Their Baggage, Our Burden, My Privilege

Today was one of those days--one of those days where right now has been made most necessary. To be clear, "right now" means Friday night, 5:30pm, me in a tank tank top and underwear, surrounded by not one, not two, but count 'em six pillows, a million thread count quilt and duvet, a water bottle, and potato chips. Sara Bareilles is rocking a cheesy love song, getting my emotions going and flowing like it's 2010 and all that 2010 was for little ol' me.

Today was one of those days where I cried at school not once, not twice, but count 'em three times.

8:29am. A student came at me, emotions blazing:"Why the f--- did you do [this and that and this and that] and I'm tired of you f---ing [this and that and this and that]". Nothing I did or said got him to calm down. I sent him to the office.

Time to start class.

Then, yet another student comes at me with a slightly different flavor of really the exact same thing--

Me: You can't wear those red shoelaces here. Him: "Man, I'm tired of all you teachers on my back. You gonna snitch on me? Go ahead. I might as well go home right now if you're going to send me to the office. blah blah blah blah" (it honestly becomes hard to hear/remember what's being yelled at you when you're being yelled at).

...aaaaanddd it's 8:30. I had just sent a student to the office, straggling students were milling about the hallway, and admin had their hands full because, well, they always do. I had nowhere to send this student and was at a loss with how to resolve the situation.

So I sat down next to him.

Unsure of what to do next, he sat, got his work and carefully wrote his name, the date, and period at the top of his paper. He stared at the directions at the top of his paper, as though trying to feign that he's ready to get to work and that he doesn't actually want to get sent to the office or go home. I could tell that his heart was racing, tears were behind his eyes, and that the gears in his mind were grinding fiercely.

I reflected on my misstep. This is not the first time I've had to discipline him for something (phone use, being off-task, wearing red, foul language...), but I've always disciplined him (and other students) in a consistent way: "[Name], I love you. I respect you. I feel disrespected when you.../Please don't.../Please help me out by...". Today, instead of saying good morning to him, with the first angry student hardly out the door, I greeted him with "you know you can't wear those shoes here, I keep on telling you again and again, why are you wearing them." Period. No question mark.

I sat with him in silence for a moment. Other students all around us awkwardly tried to figure out what to do with themselves while he and I worked our confrontation out.

And, well, tears began to fall. On my part.

"You know you're the second student to come at me like that today? The second. And it's barely 8:30." I told him. "The second one?" he asked in disbelief. "Yup."

Then he opened up.

"I'm sorry I came at you like that. It's because I came in already mad from fighting with my parents. I fight with my parents every morning. Every single morning. They argue with me saying that I'm always at this and that party, but I never am. All I do is work. I go to school, go to work, go home and sleep. And all they do is yell at me, saying I'm out, up to no good with my friends. But I'm not like that. Oh well, I'm going to move out soon anyway, so I try not to worry about that. But that's why I yelled at you, because I wasn't in a good place. I'm apologize. I shouldn't have done that." He started to cry, too.

I accepted his apology. I told him that I'm sorry that he's having issues with his parents and I reflected back to him about the time that I met with he and his mom, how I could tell that she cares about him very much and I could tell that he respects and cares a lot about what his mom thinks of him. We then switched gears and talked about the school dress code. We talked about why the school has a dress policy about colors, what the school has done to address dress code violations, and what the school could do better. I didn't end up sending him to the office. I dropped the shoelace issue. I recommended to him to talk to our administration including himself and perhaps other students to the table to discuss dress code, gang affiliation, and colors.

Later in the day, I saw that he had taken off his shoelaces on his own accord.

9:05. Students shuffled about as A block turned to B block. Many students in my class celebrated as, one by one, they saw their graded tests from the day before. I walked over to each student, one by one, to praise them for their hard work, regardless of their score on the test. I gave many handshakes, hugs, and high fives. I talked with every single students individually about every single mistake they made on their test. I encouraged and pushed students who felt motivated to try their test again to re-take their test--regardless of if they failed the test or received a 75% or even 89%. I welcomed back students who showed up that day after chronic absences.

