Friday, October 30, 2009

My Little Bit of Relevance

I've alluded to my accident: hit by a car, put into a coma, lost motor and cognitive functions, and resided in hospital for weeks. In all, my outcomes were the "best case scenario." All potential brain damage was not permanent. Still, those weeks I couldn't talk; couldn't walk; couldn't see the second, less obvious answer to questions posed by my speech therapist, seemed infinite at the time.

That knowledge that I used to be smart, that I used to be able to play the piano, plagued me as I tried to play Für Elise on a keyboard in the lounge area. I knew the melody, I knew the keys, but my fingers were unable to play. I knew something wasn't right, but I lacked the ability to think about it, comprehend it. At the time, I didn't become depressed about my diminished intelligence or piano skills. I took it in a very matter-of-fact manner: "Hmm," I'd thought. "How interesting."

Even now, as I reflect, I think, "How interesting." I often think about that singular purpose I'd had and the fact that I don't really have anything analogous, today. But it remains a resource, an experience I'll keep with me for the next great battle.

An article today in the New York Times discussed Kierkegaard and despair vs. depression. The article suggests that with advances in science and medicine, we are apt to offer medicine as a fix for anything other than happiness; that we assume feelings of melancholy or despair can be remedied by therapy:
And in an age when all psychic life is being understood in terms of neurotransmitters, the art of introspection has become passé.
As someone who, again, embraces the melancholy, I related to the article. I can think and rationalize my way out of "despair," but depression is a much harder rat to kill. I'm lucky in that I haven't had to kill that rat in years.

Went back to five after five tonight, after missing a week for Australia(!), and I find that my tolerance has decreased (that, or the fact that I skipped food at two of the stations but still drank the wine). Oh well. Sleep will cure that...

Edited 11/01 to clarify a couple things...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random tired musing

I had a coke with dinner tonight, which was kind of silly, given that I didn't eat until after 8pm. Through no conscious effort, my coffee consumption has decreased (over ten days since my last Starbucks!), and thus, perhaps, my tolerance for caffeine has likewise decreased. *Consequently, I'm awake at nearly 2am searching for connections between unrelated events. Looking for bits of **relevancies where there may be none.

First day of class this morning. On the one hand, I feel like I'm getting better. My teacher-ing now would kick my 2007 teacher-ing's ass. But it seems like a false comparison. Today's class was double the size of my first class back then. Any shortcomings I had, I think, were overcome by more individualized instruction; more time spent after class or responding to emails.

Anyway. I need to be more organized. And this early morning, I suppose, that should begin with at least a few hours of sleep.

* Check out all my transition words!
** Spell check tells me "relevancies" is not a word while "irrelevancies" is one; I object!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I say that ("home sweet home"), but I'd rather not be here, sitting in my chair, surrounded by my stuff. My fridge is empty and my suitcase isn't unpacked. Why not hop on the next plane to Miami or Vancouver or Jakarta? (Oh right, I ran out of money...)

I'll feel better about being home once I see friends and family, or tomorrow once I get the new quarter started. Right now, in between printing the new syllabus and tweaking tomorrow's lesson plan, I'm uploading my pictures to flickr: To start, images from our fourth day in Australia, when we took a day cruise to the outer-banks of the Great Barrier Reef.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick hello (or, I should say, G'day!)

I'm sitting at the internet terminal of my lovely hostel in Sydney. It's bareboned, reminding me of my freshman year dorm at Denison: it's clean, occasionally raucous, and serves its purpose.

I'm loving Sydney, and I especially enjoyed my trip up to Cairns and to the Great Barrier Reef. Pictures are coming, I promise.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quick hits

  • A student said to me, after thanking me for the class, "You don't give yourself enough credit." And I immediately thought, man, I must be projecting some serious insecurities if I have students trying to help me buck up!
  • I leave on Saturday!
  • My car's a mess of old City Beats, blankets, a pair of shoes, three coffee mugs.
  • My living room floor's a mess, too. I'm sitting in the middle of it, down blanket and laptop covering me, with a space heater aimed at me. I'm still cold.
  • Just watched the last forty minutes of Days of Our Lives... I've watched it off and on since I was probably ten, when Carly was buried alive and Marlena was possessed by the devil. Who am I to judge you for watching Dancing with the Stars?
  • I don't remember the last time I've had real food in my house (unless granola bars and coffee count as real food).
  • That Skyline 3-way I just finished sure was good.
I found this quote:

"There is probably no more obnoxious class of citizen, taken end for end, than the returning vacationist." ~Robert Benchley

I apologize in advance!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Still going to a land down under...

