Reluctant Routine

Sunday, January 26, 2020

I guess I left things off on a sour note. I haven’t been very active with my writing. I haven’t been very active in general. Aside from the occasional weekend outing, I have stuck to a consistent routine. The routine that I follow helps relieve stress but does little for depression. Most of my day consists of working and preparing for work the following day. It is not glamorous, but it beats being underprepared. I have a few hours of free time every night that I spend reading or watching movies. Sometimes I spend that time grocery shopping or preparing food. Either way, those few hours represent a brief window when my time belongs to me. I value that time immensely. Therefore, the routine must continue.

I’m better adjusted to my job at this point. I am more confident in what I am doing, and the stress is taking less of a toll on me. I know that this relief is only temporary. Standardized testing is looming on the horizon, which is an uncomfortable time for teachers and students alike. Although I disagree with the practice wholeheartedly, I will now be responsible for proctoring this intrusive exam. Preparation for the exam will begin early, and students will have time taken away from rigorous learning to hone the skills deemed necessary by the state of Texas. I will try to make the best of the situation, but I can predict that it will be a stressful occasion.

I’ve made a habit out of checking my calendar every day. I count down the days until the weekend, the weeks until my next break, and the months until the school year is over. It is difficult to conceal that I am just as eager as my students for this year to be over. I have several plans for the summer, but I am still uncertain of what comes after this year. I would like to try teaching at a different grade level before I decide upon it for a career. Yet, I am reluctant to start this cycle all over again. I will have a better grasp of my goals once I complete this year.

Aside from obligatory family time over the holidays, I have not spent much time socializing. I interact with so many people at work that I feel drained by the time that I get home. I often turn down invitations to socialize so that I may rest and prepare. I tend to make excuses for not going out, but the reality is that I don’t want to break the routine. I value my time in isolation too much; this is something that I am hoping to overcome but have no idea where to begin. I spend time with my roommates and occasionally see a friend on a weekday, but I have no compulsion to interact with people that are not conveniently close to me. Justifications like this make me question whether I have time to dedicate to relationships at all. Maybe I am too selfish with my time. Perhaps I need to be more willing to share it with others.

As it is, I feel like I am barely keeping it together. I can keep up with the bills, laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, washing, checking, prepping, planning, and paying to some extent. But I feel perpetually behind on my ever-growing to-do list.

The joys of adulthood.

I’m doing my best to be responsible and accountable, but I do find myself yearning for simpler times. I miss having an inconsequential job. I worked in the service industry for nearly ten years before signing this contract. The whole time that I was working those jobs, I was always looking for a way out. I finally got away from those meaningless jobs, and I am now nostalgic for the old routine. The pay was insignificant, the work was often stressful and unfulfilling, but the stakes were much lower. I planned on working a service job over the summer as a form of supplementary income. Service jobs also provide a friendly social atmosphere. I am apprehensive about working a job like that now. I’m concerned that I will become too comfortable and that I will stop pushing myself to be better. I need to be careful about how I approach a summer job opportunity.

There are several opportunities for me to use my teaching certification outside of the realm of public schooling. Although they will not come with equal pay or comparable benefits, they do come with some autonomy. Choice is something that I have been desperately craving as I grind out my daily routine. I will likely explore those routes when I have more time to think about it. Until then, I need to stay focused on the tasks at hand. I can’t afford to look too far ahead; I could lose sight of what is right in front of me.

I’m going to try to add writing back into my routine. At a certain point, writing felt like a chore. It felt like another box to check off on my to-do list. It was nice to break away for a while, but it is so much sweeter to return to it. I had moments during my hiatus when I was inspired to write but did not have the time or means to. I will try to start journaling my thoughts on topics so that my writing is less bland and repetitive. There is much more that I want to share in good time.

-Nobody

Rethinking Romance

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

I stopped pursuing romantic relationships over a year ago. I appreciate what romantic love can bring to people’s lives. I see the rewards of sharing your experience with someone else. Beyond the affection and platitudes, romance seems to bring purpose and fulfillment into people’s lives. I choose to say the word romance because my life is full of love. The ancient Greeks had 7 different words for distinctive brands of love, none of which are exclusively romantic, all of which I believe to possess somewhere in my life. I have always been surrounded by supportive friends and family, that is something that I am incredibly grateful for.