Class ended and I continued meeting with students about their personal issues, pushing into their C block time and my prep period time. Why haven't you been coming to school? What support are you looking for that you feel you are not getting? Can you change your work shift so that you're not getting home at 2am? What are your next steps? I will be here for you every day before school at 8am for you to catch up, if that's what you need. You can do it. But you have to do it.

Not 5 minutes later, as I'm clearing away my Math materials, straightening up my shared classroom, planning, typing up, and printing out my lesson and Chemistry worksheets for my next class, a familiar face walked by. A former student of mine! I hadn't seen him since he dropped out of school 2 years ago.

The next 30 minutes was a whirlwind of nostalgia and catching up. Remember that basketball court you fundraised for the school? he asks. Man, being out there, playing basketball, saved me. I sent a silent prayer of thanks to Brian, my sister, and my parents for chipping in to buy my school that basketball hoop. He went on to reminisce about every teacher, what made them special to him, and how life-changing so many little moments at our school was for him. I reminded him about our Geometry tutoring days and told him about how impressed I was by how good a math student he was. I told him about how I remembered what a poetic soul he had; how in my health class, while other students wrote one-worded, superficial journal entries, he thoughtfully wrote pages and pages about his feelings, his poetry, his thoughts, and whatever he was going through at the time. He smiled remembering these moments. I was going through so much at the time, he said. But this school was there for me. He wants to go back to school and get his GED. He wants to turn his life around and do something with his life. Not for money, he assures me, although I guess money is important to some people. I just want to do something interesting or important. We exchanged information and I promise to help him sign up for adult school.

10:25am. I run to the copy room to grab my copies and to my next shared classroom to start my next class.

10:30am. I put one of the older students in charge after briefing him on the lesson for the day. I leave him with my D block (with a supervising adult, of course) so that I could go resolve my confrontation with my first student.

I went to the office to speak with that first student. With a couple of hours to cool off, he was like a completely different person. He apologized (many times) for cursing me out and expressed how he'd handle his frustration in the future if anything like that ever came up again. Then there was a turning point--the flood gates cracked and out leaked one heartbreaking issue after the next about things he's dealing with at home and outside of school. He was tense, and hurting, and angry, and frustrated, and physically holding back from crying--literally pressing his hands into his eyes as though he could lock away every emotion and tear.

A silent tear rolled down my cheek.

This seemed to be the permission he was waiting for. His own tears started to fall. He didn't say anything else from there--the guidance counselor took over from there, saying soothing words about it being OK to feel frustrated, angry, upset, and lonely. She addressed the hurt and stress that he brought up; she reminded him of the growth we've seen in him in the past years and how much we believe in him as a student and as a person.

10:35. I returned to my class, thank the staff member and student leader for covering for me, and continued teaching the lesson.

And then my class is interrupted by a student who's wandered from his own class [again]. He popped his head in my class, disrupting the lesson, throwing up gang signs, greeting his friends, ignoring my requests to please leave, approaching me to greet me with a smile and a hug (though you wouldn't be able to tell by his annoying disruptions, he often joyfully greets me in the hallways and tells me he loves me as a teacher... I'm not even one of his teachers!). I chased him down, sent him to the office, and scolded him for disrupting my class [again].

The next few hours was a blur of students texting me asking for help for something or asking about their grade or telling me why they're absent that day, students asking for help with their work, seniors and former students of mine (politely) interrupting my class to ask to borrow calculators (not one senior, not two, but seven!) to use on their ACTs tomorrow, me scolding students for being on their phones when they should be doing work, or halfway trying to chase down students as they run out of my class in tears about who-knows-what...

