#406: The Graduation

man wearing green and yellow graduation gown

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This won’t be about graduating and the process of graduating; rather, this will be about the amazing episodes of The Adventure Zone that Alex and I have been listening to recently. Having the opportunity to listen to podcasts with Alex has been wonderful. It’s become sort of a bonding experience between us, where even though Alex has already listened to the episodes before, we get to talk together and share experiences together. One of the things we’re working on is doing more stuff together, whether that’s watching shows together, enjoying dinner together, or listening to podcasts together while we do other things in the meantime.

Currently, there is an encounter going on in the training tavern, involving the skeletons and the main party. They’re attempting a heist, and there’s this peaceful music playing in the background, and it’s all such a nice, pleasant atmosphere. When I play D&D with my after-school group, it’s always chaotic, hectic, and over the top. The students are so devoted to their characters, but they don’t really role-play as much as I would like. They try to meta-game very hard, which is fun at times but it doesn’t always end up in a smooth story line.

In The Adventure Zone, they are devoted to their characters and role-playing together. They have rich, deep backstories and they’re woven into the overarching story seamlessly, like when Argo’s backstory is mentioned by Jackal in episode two and he’s teased about what he’s potentially hiding from other people. I am a huge fan of this style of storytelling.

Currently, I’m learning about Squarespace, which I already used to create a website back when I was unemployed last year. It was as easy as it seemed, but unfortunately the website is no longer in service because I don’t need it any more. I have another job!

#389: The Retail

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Buying a laptop made me think about what it’s like to work on Black Friday, a terrible time for anyone who’s ever had to endure that brand of torture. Also, in the Discord server I’m in, there were people talking and sharing about their annoyances related to working these next couple of days. While I’m glad I no longer have to work as a retail worker, like in my time at Target and Rite Aid, I don’t get paid over holidays like this because I’m technically not working. The same goes for over winter break, because I’m technically a part-time employee.

Working as a part-time employee of Rite Aid sucked, and I hated retail. I’m not the kind of person who likes working with other people, and I much prefer having the option to just seclude myself and do my work separately from everyone else. Now that I have a new laptop, I feel like I can actually work from home a bit more reliably too, even though my current job doesn’t necessitate working from home. I wish it did, though, as I would love to be able to complete work here, and I would be so much more relaxed. I would wake up on time, do everything on time, and relax without worrying about having to get up from my apartment!

Unfortunately, the people who are working during Thanksgiving and Black Friday have to be there regardless of their whims. These are some of the bravest, most valiant people going today, and I believe in them. They have to deal with people at their most barbaric and voracious, hungering for sales with coupons in hand. Holidays be damned, they’re focused on those sales over everything else.

This season in general is hell for retail workers, so I sympathize with them immensely. Give them respect and please be patient with them during this season.

#383: The Tutor

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Essentially, my job is about tutoring. I feel like, as a tutor, my work entails teaching small groups of kids basic, fundamental facts that they need to know about literacy, while hoping to improve their literacy skills. It’s not easy to just jump into tutoring someone without knowing them first, but I have experience tutoring kids of all types and ages. I worked with high school students who were freshman and seniors, and I worked with third and fourth graders. These experiences came before I even started teaching officially, which is why, after I decided to leave teaching, I went back into tutoring as a potential career option. This gives me the opportunity to work in a school schedule, with school hours and days and what not, without having to worry about being a full-time teacher. I do wish, at times, that I was working full-time, that way I could receive the same benefits as other people, but to me, there are worse things I could be dealing with, I guess. My job works for me as is.

But back to being a tutor. Later today, I’ll be visiting fourth grade to tutor some students. We’ll be working on vocabulary as well as developing their reading comprehension. On the one hand, I’m happy to help kids make noticeable improvements, but on the other hand, I’m not sure how much I’m actually helping, when standardized tests are what we are using to judge their improvement. It feels like standardization has taken over the world of education, leaving it impossible for students to develop naturally. I wish things were a bit less standardized and a bit more individualized, where students are given opportunities to develop themselves outside of rigid formats and outlines. But that’s just me. I know I’m not alone on that, however.

#366: The Math Day

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Math days aren’t fun. I don’t know math as well as I used to; I don’t remember the formulas for completing long division and advanced multiplication on paper. I just complete them in my head, and I do it the long way. If I’m multiplying 60 * 510, I’ll multiply 60 * 500 first and add 60 * 10 to the end of it. It’s just easier for me to do things that way, even if it’s more complicated in the long run. Being able to complete that level of complicated math just isn’t part of my day to day life, and if I need to figure something like that out, I just google it instead. It’s tough to justify teaching quantitative literacy in our current world environment, although it is important regardless.

Math days aren’t fun because I have to pretend to know more math than I actually know. I have to walk around and help people who need help, when in reality I’m the person who needs help on this stuff the most. It’s a bit complicated, having to learn and relearn and remember what I was taught in middle and high school, then teaching that back to other people. It all happens pretty much on the spot, regardless of what else I’m doing. I have to think on my feet, adapt to whatever situation is presented in front of me, and move quickly, especially because I’m in mostly unfamiliar territory. I don’t normally work in the math room; more often than not, I’m either in the computer lab, the humanities room, or between 4th and 5th grade. My schedule doesn’t allow me to spend much time in either math or science, so thankfully I’m not usually expected to know those subjects as much as I have to know and follow along with humanities. That’s just one of the perks of my job.

