Featured Slider

Weekend Wrap-Up: Sunflowers and Stephen King

Hello, all! Hope you had a lovely weekend. Mine was fairly relaxed after a tough first week on the job. Friday night was my mother's birthday dinner, and we ate at a delicious seafood restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. My folks flew out to New York on Saturday to go to my sister's dress fitting, and Alec and I spent most of our time walking around and checking out various different Halloween sections at stores. It was a great way to spend a couple of days.


I've been reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King for a couple of days now, and it's finally starting to pick up the pace and get more interesting (100 pages in!). I seem to have this problem a lot with Stephen King; I find that his books either take far too long to cut to the chase, or that they drag certain events out for a very long time. It gets a little frustrating, but most of the time the stories are worth it. I had been debating whether or not I wanted to see the new It movie this weekend, but ultimately neither Alec nor I seemed too jazzed on the idea. I'd like to read the book and see the original, but I have seen that the new movie is getting a lot of hype and some pretty high scores in terms of criticism...it's a tough call, but I'll probably just wait for it to hit Netflix.


Last week was pretty tough in terms of starting my new job. I think it will be rewarding, but there were moments when I was ready to crawl under my desk and cry. Alec is such a wonderful human being that he surprised me at my apartment on one of those days with a huge bunch of sunflowers and a brownie from Panera, which completely turned my day around. I've also gotten so much love and support from family and friends about beginning my new job, and I'm so impressed by the kindness and support of the staff at my new school. Everyone has been so lovely to me about beginning my new job, and I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am for it all. Knowing that I have such a wonderful support system makes it possible to push through the tough days and the insecurity, and that's really all that matters.

I'm apprehensive about beginning week 2, but I'm hoping for the best. Relentless positivity and a dash of realistic thinking are my recipe for this week, and I hope it pays off.

Thanks for reading! What did you get up to this weekend? I'd like to know!
Yours Oddly,
Ally

First Day

I am currently sitting on my couch, eating soup out of a mug, while my washing machine hums and squeaks. The sun is that golden color that threatens an early sunset without following through. My feet are sore, and I haven't been this tired in a long time.


Today was my first day as a fully-fledged teacher. I had some ups and some downs and some snafus and confusion, but at the end of the day, I am grateful. I've been listening to a podcast that explores different aspects of the Bible and things it says about our daily lives, and I've been catching up on the series about work. It has come at a very fitting time in my life.

I have been anticipating this day for weeks -- planning, preparing, stressing out, and praying (but mostly stressing out and not quite as much praying as I would have liked). I've run through a million different scenarios in my head including the good, the bad, the ugly, and the bizarre right alongside each other. I have tried to mentally steel myself for those tough days, even though I've barely started. I've been trying to plan for how to preserve myself in the days ahead. I am learning more and more that my plans are inconsequential to the larger Plan that is out there for me, and that the real Plan has more in store for me than I can imagine.

There's this constant battle for me between preserving myself, remaining comfortable, and being safe and this more pressing need I feel to go into those dark spaces, make difficult choices, and push myself to my limits. I think this is something most human beings feel in one way or another, and I think most people deal with it by going mountain climbing or trying a weird food every once in a while. Most people don't deal with it by making it their career.

I am a complete introvert. I love nothing more than staying home in PJ's, drinking tea, and reading a book. I like quiet bookstores, walking along the river, and generally avoiding human contact most of the time. Teaching is very much none of these things. Teaching is non-stop community-building and connection-making. Teaching is confrontation, over and over, about things you didn't think were going to be problems (like not telling your teacher you think their class will be boring). Teaching is a continual reaching out, a pursuit of the other, a stretch outside of the boundaries of comfort into the wilds of students' lives. I am learning that this has purpose and meaning, that it is a blessing, that it is not antithetical to who I am, but is building me up to be someone better than I was.

My hope in this school year is that I can grow personally and build intentional community with my students and colleagues at work, and that I will learn to find joy even when (especially when) it seems as though every day is a struggle. Today was my first day, and there are going to be hundreds of days after this, but I am going to make each of them meaningful and special in their own way.

I have to go sleep for 200 years now.
Yours Oddly,
Ally

Long Weekend Wrap-Up: NYC Bachelorette

Hello there! It's been an awfully long time since I've written a weekend wrap-up post. I'll definitely be featuring those regularly here from now on, but they won't be numbered anymore. It's demoralizing to see how many weeks I skip when I number them, so for my own sanity I'm going to name them instead.

