Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My irrational fears: Teaching Edition

Back in the earliest years of this new Millenium—those of you who can remember back that far know what a magical time it was ... a time when Friends was a "must-see" and pomade was a "must-have" ... a time when there was no such thing as "subtle highlights" and when Angelina Jolie was still totally wacky—way back in the post-Hotmail/pre-Facebook Fall of 2001 when I walked into my first class of my first semester of my first year of college, I never would have dreamed that my fresh-faced writing professor might be embarking on some terrifying firsts of her own. Now that I know how universities work, I know that my young, soft-spoken, surprisingly optimistic, slightly liberal freshman writing teacher (Hon P 200, anyone?) was most likely a student herself. An older, married, pregnant student of the graduate variety, but a student nonetheless. And she was probably—no wait...she was definitely—way more nervous, self-conscious, and pants-crappingly terrified than I was.

I haven't thought of this woman or the things she taught me for ten years. I can't, for the life of me, remember her name. But I remember what she looked and sounded like. I remember that we couldn't really tell if she was pregnant until around Thanksgiving, and before that it was an awkward is she or isn't she guessing-type game. I remember that she wanted us to write about our feelings and our favorite songs and Tuesdays with Morrie. I remember thinking I knew more about King Lear than she did (I didn't) and that she cried too much (she did). What I don't remember, though, is anything I learned. Not one thing. You see, there was a douchey, sideburned dreamboat who sat next to me in that class (you'll recall that douchey guys were the style in those days). I was distracted. To him, I was invisible (as was my style in those days). His name and the facts that he liked surfing and Jack Johnson are all I can remember about my writing class that semester. My seventeen-year-old self was an idiot.

The universe is a jerk and I'll tell you why. Now I'm going to be a freshman writing teacher and I have no idea what I'm doing. None. If I had been assigned the task of shuttling a pack of wild preschoolers across a tightrope, I couldn't be any more horrified. Because:

What if they can see right through me?
I've heard eighteen year olds can smell fear and insecurity. They'll catch one whiff of me and they will run with the knowledge that I'm teetering on the edge confidence. One little vocal quiver on my part will be all they need to start launching spitballs at my face.

What if they scrutinize me the way I scrutinized my teachers?
They'll notice everything. My haircut, my clothes, my shoes and how often I wear them. They'll pay more attention to the stains on my shirts than the due dates in the syllabus. They'll catch me with my fly down or my finger in my nose and then that will be it. Tenuous grasp of authority—gone. Forever.

What if they don't learn anything?
What if I teach and teach and they don't learn. In ten years, will they remember their crush on Sideburns McDarlingface better than the readings? During their peer reviews, will they ignore their theses and focus instead on my fluctuating weight?

At times like these, I wish I could be as invisible as I was when I was 17.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pity, Party of One

Yesterday, I ate two and a half donuts and one fudgesicle.

Naturally, I rewarded my responsible dietary choices with a healthy dose of self-loathing.

Between trying to calculate the number of calories in all the sugar consumed, I went down all those dark, dangerous, dusty mind roads you're never supposed to go down. It was hot, my dog was asleep, and my global diaspora book was boring. Not even my subversive stitching could keep my demons at bay. Those little buggers came out guns ablazin'. So I caved and dove into that deceptively cool, refreshing pool of self-pity for a good old fashioned wallowing.

I was in there for a while before my fingers got all pruney and the satisfaction of feeling sorry for myself wore off. But the effects of my pity party lasted long into the evening and even rubbed off onto my poor innocent Rob who woke up at the butt crack of dawn to teach seminary and sure as hell doesn't deserve to put up with any of my nonsense. I know, right? With a guy like that coming home to me every night, how can I ever feel bad about myself? I'll tell you. Crippling anxiety and genetically low self-esteem, that's how. (Uh-oh...this just got real, didn't it? Sorry about that.)

Dr. Rob diagnosed a comparing problem; I compare the very worst of myself to the very best of everyone else. His prescription is that I lay off the damn Internet for once in my life already. That way I won't be able to see pictures of all the beautiful homes and children and clothes and hair and lives of my impossibly gorgeous, talented, and well-off Internet friends. It's a bad habit, he says, to sit on one's crumb-covered futon, trouserless and greasy-haired, and admire the visually stunning facebook/blog/instagram posts of my cyber friends. They have fancy cameras, he says. Their husbands make living wages, he says. But I know better.

Here's the truth: you, my friends, are exceptionally beautiful people. Your wardrobes are exquisite, your homes are stylish, your children are attractive, your hobbies are lucrative, and your grass! Your grass so green! It glows in the night like a neon liquor store sign! I don't even have grass. I have concrete and a tree stump that I share with my upstairs neighbor. Unlike salon.com, I don't doubt the veracity of your shiny lives because I know where the other half lives. The unwashed, unorganized, childless, fast-food loving, sailor mouth-having, no pants-wearing half. My house. Which is actually an apartment, and about a fraction of the size of what I assume is your palatial personal Versailleses. Am I right? Of course I'm right.

I guess what this means is, I need a break. For a day or two...or until I get bored. Not from you, per se. Just from the Internet yous. I need to close up shop and take a thorough inventory of my blessings and all (which I won't tell you about just in case there's another me out there, sitting in her underwear atop a pile of crumbs on an even smaller, more unwieldy futon). And I'm not coming back until I feel sorry for everyone who isn't me.

So, yeah.

...is what I would say to you if you weren't all such nauseatingly awesome winners.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It Goes, "Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick..."

"You will go far."

Or at least around the reservoir.

Thanks for the wisdom, Ted.

Now, if we could just get him to speak softly.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pillow Talk

Picture this:

The time is bedtime. Rob gives Fritz his evening Greenie and locks his the crate for the night. Certain dogs still can't be trusted to roam the house after the sun goes down. I am already in bed—comfortable, cuddly, soft. Rob joins me under the covers...slips in without a word. I snuggle up to him, as I am wont to do, and whisper, "Good night, Rob. I love you." To which he replies, "Good boy."



Silence. He's dead asleep.

"Okay, Robby," I giggle nervously. "Sleep pretty."

(It's a thing we say).

"Good boy, Fritz. Good boy."

Alright, dude. Whatever. The girls are so hearing about this tomorrow at Yolk.