I give one more exam tomorrow, and then I'm done until the next quarter begins (at the end of October). This quarter, like the one before it, has shaken me a bit. I find myself asking, What the hell am I doing, teaching. Who the hell am I to think that I can stand up there, imparting my "knowledge."

My confidence has always come from within, more than without. Compliments mean nothing until I have internalized it. What I need to do is figure out some way to measure gains. To have something I can look at and think about and analyze. My syllabus includes a list of outcomes. How to quantify those?

And yes, I'm being hard on myself. I speak with my mom, a teacher; her husband, a college professor: they deal with the same problems I do. A few weeks ago I wrote about a student who challenged me in class. We talked afterwards, and a few times since then, and on the last day she thanked me for a great quarter. "I learned a lot," she said. Maybe I just need to let that sink in some more, as well as other similar statements from other students.

Haha - it suddenly strikes me that I'm looking for excuses to move forward with my MFA plans. Whine, whine, whine. I'll see what I say later.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wedding Belle

My stat of the weekend: Of eleven Denison grads (all of us in our mid- to late-twenties) at my friend Lisa's wedding Saturday evening, ten are married.

And I think what I recognized in those seven couples (three were pairs of Denisonians; the other four went outside the college) was a groundedness. Each had their anchor, that person they could nudge, roll their eyes or smile at; that person to arrive with and leave with. Interestingly, all of them are living somewhere different than their hometowns, and most have moved multiple times for school, work, or military. But through new cities, new homes, new jobs, they have had a consistency in partner.

(Me, I may not have that anchor - I'm floating, untethered - but right now I have my hometown. My roots, my family, all in one place.)

It was a lovely wedding. Lisa's family owns a winery, and they closed it for the evening. Lights and gauzy white cloth were draped from the ceiling, and after rings were exchanged and vows were said, one of our friends gave a dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss's, "Oh the Places You'll Go!"

We estimated that there was enough bottles of wine for each guest to have an entire one (though since I had to drive back to the hotel, I only drank a couple glasses throughout the evening); needless to say, this made for a festive atmosphere!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The important thing is not to stop questioning"

~ Albert Einstein

My MFA plans are on the back seat of my car next to the blanket that I sat on in August for an outdoor performance of "Romeo and Juliet." I think there are a couple coffee mugs, too, and google map directions to places I've already visited. I'm going to take care of all of things - make plans, bring the blanket and mugs inside, and throw away the directions - but not right now.

I'm certainly not putting anything off; I still have the same dates in mind. But between getting through the end of the quarter and planning for the trip, I can't concentrate on it. I don't know where I'm going to go, what I'm going to submit, or whether I'll have to take any kind of GRE. All those questions and answers are on the back seat.

Anyway. My questioning. It's not going to stop, of course, but sometimes it's better NOT to question everything. Enjoy the road.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Teachable Moments

Paul Krugman has a great op-ed piece today in The New York Times entitled, The Politics of Spite, about the modern republican party and its opposition to anything and everything Obama's administration puts forward. From Chicago's Olympics bid to health care reform, the GOP's position "has all the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old." But then he brings up something that, as someone who was studying for her SATs at the same time as Congress was impeaching Clinton, I was only vaguely aware of:

Anyone surprised by the venomous, over-the-top opposition to Mr. Obama must have forgotten the Clinton years. Remember when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Hillary Clinton was a party to murder? When Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those Medicare cuts? And let’s not even talk about the impeachment saga.

The only difference now is that the G.O.P. is in a weaker position, having lost control not just of Congress but, to a large extent, of the terms of debate. The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance. Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern.

I don't know if this comforts or scares me. The other day I was talking with my mom about what the difference might have been had Hillary Clinton become president instead; I think it might be worse. I think we would see the same irrationality and vitriol from the right, but instead of veiled racism, we'd see overt misogyny.

Back to the doctor for a follow-up appointment. All should be well.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Going to a land down under...

Two weeks from today, I'll be 30,000ft above the Pacific Ocean, en route to Sydney, Australia. Because of the time difference, I'll be inside the aircraft for the whole of Sunday (I don't suppose I'll be able to get updates on the Bengals' game... ) Usually my itineraries are pretty open; but because I'll have just seven days in this new continent, I have a good idea of what I'm going to do each day. (I'm already looking forward to three weeks from today, coming home and writing about my experiences and posting pictures!)

I'm excited to be disconnected for some time, too. The Earth will continue to rotate, Fox news will continue to slander the president--and here I continue to experience mild outrage at this unsubtle attempt to undermine this administration every step of the way; how are they not treasonous? were we like this during the Bush years?--and health care will or will not get passed.

Australia: We'll tour the Sydney Opera House, climb the pylon on the Harbour Bridge, get invited to eat shrimp on the barbie, trek through a rain forest, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and hug a koala bear.