Month: January 2017

Exit 143. That would be cool. Huh-huh.

As I suspected, the changing of the calendar from 2016 to 2017 has not seemed to slow down celebrity deaths.  But the passing of memorable and influential individuals hit home twice within the last couple weeks.  A coworker of mine who taught special education and was involved in a number of student activities left two months ago for medical reasons and ended up being a lot sicker than anyone thought.  I found out Tuesday morning that she didn’t make it.  There is much I could say about her, but my thought for this week concerns someone else who passed this month.  I hadn’t seen this other individual in over 20 years.

Mrs. J, as I’ll refer to her here, taught English at the high school I attended.  I never actually had her for a teacher myself, but I knew her because she was our class advisor.  Also, I knew her daughter, who was the same year as me.  I haven’t stayed in touch with her, or her daughter, so I just found out about this a few days ago when a friend from high school posted Mrs. J’s obituary on Facebook.  Although I never had Mrs. J as a teacher, she was involved with one of the most significant memories I have from that era, one which I still mention now as a major turning point in my life.

I wrote a bit about my high school experience a couple years ago (Highway Pi #26), and as I said before, I was pretty sheltered, and I kept to myself a lot.  I did homework during lunch, and I pretty much never saw people from school outside of school other than the occasional sporting event or dance that I would attend at the school.  A lot of people were nice to me, though, encouraging me to get more involved with the school.  About a month into senior year, I was sitting in the walkway reading when two other seniors walked by, reminding me that we had a class meeting during that lunch period to discuss Homecoming activities.  I didn’t usually get involved with that kind of stuff, but for some reason, I decided to go with them this time.  Maybe because it was senior year, and it was my last chance to get involved with school activities.  So I followed them to the meeting, in Mrs. J’s room.

I know that I have a few readers outside the USA… I’m not sure how it works everywhere else, but homecoming is a time in the fall when a variety of school activities are planned, usually in the week leading up to the first football game played at home against a league opponent.  It is tradition for alumni of the school to return home to watch that game.  At the school I attended (this part is not something that all American high schools do), we had a rally during homecoming week in which each class would perform some sort of skit, and planning the skit was on the agenda for this meeting that I attended.  Our class usually did a skit involving characters from some movie or TV show that was popular at the time (the early ’90s).  As juniors, our skit was based on the movie Wayne’s World, for example.

When the time came to talk about the skit, Mrs. J suggested we do something based on popular characters again.  “Like, maybe, Beavis and Butthead?” she said.  Several people started laughing and expressing their approval.  I scrunched my face into my best Butthead impression, and said, “Huh-huh.  Huh-huh.  That would be cool.  Huh-huh.”  Someone pointed at me and said, “I think he’s going to be playing Butthead!”

Beavis and Butthead aired on MTV between 1993 and 1997.  It was the brainchild of the brilliant dark satirist Mike Judge, who later brought us other brilliant satire like King of the Hill, Office Space (note: link contains inappropriate language), and Idiocracy (note: link contains a bare butt farting).  It was about the misadventures of two dumb teenage boys, their obsession with bodily functions and dirty jokes, and their commentary on music videos.   For me, the quiet kid who helped people with their math homework and sat in the corner reading during lunch, to get up in front of the whole school and act like Butthead surprised a lot of people.

And it felt so freeing.

It was the first time I had ever done something like that in front of a crowd.  And it was awesome.  Not scary like I expected.  To this day, people often ask me why I like Beavis and Butthead, because it’s so stupid, and after saying something about Mike Judge’s brilliant satire, I add that it reminds me of the first time I ever got up in front of a crowd and did something silly and out of character, and how it really did feel like life was going to change once I realized that I was capable of doing this.

Thank you, Mrs. J, for the suggestion.  May you rest in peace.

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Exit 142. It’s hard being angry and feeling like there’s nothing you can do about it.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with someone from the one dance place I’m still attending regularly; I’ll call her 2M1207.  We had never talked about my work until yesterday, and she was interested to hear some of my thoughts about being a teacher.  I said something I’ve said often before: 7th grade is both the best and the worst age to teach.  You have the nice kids from stable homes, who are just starting to emerge into maturity but are still childlike enough to give me the fun of working with children.  And then you have the angry tough kids from broken homes, who are at the height of defiance and have not yet been humbled by harsh reality.  In my current position, I have a lot more of the first type than the second, at least compared to the other school where I once taught 7th grade.

Regarding that second group of students, the ones I referred to 2M1207 said, “It’s hard being angry and feeling like there’s nothing you can do about it.”

