Monday, September 14, 2015

Like Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread.

I never TRULY understood how Bilbo felt...until I started teaching...

I have OFFICIALLY been teaching (as in contract, keys to my own classroom, kickass benefits, etc.) for 18 days now.
So clearly, I'm ready to bestow upon you the wisdom I have gleaned in those days. (Also, it has been almost a year exactly since I've last posted on this dear blog of mine and I just think I need it right now.)

Teaching is hard.
Like...REALLY hard.
The hardest thing I've ever done (and I sorta saw a man die once).

It's actually amazing to truly, mind-blowingly difficult it is.

And it's not even the teaching that's hard.
I LOVE English.
I love reading and writing. And I love talking about it even more.

That part comes (fairly) easy.

It's the other bullshit.

The pencils being thrown in class. (Actually, just everything being thrown in class.)
The eruption of talking that happens the minute I stop my lecture (or whatever it is) to take a single breath.
The eye-rolling from the girl in the corner that's always smacking her metaphoric gum.
It is the kid that has been sitting in his seat for half an hour and the only thing he has managed to do is pull out a blank sheet of paper. (I explained to him that a whole episode of Spongebob Squarepants had passed in the time it took him to take out that single piece of paper. "Spongebob could have literally just saved all of Bikini Bottom and you couldn't even write your name?!")

And somehow, I'm supposed to dodge the pencils, stifle the noise, halt the eyes, and motivate the severely unmotivated and...teach.

And I just don't know how. I'll be honest, I don't think I'm a very good teacher. My classroom management is abhorrent (despite what I may have said in my interview).

I do my best, but there are days that I feel like I just have no control.
And all I want to do is curl up in a ball.
And cry (which I do).
And drink wine (which I also do).

And it's not because I feel like these students are failing me.
It's because I feel like I am failing them.
I so badly want to make them better readers and scholars and thinkers and believers.
And just all around...better people.

And my fear is that I will FAIL them. That I will leave them even more ill-prepared for life after 8th grade than I found them.

My fear is that they will never learn how to read (or even appreciate) literature.
That they will never be able to articulate their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and research in a (relatively) well-written paper.
That they will give up.

So even though I have all of these fears and doubts...and even though I feel deeply discouraged regularly, (I mean, it's only been 18 days) I decided that the best thing I can do for myself and my 105 students is to...quit.

I'm just kidding.

It's to SHOW UP.

To show up every single day. (And I don't mean just physically.)
Because lessons are going to fail. There are some days I am really going to bomb teaching and they are really going to bomb learning...and that's okay.
And there are some days that we are all going to feel like pulling our hair out...and that's okay too.

Because I'm not giving up on them. (And I'm not going to give up on me either.)

At the end of the day, it's not about the standards or the content or the mind-numbing assessments.
It's about showing students that you care about them.
It's about showing up for them because they deserve to be showed up for.

Because they do!
They all deserve someone who is not just willing, but eager to show up for them every day and give them their best.
To care about them.
To call on them by name and ask them how their day is going.

These students aren't a number on a standardized test.
They are real people.
They need someone to have their back.

And that's what teaching is.
It's having those kids' backs, whether they do well or not.

It's about being the Samwise to their Frodo.
They may never make it to their metaphorical Mordor, but at least they'll know that there is someone in the world that never gave up on them.

It's those 105 awkward, smelly, terribly sassy, even more terribly naive, but oh so hilarious and all around, kind of wonderful 13 and 14-year olds that motivate me to show up for work every single day.

(However, I have decided that I am never having children.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Human Bean.

(My blog isn't dead...I've just been doing a lot of writing for several other people, places, things, and ideas, but in the immortal words of Joaquin Phoenix, "I'm still here.")

There's this feeling you get when you take that "I'm just not gonna think about it" leap into a swimming pool for the first time since the sun started staying out later...
The second your body crashes through the water and you realize that despite the sun making an extra long appearance that day, winter still lives in those waves...
And as you push yourself off the bottom and break the surface, gasping for air, you immediately think, "Is there any black underneath my eyes?"

This euphoric moment of carefree weightlessness has come crashing down all around you because your mind can't let go of how your face might be unknowingly deceiving you. (At least if you're me and buy the $1.00 liquid eyeliner from Target.)

