Gut Check

87 days ago I applied for a job for which I wasn’t qualified. I didn’t get it.

Now, there are a few ways to handle this, and those that know me well might think that I almost certainly reacted a specific way. Much to my surprise, I did not.

A little bit of failure now and then is good for you. It forces you to really use a wide angle lens. I have spent so much energy being unhappy in my job, I didn’t effectively deploy any reserves elsewhere.

I did not do anything else for 87 days. I casually opened thirty tabs a few weekends in a row, and I kid myself something along these lines: “Hmm, I could do that…”

I probably could not have. And, if I could have, it certainly wasn’t with a half-assed effort. Gut check. It’s grime time.

There is a reminder uncovered in this–a lesson I learned in grade school, and forgot over the years: nobody owes you anything, and nothing is guaranteed.

So, as a tumultuous 2017 (job-wise) spirals to a close, this is the final punch.

Next up: The Winter Contingency.

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Shit’s Rad

I don’t know why, but when I was young, I thought adulthood was going to be like T&C Surf Design. Yup, the NES game. I have no idea why. Probably the same reason that launching a BMX bike off the end of some pavement was my favorite original extreme sport. Everything was big and forever, and then came college prep classes and school dances and jobs and insurance and all manners of other shit that were decidedly not rad.

As I get ready to enter a Third Renaissance–each Era looks really different in each decade–I ask, “What is rad now?” I can populate the list fairly easily, but not in an ultimate fashion. Some element of radness is missing, though. That T&C vibe, whatever that looks like these days.

The math on negativity bias shows that we need a 5:1 positive-to-negative input. That’s pretty ridiculous, as you’d know if you’d been outside for the last ten years. People in general don’t seem to be happy. Consumerism is rampant; the psychological infrastructure of Buy This to be Complete requires that inequalities are solved by buying something. Dopamine hit. Temporary bliss. Rinse, repeat. Social media participation alone horribly skews that ratio; if we use certain apps too much, it is nearly mathematically impossible to find the proper balance. Our happiness architecture is constantly besieged.

Not rad.

What exactly is rad differs greatly by person, but fun is a necessary part, which is completely relative. Some people’s ideas of fun make me queasy, but I accept that they are embracing their Rad. We should be so lucky.

At 38, I’m a lucky man. I know some amazing people, and even though I interact with some of them using (*hissssssssss*) social media, that’s a geographical handicap, more than anything. (I’ve filtered out a lot of Not Rad.) Wife and life are good, so if my rad is a little lacking, it’s in minute fashion. Shout out to anyone whose rad is focused. I’m thinking I’m only a quick shred away from the next level.

fragments

There is something to being able to laugh at chaos. Currently there are four meetings going on, but only two were scheduled. The “needs” of the masses are mostly artificial, but never-ending. There has never been such a fake job that was so necessary. Outside my door, actual audio from a Dean of Education at The Local University: 

“Teaching is such a rewarding profession

…the pay isn’t great…

you get summers off…

job availability…

teaching is a rewarding profession

…you don’t want to work when you’re 80, do you?

…teaching is rewarding

…retirement…”

Five feet behind my chair, through a wall, there is a fifth meeting, and discussion of RTI. Response to Intervention is inherently good, but I have yet to see it actually carried out with consistency anywhere. The idea of a personalized curriculum (both behavioral and academic) is utopian by nature, and while it’s soothing on paper, in a high-poverty, ever-shifting environment, it is impossible to implement with fidelity. Incidentally, “with fidelity” is something oft-repeated in this industry. It’s Kool-Aid that everyone drinks, but everyone knows it’s bad for you. Jonestown. Amazing. “Thank you! May I have another, please?”

Overheard through the wall: “…has a very real problem with any kind of authority, and refuses to work or do anything asked…”

Ninety degrees from that meeting: “very rewarding profession…”

My phone rings: “Uh, yes, do you know about Situation X?”

“No ma’am–never heard of that; wasn’t aware of that…”

…rewarding profession…

All of this, swirling. I’m thinking of psychological studies that prove Learned Helplessness is real in adults. I’m thinking of how long October, September, and August were. 

–reward–

An email comes through. It’s one of our teachers newer to the profession 

(rewarding) 

and she isn’t sure what to do when her laptop

*re*

I’m pouring another cup of the Kool-Aid. Two meetings have ended, and the heat has cut off. 

“At the new school” is another adverbial modifier that I love to hear. Construction is “moving along” on the site, and “at the new school” things will be dandy.

“‘Incentives’ are important”

Rewards

Rewarding 

Rewarded

Why Escape Matters

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The original Blade Runner came out in 1982. I was three years old. The first time I watched it was on a VHS copy, probably around 1984 or 1985. We were in Germany, then. VCRs were $800 and it was a huge deal to score a copy of any movie, as they took a long time to reach consumers. It was a different era.

Three decades distort memory, but I recall sitting cross-legged on high-pile carpet, my face too close to the screen full of flying cars, the imposing Replicant of Rutger Hauer, neon lights through a gray city dystopia, and Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard as probably the first anti-hero I remember that won by failing. It was unsettling. It was invigorating.

There are more than a handful of moments in Blade Runner 2049 that took me back to the original. Gosling is one of my favorites (I immediately forgave him for La La Land–Ryan, you “saved jazz,” but that ending was inexcusable), and he brings a silent suffering to some of his best roles. Blade Runner may be equal to The Place Beyond the Pines and Drive in that regard. The cinematography and the deliberate pacing asks viewers to think (really think) about what’s really going on in the quiet moments on the screen. I haven’t seen a movie like it in a long, long time.

