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Big Cleaning Day

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Goal Setting

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

I’ve gotten into the habit of finding inspirational videos online and listening to them as I work out in the morning. This was something that I started doing when I first began teaching in Memphis, TN and has become an important part of how I choose to try and always begin my day – with words to sustain me. Voices of people such as Les Brown, Wayne Dyer, and Tony Robbins ring in my head as I wake myself up with exercise after exercise. My routine these days usually consists of around 300 pushups, 200 sit-ups, 100 squats, 100 calf raises, planks, handstands, twists, stretches, and curls with an old deflated bike tube. Back when I had more space and the ability to turn my speakers up a bit louder, I’d play some beats and get a small session in. Dancing though has not been a priority of late. Instead, my mind has been filled with lesson plans, strategies, and materials for use in the foreign language classroom …

And so these are the things that are running through my head day and night.

What am I going to be doing tomorrow during assembly? How can I make this lesson more effective? Who is going to be doing the teaching? Where do I see this activity working best? When can I implement this new idea I’ve been working on? Why aren’t things going as planned?

5:30 has become 4:30 which is slowly becoming 4:00. Slowly but steadily, my morning hours of mental preparation are increasing. This was the case during my years in LANCE as well. I had gotten into the habit of setting my alarm for 4:15 because I knew that I’d snooze until around 4:35 and be up by 4:45. By no means am I a morning person. To say so would be as far from the truth as a person could get. It is a struggle waking up. Always has been and I’m guessing that it always will be. Sure I know my dad is a morning person. He gets up at 4 am every day and has done so for years. Yes, I am his son, but no, I did not inherit those genes, I am not a morning person. I’ve only just molded myself into the image of one by sheer force.

Arreegh! The alarm already? I swear I just closed my eyes. How is this even possible? 

After working out, I usually go through my emails, take a dump, get some water boiling for coffee, and hop into my little water closet for a bath. Since I do laundry by hand, I try and do a little load then and there, scrub the floor around my squat toilet with bleach, open my front door and back door for circulation, and sweep. Breakfast consists pretty regularly of muesli soaked in soy milk, bread with either canned fish or peanut butter, and black coffee with honey. When I’m finished eating, I go into the back to wash my dishes, and sit down for a bit with my coffee to read and think through my lessons for the day. Sometimes, I act or sing them out (after I’ve closed my doors of course). By that time, I can start to hear the footsteps and chattering of students outside since I literally live right at the entrance to the school.

Mornings have become my most consistently productive time of day.

Odd as it may seem, there are some nights that I go to bed in anticipation of the things I will be getting done when I wake. Feelings definitely do change as dark turns to light, but overall, there is a sense of accomplishment even just with the rolling out of bed part. Only problem is that as the day progresses, the clear-cut vision I had for it starts to become cloudier and less perspicuous. I begin to chase things that are not there and avoiding that which is right in front of me. What I want and how I am going to get it becomes more of an unintelligible nightmare, when it should be a lucid dream. Thus, I have decided to write things out …

What do I really, truly want and why?

  1. I want to be a good, effective teacher.
  2. I want to have healthy, happy relationships.
  3. I want to be able to express myself uniquely.

I want these things because I feel like they are what make my life meaningful.

How are you going to achieve these things?

For starters, by reading this post every day and thinking about these three goals I have. Never before have I taken the time to write out what I want and I feel like this is as good a place as any to embark upon a journey in search of how I can make my days match that of a person in pursuit of something specific rather than running away from vague generalities.

Being at peace with the process knowing that there is a worthwhile destination in mind.

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Turning 26

Part of me wants to believe that I’m really not. Mainly, because that same part of me so vividly remembers looking up to seventh and eighth graders in school at the cafeteria during lunch thinking about how old they seemed. Here I am now, twice that age and still feeling like I’m looking up …

