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.
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.
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.
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.
Being distracted is easy. I’m distracted right now, as I’ve decided to spend time writing personal blogs rather than doing something productive, like preparing for tomorrow’s day of work. Distractions are nice, though; productivity isn’t everything, and you have to balance your workload with fun in order to survive. No one wants to live a life of complete work forever, otherwise what are you living for? Just to wake up, work, and come home too exhausted to enjoy your free time, only to fall asleep again and repeat the cycle? There’s so much to life and living: places to see, travels to undertake, people to enjoy the company of.
Distractions are everything, which is why I decided to write about them today. It’s not enough to just live plainly. But being distracted is often considered a weakness or a struggle to overcome, a deficiency. As someone living with ADD, my attention wavers depending on the subject. It’s hard to stay focused when your mind is thinking of other things and wants you to move with it. I’ve lived with this deficiency for years, and even with the help and support of my primary physician, you still feel the same feelings, just with a reduced potency. The lack of focus persists. I hyperfixate on small things and interests that stick out to me, and my mind never seems to be able to focus for very long if it’s not so fixated.
I’m not complaining, though. All of this is what makes me who I am. I’m not sure I would be the same person without my ADD. And like I said at the beginning, being distracted makes life worth living. So I’m not bummed or anything by the cards I was dealt. If anything, I’m grateful for being able to have such a unique living experience.
No, this won’t be about pets.
Today, I observed a class during a first-year teacher’s third day of teaching. The class went mostly well, and the teacher handled some behavior disruptions in a clear, consistent way to demonstrate their authority over the classroom. But the experience almost gave me a sense of deja vu, and I felt uneasy afterwards. I saw the same faces behind the same students, the same intentions behind the same words, the same excuses and mistakes and enthusiasm and energy.
It reminded me of my own failings, and afterwards, while talking with the teacher about our shared frustrations, I felt real empathy for one of my coworkers. I wanted this teacher to feel respected and heard while also feeling like they are allowed to vent around me. One of my biggest frustrations with teaching during my first year was the lack of coworkers I felt comfortable talking with. I constantly felt on edge and like I was being watched for every thing I did, while also not feeling like my decisions were respected. I want this teacher to not have the same experience I had, essentially. I feel overly protective of other teachers, especially those who are still learning and need maybe a little guidance along the way, because I don’t want history to repeat itself in their shoes. It would make me feel miserable to have to watch that unfold again.
No one ever said this job was easy, but no one ever told me I’d sometimes lose my sanity and sleep over it, and that it would consume my mental health.
The first year is the hardest of years, and it’s so much harder when your coworkers aren’t supporting you along the way. It’s even harder when you feel like you need to support them more than they are supporting you.
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.
When the time arrived, we gathered our things — the backpack, the watermelon salad in a grocery bag, Jimmy’s clothes and things — and left the apartment. It was 11:00am, and we knew we wouldn’t be back for awhile longer. It’s on days like these when I worry about Angus, our dog, who hasn’t been alone for very long over the summer. He hasn’t run into any problems in 52 days, hasn’t tore up the incense holder but has certainly torn a bunch of his toys. He’s been a busy boy, spending time mostly home with me, taking walks or casual strolls around the apartment and back and forth a few times until he decides to pee. He’s a long walker, and he’s got ambitions of his own when we take him outside; sometimes those ambitions include walking around and dragging me through the park until he finally decides it’s time for him to plop down and poop.
But there are other times when Angus is alone, and I feel bad for him. He’s a good dog and I don’t like the image of him sitting on the couch, waiting for us to eventually come back and greet him again. I feel like it must be lonely for him to sit there by himself, eagerly anticipating our return only for it to not come for another hour or more. I know it’s normal, and eventually he’ll get used to it again after I have to return to work, but when that time comes, I’ll still be feeling bad about our dog. The alone time is never fun, and I know that already based on what it was like while I was unemployed not too long ago. This is what the alone time is; Angus mostly being by himself when there’s nothing better for us to be doing with him.
Again, this post is a continuation of the previous two posts, so read those if you haven’t already before this one!
Last time, we were on the topic of Angus and his communication skills, and how novel it is that he’s able to talk to us through his actions.
The silence and stubbornness is, of course, not the only way that Angus communicates with us though; he wags his tail when he’s excited, he barks when he’s angered or alert or in pain, and he lounges the rest of the time, communicating to us that he doesn’t want to be bothered for the foreseeable future. I don’t blame him, of course; I would want the same thing if all I had to do every day was lounge and relax like a big lard boy. It’s almost as if he’s a very old man trapped in a dog’s body, which I say but then remember as I’m writing that he’s 6, not totally a new dog on the block. He’s been around a few times before.
Like Walt Whitman, this dog contains multitudes. He’s full of energy and complexity, whenever I get the chance to take a good look at him. I hate when people say that dogs don’t have real personalities, memories, or affections for their owners; I can absolutely sense a desire for closeness with us whenever Angus is around. He loves attention to the point that he will whine for it sometimes, but not often. When he lets out a moo or a moan, it’s communicating to us that he wants something, or that he’s just gotten into a really comfortable position and does not want to be disturbed. I’m envious of him whenever he gets like that; I can only imagine how comfortable life must be as a dog, when you’re made of fur and hair and able to get rubs whenever you ask for it.
This post is a continuation from the previous one, so if you haven’t read that one, you may want to go back and check it out so everything makes sense!
When Angus starts to wander around outside, it’s best to just let him do what he does. If you try to stop him in the middle of a jaunt, he’ll once again stay completely still and wait for you to give him rubs on his head. Again, this is a fickle animal with fickle needs and desires. His stubbornness is one of his defining characteristics, after all.
But even though I write about him in this way, I hope you understand that I do so out of love for him. It’s all playful and meant not to deride him as a pet, but to poke fun at his idiosyncrasies. His uniqueness is what makes him so lovable to us, and when he decides to stand completely still while waiting to go to the bathroom, it feels like he’s communicating to us through his behavior. I like that feeling, that he’s trying to speak to us in some way and this is the only appropriate way he feels able to communicate whatever he’s feeling.
Angus is an absolute blessing on our lives and I don’t know what life alone during the summer would be like without my constant canine companion by my side. I’m so happy that Alex and I were lucky enough to find the perfect dog for us while we were at a local adoption event at Petsmart in North Haven, almost out of the blue. We were looking for another dog in particular that we saw online, but when he was taken, we decided on looking around elsewhere. I convinced Alex to check out the big boy in the crate, and she acquiesced. It just worked out perfectly, like it was meant to be or something.