Woke up early this morning to drive to the unemployment office to verify my identity. Going to the branch 30 miles away to avoid the hectic nature of government offices in my area was totally worth it. Then went to Staples to take advantage of their sale on plastic bins. Came home and cleaned and organized my room for six hours while watching the second half of season one of Battlestar Galactica. Ron Moore, thank you for creating such a wonderful show that gets better every time I watch it.
Two things I’m waiting for: to hear back from the tutoring center I want to work for and the midnight launch of Destiny tonight.
I’m also enjoying the fact that I get to spend more time with my brother and his family due to the extra free time I have right now. I do hope that I find a new place to work for soon. But I’m going to appreciate the season I’m in as much as possible.
I am thankful for social safety nets and for friends and family that I can lean on. I will not take what I have for granted.
A senior at the school I used to work for is still on Battle.net playing Hearthstone. It’s almost 1 AM. For the record, I am unemployed so playing Diablo 3 at this hour is something I’m allowed to do. Who am I kidding? I did that even when I was a teacher. Anyway, before logging off, I was really tempted to lovingly give him a hard time about it, but I decided not to.
Because that, more than anything else, would have made the reality of my status as a former teacher all too real.
Book meme rules:
“10+ books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard—they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you”
Tagged by accosteddarling
(The person who tagged me said I could do this for movies but I will try to stick to books, even though I honestly can’t think of a book I read cover to cover during the past decade. It’s terrible, I know. Most of my choices will seem fairly typical if you grew up going to public school in the US. But I’ll try to share my personal experiences as much as possible. And maybe I’ll do a movie one too later on. Also, this list is chronological for me.)
- All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque. I was just so captivated by this story of German soldiers during World War I. Two scenes that really stand out: the catching and cooking of the goose, and the horses. Oh man, the horses. The movie is great too.
- Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck. Made me fall in love with his writing and the era of American history that he mostly writes about. One of two first edition hardcovers I own. It was first owned by a woman named Betty Dorman in 1937. I wonder if she’s still with us and, if so, what she’s up to. I actually just checked and these things sell for a lot of money. Mine has a slightly bent binding and a few stains on the cover, but the pages are in great shape. But I’d never sell it.
- A Separate Peace - John Knowles. I identified so much with the protagonist, a quiet, academic introvert whose best friend was an athletic extrovert. It mirrored the relationship between my best friend and myself at the time.
- The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger. I guess it’s cliché but this book really opened my eyes to some of the darkness and angst I felt inside of myself as a teenager.
- The Learning Tree - Gordon Parks. I chose to read this book over I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and To Kill a Mockingbird. Though I regret not having experienced these other choices at that age, I was moved by Parks’ semi-autobiographical story of growing up in the South during the early 20th century.
- Les Misérables - Victor Hugo. History, social unrest, geography lessons, religion, politics, love, sacrifice, oppression, redemption. I think it also helped that I had seen the musical in middle school and had been listening to the songs for years before I read the book.
- Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis. It’s strange that this is the only overtly religious book on this list for me. I enjoyed this one so much because I grew up in a very narrow-minded and socially oppressive church and Lewis’ writing was the first to show me that I could find intelligence, humor, practicality, and philosophical musings in the thoughts of someone who shared my faith.
- Running in the Family - Michael Ondaatje. I think it’s appropriate that I don’t remember too many specific moments from this book. As I read it, I felt like I was simultaneously observing a painting being created, eating a wonderful meal, suffering from the humidity of Sri Lanka, and pretty much just falling in and out of a dream state. I felt like I could smell, taste, and touch the story. It was intense.
- Diaries - Franz Kafka. Remember John Doe’s diary from the movie Se7en? Yeah, that’s what it felt like I was reading. Kafka was a very depressed man, and he was extremely descriptive in his diary. I sometimes think of this as a companion piece to The Catcher in the Rye for me because it forced me to confront more darkness. And I learned to be honest about it.
- Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. My favorite book by the woman who was so ahead of her time. This one stands out to me above her other works because the relationship between Elinor and Marianne reminded me of my relationship with my brother. Being the older child, I guess I often felt that I had to put myself aside for the sake of what I perceived to be my duty and obligation to the family. My brother wasn’t as impulsive as Marianne but he definitely wore his heart on his sleeve much more than I did.
- Travels - Michael Crichton. I’ve read every book written by this man, both fiction and non-fiction. While I really enjoyed all of it, this one stands out. The first 100 pages or so deal with his time at medical school before he eventually dropped out just before he was to graduate. Then each short chapter deals with the many trips he’s been on in his lifetime. In each story, he not only summarizes his experience but talks about how he grew as a person. This book started the spark of wanderlust in me, and it validated my compulsion to gauge how my worldview was shifting due to each unique life experience that came my way.
- The End of the Affair - Graham Greene. This book was both easy and difficult to read. The writing is excellent, descriptive, and moves along very well. But man, the content. It’s like a combination of a punch to the solar plexus and a rusty knife being twisted in your back. This book, along with The Catcher in the Rye and Diaries, is my trilogy of awakenings to the more twisted nature of my heart and mind. It’s also the other first edition I own. This one is in much worse shape than Of Mice and Men. But it’s from the original printing in Surrey, so I’ll never try to sell it.
- The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene. This book really lit a fire under me right before I began my career as a teacher. Dr. Greene’s ability to vividly and concisely explain string theory was mind blowing. I read this whole book over a series of evenings while on a ski trip. There was no TV in our cabin so I just read. I don’t remember what my family did. But I was up way into the night, picturing the garden hose analogy of dimensions or this crazy thing called Calabi-Yau manifolds. I had grown up loving science but kind of forgot about it in college. So it was really nice to fall in love with physics again via Dr. Greene’s great teaching style. I wrote him an email a month before I started teaching to tell him that his book had really inspired me to try making education as understandable and fun as he had made my crash course in string theory. He wrote me back saying that he appreciated my message and he wished me luck in my new career.
People I’m tagging are below. Again, just like last time, no pressure. I didn’t follow the instructions. I just spent three hours reliving these books and what they mean to me, so it could end up being a daunting task. The list was easy to create. But I had to sit in those memories for a while.
While I was back at school today I noticed that there had been a lot of construction work done to the courtyard. I couldn’t resist the temptation to post a photo of it while sarcastically exclaiming that they always improve things to a place after you’ve left. I saw this happen year after year when we got new computers or we made improvements to the facilities in general. So, I was tickled to see so many alumni enjoying my attempt at lovingly mocking something most of them have done at some point in the past. And it was a nice reminder of the 11 years I had of building relationships with teenagers while face to face and through social media. Though new relationships will not be forged, I’m happy that the many that already exist will continue for a long time.