On optimism

I am fairly certain that I have described each of the last four years as the worst year of my life. Looking back on it now, 2020 does certainly seem to have won the battle royal– losing my mom is going to do a pretty good job of catapulting the year over the rest of them, even before the global pandemic enters the chat– but if I want to be a bit more specific, April 2019 to April 2020 is probably right about where the break points are. Maybe July 2020, if I want to include losing my cat, who I’d had for 22 years.

All I really want out of 2021 is for it to be better than the last four years. I don’t need it to be great. I don’t even need good. I just need better. My 40s in general have been an utter horror show– recall that I turned 40 in 2016– and I’m more than ready to be done with that.

There have been some vague signs that maybe things are starting to turn. I am, despite the pandemic, happier as a teacher this year than I have been in a very long time. Financially, I’m in the best shape of my life, both personally and jointly with my wife. The vaccine isn’t in ready supply yet, and I haven’t gotten my shots yet, but it exists. My family isn’t experiencing any acute health crises right now; my father-in-law isn’t in great shape, but he’s holding up, and we’re not hugely concerned about anyone else at the moment. And I’ll be an uncle in a few months.

Now all I need is for a couple of elections in a state I’ve never set foot in to go my way today, and to make it through the next fifteen days without a nuclear war starting or some other sort of nightmare scenario being unleashed on the world. I (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) have gotten very, very gun-shy about anything that feels like good news over the last four years, and I don’t trust anything resembling optimism any longer. I feel like if it seems like things are turning around a little bit that’s just so that when they all go to hell again it will hurt worse.

Hell, I just want to make it through tomorrow without riots. I would like it if the worst people in America manage to make it through the day without killing anyone.

…at this point, I took about a 20-minute break from writing this, because the despair started kicking in again. There are at least a handful of reasons for actual optimism about this upcoming year. There are reasons to set goals for this year, and not just assume that there’s no chance I will achieve any of them.

I haven’t released a new book in forever. Hell, I haven’t written more than a handful of pages of fiction since Click became available to my Patreon subscribers– and that was mostly a rewrite and re-edit, not an actual new book. I’d like to say I want to get another book out this year, but it’s entirely possible that I’m just done with that. I’d like to be more creative in general this year, to make things, and I’m already looking at the whole idea of creativity and just exhausted by it.

I need a reason to be hopeful that doesn’t wash away a day or an hour or a few minutes after I happen upon it.

I need this year to be better.

In which my head explodes

I am deeply tempted to upload today’s entire assignment so you can see it. I thought it was going to be an easy Halloween blowoff, ten dead-simple story problems, most of which boiled down to “multiply these two numbers together,” and maybe two of which boiled down to “divide these two numbers.” Like, this is the first question:

Six spooky scary skeletons each send shivers down seven spines. How many shivers are sent?

Only 33 of the 59 students who have completed the assignment managed to figure out to multiply six and seven to get 42.

Also, I have 142 students and as of 3:15 only 59 have completed the assignment.

I don’t know how to fix middle school students who literally can’t figure out when to multiply. They actually and genuinely don’t know what the four basic operations of mathematics are for. I’ve never not had kids who were behind, but this is shockingly bad nonetheless.

One more class period today. I can do this.

(Oh, and also, one of the biggest and most obvious lies the school corporation was telling when they were talking about us returning to class was that there were somehow going to be enough subs during a pandemic, when there are never enough subs, period. There was an email every day this week begging teachers to cover for other people who were out. Today we had five teachers out. Total number of subs: zero. They just kept saying “Oh, we’ve contracted out for that,” like that was an answer that was going to matter.)

Assess the new look

I have had two problems with my lifestyle lately. One, I’m spending way too much time sitting in front of the computer– which remains vastly preferable to the alternative, but still an issue. Two, I am bald and for some reason bald this year has been cold in a way that it simply hasn’t in previous years.

Enter the skullcap, which fits nicely (more of a problem than you might believe; it’s nearly impossible to find hats that fit) and which I intend to wear around the house and outdoors on these sorts of days, and the fact that I am back in glasses, sort of, which will sit by the computer and be worn nowhere else, as they are blue light blockers and are supposed to cut down on eyestrain. I have close friends who will be mildly berated if they don’t work.

