Thursday, March 28, 2013

Feeling Strangely Fine

Another day, another end of the semester.

At least this time around, I didn't cry. (To be fair, I also did not play music that had the potential to make me cry.) I still gave food away - if not anything else, sweets will always make people happy that they made it to the end. I'm a firm believer that food consumed in a social setting makes for happier people who will participate more actively in whatever task at hand. I still gave them a nice, end-of-sem farewell. AND I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT FEEL THE TEARS COME TO MY EYES.

This may have also been an inadvertent side-effect of a lack of sleep and tumbling towards exhaustion. I keep forgetting that I'm not in college anymore (I mean, well, I am, because I work in a university, but I'm not a student there anymore) and so I can't pull impossible all nighters on the wings of caffeine and a prayer. I actually felt palpitations last night on account of the amount of coffee I had consumed - which, obviously, is not very wise.

I still don't know if I'll ever get to the day that, when I say goodbye to a class at the end of a semester, I wouldn't feel sad about it. I hope I don't. I do believe that there's a reason for meeting people and making the most out of that brief interaction, of that potential for changing for the better. And I'd like to think that fate had a hand in choosing the students that I get each class, or the events that led to them signing up for my class. (Or being coerced by the system into taking an English subject for their Arts and Humanities allocation.) I can still find a million and one ways I can be a better teacher and a better person and perhaps stop being so damn emotional all the time. I wish I could recognize that I can't help everybody and not everybody responds in the way you imagine them to be. "Imagining others complexly," to paraphrase author John Green, is a lot more difficult that it sounds like when you are handling a class of anywhere from 15 to 25 individuals (and sometimes more).

And sometimes I also wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I would just refuse to care. I mean, I rage and complain and sometimes am tempted to throw things at the wall as a response to the sheer stupidity of some people, but they're all rooted in caring. I want people to succeed. I want them to understand that the world is a vast and scary place and that yes, communication skills are important because NOBODY CAN READ YOUR MIND. Unless you are Professor X. Or you are a Vulcan. (And even then, hello, touch telepathy.) Or a Jedi.

I want them to understand that stories are rooted in our humanity, that words are what created us.

Many creation myths begin with the utterance of a word. Even our earliest stories - the ones that many people still cling to today - acknowledge the importance of being able to articulate a thought using a combination of sounds that we can make. It's both astounding and impressive at the same time. Entire schools of thought have been devoted to this leap of faith from thought to words to utterance. When I think about it, I'm awestruck at how we humans, with our strangely complicated brains and biological circuitry, were able to come up with systems that catalogue our experiences and ideas.

And I try to teach that. I try to give that sense of dizzying wonder that we are able to even speak and write and think using words at all, that we have created literature in order to articulate and encompass the human experience. As the poet says, we are vast, we contain multitudes.

Sometimes I wonder what it feels like to look at the world through tunnel vision. I mean, we can all talk about context and socio-economic circumstances until we're all blue in the face, but if you think about it, there's a way of looking at the world and wondering about everything and what's being said/not being said and how we fit in between these gaps. Sometimes there's a weird pressure at the back of my head that's trying to tell me how the world makes sense of itself, and it amazes me that we can even think about these possibilities and wonder how we can get there, or if we're already there. So sometimes I don't understand why people aren't more open to changing their minds, or to adjusting their perspective to accomodate new ideas. I mean, none of us are static; we're all changing at one point in time. People never stand still. So why is it difficult to change one's mind?

Anyway, my mind's been oddly trippy lately. It may be because I went through three classes' worth of drafts in five days just to return them before the Holy Week break and the subsequent trip to Baguio for the National Writers Workshop (oh god oh god I haven't even cracked open the manuscripts yet). Today, I splurged on an expensive massage because my shoulders and neck - heck, my entire body - was aching and exhausted. I ended up occupying that place between being asleep and being awake, where time didn't really matter and I just ended up being rolled over from one side to the other like a sad sack of meat. (But then again, I am a sad sack of meat.)

And I'm trying not to think about work, because there is so much work that it's not even funny just to think about it. And I wonder what it feels like, after almost a year of doing this teaching thing, to not bring work home. Like, I have friends who work from sunrise to sunset, who will bring their spreadsheets and work laptops home, or conduct meetings over the phone during dinner or what's supposed to be their downtime, or to completely give up their downtime in order to buckle down and finish a project or a deadline. And I used to do that as well - stay in the office until nine or ten in the evening, or (on one memorable occasion) taking turns with a bunch of officemates and crashing on a couch just to finish a project for the next day. (I went home to take a bath and change my clothes, and then headed back to the office after that. It was a bizarre kind of day.)

But even then, I've never felt this kind of bone-searing weariness in my entire life. My eye bags have their own tiny little bags now, too. The stack of books and papers on my desk, on the bookshelves, in my office, never seems to go away. There is nothing I want more than to jump on a plane or a boat with a backpack and a stack of books, and just disappear for a week or two. And yet, at the same time, I find myself unable to let go. It's like I live for this shit.

Still, it can only get better, right? I've had awesome students this semester, and last semester as well, and I'm looking forward to teaching summer classes for the first time. My brother's coming home in awhile with chicken and mojos, and you know that all is right in the world when you're anticipating mojo potatoes. It's all good.

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