This Labor Day weekend, I was in New York celebrating my sister's bachelorette weekend! Three of her friends from college and her future sister-in-law flew into town as well, and we had a nice long weekend of craziness and fun before summer ends. I booked us a few good restaurants, a pole dancing class, and a Not-Suitable-For-Children dance show; everybody had a blast, and the bridal party got a chance to get to know each other. Her wedding is in 49 days, so the time is absolutely flying by! I can't believe that fall is right around the corner, although I'm all too happy to wave goodbye to summer weather.

New York City from the 45th floor
I start my new job tomorrow, and I am an intense blend of nerves and excitement. It feels like the past couple of years have been years of profound and constant change, and I would really like for things to settle down. I know that's probably not going to happen, given the phase of life that I'm in right now, but a girl can dream. It's been hard feeling like I constantly have to prove myself over and over; it's draining to feel like you're being evaluated no matter what you're doing, and I'm ready to settle into a routine and hopefully feel supported and not judged in my new position. My coworkers seem like incredibly nice, helpful, and supportive people, which I'm excited about.



Still, feeling like I have to prove everything all the time is exhausting, and while I'm excited to start school, I'm also looking forward to Friday when I can say that I officially made it through the first week of school. I just finished the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, and it was exactly what I needed to read right now. Let me share my favorite quote below:

"We're addicted to big and sweeping and photo-ready-- crossing oceans, changing it all, starting new things, dreams and visions and challenges, marathons and flights and ascending tall peaks. But the rush to scramble up onto platforms, to cross oceans, to be heard and seen and known sometimes comes at a cost, and sometime the most beautiful things we do are invisible, unsexy."

In the midst of seeing lots of my friends move to big cities, begin big and important jobs, and go on big adventures, I've found it very easy to feel small. This book and that quote specifically reminded me that even if I'm not scaling mountains or moving cross-country, my life has significance and is beautiful in its own way. I needed to hear that this week.


That's all I've got for now! I hope you had a great long weekend, and I'll see you soon.
Yours Oddly,
Ally


Platitudes

"The fact is, in the day-to-day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance." - David Foster Wallace, from his speech "This Is Water"





Over the past two weeks, I've been in meetings with professionals in the field of education talking about planning, policies, and the year up ahead. It's been simultaneously really, really exhausting and really, really exciting. I'm not sure if everyone experiences this, but when I learn a lot of new information and meet a lot of new people, I can get drained rather quickly. Perks of being an introvert, I guess! But beyond all of the new people and new school systems to learn about, I got to set up my classroom!

It is my firm belief that you're not setting your classroom up correctly unless you have several posters with inspirational quotes on them, so naturally, I have 12 small posters with growth mindset quotes up in my room, plus another bigger poster on the way. I used to laugh at the inspirational quotes and motivational posters my teachers had in their classrooms, but now I'm becoming one of them...my, how the tables have turned.

It's funny to me now that I would be the teacher who puts up those posters in her room, partly because I used to laugh at them and partly because I was a student of creative writing who was taught to avoid cliches like the devil. I spent hours agonizing over my pieces in college trying to erase cliches from them and find more creative ways of expressing myself. I now have a plaque in my room that says "Do Something Great Today!" I have been thinking a lot about cliches and platitudes.

I recently read this interesting article from The New York Times, and I think Rivka Galchen sums up nicely my problem with cliches: "Usually cliches are used correctly and unthinkingly. So correctly and unthinkingly that mostly we don't hear them, especially when we say them to ourselves." The ubiquitous nature of cliches means that they become background noise to our larger thoughts. So, when someone tells you, "You can do it! Keep going!", we tend to push those things to the backs of our minds. It's why we're all so good at giving advice, but so terrible at taking it. 

We don't think about it when people try to calm us or encourage us with cliches and platitudes. We want something groundbreaking, something interesting, something that feels as though it is meant for us and only us. Cliches remind us that every person on earth feels similar things throughout life. Cliches remind us that we're all living in our bubbles of individuality, when really we're all sharing human experiences to varying degrees. Cliches make us acutely aware of the fact that we're all in this together.

I find the quotations up on my walls helpful and encouraging. I can only hope my students feel the same way. I'm teaching freshmen, so they're just as new to all of this as I am. We really are all in this together.

What are some of your favorite motivational or inspirational quotes? I'd really like to know! Bonus points if you can point out all the cliches I used in this post!

Yours Oddly,
Ally