12Day 1 + 365

Ahhhh… after a year of not working, adjusting, and recovering, I feel good. A couple of thoughts hit me after taking a “morning shower” at 2:30pm.

I perceive “boredom” as a quick way to express the desire for someone else to entertain oneself. My parents taught me this wonderful game when I was a kid called, “Go entertain yourself,” so, at this point, I’m rarely — dare I say never — bored.

Why has that struck me at this moment? I just texted a buddy to ask about his weekend plans are. I’m hoping to catch up with him to play some frisbee golf or go kayaking. Last night Dana and I went kayaking with Kelly, a former colleague of mine and Dana’s current colleague. Kelly also took over the department chair position from me.

As I run down a list of things I want to do — note that I say “want”, not “need” — there’s, of course, the default play some video games. There’s also some projects I’m in the middle of doing that I’d like to finish: an arigurumi turtle for Dana, some more glass pieces, painting a few miniatures, and the VHS and Blu-Rays have been waiting for me to finish. There’s a couple of projects I’d like to start: upcycling a patio table and set of chairs with a mosaic, weed through some boxes of old clothes. There’s some other things I’d like to get done: putting up peg board in the basement, finish organizing the garage after the final dump from the Racine house at this time last year. There’s also some straightening, dusting, vacuuming that could be done. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of frisbee golf, I’d like to do that a bit more, and I’ve already been out paddling more this year than all of last year (I think). I’d like to do some camping and take care of some yard work. I’m striving to write more. I want to shed about 40 pounds. Books to be read.

Never bored. My long-term “to do” list is still active. My short-term “to do” list fluctuates. My daily “to do” list ends up muddled.

Toward the end of summer break during the years of 2010 – 2013, I actually didn’t mind going back to work too much. I termed the feeling as “needing a break from myself”. Now, as Dana is finishing up the school year, and having summer break on my mind, I had a revelation of sorts.

One good thing that going to work did for me those years was reset my muddled “to do” list. The past couple of months I’ve been feeling lethargic and unproductive even though I’m getting stuff accomplished. I’m just not getting stuff accomplished at a manic pace (other than maybe the hours put into Xbox). I’m dawdling in a procrastinating manner, getting sucked into the Internet or staring at the walls for far too long working up the will to do something. When I start doing something, I feel like I should really be doing something higher on the constantly shifting priority list.

The days go by, and I spend more and more time procrastinating because the list of things to entertain myself is long, and the priority scale keeps shifting.

Going back to work at the end of August rebooted the system. Suddenly, that self produced list and scale of priorities got erased and replaced by “the beginning of the school year.” A couple of weeks of the only thing on the list and the only priority was setting the pace of the classroom. Anytime I thought of something I wanted to do, it was immediately dismissed as not being able to be considered until October. As October rolled around, I’d start adding things that I wanted to do in an order of priority of which thoughts popped up most frequently during September. By February, I needed a different sort of reset: restoring some balance of me time with the abundunt amount of socialization. I’d typically be mentally checked out of work at some point during May and focused on my personal “to dos” and priorities.

I think that’s what I’ve been facing over the last couple of months. I need a break from myself in order to reset my “want to do” list. But, without the external “need to do” focus and obsessing over to keep me actively engaged with something, I’m floundering, albeit comfortably, in a state of ennui. Anything accomplished is overshadowed by the ever growing unprioritized “to do” list that has blended “wants” and “needs” into a never ending bowl of soup. The taste of the individual ingredients are blended, muted, sufficient, comfortable, and somewhat unsatisfying.

Recognizing this poses an interesting, but now definable, challenge. How to reset the “to do” list without any external mechanism. I’m most productive when I obsess about something. So, I just need to pick something to obsess about to the point that I dismiss any other thoughts of “want to do” that pop up. One obstacle in doing that is the perception that the thing I choose will be viewed as “work.” “Work,” to me, is a perception of something that needs to be done, and, given the choice, I’d prefer to be doing something else.

