the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘journal’

a guide to getting along with in-laws over the holidays

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on January 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

The-Taunting-mother-in-law

One of the many disappointing things about getting older is that you can’t just be an ass and blame other people for your shortcomings.  BOO, old age. BOO!!  Case in point: I’m in Florida for the holidays with my wife’s family.  I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t keen on coming.  I don’t really love traveling over the holidays; I’ve had run-ins with my brother-in-law in the past (though I will say he’s been a real great guy on this visit); and really, Flo. freaks my shit out.

Still, it’s the awkwardness I feel around some of my in-laws that freaks me out most.  When we all sit down for a meal, it feels as if I’m on a bad date–a bad date in which I have to sit across from like a dozen people who don’t want to be there with me.  This is where my progress shines through.  Are you blinded yet?

The other night I was at dinner with the clan.  My father-in-law always likes to go out to some restaurant with everyone at least once.  Odd thing is that almost always, he sits and stares off into space when we get there.  He works hard, to be fair.  And he always works.  He’s also not the only one who seems distant.  My sister-in-law’s boys can sometimes have meltdowns, which only add to the strange feeling because as a whole, I think the family feels some shame for the boys’ behavior, and many of us kind of drift off as the boys are being reprimanded.

Anyway, no one is really talking, or maybe they are.  I am bored out of my mind.  This year, I have The Boy as a shield, and as a friendly face to focus on, SO I’m getting by.  But it hits me.  Part of the reason I feel awkward around my in-laws is that I am always wishing it were different.  Basically, you have a room full of strangers who only come together because of their spouses.  There’s little chance that I would hang out with many of these individuals and the same is true on their end.  And this is where the age thing comes in.  In the past, I would sit back and assume the problem was elsewhere, i.e., with my in-laws.  Occasionally, I would shift the blame to myself.  I know I’m no saint.  But what I think I realized this time out was that I am wrong to assume it’s a matter of blame because the truth is no one is to blame.

It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just what it is.  And I do better when I accept it as such, because if I’m honest, I think that’s where my awkwardness comes in–it’s a masked disappointment that I just can’t seem to find a way in with these people who are so close to the woman I married.  Maybe that’s sad.  Maybe it isn’t.  What do you guys think?  Do you get along with your in-laws?

I hope so.

I also hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.  See you in 2013.

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what my holy crotch taught me about writing

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 20, 2012 at 10:50 am
batman

holy crotches, Batman. I’m still reinventing myself.

Last week, I was getting ready for work, and I found a hole in my crotch.  (Don’t worry this is a PG post.) I went to my closet only to find out that all my jeans were in the wash.  I wasn’t about to don the slacks–I refuse to do that on two important grounds: 1. I like to be comfy when teaching and 2. I haven’t had to wear slacks in some time and I think I might not fit into any of them any more–a fact that would depress me, vain man that I am.

I basically had two choices: get a dirty pair of jeans out of the hamper or wear the jeans with the holy crotch, which I had put into the trash a few minutes before.  You might be horrified to know I pulled the holy jeans out of the unholy trash.  But there a 10-second rule on pulling jeans out of the trash–something equivalent to having food fall on the ground.  At least there should be.

I did have a third option, by the way: an old pair of black jeans, which I hadn’t worn in over eight years.  Did I ever think these mommy jeans were cool?  Did I not see the extra room in the crotch that made me look like I had a saggy diaper?  Did these very basic fashion issues get past me?  Was I coming off the 90s?    In the end, I stuck with my holy crotch pants, but not before I went through the pockets of my saggy-butt specials.  And now, here is the point of this story: I found a piece of paper with my writing on it–a list of sorts.  And on that list, number three was:

Re-invent yourself

This means that I have had this vague idea in my head for over eight years.  It’s odd how your memory works.  In my head, it’s as if that were a new thought.  I wake up thinking about it.  I write in this blog about it.  I probably talk to my wife too often about it.  But even so, it’s not a new idea.

