Tag Archives: judgment

I prefer the end. Probably because of my rockin’ ass.

1 Dec

Most people can start something. I start ten thousand things every day. I counted. Well, I started counting, but then I got distracted. To make beginnings really count, it has to be something worth sticking to.

I realized today that I’m much better at ending things. When I create my semester plan, I start at the end and work my way back. I just have to figure out how to get everything that I plan on being completed, completed. The end of the semester feels way more controlled than the beginning of the semester. I enter in final grades and I feel peace. All of the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted.

I have several novels and a couple screenplays that I’ve written the ending to. I just don’t want to deal with storyline that leads to the ending. The end is really all that matters. The rest could easily have just been a memory forged in my own subconscious, so why bother dealing with the hassle?

No one remembers famous first words, or famous 12,843,756th words. It’s the famous last words that count. The end of someone’s life, the final breath, the last brush stroke, the last poem ever penned. It’s eternal.

It’s the same with relationships. I’m awesome at breaking up with guys, mostly because one of my more marketable skills is getting them to break up with me first.

“My band is really getting off the ground. I should focus on my music. You want me to be happy, right baby?”

“I’m so ready for marriage. And kids. Ohmygod I love kids.”

Or I’ll disagree vehemently with something they’re passionate about so they think they’re deciding it’s over. I’m not too proud. He can claim the termination. As long as I don’t have to deal with the real beginning or middle of the relationship.

“Star Wars is way better than Star Trek in every way imaginable.”

“Oh I totally voted for Obama. Twice. I’d do it again if I could. He’ll probably change the presidential term. And take away your guns. But he should. Guns are stupid.”

I think that’s why I tend to skip over the beginning. When I became single again, my mother would encourage me to date because the beginning is just so much fun. I’d tell her I hate dating. It’s stupid. Like guns. She’d tell me to relax, be happy, enjoy this time. Fuck that noise. I’ve already determined his biggest flaw so I can point it out and be done before we even meet for coffee.

Like on this dating site. I’ve maintained conversations with two guys. There was a third, but I told him the theory I prescribe to about reptile aliens so he’d quit calling me. One is Muscles and that’s fizzled out — any guy that looks like him and describes himself as “shy” is full of shit. If I wanted a man with that much shit I’d have to clean up after, I’d volunteer at a senior center. The other is Rockabilly and that’s still going. He doesn’t like dubstep, so I think I can use that to my advantage later.

Every other one I judge immediately and with good reason. For instance, there’s absolutely no honorable reason to send me a message at 2:00am. On a Tuesday. There’s also no reason to take pictures of yourself with a girl kissing your cheek saying she’s “just a friend,” followed by an image of $10,000 cash laying on the steering wheel of a BMW while saying you’d like to meet me. I’m sure you would. But you, sir, are too sexy to handle. “I’ve recently taken a vow of poverty. Also, I’m celibate.”

And guys I meet in real life regular ways that are actually reasonable choices for a relationship, like Barista Boy, I’m so good at skipping ahead to the end that I somehow manage to fuck up any potential opportunity to make the beginning happen. I’ve known my end lines to him since the first time we met. “Maybe someday you won’t feel guilty. And maybe I’ll still be around.” It’s always a tiny victory when I prove myself right and get to say my parting words.

Tonight I saw what will probably be the last thing I see before I die when that day comes. He was a tiny — and I mean tiny — cholo with pants that I could fashion into twin sleeping bags. He was belligerently drunk, swaying his hips that could very well have been the size of a new infant around, and pointing to the band on the stage like they were beckoning him to return to his homeland — Lakertya. I don’t trust small things.

They’re too close to the beginning.

–AM.

That, my friends, is what “failure” sounds like.

7 Nov

My office door faces the lobby of our departmental offices. I use the term “office” loosely, because it really serves as a glorified storage closet. I’m currently staring at two stacks of about 36 boxes holding 6,897 books from some program that happened who knows how long ago. Other “office” decor: antiquated binders, cassette tapes, an archive of anthologies, pillows, and a broken coffee maker.

My desk is ridiculously and unnecessarily huge. There’s also a “conference” table which is made of two square tables with a set of six uncomfortable, foldable chairs. Last year, I had the office to myself because I worked for a federally funded program that paid for the room, and due to sensitive information, I was justified to have it all to myself. Since the funding has been cut, I now share it with two other instructors (one of which is BFF). As I said before, I don’t like to share. We’ve pushed the “conference” table/s against the gigantic desk to form a “collaborative workspace,” or what I like to call it, MegaDesk.

It’s not so bad sharing an office, except I’m easily distracted and easily distractible, so whenever I’m in here with anyone else, I get absolutely nothing done. For example, I’m currently sharing the office with BFF who is grading. I’m listening to 30Rock on Netflix and writing this blog. I would be grading, but I keep getting distracted and wanting to tell BFF things, like making smartass comments about the paper I was grading (“Many individuals believe they’re capable of operating a vehicle after one or two drinks until their car is totaled or worse, dead.” To which I reply, “Car is dead?”)

