I love reading, and I love books, so much that I have the habit of trying to read too many books at the same time–the highest I’ve counted was over a dozen.
While this does allow me to indulge many interests simultaneously, it also prevents me from making significant progress toward finishing any of these books–which, in the grand scheme of things, I feel holds me back from achieving and experiencing everything I want to read.
So today I’m going to look back at my reading list for the year and try to map out my next steps–to possibly, hopefully, just maybe reach my goal of reading 40 books in 2020. (You know, because it’s 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40, I mean, that’s valid, right?)
“I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” Hermione Granger said to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley on page 162 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “We could all have been killed–or worse, expelled. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”
Ron responds: “No, we don’t mind. You’d think we dragged her along, wouldn’t you?”
The movie plays differently: a slight inversion at the start and a spot of humor in the end.
“Now, if you two don’t mind,” Hermione begins, “I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed–or worse, expelled.”
And Ron says, “She needs to sort out her priorities.”
Which is precisely why, dear reader, I’ve brought you here today.
When I spoke to my therapist in early April, he suggested reading Hardy’s article to help me get some ideas for “what works,” you know, that post I procrastinated writing until a few days ago.
Likewise, even though I opened Hardy’s article while I was still on the phone with my therapist, and I kept it open for the next two weeks, I didn’t actually sit down to read it until two days before my next appointment–what happens, I thought, if he asks about it? (Spoiler: he didn’t.)
As I read through these 30 things that promise to make me unstoppable, I felt a plethora of feelings: some of it reminded me of what I read in The Four Desires; some of it sounded too prescriptive, like the “shoulds” that instill shame which Brene Brown warns us against; and some it made me wish for something more, like inspiration and imagination.
But part of me also realized, as I read Hardy, that it’s been a long time since I actually evaluated the big PVGs in my life: my priorities, my values, my goals.
I figured this all out, once, so I’d figured it would end there. But it never does.
Has it been a tumultuous two weeks, or is it just me? Between mental health uncertainties, shoulder-deep feelings of burnout, work difficulties, and not least of all the spread of a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the last two weeks have run past like an Arcanine using Extreme Speed. And now, as I write this, I’m sitting on my couch at eleven in the morning because all Wisconsin schools (and many others around the country) have been closed indefinitely.
They were closed Friday afternoon.
For at least the next month, but quite likely much longer.
So what’s a homebound teacher with wavering mental health supposed to do?
About a year ago, I turned keto. I had meant to talk all about it, how much I loved it, how great it made me feel, how it was grounded in science not fanaticism, but I didn’t.
I just kept saying, “Let me wait a few more weeks, let me see if this is the real thing or just a placebo.” A few weeks would pass and I’d tell myself, “I’m just so busy, I’ll do it later.”
Then summer started. Vacation came and my mental fortitude went. I found it increasingly hard to keep keto, drawn by my mental health toward high-sugar, high-carb foods and hindered by my low energy to make at home the more satisfying food I needed. So then my excuse for not writing was that I wasn’t doing keto anymore. To talk about it would be hypocritical, and besides, I didn’t have energy to write about it anyways.
So now I’m trying to get back into it, because it’s a lifestyle change that I actually liked a lot, but I’m struggling to make it happen. All my will has turned to won’t, and I can’t seem to muster the motivation I need to stick to it. The irony is that I’m right now teaching an elective called “Stress and Resilience,” which focuses foremost on stress and then on willpower.
As I write this, my kids are writing about how overcoming their willpower challenge will help them reach their bigger goals. Now I’d be the hypocrite if I don’t do the same.
I wanted an epiphany in 2019. I wanted to have my eyes opened through the pursuit of Story. Except I don’t feel it ever happened. Maybe if I had read all the books I’d wanted, I would have reached this point… or perhaps I was counting too much on vicarious living to have my own life awakened. There is a time for reflection, for looking back, and that introspection is especially important for self-discovery–but if we spend too much time looking behind us, we’ll miss what’s in front of us–or worse, walk into unseen pitfalls.
So now is the time to set aside the unfulfilled goals of the last year and forge forward, to open my own eyes and look toward the perfection vision of new year.
So. It’s the end of December. The end of the year. The time I’m obligated to write about my final progress on my annual goals. It’s always bittersweet. Bitter because I so rarely do it all, and sweet because the end of the year is a symbolic severing of the threads I wove last year and the promise of freedom (to let myself down in a different way).
It’s also bittersweet in another way, a brighter way: I’ve actually gone far further than at first I’d wished to, but the shortcomings I’ve encountered leave me questioning my own values–or rather, the sincerity of my commitment to these values.
It’s a long story. Or would you be more likely to keep reading if it’s a short story?
It’s been 126 days since I blogged last. In that time, I have…
Taught approximately 360 lessons
Graded nearly 800 exams and quizzes
Used four of my five allotted sick days
Attended at least 40 hours of professional development
Spent about 60 hours preparing and submitting my edTPA
Written a 42-page, single-spaced, original research paper
Backed 23 new campaigns on Kickstarter (while not funding my own)
Listened to “Sky Full of Song” and “Hunger” over a hundred times, and
Worked out a lot less than I wanted to.
But all of that is merely the minutia of being a grad student-math teacher-advisor-TFA corps member-writer. Except half of that is suddenly behind me.
It’s been a long minute since I’ve taken the time to truly think about my goals. For over a year, my life has consisted of headbutting deadlines vying for my attention–child interview report due Monday, grade data analysis due Tuesday, dishes in the sink reaching critical mass and are those leftovers suddenly living?–so much so that it’s seemed like my standard state of mind has been stuck on survival.
You can’t really make progress toward long-term goals if you don’t take time to think about what those goals are, and today I’m determined to do this at least once before my students return, grad school begins again, and I feel stuck in survival mode once more.