How I have not realized this probably has to do with the fact that I keep trying new things, and in the last year and a half, the attempts at reinvention are coming faster and harder: novelist, short story writer, graphic novelist, flash fiction writer, scriptwriter, and now, scripts for commercials.  Oh yeah, blogs, too.  The only thing I haven’t tried to write are instruction manuals, video games, and street signs.  At this rate, it won’t be long until I get to some of those, as well, though I fear that my signs would be a little verbose.

I’m not sure what I think of these attempts at writerly reinvention are really leading to.  Is it better to sit on something for a long time and craft it out?  Or is it better to go where you will, to make stuff that’s as good as you can get it and then move on?  By nature, I think I prefer the latter, but I’m not sure if that’s me just going after immediate gratification.

I will say that finding that list shook me.  It makes me realize the importance of keeping a journal and actually reading past entries.  I wonder how that Gabe, the Gabe who actually liked his black mama jeans with the saggy bottoms would have felt if he’d known where I am now–all Old Navy Premium loos jeans and shit.  Would he be pleased or bummed?  And eight years from now, how will I be?  Will I still be looking for reinvention or will I be reinvented?  Will I be wearing mu loose jeans or, will I be wearing skinny jeans?  Scary thought.

Yoko-Ono-Fashions-for-Men

I guess there ARE worse things than black mommy jeans

Of course, I don’t know. And that’s just it: things always look so different when you’re in the process.  Whether it be mom-jeans that you used think looked good or a script that you thought was strong until you realized it wasn’t.  I guess that’s just life.  You keep evolving.  So maybe I don’t have to feel like a failure.  Maybe I will keep reinventing.  Maybe.  I just hope I won’t be wearing skinny jeans.

the key to career success: suck it often and quickly…

In career, life, observations on November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

start knocking

OK, this is probably not going to come as big news to many of you.  But the notion that if you want to do something well, you can’t be afraid to fail got by me somehow. I know I’ve heard this before.  Maybe it was a late-night infomercial hosted by some self-help guru. But when you boil it down, strip the idea from the cheesy guy smiling his 1000 kilowatt smile in the darkness of night, there is something to it.

I came to realize this a few weeks ago while I was at a conference for Transmedia storytellers.  For a couple days, I had been running into a guy named Donald Cager.  Donald, humble as pie, introduced himself to me as a producer of commercials.  Little did I know that Donald doesn’t just produce any commercials; he produces some of the biggest spots on TV.  If you watched the Olympics, then you probably saw his Samsung commercial about a thousand times.  I say this because it was this humble, successful guy who finally helped me figure out what I’d been missing.

It’s not uncommon for me to have more than a couple projects on the burner at once.  I just work better that way.  But when starting these things, I always waste a lot of time trying to figure out which of the two I should focus on.  More than once, I have gotten locked up and not started anything because I wanted to know which project would be the better use of time, and as I’ve gotten older, this quandary has gotten more severe.  And with each day at the conference, because I was being exposed to so many approaches, my anxiety about my next steps as a writer was increasing exponentially.

I said this to Donald.  I think I used that staid metaphor of the door.  At the conference, I was exposed to so many doors, so many ways to move forward as a writer.  Not that many of these doors would lead to success.  Most wouldn’t. I knew that.  And that truth was scaring me into paralysis.  But Donald, in his quiet way, turned it around on me.  He basically told me that I needed to open any and every door as quickly as I could.  Because the sooner I went through all the wrong doors, the sooner I’d find the right one.

I love this.  It’s amazing, but just with that little bit of wisdom, I feel so much freer than I have in a very long time.  So why didn’t I listen to those late-night self-help guys sooner?  I think they say the same thing.  Oh, that’s right.  Because they usually suck.  That, and the fact that one bit of wisdom just doesn’t make it worth the pain of looking at those blazing white smiles–made from cheese and cynicism.  I guess you get the lessons you need when you are ready for them.

Thanks, Donald.

no thanks, dude

I’m a shy tonka truck looking for direction…

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on October 18, 2012 at 5:03 am

I know. The title of this post sounds like some lame attempt to be sensitive on Match.com.

