My sister, my cousins, Ann’s husband, and Jake all come back to the great-aunt’s house where my parents and sister and I are staying. They’ve brought fireworks.
Ann, Morgan and I stand back, sipping wine.
“This looks pretty damn dangerous,” I say as Jason and Ann’s husband Jack go out onto the dirt road and set down the tube to shoot mortar shells out of. I was most concerned with getting good pictures, with listening to Ann give my sister advice about camping in Yellowstone, and with making sure Jake and Jason didn’t throw the ground-skating spinner fireworks too close to our feet. The explosions, kicking up dirt by our feet, or up in the air above the corn fields, were a loud, bright signal that this trip was worth it, that the July 4th holiday tomorrow would be exciting, that my cousins, despite their states-away distance and occasional Midwest mindset, were more important to me than I’d let myself realize. I saw in those flashing lights a brief glimpse of what it would be like if we managed to grow up without the petty jealousy and who-has-better-achieving-children bullshit that we had watched unfold earlier that night. In that moment, we didn’t really care who among us had higher paying jobs, were married or dating someone, was living in a downtown loft or a shitty carriage house, was a teacher or librarian, handyman or gun salesman. We laughed at the same jokes, and we believed mostly good things about one another. And though they threw them nearer and nearer, none of us would ever come close to wanting to light another’s foot on fire.
An excerpt from an untitled essay-in-progress July 16, 2010
My sister, my cousins, Ann’s husband, and Jake all come back to the great-aunt’s house where my parents and sister and I are staying. They’ve brought fireworks.
Which is better? March 23, 2010
I’ve always thought it was better to be messy… I mean, if we all have the same amount of time in this world, and I have some dirty socks on my floor, doesn’t it just mean that I spent that time doing something else, possibly more meaningful?
Who feels totally at ease in an impeccably clean home? Doesn’t it always seem like people with impeccably clean homes have something to prove?
I’ve always thought it was better to be honest… I mean, no one ever got better at something from someone telling them “good job.” What makes me better is someone telling me which parts I got wrong. I don’t take criticism all to well on the inside, and I tend to let thoughts like “got this person must think I’m a moron for making this mistake” or “I don’t want this person to think I always make errors like that” or “I wish I had fixed this first, so that this person would see me as a little smarter or more capable” run through my head. But that’s just because I have this hyper-sensitivity/awareness about someone’s perception of me. I don’t NEED for everyone to like me or think I’m wonderful, but I do NEED for everyone’s understanding of me to be ACCURATE. What I can’t deal with is someone thinking I’m the kind of person who would XYZ when really, I wouldn’t.
What I really want is to be appreciated, recognized, honored, and laureled all the time, for everything I do that I think is wonderful. I know that the consequence of this would be disaster, but when no one notices what I’m doing, it makes me think they don’t know I’m the kind of person who does those great things, or has those great ideas, and then I’m back to be lumped in with all the other half-assers of the world.
Maybe I just have an ego problem. It kind of seems like the common theme here is ego. It seems like, whatever I’m doing, whether it’s leaving dirty socks on the floor, telling the truth, or (in my mind) revolutionizing the way high school English is taught, I want everyone to know that it’s right.
I mean, it is, though.
Looking forward to: August 7, 2009
1. Making jokes that are hilarious to me & so lame to my 10th graders.
2. Having 10th graders.
3. Being done with HR paperwork.
4. Decorating my classroom. I’m so into office supplies.
5. Learning cool new slang, using it, and ruining it for my students.
6. My students’ jokes. It will be tough, though, to cease laughing at my students’ use of “That’s What She Said.”
7. Talking about books.
8. Extra-curricular events.
I’m starting to see that I am really revealing myself to be a huge nerd. What’s worse is that I’m pretty alright with that.
The truth is, I am silently freaking out. About paperwork, about when I will have time to do what, about being ready for the first day, about other teachers liking me, about standardized test prep… and about my students’ attitudes.
There are moments, like today, when I was getting the books I’ll be teaching, that I am so excited I almost actually squeal.
There are moments when I am terrified of something happening and not knowing what to do.
There are moments when I panic about getting things done, doing them right, and everything actually coming together.
There are moments when I am so ready to be here, in this new apartment, with this new job.
There are moments when I feel the wave of regret of leaving where I left, who I left, the job I left, the students and former students I left.
Will it be better or worse? Did I just fuck something up?