Additionally, I have had a few romantic relationships that were loving and supportive but ultimately fizzled out into tattered memories. I know that this is something that is currently missing from my life, but it would be dishonest for me to say that I’m really concerned about it. Being in love is not the same as falling in love, falling in love is not the same as being loved, and being loved is not the same as loving others. All forms of love are not mutually exclusive, true love is an amalgamation of these distinctive states of love.

While true love escapes most people, there are a select few that seem to find it. It really comes down to a matter of sheer chance and luck. Finding a symbiotic relationship in the ecosystem of romance is a daunting task. I’m under the impression that these relationships are best formed organically. Maybe I don’t have the chops to seduce someone with a Tinder profile, swiping through the proverbial meat market of emotionally available adults. Something about the process of online dating seems so manufactured and superficial that I have little interest in pursuing it. Playing the dating game would statistically improve the chances of meeting new people but in an artificial way. I’m not knocking anyone who uses these platforms, I applaud your confidence and initiative. I am just acknowledging that the kind of person I would want to invest my love in would ideally also see through the veneer of the algorithmic matchmaker.

Logic would dictate that I should engage in more social activities. Giving myself a chance to get out and meet new people. While I agree that this would be an ideal way to gain visibility, I dread the awkward encounters and conversations that are inevitable. Approaching acquaintances with romantic intentions seems desperate. Yet, this is how most romantic relationships begin. Maybe I’m incapable of conforming to the new dating standards. Even if I choose to follow that route, I likely won’t adapt quickly to the unpredictable nature of new relationships. The inevitable rejection and confusion would also disrupt my fragile confidence. I tend to overthink things; relationships are not an exception.

Here is a dilemma for you philosophers out there. If I must love myself to be capable of loving others, then doing things that depreciate my love for myself would also inhibit my ability to love others. If awkward rejection and relationships that end without closure detract from my ability to love myself, then I will perpetually be incapable of loving others, which will further deplete my love for myself. Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. I’m on a downward spiral to single town.

This is where I find myself today. Rattled with regret and some confusion about past relationships, trying to improve myself, rebuilding self-esteem and confidence, and overanalyzing every step along the way. If the adage is true, I must love myself before I can love anyone else, then I must accept that I may already have enough love for myself. After all, loving yourself does not necessarily mean loving everything about yourself. With that in mind, I have to ask myself, “is it really worth the effort”? I guess that is yet to be determined, I could very well wind up falling in love and changing my trajectory in life. I could be soaring through the clouds or drudging through the mud, but at least I would have someone to share that experience with.

Despite my fractured understanding of romance, I still appreciate the love that others have and share. I imagine it like seeing an alien museum exhibit; flowing red curtains retract to show a young couple laughing and reaching into a box of fries at a McDonald’s booth. The speaker in front of the roped-off exhibit crackles and comes to life with a low-fidelity recording that says something like this:

“The courting rituals of humans are a complex dance between sentient beings. Mating rituals include the sharing of food, communal grooming, and social posturing. Humans are capable of falling in love with one another as a result of common interests, mutually beneficial personalities, or shared traumatic experiences. In this display, the male and female humans grew their bond through sharing fried tubers. Neither of the humans on display understands what is in store for their future, they simply take pleasure in each other’s company without questioning sustainability or intentions. They do not know what lies ahead for them; they simply understand that they are on this journey together. For them, that is enough.”

The spotlight dims, leaving the human wax sculptures silhouetting the artificial backdrop. The droopy red curtains roll shut, and the moving walkway carries me to the domesticated animal exhibit. 

If only this concept weren’t so alien to me.

-Nobody

Thoughts on Therapy

Teaching has mostly consumed my life. I started writing a post about my anticipation for the upcoming Thanksgiving break but found myself disinterested with the conversation I was having with the page. Honestly, If I am going to enjoy writing, I need to separate it from my work. Writing about teaching helps me process my goals and expectations. However, I feel that the job has already enveloped most of my social and personal life. I would hate to see it consume my hobbies and passions. So today, I’m not going to write about teaching. In fact, I won’t even mention the “T” word for the remainder of this post.

My creative pursuits have been on the backburner for the last few weeks. I am finding less time to dedicate to band practice or writing. Although I wish I could invest more time into my passions, I simply can’t always make room for it. Rather than feeling guilty for my declining post frequency, I need to acknowledge that I will never be able to meet all of my own expectations. Accepting that I am a flawed human being is necessary to resist falling into a self-critical, depressive slump. Even with my efforts to circumvent depression, It still seeps through the cracks in my mind.