But in reality, I’m getting ready to attend a conference for writers, multimedia-gurus and tech know-it-alls.  I’m staying with my folks, which is great for me, because it gives me the chance to say hey to my peeps while also getting the chance to do some networking.  I say this though the truth is that I’m not sure how the whole networking thing is going to go.  I can be kind of shy, but shyness can sometimes creep up on you.  It hides in the day to day of faces that, if not friendly, are at least familiar.  But once you break that pattern up a little bit, there she is, shyness is there, telling you not to say too much to strangers.

I am hopeful there will be a lot of people in attendance at this thing.  I’m kind of odd this way, but I’m not shy in large groups.  But that only goes so far since at some point, I will want to network with people, schmooze, press the flesh, etc..  That is kind of the point of this kind of event.

Or is it?

I’m making things up as I go.  There is a part of me that is unsure why I am going and what I hope to get.  The conference is for Transmedia storytellers, which, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, is a term that can have as many meanings as there are weird technical people spewing it out.  But to put it at its simplest, Transmedia is for people who are trying to tell stories over a number of different media.  So you might have one main storyline told in book form, but then you have a spinoff-plot develop in a game or a character might have a Twitter feed and tweet to people who have bought the book or the game.  It gets a lot more complex and a lot more interesting, but at least this gives you an idea.

Regardless, what worries me is that I am changing things up again.  In previous posts, I made the mantra of 9 months and out, but this might just have been bravado masking insecurity.  I’m 40, almost 41.  Most people have their careers set by now, and what am I doing?  Jumping all about, trying things on, seeing where I fit.  Isn’t that what 20-somethings do?  Or 30-somethings—early 30-somethings?

As my 70 year old mom drove me to the train station this morning, I felt a little bit like a fool, like a man-child being dropped off to school.  Those same feelings of insecurity I felt so many years back: will the people I find like me?  Will they think me ridiculous?  Those same feelings are flooding me.  When I was a child, I knew I couldn’t stop time.  I knew I just had to suck it up and go to school, and more times than not, things turned out well.  I hope the same now, except that I know the stakes are a higher.  I don’t have to worry about a bully or a mean girl.  I need something to work out here regarding work.

I’m not looking for someone to give me a job or offer to buy something I’ve written.  I don’t need anything that big.  I’d be fine if I could just find the next step in this process of reinvention.  I think I have the energy for a big push.  I just need to know where to point myself.

Another memory comes to me as I write this.  When I was a kid, that shy, somewhat anxious kid, I used to love this yellow toy truck.  It was one of those toys that you’d have to rev up before letting it go screaming across the kitchen floor.  I am that yellow truck, all revved up, waiting patiently to go speeding somewhere—but where?  That’s the difference.  I’m a self-aware Tonka truck in need of career GPS.

9 Months & Out: Is It Better to Be Open or Focussed When Looking for a New Career?

In career, media on September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

 

After too much deliberation, I am going to the motherland (Los Angeles where my mother does live, btw) in October, so I can join a lot of other writers/programmers/social media people for what I hope will be a learning experience.  Story World is not cheap, though it is not as expensive as some other professional conferences.  I’d tell you more about what the convention entails except that I’m not sure–not exactly.  The event is for storytellers who want to work across media and incorporate gaming aspects and social media into their narratives.  It’s not really about how to tell stories, as far as I can tell.  It’s more about how to use different media to create new ways to experience stories.

Apart from that, I imagine there will be a lot of trading of the biz cards.

In general, I’m of two minds about conferences. One part of me thinks they are a waste of time and money. I’ve gone to a couple for writers.  And it was fun to be around other members of the tribe, but I didn’t really get anything out of them, professionally or artistically.  How many times can you attend workshops like, “How to Sell Your Novel” or “How to get an Editor’s Attention”?  If it were all so easy, then there would be as many bad books published as there are crazy people writing them.

I’m hopeful that since Story World has a more technical component to it that the workshops will be a little more useful.  I also hope that since this kind of storytelling is mor collaborative than book writing that networking will be fruitful.

