One Year Later #sol16

One year ago today, I left my job and home and friends in Korea to travel South East Asia with my (now) ex.  So much and so little has happened in this last year that I thought I’d use this post to reflect on 12 things.

  1. I scuba dived (dove?) with sea turtles, moral eels, Nemo, and so many other fish while in Borneo and rode an elephant in Thailand and had a spiritual awakening in the massive temple city of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  2. Cancer found its way into the colon of my kind-hearted and caring aunt. I found out about her diagnosis during my travels abroad and almost lost my mind, thinking that I could be off trekking through Bangkok and Chaingmai while my aunt fights (or maybe loses) this battle.
  3. My ex and I broke up. Granted, it was amicable, since E was moving to North Carolina and I was headed for New England.  But I sometimes wish it had been worse so I could hate someone that I used to love for not wanting to love me anymore, even if I felt the same way.
  4. I returned home to freezing cold Maine where life, for lack of a better word, sucked. It was an average of 50 for the month of JUNE and I remember wearing four layers at our camp and shivering next to our mini heater.
  5. My shaved head also didn’t help with the cold weather but helped warmed my aunt’s spirit.
  6. I met some awesome yet stereotypical Maine friends who moved into the house across the street. They epitomize Maine in that she is 24 and he is 26 (now 25 and 27) and they were engaged and spent the entire summer planning their beautiful outdoor wedding.  Now she is pregnant, the way life should be (that’s also Maine’s motto) for people in their mid twenties.
  7. I moved to Boston. no inexpensive food.  No part-time jobs.  No-one to socialize with since everyone has a boy/girlfriend but me.
  8. Dating…sigh.  If teaching fails as a career, I’m looking to take up the cloth and become a monk.  For real.
  9. I’m now that student in grad school who always talks, but in a productive way, in class.
  10. MBTA happened. I think.
  11. Venting is the cheapest and best therapy a teacher can get, and you also need to listen.
  12. I’m still here.

Big Brother #sol16

My older brother, another A, is in town for the week and we caught up tonight over some Korean BBQ.  This evening served as the first time my brother and I have ‘adulted’ together, and it was surprisingly nice.

Four years my senior, my older brother and I managed to be at that right age where we never really collided in a positive light.  We never attended the same schools at the same time, we both exuded drastically different personalities, and we don’t look a thing alike (I have my mother’s face and father’s hair and skin coloring; my brother has my father’s face and mother’s hair and skin coloring.  It’s trippy!)

So when I entered late adolescence (high school), he had already flown to North Carolina for college, leave Maine, his family, and his little brother in the dust.  In his time away, we both developed our independent selves and, in doing so, a wedge formed between us.  I saw it, but I could never tell if he did.  I tried moving it or shrinking it, but the wedge wouldn’t budge.  Instead, it festered over the years and has proven detrimental to our friendship.  I’m sure I contributed to its growth somehow, but it seemed easier to let it be than to try to move it, especially if my brother seemed oblivious to the wedge.

Because I moved to Korea a few weeks after returning home from a summer internship, my brother and I essentially have been unable to be adult siblings.  Tonight literally was the first night where we hung out, just the two of us, since the 8th grade.  We stumbled over thoughts and words and food to share at the dinner table, but it never felt awkward.  That wedge had decreased miraculously.  It’s still there (my brother got me autographed photos of certain cast member from The Walking Dead) but it’s not as protruding.

It was nice having him around and hopefully we’ll be able to hang out more.  I was actually excited being with him whereas before, I dreaded the idea of staying with him alone for more than 20 minutes. And it excites me to know that my relationship with my brother may improve as this wedge dwindles throughout the coming years.

Ab Day #sol16

It was ab day today, and I put the ab in “AB-solutely painful.”  My tormented tummy has tossed all afternoon long.  I’m actually pretty bummed since I was just invited to a potluck but decided to opt out of it since I can’t really sit up straight since my abs ache so much.  It’s funny, because it sounds like I have abs.  I’m sure I do; they’re just hidden.

I began seriously working out this past fall.  I remember getting to Boston and thinking, Damn.  There are some pretty people here, so I should use this ‘down time’ before student teaching to get into shape.  This winter, I averaged almost 10 miles a week on the treadmill along with kettle bell swinging and weightlifting.  Nothing too rigorous – just enough so that I could make my cake and eat it too.

