The (Late) 2017 Bucket List

At the beginning of college I got my first credit card. Don’t worry, I’ve always been ridiculously responsible about budgeting, this story’s not going down that road. What I recall almost as deeply as the nightmares I had about the possibility of interest payments, is getting my first statement.

It wasn’t that I’d spent a lot of money, it’s that every line item on the statement was a fast food restaurant or something I ordered from the internet. My credit card statement was a story of me as a shut-in. It was not an untrue story.

I wish I could say I saw this sad story and immediately changed; went full Eat, Pray, Love and traveled the world, sky dived and moved to a new city, danced like no one was watching. I did none of those things, because isn’t life lived in the small changes and the tiny moments?

Yes, it is.

So I went to a few more stand up shows and plays, I made my meals out into dates with friends, and I traded a few pretty dresses for road trips and ridiculous midnight adventures. I learned to get back into the world and be a bit more brave and a bit less tied to things.

When I heard about Eventbrite‘s GOMO, or Get Out More Often, I thought “that sounds pretty baller.” And then I thought “damn, son, you need to stop picking up slang from your students.”

In all seriousness though, there’s a huge life lesson here and you know how I love those. So in the spirit of GOMO! (something I will be yelling randomly all over NYC’s subways), here’s a list of 10 adventures I’d like to have this year.

*I’m putting a couple on here I already did, because, well, I want to brag a little too*

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1. Go To the Oscars

I did this. So…

2.  See a Play

I hadn’t totally planned on it, but I did this today too. Casually went to see Hamilton with my students. More on that later.

3. Get Out of Town

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New York is draining, which is surprising since I’ve yet to live in a New York apartment with decent sink and shower drains. In our year plus here, Boyfriend and I have only left the city a hand full of times, mostly to fly home or get out for a weekend camping trip. This year I really want to go somewhere quiet, stay in a B&B and relax for real. I want to be not just New York relaxed, but actually relaxed.

4. Have a Picnic

It doesn’t have to be in Central Park or Prospect Park or any park. I just want to make sandwiches and pack them to green, nature area and eat them in the company of those I love.

5. Go Camping

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This tends to happen a few times during the summer but it’s something that I really like and Boyfriend LOVES. Nature is the great healer and no matter how hot/humid/disgusting this summer is, we have to get out there.

6. Write a Story

I’m keeping expectations low because I won’t even finish grad school until August. So, not a novel, nothing epic, just a story. I have ideas in my head all the time and I used to do a lot more writing them. Time to get back to that.

7. Do a Yoga Retreat

Yoga brings me as much peace as nature does and I’ve been wanting to try one of these for a long time. This year I want to bite the bullet and go all in for a weekend (or maybe a week).

8. Take the Train

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Not the subway. Dear god, never the subway. The actual train. I don’t even really care where I go, I just want to go. On the train.

9. Be Present in the Blogging Community

I have made a few great blogging friends and interacted with other bloggers and I genuinely love this community so much. Grad school and teaching tend to keep me from both blogging (whoops) and making deeper connections with other bloggers (double whoops). This year I want to get back to the blog and jump in to the community.

10. Get a Tattoo with Boyfriend

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I should note: I definitely don’t mean matching tattoos. I truly believe though that it’s an experience worth having with someone you love and Boyfriend has not yet gotten a tattoo. I’m working on designing one for him and as for me, who know, could turn out as anything.

Best of luck.

P.S. Eventbrite also has some crazy cool planning tools, like this one. Check them out!

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Clothing Sizes are Not Your Friend

Last weekend I took decided to be brave and go on a hunt for new pants. This might seem silly to some, but pants are hard for me. My big (but not big enough) hips and butt, my belly squish and my big (strong, gorgeous) thighs mean that I don’t easily fit most of the pants on the rack. 

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When I was younger and many sizes larger I thought it was because I was just “too big” overall. Choices were limited. But as I’ve shrunk over the years I’ve found that pants are just a b*tch in general. 

My biggest issue is that if I can find jeans that fit my legs, they’re way too big in the waist. If I can manage to squeeze my legs into pants that fit in the waist, the legs end up being so tight they pull the waist and stretch the pants. Either way same uncomfortable problem. 

Anyway, lately I’ve noticed that my pants are a little big and decided to buy some new ones. Unsure whether it was due to two years of stretching fabric and I was still a 12 or if I’d actually lost weight and was something smaller, I went in unsure of my size. 