Still, I have my concerns.  If writer conferences are just a little too closed, a little too predictable, this kind of conference might be a little too open.  Story World is about new media and new media is so new and untested that it’s hard to know crazy from brilliant.  I think I can tell when a writer is being crazy: that 3,000 page tome about identity with detailed disembodied descriptions of the emotional lint is probably going to never see the light of day.  But who’s to say that some app that allows a person to put on goggles and see that lint for himself will not be the next great thing?

There’s an analog to my career quest. A year ago, I decided I would not pigeon hole myself about the kind of writer I would try to be.  I had tried to write a novel for 6 years because without much thought, I concluded that the novel was the only way to go as a writer.  But then I realized I had other interests: film, graphic novels, blogs, children’s books.  Hell, I even thought about trying to write for video games, which I still think would be frickin’ awesome.  Trying my hand at many different types of writing since then has freed me up enormously, and I think it has made me better.  I learned that I love to collaborate, that in the end, if I do get a book out and if it were to be read by any amount of people that I’d love that book to be a children’s book–one of those children’s books that adults could read, too.  But I also learned that I love to tell stories more than I love to write fiction books of a certain kind for a certain reader in a certain format known as a book.

Of course, there’s a downside to all of this: namely, it can leave you a little directionless, as with Story World, all this possibility leaves me not sure if what I’m producing is crazy crap or crazy good, or worse yet, not crazy enough to be either good or bad.

So, in October, I’m going to a conference to learn what I don’t know.  Am I a fool?  Maybe.  But maybe, that’s all you can do when you’re starting out on a new path.  Keep taking steps and hoping that if you drop enough business cards along the way, someone will find you and tell you where home is.

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

9 months and out–LESSON #1

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on August 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

 

If you want to succeed at something, stick to it.  OK, obvious, I know.  But let me start with a story that will show you how I have not followed this very obvious truth.  I call this little ditty, Curse of the Dumb-Dumb Who Keeps Wondering What Other People Think of Him.  Here it goes.  I hope you like it–really, I do.

(See what I mean?)

When I was 15, I discovered tennis.  This was before the Williams sisters, mind you.  On paper, I had no real business with the sport.  Tennis is not quite golf and it’s a good bit under polo in the rich-person pantheon of athletics.  And yet, it certainly has a little bit of the country club vibe to it even to this day.  My father at the time, classic immigrant that he is, was happy about my discovery, telling me that tennis was a good sport for making connections with rich people.  (My father’s strange views of American society are another story.)  Anyway, I loved tennis.  I spent a summer going from one public court to the next all over Santa Monica, looking for people to play.  I was what I am not usually: without fear or apprehension.  I just wanted to play.

I say all of this, but this month was the first time I picked up a racket in 25 years.  I stopped when I was a sophomore because even though I loved tennis, the sport was not going to get me cred with the girls–at least I didn’t think I would.  So, what did I do?  I switched to basketball, which was a joke.  I’m 6′ 3″, and I liked playing pick-up games.  But my heart wasn’t into it.  And I didn’t have a head for the game in a more organized setting of league play.  So, basically I sucked it.  And after getting through Hell Week, I quit the team.  By that time, I’d gotten rusty at my tennis game, and then I hurt my shoulder trying to serve and it was over.

Now, do you get the point?  I left what I loved out of some concern of what others would think.  And I’ve been repeating the same mistake for years. You’d think I’d learn by now, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to see that you’re repeating the same mistake.  Every situation seems new.  Even now, I feel the pressure to give up on writing. I’m not going to, mind you.  This is it for me, I know that.  But sometimes, I have an idea, and I work through it, and as I sit with the project, I start to have doubts.  I start thinking no one will like what I’m doing or that I will fail (which also comes from a concern for others) and I want to run away.

I tend to think that most ideas, if you stick with them, can bear fruit.  Part of success is telling that inner-critic that tells you to quit because you might fail or because no one will like it or because you will end up penniless and friendless (and probably toothless as well) to shut the f&*& up.  There is success to be had if you just stick to what you’re doing and not listen to others.  I think that’s clear enough.  Right?  You agree, right?  Come on.  Agree already.

