Frankly, my dear, I have to ask why you give a

There’s a third thing that happened at approximately the same time as starting school and also giving death a little ‘what-up’ wave. It’s not quite as big, but I think it’s also playing a role in how I’m thinking and behaving (or at least how I’m trying to think and behave) lately.

I finished this book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

In or around 2012, my next-door fellow JET E-Love and I had a recurring conversation about how achieving nirvana is basically reaching a state of giving no fucks. We also bemoaned how beleaguered we were because we both gave too many, and that left us stressed out when basically we were in the easiest damn situation. I don’t know what JET life is like nowadays, and honestly, it’s probably still really different depending on your placement, but when we lived it, we had a huge amount of freedom in our work lives.

This meant that if we were so inclined, we could just chill all day and do the minimum required (which was super little, like.. super little), and be no worse off for it than maybe having some dirty looks shot at us by our J-coworkers who were busting their asses and hated us for slacking off. Financially we’d be in the same situation, and we’d have more time to plan and execute whatever Asian adventures and shenanigans we wanted. We probably could have shown up to work drunk, if that was our bag.

Not that I’m advocating this, of course, I’m just saying, we had more than a little wiggle room. But we, and probably most JETs (because they do have this screening process and it is competitive), worked harder than we were ‘required to’ because doing stuff well is important to us, and we want our coworkers to like and respect us, and we want to be good citizens, blah blah blah.

Our problem was just that we got so anxious about doing a really good job that it undermined our enjoyment of the time we were spending living there. Not all the time, but during certain seasons, this definitely did occur.

Setting aside that it might be a bit harsh to belittle ourselves for not achieving nirvana in our mid twenties, our conclusion was kind of on point. Trying to let go of your worries, obsessions, anxieties, and attachments does seem to translate into modern crass parlance as giving no fucks. And that’s the basic theme of this book I read a little before but mostly during recovery from the wreck.

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If the title appeals to you, and you like the casual cursing of some bloggers (ha) because it lends a tone of conversational familiarity, then you would like the tone of this book as well.

I’ve been trying to apply the basic underlying principle of trying to stop and ask myself what is it I’m giving a fuck about in this situation?

Because the author’s first point is basically that you should only give a fuck about things that are truly important. To you.

Things that are truly important to you. These last two words are a big distinction for me, because I think I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was objectively or universally important. Like there was a right answer about that, some kind of key of importance, some master list in rank order. Like even if I was sometimes unclear, someone else knew. They must know. How could there not be some master or guru who knew?

There are lists, in a way.. unspoken in some cases, and generally prescribed by your culture. But not all of them are sustainable, feasible, healthy, or a fit for me as a specific person.

Right? So the key is figure out what you value, and then as you go through life, re-evaluate your responses to figure out, am I giving a fuck about the things I really think are worth giving a fuck about?

Like, I care what other people think of me. I want everyone to like me. This isn’t a stellar value to have because I have no control over whether other people like me. I can spend a ton of energy trying to be all things to all people and end up being exhausted and miserable and inconsistent. Recipe for happiness, boom.

It’s going to make you happier if you value stuff you can actually control. So I started thinking about this, trying to figure out what are some better values with which I can get.

I decided that curiosity is a good one, and one that comes fairly naturally and easily to me. I really am curious by nature, and I like to learn stuff, so having this as a value is a good fit for me. Funnily enough, trying to be well-liked gets in the way of curiosity, because I will quickly back down from trying to gain information in favor of trying to be ‘polite’ or non-confrontational. I try not to be seen looking. But genuine curiosity is sometimes found acceptable and even preferable to cold politeness — people may actually read curiosity as caring and polite silence as being aloof.

Honesty is harder for me, but I think it’s also a good value that I’m trying to adopt more consciously. It’s hard because of the aforementioned always wanting people to like me — so if there is something I think will cast me in a bad light, or will make someone think less of me, I have a very well practiced tendency to sugarcoat it, or even just omit it entirely, and even to lie (little white lies, of course, right?) to just gloss over some detail or other that really “isn’t important to this matter anyway” and so adds nothing and so it doesn’t matter if I’m not quite truthful about it.

It’s hard for me to even admit that honesty is hard for me because I want to see myself and be seen by others as an honest person. (The irony being that admitting it is actually the honest thing to do.. ha)

I wanted to list generosity but actually it’s more that I just want to see myself as generous, so that I can have that high opinion of myself and stroke my ego. I think related to generosity is cultivation of sense of gratitude, because it’s much harder to be stingy (and all the icky feelings that go with looking back on something and knowing you gave less than you could easily afford — this isn’t just with money, but also time, energy, attention, etc. — to something that eminently deserved it) if you embrace the gratitude.

Apparent opposite conservatism is a value I also espouse. I’m not being political — I mean the actual Latinate core meaning of the word. I have already written about how I hate to waste stuff. If I have the knowledge and ability to conserve something (energy, water, , it’s important to me to do so. When it comes to my own time and energy, discernment becomes key. Things that might seem like wasting time might actually be really good for me and important to do (you’ll hear this in ‘how to be creative’ guides all the time — you need time to play, wander, and for your brain to compost out some ideas). Things that seem like productive work are actually cleverly disguised ways of wasting time impressively. There is no master list of which is which, because it will vary from person to person and even from day to day.