And let's be honest, if you're me, before you even jumped into the water you thought...

Is this bathing suit flattering?
I should've worn my other one.
Does my stomach look flat?
Do I look too skinny?
Should I take my hair down?
Should I get it wet?
What if it turns green?
I know it'll turn green, it always turns green.
How should I jump in?
Should I walk down the stairs?
What if the water is cold?
Does that make me look like a total noob if I walk in?
Maybe I should dive in.
What am I saying, I'm horrible at diving.
I should do a front flip or something semi-impressive.
Wait...if I can't dive, why would I think I could do this?
Should I plug my nose?
No. That is literally the least cool thing you can do when swimming.
But what about when the water starts rushing in my nose?
How long have I been standing here?

Because it's not just swimming.
It's being a girl.

Because as a girl, you can't just be one thing.
No no no.

You have to be sweet and innocent while at the same time being a vixen of sexual desire and intrigue.
You have to be poignant and clever, but also insanely funny with just the right amount of crude.
You need to like every movie, TV show, and musical artist ever, as long as our male counterparts also appreciate it, otherwise it doesn't matter.
You need to have rock-hard abs before you even step foot in a gym.
Preferably just be born with a six-pack.
Never have an awkward phase ever.
Wear a lot of makeup while at the same time wearing absolutely no makeup.
Have smooth skin, shiny long hair, and teeth that glow when you turn the lights out. (See: Miss America)
You need to be able to sing, paint, and play every single musical instrument.
You can be "adorkable," but be hot.
You can be "quirky," but again, make sure you're beautiful.
Actually, scratch everything I just said, you can be whatever and it'll probably be okay, as long as people enjoy looking at you.
Anything else is just an added bonus.

And let me tell you, it's exhausting because at the end of the day, I'm not even sure who I really am.

And I've come to realize I face this same self-induced scrutiny as a writer, too.

Suddenly, I'm not writing the things I want to write because I'm not even sure what those things are.
I've been questioning myself for so long, I have lost all instinct.
Because now I can't just be me...I have to be, super trendy and laugh-out-loud funny and post pictures of my outfits and drink pour-over coffees and listen to obscure post-rock-pop-glam-surf-punk music and be relevant with just the right amount of subtle spirituality all while also being girl-friendly and guy-friendly and parent-friendly and dogs-who-can-read friendly.'s exhausting.

So I guess what I'm saying is...I'm tired.
And as much as I would love to say that I won't think of any of these things anymore and suddenly I'm gonna be the world's most confident woman and writer...that's just not true.

Because I'm a human bean.
I bleed black coffee and good intentions.

And that's okay.
Flaws are okay, even doubt.

But sometimes, you just gotta let the words rush over you, as you hold your breath and hit publish without thinking, "Is there black underneath my eyes?"

Monday, April 7, 2014

For a girl.

"Miss Johnson, do you have a thigh gap?"

That's what one of my 6th grade students asked me the other day.
At first, I didn't know what she was talking about, because she was supposed to be working on a math worksheet and leaving me the heck alone while I browsed Reddit on my phone. (see: Perks of Being a Substitute Teacher)

Once I realized she had said thigh know "dat gap," I knew it was my moment to be her hero.
To change her life and boost her self-esteem and mold her into a strong, independent, black woman (or whatever).
But then I panicked because I didn't know what to say. So I brushed it off.
And then walked bow-legged away from her desk out of fear of my thighs rubbing together.

I've been working on my self-esteem for almost 23 years now and yet I'm not any more sure of myself than an 11-year-old.

I have to be honest with you, I am sick of talking and hearing and reading about women and beauty.
In any context really.

Can we please just talk about something else?!
Like how women can be funny?
And smart?
And clever?
Shoot, even insane?!

And I don't mean "for a girl."
I hate that phrase more than anything.
When people say, "Oh yeah, she's really funny for a girl."
Nope, she's just funny. In general. Because the things she says causes laughter. Her being a girl is irrelevant.

I hate that we refer to ourselves as "real women" and "regular girls."

