Monday, December 31, 2012

Best o' '12 List

Do people still make New Year's Resolutions? Are they going out of fashion? I think mine is to make more lists, primarily because my boyfriend/co-habitant speaks in "Top 5" or "Top 10" lists and I am a very orderly person. While contemplating my top music lists of last year, my mind started wandering towards the good, the bad, and the ugly of this year. And even though life contains ugly moments, the fact that I'm included makes them just a bit more aesthetically appealing.
Am I right?
Trying to remember 2012 in all its splendor, from January 1 eating pupusas in El Salvador to December 31 sitting on my bum writing this blog entry in my pajamas at high noon, I want to compile some of the memories I have of this past year.

Movies: While I watched damn near 60 movies for October's Horrorthon (57 to be precise but only 50 reviewed), there are two things I can conclude from the movie-watching splendor
1) I quit my job at the right time
2) Targets, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, and Rabies were the best movies I watched this year. Here's my full Horrorthon Wrap Up 2012.

Despite all the movies I saw that were released in 2012, there's one that stands out the most to me . . . was it --
a) Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the gorgeous but slow-paced documentary that will change the way you look at sushi for the rest of your life?
b) Prometheus and its ultimate let-down of science fiction fans?
c) The Dark Knight Rises -- the final chapter in the story of my favorite but psychologically scarred superhero?
Um, you were cool 'til you spoke. Bane is NOT supposed to sound like Captain Picard!
d) Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's 8th feature-length revenge movie set against the backdrop of pre-Civil War slavery?
Totally worth a second viewing.
Nope. It was e) The Expendables 2, which featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as the antagonist.
This is the most significant movie of 2012 for me because it sparked a wildfire of JCVD film viewings, among them: JCVD (2008). Although Van Damme's acting career took longer to develop talent than his near-perfect kickboxing career, I've stumbled upon some gems including Double Impact and Replicant, in both of which Van Damme battles himself (no, not in a metaphorical sense). 2013 can only bring more action, more campy plots, and yes -- more Van Damme legs.
More like Van BAMM!
Hot Damme!
Van Damme, thank you, man!
TV: Admittedly I live in the past and have been religiously tuned in to The Incredible Hulk 70's show.
Last night we were watching an episode that featured midget wrestlers and I turned to declare to my boyfriend, "Next pet's name is going to be Bixby." That's right, as in Bill Bixby.
The David Banner that he portrays can do no wrong, is by definition a man's man, is unafraid to make himself open and vulnerable to act as both doctor and patient as he travels from town to town surviving on his wits, wisdom, and unexpected greenman transformations.
We are closing in on the end of the fourth season, arguably the best since season one and definitely the riskiest in Hulky goings-on. I can't deny that I won't feel emotional when it's all over because there is only one possible ending for the Hulk *cue "Sad Man" theme*.

The Walking Dead Season 2. I only just finished watching it on Netflix and I don't have cable. No, I don't want to hear what happens.

Anderson Cooper was given a daytime show that competes with Dr. Phil and Maury. Why? The only time I tuned in, Mr. Cooper and his cute co-host of the day were discussing the Boyfriend Pillow vs. the Girlfriend Pillow. What have you reduced your talents to, Mr. Cooper?!??

Knits: the addition of fingerless gloves into my repertoire. Sometimes the thumb was too big, sometimes they were too snug, but the result of frogging my projects until I got them right was always the same: "They're beautiful!" (say the recipients).

Crochets: The baby blanket and hat I crocheted for expectant friends back in July, shown off in a previous blog entry (it's listed as Project #4).

Travelin': My first trip to the east coast was noteworthy and fun! Among the hundreds of pictures of brick buildings I took, there were some special moments in Times Square:
. . . getting in touch with my spirit animal at the Natural History Mooseum:
. . . paying a visit to Paul Revere on the Freedom Trail in Boston:
. . . and enjoying a cold one at Calamari's Tavern in Connecticut!
Cry: Here I'm going to get a little serious. I definitely endorse the therapeutic benefits of a good cry. Letting oneself go and allowing emotions to embody themselves in tears, if it means feeling better afterwards, is worth it. I think many feel a huge stigma against crying because they either see it as a sign of weakness in others, don't know what to do when others cry in their presence, or both. One of the strongest things a person can do is acknowledge how something is affecting them because let's face it: we've all felt alone at some points in our lives, and if you don't know yourself to know when you're disturbed then how will you know how to get better?

Having said that, perhaps the best cry I had this year was when I spoke with a friend and previous coworker about moving on from WCCHS. I have so much respect for her and as we were exchanging words, and despite my best efforts, I cried. She started crying, too, and it wasn't because we were sad, it was because we both cherished our professional relationship, our friendship, and that the changes and decisions that were happening in our lives were for the best. It was a nostalgic cry, signifying for me the end of the beginning of my teaching career (where I was "fresh meat" for kids to test) and the start of the development of my professional persona as this great teacher I'd always dreamt I'd be. At that point, I had moved past the point of fretting over not covering all the California State Standards before May 1, or losing sleep over individuals who chose not to do their homework. I finally "got it," and moving on was going to be hard, but crying with Rosemary was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders. I knew that the challenges and camaraderie we experienced together were special and that there would be many more moments like this to come. I no longer was afraid of the future, I was welcoming it.