Damn it!  I’m doing it again.

nine months and out…a manifesto for switching careers

In career, humor, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

 

 

I read somewhere that you have to name to claim it. Or something like that.  I’m terrible about memorizing quotes.  I’m a paraphraser by nature and by limited intellect.  But you get the gist.  I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep on as I’ve been–a teacher of poor young people who also tutors the wealthiest among us on the side.  It’s not the work itself, though I don’t love the tutoring as much.  The truth is that it boils down to economics.  WOW, that’s really unique, isn’t it?  But let me tell you a story, which might make a my point a bit more personal if not more interesting.

My family comes from Uruguay, a small country in South America, in case you don’t know and you would not be alone if you didn’t.  The last time I went, I was walking around the downtown of the capital, and I realized that the beaches, which the country is known for, were all being bought up by wealthy Argentines and Brazilians, and a few Americans as well, which meant that something as public as the land one walks on could be bought out by foreigners.  Public beaches in one country were becoming privately owned extensions of another country–colonies by pocketbook.  I naturally thought that this was unheard of in the US of A.  We buy things.  We don’t get bought out, which is still basically true though changing.  And yet, I live in a city, a major American city, where the not-rich are being forced out by the newly-minted techie-rich.

I am not from here, originally.  So in a way, I don’t have the same stake in the game as many of my friends who are native to the City by the Bay.  But I’m a proud, probably to a fault, and I’m an urban-dweller, which means suburbia is not an option, which means I’m locked into a fight here.  I am, for the first time in my life, thinking about money and my need to get a bit more of it.  It’s not just the San Fran, of course.  I saw the same stuff happening in NYC where I used to live before moving here, but I was single then.  There’s something about having a family that’s changed me and how I think of work and career and getting paid.

There’s some personal stuff, too, which you can read more about in a guest post I recently made for Le Clown’s Black Box Warning.  If you’re interested in the inner-pains of my being, check out the post.  For the purposes of this blog, as I’ve said before, I am trying to lay down some plans for getting to a new place with writing and social media campaigns.  I’ll get into the social media discusion in the next post, but for now, I gotsta to get paid regardless of what I do.

It’s possible, I think.  When I first got to SF, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.  I knew I needed a job that gave me time to write and I knew I was a teacher.  Well, I found that.  Now, I need to get that and just a few more dolars so I won’t be muscled out by all the hipsters and their beards and beamers and benjamins.  This is will be a fight for the proletariat.  Either that, or I’m just plain sick of running in circles.  It’s time to go some place.

middle-aged and seeking a new line of work…AGAIN? REALLY?

In humor, life, observations on August 15, 2012 at 5:30 am

let’s see how long i can keep the smiles going

It’s late summer, and though I’m on “vacation” from teaching, I’m still at it.  My usual job is teaching GED classes out of community centers in the projects.  But I got hired to spend these same two weeks teaching academic workshops out of two of the hoitiest and toitiest prep schools in the Bay Area.  Since the money was good, I couldn’t turn down the work.

I don’t really feel like speaking about the obvious right now: the disconnect between the worlds I teach in.  In my usual world, I have kids who have seen more than anyone should, in this other strange one that I am visiting, I have kids who I think might benefit from seeing a bit more than just manicured lawns.  Ah, I know.  This is life and life can be unjust.  I won’t start preaching now because I’m tired and don’t want to come off as what I am: a west coast liberal.  (That said, next week, I’m going to be guest-blogging on one of Le Clown’s blogs, and since he’s Canadian, I will let out my lefty-ire there.  I’ll link here when that happens.)

For now, I will remark on the fact that it’s been almost two weeks since I started my vacation, and I’m not missing the old job–not one bit.  I’ve felt that before–when I worked a dumb office job.  People, I know, often don’t miss their jobs when they are on vacation.  But as a teacher, it’s not a good sign.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I want to teach elsewhere.  I’m sure that someone who really wanted to teach would be ecstatic to work with the high-powered kids I have these two weeks.  They actually are motivated and don’t complain.  But I’ve never liked easy things, and as a teacher, even though my GED kids are hard and complain, I feel like I’m actually teaching when I’m working with them whereas I’m just tweaking when I work with the prep school crowd.  And still, I’m not looking forward to going back to GED next week.

Sadly, I think it’s time to shift paths.

