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

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Breakdown

Nothing wrong with a little
concern, a couple Q’s
about life and work,
she says,
excuse my inquisitive side

I say, breaking down is like
watching a horror movie in
slow-motion,
uncontrollable dramatic irony
steps into view and
watches you slowly until
you open the closet

I say, forgive me
for not reaching out when
I was at my lowest,
my deepest regrets are more
debilitating than I thought
and I forgot to say “Hello”

Hello
I had some troubles
last year, summer to
fall to winter to now,
you don’t think during a
breakdown, no one thinks
no one

#70: The Rust

broken car vehicle vintage

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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.

#66: The Restart

pexels-photo-1441931.jpeg

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Remember in my last post, how I mentioned that I got a job? Yes, I can belabor this point for three blog posts in a row: I’m very excited to be returning to work on Monday (this might be going up on Monday, in which case this will seem a bit weird.) This is my restart, and I am so much more prepared for this now that I’ve had time off to rethink, restrategize, and reprioritize myself. Let me review what this restart entails, interestingly enough, taking place right after the year changed to 2019. So much has already changed this month alone!

So… a few personal goals:

  • Be a reliable, committed employee for my school for the remainder of the 2018-19 school year.
  • Work out/go to the gym 3-4 times a week, at least 35 minutes a session.
  • Track food I eat in a food diary (Not MyFitnessPal; just taking down physical notes in my phone)
  • Read a book a month in the year 2019, starting with “The Last Wish,” which I mentioned in a previous blog post and am currently almost finished with!
  • Converse with friends more regularly/be a more communicative friend.

Hopefully these can help lay some groundwork for me to rebound off of. Having a midlife crisis in your 20s is not easily shaken off; it lingers in you, and it comes back in fits and spurts, returns, creeps in to haunt your soul. It never lets itself leave you alone, except for when you manage to forget about it. And here I am, putting it all back into my head again.

Joking aside, I hope to stick to these goals throughout the year, and I want to keep them in mind as I transition into work life again. Being at home alone versus having a full-time job are drastically different life cycles and styles. One’s more sedentary, for example, while another demands more activity. You can probably guess which is which. I hope to make the transition smooth and comfortable, while also establishing some good habits and routines while I’m in a positive, cheerful mood. Here’s to the rest of 2019, given what good fortune has come this year so far.

#65: The Employee

man and woman handshake

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You read it right. Anthony’s a newly-employed man. After a couple months of job searching, and a previous few months of deliberation and summer vacation, it feels surreal to say that I’ll be returning to work again on Monday. To put things in perspective: I went to a conference and workshop over the summer of 2018 and even attended a few curriculum development meetings, too, but for the most part, my summer was barren of work. Then, a day after school resumed session in August, I took a sick day to see my therapist, spent another few days adjusting to my head and new medications, saw family and updated them on my status, and signed up for an FMLA. That first day rocked me to my core, and put me in complete collapse. A month and a half later, I decided to resign from my job, knowing fully well that I would be saying goodbye to that world I was briefly a part of in Milford. There was sadness attached to my resignation, and I would feel, in the coming weeks, overwhelming guilt, regret, and nostalgia towards that job. It’s impossible to replace the feeling of being a teacher; even through all the negatives, the positives still found ways to be front and center in my head. The more I failed in my job search, the more I returned to happy memories from the very same job that put me in a mental health crisis in the first place. It didn’t make sense, obviously, to beat myself up so much over a decision I made for my health, but when it comes down to it, we do what we have to to survive.

Now, I begin work at a new school, in a new role, fulfilling the duty of a Literacy Interventionist. It is a responsibility I feel ready for, and I hope that I have the same success here that I did in North Haven.

#5: Smiling Away from Work

astronomy dark dawn dusk

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

So much is communicated with a smile. But not enough to judge a person’s mental health.

At my last job, I tried to smile more, hoping it would make me happier. Much of my personality was communicated through personas and body language rather than authentic emotion. You can lead and laugh through a wonderful class while still feeling an overwhelming disappointment in yourself. No simple mistake, no factual error, no awkward gaffe escapes your ever-present self-loathing. It provides ammunition, evidence to support the thesis that you are woefully unqualified and unworthy.

You wonder whether your mind even wants you to enjoy this, whether that’s a possibility at all. Your mind is too preoccupied with its escapist visions of the future to be satisfied with the present. You remember the ones who enjoyed what you did for them. Compliments bounce off your outer shell, heard and appreciated but not internalized enough to make a difference. You remember the ones who dreaded you more clearly. They left a more indelible impression in your brain, and every little piece of those memories is brought back to the surface when you think about it long enough.

And yet I still smiled all day. I left meetings alone with a weight on my chest. I remember hearing about community-building exercises, networking opportunities, icebreaker activities. Every word worsened the sting. I remember pitching these opportunities to others, hoping someone would like them, even though I had no interest in them myself. It was an obligation. What I really wanted was to feel listened to, or heard in some way.

My heart nearly burst through me the first time I had to explode at someone. I could still feel my chest pain hours later. But that’s another story for another time.

I will continue to smile for no reason at all, even if it changes nothing. My depression does not mean I cannot find enjoyment in simple things. In fact, it’s the simple things that keep me falling off the deep end. It’s when I finally discover an outlet for my creativity that I realize I can beat this back. Thanks for reading.