#203: The Editor

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When I was in college, I spent some time as an editor of a literary magazine, called Montage. Quinnipiac isn’t exactly known for having a robust liberal arts program, but the professors and students work together to make the most with what they have, producing great content regardless. I had some amazing, incredible English professors in my college years, professors whose knowledge of various subjects inspired me to achieve more. Looking back, my desire to eventually get my PhD in English comes from having had such a fulfilling experience with the professors I had at Quinnipiac.

Being a Quinnipiac student afforded me the opportunity to be the poetry editor of the literary magazine, though, and I’m grateful for that. From this experience, I was able to grow as a leader and as a thinker of other people’s writing. I learned to give feedback in a constructive way, and I had fun having conversations with my peers about other people’s writing, particularly some of the stories and poems that were sent in over time.

Being an editor means looking with a critical eye. It means reading for content, reading for quality, and reading for enjoyment at the same time, or separately over multiple readings of the same stories and poems.

The work that the editor-in-chief put in far outweighed whatever I was able to muster, though. She had to construct the magazine from scratch in a program on her Mac, and I went back afterwards and offered feedback on everything. I looked to make sure the margins were correct, the paragraphs were spaced evenly and equally, and no words or grammatical mistakes made it into the final copy of the magazine. Sometimes, people’s writing towed the line between grammatically correct and artistically interesting. You have to make do with what you have, though.

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#202: The Bathroom

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Something I don’t talk about much is the bathroom. Not because it’s something private that doesn’t deserve discussion, but because it’s something I’ve been shamed for in the past that I feel embarrassed about. But putting it online as I’m doing now is a bit more liberating, in some ways. I feel like I am activating a discussion I wouldn’t have had on this blog prior to writing 201 blogs before this.

Simply put, I have what’s called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It means that I have to use the bathroom a lot, and at random times, sometimes without explanation or rhyme or reason to it. Most of it is triggered by anxiety, but that’s only some of the time. Other times, I eat something high in fiber and have to sit in the bathroom for a few minutes before it passes through me. It’s not fun, I’ll tell you that much.

When I first started working at my previous job, I remember asking to find the bathroom as soon as I could. It’s necessary for me to know where these places are, just so I know when in an emergency what to do and where to go. I also remember being in the bathroom one time, and hearing people outside the door waiting for me to get out. They gossiped about how it was me inside, so it probably would take awhile before I got out. I remember feeling total shame afterwards, and because I recognized the people’s voices, I never trusted them again. Sometimes bonds of trust are broken not because of overt betrayals, but because of simple acts of cowardice behind closed doors, when they think no one is listening or paying attention. I wish it wasn’t always like this, but most places are like this.

End

This is the end, he said,
While wiping away smiles
From his brow, his face
So limitless and free
The summer to come
No clue where he’ll land
Come autumn or winter or
Next summer

This is the end, he said,
For now at least,
Until a few months have passed
And time takes its heavy toll
On whatever remains
Come August, September, October
The months and years down the line

This is the end, he said,
and I’m ready for what’s next

#200: The Dog Treat

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Before I get started, let me say that this is a milestone blog post! #200 is here! I couldn’t think of anything fantastic to mention or discuss here, so I reverted back to talking about Angus as is the usual trend of things.

(Before you ask, no, we don’t feed Angus big, sweet cupcakes like the one featured in the picture, especially because it has chocolate in it and that would be an absolute disaster. We’re smart dog owners; I promise!)

Angus is a good, good boy, and good boys deserve treats every once in awhile. Today I’ll be sharing some of the various treats we give him and how they’ve impacted his storied life so far. Sometimes, Angus digs into them with reckless abandon and with no regard for anything except his inner craziness. He rushes forward and puts his mouth around the long, curled bone and rips into it with his teeth for hours and hours until eventually it’s all in his stomach, and he’s then a tired, exhausted mess on the couch. That’s usually how he reacts when we give him bones from our big bone pouch in the kitchen. We’ve stopped giving him bones all day, instead deciding to give him enough to last a week and that’s it.