1:15. The school day has ended, but they day's not ended yet. A senior and former student of mine dropped by to tell me that he's applying to Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford (!!!). Another senior and former student of mind dropped by to tell me he received his first college acceptance letter and that my class was his favorite class. Two more students stopped by to practice speaking Japanese with me and to show off manga artwork they're working on.

1:30. Staff meeting about trauma-informed care, vicarious trauma, and self-care. I awkwardly try to scarfed down my lunch while I somehow also cry more (as I now know to be) vicarious tears. I remembered a student who is chronically absent from my class but asks to talk to me after school every single day to chat about her issues or to catch up with the work she's missed. Nearly every morning, I text her to wake up and to come to school, promising to buy her breakfast if she gets to school on time. Nearly every day that she does come, I welcome her with a hug and a It's so great to see you. I'm so happy you're here. Emphasis, though, on nearly every day. One time, on a day that she came for two days in a row (a first-time streak!), I greeted her with what seemed to her as a neutral "good morning". Why aren't you as happy to see me today, April? she asked.

I thought back to the Thank You notes I received from students less than a month ago for Thanksgiving. I am thankful for April because she's always happy to see me (from a different student). I am thankful for April because she's always checking up on me (a note in response to, I'm guessing, my texting him the night before for not showing up to school for Portfolio Night). I am thankful for April because she is nice and she helps me.

3:30. I went to the bathroom. I peed. I had been holding that since 10am.

4:45. Quiet classroom, quiet school. I use the silence as a time to catch up on grading, lesson plan, print next week's lessons, call, text, and email parents, meet with admin, clean one shared classroom and then the other. I pack up my work and load the car; work to be finished at home over the weekend.

- - -

Today is just another day of many like these. I once likened classroom teaching to a circus, with the teacher as the ringleader, juggling many acts at once, teaching while managing while helping while responding while entertaining while disciplining.

I now know more about teaching than I knew then. I've learned about the prep and behind-the-scenes work. I continue to learn about the lives of our youth, the gifts that they bring, and the baggage they carry. I now know more about the impact that our school has on our youth on a daily basis and beyond graduation. I no longer think of a classroom teacher as a ringleader, but I don't know what to equate this job to.

For now, it's 6:30 and I'm still in bed. I've switched the music to instrumental jazz to help my words flow without Sara Bareilles' crooning interruptions. My emotional constipation has transformed to a tightness in my arms, my legs, and my back... emotional transference at its best.

I love my students. I love my job. I love my growth as a teacher. I love my job despite of and because of crazy days like today and all others because, as my former student said today, I get to do something that is interesting and important.


Btw, PSA: (In response to a conversation I had last weekend with a total stranger) If you're a non-teacher talking to a teacher about their job, please, please, please don't ever say to them "it may be hard, but at least you get to go home at, what, 2:30? 3:30?"

I know a lot of teachers and not a single one of them only works from 8:30 to 3:30. In those seven hours, I'm allotted one hour as my "prep"; the remaining six hours, I'm teaching. Between counseling and tutoring students, preparing and breaking down two different classrooms for not one, not two, but count 'em three different preps, I don't even have time to pee when I want or sit down and have lunch, let alone lesson plan, make copies, grade assignments, meet with/call/email/text parents with my one hour of prep.

No, we don't go home at 3:30.


Treat Yo'self 2016

Personal day (staff work day, and I got all my work done ahead of time. Woot.).

Surprised myself by managing to not go completely off the high board when alone with my thoughts.