I haven’t always been so ‘athletic.’  I was a chubby child and teenager; my family friends called me a butterball.  I had these big cheeks, a nice round stomach, and man boobs galore.  To top it off, I had a rebellious afro (my parents are barbers, so I refused to let them touch my hair in the 6th grade for almost five months and poof – I had a ‘fro) with three to four black locks dangling over my forehead like jerry curls.  The cherry of this all was my voice; it finally dropped when I entered high school, which meant I sang soprano all throughout middle school while my male peers experimented with tenor and bass voices.  My parents were amazing and I love them for always, but they really could have said something about my look…

I can vividly recall one day looking for back-to-school sneakers for 8th grade at Filenes in my local mall.  My mother had left me to peruse the ties for dad while I searched over the various footwear in front me. I grabbed these blue-and-white-striped Sketchers and tried them on.

“Miss?” I heard.  Knowing it couldn’t have been for me, I returned the Sketchers and tried to be bold with a red and black combo.


The clerk was talking to me.

I looked at him, a thin, white man with as many strands of hair on his head as people of color in the Bangor Mall that day, with a confused yet timid look.  “You know this is the men’s section,” he hinted, with a little emphasis on the ‘men’s.’  “The women’s is over there,” he continued and gestured over to a section where a giant poster of Tyra Banks watched over the shoes.

I nodded, returned the shoes, and relocated under Miss Banks, holding back the tears of humiliation.

So whenever I feel the pain of a workout (like the throbs in my abdomen), I immediately think back to then.   It sucks that I’m likely to be home-bound tonight, but now I’ll have time to cook meals for the week and preview my last MTEL.  That androgynous younger me smiles back, knowing I’m doing him justice and making up for those trying days of puberty.

The Glib Gatsby #sol16

Gatsby failed me once again today.  In high school, when the novel by Fitzgerald first fell into my hands, I only read one page and proceeded to rely on Cliffnotes for the rest of the book.  It was the only book I could not read in my life.  How could a biracial boy from Bangor’s lower middle class relate to these white snobs at all?  Ironically, I’m actually finishing up a unit on Gatsby with my student teaching and am somewhat enjoying this novel…although the ambiguity Fitzgerald imbues in this work aggravates my students and has begun to aggravate me as well.


Well, the novel brought me even more frustration and ire today as I sat down for 255 minutes to take the dreaded English MTEL.  As a student, standardized testing was my Achilles’ heel; I was awful at it then and still embarrassingly struggle with it now.  But, writing has always been my forte.  So, I banked on the two writing questions to carry me through the exam.


Halfway through the test, I felt defeated.  I had no clue what certain literary devices became prominent in what time periods, or why certain authors used various structures to convey themes, or what the hell the Great Vowel Case was (apparently this was a thing?!)  To brighten my spirit, I fast-forwarded to a section I’d know I kill: writing.  Since we have just finished Gatsby in my class, I figured I’d use this as my novel for the open-ended question.  Gatsby would be perfect, just like he always longed to be; the novel has murder, mystery, ambiguity, intrigue, history, unreliable narration, great characters, plot, dreams, American ideals, etc.


But there is ONE theme that Gatsby does not have, and this theme was what I needed to write on.  Of course. (I can’t say thanks to MTEL confidentiality)


So curse you Gatsby!  I finally opened my heart and mind and arms to you and you manage to bring me no success, no happiness, nothing.  I managed to whip up some essay about a novel I read 13 years ago, so hopefully I pass.


But in that moment, I felt an eerie similarity with Jay Gatsby.  All my life I had wanted to be a teacher.  I tried my hand at medicine, law, history, and many more, but always found myself back at education.  Hell, I went to one of the best schools in the nation even though it didn’t have an education major or any relevant education-aimed courses yet I could never shake my passion for teaching.


What scares me though is that I’ll end up like Gatsby and completely miss the obvious signs whacking me over the head trying to turn me around.  It seems that these signs have popped up everywhere for me in the last week, culminating with my deplorable performance on this exam (I honestly don’t see how knowing or not knowing what the Great Vowel Case is makes me a prepared teacher.  Seriously.)  It feels as though life doesn’t want to me to go into education.