That statement really hit me.  Because it sounds a lot like me.  But not about school.  I know the feeling of being angry and feeling helpless.  That’s how I feel about a lot of things in the world right now.  The world is really messed up, and it doesn’t make sense to me, and it often feels like I am out of options.

Of course, there are options.  I just don’t always see them right away, because they require thinking outside the box, trying something different than what I have always done before.  And the same can be applied to the angry students I come across.  There is help for them, but they have to think outside the box… and I may need to also in order to understand completely where they are coming from.

I don’t know if my conversation with 2M1207 will help me out of my anger at the world, but hopefully this perspective will help me in my next interaction with an angry student.

 

Exit 141. Versatile Blogger Award and things about myself.

There are a lot of deep topics I could write about this week.  Today is a national holiday here in the USA commemorating the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.  The controversial businessman Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated later this week as the 45th President of the United States of America.  A controversial political journalist was scheduled to speak at my alma mater, and the speech was cancelled due to protests in a move that some say sounds suspiciously like censorship.

But I really don’t feel like writing something that deep right now.  I’m going to keep it light this week.

One of my readers whom I do not know in person, Anna from the blog My Little Corner, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’ve seen these kind of blog nominations going around for a while now, and this is the first time I’ve ever been tagged in one.  Thank you, Anna.

the-versatile-blogger-award

Now I’m supposed to do these things:

  1. Display Award.
  2. Thank the person who gave this award (and include a link to their blog.)
  3. Share seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate bloggers.

The first two are already done, so now I get to share seven things about myself.  I’ll try to stick to things that I haven’t written about before on here, although some of these might be common knowledge to my friends in real life.

1. I have never seen the movie Titanic, and I have no desire to.
Yes, I know it’s one of the most popular and highest grossing movies of all time, but I haven’t seen it.  Yes, I know it’s a love story, and if you think that’s going to make me want to see it, you don’t know me very well.  (Read this for more information, especially the paragraph starting with “A couple years ago.”) I wanted to see Titanic at the time it was in theaters (which was my last year as an undergrad at UC Davis), mostly just because everyone was talking about it, and because they built and sank a replica of the actual Titanic to make the movie.  That sounded awesome.  I had plans to see it with a female friend (I’ll call her Aldebaran) who I got along with wonderfully and probably would have been interested in as more than a friend except that she had a boyfriend back home.  Aldebaran cancelled on me, and we never got to reschedule.  A couple weeks later, she moved away to do an internship related to her future career.  When I saw her again in the fall, her boyfriend had moved to Davis, and she pretty much disappeared once he was around.  I think I saw her once or twice that year, we didn’t say much more than hi, and 18 years later I have never heard from her again.  But back to my main story… at some point during the time she was gone, I heard all the stories about middle-aged women being so obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio that they had seen Titanic 20 times, and I heard from friends whose opinions I trusted that it really wasn’t that good, and I decided I wasn’t missing much.  Eventually, it sort of became something I was proud of that I never saw that movie.

2. I don’t like coffee.
Again, I apologize if you find that blasphemous.  I’m not going to stop any of you from drinking coffee.  You do you.  But I just can’t handle the taste.  I’ve mentioned this a little bit in this blog before (follow the same link in the Titanic paragraph above).  I’ve tried to like coffee.  Being a college student in the 90s, I felt like my dislike of coffee stunted my social life.  But no matter what I added to the drink, I couldn’t get past the fact that I could taste the coffee.  Since there’s not much of a story to this, I’ll tell a related story: A while back, I was in my early 30s, and I brought a friend to a football game at UC Davis.  After the game, she didn’t want to go home right away; she suggested going to a coffee shop to hang out and talk.  (I had no problem with this; my plan was to order a hot chocolate.)  She asked, since I used to live in Davis, where was a good local non-Starbucks coffee shop?  One came to mind right away that I was pretty sure was still there (it was Mishka’s, for my readers who are familiar with Davis).  Once we walked in, I looked around and realized something interesting: I had never been inside Mishka’s before.  I only knew of it because my friends were always talking about it and how good it was.

