Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Je Suis Boss Ass Bitch

"He said, 'It's not a fear of success nor of closeness, but of going through life...feeling numb.'"

I feel like every time I turn around, I reach another turning point.
As someone who claims to "love the unknown," I wouldn't mind a little stability.
I wouldn't mind a little..."known."

This year has been hard.
I'm not sure if it has been the "hardest" per se...because I think looking back, things don't always look as bad.
But I know that I am tired. It's not an onomatopoeia, but even the word tired just sounds so...tired. You can't really say it without sighing.

Graduation is next week.
It's not just my students last day of 8th grade, but mine as well.

I got a job at a high school.
The kind of high school where the students have a favorite economist and wear loafers and shit.
Where their parents want them to be doctors...and lawyers...and business executives.

The kind of parents that cringe internally when they see me because I'm twelve.

I'll be one of two people taking over the very prestigious forensics program.
The current coach invited me to their end-of-year speech showcase.
When I went, I was blown away.

These kids are beyond me.

And then the coach went up...and asked for me to introduce myself.
I didn't know they were going to ask me up on stage.
With the lights. And the microphone. And all the people that thought I was just another student sitting alone, hiding in the back.
And for a second, I thought...I could just leave.
I could walk out right now and no one would know.
Because no one knows who I am.

To be honest, I hated a lot of this year.
I didn't feel like a good teacher.
There were (many) times that I would google, "What to do with a teaching credential...besides be a teacher?"

I didn't understand why ANYONE would want this job.
It's not just tiring...it's emotionally exhausting.
And EVERYONE is watching you.

Your students.
Their parents.
Your parents.
Your colleagues.
Your boss.
Random Internet strangers.

Because teachers are expected to be good at teaching the second they walk into the classroom.
Which is insane.
Teaching is a language.
How could anyone become fluent in a day?

I can barely conjugate verbs at this point.

And like learning anything new...I feel like I'm constantly embarrassing myself.
Because I can't really express what I'm feeling...and I'm constantly saying the wrong thing.

But eventually I'll get it right.

And I could give you some sob story about a kid folding me a paper bird and making everything worth it again, but I won't.

Because this story is about me.

It's about me sitting in the audience of a barely full theater...sitting at this precipice of a major life change.
Deciding if I should stand up  or sneak out.

So I stood up.

I don't remember what I said in the microphone.
I would like to say it was something eloquent and mind-blowing, but to be honest, I'm not even sure I said my name.

But the point is...I stood up.
I stood up to the unknown.
Because monotony is boring.
Speaking one language is boring.
Giving up on something because it's hard is just kind of...lame.

And I'm not lame.
I'm a boss ass bitch.

I'm the boss ass bitch that's going to be a boss ass teacher.
Even if it takes a while.
Even if I keep embarrassing myself along the way.

Difficult things take time...but in the end, it's worth it.
Actually, even along the way...it's worth it.

So...here we go, I guess.
Je suis...boss ass bitch.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

When Your (potential) Job Breaks Up With You

Currently, I am in a committed relationship with a wonderful job. (I use the term "wonderful" loosely here.)

We've been seeing each other for about a year now and like all new relationships, we have experienced some serious ups and downs.

There are days where I feel like we are perfect for one another and I can't imagine ever being with any other job.

Then there are other days...where I think, "I'd rather be anywhere, but here." Because we're still figuring one another out. We're trying to decipher what makes the other tick and how we can live in harmony with one another. (This isn't unusual, by the way. Most relationships...jobs...start out like this. But I think when you're a first-year teacher, it's just harder. It. Just. Is.)

About a month ago, I decided I had had enough. I felt like this relationship was going nowhere and it was time for me to start scouring the want ads and the internet job-dating scene.

And then a friend of mine introduced me to...well, let's just call them "H."

As it turns out, H was everything I didn't even realize I had been looking for because it was everything I didn't have in my current job. (Like going to the bathroom whenever you want.)

From our first phone call, we hit it off right away.
H didn't even wait to call me again, they knew they wanted to make this more serious...to meet in person.

I was nervous, but I felt confident. Interviews had always kind of been my thing. I'm funny. I'm personable. I dress well. I knew I would rock this. I knew that by the end, they would practically be begging me to make this exclusive. I'm just the kind of girl that you want to take home and introduce to your executive managers.