That perception, of course, isn’t useful. I don’t want to prefer doing something else, and everything on my “to do” list is a want rather than a need. It’s difficult to pick something off of the list to fill that role. I suppose I could put household chores and yardwork into that category, but, here’s the thing: when I was working, those tasks would be dismissed as easily as any other. Not that I lived in filth, but the dusting, vacuuming, etc., would be pushed off until October. Giving a room a “good clean” is as much of a project to me as working on a cross-stitch, beading, or going to a movie.

Working out seems like an ideal task to fill that space; however, part of the “reset” was that there was a somewhat definable end. I won’t be able to accomplish losing 40 pounds in a month or two, then wean off of it. Exercising and changing my physical lifestyle is a whole different category of lifestyle change because it will be an entire shift of habit. A pattern that I can’t… that I can’t… that I can’t get into until I sort this other thing out. Why not? Why can’t I? I’m holding on to familiar patterns when I have the opportunity for a total paradigm shift.

Except that the demons I’m battling need to be defeated or caged up in a way that’s known to me. And that’s how another “want” gets added to my “to do” list. Okay… dismiss it right away. Paradigm shifts are not going to be successful at this point.

I was having a moderate level of success when I would give myself a list of things to accomplish for the week. I even found a phone app that keeps that list front and center in my view. But, for some reason, I’ve let it slide. I’d put somethings on it with a due date of “tomorrow” and others a couple of months out… why? Why? WHY?

There it is.

I’m scanning that to do list right now:

  1. Fixing license plate light — procrastinating it because — no good reason.
  2. Hooking up Wii — procrastinating it because — have to dig through a lot of boxes, not sure if we’ll actually use it to the extent it’s worth the effort.
  3. Imperial guard/e-web (painting miniatures) — procrastinating it because — want to be doing other things.
  4. Call Golden Hills — procrastinating it because — it’s hard, and I’m not sure what I expect as a resolution.
  5. Ice Maker — procrastinating it because — I don’t really know what I’m doing.
  6. Peg Board — procrastinating it because — laborous.

Now I’m seeing some issues with my thought. Some of those tasks will only take hours, some a day, others are multiple day endeavors. My proclivity to obsess on a task until completion or date isn’t well served by that incongruence.

Also, there are tasks that I do to keep my hands busy and unwind, so they aren’t really “projects” so to speak. They’re just something to do while watching TV. But, given the lack of need to unwind, I haven’t been absorbing as much television over the past couple of months. In fact, watching television and working on something has just become a project in its own right.

I have appreciated the long-term to do list that I came up with while suffering through the teaching, organizing, moving, adapting phase. I look at it every now and then. I tried to come up with a three-week schedule of a routine, but that was unsuccessful. I both like and despise routines. I like the routine of waking up and taking a shower; making sure I leave the house with keys, wallet, e-cig, nicotine gum, and carmex (and now manbag and water); taco salad made a certain way; movies viewed with popcorn and pink lemonade. I despise the routine of Monday doing X, Tuesday doing Y (or X again), Wednesday doing Z (or X again), etc. I’m not even too hip on the idea of Tacos every Tuesday, despite the fact that Tacos could be everyday.

I need a short term list to make sure the little things get accomplished. Trivial things that I’ll forget about without it being visible (like fixing the license plate light or swapping the laundry). For some reason, even though my brain is a swirl of “to dos,” there are some things that just don’t register as a priority in the least.

Yet, if I check off tasks on a short term to do list, that breaks the obsessive engagement I need in order to reset.

An idea of lessening the entropy is starting to form. I’m fairly certain that I can only have two active “projects” going on at a time. Currently, I have around six (glass work, miniatures, crochet, mosaic thoughts, two books, movie inventory). Along with that, I have things I want to do that break into project time (video games, kayaking, whatever Dana and I decide to do together). Sometimes those things get classified as a project themselves (such as playing the campaign of a video game or going camping). Other times they just pull me out of whatever I’m obsessing about depending on another person’s availability.