#337: The Job

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Finding a new job can be difficult. First of all, you need to start assessing what you expect from a new job, the kind of atmosphere you want to have there. You have to think of what questions to ask during an interview, and how to handle yourself throughout that process. In terms of long-term jobs, the longest I’ve worked in one place was when I was a high school teacher, because that lasted over a year. But I didn’t enjoy myself there, for many reasons discussed previously in this blog. I’ve also talked about how to ask pertinent questions during the interview process to make sure you get what you want afterwards. It’s a difficult, complicated process, but nothing comes easy in the job hunt.

It might come as a surprise to some people that I’m looking for a new job, but to me, it’s about that time. I feel exhausted doing the same thing every day, and even though my job is mostly fine, I’m starting to realize the hypocrisies and oxymorons that govern what we do. I also feel bad about not having a union, insurance, or a contract of my own, but still being manipulated and exploited regardless of that status. I feel bad about being treated like someone less than a teacher by teachers, because they have agendas to fulfill and aren’t willing to lower themselves down from their pedestals even a little bit. Imagine having a full-time (well, technically part-time) assistant with you 24/7 to make copies and enforce discipline in your class with you? Imagine not having to come up with plans because everything’s already been planned for you? Imagine being that kind of a teacher, and then still thinking you have the right to look down on other assistants. It’s maddening and, more than anything, it makes me want to leave. I don’t need to be here.

#269: The Return

when will you return signage

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Returning to school after a long summer vacation has always been cause for anxiety. It’s the start of a new school year, but it’s also the start of a new, much longer routine system to resume. Over the summer, I develop new, more free habits and routines, related to sleeping, daily time spending, and clothing. I’m not always dressed in business casual at home, I get to spend time doing whatever I want, and I can wake up at a more reasonable hour. These differences are crucial, making the summer vacation truly memorable and worth celebrating.

Being someone whose whole life has been centered around the American school schedule, it’s hard to break the chains of tradition. I’m inexplicably tied to the school routines I had as a child. Wake up early in the morning, go to a high-stakes place of learning for some hours, then return home late in the afternoon and do it all again the next day, barring weekends. Octobers and Marches are long months without as many days off, and June is the fastest month by far. You learn to cherish December, for its long vacation in the middle of the year, as well as the holidays, of course. But you are forever tied to these feelings and traditions of how the year progresses. Normal adults, who don’t work in the school system, like Alex, work year-round and have vacation time on their own terms, and things like that. They don’t have the luxury of a summer break, but they’re also not still tied as adults to the summer’s joyful freedom as they were as kids. In some ways, I envy them. When I was unemployed in 2018, it felt like I was still reliving the school schedule, even through November and December. It was impossible to escape.

#234: The Website

black samsung tablet computer

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Building a website isn’t easy. No matter what service you end up using, be it WordPress, Squarespace, or what have you, it’s never a simple process, no matter what the websites tell you in their advertisements. I’ve heard from countless podcasts how Squarespace is the future of personal website designing, for example, and part of that is probably because of the deliberate wording of the advertisement itself, but it’s not what it claims to be, at least from my experience. Making a website that looks the same as countless other carbon copied websites is not enough, in my opinion, to sell me on the service.

When I was unemployed for awhile, my therapist recommended I consider making my own website, that way I can advertise my services there while still pursuing the job hunt elsewhere. I knew about Squarespace because of the podcasts I listen to, and I decided to try it out while I had nothing to lose. Why not, honestly? Maybe I’d get some emails from interested people. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen much, probably as a result of me not advertising the website very well. There’s the other thing: Squarespace doesn’t advertise for you, you have to do that on your own. You just pay for the domain and the services.

If I were pursuing a different professional career path, I could definitely see the potential of making my own website, as a sort of updated resume that keeps track of what I’ve done over time and shows to the world what I can do. I know of a few writers and graphic designers who keep professional websites for themselves, and that feels like a great use of resources. However, not all of us are in those specific career fields, so I’m not sure I’d recommend making a website for yourself unless you really needed one.

#228: The Teacher

alphabet class conceptual cube

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Nothing like a retirement party to get the staff feeling nostalgic and reminiscing about better, simpler times. Before students had cell phones and attitudes and their parents held them accountable with higher standards for behavior at home. They taught them manners, respect, and discipline. Those days, according to the teachers, have long passed, and have been replaced with an era of entitlement. How dare students have the gall to talk back, to be so blatantly and egregiously disrespectful? Everything is connected, in their eyes; the millennial generation, the so-called free speech crisis on college campuses, avocado toast and the betrayal of traditional American values.

When I say that this is according to the teachers, I don’t mean the teachers I work with personally. I mean teachers as a general population. I’ve known enough teachers over the years to know what their general moods and attitudes are towards social change. Just as an electrician or a construction worker feels a sense of kinship with the spirit of their profession, so too do teachers.

It just so happens that the conversation came up, as it tends to come up, while at a retirement party for a veteran teacher. Are kids these days just worse than usual? Is it their parents to blame? What’s it going to be like when they’ve matured into adults? What if they don’t mature at all? Is this the generation we want running our country in a decade or two? It’s inevitable, you know. Sometime down the line, this generation will be in charge of things, just like how the other generations had their turn at the steering wheel. Are you afraid of that? I wouldn’t be. My generation is known for so many negative reasons, but in reality, they’re one of the only generations still trying to fix things, it seems. Hopefully.

#226: Wake Up

bed bedroom blanket comfort

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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

man fixing vehicle engine

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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.