#76: Doubt

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I doubt whether my clothes fit well, I doubt whether my hair looks good, I doubt whether my personality is likable enough. I doubt the sun shines in the morning when it’s supposed to, and I even doubt when I’m supposed to go to bed. But most of all, professionally, I doubt my lesson planning work. What I need to focus on more is trusting my instincts, and if something doesn’t go well, trusting that I can make up for it the next time, or improve from my mistakes. I’m so afraid of making mistakes sometimes that I prevent myself from making them; I shield myself from error by copying the work of my peers or mentors instead, trusting that they have better ideas than I do. There’s never a time when I’m not wishing another person had done this before, but better, so I could copy them and be rid of the anxiety of having to be accountable for my own ideas. It’s an easy, affordable way of avoiding accountability, which is not very good.

But let’s make this a positive and productive blog post. I don’t want to mire in negativity forever. I think I have a lot to offer as an educational professional, it’s just a matter of unleashing that potential appropriately, actualizing it in just the right way. If I need to go to college again to figure that out, then so be it. If I need to stay here for awhile first, then so be it as well. Doubt is a terrible infection, and I need to overcome it one way or another. My ideas aren’t as terrible as they seem in my head; it’s just my self-critical ways acting up. Self-esteem is a tricky thing.

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#75: Hearthstone & Teeth

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Careful! There’s a fire burning above here, for some reason. It has no relation to today’s blog post topic, “Hearthstone & Teeth,” it just showed up under the Free Photo Library for the search term Hearth. I guess it works.

Hearthstone is a video game I’ve put tons and tons of hours into, probably more than I ever should have. It’s kept me occupied on study abroad trips, on Michigan plane rides, and after pesky orthodontist appointments. While I was abroad for six months in London, I spent a lot of my free time playing this game, as it had just released and I wanted to grind out games with my Control Warrior build.

But I also remember when the game first came out in 2014 as the year I got my wisdom teeth pulled. The release of the game’s closed beta — a pre-release copy of the game, with no strings attached, that you have to have been sent a “beta code” to enter — coincided with my wisdom teeth, actually. Maybe the beta came out in 2013, then. Either way, as I explained, a beta code is hard to get. Famous video game streamers on Twitch were offered codes in exchange for streaming the game, so that it would attract the attention of the general video game-playing audience. (Twitch.tv is a website that people stream playing video games on. It’s a massively popular site, where the highest earning streamer earns over $1 million a month.)

Well, I remember coming home from my wisdom teeth appointment, feeling super numb all over myself and in no mood to entertain anyone, and after opening up my email on my phone, I saw a message: “Beta Code for Anthony!” How cool of a coincidence is that? It blew my mind at the time, and I remember spending the next few days of numbness and frustration building decks and trying out all the cool new strategies available in this special card game.

I realized after writing this that I didn’t spend much time talking about Hearthstone itself, just its personal relation to me. Maybe I’ll talk more about the actual game in another post. So, don’t be surprised if it makes a return coming up.

Where Are You?

Where are you,
where are you,
where are you

Love, I have and share
To an extent unknown
Love forever

Locked up, tired,
Dehydrated and underfed
Sad, crying, moaning

Where are you,
right now?
Where?

Are you okay?
Are you nervous or scared?
Claustrophobic in there?

Don’t be afraid,
We still love you
We always will

#74: The Crate

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Crating a dog is tough work. Like we said to Angus this morning, it hurts us more than it hurts him (at least, it seems that way.) Today, I have work from 8-4, and then I’m driving up to UCONN to visit one of my friends. Alex has her 10-6 shift, which means she’ll be getting home around 7:30. What this means is that Angus won’t be let outside for awhile, and he’ll have to hold in his bladder, considering we crated him at 8am. We haven’t tested his bladder’s capacity this long before. I feel a deep sympathy for our dog on days like today, when he’ll have to stay in an enclosed space for 12 hours. If he pees, he pees; it’s not like this will have to happen again, at least for another 6 months or so.

We don’t usually crate Angus. Ever since I conducted a short experiment while I was at the gym, Angus has roamed freely through the apartment while we’re gone. We trust him at this point, and he’s a good good boy, so there’s no real need to worry that he’ll get into anything or spoil our night when we come home. Angus knows what to do and when to do it. Unfortunately, today happens to be the day that our apartment’s drains and bathroom are being inspected. This is a routine inspection, happening throughout the entire building and on different days for different floors. In the email the leasing office sent to us, they stated that all pets needed to be properly crated so the inspectors wouldn’t be disturbed as they move from apartment to apartment. It’s an understandable request; Angus would likely bark their heads off and jump up on them like they’re strange intruders if we let him sit on the couch all day instead of crating him.

