch over the next few tumultuous years of college or whatever else lies beyond. I still look at my old yearbook from time to time, and I have precious memories thinking back on where I was when certain signatures and notes were left in there. I remember exactly what it was like to walk around the school looking for my friends, even though I knew I’d be seeing them again plenty of times over the summer.

The real separation of friends takes place later in life, after you’ve all moved to different areas of the world and no longer return home to North Branford as frequently as you used to. It’s a shame, but it’s to be expected, considering North Branford isn’t exactly a tourist town, and not everyone has fond memories of being at that school.

The last day of school is always like this. I always think back to my own last day, and what it was like to be alive as a teenager rather than an adult like now. What would it be like to be a teenager nowadays?

#226: Wake Up

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You wake up. Not to an alarm, but to the natural calmness of morning. You yawn, open your eyes, and look at the alarm clock.

Something’s not right.

The calmness dissipates. You are reminded that it is a Monday, that you are to go to work today, and that it is currently 10am. You normally go in to work at 8:45am, and yet nothing woke you up at your usual time. You start to freak out; how did this happen? Will I be fired? Can I still call out? Is this the end? Nothing makes sense in your head. How did you sleep through your loud, terrible alarm clock at 7:15am? How did you sleep through the endless phone notifications Alex sent you when she realized you weren’t answering her morning texts like usual? How did you sleep through her phone calls and more? How did any of this happen?

You roll out of bed quickly, put your clothes on, text one of your coworkers, and rush to the door as fast as possible. It’s time to go to work, even if it’s a bit later than usual.

Self-reflection is helpful, but it also helps more to change patterns of behavior to prevent these instances from happening again. That’s what writing is all about; it helps me internalize my thoughts about this moment, while hopefully helping me find a way to do this better and differently.

One such change I can make is to turn my phone volume on all the time. I usually don’t have it on, because when I get texts, the last thing I want is a verbal reminder to answer it. I feel completely fine answering it at my own pace. But vibrations and sounds are the new norm, for now at least. It’s necessary to prevent me from getting in trouble again!

#223: The Repair Job

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Repairs are costly. Isn’t that the truth? Nothing in life is cheap, but when it comes to car troubles, you can feel the pain coming as soon as the car starts to struggle through its chugs. You know a big bill is on the horizon, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take it and get it done as soon as possible. There’s the stress from getting it repaired, but also the added financial stress, the mystery of it all, because who knows what it’s going to cost? The labor costs could end up amounting to anything, and the parts are insufferably expensive on their own, too. Buying a new alternator is about $400 on its own.

So when it comes time to get repairs done, there’s a lot going on in your head. The last blog post talked about the mental stress of getting work done on your car, and this post will talk more about the financial stress, while discussing the specific instance that happened in my case.

When we brought the car to the repair place, there was some stress caused by the questions asked by the guy at the desk, who needed to know everything and anything about the part that we brought in advance. Apparently we weren’t supposed to buy a part in advance, because of warranty purposes, but when Alex called the place the day before, they said it was fine and not to worry about it. The guy said he would call me after they diagnosed the problems with the car, but then the call never came, and Alex had to call them herself to get an update a few hours later while I was in the shower. It was a back-and-forth struggle to figure this whole issue out.

I ended up taking an Uber, for the first time, from the apartment back to the the mechanic, only to find out that they needed me to wait another 40 minutes for them to replace the battery. So I took up some space in the Popeye’s across the street and that was that.

#222: The Nightmare

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So, on Wednesday, I went to the mechanic to get the car fixed. If you’ve been
following this saga over the past few days, you know how much anxiety and frustration this has given me, and it’s only compounded over time. The more I jumpstart the car, the more nervous I get that this will be the last time it works before the battery inevitably explodes or shuts off, never to be used again. Then I’d have to get someone to tow the car out of the apartment’s parking garage, but no tow trucks are allowed there! And what if I parked the wrong way? How am I supposed to get to the mechanic then?

Needless to say, these are all the thoughts that went through my head while contemplating what to do yesterday. We are lucky to not have more car trouble than we already have, but of course our first bout with car trouble became a nightmare, hence this blog’s title.

A couple of times while leaving school, I remember the car alarm slowly starting to go off, and then the lights flickered back and forth, and then the engine started to sound slower, producing a muffled noise that shocked me into even more fear. Would the car stop working in the middle of the highway? Would it not work the next time I tried to jumpstart it? Every time I jumpstarted the car, I had the fear in the back of my head that it wouldn’t work, that all this effort would lead to me having to take another day off from work because I couldn’t get there in time. I contemplated taking an Uber back and forth, but the idea of getting in a random car in the middle of Norwalk at my workplace didn’t sound great. We ended up settling on me taking the day off on Wednesday to settle our car trouble. I’ll talk more about that in the next blog.

#221: The Techie

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Being technically literate can be a strength and a burden at times. I know the ins and outs of computers, I know how to handle a SmartBoard, and I know how to troubleshoot problems involving audio and visual equipment. Basically, knowing how to troubleshoot is the crux of the issue; you immediately become an expert in the field of technology, just from knowing how to diagnose a problem and potentially address it using the computer’s intricate menu systems. You become your coworkers’ favorite technical friend, even when the school has someone else for this purpose. Resulting from this, I’ve been called into classrooms on a few different occasions to help people figure out their technical problems. Whether it’s a broken speaker, a phone that won’t upload pictures, or anything else like that, it’s my job to help out whenever I can. So there’s a bit of anxiety associated with this; I never know when I’ll be called into someone’s room to work on something with them.

I used to own a camera, in fact I still do, but I haven’t used it in ages. I’m not sure I would know what to do when fixing one of those, to be honest. But when it comes to computers, I’m your guy. I’m not enough of an expert to join a Nerds2Go group, but I know my way around the technology. I earned a few brownie points with students when I told them I’ve built a computer before, and they seem to respect that I know more about these things than most other adults in the building. Just knowing that I have a computer at home that I use in my spare time is probably enough to figure out what’s going on when there’s a problem brewing. This is what it’s like to be technically literate.

#219: The Traffic

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Doesn’t everyone hate traffic, to some extent? I know I do, and I experience traffic pretty frequently, to varying degrees. Traffic is definitely the worst. I hate it so much. Today I’ll be talking about a very specific type of traffic, the traffic that follows you no matter where you go. That’s what I experienced on the way home on Saturday, continuing the same misery I had because the car wouldn’t start and its battery seemed to be shot.

Here’s what happened: the highway was closed from exits 11-7, and unfortunately, I needed to get off at exit 7. I knew this in advance, but I forgot about it on the way home with all the stress going on because of the car troubles. So as soon as exit 11 hit, I needed to get off the highway and onto some backroads home. It took a while to get there, though. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the way to the exit and traffic as soon as I got off the exit, because everyone and their mother were using Google Maps just like me to figure out where to go next. So everyone was holding up backroads and everyone was flooding the streets endlessly because of the traffic and road work taking place, during the day too! The traffic followed me wherever I went, and it added an entire half hour to my commute home that day. I was worried that my car, in all its battery-draining misery, would stall out somewhere because it ran out of fuel or something. Thankfully, that never happened, because my anxieties don’t know a damn thing about how cars work and probably never will.

At the very least, they know how to jumpstart a car now. That’s something I wouldn’t be able to say earlier, but I can say now.