Monthly Archives: March 2011

Dry Spell

During spring break I had decided I was going to start hydrating via actual H2O instead of just coffee, alcohol and energy drinks.

So last Thursday I finally got around to acting on it. I bought a spiffy new water bottle, because bribes motivate me, even when I’m bribing myself. So I got this water bottle at school. A stainless steel beauty with a poptop and the university brand in a linear pattern of gradient school colours. I was stoked.

The next morning I filled it with water and felt I was really getting one over by not paying $5 for a morning latte and $3 for an afternoon Rockstar. Instead I was filling my $9 water bottle with FREE water. WIN!!

I carried my awesome bottle around that whole day. I felt so in style. Like my water bottle initiated me into the first step of being one amongst the trendy coffee & chemical hating health hipsters. I made it through my first liquid stimulant free day pretty well. Upon walking in the door I was feeling a bit parched so I reached for my lovely water bottle to partake of a refreshing drink of lukewarm tap water.

GASP! It was gone!

Had the health hipsters gotten wind of my wrongful admission and reclaimed my water bottle? Frantically I searched everywhere to no avail. Mentally retracing my steps of the day I suddenly realised that I had left it in my Theology class.

Feeling defeated I limped back to the coffee shop the next morning for a grande dirty chai w/ whip & extra shot. The coffee ladies welcomed me warmly. I saw the bottles of Aquifina lined up in the cooler mocking my failure, so I quickly took my cup of over-priced buzz in a cup and left. That afternoon I headed to the campus bookstore. This time it was the water bottles lined up on the shelf that were taking the piss. Like an affectionate dealer the Rockstar punch took me back no questions asked.

Today I went back for my afternoon energy hit. Out of the corner of my eye, next to the spring sale table I saw a cute little water bottle all on its own. I felt a sense of connection to the marked down outcast so I picked it up. Perhaps I had simply set my aims too high with that posh bottle and what I really needed was something a bit more understated and humble.

I felt an immediate connection with this water bottle. It was a clear blue BPA free plastic with a simple StMU logo and poptop. It even had a quirky loop to hook it to my backpack or hold it with my finger. I could tell this was a match. This time it was going to work. I immediately washed it out & filled it up with the brain-freeze cold water from the fountain.

I left work with my new water bottle dangling from my finger. How fun and not nearly as needy as the previous bottle that had to be carried with the whole hand. I went to drop off some paperwork and make an advising appointment. I set my water bottle on the secretary’s receptionist’s man-that-answers-phone-and-makes-appointment’s desk.  I dug out all my forms, wrote the appointment in my planner and dashed out to catch my bus home. It was pulling up right when I got there. SCORE!

I hopped on, set my stuff down and reached for my water bottle in anticipation of a cool crisp drink.

WHAT THE FUCK!!!

It was gone.

Are you kidding me?

So now I’m on my third bus home and about to pass out from dehydration while my little discounted water bottle sits in a dark desk drawer in the Student Rentention office.

So in total that’s $20 in water bottles and  0 thirst utils .

Damn I’m thirsty!!


2+2 = cat.

When I started at St. Mary’s, I had plans to get a math degree and be a high school math teacher.  I had become appalled at the state of the education system which focuses more on warehousing kids instead of teaching them to think.  At the time, I considered mathematics to be the foundation of teaching students critical thinking and problem solving skills.  If a student has a firm grasp of mathematical concepts, they will normally have a better time understanding other disciplines.  That’s not to say that every mathematician can write a novel or paint a masterpiece, but the fact remains that the majority of the great thinkers and artists had an underlying understanding and appreciation for mathematics and logic.

This appreciation for mathematics has depreciated over time.  The first round of blame goes to parents.  When parents fear hate math, they teach their children to fear hate math as well.  The second round of blame goes to educators that fail to introduce higher mathematics in a way that facilitates the interest of students.  I felt compelled to be a math teacher because I believed that a student’s first introduction to advanced mathematics sets the precedent for the attitudes those students have about math.

Over my academic career I have had the opportunity to study not only my core subject, but also the application that I was anticipating.  What I uncovered about the education system made me turn full circle, pick up an extra major in Economics and abandon any idea of jumping on that sinking ship.

