Ideals of the Past

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.

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The Inquisition

The two ladies on the left side of the table appeared hollow or rather bored to the point of emptiness. If you drilled a hole in their forehead and sent a stiff breeze through the cavity, cobwebs and dust bunnies would explode from their ears like party favors. The eyes betrayed them. Not their voices, full of professionalism and interest, gleefully reading their typed questionnaires. Or their fingers, quickly taking note of my responses enthusiastically given or my aphorisms, recited with honesty and respect for my past students. Continue reading

Sport for Our Neighbors

Yield not to adversity but press on all the more bravely. — Virgil*

“. . . if it was a personal foul, they should have given us fifteen yards, ya know?” said the man in the hunting cap, fixated on the instant replay cycling on the stadium’s Video-tron.

“Uh . . . of course,” I nod, nearly choking on a salted pretzel. “At least.”

“They’ve been doing this too us all game,” screamed the older two-fisted drinker sitting nearby, who I took to be Elmer’s father.  “And did you see, he kneed at the five, so why place the ball at the eight?”

“Yeah, it’s crazy,” I shook my head. “They should have thrown a . . . flag. Or two?”

“Damn refs are blind, man,” Elmer sighed. “Hey, now all Rice has to do is cut across the middle while fainting to the left, slobber-knocker any interference from the D-line and sack dance across for the score.  Just like with the Navy game earlier. You guys, see that?” Continue reading

A Year Teaching: The Good

So I should probably mention that I detest public speaking.  Had I chosen to enlist as a coal miner, model, or French mime this phobia would not be a problem and in the case of uh . . .  mime-ery an attribute; yet teaching necessitates standing before a class of over-stimulated youth and – unfortunately – talking.

Fancying myself Sherlock Holmes (seriously for ten consecutive years, I donned a hunting cap, pipe, and syringe – I was nothing if not authentic) I approached society with a polite but friendly reticence, preferring the company of a few close friends and family to crowded bars and orgies.  The rest of the family were more extroverted: Dad and Katie could find themselves stranded amid the snow-capped wastes of, say . . . . Siberia and make fifty new friends within the hour.  They’re born on stage.  I always chose to work behind the curtain, making others look good while hoisting props and managing the fires; to paraphrase Prufrock, no Prince Hamlet, am I, indeed.

This is not to suggest that I possessed no skills whatsoever in the profession.  Somehow my own inherent nervousness in the classroom seasoned my lessons with an honest excitement that cannot be duplicated by an 80-year old professor who recites his lessons with the same enthusiasm a twelve-year-old recites the Code of Conduct.

Moreover, it helped that my level of maturity synched well with the kids.  My lessons on chemistry were peppered with references to alchemy, talks of wizardry, potion-making, philosopher’s stones, and turning lead into gold.  I compared the strategies of the British army in the Revolutionary War to turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy VI.  Wanted posters in Assassin’s Creed formed a good foundation for ‘memory’ in the immune system:  “The more posters around, the easier it is for white blood cells to find culprits.”  Nearly every lesson on photons, force, and philosophy referenced films:  “Back to the Future,” “Star Wars,” or Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Continue reading

A Year Teaching: Prelude

Honestly, I am a liar. This needs to be perfectly clear before we begin ere any misconceptions should occur. Throughout the last three years, many – if not all – of my tales, blog posts, have been . . . enhanced in some manner: names altered, timelines rearranged, conversations modified – by which I mean plucked from thin air. Mostly I do this in order to retain the humor or feelings of the situation which can never be recreated if I simply recite the events as they occurred. Continue reading

The Bacon

Dragon in the trees

The dragon really has nothing to do with this post. But doesn’t it look awesome?

Last week presented me with a rather gratifying job opportunity at one of the nearby schools, teaching science and history to fifth and sixth graders.

This week finds me en route to a meeting with the school principal to discuss salary and my curriculum for the upcoming year, a prospect which — having drifted jobless in academia for the last four years —  fills me with some apprehension.  In the world of research, most scientists are lucky to get paid at all; even highly trained post-docs struggle with making rent and resort to scrounging the offices for free doughnuts.

As a middle school educator, how much should I ask for?  Do I even have a say?  What’s fair?  Luckily my family has offered a few helpful stratagems to ease me through the process: Continue reading

Certainly, I can!

Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it. — Theodore Roosevelt

As a long-time patron of bookstores, I possess a passion for books, authors, and reading in general, and thus the ideal qualifications for this position and any other at your stores . . .

Crap.  Another hour wasted writing cover letters to local bookstores.  My recent attempts at schools and libraries have failed; desperation has driven me to scan ads for sales clerks or coffee barristas.  Yet even these opportunities are not without their challenges in today’s economy.  For example, Borders and Barnes & Nobel both require resume and cover letters, not to mention forms and questionnaires.  Most employers require your life story before even considering hiring.  And mine at the moment is not exactly a contender for the Pulitzer. Continue reading