It was a dreary day, but I enjoyed the coziness factor. Put on a full face of makeup for funsies, took silly selfies because it makes me feel pretty, watched some junk TV (home reno shows and sci-fi), read a good book, journaled, worked on some art AND music AND poetry (my creative tap is officially tapped out for a while), went for a rainy day walk around the lake, got a slice of pizza and a cup of hot soup, and then spent a glorious, full two hours at a bookstore... and only bought one book! Go me.


gracious selfies

I've been sucked into the vortex of performing as teacher-me for the past several weeks (3 months, including summer work time). Today was my very, very first day being only-me with only me since summer ended, and I'm surprised at who me is/still is/has become. In typical overdrive-April fashion, I started my day off with a long list of to-dos--some chores, some panicky "take advantage of the day, don't waste it, have ALL the fun, do ALL the work, learn ALL the things" tasks, but then laziness properly hit and for once, I didn't beat myself up with guilt for not completing the impossible to-do list. I metaphorically plopped down, lotus position, after 8 weeks straight of standing (minus 2 days of being knocked out with the flu), first relieved, then kind of bored, then somewhat sore from lack of movement, and finally relaxed and meditated/calmed-TFO.

Good day and now, night. I've listened to hours and hours of podcasts and sultry female vocal singer/songwriter and jazz songs. Time to stick my nose in another good book (my millionth Jhumpa Lahiri book in the past couple years... Can't recommend her enough.).

Til next time, friends.


Sick day and reflections

Day 2 of congestion, sore throat, fatigue, soreness, and frequent trips to the bathroom. And guilt for throwing my students and whoever their sub is together and essentially saying "here's a worksheet and/or finding something to busy yourselves. be good. see you when i get back."

I've been MIA from my blog because it's been an excellent year so far. I blog when times are rough (and on my birthday), and right now, times are golden. I've been met with so many cheerful students, happy to see me return after the summer. I miss students who graduated and transferred. I have better relationships with students who drove me crazy last year.

I often work 10-12 hour days (still) and 4+ hour weekends (still), but my work days are less emotional and less stressful than years past. Now, come 3:30, I'm ready to continue tutoring/grading/planning/have meetings/call home/attend college fairs with students, and all the things that teachers have to do after the last bell (and often before the first bell).

Oddly enough, I tell myself that I'm prepared enough to go home at an earlier time, and yet I don't. I continue to work, to hone, to try to get just a little bit more done to get a little bit more ahead or to tighten up my lesson plan that a smidgen more. Last year, my friends and coworkers' main concern for me was my well-being; they reminded me to go home at a decent hour, they took me on hikes or for drinks after school, we went out of town for long weekends... This year, it's a new staff and I'm left to take care of myself. As a result... I don't. I work and work and work.

Even the smallest of gratifications from students feeds me. It's addictive. I like hearing from them that they feel cared for in my class, that they're being challenged, that the class is organized, or that they're learning something. This gratification pushes me to work and work and work--be it through impromptu office hours, texts with students asking for help on the homework, or putting together lab activities for the chemistry classes.

This is my first year without a coach to work as closely with me as in the years past. I feel like I'm on an island with only myself and my students. I wish another adult would tell me what I'm doing right, where I need to improve, and give me ideas I hadn't even thought of yet. It's lonely out here.

On the upside, I try to connect with newer teachers and help them in ways that I was helped. Of all the teachers at my school, myself and one other teacher are the most "veteran" with this being our 3rd year as a classroom teacher. Redonks. That's urban ed for you.

More later, time for dinner.


Birthday Post: One Score and Eight Years

Nordic chieftain marrying A&B at the shore of a glacier lagoon. PC: Kendra Ednacot 

Another day, another summer, and oh! ...another birthday.

Last year, I spent my birthday mourning over youth lost; now, a year later, I'm blessed enough to count another birthday.

This year, I embark on a new stage in my life: "old enough to appreciate more, to know better, to try more, to do less". I'm more settled without being settled down.