The truth is that this country no longer values education. This country values money, and the quicker we can get these kids out of schools and into jobs, the better.  It’s disgusting and insulting to think that a student can get a high school diploma without being able to read at grade level or understand the algorithms of arithmetic (barring of course those with learning disabilities).   Related to this advancement of inadequacy, are the consequences of raising a generation of students with an instant gratification/entitlement complex.  It seems that there exists a generation of parents that (in memory of their own adolescent angst) view educators as adversaries.  When students do something wrong, the parents don’t react with repercussion to the student, they instead lobby blame at the teachers and absolve their delinquent offspring of any liability.

Teachers however have been saddled with the burden of raising classrooms full of children.  Teachers are having to act as trusted adult counselors for students from dysfunctional backgrounds, and educators of basic living skills on top of the responsibility of a bare bones basic education in their discipline.  Teachers are spending their own money buying school supplies for low income students, they are spending hours every day outside of school hours planning lessons, grading work and attending workshops.  As if those weren’t enough extraneous anxieties, teachers must also contend with the absolute power that students wield with reckless abandon.  In these days of instant information, all it takes is one disgruntled student to make one accusation and a teacher’s personal and professional  name is permanently scarred.  Teachers go to work never knowing when some drunk/high/mentally unstable student is going to flip out and attack.  The world is always worried about the safety of students, but who stops to worry about the safety of teachers?  And on top of everything, there’s the standardized testing beast to face.  Teachers carry 98% of the weight in these exams with the administration stepping in to account for maybe 1.5% and the last .5% is shared by the students, the parents and the government. [Disclaimer: This is not to be taken as an accurate, fully researched statistic. This is simply meant for illustrative purposes and dramatic effect.] The job of the educator is not really the easy ride that it’s long been made out to be.

The system has removed incentives for students.  I’ve been a student. I’ve taken those exams, and I know that the minute they told me that exam didn’t count as a grade I filled in random bubbles on the answer sheet, got my juice box and spent the rest of the time doodling some boys name on my book cover till it was over.  I’ve made this argument before and people tell me that this isn’t the norm.  But if it can happen even once than it cannot be used as tool of measurement.  It becomes completely invalid.  The idea that a teacher’s salary and career hinges on the arbitrary nature of children is ridiculous! There are some kids that will do really well, and there are some that just won’t care.  Motivation comes from within and no matter how skilled a teacher is, there are some students that will never self actualize enough to produce measurable results.  An answer on an exam says one thing. That the answer provided is not the correct answer.  Everything else is correlation.

I had an Algebra professor once that said two things that changed my life.

1. 2+2 = cat.

2. This is rocket science and people do die.

When no instructions are provided 2+2 = cat is a perfectly valid answer.  It is only from providing the parameters taught in basic mathematics that the sum of the quantity 2+2 will equal the integer 4.  When we fail to instill the foundations of mathematical logic we set our kids up to thinking 2+2 =cat.

This leads to the second statement.  The small mistakes can leads to disastrous results.  A mistake in arithmetic causes a spaceship to explode, a building to fall, or a machine to dispense too much/little medication and people die.  Ask any mathematician and he or she will tell you that the most common mistakes made in higher mathematics are not related to the Calculus or the Algebra, they are related to the basics of arithmetic.

It’s the small things that matter. It’s the small things that make a difference.

A final exam at the end of a semester tells you more about the student and the teacher than the massive state exams every other year.

Galileo said that “Mathematics if the language that God used to write the universe.” If we teach our kids to appreciate, respect, and admire mathematics we bestow upon them the tools they will use to write their own universe.

 


Good days…

Yes sometimes I have them.

Today I felt like I was part of the world again. We had an event at St. Mary’s for Sonya Kovalevsky day in honor of the first woman to get a PhD in Mathematics.  She truly was an exceptional woman and her experiences are quite inspiring.  We had the 7th grade girls from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (where I volunteer) come to the campus and participate in a day of fun math activities and guest speakers introducing the girls to the professional and academic world of advanced mathematics.

I’m always so dreadfully nervous of these things. Partly because of my social anxiety and partly because of the impostor syndrome.  I get really uncomfortable when someone asks me questions. It feels as if they’re trying to expose me. Logically and objectively I know that this feeling is irrational.  But emotionally it wrecks my mind.

