#333: The Listener

adorable blur breed close up

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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.

#76: Doubt

man with a serious face

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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.


analogue classic clock clock face

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Watching and waiting full-time;
He used to scroll blindly through
His previous job’s inbox, with hints of
Nostalgic remembrance when
“Daily Attendance” or “Student IEP”
Appeared, knowing he no longer
Needed to pay them heed
But now his access is gone
And so goes his brief detachment
So it goes.
He should have known this would happen

Watch this space, he says proudly,
Knowing nothing about the future
Except its dramatic, unprecedented
He sleeps all day and night,
Wasting time and energy and life,
Waiting for emails and inbox
Notifications from elsewhere,
Any messages directed
At his attention, to embrace
To celebrate, to ignore

#4: Smiling at Work

photo of little girl s hands covered with paint

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I’m the kind of person who smiles a lot. I like when a sunny disposition empowers another to smile. I share a smile while ordering coffee, just to communicate to the barista that I mean no harm, that I am sorry for inconveniencing them, and that I know what it’s like to wear their shoes. I keep my distance and make sure not to over-complicate my order. If the coffee isn’t great, I drink it without showing signs of dissatisfaction or complaints arising. A new coffee isn’t worth the initiative; I’m sure the barista is busy with other things, or if not, then they deserve whatever break time they get. Peace of mind is underrated.

When the credit card machine stops working, I apologize, even though I had nothing to do with it breaking. It just felt like the appropriate thing to say. I see a line start to form behind me, and I worry that my order has now interrupted some kind of natural flow. A water stream cut from its source. A snake without a head.

Every service or retail worker has stories of being cussed at, spit on, stressed out, maybe all at the same time. I smile because I know how difficult but rewarding it is to spot a friendly face while behind the counter. I remember creating a radar that judged to what extent people would make my life miserable, based on outside factors. Depending on how loudly the radar blinked, the more misery I would expect. When I say “Thank you, have a nice day” before leaving, I mean it. Not enough people mean it. There’s no replacement for sincerity.

Trust is hard to come by. When your job depends on trusting the strangers you are servicing to not ruin your life, when the cards are in their hands, when your power is limited to wrist-slaps and detentions, you wish it were easier for you to trust people outside of your job. You have trouble telling trustworthy and untrustworthy people apart on first glance. After all, you have enough stories of being yelled at by the one customer you trusted not to ruin your day.

That’s why I make sure to smile, even a little bit. Life is too short to throw tantrums at customer service workers. Smiling is more worthwhile.

It’s Midnight

At nighttime I look forward to dreaming

But it’s unlikely I’ll remember whatever,

When it’s nighttime my mind flows 

Like a calm stream, and then explodes.

There’s a genuine sad-happiness in me,

That makes me ineffectual, indifferent

And it can make you sad too at night

In all the dreams I remember there’s brief recollections of past events

Done differently

Regrets strangling my snoring head

Into complete submission, voluntarily

I look forward to the chance to

Perform something, explore something for a moment

At nighttime and whether I’ll remember it doesn’t matter

A great dream from times past 

Away at nighttime and it reminded me

Of why I went to school for years and years

Because school is for phonies and I was one of them

And I still am one of them, the square-looking

Reject children that did well in school and suffered for it

that noticed the meaning behind the teacher’s words but not their own

that battled for days and nights against hordes of papers and plastics

that earned for themselves when there was nothing to earn but green

Dollar bills and a momentary happiness every other Friday

that incarcerated their feeble sadnesses and happinesses 

that took martial arts classes to

Boost their self-esteem and make them feel like bonafide warriors for once

Encourage their sense of right and wrong

Demolish their tower of self-security built as a function of pi

apple slices broke down into sedimentary metamorphic igneous rocks

pear slices why does no one talk about pears as much as apples

clementine tangelo tangerine oranges what’s the use

fruity words escape the nighttime 

What’s the use I’m not even dreaming

It’s not time yet for school, for work

It’s not eight in the morning it’s not morning or night

It’s not Saturday or Monday or Tuesday either

It’s no day but today

And time is a human construct we can avoid

Just don’t look at it when you’re sleeping

I won’t remember the 5th of November, today

Because it’s not a day

And neither are you




When you’re feeling extra happy,

Suck it up, stupid kid.

Where’s your head?

Smiling, let em know you’re crazy

Suck it up, stupid kid.

In the city the predators destroy

Your dumb, stupid head.

Can’t wait to go back.

Wait for the train with your hands

Behind your back,

Tied in loose knots.

You’re a crazy little shit, you know that?

It’s true.

You know you’re a loony puny bitch, yeah.

It’s true.

Stop thinking with your head in the clouds

You’ll get lost out there looking for the ocean.

No one likes your kind.

Stop caring. Stop having joy. Stop being happy.

It’s a rookie mistake. Try learning the ropes

When they’re wrapped around your chest.

Stop going on about something, nothing.

Suck it up, stupid kid; if

You’re not wallowing with me, you’re doing it wrong.

Suck it up.