Tim Wu's recent New York Times article, "In Praise of Mediocrity," kinda' hit home for me. In it, he praises the practice of having a hobby, of doing something for the joy of it. I can appreciate that.
I may have a list of things on my profiles that describe the different things I do "Teacher, Musician, Photographer, etc...," but am I really good at any of them? Not really. And do I make money from any of them but being a teacher? Nope. Do I do any of them to the degree that people seek em out to hire me to do them? Nope.
[T]here’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.
I've experienced this before. Many people seem to expect me to be a super-professional of sorts with my music and photography. They ask when I'm going to put together a gallery show, finish my album, or start a band.
And, to a point, that makes sense. I should get a band going and I'm sure I'd find joy in it; I should learn how to do all the darkroom stuff in order to justify all my darkroom equipment; I've written a bunch of songs, so I should release them to the public. And I feel that sort of pressure... to publicize my skills in a way that I can gain acknowledgement and deserve the titles I put on my business card, or in the right column of this website, or on all of my social media profiles.
However, I don't seem to have that drive. I've tried making the music more professional before, but I keep putting it off and I'm kinda' ok with it. The older I get, the less I feel like I need to share my emotions with people; my drive to share my music in a professional context has faded with that. I've been enjoying making photographs as of late, but I'm not out there hiring models in order to show off my skills. I'm quite happy to keep my photos "in-house." The article mentions running. I like running, enough that I push myself to run kinda' far now and then, but I'm not "in training." Lately I've been going down to the weight room and trying to stay fit, but I'm not really bodybuilding.
In all these things, I'm a hobbyist. I don't do any of them with a passion that creates cash for myself, and cash is the only real currency of capitalism. I don't have much desire to mix Capitalism with my hobbies. So I keep them with myself.
It makes me wonder how I'd even jump on anything if I had the chance. How would I jump on a bona fide music career? Or photography gig? I have no idea. And with the need to pay for child support, lawyers, and all that separation-related stuff, I can't really abandon my job these days.
So I'll keep up with my hobbying and maybe I can bring in a few bucks as some hobbyist side hustle.
And I'll take more pride in keeping "Musician" and "Photographer" in my profiles, even if they are just a hobby, and even if Capital doesn't recognize my accomplishments.
I saw this link in my Twitter feed:
I read the article, skimmed the comments, and replied to it in my own Twitter feed:
This term, I've been experiencing some of the most mentally taxing teaching of my life. I have five different "preps," English 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. My more senior classes each have between 26 and 30 students. My junior classes feature a "spread" between students who are designated as "gifted" and those who are capable of work at a "Grade 3 or so" level. Simultaneously I'm trying to adapt to BC's new curriculum, which is adding an enormous amount of work to an already overworked mental space. Although I'm sure I'll get through, by my standards things are not going well at work.
Beyond this, I don't have many responsibilities. My children live far away right now. I'm in a play, though, and that takes up 12 hours a week with rehearsals with an additional 4 hours of driving each week. That play will be all done by the end of November, but right now it's pretty taxing. If I'd realized just how large my classes would be this term, I doubt I would have auditioned for the play.
In the meantime, since I'm not doing exceptionally well at planning for my classes, I'm scrambling at work. This is the sort of time when teachers should take "sick days" to catch up on rest and whatnot, but I don't feel like I can do it because I haven't planned well enough for the classes. I'd be releasing a poor Teacher-On-Call to the wolves. It just wouldn't work. But I'm going to have to, probably just after I finish report cards, which are due next Wednesday.
This is nothing new for teaching. Large classes, report cards, parent teacher interviews are the norm. However, I do believe the number of responsibilities for teachers have increased with the advent of technologies like email and the Internet. Students submit their work in a myriad of formats; I am expected to read and understand practically every email that crosses my feed, whether it's from a colleague, parent, administrator, or student. I'm expected to keep up with a website in order to keep in contact with parents. It's just too much to keep track of. I find myself spending hours at the school just trying to get the most basic marking and planning done. It's exhausting.
Many of these roles simply weren't required before the advent of technologies that normalized them. Notes home and face to face interviews tended to dominate the communication cycle. I know it would have been stressful, but I think it would feel more real, more authentic. The fact is that I do an enormous amount of digital work that could very well not pay off and distracts from my work in the classroom. I don't like it.
In response to this stress level, I've started looking into ways to not spend so much time in the classroom in order to decrease the marking and planning aspects. I like educating, but the marking feels more and more futile every year. I'd like to find a side hustle in order to keep things fresh in my life. As much as I enjoy playing at a restaurant on the weekends, I'd love to be able to do a little more.
In a couple weeks, parent-teacher interviews will take place; there's an education conference in the middle of the month on the same Thursday and Friday that open the play. And then the play finishes on the 25th.
But this too shall pass. On the 26th, I'll have nothing but work to do and preparations for Winter Break. And I've treated myself to a birthday present: a nosebleed ticket to the Leafs-Canucks game in Vancouver on December 2nd.
But this month, as exciting as it will be, as many positive, empowering things as there are to do, couldn't end any sooner.
I am grateful for practically everything in my life. However, I don't think I express my gratitude very often. I'm out of practice.
Yesterday, while I was reading the chapter on Emotional Literacy in Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, I came to a renewed appreciation for my generally peaceful, stable childhood. My parents and I certainly have our differences, but I think they appreciate me and I am grateful for their attempts to give their oddball, humanities-ish son a good upbringing. I had freedom to move around and make my own choices, and I did—in my own introverted, awkward way. I'm thankful for their efforts and continued support.
This morning, while making my daughters' lunches, I listened to this video by the more-energetic-than-I-can-handle, proud-of-his-teeth Charisma on Command guy:
His "top of the ladder" is essentially a matter of day-to-day gratefulness, of being thankful for the things you have—without fussing over all the things you don't have.I've heard this sort of idea before, that gratefulness for the everyday is the pinnacle of inner peace, and I like the guy's "Ladder" image, so I went searching for some ways to organize some gratitude.
I quickly discovered The Gratitude Challenge, a 21-Day plan for practising gratitude deliberately and methodically. Although I'm not usually a fan of "challenges" like this, I think this might be a good time to take it on. Why?
I'm over in Victoria, BC, for Spring Break. I'm hoping that the change of scenery will help me get my research project finished. I don't know if it will happen, but I'm hopeful. I just sat down in the library—the moment I typed my first letter, I yawned. This is going to be a hard slog.
Trying to write in such an explicit manner about a dull topic has not gone as well as I'd hoped. I thought by now I'd be in the swing of things, that the tone of the paper would slip out of me with elegance and style. But it hasn't. And I feel like I've paid a social price for this far worse than I ever anticipated.
When this Master's is done, I will no longer have a place to make academic friends. Between the abandonment of academia and the church, I will have lost the two main places where I've built relationships over the years. I will be starting fresh in so many ways.
But I need to move from my yawning to the creation of seeming academic paragraphs and sentences.
So bye for now.
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