Good science fiction makes you wonder, but it also demands an introspection.

What do you think?

What do you feel?

What makes it (or any of this) real?

And, most importantly:

Why?

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I watch films to escape. I used to escape a lot more frequently. I’m down to about four trips to the movie theater a year, so the bar is set high. I waste a lot of my days in a job I hate. I complain a lot and I pretend that I am powerless to do anything about it. Yet all it takes is a 164-minute to remind me, that’s why it’s so important–the right escape. It reminds us that nothing is permanent, and that we are still supposed to be looking for the answers to our own questions. Just like science fiction.

Watch this film when you are ready for something different. Look for the small moments, like the brief meeting Edward James Olmos’ Gaff places an origami sheep on the table strategically: Denis Villeneuve is winking at us as he slips a comforting arm on our shoulders. 2049 shows us, more than once, how we were “drunk on the memory of perfection.” By the time “Tears in Rain” plays again, we remember Why.

Odin’s Day (say it fast)

278 days remaining. That’s weekends, holidays, the whole shebang. You can pretty much put up with anything for less than 300 days. That’s what I tell myself.

At the trash-fire I call “work,” my job description changed again today. This time the changes are in writing. I was quiet about it at first, then waves of anger surged through me, and then I thought of the best career/life advice I’ve read recently–it was from reddit, of all places. Someone made an ecard for it, of course:

How to stay motivated? Hate life to the point where you want to get revenge on existence itself.

So there it is. That’s real life. And that’s my main strategy for leaving education.

My Winter Contingency. It’ll do the job quite nicely.

Day five without AC. The weather’s been mild this week, thanks to Hurricane Harvey destroying coastal Texas. As long as I can sleep at night, I can deal. No sleep? Not good. Not the best version of me. Unfit for public display.

Owning a house was a real pain in the ass, because everything was on you, the owner, when it went wrong. And it always did. For the most part, I’m happy to rent again, but…listen…we need to talk about this whole Southern Pacing situation. For years, I have heard, “Well, now, folks just move along at their own pace down heah.” This is a standard explanation served up when speed or efficacy is questioned.

“Hey, Mister or Missus First Name (also a favorite), get the fucking job done.” Try that. But no, no…I get it. You’re just moving at your own pace heah.

__________

Lots of changes lately. At some point, I’ll probably get back into cognitive behavioral therapy, as it is the only thing in the last four years that helped me produce accelerated results. Nobody needs to sail into 40 still needing to figure out a bunch of things. Ridiculous.

__________

I never liked running in general, but the treadmills in the exercise room six doors down have inclines that go up to “15.” That’s pretty insane, and the calories burned add up quickly. Hey, it’s something. Combine tempo treadmill training with an elliptical workout (which I never thought I would use as an adult male) I add in a light circuit here and there and sweat really starts to pour, like in a gross way. I like to toss in an occasional Brad Pitt move from “Burn After Reading” to keep it interesting.

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I put up a hard half-hour or a little longer, which helps me forget the aforementioned trash fire, and then I walk right out of the exercise room and jump into the pool, which will probably close in just over a month. Tonight the pool had too much floating in it, and the pumps haven’t been running since last week. I suppose someone’s “fixin to get along after that too,” at their own pace, of course.

 

300-Day Challenge: Part 1

In Up In The Air, Ryan Bingham has an arbitrary goal. He wants to reach 10 million frequent flyer miles. As is sometimes the case, the book substantially differs from the film in key aspects. George Clooney does a great job playing the available but aloof Bingham, who fires people for a living. The real value of what Walter Kirn wants the audience to consider lies in the spaces in between the pages. 

I’m thinking about both Ryan Bingham’s book and movie form this morning. My arbitrary number is 300, as in 300 days remaining. 300 days from now I will be out of this school, and if the universe allows, I will be out of education altogether. The reasons really don’t matter. I’m not here to complain. Rather, this is more about time passing and the quick canal of thoughts how.

On the commute this morning, XMU’s Julia Cunningham played Interpol, then the National, and then Best Coast. I choose to take that as a sign that it is indeed good enough to be feeling okay. It’s a start.

And on the third day

At work today I was thinking about how lucky I was as I kid to live where we lived and to have been able to see the countries I did, among other things. As a reflex I then immediately started thinking about when exactly it is that we abandon Imagination and Wonder–which aren’t mutually exclusive to childhood–and start to focus on bullshit metrics. 

I have to make X amount of money to buy a certain car.

I have to dress a certain way.

I have to subscribe to a brand or to several brands to justify my actions and to build a false narrative. 

I’m 38 years old. I don’t care about your politics. I don’t care about your religion. I don’t care about your academics. 

Are you disarmed yet? Many of you could be. Yet here we are, hurtling through space, and the great Unknown is still that. And it will continue to be.

As I prepare to leave a profession in which I can no longer believe, I am revisiting a lot of the constructed truths I needed to synthesize in order to justify aberrant behavior, which at times, certainly could have (should have?) resulted in my doom. 

It didn’t.

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I fucked up a lot. I made a lot of mistakes. I got a lot of second chances. 

I think it’s time for Imagination and Wonder to come back.