Month: January 2019

Exit 227. Taking my own advice.

Two unrelated things happened this week that, when juxtaposed, say something interesting about me.  

The first was a conversation I had on Tuesday with a former student who is now in high school.  I’ll call her “Lambda-2 Fornacis.” Lambda was in my class three years ago, the same class as Protractor Girl, The Boy I Have No Memory Of, and The Kid Who Sat Behind Me At A Basketball Game Once.  She was the kind of student that most teachers love to have in their class. She did her homework, it was neatly written, and she always was one of the top students in my class.  I think she had straight As all through middle school. I normally tell students that they can add me on social media after they finish middle school and go on to high school, but somehow (probably because these kids have older friends who talk) she found my Instagram (which doesn’t have my real name anywhere on it) and started following me the year after she had my class, when she was still in middle school.  I didn’t do anything about it, though, because I figured she wasn’t the type to cause trouble, although I didn’t follow her back until the day after she finished middle school.

Anyway, Lambda asked me something about a recent post on Instagram, I replied, and then I asked her how she was doing.  She mentioned that she had dropped precalculus. This year has been the first time she had ever struggled in math, she didn’t like the teacher she had this year, and she had been rethinking her career plans.  I have to admit, that was a little disappointing to hear at first, because she was such a great student for me, and I’m always disappointed to hear when people don’t love math as much as me. However, I completely understand where she is coming from, and I told her so.  I told her about hitting the same proverbial wall with physics my freshman year at UC Davis, how I struggled so much with that class at first, and while I still did well, it just didn’t feel as natural for me as math did. It was during that first physics class when when I decided for sure to major in mathematics and not physics, and I didn’t take any more physics after I was done with the minimum that would be required for the math major.  I told her that there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind about your future plans, especially since she’s only 15. I told her that as late as age 19, I was telling people that there was no way I would ever be a teacher. And I told her that I took all the most challenging classes in high school, to the point that I had some very long days senior year, but I wasn’t doing it because I had a career plan. For me, it was because I felt like school was the one thing I was good at, and I would be a failure if I didn’t.  This is not a mentally healthy outlook. I know that Lambda is going to be successful no matter what direction she takes her education.

That was Tuesday.  On Wednesday night, I got very little sleep.  I discovered another important thing here at the house that needed to be fixed.  I started to panic under the pressure of everything that needed to be done. I was behind on grading papers.  I had errands and chores that were piling up, and the kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes. I had now four important home repairs that needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, one of which was already making life more inconvenient in very tangible ways, and another of which had the potential to do so if left unchecked.  I couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t sure if it was related to stress, recent changes in medication, other health problems I didn’t know about, lack of exercise, or what. It’s very hard for me to get these home repairs and chores done sometimes, because I’m rarely home during business hours and my schedule isn’t very flexible. I don’t get a lot of exercise this time of year, because I’m only home when it’s cold and dark.  And I couldn’t call in sick and take a day to recover from the lack of sleep and deal with these problems, because the classroom is such a mess that a substitute wouldn’t be able to find what they needed, and the kids would get behind anyway because my curriculum doesn’t work well for people who haven’t been trained and aren’t well-prepared.

I went to work on one hour of sleep (and I had gotten three hours the previous night).  I made an important decision while I was tossing and turning: long story, but basically I sent an email to the administrators saying that I needed to back out of one of my weekly commitments.  This would give me one more day of the week that I could get home a little earlier when needed, if I needed to deal with something before it got dark and places closed. Thankfully, they were very understanding.  But, I told the principal, I still feel like I do so much less than so many other teachers. Some of them are working on graduate degrees. Many of them attend more professional development workshops than I do. Some of them are department chairs, or serve on committees.  And many of them have young children of their own. I feel like there is something wrong with me, that I have such a hard time handling my own job, let alone all that extra stuff.

And then it hit me.

Why do I have such a hard time taking my own advice?

Just a day and a half earlier, I was messaging Lambda telling her that it was okay not to burden herself with hard classes that she didn’t need.  So why can’t I tell myself that it is okay not to burden myself with stressful commitments that I don’t need?

Everyone’s brain works differently.  I get more easily stressed and overwhelmed, and I’m fighting demons from the past that many of my coworkers don’t have.  If I really believe what I told Lambda, then it’s hypocritical to insist upon myself that I take on extra commitments that I don’t get anything out of.

It’s now Saturday, and I feel so much better.  Getting out of that extra commitment allowed me to leave earlier than usual on Thursday, which gave me time to make some phone calls to start the process of dealing with the two most pressing home repairs.  I didn’t get completely caught up on grading, but it’s now a three-day weekend, so I’ll have time to catch up.

I’m going to be fine.  :)&[4].

Exit 226. This kind of thing doesn’t happen here.