Screw that.
Your cup size does not equate to realness.
We are all real by the sheer fact that we are alive.

And none of us are anywhere near regular.
I refuse to be.
I am me. And you are you. And that's all.
We are not some big clump of average adjectives.

No offense to Dove, but I'm tired of being treated like a little dove.
I'm sick of "challenges" that tell me to not wear makeup for a week and accept my inner beauty and realize that models don't even really look like that.

We are letting others cradle our confidence.

So let's change the conversation.
Because I'm sick of talking about that.
Why not promote self-esteem in a different way?
Like with the stuff that actually matters.
You know the stuff that makes you a better person.
Not a space in between your legs.

Because I'm trying to figure out how to teach children more than just Shakespeare and dividing fractions, but the media is telling me to not worry because even models have cellulite and stretch marks.

It needs to stop mattering.
We need to move on.

We're letting the beauty industry affirm us in the wrong ways.
They have become those guys at the bars that buy you drinks.
It's a momentary lapse that makes you feel good, but in the end, you're just clouding your mind.

I want women to run for office without the debate if she had plastic surgery and where she got her pant suits.
I want films with mostly female casts to not be down-graded to "funny for a chick flick."

So how do we do that?
How do I answer my 6th grader?

By not giving into the temptation to be something only worth staring at.
Because honestly, it's not worth it.
And I can buy my own drinks.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A little more than kin and less than kind.

I've never been good at writing research papers.
Or researching, in general.
Or schoolwork that requires effort, in well.
I hate analyzing things.
I hate defining motifs and moments.

Sometimes I just want to read a book
And then put it down
And then go to sleep.

Walk by a painting
Stare at a sunset
and have that be it.

I want to enjoy its beauty
Revel in its genius
Cry at its splendor
and then move on.

There's nothing wrong in challenging something, but sometimes I think we analyze things so much that it becomes completely devoid of meaning (if it even had any to begin with...because perhaps that was all).
Maybe it's just beautiful.
And that's it.
And that's okay.

Because of my detest for research (and overall lack of motivation) my big papers in college were often times just funny stories and satires.
In my Shakespeare class, I wrote an entire paper on why Ophelia from Hamlet was actually the narrator from Fight Club.
It was rather ill-conceived and maybe even a bit convoluted, but I think Ophelia suffered from the very problem that beautiful paintings hanging in textbooks do.

She was beautiful and awkward and magnificent.
But her father told her she was this vestal virgin.
And Hamlet told her she was this fiery vixen.
And she was trying to be all these things. She was buying things from Ikea just to blow them up.
She was Tyler Durden one second and Hestia the next.
She was everything everyone told her to be.

And it wasn't until her "accident"
until the narrator pulled that trigger (speaking only in vowels)
that she finally reclaimed herself. She ended the analysis, concluded the research and took over the life that had been already taken from her.

I've been thinking about Ophelia a lot lately.
I've reached this precipice in my life where I feel like there are so many definitions and directions being thrown at me.
I don't know who I am or what I want to be and yet the world is saying, "This is it. This is you."
I am five shades of blue. I am an attempt at abstract art, but really an analogy of teen angst coming out of the Nirvana era.

And I say it is the world trying to define me, but it is really myself.
Because I'm sitting here, relatively unemployed, living with my parents, in a town full of Wranglers, wondering who am I and why I'm not the person I think I should be.
And everyday is filled with this self-inflicted identity theft where I contemplate is this where I even want to be?
I'm getting my credential, but for what? Am I a teacher? Do I even know enough to teach?
I write these stories and post on this blog, but again, for what? Am I a writer? Am I a writer because I'm right?

And sometimes I'll be sitting at a bar downtown and I can tell that people are looking at my blonde hair and my stupid shoes and I think, "Why can't you see how edgy and complicated I am?!"

But I am not.
I am not any of these things and I need to stop trying to confine myself to a life that I think I'm supposed to be living. To a happiness that I think comes from health insurance and sunrises.

The point is, I need to stop worrying.
I need to stop panicking. The life that I am living will always be my own, despite where I end up.
I think the very fact that I don't know where I'm going right now gives me a better chance of ending up where I need to be.