3. I have never consumed alcohol.
Not technically entirely true, because I grew up Catholic, where they use real wine for Communion, but that’s just a tiny sip.  And once I was trying to make bootleg Vanilla Coke using generic cola and vanilla extract, and I didn’t realize that vanilla extract contains alcohol.  But that’s all; no alcohol other than those situations.  I have mentioned this several times, but I haven’t told the whole story.  As with coffee, sometimes I feel that not drinking has stunted my social life.  But I have different reasons for this.  My father is a recovering alcoholic, and this kind of thing tends to run in families.  Dad has been sober since the early 80s, so I’m too young to really remember most of his problem days.  But I remember him being kind of distant when I was a kid, and much of that was because he was still fighting his own demons.  I also see in myself the kind of personality tendencies where I could easily turn to alcohol to run away, and I’d just rather not play with proverbial fire, so to speak.  Plus, I never have to worry about knowing whether or not I’m too impaired to drive, and I save a lot of money not drinking.  But if you enjoy alcohol in moderation, I’m not going to stop you, and I’m fine being around you.  You do you.

4. I’m not one who always embraces the latest technology with enthusiasm.
This surprises some people, considering how much time I spend behind a computer screen, how I tend to figure things out on computers pretty easily, and how I knew the basics of what would today be called coding by my preteen years.  Growing up, I did a lot of reading about computers, but much of it was wishful thinking because we did not spend a lot of money on expensive technological devices.  As an adult, now that I have more money, I understand the wisdom of not spending it prodigiously, so now I don’t always go out and buy the latest thing.  It also makes me angry the way that slightly older technologies that work perfectly well are forced into obsolescence by corporations (smartphones without headphone jacks and MicroSD card slots, for example).  All that accomplishes is making me NOT want to buy your latest product.

5. I have only been to Yosemite National Park once, for one day, at age 38, despite living pretty much my whole life within a few hours’ drive.
This may not mean much to my readers outside of California, but I know people for whom this fact is completely inconceivable; to them, it’s just something you do growing up in California.  Not me.  I grew up in a family that was not outdoorsy at all, and family outings and vacations themselves were relatively rare growing up because everyone had such different and incompatible schedules.  It was also a trip I hesitated to take because, from what I had heard, Yosemite was always so crowded, and it was very difficult and expensive to find a place to stay.  Around 2000, I got the idea to take a day trip there, to leave very early in the morning in late spring or early summer when there would be lots of daylight, arrive at the park mid-morning, explore until it got dark, and get home in time for bed.  Someone I knew at the time shot down that idea (even though they weren’t invited, this was to be a solo trip), saying that I was underestimating the drive time, so it wouldn’t be worth the trip for just one day.  I listened to them and cancelled this plan.  I got the same idea around 2011 when I was dating Acrux, and she again told me I couldn’t do that, for the same reason.  I’d get there, drive up and down the Valley, and then it would be time to leave, according to her.  By 2015, I did a little more research and decided that my original plan would be feasible.  Screw you, naysayers.  The people shooting down my ideas were presumably assuming that it would take forever to get ready in the morning, and that they would want to get home in time for dinner.  They weren’t counting on the fact that I was perfectly willing to pack the night before, leave my house at 5:30am, and not get home until 11pm.  So I did just that, which gave me around 10 hours of actual time to explore in the park.  It was a wonderful day.  Of course, the park is so big that I just barely scratched the surface, seeing some of the most popular attractions, but the trip was still well worth it.

6. I’m terrible at skateboarding, roller skating, rollerblading, ice skating, skiing, or anything else along those lines.  I just don’t have that kind of coordination or balance.  I suppose I might get better with practice, but it’s hard for me to justify spending a lot of money on a hobby that results in nothing but me falling down over and over again.  (Snowboarding isn’t on this list because I’ve never tried it.)

7. My favorite number is pi, and my least favorite number is 19.
Pi is because it is a symbol of the field of mathematics, which is what my degree is in.  (This is why I named my blog as I did.)  And 19 is because it seems like every time I meet a cute single girl, that’s how old she ends up being.  Either that, or that’s how old she ends up acting.

So, now that I’ve given my seven facts about myself, I’m supposed to nominate bloggers.  I’m going to modify this step, though.  I’m going to say feel free to do this if you want to, and if you don’t, then don’t.  Besides, I think all my blog friends deserve an award.  But if you are going to accept my quasi-nomination, post a link to your blog in the comments so that other readers can follow it.

 

Exit 140. My last hour of winter break.

I’m down to my last hour of winter break.  I go back to work tomorrow after a couple of weeks off.  I don’t want to say I’m not looking forward to it… that’s not it.  There is something I’m not looking forward to about it, but I think it’s just that I’m not looking forward to having to get up early and do stuff, as opposed to sitting around in my pajamas all day watching The Price Is Right.

