#41: The Shower

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Is there a feeling better than taking a hot shower on a cold, winter morning? Right now, I am enjoying what I would call the perfect feeling: a nice shower in the described conditions. My phone is waterproof, and when my mind is most at ease is the ideal writing condition. Let’s talk about that for a few.

(Look, I said in my last post that this blog would be moving in a more personal, “Wonderful!” themed direction, alright? Expect even simpler topics in the future.)

The simple, single joy to the morning. Showers have a certain magic to them, especially when enjoyed without worrying about time or place or anything. I love entering a shower after a long day, or in preparation for a long day. Alex was sick recently, and after taking a hot shower, she felt as good as new. Something about the warmth of the water, the steam exuding from the shower chamber as it tickles your nose and clouds your head for a bit. The heat, if left on for too long, can be intoxicating, letting you drift away from your thoughts and into the moment itself. It aids in mindfulness, the art of living in the moment. Nothing epitomizes moment-to-moment living like taking a shower, to me, because I am perpetually thinking about what’s happening around and in front of me. It helps me let go of my anxieties; if even for a few minutes, the absence helps me find some much needed stability and sanity.

One thing I’d like to point out is, I tend to judge houses by how great their showers and/or bathrooms in general appear. When visiting my friend James’s house in London, his bathroom had a closed-off, triangle-shaped chamber where an entirely overhead shower drowned you in hot goodness. He also had a lot of remarkable hair products that he let me use, which has informed my shampoo and body wash shopping ever since. I remember feeling trapped, behind three murky triangular mirrors, but entirely overcome by how great the overhead shower felt. Interestingly enough, after I returned from studying abroad and reentered a house in crisis mode: our new home had an overhead shower option. It’s like the real estate agent knew exactly what I wanted from a new house.

Now that I live in an apartment across the state, things are different. The shower isn’t as remarkable as the multi-faceted, diverse experience I was used to at home in Northford. Times have changed, but this just fuels my motivation and drive once Alex and I move again.

#37: The Smoothie

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Does it get much better than this? On a chilly day, a warm day, whatever kind of day, a fresh fruit smoothie can change everything. This is probably the whitest thing I’ve written on this blog so far, but damn do I just love smoothies.

Yesterday, I picked up Alex from the train station and we drove to Robek’s Fruit Smoothies in Stamford. It’s on Summer Street, which is about 8 minutes from our apartment. Despite frigid outdoor winds and a long day of work, we brought ourselves to the place and ordered our hearts out, like all people should when they’re at a place that brings them so much joy on a biweekly basis. Though experienced only once every few weeks, the smoothie trip is something I deeply love about living in Stamford. When we took my sister there last time she visited, I remember introducing it with so much hype, and it fulfilled those expectations.

I also have memories of staying at Alex’s apartment in Hamden and waiting for smoothies to show up. Sometimes we would go to Stop & Shop late at night, well past acceptable hours, and just relax in the aisles looking for ingredients to make smoothies with. Frozen raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, you name it. Whether at morning or at night, I loved these things. It’s almost a shame we don’t do them any more, though maybe this will be a hint for the future!

I have memories of sitting poolside at Beaches resort in Turks & Caicos, when I was much younger, and ordering Strawberry Daiquiris (non-alcoholic, of course) over and over again to sate my insatiable appetite for fruity drinks. What’s not to love about endless strawberry sugary drinks? Unlike my father, who loves fruity drinks a bit more than I do, I’m not so much interested in fruit/alcoholic mixtures (or alcohol in general). I think it’s an interesting trait between us, considering my take on it is usually a little healthier.

#36: Gift Giving

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Welcome to the twelve, or ten, days of Christmas, according to Alex and Anthony. We don’t discriminate based on the number of days you decide to start counting, and we don’t judge in case you start counting by threes instead of ones. Sometimes the gifts just need to be given!

The spirit of Christmas, after all, is to give, not receive. There’s magic in seeing someone’s face as they unwrap and untangle the gift they received from you, as you wait for them to finally lay eyes onto what you thought they would enjoy. There’s a little bit of tension, as to whether or not the receiver will truthfully like your gift, or perhaps they will just pretend to like it (it happens sometimes). But mostly, this is the positive, joyous season of giving.

