Back?

The longer between posts, the more difficult it is to bring myself to actually get on and write. I’m not sure what it is. A nervousness, an anxiety about people reading or worse, not reading. A shouting into the void. I’ve thought long and hard about whether writing is something I want to continue, something I want to pursue in one form or another. I’ve come to realize that yes, yes I do want to write. So here it is, some thoughts on 2017 from myself.

I’ve been using Mindfulness daily or as close to daily as I can get. I basically sit in silence for ten minutes, focusing on the breath. I use a mindfulness app named Headspace, I consider it worth the cost of about 8 bucks a month for the subscription for tons of useful guided meditations but you can find plenty of free apps and resources online. I’ve come to believe that Mindfulness is truly a skill that can really improve your life. To simply focus on your breath, on the present moment, even for a tiny amount of time, can help you out in so many ways. We tend to focus on the past, on things that have happened, or on the future, on things that will happen, so much that we miss the present moment. Before we know it, the moment is gone and we’ve moved on, worrying about something else. Mindfulness, being truly Mindful about what you are doing as you go throughout your day, can really clarify things in your life, make you consider what’s truly important, and just remind you to be present throughout your day. I plan on continuing to use mindfulness in 2018.

I participated in Nanowrimo in 2017, wrote about 25,000 words in a little over two weeks before stumbling and failing to write any more throughout the second half of the month. This was truly helpful because I learned that I could put in the time and effort to get writing done if I wanted. I took time to write those words and was still able to function effectively at work, enjoy activities in my free time and spend time with others. Nothing was affected negatively that has spurred me to write more. I took a break between then and now, but now that 2018 has started, I am beginning to write again, starting with this post. I am not striving for 1667 words per day, but a mere 500, with the goal to be writing 2500 per week, giving me the weekend to catch up if needed. This feels like an achievable goal, a useful goal and one I can be motivated to work towards.


I started running more in 2017 and have found it to really be helpful for my health and wellbeing. Not only do I lose weight, meaning I snore less at night, but in the midst of running, there is a clarity of the mind, a focus or lack thereof. I am not thinking about anything but the run, but the next step, one after another. It feels good. I completed a 5k in October and another in December and plan on participating in more. I’ve begun running on a treadmill and incorporating a 5k training plan to keep me motivated to keep going, though I will admit this plan went out the window when vacation hit. I am starting anew and plan on entering a 5 mile race in the spring which will hopefully be motivation to keep at it.

In general, 2017 was terrible due to the leadership and general shitshow going on in this country, but I’m not going to bother dwelling on that. Instead, here are some highlights.

I discovered Brooklyn 99, a hilarious and fantastic show in a similar vein to The Office and Parks and Rec, but perhaps better than either of those. It has a great cast and makes you feel good every time you watch it. I highly recommend it.

Bladerunner: 2049 blew me away with its visuals, the intriguing plot, the questions it raised. It is a fantastic sequel to the old one, though I will admit it has its issues, mostly with a lack of diversity and the way it handled women could have been done handled in a more skillful way. Also, the villain is almost comical and there are some plot-holes lacking satisfying questions. Still, if you enjoyed Bladerunner or Science Fiction in general, I recommend it. It is an incredible film. The director did Prisoners and Sicario as well, both intense, brutal and great films.

Logan was another film that I fell in love with. It’s basically Unforgiven with Wolverine, a Western through and through, amazingly well-done. I’ve watched it in both color and black and white, both versions were awesome for different things. This might be my favorite movie of all time right now, though BR: 2049 is up there as well.

I attempted to read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, thinking my reading of Infinite Jest would have me ready for anything. I was not ready for this. I am excited to give it another go in the future though, when I can really give it the attention it needs. For a brief time in 2017, about a month or so, I read a Short Story, an essay and a poem almost every day. I’d say if you are a writer or creative person and you feel you get creativity blocks, taking the task of reading fiction, non-fiction and poetry every day will really fill your creative gas tanks. It is invigorating to devour such different material. I was reading Didion and Frost and a variety of short stories, it was pretty great! I intend to continue with this, though perhaps not at the same voracious pace. I do recommend varying your reading up, there is so much out there to experience.

Thoughts on 2018, including resolutions…

I’ve resolved to continue writing, a modest goal of 500 words per weekday or 2500 per week, giving myself the weekend to catch up. I’ve also resolved to continue my mindfulness practice, meditating daily.