In celebrating my 24th, 25th, and 26th birthdays, my fate felt like a blank slate. I was enthralled by the possibility of what lay in my life ahead of me, yet impatient because I felt like I hadn't done anything yet. I wandered, I dabbled, I observed, I experimented. Now, my wonder is curbed (though the ember still glows) and I have a bit more focus and direction--or at the very least, a few dream destinations. As a bonus, at 28, I'm met with a new feeling of contentment. I'm proud of the path I've carved in recent years. Counting back birthdays: one year ago, I trekked across the diverse landscapes of Peru; two years ago, I danced along the shore of the Sea of Japan, wore a jinbei and drank green tea in a ryokan in Niigata; three years ago, I traipsed bamboo forests and biked winding trails in Kyoto; four years ago, I tiptoed amongst towering golden palaces in Bangkok; five years ago, I danced the night (and early morning) away, mojito in hand, on the shores of Havana. What a ride my early/mid 20s has been.

My birthday reflections take place this year in Iceland, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Finland, and Denmark. I'm blessed, privileged, lucky, and infinitely thankful to have lead a life of thrills, luxury, food, fulfillment, love, safety, and comfort. I approach my late 20s... with conviction! and determination! ...and most importantly, a sense of safety and stability due to this hand dandy life tool belt that I put together in the past 5-8 years. This year marks a clear transition in my life.

On June 27th, Brian and I made our promises (rather than our "I do's") to one another's parents. We vowed to take care of one another and to love and respect each others' families as we accept and are accepted into our new extended families. Many, many tears, "hails!", lobster tails, glasses of wine, and an impromptu fireworks show later, we breathed a satisfied sigh of relief that we pulled off our fantasy big-little wedding in Iceland.

As for my own vows and hopes for myself: to continue to grow professionally; to travel more; to spend more days and nights outdoors; to practice more languages more often; to nurture my relationships with my sisters, my parents, my closest friends, my new family, and my husband. I hope to continue to learn. I'll remember to simplify various corners of my life in order to not be overwhelmed and feeling like life is offering me more than I can handle. I'll shop less, prioritize tasks, and spend my time intentionally, I'll express my love and gratitude to the people in my life who continue to shape and nourish me.

= = =

For old time's sake, I offer:

A Humble List of Lessons Learned in My 28th Year. (Year 27) (Year 26)

1. Simplify your day to day routine; leave room for rest and leave room for spontaneity.

2. Simplify your wants.

3. On spending money: the more in tune you are with your values and the more in line your actions are with your values, the less money you waste. The clearer you are about 1) who and what you care about, 2) your goals, and 3) your passions, each dollar you spend toward one of these categories becomes an investment for your future, your personal development, and for causes and people you care about and the less you spend on, well, anything else.

4. Invest time and effort in your community; take part in celebrations, mentor, be seen, spend and eat locally, learn about your local history, support local artists and musicians, vote. It's the only and best way to have your own place in society and it's the only and best way to build and hope for a better future for society.

5. You're not the only one suffering from imposter syndrome and this isn't the last time it'll plague you. My parents rolled with the punches when they became new parents, all former and the sitting president figured and is figuring it out as they go along, and all teachers are fiddling the dials, trying their best to balance the right doses of 'what I learned to do in my teacher training', 'what my teachers did when I was in school', 'what my students seem to need', 'what feels right', and 'what I made up on the spot'. There's not always a right way to do something, but your preparation and judgement is good enough to make a decision right now and you'll continue to get better at what you do.

6. Don't read the news too much; be informed and take action, but don't let yourself become discouraged or afraid.

7. Care more about the well-being of others than of their perception of you.

8. Be the biggest bad ass you know... under your own definition of what it means to be a bad ass.

9. Find fulfillment and contentment in all of life's little tasks that you have to do any way (cooking, cleaning, running errands, commuting to and from work). It's healthier to find joy in the day to day than to trudge through the week and only live for vacations.

= = =

Happy birthday to me. Here's to 28 years of more ups than downs. Cheers to a new era of being an old-young-adult in soul and at heart; here's hoping that such an era lasts at least another 28 years.