Considerations

  1. Two major projects.
    1. Chair projects sometimes count as a project, other times they don’t.
  2. No routine like Tuesday is video game night, but allow for those type of sessions.
  3. A period of obsession when nothing else is a priority.
    1. How long?
    2. Is this where the two major project limit applies…
    3. Is this when I should impose the two major project limit and obsess until completion?
    4. How can I allow for new “to dos” if I commit myself?
      1. That’s why I need the period of obsession. New “to dos” get dismissed unless they continuously arise during the obsession period, then they get considered afterward.
        1. But that’s how my backlog has gotten created.
          1. And that’s what we’re trying to solve.

Ugh. I’m going in circles here and have successfully procrastinated away another day by writing this all out.

Start small. Clean up the short-term to do list on the phone by moving things I know I’m not going to accomplish in the next week to the long term list. Anything remaining on that short-term list MUST get done by the end of next week. That will be this upcoming week’s obsession. Worry about after that — after that.

4:37pm

 

Day 360

I’ve done a 360. Hah! That works. 

In five days it will have been a year since I ended employment. I didn’t want the anniversary of that day slip by unacknowledged. 

It was not a mistake to leave when I did. It has been a very good year. 

Day 338 in Erie, PA

I checked in at this Red Roof Inn, grabbed some food, and took a nap around 6:30pm. So, of course, I’m laying in this not so comfortable bed tossing and turning at 2am. It’s cool. I’ll ramble a bit. 

The good news is I’ve got white noise in the form of Interstate traffic that’s rolling by like 50 feet outside my door. I wouldn’t stay here again. The Super 8 I stayed at in Maumee, OH was much more comfortable despite the pretzel, random pill, and quarter I found on the floor. None of which came from me. I took the quarter, but left the pretzel and pill. The pill was a gel cap of some sort. Maybe a Nyquil. Maybe Ibuprofen. No biggie. 

This Red Roof in was a bit confusing to get into. Go to the gas station, into the McDonald’s parking lot, then the parking lot for the motel appears. I had no desire trying to navigate around after parking, so I strolled over to a Country Bar and Grill to grab a burger. I left my e-cig back in the room, which slightly bummed me out because the place allowed smoking. I have no idea the last time I was in a place that allowed smoking. It made me want to get a pack of Reds and kick back with some rum and Coke for a few hours. But, I resisted the urge. Country music and bar flies are not my scene. Although… it was tempting. 

Driving is going well. Instead of using Google Maps to navigate, I’m using an old GPS thingy my parents had. It’s maps haven’t been updated since 2008, but it gets the job done. Okay, I did have to use Google Maps to figure out how to get into this Red Roof Inn, but that was it. 

Oh! Yesterday I found a Schlotzsky’s Deli. I miss having one of those nearby. Hmmm. Schlotzsky’s Deli and a place that allows smoking: small pleasures that show I really am not that hard to please. 

Today a stroller through the Glass Pavilion, which is part of the Toledo Museum. I saw some pretty cool glass art that got me more interested in working with glass. Of course, a lot of it was blown glass, which I don’t have the equipment for or know how to do — yet. Nonetheless, I’m inspired and have been thinking of stuff to try with the kiln. I really need to order some casting investment. 

There was a pretty neat stretch of I-90 going through Cleveland as it ran alongside Lake Erie. Part of me was thinking about driving down to the lakefront before continuing on my way, but I want to put in a lot of hours driving tomorrow, and I can’t imagine it’s much different than the lakefront at home. However there is a State Park here in Erie that looks like someplace I wouldn’t mind checking out at some point in time. Maybe if Dana and I drove out to Niagara Falls we could camp there or something… there and the Indiana Dune National Lakefront. Just some head gears spinning there. 

Tolls. Wow. I’ve burned through around $15 in tolls so far. Fortunately the IPass works with EZPass, so it doesn’t inconvenience the drive. Still, in Indiana and Ohio there are still gates to stop at. Those things used to bug me. There ya are going 70 mph; the lane lines disappear; a high speed scramble into a toll stall ensures: exact change? cash? where the fuck is that truck going? Window down; scrounge for change; the gate goes up; and it’s off to the races! Bada dum, Bada dum, Bada dum dum bum… still no lanes; zero to seventy in hopefully faster than that blue car; window up; hah truck’s too slow; lane lines appear; and back to smooth sailing. 