 


 

….And I failed. Already. That quickly. I wrote 1637 words in the first week of January and just….stopped. Day after day after day, I failed to write a single word. I failed over and over, the constant failing making it more and more difficult to get started again. Nothing until now.

Resolutions fail most of the time. Chances are, statistically, when you make a resolution, you won’t keep it. There is so much stopping us from changing our daily routines that the simple fact that a new year has begun is not that big of a life-changer to really get you to alter your life.

I was recently told by a colleague that they make New Year Goals, instead of Resolutions, because a goal is something you can keep working towards, where as a resolution, once you get hung up once, it feels like you’ve failed and there’s no point in trying.

I have a poster in my classroom that shows a quote from Einstein, “You never fail until you stop trying.” It’s a great message to teach students, to show them that making mistakes is okay, that it shows growth, that you can always improve, that you can learn from it.

But I feel that’s something we as adults don’t really follow or believe. We tend to feel like failures often, every mistake is another chink in our armor, another realization that goes against the idea that as adults, we should know how to do things, we should be able to make better decisions, to do better things.

You miss one workout and feel terrible. You miss one day of writing and it’s all over. You make a mistake and then hate yourself for a little while. You mess up your diet for a day and then the next, and the next, and the next because once you’ve messed up once, well might as well give up, right? Mistakes are bad. What are you, stupid? Incapable? Weak?

Of course this thinking is wrong, which is why we don’t teach children this way. We use a Growth Mindset. Mistakes are okay, good even, they help us learn, grow and become better. A mistake is not a failure, it’s a misstep on a path to success. You can get better at just about anything with time, effort and persistence. Skill is 90% effort, 10% talent.

That’s what that quote is about. You don’t fail at something until you stop trying. That’s when it’s over. Not when you miss a workout, or a day of writing, or go over the expected number of calories on your diet.

I haven’t failed at my goal of writing. I just had a few missteps. Quite a few. I went far off the path for a good while.

But I’m back now. I will finally post this on my blog, and I will continue trying to write daily, because I can do it. And I’m going to mess up. I’m going to miss days. But if I continue to try, then it will get easier, it will become part of the routine like any other habit.

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Current State of Things

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Come in, come in, don’t mind the dust, nobody’s been here to clean this place up in many months. Here, let me move those old blog posts off the couch so you can take a seat. There, that’s better, isn’t it? Now, you’re probably wondering a few things. Where did I go? What have I been up to? Why am I back now? Well, here’s the Current State of Things:

 

The Current State of Me:

I’m getting used to the amount of work and stress being a special education teacher provides. Things are getting better, the workload slightly easier to manage as I become more efficient and effective with my use of time. It’s still difficult and stressful, but feels manageable. I’m finding the balance between work and play, though I may never find a perfect line to walk, things are going fairly well. Tasks don’t feel so insurmountable anymore.

We are going to Dublin, Ireland! My wife and I decided to go to Ireland over February break. We really wanted to leave the country and go somewhere, finally deciding on Ireland somewhat randomly. We are excited to see the sights of Dublin as well as the beautiful land around the city, including some old castles.

My creative writing endeavors have lagged, grown dormant and perhaps lie dead at this point. I continue to generate ideas that I would love to put pen to paper but lack the time and motivation. We will see if returning to blogging will help in that area. I plan to write a post a week, the topic of which will depend on my mood and current motivation at the time of writing. It could be a story, or a post on writing or teaching or home-brewing. We’ll see.

 

The Current State of our Dog, Habenero:

We have a dog! Having a dog is wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone who has the time and love to put into having a pet. It is indescribable, having another living thing depend on you, that provides you with love and affection unconditionally. Whenever I’m having a rough day, the thought of going home to a wiggly butt and sloppy dog kisses cheers me up. It’s impossible to be angry and upset when a creature is insanely happy to see you after a long day. It’s especially welcoming with the insanity that is happening in our country right now.

To be honest, she has had a rough time lately, getting a dog bite on her face and having to go to the Vet for stitches. She currently has to wear a cone and understandably does not enjoy it. She’s getting used to it though and we are thinking about getting pet insurance because we have had to go to the vet every month or so for a variety of reasons and it gets expensive. Something to think about, for sure.