P.S. Some or you may have seen my travel pictures on social media--you know, the polished, "life is grand!" photos of cathedrals, waterfalls, and desert landscapes. Just FYI, a little extra TMI for you--you aren't truly backpacking across a continent until you're on a slow country train's... toilet suffering from explosive diarrhea. EEYYYYY...


Building, Breathing, and (not) Bailing

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I had felt the little frustrations building and building. I wanted to skip out. I wanted bail. But I didn't. And then it suddenly built up just right now... For some reason. I did make it to Friday. I felt myself let out a little bit of steam when I talked with Gia and Alison. I troubleshooted, I responded as best I could to as many situations as I could, though I could not get to everything. I even was able to let go of the things that I couldn't control. And then just, I wasn't able to let go of the things I couldn't control. I let it get to me. So now, I'm undoing that bit of where I let it get to me. I'm reframing this past morning in my head. I'm taking a beat. I'm feeling thankful for my coworkers' support. I'm not beating myself up for accidentally letting it get to me. I'm being kind to myself. I'm proud of myself for having high expectations and for trying to help my students reach those expectations. I'm proud of myself for doing that every damn day. It's so tiring. Sometimes, I'm inspired by the challenge. Sometimes, I'm successful with some students. Sometimes, feel proud of those successes. Often, I'm not successful with other students. Sometimes, I get discouraged by that lack of success. In the past, I've been able to shrug off those moments of discouragement. That's what I'm trying to do now. How am I going to do that?
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


A Strengths-Based Approach

In education, we often talk about the importance of a "strengths-based" rather than a "deficit-based" approached. I'm in the habit of seeing my coworkers, my school, my students for what they're good at rather than what they're lacking.

My next project is to apply the same approach to myself. I've realized that part of why I hate my own lessons so much is because I feel like I'm staring down the barrel of what I think my lessons "should be". I should do a better job of reaching out to my English language learners. I should do a better job of varying modalities... of incorporating structured collaborative work, of checking for understanding, of assessing, of giving feedback, of opening with better hooks, of relating back to the objective, of doing hands-on activities... and on and on and on.

I know so well what I should be doing and what I'm not doing. Yet for whatever reason, I'm pretty blind to what I am doing.

Time to have some confidence and allow myself to feel proud of myself for... hmm, let's see here...

1) being a returning teacher and capitalizing on relationships made with students from the previous year
2) establishing daily AND weekly AND bi-weekly routines in my classes
3) making connections with students' parents so as to bring everyone on board in getting these kids to graduate
4) feeling more confident about my grading system and makeup system; establishing what seems to be clear, fair systems
5) having authority over my classes
6) not stressing out on Sunday evenings anymore (well, not as often)
7) having a rigorous curriculum that students 'show up' for; they sweat it out, try the work, and ask for help; they reflect on it being a difficult course but assess that the content is within their reach with enough support and practice
8) I've established built-in systems for self-assessment and reflection so that students focus on improving their skills and their study habits

There, eight things that I can boast about myself. That's pretty darn good.

Last adult reflection, I opened up to my coworkers about some stirring feelings of negativity towards myself. It started out by my offering to the group a piece of advice that was shared with me once upon a time. I told my coworkers that one of the things (among all the wonderful, positive things about our school) that makes me stay at our school is knowing that "wherever you go, there you are." One of my former coworkers said that to me as I left my old school. I think she was prodding me to do some self-searching post-quitting that job. When I remember her sharing those words with me clearly, I recall how I was expressing to her my worry that everything I had built for myself was right there in Berkeley; I was worried that if I left my life in Berkeley, that I'd never be able to build such a community for myself elsewhere. She pointed out to me that all the relationships I'd made, all that I'd achieved in Berkeley, I created for myself--and that I definitely could do that all over again wherever I ended up next.

When I remember that moment less clearly, I interpret her advice differently. Instead, I think: "wherever you try to escape... sorry sucker, you're still stuck with yourself. If you're unhappy with your environment wherever you try to go, what's the common denominator..? You." 