Naturally I went to the jeans wall in target and got ten pairs of jeans in three different fits and four different sizes. At one point I put on a 12 that was a tiny bit too big and then a 6 that was too short but otherwise almost right. Yeah a 12 and then a 6. Same brand. 

What the hell?

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I could go on and on about how the numeric sizing in women’s clothing doesn’t even make sense and men’s clothing going by measurements if much more useful, but that’s a post for another day. My issue is that, if I can manage to not let a number define my body and if I can avoid the media barrage of impossible bodies, I’m still confronted with total confusion in the dressing room. I’ve grown a serious garden of love flowers to cushion my body but I can only take so much of this bull honkey. 

Eventually I went into a random store in the mall and bought a 29…This number sounded like men’s sizing but unless I’m measuring myself incorrectly, that’s not true. 

So, I ended up buying pants and I like them but bro, what the hell? The fashion industry has got to be stopped with the confusing numbers and the ridiculous sizing. 

Oh and then I went back to the same store a week later to get another pair of the exact same pants and ended up needing a 27…what?

Have any of you had a similar experience or is it just me and my “weird” body over here? Let me know in the comments and, as always, best of luck.

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Celebrate Yourself

Last month I took part in Yoga Revolution, 31 days of yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. It was less a New Years Resolution and more an opportunity to get back to daily yoga after a few weeks off. Either way though, I really enjoyed the thirty minute daily videos from this hilarious and kind teacher. 

During the third week I was really struggling. I struggled to get to the mat. I struggled to focus. I struggled to breathe. I got mad at Adriene and at yoga and at my body. I cried in cobra and fumed in down dog. But I finished and then I came back the next day and life went on. 

A few days later Adriene hit a lot of the crap that had been holding me down. She talked about a friend of hers who has chronic back pain and wondered, “can you shift the language? Can you let go of this back pain as part of your identity?”

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She went on to explain that being kind to yourself and loving your body even when it doesn’t do what you want is the goal. Yoga isn’t about making shapes it’s about growth and making space. I had heard this, I knew this, I could quote this, but this time I actually heard it. 

Stop being such a d*ck to yourself and celebrate doing your best.  

I’m hard on myself, about everything, I’m never good enough and my body gets the worst of it. Growing up overweight I always felt that if my body wasn’t cooperating with me it was because it was inherently wrong. My fat body was the wrong body so it did things wrong. 

Can’t do that stretch? Wrong body, bad body. Can’t run as fast or long as you want? Bad body. Stomach ache, headache, joint pain? Bad body. It never occurred to me to accept my body and help it, support it to feel better. If my body is a dear friend instead of an enemy, life can be so much less painful. 

Life and yoga are about stretching, learning, growing. Not pain, not hurt, not hate. 

I learn the best life lessons while upside down.

Best of luck

** and check out Yoga with Adriene ***

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I Took a Personal Day and I’m Not Sorry

Monday was a long, but overall happy day. Tuesday, however, was much worse. We’re talking “no-good, very bad day” status. I won’t even go into the details but we’ll just say I left school after a long after school meeting, fuming. I walked to the subway half-furious, half-devastated and entirely exhausted. I did that weird little public half-cry where you wipe tears away before they really drop and try to pretend you’re not crying.

On the way home, I tried to find comfort in anything I could: I’m a good teacher, it’s almost the mid-point in the week, we get a break in two weeks wherein I’ll get to see my family and friends, I love my sweet smiling students so much…but nothing was sticking. Until I offered myself the possibility of a personal day. Not a concrete plan, just the option.

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A little backstory: in January, two of my colleagues in the history department had a little meeting without me and discussed an important topic; my continued full supply of personal and sick days. They’d both realized that I’d never taken a day off and thought it was ridiculous. As veteran teachers with 6 and 13 years experience, they are very protective of this first year baby teacher, a fact I’m endlessly grateful for. So it was no surprise when they both came to me separately and then together to convince me to take a day for myself.

They told me that it’s important to take care of yourself. They lectured me about self care and burnout. I laughed and told them I would consider taking a day in March because that’s the death month with no days off. And then Tuesday happened and I hit the end of my rope.