And maybe right now is so confusing and complicated simply because it is.
And maybe that's beautiful and maybe that's enough and maybe I don't need to understand it, because it just is.

Not knowing where you are going doesn't mean you are lost, it just means you haven't gotten there yet.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Got Pulled Over While Writing This Blog.

I was writing this very blog post in my mind while driving north on the 5 when I was pulled over for the first time in my life.

And the officer asked me if I knew the speed limit (which I didn't cause I guess it was a construction zone which I also didn't know) and I didn't know how to tell him that the reason I was unaware of my speed was because there were literally no cars on the road and the sky had never been this blue or beautiful and that I was way deep into the latest wit and wisdom of my blog.

I didn't get a ticket, despite going 87 in a 55. Probably because I hadn't showered in three days and looked particularly sad and pathetic (and greasy) and because I couldn't even get my window to roll down on my piece of crap car.

But that's the thing about life and driving and crappy cars...the unexpected can (no, will) always occur.

I find it funny (and sad) that suddenly, we are all trying to limit our lives down to these check lists of expectations and achievements.

1. Graduate collge
2. Go to Bali
3. Get a kickass job
4. Get promoted
5. Get married
6. Have a kid
7. Have another

And yeah, all of those things are great...maybe.
But that's not life.
It's a list.
It's a silly list that if followed would create a world of identical lives.
It's Pleasantville.
It's the Truman Show.

So maybe you dropped out of school and decided to travel the country and live in your truck.
Or maybe you married or had kids young (or both).
Who is to say that one of those is right and one of those is wrong?

Quit listening to these angry girls and their silly passive aggressive blog posts (except mine, of course) on what is an appropriate or exciting life and what is not.

Maybe you'll land that perfect job right after college.
Or maybe you'll be on your third job that year.
Maybe you'll marry your high school or college or whatever sweetheart.
Or maybe you'll fall in love a dozen times. (Who said it has to happen just once?)

Maybe you'll fall in love with the same person twice.
Maybe you'll pursue a job and finally get it and realize that you were meant for something else.
I dunno.

Life is so beautiful and unexpected and terrifying that is makes me so sad when people don't appreciate it. (Either theirs or others.)

Because why are we actually pursuing these things?
Is it because it makes us happy? Or because we feel we are supposed to?
Are you marrying that person because you love them? Or because you want to post an instagram picture of it?

Are you working at a job that gives you worth?
Or just a paycheck?

Because who says that you have to have everything figured out by the time you're 30?
Who says that life needs to be completed in a certain order?

Because that is what makes life so remarkable, the fact that they are all different. The fact that we can appreciate people and their stories because they aren't our own.

So make music.
Start a blog.
Sit and watch tv with your mom.
Hitchhike across the country.
Do a pull-up.
Couch surf.
Break up.
Get married.
Eat everything & gain ten pounds.

Do what makes you happy. Because this is it. This is YOUR life. Right now.
It's terrifyingly unexpected.
Because no matter how nice the road is, you might still get pulled over.
Life will always happen whether you're prepared or ready for it or not.
So just do it, man.
Just live it - don't let these generic, absurd lists live it for you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Things That Are "Meant to Be"

I heard somewhere that inspiration or creative genius, if you will, isn't necessarily the person, but rather that creative inspiration they produce.

So take a story, for example. That story is destined to be told, no matter what. The writer is simply the vessel. If they choose not to tell it, the inspiration will move on and find someone else that will. It's like a speeding train. You can either hop on for the ride or let it pass you by. No matter what, the train will keep going. That inspiration will find a new vessel. 

It's not meant to be for you to tell that story, it's mean to be if you let it be meant to be. It might choose you for the time being, but if you don't choose it back, it'll find someone else.

Currently, I am working as the activity director for a retirement community.
Basically, I call the balls at bingo.

I have never worked with old people before and I'll be honest when I say, it is the strangest, most stressful and hardest job I have ever had. But I love it. I really do. I love them all to bits.

One Wednesday, I was alone at work when a medical alarm went off.
I went to that person's apartment because I was the only one there, just to make sure it wasn't pressed by mistake. (People are always pushing buttons.)

When I went inside, I found a gentleman collapsed on the ground with his wife saying, "I need help. I need help."