There was also one time when BFF and I were sharing a room on a study abroad trip and we were supposed to be writing essays in our hotel rooms in Athens, but I was distracted taking pictures of myself with a scarf wrapped around my head making angry faces in complete silence, causing BFF and other roommates to laugh and pass judgment, blaming me for their inability to write a paper. In my defense, I didn’t invite them to play with me.

The Scantron machine is right outside the office door, and every so often, another professor has a shit ton of Scantron tests to grade, so my brilliance is interrupted by the sweet sound of this:

It’s not unlike the sound my grandmother’s shih tzu makes when you blow in his face.

It makes me want to vomit on the stack of papers I have sitting in front of me that I grade instead of shoving it through a machine to tell me how well my students are doing. Such is the strife of teaching writing.

My only way of maintaining any semblance of sanity during these Scantron tests is to play little games with myself where I mimic the sound the machine makes, communicating mutual failure. I then pass judgment on the anonymous students whose responses anger the machine. I cheer inside when I hear only a few blips. It’s like I’m taking part of their victory because for a few seconds, I don’t want to strangle myself with a phone cord.

But, naturally, there is ne’er a thing to say because of my lowly, delicate position. The office is cold, it’s crowded, it’s poorly lit, but I have an office and I have a job. That’s something to be grateful about.

I also get to keep the sound of my students’ failures to myself, so there’s that.

–AM.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue.

6 Nov

One of the most delightful experiences in being a new instructor is the joy of having your superior observe your class, taking notes and scrutinizing on a four-page rubric that decides how well you function as a teacher, how well your students react to you, how well planned your lessons for that day were, and how well you “fit” into their design of the curriculum that you have the distinct honor to regurgitate to (un)willing receptacles of knowledge.

I recently had this exact pleasure. One of the chairs (yes, one of the chairs) sent me an email about a month ago wanting to schedule observations. I know it’s a terrible, terrible habit, but I really have a hard time planning out an entire semester for a class I’ve never taught, let alone at an institution I’ve never taught at. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to cover the necessary topics. I pretty much wing it.

So I was faced with this pressure to come up with something brilliant that usually comes to me as I’m teaching or the day before I teach weeks ahead so my superior can come and tell me I’m good or a gigantic ball of flaming suck. I found a pretty fantastic lesson plan that I managed to tie into the assignment I had to teach, so I prepared for hours the night before, making copies, practicing the discussion in my head, imagining the worst case scenario where the angry racist student throws a chair that breaks into tiny pieces while the guy who hates me for giving him a bad grade pulls out a weapon of some sort — likely his fists — and begins attacking, bonobo style, the students around him out of sheer frustration and rage.

The superior came in and said “Just pretend I’m not here. I want you to act completely natural, completely normal. It’s not like you’ll get axed if today doesn’t go well.”

Yeah, sure. No pressure or anything, but that was basically a “don’t fuck up or you’ll be homeless and jobless next semester because you suck big time and you’ll get to live in a cardboard box and go to the shelter for food donations and all your pretty clothes will be worthless because bums don’t care how you look but the bright side is you’ll probably either get super skinny because you can’t afford to eat or you’ll get pulled into some sex ring where you’ll sell yourself for a quick score and you can die a cold and lonely death.”

Good thing my lecture went AWESOME. Every student spoke, they had smart things to say, they didn’t get side tracked, and most importantly, I didn’t even get yelled at. About an hour after class, I received an email from the other chair saying the chair who observed my class was delighted and my handouts were awesome and would I like to teach again next semester?? (Yeah, two question marks.) I said yes, of course, because being homeless scares me and I really like using make up and soap.

But through this experience, and many, many other days teaching when I had a bit too much to drink the night before/earlier that morning, and even days being a graduate student and asked to sit and write a few hundred pages on the spot to get ready for the upcoming assignments makes me realize just how much teaching/graduate-studenting is like being an actor, always performing.

Or it’s like being a trained monkey. I’m not a trained monkey. I can’t write on command. Actually, it’d be pretty cool to train a monkey to write on command. I’m sure someone, somewhere has done that. I’m sure that monkey could replace the seat of about 78% of my students. But, like a trained monkey, being a graduate student is all about performance.

In the precarious situation I — and all the other graduate student teachers delicately straddling the lines between student and teacher — face on a daily basis is the constancy of being on display, knowing superiors are lurking outside your doors or sitting in the back of your classroom, eagerly gripping their #2 pencils and frantically scrawling notes on a legal pad, or judging every word you put in front of them through papers you hand in or your contributions to classroom discussion.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue, the whole town’s watchin’.

–AM.

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