We originally got Angus a nylabone toy, with cheeseburger flavoring on it, but he didn’t like it at all, so Alex gave it to her sister. When we’re downstairs, taking him outside for whatever reason, he will jump up onto the counter in the lobby with the milkbones in it. He’s a fiend for milkbones. Unfortunately, we’ve stopped giving him milkbones because they’re not very good for him and he’s gotten a bit chubby, but he still jumps for them regardless. That’s the price to pay of starting a habit and then taking it away quickly!

We also recently started giving him raw hide pieces, but he rips those up quickly too. No matter what we give him, he will devour it. Angus the Devourer.

#199: The Big Sleep

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Can’t believe, after all of these blog posts in a row that I’ve written, that I haven’t talked about sleeping yet. Sleeping is so, so enjoyable, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I love drifting off to bed with my head’s weight laying down on the pillows, nothing else in mind except the tranquility and relaxation I’m experiencing in this moment. The softness of the pillows, the coziness of the comforters. And nothing feels better than waking up before your alarm, realizing you still have a few more hours of sleep to go, and then drifting back off to sleep another time. I’d like to crystallize that moment and keep it forever, endlessly repeating it over and over until I eventually have to go into work or school or wherever is next. If only it were possible!

Sometimes my anxiety prevents me from falling asleep on time, but I’ve had good luck recently in falling asleep exactly when I need to. I’m almost always tired and ready to go to bed, regardless of what time of the day it is, so if the opportunity presents itself for me to drift off to bed, I’ll take it immediately and with no regrets. Having a strong, sturdy bed with various pillows and a dog sleeping next to the bed definitely helps, although, like I’ve said in other blog posts, having a dog sometimes makes sleeping more difficult than it needs to be. Sometimes you want to sleep for longer during the weekend, and then it’s all wrestled away from you by a dog jumping up on the bed and bothering you until you take him outside. It’s a sensible, ethical alarm clock. Thankfully he’s gotten better at not doing that since we got him his new bed. He’s been a good boy.

#188: The Long Drive

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As I write this post, I’m hours away from heading on a long drive up to a different neck of the woods in Connecticut. I likely won’t have the chance to spend much time not driving today, considering the length of this drive. It’s a fairly normal commute that I take on Fridays or Saturdays, up to UConn’s campus and then a little bit further on the highway to a small ranch house where chaos looms and nothing else matters but what takes place in that location, for the short time that we’re there on the weekend before returning to work on Monday. It’s a short reprieve where the idea of reprieves is valued more than anything. It’s a world of total deconstruction; meaning is meaningless and nothing is everything to us.

After a long drive, the last thing I want to do is worry about what’s coming next, or what to do after this struggle is all done for. Driving fills me with patience, determination, and readiness. Long drives, the kind that really fill you with dread beforehand but during the drive itself you’re less anxious about it, can really drain you. Driving without traffic in the way, though, is the perfect, easygoing experience after a long day of work. I get to listen to music, podcasts, or other auditory entertainment on the way to a destination that I know will welcome conversation about all the weirdest and craziest things I heard. That’s one of the beauties of being friends with people who appreciate the small things; you can laugh and joke about whatever you want, and no one will judge you for bringing up a topic that’s a bit outlandish or unusual. In fact, it’s welcomed more than anything. The drive is all that separates you between that world and the world of work.

Shame

Teacher of the year,
teacher of the year
who deserves to be
teacher of the year?

Is it the newbie, struggling in
solitude, toiling on
lesson plans
on a Monday midnight,
pushed into submission
by fellow teachers and students alike,
ready to burst into flames
on a moment’s notice?

Or
the one who remains

I remember
students complaining about you,
I remember the stories they told me,
about your nitpicking on their handwriting
and grammar and diction and syntax,
I remember your advice,
“Just use teacherspayteachers,
it has everything you need,”
I remember designing whole units
for you to get credit for,
I remember you visiting my room
for advice on how to teach a certain passage,
I remember sitting in the bathroom
when you complained
with your chummy friends
about my bathroom habits,
I remember quitting,
and I remember your fake concern,
just so you could have another
juicy piece of gossip
to spread around the school

I remember it all,
teacher of the year

#187: The Dog Night

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At night, when we least expect it, that’s when Angus is most active. He’s a bundle of energy any time of the day, realistically, but when both of us are sound asleep, Angus takes advantage of the chaos and wreaks havoc. And by wreak havoc, I of course mean, he jumps onto the bed which he’s not supposed to do.

