#311: The Camera, Part 1

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Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Like no matter what you do, someone else is sitting there, at a computer or in their office, making sure that everything you do is appropriate and correct? Sometimes that’s a little too much for me. I don’t like the idea of being watched, which is why it’s one of my biggest fears and a cause of paranoia. Having the aching feeling that someone is keeping tabs on you sucks, even when you’re doing everything appropriately and correctly.

There’s something to being watched, though; it’s reassuring to know that your work is constantly being evaluated, and if you’re prepared to justify everything you do, it can feel a bit nice. Sometimes I feel like my work isn’t being observed enough, like I wish someone was seeing everything that I do and commending me for a good job when I succeed. That doesn’t happen all the time, no matter what job you’re in. In teaching, it’s said that you usually only hear the negative feedback. No matter how hard you try, everyone’s a critic in some way. I’d like to believe that life isn’t so bleak for my profession, but I’ve experienced both sides quite a lot. Again, it’s one of my phobias that I just can’t really seem to beat.

When I went to London as part of my study abroad trip, I made sure to buy a camera to bring with me so that I could remember the trip well. I don’t think I have the camera any more, as one of the shutters broke, but I have the pictures saved forever on my Dropbox, so I’m not especially worried about losing them or those memories. Sometimes I worry about my memories fading away with time, but then they come back when a similar occasion happens.

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#310: The Technique, Part 3

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A three-parter! Here we go. I wouldn’t have guessed having started this series that it would’ve ended up so much longer than initially anticipated.

Writing is a liberating hobby. You are always expelling some kind of demon from within you for someone else’s personal enjoyment. I think back to all the memoir writers I’ve learned about, who must’ve tormented themselves over their writing to perfect the story as it happened, while also creating a unique, memorable narrative at the same time. It’s not easy to say you’re a writer without others immediately asking you what that means, and what kind of writing you do. How can you answer that question with “personal writing” without feeling a bit selfish and self-important, as if your life is worth writing about in the first place? I wouldn’t say I’m living an especially significant life, just a normal one in the 21st century. I wouldn’t even say my story is a story that needs to be told; I don’t know who would really benefit from hearing another white, middle-class, coming-of-age story. But the reason I write is not necessarily just so that I can be read by others; the real reason I write is because it fulfills my professional goals and makes me feel productive. It makes me feel like I’m keeping track of myself, my history, and the world I live in, even while I slowly but surely lose track of it, bit by bit. I used to write frequently, and I want to keep that part of myself going, most of all. I don’t want to abandon it, so here we are, writing about personal lives because it’s often easiest to write about yourself.

In college, I wrote a conceptual metaphor paper on how teaching is performing an exorcism, every day. Imagine how exhausting it must be to exorcise demons from your classroom on a regular basis.

#309: The Technique, Part 2

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Last time, I spoke about the technique that goes into writing fiction, as well as the general rules that I follow (or try to follow, unsuccessfully) because of my difficulties when it comes to paying attention. Having ADD makes writing an interesting hobby, allowing on the one hand for my mind to drift and visit whatever worlds it needs to in order to fulfill my imaginative vision, while on the other hand enabling a lack of focus and attention on the important details. (Is “enabling” the correct word for that? I’m not so sure.)

Regardless, I wanted to talk more about this subject. This is the first time I’m doing a two-part blog post without having written them back-to-back. As in, I’m writing these on separate days. To think it took me 309 posts before I realized I could do this.

The best technique that I’ve personally employed is writing wherever possible, whenever inspiration strikes me. Sometimes while at work, when I have a little bit of down time and can afford a few minutes of personal leisure, I turn on the computer, open up my Google Docs folder, and expel all the ideas taking up space in my head onto the page. It’s a useful and helpful habit to build upon, because the way my brain works necessitates a kind of urgency when it comes to ideas entering it. Being able to write freely helps so much, and without it, I’m not sure I’d be able to trust that the story I come up with is natural and faithful to whatever vision I have for it. Being faithful is essential, as I would hate to read a story that’s not an accurate representation of what the author wanted it to be. Writing is all about representing things, and authors are represented from their stories in great detail.