I downloaded a few audio books to listen to on the road, but I haven’t started listening to any of them yet. I also brought along an SD card with my entire 20,000 song library on it. But, the CDs in my 4 disk changer have served me just fine the past two days. Driving through Chicago/Gary are just too attention demanding for me. And much of the rest of Indiana was down to one lane due to road construction. I was looking forward to a nap while driving today, so that kept my brain occupied. 

I’m imagining the drive tomorrow should be pretty straight forward. It’ll be mostly one State: upper New York after a short jaunt through Pennsylvania. So, after I wake up, I’ll check out, stop for some eggamuffins at that McDonald’s, and gas up (all without leaving the parking lot). Then it’ll be time for an audio book and driving either until I hit Vermont or don’t feel much like driving anymore. I think I’ve got about six and a half hours to go. Doable. But, my knee is also starting to stiffen up, so there’s that. 

Eons ago when I was commuting to Racine from Watertown, my right knee was pretty much in constant pain. I went to a doctor. She was East Indian. While holding on to my feet she instructed me, “Push me in. Push me in.” It was a weird visit. I learned that maybe it was bursitis. She gave me a prescription for physical therapy and Ibuprofen. I just went with the Ibuprofen and moved closer to Racine. That knee has always given me grief, well since I was sixteen… too much activity (namely volleyball, running, or dancing marathons) and I’d spend the next little while limping. During that stupid commute, there ended up being days I could barely climb the stairs. I have long since discovered that being a couch potato is the best solution for keeping that knee pain free. Good thing that’s my default mode. 

Anyway, that and the fact that it’s nearing 3am has me thinking I probably won’t make it all the way to Vermont tomorrow. But I had a decent nap, and it’s still 8 or 9 hours until checkout time. We’ll just have to see what morning Justin decides. 

I should have just got back on the road when I woke up from my nap. But that’s okay. Being well rested and antsy is a good combination for getting back on the road. 

Thanks to Marvel Unlimited and my tablet, I was able to mindlessly peruse some comic books, oh and I also web surfed for awhile to learn about refractive indexes and optically clear epoxy adhesive. In other words, pretty much the same thing I do at home. 

Two days in, and I’m really happy I’ve taken this road trip. While I haven’t experienced any epiphanies or had a soul-finding revelation, I feel like some cobwebs are getting dusted away. It’s not so much a reboot, recharge, or fulfilled desire to get away. It’s just something about a road trip for the sake of a road trip: Mountain Dew, Payday bars, and rest stops. 

3:02am

334

In a couple of hours it will be the third anniversary of the day I learned of my parents’ tragedy. 

Although I think about them and that day fairly constantly, I don’t have any new reflections to share to mark the occasion. Three years later and 334 days since I last “worked,” however, I am ready to spend more time looking forward. 

I like the ambiguity of that last sentence. I’m not saying “more time looking forward than caught in the past,” but I’m also not not saying that. It is comfortable and feels right to simply say I’m ready to spend more time looking forward. 

One way I’m doing that is to finally hit the road with only the most basic agenda of destination. Back in February I wrote about a road trip to Council Bluffs,  Iowa I took back in June 1999 (whoa… before the turn of the century). I’d link to that post, but I’m not quite sure how to do that easily on this here mobile app. 

I’ll be setting forth on a new road trip two more sleeps from now on Wednesday. Maybe three or four more sleeps, technically, since I tend to nap more than I sleep. Instead of Iowa, this trip will be to Vermont, but the trips are spiritually linked. 

The trip will be a solo venture. No Dana. No dog. That feels awkward to me for a few reasons: primarily because it seems Dana, as my wife and life partner, should be included on any adventures I embark upon. Second, the fact that I have the liberty to pick up and go whereas she does not causes me a bit of guilt. Third, I’m pretty used to having Maddux shadow me damn near everywhere I go, so I’m afraid I might start telling random people to go lay down if I think they’re looking at me for longer than a casual glance. 