If you’ve ever owned a dog before, you know what this is like. You try so hard to enforce a rule so that it becomes ingrained in the pet’s mind so that they listen to you earnestly and obey it, but then when they break the rule, it’s at 3am and you’re not even halfway awake and there’s very little you honestly want to do about it, so it never gets fixed. The rule is difficult to enforce when it’s broken during an hour that no one wants to move at all. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of being a pet parent.

The difficult thing is that pets learn by force of habit. If Angus sees it as habitual for him to jump onto the bed during the early morning hours, when neither of us are awake or willing to do anything about it, he will continue exhibiting that habit. We’ve yet to really figure out how to get him to stop jumping onto the bed at night. Over the weekend, it becomes a huge nuisance because we both like to sleep for awhile, and Angus jumps on the bed to inform us that he needs to be let out. Unfortunately, these two desires are competing with each other and are incompatible.

We’re working on it, though. I’ve gotten better at just kicking him out of the bed. I’m less careful about it. Alex has been giving him late-night treats to encourage him to stay down instead of jumping up. It’s a work-in-progress, like all things, but we’re making some progress.

#185: Forever

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Forever. Sometimes, we get lucky and are able to let the meaning of the word “forever” enter our lives. I’m an absurdly lucky and fortunate person, able to live a life that’s blessed with people I know will always be there for me, like Alex. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t know where I would be without her. Certain things like this connection we have are bound to last as long as possible. When we talk about forever, we talk about Angus, we talk about our lease and the apartment, we talk about getting married and living our lives like this, the way they’ve been lived, forever. We know what it’s like to be alone, especially for long periods of time and when we need someone around us the most. I think that’s partially what fuels our collective need for long-term commitment, because nothing is more reassuring and uplifting in the moment than hearing that the person who makes your life positive and radiant has no plans of leaving any time soon. Having been alone for such a long time, literally and figuratively, sucks.

I mean, it also helps that Alex is a great person who lifts me up when I’m feeling down, and who is beautiful and smart and courageous and wonderful. She is an inspiration for me to look up to, and she takes care of so much around the apartment. I wouldn’t be able to survive in this crazy world without her, at this point. I know that much is certain. It’s one of the many reasons I’m so grateful to be with her.

You know, sometimes people talk about what it means to be in a relationship that lasts, and so far we’ve lasted strong for about 27 months. I’d say I know a thing or two about what it means to have someone’s back while they have yours. And it feels great.

#184: The Other Streak

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Awhile ago, approximately 72 blogs and 72 days ago, I wrote a blog post titled “The Streak.” It was about my then-long Duolingo streak, which I’ve since taken a leave of absence in doing. I haven’t been on Duolingo in ages since then, and I really wish I would motivate myself to get back into it, but alas the time hasn’t come for that yet.

Instead of discussing Duolingo, this blog is about the “other” streak of note. Today, sitting at a 123-day streak, is my streak of blog posts on this here website. I’m not sure what happened 123 days ago, because I’ve been writing blogs for longer than that (believe it or not) but that’s the number for now. By the time this blog goes live, it’ll be around 134 days. To think when this first started that I’d be penning blogs for this long is a bit surreal. I can’t say for certain that I’ve become a better writer in my time since starting these blogs, but I’ve definitely become a more consistent writer, something that feels valuable to me in and of itself. In my years of grad school learning about the benefits of reading, writing, and literacy, I never had the inclination to take those lessons and apply them to myself.

One of my friends from college told me about her plan to write 300 words a day as part of her goal to get herself writing more. This friend was the editor-in-chief of Montage, the literary magazine at Quinnipiac, while I was the poetry editor, so we had a pretty good friendship. That’s mostly what inspired myself to write all these blogs; I wanted to bring writing back into my life, and I wanted to use this blog in a productive, meaningful capacity. I’ve had this blog for years now, literally, and to have it sit around without any meaningful use is a bit of a shame.