#308: The Technique, Part 1

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There’s a special technique to writing fiction, a recipe that always creates successful and thought-provoking writing. I don’t know what it is, but when I find it out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

I write all over the place. My thoughts are so haphazard and spontaneous that I need to write wildly or else I risk losing the thoughts that organically come one after another while writing. Preserving that train of thought is essential to my writing process when writing fiction. I need to be cognizant of where the story is going, while also letting my brain handle the gritty word choice parts. I also sometimes let the spontaneous nature of my brain do the writing and planning for me, even though I probably shouldn’t.

This blog post is kind of a continuation of the previous one, “The Distraction.” They’re both about living with ADD and how that affects what I do and how I live.

Let me give an example of what I mean. I’m writing a multi-part, one-off story involving characters from an established universe. I didn’t know how the story was going to end until… probably about 3,000 words in, and the story is probably only going to be about 4,500 by the time it’s done. I wasn’t building toward an established ending in my head, so that made writing difficult at times. But I was able to let my brain dictate where the story was going, which made the story come off more naturally, I think.

(Did you see how I moved from one topic to another between paragraphs just there? I promise that wasn’t intentional.)

If you’ve read this blog consistently, you might know that I don’t edit my blog posts. I write them and publish them as one rough draft, without any proofreading or reviewing. This one especially.

#304: The Interviewer

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Who’s giving the interview during an interview? Is it the company looking to fill a spot on their hiring list, or is it the prospective employee looking for the perfect job?

The reality is both sides are interviewing each other, but in most contexts, when you say you’re going to an interview, you expect to be asked a bunch of questions and to have to answer them in order to potentially earn a paycheck from that company. It should be a mixture of the two, and I’ve come to realize over time how important it is for the prospective employee to come prepared with questions that are, actually, important to them.

When I first applied for teaching jobs, I was lucky to hear back from anywhere. When I got my first returned phone call from a school district, I was overjoyed, and my day was made. I remember sharing the news with my mentor teacher and the English department as a whole, and I remember them cheering me on as I went to my first interview. I prepared so much for it, and I remember running the questions through my head over and over again until I felt comfortable with my answers. I remember going to Buffalo Wild Wings with Alex and sitting in the bar section together as she read me questions I had written down. I cared so much about being the perfect teacher during the interview process, but I didn’t put nearly as much thought into my questions for them.

In this stage of my career, I feel comfortable being selective, and I know what it’s like to ask questions that affect how the company looks to an outsider. The interviewers will want to answer truthfully. One question I’m fond of is, “How does your school have a unique teaching culture, and how have you helped foster it?”

#301: The Barber

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I’ve talked on this blog before about going to the barber, in #204: “The Haircut.” But today I’m going to discuss some of the previous barbers I’ve gone to, and the impressions they’ve left on me.

When I was young, I used to go to a barber whose name I can’t quite remember right now. But I can recall his face, the shop, and everything in it. He had a tootsie pop dispenser that I always asked my mom about, and he loved Betty Boop. Betty Boop with a coca cola, Betty Boop with a tootsie pop in her mouth, Betty Boop on a motorcycle. No matter what type of situation you can imagine, she was in it. This barber used to call me rubber neck because I kept moving around during the haircut. I have a hard time keeping my head still in one place without it moving to and fro, usually because I like to relax my head during periods of time where I’m not doing anything except sitting. He also used to call me gorilla neck because the hair around my neck grew in quickly. It’s still like that to this day, and I can recall his manner of speaking and voice so perfectly in my head.

Then there’s George, or Augie. When I still lived in Northford, I visited him frequently. I sometimes would bump into old students when I went there. George was a one-of-a-kind guy, and he always struck up a friendly conversation with me when I went there. He took his time and really accentuated my look, asking questions along the way about what type of haircut I wanted and how school was going so far. When I told him I was moving to Stamford, he asked if I was still going to come to him, but unfortunately I had to decline. Stamford to North Haven is a long drive, and I can’t make that regularly enough to get a haircut there.

