The spontaneity of “next”

I love the thrill of finding out new things. My students used to think I was crazy when I’d start the day with some random fact or news article or used the first 15 minutes of class to have them find something and we’d all share new ideas/theories, etc.

For the past few hours I have had my favorite custom Pandora station playing in the background. I have been a Pandora nerd for a long time. Even since joining Starbucks last year, and taking full advantage of my free Spotify perks, I have kept up the use of my Pandora account. For the past four years I have been perfecting the mix that’s on my favorite station. Some days I find a lot new songs I enjoy. Every once in a while I come across a tune I can’t stand.

Here’s the thing: I love the thrill of waiting to find out what’s coming next. Pandora does this cool thing in telling you WHY a song is playing, specifically, why it was CHOSEN for me. (See yellow box below.)

PANDORA

I can read the information provided to me and go look up those terms. I can see the specific elements of music and why I like those elements. I have another channel devoted to bluegrass. I have done some research regarding learning to play the mandolin, and Pandora has given me some clues as to the elements of the bluegrass tunes I like. I’ve used those to find videos of lessons and certain artists performing those styles. #NerdAlert

Technology is changing the world. The rate of this change is magnificent. Considering how fast the world moves, I mean, how infinitely big it is, this tool could be used for so many things, more than I could list. I’m excited to see how I can apply this kind of research to my other interests and to future use in the work world, whether in a classroom, a library, or in the world of coffee.

Coming next: Something new to learn. Maybe it’s a song I love. A technique I find confusing. A style that I’ve never heard of. That’s the thrill. And it’s amazing!

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The waiting game

waiting I believe we are all impatient. I once heard it said that we’re not human if we’re not impatient. It’s part of the anxiety that comes with living. Some people are better at hiding their insecurities and putting on a good face while they wait.

I’m currently waiting. I’m waiting for a lot of things, but one thing in particular I have been waiting almost a week on. I knew in the beginning that the answer to this question, to this query, this result would take time.

In the time I have been waiting, I have done a lot of soul searching and put myself through a hell of an experience. I say that I put myself through the experience, because in reality, I’m controlling how I react, even though it doesn’t feel like I am.

It’s a game the mind plays with the soul and the heart of any person stuck waiting. My anxiety tells me to worry and be scared and let this wait consume me. I feel like it’s all that I must focus on and think about. It’s a career thing, this thing I’m waiting on. It’s not the be all and end all if it doesn’t turn out how I’d like it to turn out. The thing is, I have an expectation that this waiting, this fear, this anxiety has me focused on that is hard to erase from my mind.

The facts are that first, I will be fine no matter what the result, and second, I am not losing my entire opportunity for this career if it doesn’t work out. My mind wants me to think otherwise. To feel pained. To fail and keep waiting.

It’s chaotic in my mind when this kind of thing happens, but it’s not the end. It gets better because I can step outside of the waiting and the fear and the feelings that overwhelm me. Just writing all of this, in this moment, makes me feel more relaxed. I’m discovering more about the situation by reflecting on it in this way. (Hey, that was my goal in teaching writing in schools.)

The truth is, we are all always waiting. Waiting can be an impatient process and can drive us to deep levels of madness. I’m learning a lot about myself in this process. I can be impatient, but I’m getting better. I’m trying not to let one thing consume my thoughts and along the way perhaps I’ll become more mindful of how much I matter, and the fact that so many people and places and ideas matter to me, too.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that we should all “adopt the pace of nature” because “her secret is patience.” I look at the birds, the trees, the animals — in general, they’re calm and they are not driven by a 24/7 force that we all face. Even in Emerson’s time, humans moved at what they considered a busy pace. Imagine what Emerson would think of today’s world.

The waiting seems difficult but I know it will change. It will be better, no matter the outcome. Reflect, seek patience, and have hope. That’s what I’m telling myself right now. No matter what.

Alicia’s Dreams

  • This is a new short story I began writing this weekend.
  • Title under development.
  • Outcome to be determined.
  • Be kind. Comments and constructive criticisms welcome.

Alicia suddenly woke up at the stroke of midnight. She’d come home from work earlier in the evening, groggy and feeling crummy. Crummy had been her word of choice because she wanted to be a kid again in the moment she crawled under the bed sheets. Whispers of lavender from the detergent teased her nose as she nuzzled up to the pillow. Immediately she knew she’d sleep soundly. Never had she thought she’d be wide awake a mere four hours later.