For me, I have planned ten gifts for ten days of Christmas to give to Alex, and they are all fairly small except for a few larger ones, and then finally one special gift. Alex also planned ten gifts, and hers tend to have more utilitarian means to them, which is exciting for me. New MeUndies tee and a new pair of underwear? I could jump for joy at the sight of that (and I did). I love receiving new comfortable clothing and new books by Haruki Murakami. Nothing makes me happier.

A younger Anthony would have despised receiving clothing for Christmas, but nowadays, I get excited about it. I think partly one of the reasons I didn’t like it so much as a kid is that the people buying me clothes, often my aunts and uncles, didn’t know what type of clothes I wanted to wear. They would grab me Aeropostale and American Eagle tees, and I would wear them to school where people would look quizzically at the differences between my outer self (my personality, my hobbies, my habits) and the clothing I decided to wear (preppy, put-together, and douchey). There was a total mismatch in appearance versus personality, and I don’t doubt that it looked pretty funny.

#35: The SAT

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The SAT. Remember this? I sure do. Nowadays, I remember it as clear as anything else. In 2018, the SAT has returned.

As part of the job interview process, I will be taking a sample SAT, and will attempt to score in the 90th percentile on the test. If I do, and if I interview well, I can land another position, but if I don’t, I’m screwed. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that grand?

I recently bought a guidebook for taking the SAT, called “SAT Prep Plus 2019.” It’s wonderful that I can even afford large textbooks like this, but it wasn’t too expensive. The real expense is going to be mental; can I bear this test without my anxiety causing me to fail it? Basically, can I accomplish this task and still keep my sanity intact? I hope so. I’ve taken plenty of practice tests, scored well on each one, and feel fairly confident about this, and yet there’s a lingering part of me that rejects this whole notion of standardized test-taking as a measure of anything. Maybe it’s just my youth, and perhaps I’ll change my tune on this subject after more experience with the test, but right now I’m a bit bitter about this.

I have a lot of memories with the SAT. Whether it’s taking my first PSAT in high school and (falsely) judging my intellect based on how I scored compared to my peers, or whether it’s proctoring the SAT at North Haven High for the first time and almost botching the delivery of some of the rules in front of a lot of judgmental faces, there’s a decent chunk of my memory devoted to this elusive standardized exam. As someone whose expertise is in education and teaching, I encounter the SAT almost everywhere I go. It never seems to disappear, even when I want it to.

I still remember the room I took my first SAT in, and I remember being taken to the computer lab so the students could look at their PSAT scores. As a teacher, I now know that that was the first time my teacher had seen our scores, too, even though she pretended otherwise. As a teacher, I know that sometimes “pretending otherwise” is an important trait to master, to save face in front of students who don’t believe you. I never quite mastered that one in my time teaching.

One time, when I was in high school, I sought to take the SAT subject test for AP Lit and US History. I scored fairly well on the history test, but not so well on the literature one. I remember asking my parents to let me take these tests because I wanted to get into Williams College, which required subject test scores from two tests at the time. It was a long, long reach, and I was ultimately rejected. But it was worth a shot, as is this SAT re-do I am about to take.

#34: Easygoing

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Careful, you’re up pretty high; the sky is looking down on you, the world is above you, the ground is below you, everything is as it needs to be. Be still, be like water. Wait your turn, walk in, introduce yourself, sit down, and talk briefly about yourself. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to fear here.

Living an easygoing lifestyle is difficult. A bit ironic that a word with “easy” in it happens to be the exact opposite. Achieving “easy” living is about as easy as racing up Mount Everest, something I’ll likely never ever be able to do in my life. It’s easier to write about living an easygoing life than it is to actually achieve it, which is partially why I haven’t made as much progress in doing so since becoming a regular blogger and writer on here. The progress I have made, which has been wonderful, hasn’t exactly lifted my body from the depths of depression, if you catch my drift; it’s helped in some small ways, while leaving me bereft of help in others. It cannot be overstated how difficult it is for an anxious mind to let go of their anxieties, even when faced with the consequences of them head-on.

Easygoing. Going easy. Life is most worth living when it’s easy, when it’s care-free, when it’s free. Liberate your life by making it easier on yourself. Break free from self-imposed anxious chains. Make something meaningful of what’s within you, what’s so powerful about you.

There’s a lot to appreciate about everyone, regardless of who they are (except fascists). I’d like to take more time appreciating those small things, and then maybe more people will learn to live life more easily in the future. It is within our reach, if we let it come to us.