#296: The Crimson Flower

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Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#295: The Bedroom

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The bedroom is probably Angus’s favorite place in the whole apartment. Without a doubt, he loves jumping on the bed as soon as the door opens, laying his paws down on the blankets, and relaxing his head between them. He is staunch and predictable in his habits. When I come home from work, one of the first things I do is take Angus out, but after that, I’ll open the closed doors in the apartment. Angus will, without fail, jump onto the bed seconds after the door opens. He loves the feel of being atop those blankets more than anything. That’s why we have blankets covering the sectional in our living room; that way, when Angus is home alone for a time, like when both of us have work, he can still relax the way he enjoys. However, it’s not the same for him. If he had to choose between the bedroom blankets and the couch blankets, he’d choose the bedroom blankets without thinking twice, or at all. And we’ve tried switching the blankets around. It doesn’t make much of a difference if the blankets have changed. Angus still prefers the bed, perhaps because of the height advantage, or perhaps because he’s surrounded by pillows and other comfortable stuff to lounge near.

When Angus is off the bed, he likes to rub his head through the ends of the blankets draped near the ground. Sometimes he gets caught in them, and that’s hilarious to watch. When we have company over he especially likes to show off his disappearing magic trick, where he sticks his head inside the blankets and proceeds to run around like crazy. Angus is unintentionally one of the funniest pets I’ve ever known, and I think it’s one of his defining features by this point. Having him around immediately lifts the mood.

#294: The Schedule

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Whenever I return to work for a new year, there’s always stress and pain and suffering related to what my new schedule is going to look like. Who knows what it’ll be? What’s going to be on it? What students will I have this year? What problems will show up because of the unruly combination of students and subject matter?

Even if the ideas are brought up to me in advance, there’s still the underlying fear throughout the summer that something will go wrong, that the plans I have in mind will fall through and my new schedule will pose the same problems as it did last year. I guess the only difference is me, and whether or not I’ve changed enough to make the new stuff worth it.

Teachers are known for saying that it gets better year after year, that, as a teacher, you are bound to feel some sort of improvement over time. I chalk that one up to the teachers themselves. Teachers are inherently optimistic; however, as time goes on, I feel like that inevitably erodes a bit. Not everyone is going to maintain their cheery disposition over the years. But as someone who’s taught for two years now, I still feel an impending sense of dread every time I step into a classroom. I think that’s native to being a teacher, though; if you’re not doubting yourself, it’s hard for you to learn from your mistakes and accurately reflect on what needs to be done differently in the future. With that being said, some people, like me, dwell on their mistakes quite a lot, and that makes for sad situations. All I want is to be comfortable at my job, to not have to worry every year about something new popping up and ruining my year-long groove.

#293: The Season, Part 3

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But the best part about summer, and about looking back on the summer, is the ability to reflect on it later, to think back on the good times and the bad and change for the future. I know I’ll be doing a lot of changing over the course of the next few days and weeks, considering school will have already started by the time this blog post goes up.

One thing I’m particularly thankful for is the fact that I’ve kept this blog running in spite of everything, in spite of not having as many ideas of what to write about because I don’t have work going on. I was worried for a time that I wouldn’t be writing as much, but I’ve managed to keep steady and only drop below 2 scheduled posts I think once or twice over the whole season. I like to keep a long, steady list of scheduled posts in the bank, so that I don’t need to worry about keeping my blog up to date all the time every day. I consider it my 300 words a day, even though I don’t always write every day.

The summer was full of Uber Eats deliveries, long Monster Hunter nights, and Fire Emblem battle grinds during the day. It was full of Hearthstone ladder climbing, dog walks, and the occasional trip outside our apartment’s little bubble. It was full of birthday presents and celebrations, family visits, and family gatherings. I’d like to think that, when all is said and done, this long, eventful 10 weeks was worth it, that in spite of the sunken cost of living during this time period, I was able to make the most of the time I had. I believe that wholeheartedly, even though sometimes I doubt myself. I guess that means it’s not wholehearted then? Oh well.