To what?  I have some ideas.  I know it’s going to have a story-telling component.  Over the next few weeks/months, this blog will record this fool’s errand I will be putting myself on.  The economy is for shit.  I have a baby boy.  My wife is a baker (read happy but not well paid).  I have a job and should be glad for it.  But I’m not.  I need a different challenge.  Fool? Yes.  Probably.  No, definitely.  But then again, remember, I said I like challenges. Eeh gad!  I did say that, didn’t I?

my heart is hardening, a step by step guide to burn-out….

In life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on August 6, 2012 at 4:00 am

 

So here’s the scene and it’s not a pretty one.  I’m teaching a student the other night–a student who is schizophrenic, obese, homeless, and reeking of pot.  Though I would only use the word, loser, on myself. N. would probably make very few winner’s lists.  None of this matters to me.  My GED class is typically made up of students who vary widely, personally and academically.  N. is a special challenge.  I think her parents were or are profs. at Yale.  She is probably a genius; she can do Algebra and I bet she has an instinct for geometry, but she has these weird blocks when it comes to long division and fractions.  She gets how to do them, but she gets lost.  Partly, it’s the pot that she’s using to self-medicate herself with.  Partly, it’s the problem in her brain that makes her want to self-medicate.  I’m a pragmatist when it comes to teaching.  N. is an adult, and if she wants/needs to get high, I’m not going to scold her.  I usually just suggest that she “treat” herself after class.  She usually listens.

Like a lot of my students, attendance is not always consistent.  Again, I try to be pragmatic or am I being defeatist?  I wonder this when I encourage that at least they come once a week, or if not that, that they text me.  Usually, I find this works.  Make someone do something and rebellion is always the option.  Empower students by reminding them that they are adults and they always have a choice, and they usually come around.  Usually.

Now, do you sense it?  I’m putting it off. The description of my ugliness.  It’d been a couple weeks since N. had come to class.  No text.  Nothing.  And when she walked in, her voice way too loud for the small room, she asks if there are any snacks.  It’s not a bad question.  I usually do have snacks, but at that moment, I was annoyed by her.  I took it as another sign that this person is just not serious.  Maybe my face showed the disgust I was feeling, though I hope it didn’t.

N. eventually sits down and we begin, but not before I lay into her about her attendance and her not contacting me.  I tell her that especially with math, consistency is everything.  And then I tell her that she needs to reach out if she doesn’t show because I can’t keep teaching her the same thing.

Now, this isn’t really that ugly.  I’m saying something I’ve said to a lot of other students, but I know I’m being a little edgier than usual with N. because I’m annoyed–not with her, but with the job.  Earlier in the day, I had to deal with a young woman who is dyslexic and functionally illiterate; I had to eal with her mother, who yells at her daughter and distracts her when she’s trying to learn.  I had to deal with a co-worker who is half-angel and half-out-of-control raging asshole.  All of that’s ugliness, I think.  But with N. I try to focus on the fractions in front of us.  I try not to look at the clock, but everything in the room seems like it’s going too slow–N.’s mind, my empathy.  I want speed, though I don’t know where I’d go.

I’m thankful/saddened that at some point in the session, I see N.’s hands.  They are shaking.  She’s not doing well–worse than usual.  She’s hungry and she needs a cigarette.  So we stop math and she gives me her eating schedule, which is tied to food kitchens in town and Temple (she’s Jewish and goes to services for her soul and for the food.)

I’d like to say that this brought me back to a better place–that our talk made me realize I was being an ass, but the truth is that after I got her something to eat and a cheap (relatively speaking) pack of smokes, I got out of there.  To get home, I walk up a hill, and there was a part of me that felt like I was ascending a pit of despair and sadness.  Behind me was the hood; in front of me was my humble middle-class flat and my wife and baby boy.

Who am I to condescend to the people I try and teach or to their neighborhood?  I don’t know.  But for the first time since I started this job four years ago, I didn’t want to go back down the hill.  I wanted to stay in my flat and let the craziness and shit flow downhill.

I have no conclusion for this.  So, I’ll leave it at that.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Good night.

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