The night before my interview, I was insanely nervous. I consulted all my best girlfriends to figure out my outfit and my nail polish and even my talking points. Everyone knew I was going to kill it, because I'm Kelli...and I'm a boss ass bitch.

Finally, the day arrived. I walked into the office and was immediately impressed. (Mostly due to the free snacks!)

This "interview" was a little bit different than what I'm used to. It was a group presentation and then we broke off into real quick one-on-one interviews.

When I walked into the room for the group presentation, I immediately panicked.

Sitting there, in the tiny room, were twenty other twenty-something girls with their nude nail polish (Mademoiselle by Essie) and their Banana Republic blazers freshly out of college and ready to conquer the world.

They instantly starting sizing each other up by engaging in polite small talk.
"Oh you're a Gamma Gamma?! I'm a Kappa Delta!"
"OMG! My cousin is a Kappa Delta!"
"Seriously?!"
"YES, SERIOUS!"
"AHHHHHH!"
"AHHHHHH!"

I just sat there in silence.

When the presentation started, all the Kappas and Gammas immediately pulled out their stupid Lilly Pulitzer notebooks and began frantically taking notes.

I thought, "How stupid! What on EARTH could you be writing down?!"

But then I feared that this was some kind of test...so...

Even though I couldn't find a pen, I sat there and pretended to be writing on the scrap piece of paper I found at the bottom of my bag.

After the presentation, they took us back for a quick speed-dating style interview.
Five minutes and then BING! Next.

My "interview date" went fine. I talked about what I had done since graduating, but that had been three years ago and by the time my five minutes were up, I felt like I had barely scratched the surface.

She reassured me though that was just a quick "get to know you" and that there would be a more formal interview next...if I was chosen.

But I KNEW I would be chosen. Because even though those sorority girls were perky and upbeat about life (because they hadn't even graduated college yet and had no idea what the real world was, aside from their serving job at Benihana), I had real world/job experience. I had been in a committed relationship before and knew what it took to make it work.

The next day came and went with no phone call.
I wasn't worried though. Okay, I was a little worried, but I still felt like they wouldn't write me off after only five minutes.

The next day, I got the email.
Yes...an EMAIL!

It basically said, "It's not you, it's us."

And I immediately called my boyfriend and cried, "I thought they liked me!"

I kept thinking over the things I said and the things I wish I would've said and wondered what I could have done differently.

But here's the thing, that job wasn't for me.
I knew it the second I walked in there, but I was so desperate for a change that I refused to see it clearly.
If they had offered me the job, I would've definitely taken it and I know I would've regretted it.

Because it just wasn't for me and let's be honest, they just weren't looking for someone like me.
They said things like, "We want people with Type A personalities!"
And I thought, "Yikes. That's not me at all." But I said, "That's totally me!"

I was lying to make a relationship work because I was so unhappy with my current one and I was afraid of being alone.

Here's the thing, jobs are hard. They require work. And my dad always told me that they called it work because all of the other four letter words were taken.

But my job really does make me happy. We are good together. The first year of anything is uncomfortable and difficult and requires you to go outside of your comfort zone.

So I have decided not to give up on this one yet. I owe it that. It hasn't given up on me and I think it deserves the same. Maybe it won't be forever. I'm not sure I want to marry it yet, but for now, I am happy. I am going to show up everyday and give it my all, because it deserves that.

The night I received the email, I went home and took off my nude interview nail polish and painted it black.
Not because I was in mourning.
But because in spite of everything, I am still...a boss ass bitch.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Weirdo Girls.

There isn't a clock in this room so I don't know how long I've been waiting.

I would say it has been an hour, but I tend to exaggerate, so let's say twenty minutes.

Regardless, it feels like forever.

This is probably because I am naked, aside from the cheap robe that doesn't close in the back, and I'm sitting on what appears to be a puppy pee-pee pad with the world's largest paper towel draped over my legs.

The awkward nurse lady that informed me to take off all my clothes and to use the giant paper towel to cover myself or whatever did NOT tell me that it would take this long.

If I had known, I would have grabbed my phone out of my purse or the book that I had been reading.
Something to pass the time.