I watched the latest installment in the miniseries, “The End of the F***ing World,” with great amusement. The musical arrangement for the show captured the emotional displays of the scenes to significant effect. I can’t explain why, but something about the series resurfaced a lot of repressed memories and trauma. After finishing the show over the weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with the characters and the overall themes. I identified with the teenage apathy, the escapism, and the confusion of young relationships. It stirred up some unprocessed feelings of past relationships and hardships. I remembered what it felt like to feel utterly alone. I spent some time reflecting on those memories and still feel as though closure will never be attainable.

It’s easy to shelve your trauma, to tuck it away somewhere high and out of sight, to neglect it. Until one day, it falls to the ground and shatters into dusty shards. Leaving you to pick up the sharp broken pieces. I guess a therapist would be a broom or a dustpan in this metaphor, but I currently don’t have a therapist. So here I am, carefully cleaning up the shame of my past, cutting myself of the shards of tattered memories of monumental mistakes. I must resist the urge to sweep it under the rug, lest I be painfully reminded when I gash my foot at a later time. I suppose that getting help seems more feasible with my current health plan. In my previous job, mental health was a luxury that I couldn’t afford.

Perhaps it is time to give therapy another chance. I took advantage of the counseling while I attended university, but the sessions were infrequent and limited. Finding a therapist that will work for me is a task that will require some time and effort. I want to develop healthy coping mechanisms, but I have already ingrained some bad habits. I should prioritize this over my upcoming break so that I can begin the painstaking process of finding the right therapist. I don’t believe that therapy will solve all my problems, but I am willing to try anything to gain some perspective on just what exactly I am experiencing.

I have never been fond of prescription medication. In the past, I was prescribed Prozac when I was severely depressed, and I had a very adverse reaction to it. Somehow the pill had the opposite effect and amplified my cynicism and suicidal thoughts. I also believe that I should be capable of dealing with my mental illness without changing my brain chemistry. I’m sure a psychologist would say be screaming at the notion that I want to learn how to deal with these things on my own. After all, a significant portion of adults are medicated for various mental illnesses, and sometimes they achieve great relief. If I was offered a pill that would cure my depression but also numb the part of my brain that processes shame, guilt, and empathy, I would decline it. I have accepted that my mental illness is part of who I am, it is not something that I want to remove from my personality.

 It’s not a bug, It’s a feature.

After all, masking the symptoms of an underlying mental illness is no different than putting it high on a shelf. A place where It will gather dust and be forgotten. Until one day, it crashes down, peppering the floor with shards of fragmented memories that I will be ill-equipped to sweep away.

 -Nobody

Expository Lessons

It’s only find it fair that I attempt the same writing assignments as my students. Not only does it model a good example, but it supports the notion that we are learning together. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed completing this assignment. I intend to share it with the students so that I can demonstrate the importance of hitting deadlines. Thus, my post this weekend will be the expository essay that I just wrote. Perhaps you can learn something by reading it, as I hope my students do:

Takes Notes

Historically, humans have been taking notes to record information for thousands of years. Note-taking is a complex human behavior that organizes, and restructures input into referential symbols. Academics and students have been taking notes since the days of the Ancient Greeks; it is ingrained in education. Note-taking is a beneficial skill that can help students recall and retain information for academic and practical purposes.

First, it is essential to explain the cognitive functions that occur when someone is taking notes. First, the note-taker receives information through an encoded channel such as language or symbols. Next, the note-taker decodes that message as they interpret it. Then, the note-taker encodes a message through symbols through inscribing. Finally, the note-taker can recall that message by decoding their recorded message. External factors such as psychological noise play a massive role in disrupting the encoding process. Provided is an image to visualize the concept:

Next, it is vital to assess the effectiveness of note-taking. There have been several psychological studies that have investigated the effectiveness of note-taking. The results so far have been mixed and inconclusive. There was little data to support that note-taking will improve test scores. However, there were significant implications that note-taking did increase overall retention. According to a 2016 article by NPR, “The first idea is called the encoding hypothesis, which says that when a person is taking notes, “the processing that occurs” will improve “learning and retention.” The study in the article concluded that hand taking notes was more conducive to learning retention than notes taken on electronic devices.