Her job had become all the more stressful and the pain from losing her best friend was gripping tightly at her heart the past month. Dena had been more than a best friend, almost a sister and at the same time a motherly figure. Alicia’s relationship with her own mother was strained because she’d left home at 18 for a high-school sweetheart and left her mom alone, and she blamed herself. From that point, the relationship was based on a once-a-month phone call and visits at Christmas.

Dena passed suddenly two Mondays before. Dena was a bakery manager at a local grocery. Alicia had met her on the bus home from work soon after moving into the city. Dena was reading a Dean Koontz novel, and Alicia remarked how Koontz was her favorite author. They struck up a quick friendship from that point forward. Six years later, Alicia felt alone again, missing her friend and now caring for Dena’s cat, too.

Dena just dropped to the floor in the bakery after closing an oven door and setting a timer. Her coworkers immediately phoned for help and attempted CPR, but it was as if she had instantly slipped away. Alicia had plans that night to grab a drink with Dena after work. They were going to meet outside the grocery bus stop and head to The Dove, a local dive-bar about two miles south of the grocery on Highway 32.

Alicia left the offices of the publishing company she worked for and took the bus straight to the store. She found it funny to arrive almost ten minutes later than she’d planned and not see Dena sitting on the bench waiting for her. Alicia had texted Dena twice during the day but not received a reply. It was common for Dena to wait to reply until after work, frequently turning off her phone.

Ten more minutes passed and Alicia finally entered the store and saw Brint, a floral delivery driver standing at the bakery counter with some other store employees. Brint was friends with Dena and had joined the girls for drinks in the past. Brint spun around making eye contact with Alicia and it struck Alicia that something was wrong. Brint’s usually cheery manner was replaced by a look of complete sadness. To this day, she hasn’t forgotten the look.

In the next five minutes of conversation, she felt like her entire world had ended. Brint sat her down in the small cafe at the front of the store and told her everything he knew. He apologized for not calling her. He’d had to continue working and thought maybe that Dena’s sister or parents would have notified Alicia. An uneasy stillness overcame Alicia and she wouldn’t let go of Brint. They stayed close the next two days until the funeral. Alicia called in sick to work for the remainder of the week and Brint invited her to crash on his sofa. He lived with his brother in a duplex just a block from the grocery. She was scared to be alone.

…To be continued…

Back to school – but not school

I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Let me try to explain. I emphasize TRY.

I dearly miss school. I miss feeling like I’m constantly learning things and getting to know more about a variety of things. I have this innate curiosity about me that drove me to become a teacher. I taught for two years until the stress of the classroom and politics of teaching drove me away. I didn’t fit the “standard” mold. The problem was that what I did was working and I had results to back it up. That’s another story. That’s passed and I don’t regret leaving.

I moved on and went to work for Starbucks. I’ve been there for a year. Now I’m a shift supervisor and I’m doing this gig full time. I dearly love Starbucks and the mission, vision and values of our company. I can see myself moving up within the company, but what if that’s not all I want to do. There is more to life than one job. I once heard something about my generation having multiple careers – not just multiple jobs – in a lifetime.

I’m exploring my options of going back to school. I keep falling back on the WGU Indiana website. The whole approach to their teaching is appealing to me as it reminds me of what I liked about school and moving at my own pace. Competency-based learning and moving at my own pace is the kind of education I tried to create in my middle school classroom, and I know it would work for me.

I don’t have a great idea of WHAT I would do if I went back and got another degree. Here’s my working thought process:

  • I have a job with Starbucks.
  • I have an English degree.
  • I don’t need a business degree to advance in Starbucks.
  • I want to work on another degree – or at the very least go back to school.
  • I could pursue many other business-oriented jobs with a business degree.
  • I would be expanding my opportunity paths if I went back to school and the courses I take online might give me an idea of other jobs that are interesting to me.

I’m told that I “bloom where I’m planted,” and I really feel that it’s true. Wherever I wind up, I feel like I make it work and I usually walk away having enjoyed the experience more than I believed I ever would.

So, what’s a boy to do?

The weight and wait of and for challenges

Over the last few weeks, I had worked hard to get myself excited for my promotion. More responsibility, more flexibility, new challenges, and an opportunity to lead.

I walked in about 20 minutes before I was scheduled to clock in. Customers were calm and enjoying their beverages and other treats, either in conversation, reading a book or just getting some work accomplished. I pulled up a stool at the community table, which was unusually empty for a midday in the middle of the week.