But instead, I just sat there.
Naked.
Waiting.

When the doctor and the two nurses finally enter the room, the first thing he does is go in for a high-five.

"Kelli. What up?" he says to me as I sit on my puppy pee-pee pad with my backside entirely exposed.

We awkwardly high-five, but it doesn't make a sound. It was more of a hand pat touch thing that evolved into that homie shake like we're friends or something.

Again, I'm naked.
And I can't think of anything more cringe-inducing than my gynecologist asking me, "What up?"

We quickly move away from this awkwardness into even more awkwardness as he makes his way down the end of the table or bed or whatever this vinyl, paper-covered monstrosity is that I'm lying on. (Note: they use pink paper for the pillow...because pink is for girls and nothing makes you feel like more of a girl than having your vagina poked and prodded.)

"Okay, go ahead and put your feet in the stirrups and move a bit further down. A bit further. Further. Keep going. Okay, now just relax."

I don't literally want to die in this moment, but figuratively (or metaphorically or vaginally or whatever you want to call it), I have died a little on the inside.

From this point forward, I choose to stare at the ceiling, which has a pleasant beach scene printed on it.

For some reason, this really pisses me off. I refuse to be tricked by their psychological manipulation. I refuse to feel relaxed.

Because it's in that moment that Dr. What Up tells me to take a deep breath in and then proceeds to put what I can only imagine is a curling iron covered in goop in my most private of places.

The whole procedure lasts about sixty seconds. (I know I exaggerate, but this feels like a more accurate estimate.)

He tells me everything looks normal (and I'm a little curious about what this means...like what's normal and what's not, but also not that curious...), but that I'll find out for sure in two weeks when they get the lab results back. (The nurses smile at me and I think to myself, "I bet these people have seen some shit." And I'm a little curious about what they've seen, but again, not that curious.)

It's weird to think that there's a lab somewhere with a technician that will be examining bits of my vagina.

I realize, as a woman, these types of doctor visits are important.
And normal.
And healthy.

But they are weird.
Because being a girl is weird.

And even though I waited for a million hours and had to sit on a puppy pee-pee and be the counterpart to what has to be the world's most awkward high-five to date, I am still happy I went.

Because being a girl may be weird.
But it's a big job.
And someone's gotta do it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Teaching: The Silent Killer

Being a teacher is kind of like a mental illness...in that even though it's something you DO, people look at it like it is something that you have BECOME.

(For example, instead of, "She has bipolar disorder," it's, "She's bipolar.")

But in a lot of ways, it's really true.

Perhaps, teaching is the most serious form of mental illness.

Because let's be honest, who in their right mind would WILLINGLY stand at the front of a room of thirty-two thirteen-year-olds and attempt to teach them about the nuances of the semicolon?

Teaching is an all-consuming profession.
At least in your first year.
At least for me.

It's constantly on my mind.
Creeping up into every conversation.
It keeps me awake at night.
It's the reason why I use the big cup for my coffee in the morning. (It's also the reason I wish that cup had more than just coffee in it.)

It's a disease that disguises itself as a job.
As a passion.
As a desire to make the world a better place.

And that's what you imagine...when you wake up in the morning.
You swing your legs over your bed and think, "Today, I am going to change the world."

And then that first period bell rings and the smell of body odor and teen angst fill your room and you realize you're in way over your head.

The perfect lesson you had written is being drowned out by the sound of smacking gum and overrated rap music.

The thoughtful discussion you had planned is now completely off topic because the girls in the back have decided that this next selfie will definitely be the one to set them apart from the rest and also whatshisface has decided to put so and so's backpack in the trash can and now so and so is frantically looking for it while whatshisface and posse cackle like hyenas.

And you stand there.
Disheveled.
Coffee buzz wearing off.
Student loans flashing before your eyes.

And you think, "What am I doing here?"

And I wish I could end this blog by saying, "It does end with you changing the world! You just gotta keep on keepin' on! You're a champ!" (And all those other things you frequently find in those dollar store greeting cards.)

But I'm not sure that it does. (In fact, after today, I'm pretty sure that my job is comprised mostly of telling young people to "stop" doing whatever annoying habit they have picked up that day peppered by the occasional, but infrequent, on-topic questions.)