But, I need to push those hesitations to the back of my mind and learn that partners need not be joined at the hip. Dana has been incredibly supportive and encouraging regarding this trip. I am fortunate to have her in my life. 

When I took the trip to Iowa 18 years ago, it was at the onset of a new chapter of my life: one full of hope and potential. I was finishing up my teacher education program and looking forward to student teaching, and the inevitable start to a professional career. It also marked the beginning of the roughly two year period of what I’ve come to view as a behavioral anomaly — when I was exceedingly social, upbeat, energetic, and carefree. 

I have long since returned to the much more natural state of lethargic, selective-social pragmatism that I wrap myself comfortably, if darkly, within. Fortunately, age and circumstance allow me to recognize carefree and reckless irresponsibility need not go hand in hand. 

Now I have left the teaching profession I was looking forward to starting, and I’m again optimistic about the future’s potential in the way only unknown anticipation can allow. It’s a bit like standing at the front of the queue as the cars pull up for a roller coaster you’ve never ridden before. You don’t know what to expect, but are pretty sure it will be exciting and enjoyable. 

So, that gleeful anticipation of life in general thematically link these two road trips. And as one came a tad before I started teaching while the other comes a tad afterward, the two road trips also seem to serve as bookends of that chapter of my life. Nice. 

That also makes this road trip an end as well as a beginning, and I so appreciate paradoxes when they occur in my life. 

Finally, these two trips are linked in terms of destination. Not geographical destination, obviously, since Iowa and Vermont don’t even have me going in the same direction from my Wisconsin base. Instead, the destination is the summons of a person first met at a Renaissance Faire in St. Louis oh so long ago, and been physically in the presence of less than a handful of times. But, that’s the way kindred spirits work, I suppose. 

The trip to Iowa was to sample a weekend Renaissance Faire in shared company. This trip to Vermont is to share a few cups of coffee in the same company. 

I will leave on Wednesday, approximately 30-36 hours from now. I have set a maximum deadline of being back on or before May 19th, although Injustice 2 becomes playable on Xbox May 16th, so I’ll probably strive to be back before then. 

10:41pm

Day 330

I am livid. 

Next steps in connection with the subject of my most recent blog are very difficult not to fully share details at this time. 

But, don’t worry (as if you are), it will be shared. It will be shared. 

Day 325

In another 40 days, it’ll be a year since I physically left work. Mentally, it’s been drifting away, but not as much as I had hoped. 

Recently Dana has started the habit of unplugging at 9pm in order to wind down, and I think that is a brilliant idea. Those last checks of e-mail and social media can kick up a storm of unnecessary thoughts and ire. I wonder if the divisiveness present in our society today can be somewhat attributed to the constant interaction with the outside world without leaving enough time for self reflection and prepping to be polite, mannerly, and prepared to be tactfully persuasive the following day. 

That’s not important, and since I perceive that Dana is the only person that reads my musings posted here, suffice it to say, “I am profoundly proud of you for striving to unplug!” 

That is all a prelude to tonight’s thought storm raging in my head. Since we’re away for an educational workshop Dana is attending (which, had I still be working I would have been thrilled to be at myself), Dana didn’t unplug at 9pm tonight since she got back to the hotel room around 10pm. And, there’s a big hullabaloo erupting within an Association I am no longer a part of since I’m no longer working, but Dana still belongs to. 

I’m trying to think of the situation as not affecting me because I no longer have any skin in the game. But, that’s not wholly true. I’m married to someone that does, and the issue at hand is one of the factors that caused me to leave teaching when I did. 

She filled me in on the most recent interactions occurring on social media. And, although I removed myself from membership of those pages because it would provide stress I no longer need to expose myself to, I want to respond. I want to put my perspective out there because it’s Side A vs. Side B with Faction C trying to bridge the divide while Wallflowers D quietly determine which Side is being the most ridiculous and Majority E is only aware that “something is going on.” 