I had a lot of ideas about what this week’s post would be.  At first, I was going to do something about the new year, goals for 2017 along with some reflections about 2016.  Then, last night, I did some stream-of-consciousness writing about a small step I took recently in removing myself from certain toxic individuals, and how what happened kind of contradicts something I once wrote about in this blog, because people and circumstances change.  But then I decided not to write about it in any more detail than I just did, because it’s not really the kind of dirt I should be spreading publicly.

So I’m just going to leave this week’s post like this.  I’m not ready to write about goals for 2017, because I don’t know them yet.  I need to take some time for some major soul searching, and figure out who I am and what I want out of life.  Most of my ideas of what I wanted out of life in the past were somewhat vaguely defined, and more important, they were based on a number of assumptions about the world and the future that either are blatantly not true or were once true but are no longer.  My goals need to be revised.

So, until then, friends, I hope all of your 2017s are off to a wonderful start.

Exit 139. You can’t trust other people with your plans.

For a while in my late 20s, when I had time to kill, sometimes I would go to this large used book store.  I would browse their clearance rack, which consisted of paperbacks for 25 and 50 cents, and I would buy things I knew I would want to read someday.  I was reading a lot of Star Wars paperbacks back in those days, and I also bought several books by bestselling authors I was already familiar with.  Over a decade later, there are still a few books I obtained that way on my bookshelf that I never read.  Recently, I was looking through my bookshelf for something to read, and I came across one such book that I couldn’t remember if I had ever read.  Looking through it, the synopsis on the back looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember any details beyond that.  I flipped through the pages and found a bookmark on page 83, less than a quarter of the way through the book, suggesting that I had started it but never finished it.  So I picked it up and started reading… and I finished it today.

Since the rest of this post contains major spoilers, I will only be discussing the plot in vague terms, and I won’t name the title or author here.  If you are curious, let me know and I’ll tell you privately.  This paragraph does not do justice to the actual novel, because I don’t want to make it too obvious from the start in case anyone else out there is reading it.  Most of what I want to say involves the ending, where the main character has a plan to disappear with a large sum of money and start a new life, along with a woman who is both his accomplice and lover.  Everything seems to be going swimmingly, wrapping up for his desired ending, except that the woman disappears with the money, leaving him alone and heartbroken without the fortune he wanted to start his new life.

I’ve always had an odd and cynical fascination with story lines of betrayal, particularly when the betraying is done by a woman who the main character thought loved him.  I think this is a reaction to the many times that I have felt betrayed by those close to me, particularly by potential love interests.  It’s a bit comforting to know that central characters also get betrayed by women, and that not every story has a happy lovey-dovey ending.  It’s also comforting that this betrayal is a key part of the story’s dénouement, and not just the back story of a cynical supporting character with a negative view of the opposite sex.  It makes me feel like I’m not alone in everything that has happened to me.

I see a sad but true lesson in this: you can’t trust other people with your plans.  Others cannot be controlled or predicted.  I’m not saying that every plan will end in betrayal.  There are good people out there, and I want to try to be someone whom others can trust as much as possible.  But the world just doesn’t work that way.  With over seven billion people in the world, each having unique back stories, interests, motivations, and weaknesses, some of those plans are bound to conflict with each other, whether intentionally or not.  The only one truly worth trusting is God.

I can’t make my peace depend on the way others treat me.  I can’t make my happiness depend on finding the right woman someday.  I’ve heard stuff like this before, over and over again, particularly the part about finding the right woman.  You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.  If you aren’t content alone, then you aren’t really ready for a healthy relationship.  Some of that I had dismissed as Josh Harris-type mumbo-jumbo, on the grounds that if I were to concentrate on being content with being alone, then if/when the right woman did come along, I’d miss the chance to get to know her, because I’d be so dead set on being alone that I would purposely avoid doing anything that could be construed as dating.  But there is a lot of truth in the idea of learning to be content alone.  As I said earlier, I can’t predict or control others, and I can’t orient my entire life and happiness around waiting for someone else.  Waiting for someone else to make you happy is also the classic setup for being emotionally needy in an unhealthy way.  There has to be some balance, some kind of happy medium where I can learn to be content in a way that is not contingent on others, yet guardedly open to new friendships and relationships that may happen.

I’m not sure what this is going to look like.  Maybe a temporary time of being more isolated socially as I figure life out.  Maybe a lot of time in prayer and meditation.  Maybe cutting out of my life some who bring me down far more than they build me up.  Maybe I’m not quite sure yet.  But at least I know something to work on.