As I was enjoying my sandwich, I noticed immediately that not all of my scheduled coworkers were present. Some were cut early due to a slow day. I wondered how that would affect my day. It’s too bad I couldn’t foresee what was coming.

I clocked in a few minutes later and my manager immediately informed me that she was cutting herself from the schedule for the rest of the day, and I needed to cut anyone else that I could as well. To make a long story short(er), let me just say I would have if I could have.

About one half-hour later, I was scheduled to lose one employee, and three more one half-hour after that. Business was steadily picking up, and not only could I not cut these employees early, but one of the replacements for the departing three was going to be late, too.

Things happen and I’m not upset with the situation I was presented. I expected this kind of day to be thrown at me eventually. It truly challenges me, just what I was wanting in my promotion. The day tested me, and I was able to cut myself from the schedule ten minutes early before my closing. My co-supervisor was able to cut about an hour, too, by having another go home early in the day.

The day wore me out. Trying to focus on my supervisory and management responsibilities was tough, and the focus on cutting hours of labor made it much more confusing, especially being in a summer promotion period that brings in more afternoon customers.

I left the store that night and decided I wanted to go to McDonald’s for supper. I had a coupon on my phone for a free order of fries when purchasing a sandwich. I pulled up to the drive-thru and placed my order and paid the happy cashier at the first window. Upon arriving at the second window, the young man’s face told me I was going to be waiting. He kindly asked me to pull forward to the space ahead of the pick-up window.

Then I waited. And waited. After almost ten minutes, he brought my food to my car and apologized for my wait. At that point, and being that tired, I didn’t even verify the bag was mine. It could have been filled with socks and I wouldn’t have cared. I mean, I would have missed my food, but sleep ranked higher than food.

I got home 15 minutes later, ate my food, which was fine, and promptly slept for 12 hours.

The anxiety diaries: chapter 2

Missed part one? Read it here.

Gavin opened my eyes and stared up at the ceiling. The moon glow streaked in between the blinds and cast dim light onto his desk and across the comforter and the foot of the bed. In the far corner of the room, near the door, the light gently bounced off a mirror he’d never hung up.

Slowly, he rolled himself over to face the nightstand. The time was glowing on his smartphone screen but he was too groggy to decipher the numerals and make sense of what he saw in the distance. For a few moments he pondered what it would be like to be able to pinch to zoom in real life, to have such zooming powers in his eyes, at his fingertips.

It was still sometime before sunrise, he guessed nearing four o’clock. He stretched, scratched his chin and pushed himself up in the bed. Reaching for his glasses, he bumped his water bottle sending it tumbling to the rug. It landed in a shoe, casually left by the nightstand from his stumble to bed earlier that night. He left the water, and with the clear view from his glasses, grabbed his phone and saw the time clearly.

It was 3:53. Not too bad, he thought, reflecting on his ability to guess the time.

He was still tired but something was eating at him. The stress of so many things — work, school, family — it wasn’t that it scared him, but it was something that he always thought about. He’d forgotten about the bills of late, but they were paid off for the most part. Rent was due soon, and so was the internet bill, but he’d be able to cover them by the time pay day rolled around. Four days until payday. Four long days. Four days of new stresses.

Damn it, he thought. He was doing it again. Putting himself through hell for no reason was getting to be something he was good at. He’d been doing so well lately, especially with a change in his medication. His new therapist was a godsend, mainly because he actually listened to what he said, not just telling him to think about certain things. Gavin felt safer since the change.

One piece of advice his therapist suggested was to get back in the journaling habit, to take some time to write each day and reflect on one good thing and one thing he’d use as a learning moment. Tomorrow, well, today really, would make four days since his appointment. Four days of journaling. Also, it would be five days since his 23rd birthday.

Gavin was determined to make 23 a better year. Last year had been a challenge in terms of overcoming and controlling anxiety issues, as well as adjusting to being himself, to learning to love himself. The first time he’d been into journaling, probably around age 20, he wrote himself letters every few days, letters to encourage himself. He’d challenge himself to read them as he woke up the next day, but they didn’t do much considering he gave up the habit before turning 21.

He decided to start with now. To remind himself of his worth and his determination. To have a goal for later today. It was his day off. Rather than sit around with no goals and do more than just read and attempt some healthy self-care, he wanted to feel and see productivity around him. 304-D needed to be “finished,” to be more like home. The mirror had been sitting in the corner since he moved in, and it was time for it to be put on the wall.