Lastly, it is necessary to dive deeper into the encoding hypothesis according to a psychological study conducted on college students who were assessed on a short reading passage. According to the hypothesis, “The students took notes on 31% of the passage sentences, and such notes were of high structural importance value. Most importantly, note-taking seemed to serve as both an encoding device and an external storage mechanism, with the latter being the more important function. The external storage function not only led to enhanced recall of the notes but also facilitated the reconstruction of other parts of the passage.”

This hypothesis is a demonstration of the encoding specificity principle, which suggests that encoding information such as writing, speaking, or gesturing relates to memory and the ability to recall that information. Evidence suggests that this principle plays a significant role in context and concept-oriented memory.

In summation, note-taking is a skill that humans have used for centuries to record and recall information. The cognitive process that occurs when recording information requires a decoding-encoding cycle that is stated by the encoding specificity principle to aid memory retention and recall. Finally, it is essential to acknowledge that many of the psychological studies on the effectiveness of note-taking, including studies that were refuting the encoding specificity principle, yielded inconclusive or mixed results. Perhaps this concept is particularly challenging to analyze and quantify scientifically.

Note-taking requires focus and keeps the note-taker engaged with the lesson that is being taught. One more thing needs to be factored in; If the alternative to note-taking is being subjected to a range of distractions and external stimuli that tear the student away from the lesson. Then the students who take notes and remains engaged will retain more information and perform better academically. 

I hope this was informative.

-Nobody

Shifting Seasons

Ramblings about the weather:

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A cold front is about to blow through. I looked out my window to see a surreal depiction of my driveway cast in amber, from a sky split between a golden sunset and an ominous black torrent. I tried to capture it in a photo, but the image doesn’t do it justice.

The thunder is rolling in, and the lighting is stabbing through my peripheries. I would say, that I hope I don’t lose power during the storm, but that would be disingenuous. To be honest, I would prefer an outage, darkness, and boredom, walking around with dimly lit candles, feeling like an 18th-century ghost. Sometimes I hope for the power just to stay down. Shattering the grand illusion that we are all connected, all the time, through tiny glowing screens.

I wonder if humanity could withstand such a regression.

Some of the most memorable moments in my life took place when the weather shook things up. Sleet covered bushes and sidewalks were treasures for a young Nobody when school was canceled. Candlelit card games when the power would go out. The cherished snow days where college students would gather clumps of loose snow from the hoods of cars and bombard each other in the streets. Those moments that brought everyone out of their homes to witness the spectacle of an eclipse. Not only were those moments memorable, but they were also times where I felt more connected to the people around me than ever. Sharing a collective experience in our total lack of control.

Maybe I should join a commune… On second thought, no.

My parents used to tell me that I was born in the wrong generation. They perceived me to be some flower child that would have blossomed in the ’70s. I can’t say that I disagree. I used to watch television on a cheap old TV that a friend and I had boosted from someone’s curb. We thought it looked like something from the ’70s, so we painted it up with bright flowers and psychedelic patterns. It was aptly named “The Groove Tube.” We fashioned an antenna out of a crumpled-up strip of aluminum foil and adjusted the angle until we could pick up two channels. One of them was entirely in Spanish…

Hablo un poco

When watching the “That 70’s Show” on the groove tube, I remember yearning for a time when we weren’t so dependent on technology for our day-to-day encounters. Everything required more interaction; resolving conflicts required genuine engagement from both parties. Breakups during the ’70s either had to be face-to-face or over the phone. I doubt many people ended relationships with strongly worded letters. If someone was close to you, then they knew your daily schedule and routines. If they called looking for you and you weren’t home, they may have no idea where you had gone. People had to know more about each other for a friendship or relationship to even be possible. I look back on these times and wish that I could have the experience of living in a world that still relied on physical interactions as the primary source of socializing. Today just feels so disconnected.

I wish I could turn everyone’s phone off, just for a few days.

I can’t wait for the cold to stick. I find so much more enjoyment in these dreary months than I do broiling in the Texas sun. I can only blame genetics. The October weather has always intrigued me. Shifting from hot sunny days to cold autumn nights with volatility. It’s as if the heat and cold are in a game of tug-o-war. Except by the end of October, the cold will always win.

 I can feel a chill settling into my room now. I’m looking forward to giving my overworked air-conditioning unit a break and donning my favorite hoodie. Maybe I will watch a few episodes of “That 70’s Show” and reminisce on simpler times.

-Nobody