She handed me the phone with the 911 dispatcher on the other end who started guiding me through giving him CPR.

The first thing I thought of was that episode of the office and how you're supposed to do it to the beat of Stayin' Alive.

And then I felt bad that that was the first thing I thought of.

I have never done CPR. Ever. In my entire life. I had no clue what I was doing. The dispatcher told me what to look for and how to count, so I just did it. I didn't know what else to do. I was wearing a sun dress that day and my hair kept getting in my face and I was really out of breath because it took nearly 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. My hands were all sweaty.

I didn't feel strong or heroic.
I felt small and weak.

Once they took him away, I immediately went home and sat with my dog and cried.
I didn't know if he was gonna live or not. In the moment, I just did it. I was terrified. My adrenaline was out of control and afterward, I was exhausted.

After that, people kept telling me that's why I was at this job. It was meant to be for me to be there for that single moment.

The thing is though, I don't think I was meant to be there. I think I chose to be there. I made myself meant to be there.

I didn't know CPR. If the cosmos decided I was meant to be there, then they should have had me better prepared.

I think sometimes life is like that speeding train. You can either grab on or walk away.

Don't let life live you. Make yourself meant to be. In every moment.
Whether it's a job. A relationship. A dream.
Just grab it.

It might be scary and it might be too much and afterward, you might need to sit with your dog and cry a little, but if you don't take those moments, they will find someone else that will. That story will get written whether it's your name in the byline or not - so you have to choose.

The gentleman ended up passing away a few days later. (Working with elderly people has given me a new perspective on death. They don't always view it as a sad thing. They just seem to understand life better and maybe with age that just happens.) It's not like I saved his life. I didn't. 

That's the thing about something being meant to be. About choosing to be meant to be. You can't choose what you're meant for. The story will be written, but you can't choose the ending because it already exists, you just need to write it down.

I was just meant to, in that moment, be in that place. I chose to be there. I chose to act regardless of how it turned out and regardless of how unqualified I felt.

And maybe that's how life is. Moments won't just be handed to you, you need to seize them.
You need to act. Right then. Right there. It won't wait.
Life won't wait. It's happening right now.

Choose to be meant to be. Don't just settle for it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Building a Bedlam.

I was floating in the ocean with Jesus.
He looked like the stereotypical Jesus because apparently my subconscious isn't that creative.
I knew he was Jesus, but in my dream our relationship was nothing like floating in a large body of water with the son of God.

Nothing was explicitly said, but I felt very close to him. Almost how you would feel about a significant other, but not in a romantic way.

I floated next to him while he created the world.
I watched him create light and vegetation and animals.
The water, I suppose, was just already there.

Finally, it came time for him to create the last element.

"I need to make a bedlam," is what he told me.
He said bedlam, but I knew he meant a house.
He was going to create a house to float on top of the water for me.

We keep floating there and nothing happened.

"I'm just not sure," he said. He put his head down kind of defeated and I was really confused.

In my mind, I had already seen the bedlam, the house, that he was going to build and it kicked ass. It was all kinds of awesome and I had no idea why he was so unsure of it.

"I've already seen what you're going to create and it's wonderful. Just go for it."
That's what I told Jesus.


And then I woke up.

It took me a while to shake the dream, as it usually does when I wake up in the morning.
I almost always remember my dreams.

I grabbed my phone to look up bedlam. I don't know why that word was in my mind because even though I've obviously heard it, I was unsure of what it actually meant.

Bedlam: a scene of uproar and confusion

I can't begin to tell you the bedlam my life has been the last couple of months.
The new job (that I love) has forced me to grow up in ways that I never imagined.
Moving on from heartbreak and literally moving into a new house.
Going back to school and being totally unsure if this is even what I'm supposed to be doing.

And the funny thing about my dream wasn't that God was telling me everything was going to be alright, that I will get everything I want and be wildly happy.

I was reassuring Jesus that I've seen what he is going to build. I've seen the bedlam and it was good.

So I choose to embrace the bedlam that is my life.
Because the house I saw on the ocean, while floating with Jesus was totally rad.
And I believe in it.

Jesus just really needs to take my word for it.