#33: The Interview

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Interviewing isn’t easy. It’s difficult and makes me anxious just thinking about. To some people, it comes as naturally as getting dressed in the morning; they exude confidence, charisma, and likability in their body language. They are charming and outgoing, yet enigmatic. They speak of their previous experience like it’s their job to. And once they get the job, inevitably, they perform above expectations and exceed every bound or standard in their way.

I don’t know why, but this person I am describing is definitely not me. On the surface, I might seem confident and prepared, but that’s usually a facade. This isn’t to say that I don’t come prepared; it’s just that, once I’m in the heat of the moment, my confidence withers and my preparedness deteriorates with it. Everything I had worked so hard on prior to the interview is gone in a moment of overthinking about how I’m dressed or that one word I said wrong. Whenever people talk about keeping cool under pressure, I like to imagine they must be good at interviews, as they would find it normal to speak of their experience.

Another reason for this is, interviewing generally has you speaking about your previous experience in a way that’s glowing and positive. Sometimes your experiences aren’t glowing and positive, like in one recent case, and that should be normal. Not every work placement is going to be a slam dunk. Not every experience is destined to be positive and full of rainbows.

I guess the main reason I get anxious about interviews is, I secretly dislike my own experience and feel artificial and fake speaking about it with a positive spin. I wish it were easier to speak truthfully while still maintaining expertise over your experience. It’s never been easy, has it?

#12: The Foodie

close up of fruits hanging on tree

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“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” — Anthony Bourdain

When Anthony Bourdain passed away this year, it struck me harder than most celebrity deaths. Not that I had watched a thousand episodes of “Parts Unknown,” or that I even owned a copy of Kitchen Confidential. I don’t know if that makes me much of a fan, but I’ve always admired Bourdain for many reasons. The quote above is one of those reasons. Travel has left marks on me, marks that I don’t know if I can ever replace or supplement. I believe my wonder for traveling owes itself to him.

I remember laying face-down on the twin bed in our Pop Century Disney World hotel room, watching “Parts Unknown.” It was an episode about El Salvador, and though I vaguely remember what happened in it, some visuals have stayed in my mind: Bourdain rummaging through a household while the family watches him, a late-night, outdoor festival with music and singing, and limitless, exotic food.

What strikes me most about Bourdain, though, is his advocacy for women’s rights (especially during the Weinstein era of #MeToo), political accountability, and his personal battle with depression. I will always admire how he exposed his viewers to people without seeking to exploit or caricature them. He approached his show’s subjects with an earnest curiosity and respect, not to erase their culture, but to present it faithfully and truthfully. He spoke out against insulation, intolerance, injustice. It was easy to feel that, in spite of his demons, he had an ideal lifestyle: traveling, eating, writing around the world. But, you cannot judge how a person thinks or feels just from how they present themselves. Mental illness is awful. Anxiety and depression’s stigmas must be fought. Reach out to the people you love. He lived a dream life, complete with traveling and food-tasting, and yet persists the myth of “having it all”; that someone can have a successful career, fame, and a family, and still feel depressed. His career blossomed late, allowing him to challenge social norms with a witty, yet wise and experienced eye.

Shoebox

Sometimes the most challenging part of my day is fitting my thoughts into a shoebox by the closet before I fall asleep. You don’t start thinking until your shoes are on, Ms. Crawford, my sixth-grade gym teacher, would say. She would complain to us when Richie wore flip-flops to class. “Weren’t you in class last week when we talked about this, Richie?” She would then repeat how clothes, and most importantly shoes, kick-start our brains. Better than coffee, she said. “What you wear reflects how you feel, how you feel reflects what you wear! LeBron James doesn’t practice in his sandals!” My mind would race with questions.

When you wear a tuxedo, do you feel rich?

When you wear jeans, do you feel tough?

When you wear nothing, do you feel nothing?

But she never told us what to do when it’s bedtime, and our shoes lay carelessly on the floor, and our restless thoughts like barbarians pillage and scour our heads, searching every room for something torturous to remind us of, something sacred to latch onto with tear-soaked arms, or something comforting to keep them safe from the lurching quiet of the night.

Outside my door, cannibals rave about how I might want to feel tomorrow, when I have to slide into my ill-fitted suit jacket and dress pants for my first job interview. They know there’s no sneaky excuse, no way out of this one.