Needless to say, we feel terrible about crating old man Angus today. It’s still on my mind while I write this blog. I hope he’s doing well, and I hope he doesn’t despise us completely by the time we come back. Alex will be taking him out on a long walk around the park and building when she’s home, which I’m sure he’ll love, but in these hours leading up to that, I worry for him. Perhaps it’s just my anxiety speaking here. Here’s hoping all goes well and there’s nothing to worry about.

F Word

Crumpled up piece of paper
found in the trash between
lunch periods,
between gum-stained homework
and block erasers
an outline of a small hand,
all five fingers, one extended
further upwards than
the others,
and a message in all caps,
scratched out in pencil,
still legible despite this
it says, “Mr. D” and then
trails off, landing
somewhere indistinct and disgusting
and vulgar and depressing
and most of all, sad,
to think someone thought this
up, put it into reality, and
threw it out, unable to face
the consequences of
sharing it in person,
face to face,
I would’ve cried if that
had happened.
I would’ve

#73: Water Castle

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We’ve got to beat the water castle. We’ve got to beat that damn thing.

Let’s talk about Mario games, and their addictive multiplayer possibilities. Though I prefer other platformers over New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe, such as DK: Tropical Freeze, it’s been a worthwhile purchase and a fun addition to my collection of Nintendo Switch titles. It’s provided us with hilarious moments, goofs, and gaffs, and it’s another adventure for Alex and I to complete together. Because it offers six playable characters with different properties on their jumps and power-ups, the game allows you to choose to play at your own speed. Certain characters are easier than others, such as Toadette and Nabbit, and they help players like Alex (who aren’t experts in Nintendo platforming games) gain some familiarity with the controls without intimidating them much. The feature is smart and adds a level of accessibility to the game, similar to a carefully crafted lesson plan including ample differentiation for all players and participants. It’s similar to how Mario Kart 8 Deluxe added the rail feature, preventing karts from falling off the edges with an easy button press on the options menu. We also split the price for this game, so it feels like a group purchase, rather than me buying a game and hoping Alex likes it.

But the water castle. Ugh, the water castle. When this post goes up, hopefully we’ve beaten the damn thing by now. I might write another post later about this game, to provide some updates for people who care. But at the present moment, we are struggling to beat the damn water castle, because we haven’t been able to find the time to sit down and beat it together. The current plan is to finish it tonight (Thursday evening), despite all odds.

#72: Passing Knowledge

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“Passing knowledge” is knowledge that’s good enough to pass, but not good enough to help. It’s knowledge that reflects more on effort than on ability; if you put in more effort, you might exceed having just a passing knowledge on a subject. But when it comes to a person’s ability, their skills, it’s different. Ability sets us apart, in some ways, but effort is the difference between a skill ceiling and a skill floor. What happens when you don’t have any effort, though? What happens when your motivation falls through, and there’s nothing left to push you forward?

I have a passing knowledge of a few subjects: carpentry, contracting, and the works; Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake; sitting and looking occupied while not being occupied at all; and exemplar pet training, petting, and grooming. Alex credits me sometimes for knowing the perfect spot to pet a dog to get them to like me, even though it’s the same spot every time (right behind and under the ear, bonus points for both ears simultaneously.) I don’t have an expert’s knowledge of any of these subjects, but I know enough to get by. That’s passing knowledge.

It’s easy to think thoughtlessly about certain subjects: math, science, quantitative literacy. It’s easy because, after a period of time, you give up on trying. You doubt yourself so much that there’s nothing left but doubt.

I worry, sometimes, that I only have a passing knowledge of subjects I should be an expert in: teaching and English. It’s a constant worry that bothers me when I fail in something, that I secretly am not as good as I need to be. I know I have sufficient knowledge, but there’s always a part of me that doubts myself, exacerbating the issue.

Book Review: “A Confederacy of Dunces”

Two nights ago, I turned the last page on a novel I had picked up months before, A Confederacy of Dunces. I bought John Kennedy Toole’s book after I read the first chapter in Waterstones Piccadilly, and since then I had been reading the novel off and on. Ever since I finished reading, the book has been stuck in my mind and a multitude of critical possibilities have been transposing in my head. Here’s what I thought about A Confederacy of Dunces.

duncesAs you can see, the book has a bit of a weird front cover, but it displays the story fairly well. The main character’s name is Ignatius J. Reilly, and he’s a really funny fellow, though he doesn’t realize it. He’s ignorant of how he appears and ignorant of how his appearance affects others’ perceptions of him. He’s got a big brown mustache, an obnoxious green hat with two flaps on the sides, and an enormous, bulky body. Keep in mind, this book is a clever case of satire. The author uses humor and wit to debase certain characters or actions, to poke fun at them, to criticize their ignorance, and Ignatius, the baffling protagonist, is the most ignorant of all. Satirical books can be self-aware of their satirical nature, and this is seen mostly when outside characters condemn the behaviors of the characters being satirized.