Which means I have to evaluate it and be mindful of it as is comes along. So I guess that means mindfulness is kind of a value, and maybe even the cornerstone of the other ones.

. . .

So when I first started programmer school, like in the two days before the wreck, I kind of was a mental basket case. I was super stressed out because I was starting something new, because I wasn’t sure it was going to be right for me, because I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be the best in the class and although I knew I had to accept that, I think I also knew I wasn’t very good at accepting stuff like that, because I had only finished about a third (maybe even only a quarter) of the pre-work that they strongly suggested we do as much as possible of before starting, and the first two days we kind of hit the ground running with all kinds of shit I knew nothing about.

I got really fixated on not having finished the pre-work, though, was a bit peeved at myself for not having done enough, and tried to create a ridiculous timeline for completing it alongside taking the class and doing the class exercises. I didn’t see what else there was to be done. The pre-work should have been done before I started, and I hadn’t done it all, so I needed to get that shit on lockdown ASAP. In the meantime I needed to grip as tightly as possible to the fragments of the craft I had sailed in on in order to stay afloat until I could get that done.

Then I had a wreck on day three and missed the third and fourth day of class. Which in the grand scheme? Not that much. But when there have only been four days of class and you have missed literally half of them? Fuck!

Also, if I was going to be out of class, I should at least be using that time to do that other thing that not having done was stressing me out, right? — So if I’m not able to be there, I need to be jamming as much pre-work into my head as the time would allow, right? But this was concussion time, which meant not only was I not supposed to do stuff that was “physically or mentally challenging,” I also found myself too stupid-ified to pay attention or retain anything I did try to study in that time. (I only tried a little, so don’t worry, I wasn’t haranguing myself the whole time. I was, however, sitting around trying not to stress about being behind. Trying not to stress about something is pretty stressful. It’s a vicious cycle, sort of like trying to fall asleep when you know you’re already going to be running a sleep deficit come morning. Very self-defeating.)

So I ended up in the very counter-intuitive position of trying to catch up by going slower than my normal pace for about a week. If you find yourself in this position, try not to stress about being behind! Hahaha. Good luck!

The teachers at NSS have harped pretty hard on how it’s not really about the work you turn in, or the boxes you check, or how much better you think you are than the guy sitting next to you, but rather are you learning stuff? Can you do stuff today that you could not do three weeks ago, or even last week?

So… not achievement, but progress, right? Curiosity and honesty?

When I find myself getting frustrated that the mini group project we’re working on isn’t what I want to show to everyone, but we’re presenting in an hour, and there’s no way it’s going to be ‘done’ to my desired level by then, I have to step back. When I start to get mad at myself and/or my group members for not knowing enough or working fast enough or giving enough of a fuck about this project — I have to step back.

Like, whoa. What exactly are we trying to give a fuck about, here? Who gives a shit if this project isn’t totally amazing? And why should we? More importantly, did working on it push me to practice the stuff I just learned? Did it make me revisit stuff I had forgotten that I had learned? Isn’t that the thing I am here for? Isn’t that the bigger fuck to give?

It’s incredibly freeing. I am somehow then able to stand up and present the project, warts and all, without embarrassment. I’m even able to accept the experience (at least this one and for now) as highly beneficial because I was able to adjust the fucks given more toward what actually matters. (To me.)

You guys. Adjusting that? It’s incredibly freeing.

So when I say I love being in school again, I actually didn’t love it the first week, because I was a little too busy being stressed and focusing on all the things I hadn’t done or didn’t have.

And it takes a conscious effort to maintain this perspective of not falling into that trap. But that’s the mindfulness thing. I’m trying to slow down. I’m trying to ask myself more, especially when I find myself getting upset and anxious, whoa, like what do I even really want in this situation? What is actually important here?

As a side note, it’s a lot easier to answer that question about a specific moment or situation than it is about Life In General or to try to figure out What Should Be Important to Everyone All The Time. Which is also pretty freeing.

As another side note, it turns out I am still good at school, even when I am not obsessively giving too many fucks about a lot of little things I am not fully aware aren’t even that important to me.

To be honest? I still really want people to like me and think I am smart. But I’m trying to be more careful of not letting that run away with me. (Note.. I used to try really hard to NOT care [and then get mad at myself for not being able to not care], but it turns out it’s way easier to accept that I do care what people think, and then to just care about other stuff more.) To rank those better values higher.

It’s like meditation! You can’t really let go of something if you don’t acknowledge and even accept it. Again with the honesty. Self-honesty. Sometimes the hardest kind.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve got this narrative. We’ve all got a narrative, of how we tell the story of ourselves. How we see ourselves in our contexts. And I’m trying to be a bit less judgey in the narration process, to say what a thing is without immediately ascribing good or bad quality to it, but rather to just ask questions about it. To ask, what fucks am I giving here, and why am I giving them?

 

 

Of what are you trying to be more mindful in your life? Or, which are the most important of your fucks given?

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Gettin’ Schooled

I’ve made reference a few times to the positive good change that’s been in play on my day-to-day recently.

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Some life changes can be both big and small at the same time.

When I changed schools (sort of), it was like this. It was a big change, because my situation felt so completely different than it had at my old school.

But there are still things inherent to being a teacher that won’t change, even with a change of schools, even with a jump from public-in-a-poor-area to private-and-mostly-compliant-kiddos. The calendar is going to be pretty similar. The general demands are incredibly similar. The job is kind of the same, at its core.