Now, I don’t want this to bring about claims of, “But you’ll be fine! I’m sure you did well!  Don’t listen to people, believe in yourself” chicken soup for the soul kind of things (I appreciate them!  I really do) but this week has been so tough and hurtful that I don’t know if I can jump on board this optimistic band wagon.  I’ve found unbelievable support from new friends that I could never have imagined, but this exam drained me of everything and has called into question my profession.


I’m sure it doesn’t help that today was “Match Day” for many of my pre-med friends who inundated my Facebook wall with their new placements (Yale, Harvard, Brown, Cornell, Penn, UCLA, etc.)  I’m happy for them, but I also envy them.  I know I can’t teach for 40 years because I epitomize the commitment-phobe; but looking at these friends who have let their passion for their job literally lead them around the world, uprooting themselves from place to place to work makes me jealous.  Jealous, jealous, jealous.  And here I am, diving into debt, trying to be a teacher, struggling to sign all the paperwork (on time), striving to learn from the best…and all I felt at the end of this exam was disbelief in myself, questioning my motives and dreams, and longing for the simplicity of life in Korea.


Overall, I’m fine.  It just frustrates me how many loops I have to jump through to achieve this next step in my life.  I never thought or said it would be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this tough (Coldplay’s good for something!).  And to think that these dream to teach, which has kept me going through so much (especially in these last 7 days), could float away because Gatsby failed me (or because of that F%#!*^& Great Vowel Case).

Running #sol16

Today I bought a Dunkin Donuts coffee after work to help keep me awake while I continued studying.  Come 6pm, I was jittery and antsy, yearning to leap from my desk and out my window to go running in this premature warmth.  So, I dusted off my sneakers and shorts and gym shirt and headed for a run.


I found myself gliding down Comm Ave and running towards my gym.  The sky was a mix of grays, blues, and oranges as the sun fell down behind me.  The sharp, brilliant blue sky contrasted with the old brownstones standing guard on the street as I walked into FitRec, BU’s massive gym.


I headed for the kettle bell – my new favorite toy – to do some work on my arms and sides (I’m not a fitness person so I literally have no idea what muscles are your sides).  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought a mini workout at 6:45 was a good idea.  Multiple men (who clearly shop at Baby Gap given how tight their tanks, shorts, and leggings were) had decided to lift weights as well.  Since I’ve been dealing with studying and the new stress at work, my fitness schedule has been unusual, resulting in an out-of-shape me.  So, my confidence wasn’t too high as I saw many mini Chuck Norris’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s grunt and moan as they wrapped their fists around the metal dumbbells.


I lugged my red kettle ball to the corner and did 6 reps.  Upon the 6th rep, I felt something pull in my upper back leg.  I figured this was good enough and decided to leave Adonis Island.  The B train would serve as my ride home since walking hurt.


Of course, when I left the gym, the B line train had just gone past me, and the next one was due in 14 minutes.  Wanting to get back to studying, I thought it intelligent of me to chase after the T.


I never caught up.


Well, at least I got two mini runs in and some kettle bell swinging in as well!  All of that bottled up energy spilled over onto the streets as I ran home.  Now I must master these literary eras before my test in 12 hours.  Happy St. Patrick’s!

Daylights Savings #sol16

Tonight is a night of gluttony.  White Zinfandel is in the glass, ANTM is streaming on Hulu, and Nutella is waiting to be devoured.  I’m exhausted and with this upcoming exam (and not-so-pleasant work week), I feel it’s necessary for me to take the night off.  I studied a lot yesterday and some today, but my brain is mush.  And I blame daylights savings.

Firstly, it sounds like a bank.  It essentially is, since it robs you of an hour once a year.  I depend on that hour and clearly struggle adjusting to this.  Additionally, the last three Marches I have spent in Korea where we don’t partake in this sadistic ritual. So I think, without this habit, suddenly losing an hour of my sleep has thrown a real monkey wrench into my daily functioning.  I can’t seem to fall asleep before midnight, which is just crushing my performance.  End rant.

As a full time teacher in America, I knew that there would be multiple challenges, but the ones I’m currently facing feel from way out in left field (especially this sleep issue).  So, I am hoping that with a good night’s rest, I’ll be ready and rejuvenated for tomorrow.  But mad props to all you teachers out there that have mastered a normal, functioning sleep pattern.