But here's the thing, it DOESN'T have to either.
You, as a person, regardless of profession, are in no way obligated to change the world.
That is way too much pressure to put on one person.

That counts for you as a teacher too. (And I'm talking to myself here the most.)
Because you can't.
You. Just. Can't.

You may not even really be able to reach half of your students...or even three-quarters of them.

But there's always that one.
It may not be major.
In fact, it may just be a moment.

Something so small, in fact, that it might not change their life, but it may just change their day. It may just make junior high a little more bearable. It may just give them the ease of knowing that someone cares about them.

And that's why you're there.
Because if it weren't for you...then where would that moment be?

So when you swing your legs off your bed tomorrow morning (am I the only one who prefers to wake up with this amount of jubilation?), remember that you don't have to change the world, but just by showing up...you are affecting someone...even more than you realize.

And you will have a bad day...maybe even more than one...
(Mama said there would be days like this.)
But don't let those days drown out the moments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We're all just Playing with Monopoly Money

The other day I was casually strolling through the mind-numbing blackhole that is known as Facebook, clicking aimlessly on the inane articles on why doctors HATE Jennifer Aniston and nonchalantly watching (and sobbing) videos of soldiers coming home when I came across something TRULY startling.

Somehow, while falling down the rabbit hole, I ended up on the profile of a friend...well, acquaintance...and as I was perusing his page I was posed a question: Add Friend?

Facebook was asking me if I wanted to be friends with this person.

But here's the thing...we already WERE friends.

Despite our status as mere acquaintance (because let's just be honest, how many of these people do we ACTUALLY know outside of this little bubble?!), I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were in fact, at one time, "Facebook Friends."

He. Deleted. Me.

HE deleted ME!

So this left me with an entirely new conundrum: what had I done?

Because here's the thing, I don't really like to stand out - whether in a good or bad way. My whole goal in life is to find that good meaty part of the curve and stay there.

And here's the other thing, I NEED people to like me. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I could go back in time and run into Judas Iscariot and still think, "Yeesh, what a terrible guy. Do you think he liked me?"

Because that's just the person I am. And it's because of this that I NEVER post my feelings on ANYTHING (for the most part) on Facebook. I'm so afraid of offending people or making them uncomfortable that I would rather be virtually invisible.

I've said this before, but you know how on reality shows girls are always saying, "I'm not here to make friends!"

Yeah, well I would be the one saying, "I am ONLY here to make friends." I could leave without getting the final rose, but at least I'll have twenty-five acquaintances who have relatively positive feelings toward me.

The only time I ever consider deleting people is if they broke my heart in an extreme way or if their insane ignorance is almost too much for to me stay virtually invisible.

But I never say anything. Aside from the occasional blog post or Parks & Rec quote, I'm basically not even there.

So then I thought, maybe I deleted him. Yeah, that was it. I deleted him because...
No...no...I didn't.
I know I didn't.
I would remember.
I'm pretty sure I would remember.
I never forget ANYTHING.

And as I was going through this insane checklist in my mind, I realized something.

None of this is real.

I don't even really know this guy.
If I saw him in a grocery store aisle, I would pretend to be really interested in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch to avoid saying hi, hoping that he would do the same. And we could get away with it, because we really don't know one another.

We are playing with Monopoly money here.
Pretending that our online presence makes our friendships REAL or makes our relationship LOOK better or makes us FEEL more attractive.

But none of that is real.
At the end of the day, you have to put that money back in the box and put the box back in the closet. You are not a millionaire. You do not own Park Place. Those red hotels are made of plastic and don't even have doors.

So I guess...I dunno.
Hang out with your real friends.
Look at a beautiful tree and just...enjoy it.
Look at your significant other and TELL them to their FACE that they're wonderful.
Instead of creating a hashtag, create memories. They may fade and you may forget them, but in that moment, at least you'll actually be there.

And to the guy (and all the rest of you that I probably haven't noticed yet) that deleted me on Facebook...thanks. For being honest.
I don't know you and probably never will and maybe that's just the way it's meant to be.

Looking forward to not saying hi to you in Trader Joe's.

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 me...how 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.

And...it'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?"