(This is not true. I have been describing myself as reasonably financially comfortable for a few years now, and my definition of “comfortable” is “can spend $20 pretty much whenever I like.” These glasses were $20. I won’t even bother returning them if I decide they don’t work.)

I sort of like the look of the skullcap (feel free to yell at me if you disagree) but I’m not in love with the Harry Potter style of the glasses. Then again, this picture will be the only time anyone who isn’t married to or genetically related to me sees them, so I don’t much care what they look like. I’ve gotta say, it’s weird having glasses back on my face again.

(Figures eyes are already hurty enough for the day, takes them off, figuring it won’t get worse)

(Questions own logic)

(Does it anyway)


Blah blah blah blah election panic-cakes. Amy Coney Barrett’s successful nomination makes it all the more critical that we take the Senate and then pack the hell out of the Supreme Court, hopefully impeaching Brett Kavanaugh along the way. My position all along has been that Coney’s nomination was legitimate– there wasn’t a “no election years!” rule when Merrick Garland was nominated and there isn’t one now– but that she should nonetheless be opposed with, well, every arrow in our quiver, Ms. Pelosi, and with every procedural trick and lowdown dirty bit of nonsense our parliamentarians can come up with.

Welp.

There are a number of dark and depressing paths my brain could wander down at the moment; I’m doing my best to cling to what little optimism I can find. If the election is won by a large enough margin we don’t have to worry about the electoral college or the Supreme Court stealing it, and if the presidency is won by that large of a margin it should take the Senate with it. We’ll worry about that first, then move on to the other stuff.

The degree to which the last two Supreme Court nominees are poster children for overpromoted white mediocrity is pretty impressive, by the way. I actually brought up Coney Barrett last time around as an example of a nominee they could have picked who wasn’t a drunken, belligerent rapist and would still be a stenographer for whatever the Republicans wanted, but I still feel like there still has to be someone out there who has maybe been a judge for longer than I spent in high school, or, like, actually been a lawyer, maybe. But whatever. It’s fine, she’s white, that’s good enough for them, yeah? Sure.

Blech, day 2

I need, like, a sunlight lamp or some shit like that; I spent all day staring at walls and sleeping, basically, and that’s not healthy. I’m basically only posting this so that I can stop worrying about whether I’ve posted anything today.

I’ll snap out of it sooner or later, I promise.

Mental health check

We’re at … three weeks? A month? Let’s say three weeks– on the Effexor, and other than the nightmare week of constant sleep and side effects, I gotta say I’m feeling like I’m for it, all told. My wife remarked yesterday that she felt like I’ve been in a much better mood lately, and while I’m not going to pretend that the occasional urge to quit my job and go live in the woods doesn’t continue to strike me, I think that the fact that I teach middle school means that it’s perfectly reasonable that the occasional urge to quit my job and go live in the woods strikes me.

A couple of things that may or may not be side effects: I feel like my appetite has been suppressed a bit, although given my weight problem that’s not something I’m complaining about, and I think I’ve dropped some pounds since I started the drug but I’m not about to ruin it by weighing myself to check. I’m also sleeping better, which is good and bad, because getting up in the morning has been more difficult lately– and while that’s also a typical reaction to cooler weather setting in, the drive to work has been brutal, and I’ve needed caffeine to reach basic humanity more in the last few weeks than I ever have before. In other words, it being harder to get up isn’t atypical for fall, but this is worse than it usually is, which may or may not be the drug. I’m convinced about the appetite suppression. I’m less so about the sleepiness.

But one way or another, I feel like I’m experiencing more or less normal moods given my lifestyle and circumstances– I don’t feel like the drug has me in a haze or locked in a box, and I’m also not having to keep close tabs on my mood to note when it just might be anxiety and depression fucking me up worse than normal. Things have been better for the last couple of weeks, which is what this shit is supposed to be for. And I’m pretty sure it’s not fully kicked in yet, so hopefully I’m leading to more improvement and not overmedication. We’ll see, I guess? Sure.