And working from home is what it is; whatever you’re doing at home may be different — there may be different kinds of deadlines, and you may be required to attend meetings on camera (so you have to dress profesh at least from the shoulders up) — but the general weirdness of not leaving the house all day is common to that style of work.

I have not been teaching, and I have not been working from home. It’s confusing, because when I now talk about “driving to school,” or that I “didn’t want to miss class,” they’re mostly still in the frame of me as a teacher, not me as a student.

Apparently, although I told a lot of people I was “thinking about applying” to programmer school, I neglected to mention to almost anyone that I did apply, did get in, and subsequently decided to attend.

Every teacher, even if they’re a good teacher who loves teaching and doesn’t actually want to do anything else, occasionally dreams of what it would be like to have a regular-ass job. With regular hours, regular pay, and where you can take a sick day when you are sick. The prize plum is the regular-ass job where you wouldn’t take your work home with you in the evening… the kind that would end at 5pm when you left. Wistful sigh, end daydream.

So I’m now in my first week of programmer school… and it’s awesome.

I am not sure yet if I will love being a programmer.

But I’ve become aware that I love being a student. It’s basically my favorite thing.

This is how I led myself to believe I wanted to be a teacher. I liked being in school, and so thought it wouldn’t really matter in what capacity I continued to be in a school environment. But loving school doesn’t mean you’ll be a good teacher. It may even set you up for more disappointment than those who hated school — Scott hated school, gave all his teachers hell, and is now incredibly effective with students. He makes them feel heard, motivates them, and gets them to understand shit, none of which I was particularly good at.

But. I freakin’ love being on the other side of it. Being shown how to do something, hearing new information, taking it all in. And, let’s be honest, I’m definitely out to soak up whatever praise I can coerce my way (unhealthily obsessed with the approval of authority figures? Eh, maybe a little..).

The thing is, I didn’t know how much I liked being a student until now. I had been a student basically my whole life, from childhood all thr way through college. It was only recently that I spent some time not being a student. That break, that time of being a teacher instead, has given me perspective and appreciation (and acceptance) that this is what I really enjoy and also what I’ve always been good at.

Previously in my life, I spent a lot of energy being stressed about being the most perfect student I could be. This got a lot harder in college, but I somehow managed to still impress everyone and rack up a bunch of accolades.

Last time I was kind of a student, in my teacher training program, the stress was on thick because I already wasn’t quite as good at any of that as I wanted to be, thought I should be, needed to be in order to really succeed long term as a teacher. (Of course, my natural stubbornness got me through not only training, but also three and half-ish years of doing the job.)

The decision to go to programmer school was based on a lot of things. A little desperation, a little curiosity, a little bit of that same old stubbornness.

Unlike my previous humanities/liberal arts/Classical Languages (actual title) degree, NSS is basically trade school. You put in 6 months and you generally get some kind of job as a developer somewhere in town. From what I have heard, you start somewhere, spend a couple of years doing whatever, then slowly move from job to job til you find what you really like the best and you stay there. (But, as you do this wandering, you start at a pay grade a few notches above teacher salary.. and let’s be honest? I’m tired of being moderate-poor.)

I’ve convinced myself I can pretty much learn anything. I have the wit and acumen, and the bull-headedness to do so. My greatest danger is perfectionism and the fear of failure. Since becoming a teacher, I’ve heard “fail forward” and that failure is a function of learning so many times I could recite it like a mantra through my sleep. But it’s difficult sometimes to keep myself mindful of it when I’m in the thick of struggling with material I  personally don’t understand. You see, failing forward is of course for those unfortunate enough to fail in the first place… (so when you’re good at being a student, and that’s all you do for basically 22 years of life, you start to think you are or have to be good at everything else, too). ..cough.. ..gulp..

Where was I? Oh right, that material I don’t understand.

Yet!

Material I don’t understand yet. Because dammit, I’m going to..

The entire staff also does a lot to remind us all to think not about comparing ourselves to others in the class, but to our own previous selves. What do we know, and what can we do today that we couldn’t a week ago? Three weeks ago?
Honestly? A pretty hefty shit-ton.
(But still, that guy who came in with a computer science degree and that other guy who ‘did some work’ before with such-and-such programming language still knows way more than me about any of this… and that can be hard to ignore… not to mention the people who simply finished the pre-work that we were told to do as much as we could manage before starting, and I only got 1/3 of the way through….)
I can do a lot of stuff I couldn’t do three weeks ago.

I love grappling with stuff I never imagined tackling, but I especially like it when I win. I like working with other people who are grappling with the same stuff, and I love it when we help each other figure things out.

I like our teachers and TAs, and so far I like the material. I keep feeling like I’m just barely in the arena of understanding this shit, and I keep thinking this must be what it’s like to be learning a language in a “comprehensive input” environment, where the language teacher throws new shit at students that is just ever-so-slightly beyond what they understand, just barely within the range of what they can figure out and piece together.

I can piece it together (barely), I can figure it out (kind of), and when I can’t, I can follow along and look forward to a time when it will (hopefully) fall into place.