Reaching for his phone again, he saw it was now 4:11. He unlocked the screen and tapped the memo app icon. Opening a new note he wrote:

do something worthwhile. hang up the mirror. clean the bathroom. make the bed. go for a run around the park. read for one hour. mediate for ten minutes. remember to journal. take meds.

Gavin was never good at making a list, but if he wrote everything to look like a paragraph, it made a bit more sense. Tapping the settings icon, he tapped the “remind me” button next and set it for 8:15 a.m. He leaned over and put the phone on the floor so he’d have to reach for the alarm when it reminded him about the memo.

He looked back to his right and the moon glow seeping in. It was peaceful, almost like seeing another world. The lights of the city were masked by the darkness and the moon’s presence gave him hope that it was still time for rest. There was still time to breathe.

Lifting his head slightly and adjusting his pillows he eased himself back into a comfortable position between the sheets. Grabbing the second pillow and pulling it tight into his chest, he lay on his right, closing his eyes as the moon’s peaceful glow illuminated him and he drifted back to a calm slumber.


Thanks for reading part two. Feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Confusion, division and progress

I want to say something meaningful, but I’m having some trouble finding my words. I don’t want to offend, but at the same time, I need to vent. We all face challenges like this. The wrong words at the wrong time drive anxiety and stress to grow, and that’s something (I hope) none of us want.

It’s a confusing time to say the least. The world is observing and reacting to the rule of a new President of the United States, and divisiveness is high. Many people feel left out and scared because of change in policies; others feel like their voices are finally being heard because they feel like no one has spoken for them for a while.

Both sides have a right to speak their minds, but the things being said are quite troubling. The divisiveness is coming from both sides. When someone speaks out and it hurts another person, that’s not right. Let me illustrate some examples of what I feel is making things worse.

A lot of folks on the more conservative side of the political spectrum feel like government is doing or has done too much in the past, especially in terms of laws about marriage, families and healthcare. They might feel that marriage should only be legal between a man and woman, or that adoption is only for married, straight families. Perhaps healthcare insurance should only be an option, not a right and not be a required purchase if not available through an employer.

Those persons on the liberal end of culture are more pro-government, believing that government mandates provide equal protections for all individuals and rights without restrictions. Marriage is open to all individuals regardless of gender or sexual identity. Families can be single- or multi-parent and adopt. Healthcare is a right for all persons. We have lived in a liberal-lead country for the past eight years; younger persons and millennials feel that this is the right direction to go in. The future is for a more liberal-minded thinking.

The more conservative-minded thinking comes from older and more rural individuals. These populations tend to feel neglected by the media or stay less connected to what is happening around the world and the advances of how things evolve. I’m not saying this is true of anyone and everyone in more rural areas, but if when a person is less in-touch with a digital, social culture like the people in more connected and populated areas, they might feel left out. What’s wrong with saying that is part of their own choice, that they could do more to be informed?

As a former teacher, I think we could all use a lesson on cultural awareness, social responsibility and defining and understanding credible sources. One of the hardest things to teach was helping middle and high school students look at a news or reference source and realize whether it was useful, beneficial, or relevant. It takes time, but it’s something everyone should know how to do. It’s not that we need to be taught how to believe, but what to believe, to know the difference between fact and opinion. Everyone should know or realize that there are no alternative facts, that it’s only the newly-minted replacement phrase for opinions.

There are things we all know but neglect to keep and hold as part of our belief systems. If you don’t have something nice to say, you know you should not say it. It’s not that you have to be politically correct, but if you call some retarded, you are going to offend someone else. The r-word is offensive because someone doesn’t choose to be that way, and they can’t easily change something they can’t control. The same goes for calling someone or something gay, for using offensive gender and racial terms, and so on.

We have reached a point in time where we all need to think before we act. It’s not an easy task to be ourselves, stand up for ourselves, and be responsible. We can all work harder each day toward empowering others, smiling, lending a helping hand, and choosing to be positive. We all have a right to speak our minds, but it will be all the better if what we say mends barriers and brings us together rather than divides us further. Granted, sometimes the truth will hurt, but if it isn’t constructive and it’s only for your gain and not to improve others, it’s probably not right.

*I am in the process of refining these thoughts and working diligently to understand thoughts from all people about the issue at hand. I know all people will never agree on all things. The important thing is that we listen, pay attention and work to live meaningful lives.