 

The Current State of My Home-brewing Adventures:

Good news here! Though I had fallen out of the habit of homebrewing what with wedding planning, the wedding and then my new job, I have jumped back into it. I have even started Year of the Brew 2: Brew Harder with my friend and fellow homebrewer, Eric. Our first Year of the Brew was in…2015 I believe, and we brewed 12 times in 12 months. To get myself back into it, we’ve rededicated ourselves to do so once again. I have begun All-Grain Brewing as well, which has reinvigorated the hobby for me. It feels good to go All-Grain, even though it is a longer and more involved process. More homebrewing posts should be incoming, should I feel up to it. This month, I brewed an an Amber ale from the “Brew Better Beer” book by Emma Christensen. Though it hasn’t gone perfectly, I feel excited about getting back into the hobby.

 

The Current State of My Ventures in Video Games:

Not sure many care about this but oh well, feel free to skip this section! I’ve gotten back into No Man’s Sky since the new update and it feels good to explore the universe while also building a floating base on a home planet. Recently, though, it’s been crashing for seemingly no reason, hindering my progress and reducing my motivation to play. Thus, I’ve returned to Eurotruck Simulator 2, taking jobs in the UK so that I can practice driving on the wrong side of the road before we head off to Ireland. It’s actually a pretty useful way to practice, albeit on simplified roads. I’ve also begun playing Hitman: Blood Money which many people say is one of the best Hitman games out there. It is highly enjoyable, despite dated graphics, the game is incredibly fun to explore and plan out assassinations in. I may post about my exploits if they seem entertaining enough.

 

The Current State of…everything else:

It looks bad, doesn’t it? It’s the worst we feared and there seems to be little reason to see things changing for the better anytime soon. The environment is going to suffer, as will millions of Americans and others of the world. These are dark times. I’m not going to get into it in-depth at the moment, you know what’s going on. A war against facts, a war against certain people, be they women, have disabilities or a certain skin color, a war against what it means to be American..The list goes on. I feel like Frodo, telling Gandalf “I wish Trump had never become president. I wish none of this had happened.” Of course, Gandalf would say “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world besides the will of evil.” And it’s true. Just look at the amount of people in the streets, standing up for each other, coming together. Look at the lawyers helping for free at the airports, look at Airbnb, putting up people for free. We must continue to be kind, to be welcoming, and to be resistant to injustice. Many Trumpeters say we should “just accept it”, which is ridiculous. Trump is the president but that doesn’t mean we simply give up and let him do whatever he wants, not when he’s stomping on the constitution, taking away rights and acting like a tyrant. The history of America is about people resisting tyranny and injustice, over and over and over again. I don’t know the answer, but I do know what every single person can do, even if they don’t want to protest, or donate or whatever. You can be kind to others. It’s as simple as that. Be kind. I don’t know what else to say or do, but don’t feel helpless. Show kindness, help others. Unless they’re Nazis, then feel free to punch them in the face.

 

 

Time Is Not On My Side

Being a teacher has been far more difficult than I anticipated. It is rigorous, exhausting, demanding and draining. I end the day at 3:30 with the kids leaving to go home, feeling tired and yet there is likely an hour or two (or more) of paperwork, planning, grading or meetings to deal with. Mentally, this job is taking a toll.

It leaves me with little creative willpower and motivation to do other things, such as writing. I am constantly thinking of the upcoming day, week, upcoming meetings, appointments, tasks and other things that need doing. I am thinking of the classroom, how to improve it, how to be organized, and how to better manage student’s difficult behaviors. As much as I love this job, it takes a lot out of me.

I’ve found it difficult to find the time, much less the will to think of and write blog posts. I have been somewhat successful in keeping a to-do list and staying on top of things using a Bullet Journal (more on that in a future blog post but google it if you’re curious because I have no idea when the next blog post will come), but I still find myself barely keeping my head above water.

It is slowly getting better, I’m learning so much everyday and getting into the routine of this particular school and my various roles within it as English Co-Teacher, Math Co-Teacher and Special Ed. Teacher. Every week I feel slightly more competent, more in control and more prepared. Mindfulness is helping me stay grounded and calm (a future blog post on that is in the pipes as well). I just need to continue taking one step at at time. If I consider everything I need to do, it becomes overwhelming but if you just do one thing at a time and focus on that, eventually it all gets done.

All of this is simply to say I do not know when the next post will come. Writing happens sporadically, if at all. For those continuing to come and read, I appreciate it. It is nice to see the notification that some one has viewed something I wrote and is actually very motivating in pushing me to write more, so thanks for that.