This time next year the people in A, B, C, D, E will shift around in the great game of political musical chairs and today’s leadership will be tomorrow’s pariahs while today’s pariahs will be tomorrow’s onlookers. And the cycle will repeat. 

As I think about what exactly I would say if I were to respond, I’m at a loss. It’s a game of King of the Hill where someone is always going to feel righteous, and someone is always going to feel defeated. And someone is always going to be glad that they got to play, and someone is going to think the game is a stupid way to spend recess. And someone is going to feel left out, and someone will do something that others think is unfair. And a fight will ensue. 

But this isn’t a game. I mean, it is, but is one that has a bigger impact than just bragging rights for controlling the hill. 

But, what can be said to those playing that game, and believe that this particular game is the only way to pass the time during recess? 

This is why, when I was younger, I often spent recess sitting peacefully by myself. I mean, sitting in class was hard enough, why on Earth would I want to spend my free time fighting other kids about how to fairly knock each other down? 

Usually some others would join me, and we had a decent time not beating each other up. 

I removed myself from that Association’s online group in order to prevent myself from responding in a situation exactly like this, but I’m also finding it difficult to not respond outside of my own thoughts. So here I have this blog: a place to respond and not respond at the same time. 

And here’s what I have to say about it: screw responding about Sides and Factions and Wallflowers and Bridge Builders here’s my issue… 

Block scheduling… 

No. 

Not block scheduling.

Its about workload. 

Something I learned about myself in the past three years that I always knew, but couldn’t sufficiently articulate is that I am introverted. That doesn’t mean I’m shy or anti-social. It means that I can get over stimulated easily. It means interacting with others takes energy, whereas extroverts draw energy from interactions. It means that my brain processes things in a roundabout way from the birth of the thought to actually uttering it. Extroverts’ thoughts just kind of erupt from their mouths unfiltered. (Curiously, I ramble when I write, but not so much when I speak. But, that’s probably because I can edit as I go, and no one is interrupting my thought before I’m able to fully and sufficiently express it to completion. And, in the cases where I want to make my viewpoint known, I can edit out extraneous ramblings, like I would with this one.) 

Yes. All of this is necessary to respond as I want to respond, and I understand that very few people that aren’t very close to me have the time or interest to digest this response. But I’m posting it here where I’m not forcing my bandwidth on anyone that’s going to form opinion about my perspective solely based on seeing my name, or think tl;dr, which I have learned is the current Internet slang for “too long, didn’t read. Apparently that’s also justification for expressing an opinion without actually engaging in discussion. 

I wish I could attribute the author of this quote: Listen to understand. Don’t listen to respond. 

I also heard somewhere that most teachers are introverted. I have no idea if that’s true or not. The argument for why that could be the case makes sense to me, but my experience also identifies many, many teachers that are obviously extroverted. And, apparently 75% of the population is extroverted compared the 25% introverted. Still more, there are degrees of a scale a person might identify with — kind of like gender, I suppose. 

Likewise, just as it’s impossible for a male to completely understand what it’s like to be female or woman to understand what an erection feels like, it’s impossible for introverts to be aware of how extroverts live or extroverts to understand the severe angst hearing “get into groups” with unknown people feels like. 

Somehow I really lucked out my first… oh… thirteen or fourteen years of teaching. I had three academic classes, usually two advanced Junior English and one regular Junior English in the morning and two Newspaper classes in the afternoon. 

The blessing was that much of the Newspaper classes would be students I had year after year since it was an elective. Some students I had from their freshman year until their senior year. I was involved with one family for twelve years as a freshman sibling would start as her senior sister graduated. Furthermore, those classes were self-directed, or, I should say, I let them evolve into self-directed classes, where I didn’t get up on stage everyday to entertain the whole group. I got to know small groups each year a little more and spend most of my time each year with the senior group of students that I knew the best. Plus, I would recruit students I liked hanging out with from my Junior English classes for Newspaper their senior year. 