Last Thursday night (January 10, 2019), Natalie Corona, a police officer in Davis, was shot while investigating a routine car accident.  A bystander rode by on a bicycle, shot the officer from behind, and began firing indiscriminately in multiple directions. Eventually, the suspect was found in his home, about a block away from the accident, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This tragedy hit a little close to home for me… literally, because it happened just 30 miles from my house.  Not only that, but as I have said multiple times, I lived in Davis for seven years (1994-2001). I still have friends who live there, and I go back fairly often to see some of them and also for football and basketball games at the university.  I feel more connected to the community than many people who just moved there for school, because I volunteered with a church youth group for over half of the time that I lived there. And I’m going to be meeting a friend for lunch in Davis later today, in fact, for reasons unrelated to Officer Corona’s death.

Since this happened, I haven’t talked to any of my Davis friends (other than finalizing today’s lunch plans), but from what I remember about Davis residents, and from a few Facebook and Instagram posts I’ve read, the community seems pretty shocked by this, as I would expect.  There is a culture among long-time Davis residents that this kind of thing doesn’t happen here in this quiet little town. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with this kind of thinking. Typically, Davis does not have much crime beyond drunken college shenanigans, and people aren’t used to this kind of thing happening there.

I started writing this about 24 hours before I published it, and two important details worth noting have emerged in that time.  Investigators found a suicide note indicating a motive, in which the suspect said that he believed that he was sensitive to the ultrasonic devices used by police to stop dogs from barking, that no one took his complaints seriously, and that he could not continue living because of that.  The suspect had shown no outward signs of mental illness before this, although he did have a recent misdemeanor conviction from getting in a fight with a coworker. Also, a student group at UC Davis (not representing the university as a whole) released a statement trying to stir up controversy about the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.  I’m not even going to dignify that with any more of a response than this; that might come in a later post. I don’t want to debate the role of law enforcement in a community or in a society right now. It’s not the time.

Even though people tend to think that things like that can’t happen where they are, the truth is that it can happen anywhere.  I lived in Davis during the time of the Columbine shooting in Colorado, and I remember the youth pastor at church saying that he had been to that area before and could see a lot of similarities with Davis, with so many overworked parents and disconnected and angry teens and a culture that doesn’t expect it.  This wasn’t the same kind of situation as what happened in Columbine, of course. This was the act of one adult man with misguided motives.

But one thing is clear to me from all of this: evil is everywhere, and we all need Jesus.

My prayers are with Davis and with Officer Corona’s family (they lived in a rural area in the next county to the north of where this happened), as well as with any anti-law enforcement activists who are using this tragedy to create controversy, because they have been hurt too, and they need healing.  And my prayers are with anyone who disapproves of the concept of prayers, for the same reason.

Exit 225. Until it ends, there is no end.

I’m back from my hiatus.  Well, I don’t know if hiatus is the right word, considering I started a second blog during that time.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to share it yet… we’ll see.

Instead of something deep and earth-shattering, this is going to be one of those posts about a song from my past.  I rediscovered this one a couple years ago, but it just hit me recently why I like it so much.

We had this album on vinyl back when it was new (1984).  I remember my mom really liking it.  Wikipedia says that six singles were released from the album, but I really only remember four.  The first two (one, two) are very well remembered and today are considered classics of 1980s pop.  A third one I mostly remember just because I found out many years later, as an adult, that it was about masturbation.  I found this hilarious because my mother, who came from the kind of background where sex was never talked about, and who also has a tendency not to pay attention to lyrics, loved the song.  I don’t know what she thought it was about… dancing, probably.  I had no idea what it was about either, but I had an excuse because I was eight years old and knew nothing of female anatomy.  Mom, I know you read this, and I hope you don’t think I’m making fun of you or anything, but all I just did was state facts, and I believe we had this discussion years ago.

Anyway… back to All Through The Night.  This one isn’t about masturbation.  It’s a nice little song about the excitement of new love.  And unlike many pop songs about love, this is one I can relate to better than most.

Being performed by a woman doesn’t make this song harder to relate to as a man.  The lyrics work for any combination of genders and sexual orientations, and in fact the song was written and originally recorded by a man, even though Cyndi Lauper’s version is much more well known. The reason I feel like I can relate to this song more so than most pop songs about love is because I’ve been there.

As I’ve written before, I haven’t exactly had a good history with romantic relationships.  I haven’t had many of them at all, and most of the ones I’ve had were bad, leaving me with the feeling that I have experienced all of the heartache surrounding relationships but little to none of the good experiences.  But the excitement of new love… that is something I have felt.  Every relationship starts that way, full of hope and excitement and anticipation.  It’s a great feeling.

Of course, I haven’t felt that excitement and anticipation all that often over the course of my life, and most of the time it just sets up a new horrible way to be lied to, ignored, or accused of something.  But that’s life.  And going through all that crap just makes the excitement and anticipation and hope even better when it has happened.