I also really enjoy being in a class because classes have always been where I made friends. Seeing the same people every day, working with them on projects, eating lunch at the same table with them — this is the kind of pushed-together familiarity that breeds friendship in my experience. I’m typically shy in gatherings of strangers, and don’t follow up well, or do it in awkward ways, which is part of why I haven’t made that many friends in the last 4 years of living here (there are exceptions… those who have manged to outlast the weird side).
I can do performative networking: I can smile and be expressive and impressive and even charming (in a slightly awkward way), but that takes a lot of work. My classmates have already seen me go from teacher-style professional dress to jeans and no makeup at all, and we’re only like 15 days in. Plus, the students are of all different ages and backgrounds, so I find it a lot easier to fit in than I felt it was at either of my schools.

I like being in school.

My wreck occurred on the third day of my new program, so my two life changes have been nearly simultaneous. I’ve spent most of my new school life getting rides and being very dependent. I’ve had to plan carefully about things like lunch and how I was getting to and from school.

Today I celebrated my independence (yay for driving myself to school!) by going to a taco truck for lunch. Four dollars never tasted so good (school is off Nolensville Pike), unless it was from the shwarma place a little further down.

More to the point, the good-stress of starting this new thing has been piled together with the bad-stress of all that other shit. The combination has been a little overwhelming. I’m only now starting to get it together between the two, and trying to re-create some kind of sense of being ‘on top of shit’ again.

My life is totally different than it was like a month ago, y’all.

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Wreckin’ Shit

I’ve had a couple of major life events in the last few weeks. They are each continuing to have pretty strong effects on my day to day life, as well as my mental state. One is having a strong positive effect. The other is strong negative (though, happily, lessening as time goes on).

The first one I will address is the negative, since it’s more dramatic, and also most of my family and friends are already aware of at least the basics of what happened.

I was in a car wreck on I-40 shortly after 8am on a Wednesday morning.

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I didn’t even realize until three days later that I must have blacked out for a short period of time, because it seemed like one instant I was careening, airbags going off, headed for the cement center rail, scared that I was just going to ping-pong around this place where everyone was going so fast and no one was going to stop for our clusterfuck, and then I looked up to the left and someone was moving toward my busted-out window, asking if the driver door was unable to open, and if I should climb out the passenger side. All the cars were already stopped, people standing around and it seemed like a policeman and ambulance were there immediately.

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That metal thing in the middle wasn’t there — the wreckers just threw that in there because it was on the road somewhere and they had to clear the scene.

 

I stumbled out of the car, dazed, foggily aware that I should call someone, right? I reached up and touched my forehead and found a little blood on my fingers. Huh. A man said “Hey sweetie your forehead is bleeding,” and wiped at it with a clean microfiber car towel which I carried with me the rest of the day. He had me sit down in my passenger seat. I tried calling Scott but I knew that he couldn’t come.. why? He was away.. on an overnight field trip? (This was true, but I was really foggily unsure of it at that moment) He had gone somewhere. For the weekend? It wasn’t the weekend.

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A policeman came to ask for my insurance. I opened the glove box, and someone else came over and asked if there was anyone he needed to call for me. I brightened up, remembering — yes, call my school, tell them where I am. I remembered where I had been going. The policeman came back, any luck finding that insurance? Oh. I had forgotten. I turned back to the open glovebox and rummaged a little bit. I found an old still-sealed envelope from my insurance company. “This is old, but the policy is still all the same stuff,” I said, giving it to him.

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A part of my vision was now obscured by the roiling shiny grey patches, like holes torn in space-time, that for me used to signal the start of a migraine. I tried to explain this to the paramedics outside my passenger door.

 

They brought me to the ambulance to ask me questions about my previous migraines and also my current condition, which I explained to them as best I could. They recommended that I let them take me to the hospital to get checked out. I considered this. My brain was a bit less foggy than it had been when I first wrecked, but I had never really had head trauma before. I knew I could not afford an ambulance ride (financially). But I also knew (had been told) that they’ll let you keep paying tiny payments on ER bills for ever, so I thought maybe I should go, because what if I had really fucked up my brain, the thing I was counting on, and I didn’t go? I consented, and the paramedic fetched my purse and lunchbox and we were off on the very short drive to the hospital, where I waited and was scanned and leaned back on a bed in a hallway and hurt.

My x-rays and brain scan were clear, although I developed the concussion symptoms later (nausea, headaches, textbook, textbook). I did call my insurance company as advised and I did give a statement although part of me wishes I had waited a day, til my brain were a bit sharper.

I didn’t feel sharp the next day, but I wasn’t “feeling worse” either, like so many people told me I would. My upper back was so sore the day of, and the second day felt less like grinding bones and more like stiff muscles, which I also get from lifting too enthusiastically (back when I could lift..). I tried to rest on Thursday, didn’t go to school, tried not to panic about falling (further) behind, tried not to think about money, tried to just observe how weird it was to be me with my brain just not working the way I expect it to work, so much slower, so many more mistakes or just forgotten things, or just “I don’t know” returns on requests that I in giving did not find that demanding. Tried to just read novels or watch movies (although even these were on the “potentially too taxing” list on the internet).

Since then, I’m back at more or less normal capacity, pushing my brain sharpness on schoolwork and finding it stable. I did some home-yoga tonight, and did some car-wreck-yoga a few days ago. I’m physically pretty much totally fine.

