Damn it’s been a hell of a weekend.
John Lennon once described an 18-month long period of his life in which he was absent from his wife and taken up with a mistress as his “lost weekend”. When I first heard this years ago I thought it was a bit of a copout to describe a time of listlessness and the inability to take accountability for his actions. Now that I’m older, have learned more about what made up his lost weekend, and have come face to face with certain aspects of my life and the toll which everyday adulting has taken upon me, I get it. Only, I’m sad to say, my lost weekend has lasted the last 4 years and I wasn’t as creative as Lennon during that time.
And even sadder to say, during that time, I neglected the aspect of my life which truly gives me that life to begin with. And that’s my writing.
Long story short, I went into teaching. And yes, everything you hear about the horrendous pressures which are placed upon teachers is true. I became an English teacher. I became an English teacher at a socio-economically disadvantaged school. I became a 10th grade English teacher to children who, on average, had a 7th grade reading level, at best. And, to add salt to the wound, I have been an English teacher during the worst pandemic in the last 100 years. Obviously, I go big or I go home. Except, I’ve been stuck at home for the better part of 5 months.
Five long months. And it’s about to get longer as schools across the country are deciding to delay the start of in class instruction.
The truth of the matter, I really do love teaching. Outside of being a writer, I knew I wanted to be a teacher as far back as 1st grade, in which I would make lists of students in my classes, pretend to take roll and pretend to teach my collection of Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals. I just knew I had something in me that others needed to learn, and I needed to be the one to teach it to them. Maybe I still hold that philosophy. However, unlike Cabbage Patch kids and stuffed animals, real students talk back, on most days are disinterested in anything that isn’t on their cell phones, find education pointless in an ever evolving world of Instagram and TikTok fame, and deal with emotional issues that are not at all different than when I was a teenager, it’s just that there’s more of it and far more awareness. So over the last 4 years my teaching philosophy has morphed from something that I have to teach them to being there to support them if shit in their personal lives hits the fan, while teaching reading comprehension and writing. And even as I say that I wish it was as simplistic. Throw in a state mandated test that even I, along with my fellow English teachers, have trouble passing because we see how the test is rigged. My fellow English teachers all have brilliant minds. And most of the time I feel inferior knowing I have only a history degree, yet because I passed the English certification test, I was hired as an English teacher instead. But even with all that, we, highly educated individuals whose cognitive skills are off the charts, sit in meetings and argue over how in the world the test creators came up with the answers they have.
It’s disconcerting to say the least.
But this year was different. We had a pandemic. Or rather, we are having a pandemic. This is by no means over. And state mandated tests were waived. Children and teens are at home for the first time in their lives being held responsible and accountable for their own education. It’s an odd feeling as a teacher watching this play out. Some students are thriving in an online environment because the pressures of being in an American high school were way too challenging (fights, drugs, peer pressures, etc.). I see this and think finally a great solution. For those who are self-reliant to stay at home can now follow an online education. However, on the other side of the coin we have students who are suffering because home life is one disaster after another waiting to happen even before a global pandemic took over their lives. So, from a teaching standpoint, it’s hard to know exactly one’s place in all this when all you’ve known is a scheduled that keeps you busy from 4:30am until midnight worrying about lesson plans, school administrators who don’t know what’s going on in the classroom, whether certain students have eaten lately, or if they have anyone to tell them they love them before they fall asleep.
Teaching is hard. Not teaching, I’ve discovered, is even harder.
Yet, despite being in lockdown in the state of Texas, following social distancing mandates, wearing a mask everywhere I go when I leave my house, and yearning for interaction with my friends and family, I got back into my writing. It’s taken a while, to be honest. I went hard in the paint back in April and made some tremendous headway on a novel I began planning 5 years ago after the death of my father. I managed to knock out about 40,000 words of a planned 120,000 words. Although my concentration has once again been lacking, I am still proud of those 40k words. In the meantime, I’ve made an unbreakable promise to a friend that I have to have this finished within a year. In my head that’s no problem. The talent is never the problem, but I recognize that motivation has been my Achilles Heel. It always has been. I get stuck in patterns of doing something that brings about instant gratification such as binging a new Netflix or Hulu series, (or an old series. During the month of May I suddenly HAD to rewatch all 8 seasons of GOT all over again.) Or, I had to make jam for every single fruit I found on sale at the supermarket (which was detrimental on my part since I went KETO two years ago, but that’s for another blog). Or, of all things, learning French has been my new obsession (currently on a 100+ day streak on Duolingo). Either way, I recognize that I have distractions, and oftentimes I’m my biggest distractor.
However, I am here now. Writing my first blog in over 4 years, forcing myself to commit to writing on the public stage. I’m not sure if I have very many readers still left. This is primarily for my own benefit. A habit begins one step at a time. And it becomes a habit when you repeat it.
So I am writing, I am blogging, and I am publishing (yes, definitely more about that later.)
In the meantime, I hope someone is enjoying my words, and even more so, I hope someone out there is enjoying my new dedication. This is, after all, my personal affirmation.