Some things I am tired of. August 3, 2009
1. The notion that weird=art. (See: Bat for Lashes’s video “What’s A Girl To Do”)
2. Bands with great music, great lyrics, and singers whose voices ruin everything (See: The Fruit Bats, The Shins)
3. Putting things away
4. That commercial where someone sings, opera style, “I made this breakfast just the way I like it.” (Fairly certain it’s a Denny’s commercial)
5. Sour faces, rude people, some people’s pervasive fear of getting excited about anything.
6. Rude people who answer phones or provide customer service for a living. (I know your job sucks, but there’s no reason to spread it around)
7. Someone who either doesn’t understand or consider what I am saying, but instead chooses to plow on with their side of something, seemingly ignoring everything I have so thoughtfully explained. (I lost a movie I rented from Blockbuster Online. They sell this movie for $9. I reported it as lost, agreed to pay for it. They charged for $22. I call them, and explain to them very politely what happened. She says the standard fee for a lost DVD is $22. I go through the whole thing again. I understand that’s the standard fee, but they are charging me, someone who paid to rent the movie, $13 more than a person who doesn’t even have an account. She doesn’t understand, but doesn’t ask anymore questions. She just repeats that $22 is the standard fee. So I ask for a supervisor. While I am holding, I find the fucking movie. The supervisor tells me that she understands my issue–I didn’t even have to explain it–and they are refunding the entire $22. I never mentioned finding the movie).
8. The show Wipeout.
9. The AT&T guys installing the fiber optics in my building are all the time yelling “HOLD THAT DOOR” so they can get inside. How does a person get to be an adult without learning how to fucking say “please”?
10. Car alarms.
Luxury living. July 31, 2009
Moving almost always begets a nervous breakdown for me.
There is the normal stress of moving. Starting something new, not sure what will happen, or how things will work out. Leaving a place I was familiar with, people I knew and spent time with. Having to pack everything, move everything, unpack everything.
There are some aggravating factors, too. Like that I have at least two boxes that I packed when I moved out of the duplex I lived in in college, 5 years ago, 3 moves ago, and had a similar nervous breakdown. There are math tests I took 6 years ago, entire boxes of student papers from 3 years ago. So, not only do I have more stuff to move… there’s a hidden, neurotic reason these things are still around.
They have the cursed personal value.
I can’t get rid of anything my mother has given me… and that is a considerable amount of stuff.
I can’t get rid of anything associated with my senior year of college… and a great deal of that stuff is barely more than trash. In fact, I think there are empy cigarette packs that some friends of mine gave me with inside jokes written on them. So, yeah, actual trash.
There are endless notebooks. Class notes, journals, empty notebooks, boxes and boxes of notebooks.
Pictures, from before I got a digital camera. Of parties in college, my front porch the year I turned 21 and belived myself to be impressive by drinking on that front porch, endless piles of pictures.
Tomorrow, I turn 27, and I live in a new apartment, in downtown Ft. Worth. The building and parking garage both have limited access. Landscapers are here every day. There is trash pick-up, from outside my apartment door, every evening. There are swimming pools, a skyscaper view, and the building backs up onto river trails.
I have managed to curb the crap in my apartment in a workable way. The coat closet holds 6 boxes, and there are 4 behind the couch. Aside from clothes, everything else is put away. I am hoping to turn 10 into 2.
I am hoping to feel more deserving of this apartment once I can actually keep track of the crap.
I am hoping to stop romanticizing the town I’ve left, to stop feeling like “it was the only place I felt like myself.” That old town, where I lived for four years doing graduate work and teaching, is the only place I felt like myself… because it is the only place I ever was & because it helped mold me into the person I was… am? I know I’ll miss my friends. Hell, I’ll miss having friends around, no matter who they are. I can’t, though, miss the town. If I think objectively, this town has all of the best things, on a grander scale. And while that grander scale makes things less personal, less personable… I remember now that I never really felt “at home” in all those cool, hip places in my old town.
I felt at home at my home, at my friends’ homes, and at the two shitty bars we went to once a week.
The stuff I own, my possessions, I know would make for a funny essay subject. I’ve tried several times before, and again today, to write about them. For some reason, my stuff has made it to the list of things I can’t successfully write about. Writing teachers have theories about why writers struggle with certain material. Maybe writers don’t have enough distance, can’t prioritize because the subject is a sensitive issue; maybe the writer can’t edit him or herself on the subject because they are still dealing with it, meaning they would use the essay as some self-indulgent therapy ramble.
Would it be too cliche for me to say that I don’t think that it’s any of those things?
I can’t write about my stuff, or my old town, not really… because I don’t want to. Writing is a highly analytical process. Perhaps there is none higher. I don’t want to have to make the kinds of admissions, face the kinds of demons, deal with the implications that would be brought forth by my endless analysis of these subjects.
My essays are highly funny. Perhaps there are none funnier. But they are serious, too, and both the comedy and the seriousness is born of my willingness to make fun of myself. There are matters I just can’t self-depricate on. Old town and stuff aren’t the only ones. Sometimes things change, sometimes I finally find a way to do it.
For now, I’ll just watch my dog look out the window, and wish with him that we had something better to do.
The best years, some of the worst people. February 20, 2009
I loved college.
Every expensive minute of it.
No, no, not every minute of it. I think there was a day when I thought, “if I throw myself down these stairs, I bet I can go home.”
I know that I’ve romanticized it greatly since it ended, but I don’t know that there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t yearn to go back, I don’t spend my days missing being in college, wishing I could re-drink all of those keg beers. I simply try to unremember things like being left out, not really fitting until the second part of my junior year.
It is pretty easy to unremember my freshman year, as ugly and un-fun as it was. As boring and sad as it was. I think I was always uncomfortable that year. Plus, there have been many beers between 2000-2001 and 2009.