It’s crazy to think about how much life I’ve already lived. Sure, it hasn’t been all that much, but to me, it feels like more than I can handle in a moment. Me. Here. Alone. Lying comfortably on my side, staring at the wall, replaying scenes from the distant and not-so-distant past. The little things, the big, and all the in-betweens. Coming together to make the person here today. Right now. In Thailand. Fighting off a sore throat I’m pretty sure I got from biking too much without drinking water. Taking a day to rehydrate and rethink. My life and everything in it. And all the memories that I’ve left out to dry for too long. People have helped to form the greatest parts of me. Friends, family, strangers. Funny thing about Facebook is that despite all the time it sucks out of your life, it somehow always manages to give a portion of it back on your birthday. In the form of small messages. Reminders of previously walked lives. Pictures that have stood the test of time. Comments you never saw coming. I have been so blessed to be a part of many timelines, my own has become an incomplete reflection of self. They contain memories of all the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met along the way. Memories that allow my story to hold water. Memories that give my life a sense of meaning and purpose. Because without memory, I’d be like a bucket full of holes, worthless without anything to draw upon and share. So thank you one and all for everything you’ve contributed to my life. Thank you for being there and for not being there. Thank you for coloring my life so vividly and creating the person here writing this post today. You are loved and greatly appreciated …

So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.

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Rainy Days

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.

I’m on Khao San Road looking for something to eat when I notice the dark clouds gathering overhead. It has gotten to a point where I can almost feel the rain coming in my gut. Ten minutes, five minutes, two minutes away now. People continue strolling between the stalls as if nothing is amiss, ambling about through the humid haze of hot food, clothes, and sewage. Somewhat dizzy from the smoke and colorful array of stimuli, I stumble through the crowd onto the main road where a tuk-tuk seems to be parked at the ready, waiting. Not for me, but for a white family with kids that are standing nearby. Since they do not seem at all interested in riding, I hop on and give the driver the name of my hotel. He nods vaguely in acknowledgement and off we go on our way. In a direction only heaven knows.

Less than a minute later, the sky lets loose its wet barrage.

Bullets of water hail down from all around, occasionally ricocheting and hitting my legs and backpack tucked snugly away under the roof of the tiny moving vehicle.

I can’t help but think at times about how lonely it can be to be human. Lost in thought within a sea of other thinking thoughts. Traversing the universe as a soul, unique and special in every way, and yet feeling somewhat separate because of that remarkable distinction. We are the only ones of our kind moving about on coordinates that seem to match and then diverge from those of people around us. It can be frustratingly awful trying to forge a new path ahead when there are already so many freshly pressed ones lining the peripheries of our vision, weaving about in zigzags and crosses. Reminiscent of the lines, clusters, and hurried hubbub of Siam and the weekend Chatuchak Market near Mochit.  

Webs of densely packed vendor stalls that seem to vibrate upon approach.

Notifying the owner of an item you’ve been eyeing about your activated interest so that from out of nowhere a body and a voice approaches, as though in predation.

Our first instinct is to run away, avoid making contact, or at least mine is. There is a fear I think, of being taken advantage of … Of somehow being coerced into paying more than you should for something that you don’t want. The same pattern exists around street beggars and newly made acquaintances. We navigate in arcs because we know too well the cost of connection. There is always a price to be paid for closeness. A sense of responsibility. We become a part of every person we come into contact with, and over time it whittles away at our energy. My greatest challenge is finding the strength to push past the initial effort required to open up and become vulnerable. To allow myself to become more than just an interested bystander and taking some risks I would otherwise talk myself out of doing.

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Growing Pains

I’ve come to the realization that letting go hurts more than anything else in the world.

For some reason, we can’t help but cling to the images we create of ourselves for dear life. Those external floating projections that have come to define who it is that we think we are based on past experiences and feeling. What we have accomplished and failed to accomplish stick to our skin like hot wax and form a new layer from which we hope the outside world can learn to see us, all the while hoping and praying that who we are on the inside counts for something more. It’s a masochistic process, trying so hard to be liked, and yet we celebrate the colorful wrappings of a life in the spotlight, being praised for our talent, beauty, and intelligence. Afraid that we will be cast aside into the dark if we do not conform to the needs of the crowd. Playing to an invisible audience that desires nothing short of perfection, and so we rehearse. We practice and practice and practice until we can make it right. All the while losing a bit of ourselves with every time. Editing away the pieces of ourselves that have been deemed undesirable. Forgetting the feel of our own skin in favor of the hardened shell we have chosen to mask our ever receding bodies in.