Ultimately, my afternoons allowed my introvert self, if not recharge, to at least not drain me. 

That left me with ample time to store up energy to tackle the interactions with the 70 or so students I interacted with from around 7am to 11am depending on whether or not I was able to teach periods 1, 2, 3 or 1, 2, 4 based on classroom availability. 

A couple of years I opted or was politely encouraged to take an overload class for an additional 20% pay. Hell yeah, the pay was nice… in fact, ultimately necessary to dig myself out of debt and not be financially paralyzed from a divorce, but this was also before I was able to articulate what being an introvert meant. 

Honestly, those overload years were brutal, and I would have to balance my mental health vs. a 20% pay boost each year I did so. 

Now, keep this in mind: although I was technically teaching six classes, two of them were a breeze due to not really having to expend much energy interacting with them. So, even with an overload those years, which sapped every drop of energy I had to the point of near insanity come April, I was really only fully engaged with one less class than the five classes per day that full-time teachers were scheduled for. 

The last two years I taught were part time, and I’m having a hard time remembering the third to last year: whether or not I still had Newspaper or not. More specifically if I ever had a course load of five academic classes without that Newspaper breather. I know my second to last year began with that intention, but a month into the school year, I decided I couldn’t handle it with the other crap I was dealing with, so I went part-time… once again teaching four academic classes, but this time for a total of 80% of my pay. Even then, I was wiped, but since other factors were involved, it’s impossible to guess how much can be attributed to workload. 

Now, block scheduling came up a few years back. I think sometime between 2003 and 2006. Kenosha had switched to block scheduling a few years before, and, from my father, what I knew about it was it effectively had teachers teaching an additional class. 

Setting aside the politics, effectiveness, research, cost analysis, and all that nitty-gritty, obviously I’m going to be concerned with, how does this affect me? 

Without getting into the debate about the merits or deficiencies of block scheduling, what it meant for me personally was that it was going to add an additional 25-35 students and potentially their parents to my workload, on top of more daily contact time. 

I get it. Extroverts are thinking, so what? No big deal. Listen, you just don’t get it. 

It’s not about the extra work. Well, it is that too; but, for me it was about those additional interactions and the extra time I would have my energy drained away: contributing to less patience, more irritability, more stimulus, and less time to time to process it, which causes more impulsive reactions leading to stress causing incidents. Day after day after day. 

Had I begun teaching in a district with block scheduling, or, hell, even just taught five academic classes at the school I did teach at, I honestly don’t know if I would have lasted. Of course I don’t mean that I would have died, but my first marriage may have collapsed sooner.  I may have suffered a case of clinical depression like my father did when he was 41. I may have made the administrative shit list for snapping inappropriately at a student. I may have self-destructed in some other way. 

An obvious rebuttal to all of that is, “Well then, you shouldn’t be a teacher.” Yeah, no shit. That’s why I quit when block scheduling became a certainty. Be glad I’m self aware enough to piece all of that together and circumstances allowed me to. 

But you know what? I’m pretty sure I was a good teacher. I’ve got enough evidence in the form of letters, thank yous, and life-long relationships to surely say I had every right to pursue a career in education. 

To make matters worse, that 20% extra pay the district offered to take on the additional workload? Gone. Just gone. 

You start a job. The job requirement says you have to be able to lift 50lbs repeatedly for 6 hours a day. You say, I can do that. It’s a strain. And that’s okay. The job also says, we’ll pay you more if you lift 60lbs repeatedly for six hours. Yeah, okay, it’s hard and you need to rest a bit longer afterward, but that’s the tradeoff for extra compensation. 

Some people are going to think that through and say, “Pffft. I can do that without breaking a sweat.” Some people are going to think the analogy doesn’t work because physical exertion isn’t the same thing as mental and emotional exertion. Some people will righteously point out that the repeated lifting will build muscle and make the lifting easier. 

Whatever.

After sixteen years, the boss says, you’re now going to repeatedly lift 60 pounds for the same pay. 

Call it increasing productivity. Call it administrative right. Call it changing economic conditions. 