Laugh: I have to list this out of obligation after Crying made it as a category, but to be honest I can't think of a single moment of my laughter or another person's laughter that takes the top spot.

Well, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe the time last November where I was working so infrequently that I lost track of the days and I wished my friend Sylvia a "happy Friday" on a Tuesday and she cackled at the fact that I was letting go of my orderly, organized self. Actually we both had a good laugh over that.

Board Game: Conquering my Scrabble fears and scoring several 7-letter words within one game were my best moments.

Family Time: Any time I get to spend with my mother -- cop out, right? If only you knew the vulgar things this woman expels from her mouth:
"Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't? I'm a Mexi-c*nt!"
"We've got to tell those Right-wing conservatives in Washington to get their hands out of our vaginas and their penises out of our mouths!"
"Did I like The Hobbit? Hell no! The movie ended and they barely got to the damn mountain!"

Did I mention I pull a near-perfect impression of my mother?

Like a fine wine, my mother's sound bytes get better and more memorable with age. She's always someone I can confide in about my teaching woes and relate to each phase of my life with funny and poignant anecdotes. She also has the best taste in fashion thanks to me.

Catharsis 2012

October was eye-opening for me. I learned a lot about myself, what I want for my future, and above all I've just started to sort through my confusing/unintelligible feelings. I think I finally feel comfortable addressing the majority of the thoughts, emotions, and occurrences in my life.

First of all, quit my job in downtown Oakland. I admit now I was holding on to the faith that there was a better, more well-structured charter school out there than my previous experience in Richmond. I was hoping that the crazy schedules, the overworked staff, and the underrepresented students would not be seen at this new endeavor I was pursuing, but -- I was wrong, and I'm a person who hates to be wrong! In the four short years that I was teaching at West County Community High School, I enjoyed teaching and bonding with the students and families who all shared a common goal. When I started seeing things fall apart from the inside, I responded to my instincts to flee and accepted the first job I was offered: Envision Academy, one of five Envision charter schools. I believed that my demo lesson was exceptional, my interview was concise, and I came across as a strong candidate and that I would, indeed, be successful. What I did not foresee or ask about was classroom management, the background of the student population I agreed to be teaching, or specific guidelines on how strict I would have to be in the classroom. Most of what I remember are direct quotes from EA teachers for whom I hold a high degree of respect and who did what they could to help me out during episodes of trauma I experienced while there; at least once a week I left the classroom after calling for back-up so I could compose myself, I never left work early but I cried more in those 2 1/2 months than I remember crying during some of the most difficult times in my life. At least during a death in the family, or a bad breakup, you know what has happened is for the best -- but when doing what you love is bringing more emotional damage than repair, it's heart-wrenching to acknowledge that you need to quit.

When it all boils down in my mind, the toughest thing I've had to deal with is this feeling of failure. I quit something that I know I'm good at -- teaching -- because I'd failed to control a classroom that was used to people being mean to them. I tried being mean, I tried acting like I'd seen other teachers and educators yelling and shouting and "putting them in their place," and it just didn't groove with me. What granted me solace was when I was able to peel back the layers of frustration and anger and fantasize about that magical fifth year of teaching I'd sworn I would take off to go back to school.

In the same week I quit my job, even more realizations came to surface other than returning to school: wanting to settle down with my boyfriend, save money, eventually start a family, etc. I know that I appreciate and love my family and the way they raised me, and I know that planning for one of my own would fill me to the brim with pride and happiness. The weekend before Thanksgiving my boyfriend and I were frantically getting everything together for our trip to the east coast to visit his family when I told him how I felt:
Me: "I want to have a baby."
Boyfriend: *hugs* "What, right now?"
Me: *giggles* "No, silly, we've got a cab to catch!"

Such good stuff life is made of. Nevertheless, the holidays were fun but I swear I never want to take another redeye flight again (though I probably will).

Currently I'm working part-time at a tutoring center and my worker-bee brain is taking a break, for better or for worse. I include "for worse" here because I realize I have grown accustomed to working with [un]reasonable deadlines, no budget, and high expectations from myself and my bosses. To be honest I can tutor math in my sleep and if I can make $17/hr doing it, then more power to me, right? This time in my life should just be considered my "hibernation" period because I know I'll find something and I know that a right fit will come when it's time.

I'm still waiting for a letter back from CSU Hayward to see if they've accepted me or not, and I've decided that I'm going to keep my chin up even if I need to wait to re-apply. Life goes on, I love school and learning and I don't think that will change inside of me, ever. I'm waiting to get interviewed as a substitute teacher so I can survey the student population here on the "other side of the tunnel" (as I referred to it when I lived in Berkeley/Oakland), and ensure that the next educator job I take is the right one, despite its imperfections. I feel very fortunate to have worked at WCCHS for four years -- it helped shape me as an educator, my personality as a teacher and leader, and put me in a position where I had to acknowledge my responsibility as a young adult with a college degree in a professional workplace. (I know that sounds cheesy, but when by the time I decided to move on from WCCHS I knew what I wanted out of life and love, and knew that I would get it.)