Which is mind-blowing because this was simultaneously a walk-away whole event AND a near-death experience. When Scott and I went to get my stuff out of the car and he walked around looking at the damage, he observed “Your seatbelt and your airbag saved your life.” I have no doubt of this. It’s confusing because it feels like a very big event. And yet like it shouldn’t be, because the physical effects are so much more minimal than they could have been.

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This is what I look like right now, as I type this. You can imagine the cut you can now barely see was much more dramatic when it was bleeding; it’s also the only outwardly visible sign anyone had of any of this, so I gestured at it anytime I needed an excuse for things.

All I have to show now is a fast fading remnant of a split in the middle of my forehead (not a zig-zag but otherwise very Harry Potter – esque), a large swollen bruise along my upper left outer shin, some other swell-bruises around that same knee and ankle. The weird rugburn-like patches on my hips where the seatbelt and my jeans conspired to save me are gone now. I look like nothing happened.

And yet I still have trouble stomaching being in a car on an interstate, especially if there are brakelights ahead and less than 12 car lengths between the front of this vehicle and the back of the one ahead. This panic has eased in the time after the wreck. Every complaint of soreness in the neck or shoulders is met with knowing nods, oh yes, that’s normal. To be expected, normal normal normal. Which is comforting in one way – it means “Hey, you’re okay.” But also.

Listen. This shit should really, really not be normal, and I thought I was very upset that we treat it like it is. Actually, I’m even more upset because it actually truly is. This shit is normal, and it gets more commonplace all the time.

Since the wreck, I have not had a car, and have not been driving much. I am therefore a passenger when I need to get somewhere. I am sickened and astonished at how many people I see holding up and looking at their phone while pretending they are driving. So many, especially in traffic, especially on weekends. People are bored, they drive every day so they think they are good at it, that it’s easy, that it doesn’t require that much attention and they think this because they have been very lucky.

This is the dumbest way to lose a life or even a couple of days, and it happens all the fucking time.

I was in a very normal 6-car situation, struck in the rear, crunched into the car in front of me, then also pushed into the left lane, hit in the left side panel by another car. Every day at school I take my phone and my notebook to the balcony where I listen to voicemails and return the calls of various insurance people (and early on, hospital folks).

At first, I didn’t mind not having a car. I honestly didn’t want to be in one let alone in control of one. I figured I would take the bus all week. Maybe for the rest of my fucking life.

Now it’s grating because I’m tired (two weeks in) of always needing someone to take me places, of trying to plan ahead enough to negotiate how I’m getting home, when, and with whom. It adds a thick extra layer of planning stress to calendaring anything with a location. I am not convinced that my insurance is really investigating the forensics of the crash all that much because I am certainly not their top paying customer, and why should they care about a few extra thousand dollars? (A few thousand dollars is a very big deal to someone who just quit their $12/hr. spreadsheet negotiation to go back to school.) I’m tired of spending so much time trawling the internet for gems of cars that I can conceivably afford when I don’t even know how much compensation will be happening from insurance because the companies have not yet finished duking out the liability assignment even now.

Today, though, I made only two calls at lunch, and one was to a friend who is out of town for the week and had called me to offer the use of their car until they are back from vacay. My mom called me yesterday with great news about car prospects for my future transportation (my parents have been enlisted in the Craigslist crawling). Then when I had missed my ride after school and was looking at bus schedules, Scott showed up unexpectedly, and when we missed our turn because we couldn’t change lanes, he didn’t get mad, we went to Red Bicycle instead, and when I offered to buy us donuts there, the donuts were suddenly circumstantially free.

I feel like as of this weekend, a lot of good things have been happening, and I’m grateful. I’ve been stressin’ a lot, and trying to just manage it (also in light of the strong positive which will be discussed soon), trying to stay afloat on all of this mixed messaging.

I’m also grateful for seatbelts and airbags.

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Stuff I’m Into: The Library

Can we take a moment? To just appreciate that these exist, and are amazing?

I know the library websites and bulletin boards are all like “There’s so much more to us than books!” and yeah, sure there is, but like even just the books part

It’s been observed that “Millennials” tend toward a ‘sharing’ or ‘access’ style of economy more than their parents. They don’t necessarily want to own stuff (what with all the storage, wasted space/time, responsibility of upkeep, etc.), they just want access to it, to be able to use it when they want. This does appeal to me personally a great deal. There are some things that are special and I want to own, but there are a lot of other things that I would just as happily use communally and let someone else have them if I’m not. (It also makes sense in a world where digital streaming is so much easier than it had been, but this ‘access rather than ownership’ idea is also kind of the difference between, say, having access to streaming media and downloading a purchase you get to keep forever.)

Living in a smaller house and finally having to clear my stuff out of my parents’ house (I still chuckle when I hear it in my mind. “You’re thirty. It’s time to get your shit out of my house.” – said my parent very lovingly!) means I don’t have as much room to store useless junk. I still have several boxes of this type of junk, but I’ve had to scale it way back because of spatial constraints. Some things that are useless to me could actually provide tangible use to someone else. Stuff I would hold on to just for sentimental value may have more breadth of value to someone else.

This is how Scott persuades me to get rid of things. “By holding on to this, you may actually be preventing someone else from benefiting from it…” As soon as my “save this” behavior is recast as wasteful, I’m down to let go.

