Thursday, June 1, 2017

Endings and Beginnings and Confusing Middlings

I'm a few classes away from finishing up my first year teaching.

I love it.

I love snarky teenagers who come in at the beginning hating math and leave feeling confident and bright.

I love watching the lightbulb come on.

I love the endless sassy banter that comes with teaching high school students.

I love watching them figure out who they are and try out truly horrible fashion.

As the year comes to a close and I look for new employment (unfortunately I can't continue teaching without going back to school which is stupidly expensive), I'm sad to say goodbye. I won't miss the grading or the oppressively legalistic culture of the staff at my school or the absurdly entitled parents... but I'll miss the excitement of passing on interesting ideas and skills.

One of my students came to me with a huge smile and said that during her time in my class her math score on the PSAT increased by several hundred points.

Another student's mother told me that this was the first math class her daughter wasn't failing.

I'm so proud of them, and I wish I could stick around to watch them dive into Algebra II or Geometry next year.

But, like it or not, here I am at the end of this road--which seemed so daunting at the beginning and yet so exhilarating at the end-- wondering... what's next?

People always say that life is full of beginnings and endings, but nobody ever bothered to mention what the heck you're supposed to do with the middlings. The in-betweens.

I've read too many books to have low expectations about the adventure-level of life. It never ceases to surprise me when life is just...ordinary. Work. Bills. Dentists.

The world seems so full of beginnings and endings--so many people being engaged, married, starting school, moving away and starting new lives, writing books, starting businesses, graduating, and having babies. (Side note: I was so not prepared for all of my friends to start having babies. I still feel like we're all in high school... who told them they could grow up AND reproduce? Will I ever see them again once they enter the mysterious world of parenthood?). All new beginnings or endings that lead to them.

And I don't have a clue what I'm doing.

I think there's a lot of things I'd like to do, many of them inaccessible due to circumstance, and other ones... scary. What if I try something but crash and burn? What if my personality is too gentle, too quiet, too nerdy to be taken seriously? As an introvert living in a world of extroverts, being overlooked, unheard, and underestimated is major problem. I don't really mind it too much. What bothers me is the ever-present quiet voice saying, "What if they're right? This isn't you."

I guess I'm trying to figure out what is me. What can be me.

Or maybe this is just the existential dread kicking in because it's after midnight and I haven't slept well in weeks.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Now that I've lost everything to you
You say you want to start something new
And it's breaking my heart you're leaving
Baby, I'm grieving

But if you want to leave, take good care
Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear
But then a lot of nice things turn bad out there

Oh baby, baby it's a wild world
It's hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby, baby it's a wild world

I'll always remember you like a child, girl

You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do
And it's breaking my heart in two
'Cause I never want to see you sad, girl
Don't be a bad girl

But if you want to leave, take good care
Hope you have a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad
And beware, beware

Oh baby, baby it's a wild world
It's hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby, baby it's a wild world

And I'll always remember you just like a child, girl

--Cat Stevens, Wild World

I'll be here when you come back, Sis. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Person

Happy Veterans Day!

In honor of Veterans Day, here's a picture of my favorite veteran. I might be biased because he's also my husband.

I like to brag about him sometimes and today just gives me an excuse. It's easy to list off some of the best things about him (how good, sweet, and gentle he is...), but here are ten of the little things that I like the most:

1. The way he curls his toes when he's really and truly happy.

2. That peculiarly happy gait he has when he walks.

3. I love watching him completely geek over something he's just learned.

4. The way he wraps me up in his arms and it feels like the safest place in the world.

5. I love the way he dances with me to cheer me up.

6. The way his voice sounds when he reads to me or tells me about his day.

7. That "in public" voice he uses that sounds like Phil from Modern Family.

8. I love commiserating with him when the existential dread sets in a little too heavy for the day.

9. The way he loves my family and how comfortable they are together.

10. I love the way he looks at me with those big brown eyes that tell me he loves me back the same way as I love him.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Still Waiting for My Hogwarts Letter

As an idealist living in the unforgivingly solid real world, I sometimes wonder about how other people think about life. Of course, when I say "sometimes" I mean that I have a constant, nagging curiosity regarding the inner workings of other people's minds. 

Exactly how much of what I see and understand is the same as what other people see and understand? 

Precious little, it would seem.  

A person's ideas are in some ways a product of many thousands of tiny experiences, thoughts, feelings and memories. Of which most of these the average person seems almost entirely unaware. 

This individual doesn't like dogs because once, as a child, a dog's barking scared her. She does like cats because she associates them with a good book and a warm cup of tea. Cozy things. 

Another person likes dogs because once, as a child, a dog's barking scared away his nightmares. He doesn't like cats because he associates them with sharp claws, dead fish, and snooty women.

A few months ago, I was at work. A coworker came in and told me what seemed to be a deep and unsettling revelation she had just had:

"You know, I just realized we just do the same thing every day. Like we just come here every day, work on these same projects... like... every day."

She spoke as if this thought had never occurred to her before. I was stunned. That thought has been a constant of my existence, at times merely an idea stirring quietly in my mind--at other times a catalyst for a more positive course of action or a darker period of depression.

My husband is the same way. We speculate that maybe he and I have just read a few too many books, so we're waiting for the big adventure. We're waiting for some critical moment that changes the course of our lives forever. A wizard knocking at our door in search of a fellow adventurer. A letter from Hogwarts. A secret world inside of a wardrobe. 

We've spent our fair share of time wondering "what if"? What if that big adventure only exists in stories? What if we've missed it? 

The reason books always have exciting storylines is because those stories were dreamed up by a writer. They were carefully constructed to be interesting, unique, with sudden twists that the protagonist would never have imagined. 

Maybe my problem is being too focused on the story while forgetting the Author. 

The Author of my story is an expert. He writes with purpose, imagination, beauty. And maybe instead of wondering where my exciting plot twist is, I should look at the ones I've already been given. 

I should be focusing on the people in my life, the everyday joys and sorrows, and the process of working to become a better person. I have so many blessings, I can't count them all. And I have so many opportunities I have dismissed as being trivial or ordinary. 

The "ordinary" things are what I have been given. Time spent with my sisters, Saturday mornings curled up with my husband, class periods with my students, and, yes, time working retail. 

All of these little day to day things add up over the years. The time with my sisters will turn into a lifelong relationship with them, the time with my husband will be a precious, loving marriage. My time teaching will be a part of a lifetime of work, and my time doing retail... well, I can't quite see the adventure in that. 

Yes, I still want to travel. I still want to grow and change and learn and do meaningful, exciting things. And I do believe the Author of my story isn't finished, and that He's got some wonderful ideas hiding around the corner waiting for the proper time. 

In the meantime, maybe I'll learn to enjoy the present--to work hard and love deeply. 

And maybe someday my Hogwarts letter will arrive.