After I brought that up (only the "wherever you go, there you are" piece), my coworker asked me, "April, wherever you go, what to you think you bring?"

Huh. I was stumped. I had never thought of that phrase in such a positive light. I guessed I must have some strengths... but I had no idea what those strengths are. I've never articulated that to myself. Even as I tried to reflect on what my strengths were, I was stumped.

Because I was stumped, my coworker told me what strengths she sees in me and challenged me to ask 10 people who know me well and whose opinion I trust to ask them what they see as my strength and to write those things down. I had two weeks to do this.

Two weeks later, here's what I got:
1) My eagerness to learn. My openness with my students. My love for life--I bring a positive feeling to others when I walk in the room -K
2) I'm goal-oriented -N
3) I'm good at finding others' strengths -K
4) I'm good at planning for the future -M
5) I'm resilient, organized, caring, responsible, and resolute. -D
6) I give thoughtful advice and ask insightful questions -A
7) I'm good at challenging people out of their comfort zones to better themselves and I make it feel more like encouragements rather than a put downs -Z
8) I look at every new opportunity as an adventure and something to add to my list. I always reevaluate a situation to make the best possible outcome for next time. If something does not go as planned, I asses a new plan and add it as another story to add to my book. I encourage others to want the best. -N
9) I'm passionate and smart and I believe that social change is possible and I'm doing the work to get us there -B
10) I'm nurturing, encouraging, pragmatic, level-headed, adventurous. -E
11) (this one was very long and personal and brought me to tears. I'm going to let this one digest for a bit and maybe keep it private. Dear self, it was from A and it's in your email).

That turned out to be a fun assignment. I made it less uncomfortable for myself to ask people what they saw as my strength by offering an example of a strength I saw in them. That was fun to do, too.

I liked when people gave examples of why they saw my strength as what they said. It's cool to think that something I said or did was memorable for someone else. They also helped me see the times that my strengths really shone through; I guess I tend to zoom in and magnify times in my life that I don't feel strong--when I feel lost or disempowered--and completely forget times that I was in my element.

If you've never done an exercise like this, I recommend it. It seemed awkward, like I was fishing for compliments, at first... but then I realized that I don't feel uncomfortable about telling others' what I see as their strengths, so why would anyone feel uncomfortable telling me mine? Now, I'm glad that I have this list to refer back to when I'm feeling incompetent or what have you.

OK, that's enough for tonight.


Sing it to the Stars

Dynamite wind pipe
Sing it to the stars
Sing it to the people, to the aliens on Mars
Let it roll, let it rock, let it hale comet bopp
at the top
Of your lungs, on a mountain
in the middle of the night
It will carry, let it soar, let it stir up a fright
Let the whole wide world know
that your dynamite wind pipe's
About to explode


The Rosary

"I feel anxious. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I feel guilty."
I hate myself.
"I see a tornado; it's coming; it's inescapable."

I glance down at the bracelet on my wrist. My personal rosary--one bead for each of my failures. I hold each bead one by one between my thumb and forefinger, pausing before moving on to the next.

"I see a large, calm lake. It's still. It's clear. In it, the clear sky and towering mountain reflects. I feel it in my head; I feel my muscles relax."

This anxiety is not me. It's a reaction. It's a reaction to a stressful situation. The stressful situation is the tornado in my mind. We do all we can to take care of ourselves, but suddenly, we're triggered. We can't help but react in the way that we do. We don't get to choose how or when a reaction comes up.

Don't forget the dozens of tiny stones in-between your trophy, dark red beads. The little triumphs; the big triumphs; the unnoticed victories; the everyday, good, albeit in no way remarkable. You know you're improving in almost every other aspect; a breakdown does not contradict that growth.

This was a bad day. You've had bad days. This won't be your last bad day... and that's OK. Because you'll bounce back. You always have. You're not judged for falling; you're lauded for coming back. You're OK.

You're OK.