I just renewed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from the library for the second time. I’ve got a long lending period at my library, but even still, I am only reading one chapter a week to keep pace with the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, so I’m going to have to figure something out when I get to my renewal limit.

I did own this book once. I might have bought this particular one that summer that everything was awful and I used it like a walking stick to gimp my way forward. I used to own a bunch of HPs, one of which I had bought in Europe (I read HP 7 in Italy). I took good care of them (old friend may remember what a miserly book-keeper I was — “don’t hold it open too far or the paperback spine will crack!”). You would think that these I might have saved. And I did for a long time, and would have for longer if not for a simple mistake. I had set two stacks of books on the bookshelf in my parents’ house, one for donation and the other to be picked up later by me.

The differentiation of stacks was not noted by my parental agent, and I discovered this when my mother told me how happy the librarians were to be getting copies of HP books. I was upset, but not as much or as long as I might have expected I would be. They are just things, and honestly, if the library was that happy to get them, then a bunch of kids are probably benefiting from them. A little less stuff for me to haul around through my life. I can still remember and appreciate what it was like to stay up too late some weeknight in Italy, freaking out and unable to discuss it with anyone because everyone else was sensibly asleep, writing an email to Dale to enthuse about how right his predictions had been. I can still appreciate how the series helped me escape my sad summer of thesis research. I can do this without the physical objects in my possession.

I checked out this copy of HP 3 from the Nashville library, and there’s a part near the  front where several pages come out as a whole chunk and I have to keep tucking them back in. I find this endearing — this book has been so well loved, better loved than most single-owner books could have been. It might have been convenient to have a copy of the book and not have to worry about renewing or ordering another copy, but… whatever.

Libraries. Free entertainment. I can get audiobooks straight to my phone, digital books straight to my kindle, and physical books sent to the little library location near my house.  That small library alone is “tiny” and doesn’t have a huge selection (again, this depends on perspective), but through the entire city system, and also Interlibrary Loan, you can get your hands on a pretty broad variety of things.

I used to feel really weird about placing things on hold, but now I use it all the time. I think I previously felt like, if I wanted something and it was at another library location, it wasn’t that big a deal for me to drive there to get it, find it myself on the shelf, and check it out, and I didn’t need to bother the librarians to do all that. And sometimes, if I want something today, I still might, but otherwise, shit, they will put all your hold items near the front door with your name on them waiting to be picked up by you. It’s amazing. I also used to think I should just ‘wait’ in general when something was checked out, but if you put it on hold, they will just automatically get it for you when it’s available.

They also have movies, both DVD and digital. And music. And all of this is for free, which is a salient factor if you are between situations as I officially am starting this week (more on this later).

I know this is all basic. I just wanted to remind you how great libraries are. If you have books, especially popular ones, and especially if you haven’t picked them up in years, you might want to consider donation. And if you haven’t read in a while, summer is coming, which means possible vacations, which means you may want to browse the online catalog.

If you have never tried OverDrive, I do recommend it (for audiobooks and other digital content).

What do you love about your library? When was the last time you went? Or, do you have a collection that you could never give up? What books are too precious to donate?

 

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The Burning Crash at the end of this Whole30

The entry formerly titled “Re-Entry Continues”

Stories of failure are always more fun to tell than stories of success. It’s the one redeeming quality they have over being the shittier of the two in experience. (Side note – arguably a pretty big redeeming quality, as you can tell a story again and again, but the experience of the moment passes?) Stories of success don’t do anything but either make people feel bad for not doing something similar, or inspire others to reach beyond what they thought they could personally do into a whole new and better life. Whatever, right?

I was doing so-so, slowly slipping off the Whole30 wagon. I had written this stuff:

 

Re-entry Day  (4/10)

I have Whole30 everything except the muffin I cave in and eat midmorning because a bunch of them were left in the room and one was poppyseed. Not worth it — gave me the drowsies, as I knew it would have to. Gonna have to think more than twice next time.

Re-entry Day  (4/11)

Today is strictly Whole30.

And was gonna go back and fill in the gaps and the rest later, when I found out my grandmother had passed away (more on this later. Maybe). Although she was living in Georgia at the end of her life, she’d spent most of mine (and hers too, I’m pretty sure) in Michigan, which is where her husband was buried and where everything was set for her to go, too. So I cancelled my Saturday appointments (Easter weekend and all) and made a drive.

I even packed Whole30 snacks and lunches for the ride up. And non-Whole30 trailmix for the ride home. I knew.

I knew Whole30 was over. Pretty much as soon as I crossed the Michigan state line, it was. (Partly because driving through Ohio was the worst)

Part of traveling, being a guest, hospitality, is food and eating. I was not going to be that guy who shows up to crash at the house of cousins not seen in years and then stick my nose up at any offered food or drink. Nope.

We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, and I ordered a burger. On a bun n’ urrthang. With cheese. (I did decline the very sweet looking strawberry margarita offered me by my aunt) The next morning my dad poured me a cup of coffee, and because he knows me and I’ve always taken it cream/no sugar, that’s how he made it.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Had a beer in the afternoon. That night my dad wanted to treat me to ice-cream. Again, I could have said no, I guess. After that all bets were off. I ate like five donuts Sunday morning (at which point my dad even commented, “Man, when you go off, you go way off.” We had Mickey-Dees for dinner. I slept in in the mornings, lethargic. I did a lot of sitting, but I didn’t run. My ankles swelled up (especially after the drive). I had what I retrospectively think was a migraine* the day I drove home (which struck just as I got out of the car, and which I at this moment am suddenly realizing I should be grateful did not strike on the road…). I didn’t go blind, but I did have a headache that got worse and worse and eventually made me nauseous hours and hours later.

