#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.

#307: The Distraction

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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.

#306: The Banjo

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This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#305: The Work Study

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Bella, my youngest sister, just texted me that she got a work study job at college. She’s a freshman and having on-campus work that early is impressive and awesome for her. I’m hopeful she can keep this job for awhile, as it can be a valuable resource throughout the rest of college. When I lost my one consistent work study job, it stung, and I had to look elsewhere. Thankfully, I found a better job that helped with my degree and made me a better teacher in the process. But having that one work study job for the time I had it really allowed me to enjoy college without worries. When it was suddenly upended from me, I worried that my senior year of college wouldn’t be as enjoyable and liberating as the previous ones.

I used to work as a resident life assistant for my freshman year. My friend Sam introduced me to the job, though we never ended up working together. It was pretty demeaning, to be honest. I made coffee and copies for people and talked to supervisors who treated me like I was a child. I didn’t much enjoy my time there, and I didn’t even end up getting an RA job like I was hoping I’d be able to. I remember walking across campus to let people into their dorms; that was pretty much my job in a nutshell, along with answering phone calls. Sometimes I would get phone calls from people who needed to be let into their dorms. Sometimes those phone calls were from friends, and so we had fun memories like that. I remember once letting Sam into his dorm, and I stayed around his room to watch him play Fortune Street for awhile before heading back to my job. It was gnarly. I was a typical college student, what can I say?

#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?”

#302: The OST

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I love listening to soundtracks, or OSTs. I have a deep fascination in the different songs that games and movies have, and I love listening to them when I can to bring back the memories of those experiences. When I listen to a song from a particular level, for example, it brings me into the situation, and it’s like I’m experiencing it all over again. Nothing will top that initial, first experience, but there’s value in re-experiencing the world and its wonderful moments when you can. I think that’s one of the key rewards of being into soundtracks. Though, it limits the amount of music I can discuss with other people because my recommendations are mostly built on personal novelty and nostalgia, which vary by the person.

As I write, I’m listening to “Chasing Daybreak,” a new song from the Fire Emblem: Three Houses video game. It’s no secret how much I love that game, but I don’t think I’ve talked about its soundtrack at length before.

There’s also “The Apex of the World,” which plays during the final map for each campaign and features a remixed “F√≥dlan Winds.” It’s intense, and the stakes couldn’t be higher during this encounter. I love when music matches the emotional beats of the level it’s a part of. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze did that really well with its soundtrack; it seems to be a Nintendo staple to have great music.

Then there’s “Between Heaven and Earth,” another track that plays near the end of each campaign during the battle at Gronder Field. It’s particularly memorable because it plays during a tense, consequential battle, and it features some character deaths on the opposing side of whichever house you are playing as. It’s always uncomfortable to have to see deaths on either side, especially after you got to know these characters.

#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.