It is equally easy to focus on my junior year–finally living with someone I liked, finally not feeling like the unwelcome guest at the party, the one invited because no one knew how to avoid doing so. There were road-trips and movie marathons. There were nights spent in boys’ dorm rooms, doing something better than having sex: hanging out.
My senior year was unquestionably the best. My friends then were really my friends, they are (mostly) still my friends. I fit with them, I didn’t have to be quieter or pretend to be less messy. I didn’t have to pretend like I wouldn’t rather be drinking. There was a party every night. There were roommates who were (clinically, certifiably) out of their fucking minds. There was stumbling home, there was the discovery of drunk Taco Bell, there was keg after keg, porch after porch. There were Carefree Monday Afternoons, a hat party, a cross-dressing party, a happy hour every Friday that lasted at least 8 hours. There were cops and there were camping chairs. But there were also real friends.
What I try to not think about most of all is the sheer number of fucking assholes who were there. Not at the parties and on the porches; only a few slipped through the filter of the capable men of ** and the Duplex. But everywhere else. These bad people, male and female, had this power to make me feel like an outsider, like an inferior member of the species. They didn’t care about learning, except for the ways it could make them rich or find them husbands. They were what many would think of as standard-issue frat boys and Gamma girls.
I try to avoid thinking about the weirdos, the creeps, the ones who thought anything that didn’t serve them directly and immediately wasn’t worth anything. There were people everywhere, at my private, Christian college, being self-serving pricks, usually while wearing crosses and contemplating missionary work or a summer stint with Habitat for Humanity. As if they cared about humanity.
They were resume packers before they showed up on our green, historic, comfortable campus, and they served that end throughout the 4 (or 5) years.
So, can someone tell me why I accept their friend requests on Facebook? Or why I look to see where they are working? Or why I feel bad that they have better jobs, have traveled to better places, are married, look cute in their pictures, have photo albums doing things more fun than I am doing?
I know it doesn’t matter. I love my life, and my job that pays me nothing. I love my students who can’t use apostrophe’s*. I am excited (and nervous, terrified, etc) about the job I’ll have next year teaching high school. I consider my life fun and full of excitement. I have better friends than anyone else I know (who isn’t friends with me, of course). I go on trips. I spent my summer at my parents’ lake house. I work hard and I have a Master’s degree.
I know it’s possibly, hell that it’s even likely, that some of these same bad people look at my Facebook page, and long for a lake house, friends who are this much fun, people who can be counted on, fulfilling jobs, goofy shit I find myself doing, or even just a creative sense of fucking humor.
But I am still looking. And thinking:
Someone married that fucking guy? Jesus, there must seriously be something wrong with me if B____ D____ can hook a spouse and I can’t.
I can’t believe that total loser lives in Scotland now. I mean comethefuckon. He is incapable of appreciating it the way I would.
Wow, look, that c-face from across the hall my junior year is a bank president. Look at her house that is bigger than every place I have every lived put together. Look at her two kids, sexy husband, cocker spaniel and heated in-ground pool.
I KNOW it doesn’t matter. I KNOW that in the ways that do matter, my life is richer, better and more meaningful. And even if it isn’t better, it is all I could ever need, it is literally amazing, as in, it amazes me on a regular basis how simply great my life is. I am usually so excited to be me, I don’t notice there’s something to be jealous over. I usually wish good things on all people, knowing that my good fortune is just wrapped in a different package.
But, really. Comethefuck on.
Teenage devils. February 6, 2009
Should I be bothered that I am a better teacher than the people teaching me to teach?
Should I be bothered that the state requires me to learn how to teach, even though I’ve been teaching for 4 years?
Should I be bothered that, in order to sustain and fulfill my life, I’ve accrued $70k in debt?
To be honest, I am most bothered by the fact that I don’t even know how to get a job once I’m done learning to do a job I’ve been doing. Maybe, somehow, these classes will make me a better teacher. But how are they going to help me get a job?
One of the FAQs on the Ed department’s Teacher Certification program website is “Will the department help me find a job?” The answer is simply “No.”
Perhaps I should have a different department, eh?
Though my MA will earn me only a little more a year (when I do, eventually, find a job), I don’t think it was a wasted effort, or even wasted money. I think that those three years, that that writing, those experiences were intrinsically valuable. I don’t know that I would have named a price so high, but I would never say I’m not glad I did what I did.
I did wish this process was easier, though.
I want to teach English to high school students. I am ready to sell my soul to the teenage devil. I am ready to lay down my life for standardized tests. And I am willing to do it all for less money than I could make doing little more than checking my Facebook as an office worker. So why isn’t someone making it easier?
There is an abundance of well-educated, under-employed people in this county, this state, this city, this effin’ neighborhood, even. Why aren’t we being snatched up, courted, wooed and escorted into jobs that need filling, that change lives, that meet important needs?
Why do I have to fight to do the right thing?
I am still going to do it, and I won’t complain (more than this). But what about all the equally qualified folks who are up for the job but not this strenuous process?