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Giving myself permission to call out on the subway gave me so much relief that I just continued thinking about it. Eventually, still undecided, I texted my co-teacher and told him there was a chance I’d be out. I wanted to see his response, since he’d be teaching alone the next day if I wasn’t there. He immediately texted back, telling me I deserve it and I need to take care of myself since it was a hard day. There were many emojis, he was excited, it was very sweet.

So I took a personal day and I still got up at five. I spent the day catching up on lessons and doing my homework. I went to therapy in the afternoon and spent the evening drinking tea and spending time with Boyfriend. By seven that evening I felt good, I felt ready for a 7am-10pm day with work and grad school.

And then de Blasio called a snow day. Excellent timing, de Blasio, excellent timing.

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Previous to taking this day off, I’d only taken two days off from work in my life. One for when I was so sick I couldn’t walk without passing out and the other was the day that an ex walked out on me. The idea of taking a personal day just to get my head on straight seemed weak. But my colleagues (and every other veteran teacher I interact with) have taught me just the opposite. Weakness is not listening to yourself, it’s not taking care of yourself. It’s easy to be in the building every day, it’s much harder to be present. And sometimes you have to be absent in order to be present later.

I refuse to feel guilty about this personal day because it was something I needed to do. I needed a reset and re-focus. And the snow day, well, that was just a bonus.

Best of luck.

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Success! Finally Being Good at Something

I’ve been decent at a lot of things in my life. I’ve been a decent musician, a decent student, a decent retail worker, a decent volleyball player.

Ok that last one isn’t true, I was pretty awful at volleyball. Your girl does not have hand-eye coordination.

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My point is, I’ve felt like I’m ok at so many things and truly, comically awful at a few, but I have rarely really felt like I found my jam.

Until now.

Before winter break I had two teaching evaluations. One was in October and came back with pretty typical results for a first year teacher: a mix of developing and effective marks. The second evaluation was in December, right at the end of term one. I got those results recently: all effective and one highly effective mark.

It’s ok. You can say it. I know. Daaammmmnnnnnn.

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Now this one evaluation does not mean I’m perfect and I’m also not about to place my worth as a teacher on it. But it made me come back to a thought I’ve had many times in my four months teaching:

I have room to grow and learn and I always will, but damn it if I’m not a really good teacher. I’m good at this. This is my jam. I always thought people who claimed to have found their calling were liars, but then mine came out of nowhere and body checked me.

I only wish I could go back to retail me and paraeducator me and food service me and college me and tell them that they’ll get there. The suffering is real but it will pay off. You will get to your dream one day.

And it will feel so damn good to be great at something.

Best of luck.

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I Couldn’t Hate Them If I Tried

Something I’ve learned many times before but continue to learn every day is that nothing in education will turn out as expected. The “solid gold” lessons won’t be received as you imagined (or hoped), the “total crap” lessons will hit some just right, and the emotions and break-downs and fights you expect will not happen when you expect them.

My first term as a high school teacher just ended in December and nothing went as I expected. Kids I thought would throw fits over failing didn’t, kids I thought would fail pulled it out at the last second and some that I thought would pass lost their momentum too soon.

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Overwhelmingly though: I am continually floored by how much I love these kids. How much I want to hug them when they cry and tell them it’ll work out even though it feels terrible right now.

I push them hard every day, nobody is allowed to take the L. I expect greatness from everyone, no one is mediocre. I don’t hand out good grades until they’ve been earned. I get called mean on the regular, I’m always “extra” and “doing too much.” I get mad sometimes because CAN EVERYONE STOP TALKING OVER ME?

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But still, when they celebrate, I celebrate. Nothing is better than seeing that smile they tried to hide when they find out they passed.

And when they cry, I cry. Nothing is harder than seeing the despair they’re trying to hide when they find out they won’t pass.

There was this small part of my brain that thought I’d feel justified and righteous handing out failing marks to those kids that have blown off the work and made bad choices. Because I’m teaching them lessons in social studies but I’m also teaching about consequences and professionalism. I thought somehow it might feel good to give a well-earned failing mark.

I was surprised at how much it hurts me when they hurt, even when the pain is necessary.

I’ve known these kids for three months, but something clicked in the hall with Elle while I held her and let her cry through my sweater. Something clicked when Steven laughed out loud at the news of passing my class and couldn’t stop grinning. Something clicked when Kam came in late to study hall and begged me to let him finish his work and pass, and his relief when I let him.

These kids are magic. And I am forever honored to be connected to them in even the smallest way.

Best of luck.

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