 

So in the world of predictable outcomes, I fell hard off the wagon and it hurt. I am now navigating toward a more reasonable middle path. I won’t really be cataloging it anymore, although I am still noticing how different foods make me feel. I used to be able to drink a whole pot of coffee by myself and feel fine, but now it makes me jittery and I have trouble sleeping. Sugar is definitely a factor in all of that. I am once again a victim of the after-lunch logi pretty often. I get sleepy in the afternoon.

The school year is headed toward it’s end (which means students are just about at their worst), and my training program is about to begin. I am scrambling to make enough money to cover myself during my training months when I won’t be able to work as much, and I’m also knee-deep in pre-work for the course. I’m also keeping up with my Couch-to-5K program (mostly), so finding the time and the energy to invest in cooking as I had before has gotten much harder. We still grocery shop pretty well, but when I’m subbing, I buy cafeteria lunch. I don’t get the cookies or puddings anymore. But when we have appetizer fiesta and other teachers bring cookies, I don’t say no. There is often regret.

 

*I used to get blinding migraines, like I would know it was coming on because I would have a spot in my vision where I couldn’t see anything. Sort of like when you look at a light and look away, except it wouldn’t fade, and if unmedicated, would slowly grow to fill more and more of my field of vision, as gradually my head began to hurt like crazy and light was impossible to bear and I became nauseated. This only happened a handful of times in my life, mostly in like middle and high school, I think once in college.

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Stuff I’m Into: Podcasts

I’ve been listening to a bunch of podcasts lately. I accidentally overreached my data-speed limit (so my phone doesn’t cut out or charge extra, but it does slow down my data after a certain amount) by listening to so many, because sometimes even at home I had turned off the wi-fi settings. I would listen while driving, doing chores, and sometimes even running or walking.

I re-visited a list of podcasts generated for me almost a year ago by a friend whose tastes are similar to mine, and so whom I trust to curate media. His recommendations for listening and viewing content have always been pretty spot on.

I also had recently started listening to (see: binging on) a podcast my friend Catie had tuned me in to, called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. I really got into it, and managed to catch up right before they started in on the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (more on this later).

For my drive to Michigan (more on this later also), I pre-loaded a bunch of them so that even in dead zones with no reception, I would be able to listen to them.

I’m using Stitcher, the app for my phone, and have started using the “Listen Later” list. I have it set to download that content (dead-zone friendly), and so when I have time, I go in and add things to the list that have popped up in the podcasts I’m following. When I don’t have time to browse, I can just hit the list, and it will take me to stuff I’ve already picked out for myself.

I have a completeness complex, and it’s hard for me to popcorn listen to episodes without trying to also pick up the older recordings. Some of the podcasts actually do tell a story in order, so it makes more sense to start at the beginning, and others are topic-oriented and don’t require that at all. I’ve been slowly getting better about just picking a topic here or there to listen.

Some of them are informative, some are story-oriented (story telling, creative nonfiction type stuff), and others are fictional. I’m finding I enjoy the sciencey ones quite a bit. I have always loved learning new things, and while we all engage a lot of functional modalities in learning, I have always considered myself to lean on the aural side.

Some of these I’ve been listening to for a while (from the aforementioned friend’s list, but also from using the NPROne app). But in general, I like this more organized and systematic way to control what I want to queue up and when.

 

Some of my favorites lately have been:


loreLore
– “Each episode examines a new dark tale from history in a style similar to a campfire experience. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares.”  I like Lore because it combines history with a sort of sense of the occult that I like. I’ve been listening to this one for about a year now, though I haven’t listened to every episode yet. Episodes run about 30 minutes.

mythpodcast
Myths and Legends
 – “This show brings you folklore that has shaped our world. Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories that might be new to you, but are definitely worth a listen.” I like Myths and Legends because I like stories, and I like learning about cultures.

 

stuff-you-should-know-podcast-logo-300x300

 

Stuff You Should Know – This one is a new listen for me, and ranges all over the place. Pretty sciency, super interesting. This is part of the bigger How Stuff Works family. The topics seem random, but the podcast is informative and fun.

 

radiolab-wnycstudios

 

Radiolab – This one is also fairly new for me, though I’ve heard talk of it in the past (and it probably popped up from time to time on the NPROne app). Sciency, social-studiesy, super interesting.

 

planetmoney_sq-c7d1c6f957f3b7f701f8e1d5546695cebd523720-s300-c85

 

Planet Money – Economics, of course. I started following this one as part of the NPROne App also. Episode lengths vary, but they’re usually quite manageable (around 20 minutes). I never liked much or understood economics in school but lately I find it fascinating.

outside2000px

 

Outside Podcast – I got totally hooked in the Science of Survival episodes first (freezing to death?! Dying in the desert?!). They also do interviews, but I’m not fully caught up yet. This is sort of like adventure stories plus some sciencey stuff.