Is it fair? Is it right? 

Yeah, it’s the “real world,” which apparently means a world where people get shit on, and if they don’t like it, it’s their own fault. 

I genuinely can not understand how almost all of my former colleagues, knowing that the Employee Handbook clearly says a teacher will not have more than a maximum of five instructional periods did not force a resolution to the conflict between that language and the current work requirements. 

It doesn’t matter whether or not there is a minimal chance of “winning.” Why fight for Section 13 of the Handbook if you’re not going to fight for fidelity of the language in the handbook? Why bother having a handbook at all? 

You have accepted a greater workload with no additional compensation. Compensation for work provided. That is such a basic and fundamental aspect of the labor movement that if you don’t fight for that, you might as well just tear up the rest of the handbook, and cease to exist as an Association because the only thing the Association is willing to do well is provide another arena to play King of the Hill in. 

Seriously. Work/Compensation. If you don’t draw the line there first and foremost, what is the point? 

Maybe I’m just pissy because I struggled lifting 50 pounds. I could lift 30 pounds pretty easily. I could even throw in some extra flair and do it with pizzazz. Maybe anyone could do that. Maybe. Maybe I’m just so incapable of living in the shitty “real world” that I should just stick my head in the oven. 

(maybe it’s time to take my anti-depressants.) 

What I do know is that it is beyond my comprehension how an organization that’s primary reason for existence is to represent the best interest of teachers would ignore and accept such a glaring conflict between language in an Employee Handbook and actual practice. 

Oh yeah, so what would my response be to that thread? I still don’t really know. Something along the lines of… 

You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to go back to sitting peacefully in the playground corner enjoying the rest of my recess while the rest of y’all fight about how to fairly push each other off the hill. The game makes no sense to me. I got mine, and in this shitty real world, I guess that’s all that matters. 

3:41am

P.S. Sweetie, it would be best to send all the documents as soon as you think about it. 

Day 303

Have I mentioned that for the first time in a long time, I’m anxious for it to start getting nicer out… because I want to spend time outside? That’s weird for me. 

I seem to have been overly tired recently. I’m worried that it’s because I’m not feeling pressure to get anything in particular done. And, even though I’m not anticipating Spring Break or the end of the school year, I’m still somewhat in sync that those things mean some nature of change. 

I’m starting to get curious about my reactions to the start of the 2017-2018 school year. That will mark a full year of not distinguishing between a school day and a non-school day, between a weekday and a weekend, between night and day. It will also mark the end of the beginning of a hopefully long journey of that routine. 

The past couple of weeks I’ve been in a routine of painting minis, experimenting with the kiln, crocheting, practicing the banjo, getting caught up with Star Wars universe non-film stories, struggling to get into an exercise routine, and brewing kombucha. I also got my taxes done, which wasn’t a thrilling task. 

National politics are irking me. As is the ongoing mess of RUSD as it applies to Dana. 

I think right now I’m just adjusting to having lived a life “waiting” for the next step (graduation, Spring Break, summer, retirement) to sitting at the finish line much earlier than expected and not knowing how to frame my day-to-day outlook. 

It’s an awfully big change from beginning nearly every task with, “Now, I have to…,” to “Um, I guess I can….” I just feel like I’ve fallen into the trap I hoped to avoid, and that trap is saying to myself, “I can nap” a bit more than seems right. 

But, I don’t really know if I’m sleeping more than I should be. That’s the problem with not having accomplished tasks recognized by some external source. “Are the essays graded yet?” “Did you get your grades done?” Those things get checked off as accomplished, and there’s an acknowledgement that I’ve done what’s expected of me. 

Now…? That which I accomplish is primarily only recognized by me. I am absolutely okay with that. Grateful, in fact. The problem is only that since I don’t have an external opinion of “task accomplished,” I’m not feeling a sense of completion. And, now I have a bunch of tasks “in progress” with no clear points of starts and finishes, which leaves me feeling like I’m not really accomplishing anything at all. 

… and so what? 

9:52pm