A Confederacy of Dunces takes an interesting perspective on satire, as it places an extraordinary character — in this case, Ignatius — in countless extraordinary situations. The extraordinary frames the entire novel, even though the setting is mild. The main character is a medieval man stuck in a modern world. His favorite book is The Consolation of Philosophy by the Roman philosopher Boethius. He speaks with a high-level of vocabulary, but his hold on the modern world is tiny. He regularly visits the local movie theater in New Orleans and bemoans the actors and actresses’s abilities and the fictional events in the films aloud. Essentially, Ignatius is that guy, but he’s also charming in a very human way. His character, despite seeming so one-dimensional, occupies a great deal of space both literally and figuratively in the bustling world of New Orleans, and his actions in the novel’s exposition have boundless effects on the relatively normal people around him.

But what about the book’s title? First of all, the phrase “a confederacy of dunces” originates from Jonathan Swift’s writings four centuries prior to this novel’s publication. Swift is known as one of the premier satirists of his time, and he also wrote Gulliver’s Travels, another satirical novel. The title explains Ignatius’s mindset.

Four stars!

 

#71: The New Job

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Though I have been officially employed by my new school and feel infinitely more prepared and ready to take on whatever challenges may come, times have changed. I am a different person than I was six months ago, one year ago, when I worked elsewhere and needed constant reassurance that my life wasn’t falling apart. Times have indeed changed.

The new job has been good. Haven’t been given all of my responsibilities at once, thankfully, and have eased into my role and the school community and environment. I’m glad for this, as I would have a difficult time getting used to things if I was given every responsibility immediately, having to monitor the halls and complete lunch duty on the first day. We take turns holding down the fort for lunch duty, and we rotate between aides and assistants when hall or bus duty in the morning is required. The system works like a well-oiled machine; one cog takes over the other cog’s duties and vice versa, to prevent anyone from having to do the same task over and over. I like the diversity of work options, though I haven’t had much experience with them yet to say I’m a master. Being a master of anything, such as a Pokemon Master, takes time, experience, and lots of hard work. What I lack in experience I make up for in hard work, though my anxious mind sometimes demotivates me from doing things I know I should be doing, out of an unnecessary fear.

Times have changed. I work 8-4 now, and I wake up at 7:15 every day, and I go to bed before midnight every day. I eat dinner with Alex when she gets home, and I take out Angus when I get home, and if I’m feeling extra energetic or if I’m not in my sweatpants already, I take Angus out again before Alex returns. I go to the gym 3-4 times a week for at least 35 minutes a session, and on the weekends I go with Alex, usually for longer than 35 minutes. I call up my friends when they’re available to play games, otherwise I play or read or pat Angus. Though this is still the first week of my work schedule, I feel like I’ve adjusted well already, and my adjustment owes itself a lot to how I’ve eased into things, thanks to my schedule. Thanks everyone who’s been on my side and has helped make this possible, whether by reading my blog or by offering support whenever it’s needed. I seriously couldn’t be doing this without you.

#70: The Rust

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Inevitably, time attracts rust. Nothing avoids it, except for ample preparation and productivity. Yet not everyone has access to those traits. Let’s talk about how corrosive unemployment can be, how it eats away at your mind and leaves you with a relic of what you once were, so that when you do inevitably return to work, you are a shade of your former working self. It takes time to rebuild habits and routines, rinsing and repeating. It takes time to make yourself a worker again, to build yourself back up after months of tearing down your self-esteem and happiness. Once a mountain erodes, it takes centuries to reform.

Being unemployed means you are always searching for a way out of being unemployed. At no point during my unemployment did I think, “I would rather stay this way than work again.” I had fun memories with friends that I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise, but reliving my college summer vacation schedule while no one else is “on break” is not as fun as it seems. Every hour I was scrolling through and resetting my inbox to see if another application got back to me, or to hear back on an interview. There’s patience and madness in expecting an email that never comes. There’s doom and gloom in never receiving the validation you need. Being unemployed takes persistence, and it takes heart, and it takes your mind away, bit by bit. Slowly but surely. Sand castles build in your head, and they disintegrate upon close inspection; when you zoom in on any preexisting mental structure, its foundations appear shakier than they initially seem.

And yet there is always rust. After being away from work for months, actual months, is there any surprise that work can feel alien? Anxious minds gravitate toward worst-possible outcomes, as a natural way of things, and so prior to restarting work, I felt anxious that I wasn’t ready to go back, that I needed more time to prepare myself, without realizing that the longer I wait, the more rust that will build up around me. Rust from not working, from not being a 7-3 guy every day, from experiencing deep sleep and waking up whenever you feel like it, from going to CVS during the day and traveling to White Plains to get my prescription in the afternoon. So many things no longer possible, but thankfully, that phase of my life is behind me. It is time to move on, and the best way to move on is by releasing inhibitions and anxieties and just pushing forward. Pushing and pushing until something breaks.