 

the-black-tapes-podcast-2016-icon

 

The Black Tapes – This one is fiction, although it presents like investigative reporting. Really enjoying the story that is being spun so far, though I’m only about halfway into season 1. I don’t want to spoil anything, but… supernatural shit, y’all. Happenin’.

 

s-town-itunes

 

S-Town – This got some good PR a little while back, but I’m enjoying it so far. The vibe is similar to Serial. It’s a story, non-fiction, and the characters are really intriguing. Nine episodes, about an hour each, and really pretty website. Also the exit song gets stuck in my head every. single. time.

4903

 

This American Life – The proto-podcast, in my mind… my podcast savvy friend was listening to this weekly on the radio back before podcasts were an on-demand thing. Of course this stuff is always interesting. Stories on a theme, nonfiction.

 

thetruth

 

The Truth – “Movies for your ears.” Fiction, one-shot episodes. I’ve only just started listening to this one, too. They vary in length, and are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes reflective and thoughtful, so far, all interesting.

 

hpst


Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
, as mentioned above, has me re-reading a beloved series and finding all kinds of new meanings in thangs. As mentioned, I rocketed through the first two books/seasons and am now reading along with season/book 3.

 

sawbones-logo-final

 

Sawbones – A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. I really really just started listening to this, but it’s showing promise: a physician wife informs her layman husband about the medical uses of some thing or other. It’s funny and informative, and I sometimes find myself laughing out loud.

 

So that’s the top handful for the moment….  My Michigan drive was definitely made better by a bunch of the above, mostly Lore, Black Tapes, S-Town, and Myths and Legends, plus Career Day (the episodes I listened to were all still “Career Day” episodes), and some Stuff to Blow Your Mind.

Do you listen to any podcasts? What do you like? Why do you like it? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

 

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Blame Mercury

I used to be more into astrology. I have always liked the way the planets move as symbols through that picture, and can be woven as a story. Much as any intuitive style non-science, it’s easy to make fun of astrology as vague, useless, completely based on rubbish, but I think that it’s pretty cosmic… that humans want to feel like their own small dramas are related to the grander picture of the cosmos, and so feel more connected to something larger than themselves.

“It must be a full moon,” is something you’ll hear when people are acting crazy. When technology rebels, “I bet Mercury is retrograde.”

The tiny planet Mercury is a symbol of communication, speed, and travel, as befits the mythological god who zips across the skies in order to messenger for the Olympian gods. Retrograde is the state of a planet’s apparent backward motion (from the perspective of earth) — like when the train you’re on drifts forward slightly, but the train next to you is still, so it looks like that other train is backing up (this is weirder when you’re stopped at a light, and the truck next to you moves, and YOU feel like, visually, at least, you are going backward, and you panic because OH SHIT you do not wanna crash the car behind you, that would be so stupid, and you thought you had your foot on the brake, and .. oh, you do. Whew.) This is much more palpable when the thing you are looking at takes up your whole visual field, robbing you of other stationary objects that ground your senses and remind you of what motion is real.

Anyway, Mercury retrograde gets blamed for all kinds of tardiness, mishaps, communication errors, and tech fails. And today I’m going to add to the pile.

I got home Monday afternoon and tried to use the internet, but there was no connection supported. It was that horribly annoying message “Wifi secure, no internet connection.” You’re like why the hell do I want to be on the home network if it doesn’t connect to the wider world? I have nothing to say to my printer or other devices that I can’t just walk in there and tell them myself.

The previous day, I had gone to my tutor assignments, and not one but both students were no-shows (…I had never had a no show before in this tutor life).

Over the weekend, as mentioned, I brilliantly left my laptop charging cable at school under the teacher’s desk (not actually the first time I had left a cable under that desk, but before it was miniP and so Not Really A Problem). I ended up using miniP for all my weekend computer needs, which means I basically didn’t use computers much, because miniP is excruciatingly slow. This one was a failure of my own attention.

Friday afternoon I had an online lesson go completely toiletward because of messed up connections. At the time, I was convinced it was the server, but now I know better. (I was also nervous because although I knew I had enough battery for this lesson, I was also using up a very limited resource at that point.)

Now, my phone is really, really going. Like, it’s been a brick for a while, but I tend to not worry about that until it becomes such a hassle (like it actually won’t do the functions that matter to me) that I am forced to deal with it. The time has come. The battery can’t last the day. This, like the internet box (it turns out), has been fading for some time, but it seemed to intensify at an alarming rate just in the last four days or so.

As of today, the internet box is replaced. Apparently, the other one was just old. They sent us a fresh version (of exactly the same item) and I plugged in all the wires last night, and viola, welcome back to the world.

While I was on the phone with “Help help my internet is out plz fix” (for an hour), the lady asked more than once if I had been noticing any issues with the internet lately, with speed, or connectivity, and I stubbornly insisted that I had not. But, actually, I have. I’ve had connectivity drop, but then reconnect fairly quickly. And once you reconnect, you can forget about and ignore the momentary lapse. It was nothing, because it’s gone now.

I still need to deal with the phone. I have… have to call today, to see if I can switch my service to the nicer one I have inherited, or if I will have to buy a new one.

Mercury retrograde is getting the blame for all these things. I was sure it was the ’cause’ and, lo and behold, retrograde is currently happening.
But, I would also like to point out that while all this tech breakdown is annoying, it does make me fix all the things I would never otherwise fix. So, there’s that.

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