Eight people in a room. Intelligent, distinguished, experienced, exhausted. They have seen enough people like me. Staring from across a half-circled table, fiddling through paperwork and folders and binders. In a dark room, decorated with half-imagined paintings, charcoal walls, thin suits, thin expressions. One of them leans their hand forward, not to shake mine, but to motion for me to sit.

Why are you qualified for this position?

I freeze. But then I collect myself, remembering my rehearsed lines.

I love teaching: the constant need for adaptability, validation, interaction, and academic learning; the growing community among teachers, among students, and throughout the school; the insightful, pure brilliance of youth; the latent potential in every student to succeed their own way, and the satisfaction when you see it happen; and the unbelievably polarizing highs and lows each day can bring.

Terribly cliche. Didn’t answer the question. They have already given up on me. It was a mistake to come here. I shouldn’t have done this. I sound too prepared. I can’t catch my breath. I feel my chest burst through the suit.

I reach down through my imagined undershirt, unbuttoning the middle button, and feel the shame nesting, growing inside and outside as one waits for their body to ignore the belt’s usual and terrible sensation when around waists too large now to contain. I worry for when wardrobes are not malleable enough to impress any more.

I worry and cry, and they shuffle their papers, and I am escorted away. I scramble for the reset button. It’ll be at least three minutes until I am back to normal. I’m not wearing shoes, but I feel everything all at once.

It’s 2 AM and the sound of an ambulance brings me back to life.

Sometimes all you can do is think, but my thoughts, too, want peace. If I were in debt, owing money to the Bank of Sanity, I would pay my bills in one sitting, no interest statements, no follow-ups, no deferred action plan. One sitting would be all it takes, and then I’m freed.

Sometimes I forget to put my thoughts in their shoebox, and so they run like hell until I realize I can’t sleep until they get to sleep, too. Sometimes I forget about the equitable treatment of thoughts.

Inspiring Each Other!

Thank you laurnicolehunt for the nomination! This came as a welcome surprise in the morning, and I was glad to hear that I was in some way inspiring. That means a lot!

To the people I am about to nominate as well, this means the same thing. You have either inspired me or noticeably inspire others, so thank you!

blogger-award

The Rules:

  1. Display the logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
  5. Notify your nominees.

7 Things About Me!

  1. I first wrote a novel in my freshman year of high school, but I don’t talk about it much because I really dislike it.
  2. When I was 13, I received my black belt in martial arts.
  3. I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars.
  4. I geek out to Lord of the Rings like crazy.
  5. I am obsessed with the Beatles, and often can be found walking around with a band shirt on.
  6. I’ve lived in the state of Connecticut all my life.
  7. I love the imagery of dreams, Gothic horror, and fantasy.

Nominations!

  1. melissafrybeasley
  2. A Way With Words
  3. rebbecabond
  4. theancienteavesdropper
  5. whorlstrompoetry
  6. Ky Grabowski
  7. philosophermouseofthehedge
  8. ArtiPeeps
  9. shrinksarentcheap

While this isn’t fifteen people, I wanted to congratulate the people that I know deserve the thanks. So thank you all!

Inspiration from Wordsworth!

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To my followers and readers, you’ll soon understand that I enjoy and respect a variety of different writers for their talents and influence on me. I recently wrote a post wishing Gabriel Garcia Marquez a happy 86th birthday, and now I want to examine another great writer, but from a different time period. William Wordsworth, who wrote primarily in the 19th century, co-developed the Romantic literary movement with Samuel Coleridge. As poets, they sought to restore the world back to nature, to re-examine the things we take for granted, and to appreciate the world blooming around us. However, this movement grew around the time of the Industrial Revolution. One can view Romanticism as a backlash against Industrialism. It was a battle of human development versus nature itself.

William Wordsworth wrote one of my all-time favorite sonnets in iambic pentameter about the subject of nature and its place in a human-dominated world. I would like to share this poem with everyone, for many may have forgotten it. Although it applied the most in the time of the Industrial Revolution, its significance does not diminish over the course of time, for humanity has continued to industrialize and materialize through time.

As well, I would like to point out that this sonnet served as inspiration for my other poem, “Down the River”. I had been reading from Wordsworth in English class while I wrote it.

And now, for the sonnet: “The World Is Too Much With Us”. Enjoy!

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. –Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
 

I hope you all continue to appreciate nature. What is your interpretation of this great sonnet by Wordsworth? I’d love to hear what people have to say regarding it.