TTWA Assignment: Imagine you are on Yelp. Write a review of the restaurant everyone is talking about. In the fourth paragraph, admit you’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but argue why your misinformed opinion is still more important than the other reviews on the site.
I based this story on a girl I once worked with at the National Institutes of Health. Most of the story is true to a point. She was my first real ‘love’ I guess you could say. As is the way with these things, you tend to romanticize the past a bit, an error I’ve tried to remedy by mixing in a little farce.
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True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”
Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me. For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single. “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent. “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year. You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense. Pip pip cheerio. Fish and chips.”
Well, let’s field that common misconception first. Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer. After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’ You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life. You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations. This is your life. These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life. Tunnel-vision within a textbook.
TTWA Assignment: Imagine you have moved to North Dakota in the midst of winter. Write a postcard that will make Californians jealous.
This task is quite easy. I’ve always had a strong opinion about the value of winter. Christmas in my humble opinion while certainly a religious holiday exists as a winter festival, a celebration of warm food, white lights and warm fires. December and its holidays exist to chase away the fears and despair that accompanies the season. Temperatures fall far below freezing; snow and ice coat the roads; the trees extend from the ground like the living dead. Living things abandon the outside world; we hide in our homes and avoid any reminders that the planet has tilted away from the sun for the next four months.
Christmas for my family chases all that despair away. The smell of baked goods intermingle with pine wreathes. Cranberries and cinnamon pepper our food. As a family we draw close together before the oven and fireplace; lights dance across the treetops; children giggle beneath Christmas trees.
How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. — Shakespeare
I cannot imagine Christmas in Florida or California. Sure, the holiday exists, but it has no meaning, no significance. You can drink hot chocolate in San Diego but without the bite of winter, how good does that chocolate taste? How can you revel in bonding with family when you are free to move outside? Some of the greatest myths and stories exist because families and friends would sit around a fire and talk to one another. In some respects, this may prove boring, but boredom often spurs creativity.
Yes, winter is not pleasant. Anyone living around the East Coast this year can tell you that, but all the good things associated with Christmas and the holidays are born of the cold and snow. I imagine North Dakota would prove a similar experience. Except for the bears. With that respect you’re on your own.
Your partner writes a Craigslist ad to get rid of an item of yours that they totally hate. What does it say?
This assignment required only a small amount of imagination. I love anime. My brother and roommate, Kevin, can appreciate my collection of comics, movies and video games, but my other interests . . . well, he pigeonholes Japan as a nation of perverts and anime as a product of that perversion. Daring him to watch Spirited Away or Cowboy Bebop, two excellent examples of the quality of the medium, affected no change of his opinions. Secretly, I wonder if the subtitles prove daunting to my dyslexic sibling . . . Reading in order to enjoy a movie may taint your opinion of the genre in much the same way that Jersey Shore or The Bachelor has infected my enjoyment of documentaries. Then again the beautiful strangeness of these tales can overwhelm the more practically minded. Kev enjoys operating heavy machinery and tilling the earth. Case closed.
“So picture this, Murph: a death metal concert in the heart of Amsterdam. Me and Jason disguised in leather, fake beards, and goth t-shirts . . .”
“I for one do not need to imagine any man much less Rodney in leather,” Sean sighed next to me.
“The beard I can get behind, though . . .” Ryan added.
We all agreed that a man with a beard is a man to be reckoned with.
“If Batman had a beard, he’d be unstoppable,” I considered aloud.
“Man, enough about Batman. I’m talking about real heroes,” Rodney shouted. “I’m talking about Jason Borne!”
I chose not to discuss Matt Damon’s heroics or what constituted a imaginary character. Frankly I didn’t have the time.
“So, you really want to get back into World of Warcraft?” I asked, somewhat taken aback by my friend’s regression into geekdom.
“Absolutely,” Dasad said in between sips of a chestnut praline latte – I swear Starbucks is taking advice from Yankee Candle in their choice of holiday blends. “Look you need something to occupy your free time outside of grading . . . mole tests or whatever the hell you teach in chemistry. MMOs are the perfect outlet.”
I nodded. The last week before my school closed for the Christmas break had proven . . . stressful, so much so that I considered stealing away around noon for a several pints of spiked nog. The mounting terror of children, emails, ungraded labs, January’s midterms, cloying principals, overbearing parents and those last-minute quizzes that you thought would provide an easy grade but . . . ah, the to-do list sought to smother my sanity. Only with three o’clock bell did the anxiety begin to drain away like poison from a wound leaving me exhausted and with a slight migraine.
I had met with Dasad hours later for drinks and coffee, confessing my near panic attack and utter thankfulness for the Christmas season.
Over the past year, I’ve been reviewing the world through gold-rimmed glasses. You know, the kind that rest on the back of your head and coat the world you’ve left behind in gilded shades of light to the point that all your youth might appear a continuous Christmas, filled with joy, beauty and adventure. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been coping with this new phase of my life and the responsibilities that accompany ‘adulthood,’ or whatever life at 34 is called. The transition has not proven especially kind to me: anxiety, panic attacks, self-doubt, ephemeral goals, and an influx of nieces and nephews, who remind constantly that I am no longer a thirteen-year-old playing at ‘adulthood’ by babysitting his siblings, but simply an thirty-four year old trying to reconnect with his youthfulness.
Mostly, I’ve found myself idealizing the past: gazing at my college years and post-college interim at NIH with a fondness, which I never felt in the midst of it all. I spent so many years begging, searching, fretting over finding myself a job, and now that I’ve found it, the sensation leaves much to be desired. Thus, my mind idealizes those past moments, when the freedom to choose still lay before me, when life felt infinite and unexpected.