But today was different. I did a series of presentations with a math major friend of mine.  I wasn’t scared. I couldn’t believe how calm I was. When they asked questions, I knew the answers.  I figured out the most efficient way to run the presentation and it worked so well. I think it’s because me and this girl naturally click well together, but it felt like there was also something else. Like things were just in some sort of alignment.  I was prepared, I wasn’t terrified of the people talking to me. I wasn’t nervous of being seen. It’s so hard to put it into words, but I finally felt like a person. Like my emotions, my mental state and my physical state were finally connected and working in unison. I didn’t feel like I was on the outside just watching the events unfold. I was actually an integral part of the event.

Today was an exceptional day.


Happy ever after?

I don’t think I was expecting anything.  I think I was just caught up in the excitement of actually meeting someone in this temporary hell that I could mesh with.  He was interesting, and we had things in common. He was someone I could talk to for hours, or just lay down with and not say a word.  It’s been so long since I’ve had that with someone and I’ve missed it dearly.  So I don’t think it was an expectation that things would go well, I think it was more wishful thinking brought on by initial euphoria.

So when things changed so abruptly it caught me off guard.  I don’t understand what happened.  One day he was so keen, and the next he was completely distant.  We still talk, but it’s nothing like it was in the beginning.  Which is such a melancholy thought since “the beginning” was only a few weeks ago.

Is it possible to miss something you never really had? Because I feel as if I genuinely miss him, though our time together was so brief.  Perhaps I just miss the idea of him.  But even that doesn’t see quite adequate.  I talk to him and there’s this pang of longing. It’s as if I’m just hanging on waiting for him to remember that he fancied me not too long ago.  Or perhaps I’m just trying to gather the nerve to call him out on it. Maybe the truth is that I’m scared to collect on the honesty he promised me.

Maybe we’re just going through the motions. Each of us sending out our subtle cues, waiting each other out to see who will take the baited hint.  Will I give up and let him go, or will he see me again the way he saw me before?

It seems I never get it right and the happy ever afters just don’t exist for me.


This kiss….

I will be the first to admit that I’m quite a foolish girl. I can have all the logic, all the over analysing self awareness and all the intuition in the world, but I will still lose myself entirely in a kiss.

Not just one of those “I want to get your pants off” kisses. Those are a dime a dozen.  No, I’m talking about those epic kisses that take your breath away, makes your heart skip a beat and your legs quiver.  The ones that leave you standing there with your eyes still closed while your brain and body attempts some composure.  Yes those kisses. They are my kryptonite.

Those kisses are so few and far between.  It seems like once I’ve finally gained some footing from the last one, a new one comes to knock me down again.  It’s one of those kisses that makes you forget your name for the moment.  Hell, it makes you forget the world in which things like names even matter. It’s just a blinding bliss, that takes hold and leaves you completely at its mercy, or as is usually my case, lack thereof.

These kisses are my downfall.  They ride in on men that wear my broken heart on their sleeves.  Like mainlining that first hit, they are euphoric and consuming.  Afterwards they are all I can think about. I will lose focus, and disregard the details.  Suddenly it won’t matter that this man isn’t my match.  This kiss is like a drug and it leaves me wanting it all, all at once, all the time.

These kisses are so rare that I’ve only had a few of them.  Which is probably fortunate since I don’t know how someone could experience this on a routine basis.  This last one left me reeling.  In fact, this last one was so great that the withdrawal from it made me ache.  So much so that I hope the next kiss takes its sweet time getting here.

But in the meantime, I’ll close my eyes and remember.


Daydreams of Boston…

It is interesting to me that some experiences in life are so incredibly perfect that they border on religious.  In my mind there are alters of devotions to these memories.  No matter what any one may say about particular elements of these memories they are always pristine and perfect in my mind. 

Old State House: Boston

March 2009
Boston happens to be one of these memories.
I spent what could possibly be considered the greatest week of my life in this amazing city.  I was young and in love without a care in the world and the beautiful town of Boston was my backdrop.  Over time the young and in love part faded and my world filled with cares, but Boston was forever a snow globe holding the precious memory of a time when I was genuinely happy.
When things start getting to be too much, I pull my Boston box down from the closet and transport myself back to a time of sublime bliss.  There are pictures and souvenirs of course, but there are also small trinkets that are like secrets with memories that only I have access to.
Boston Harbor near the Aquarium
March 2009 

 

I find myself saying that I miss Boston and that I’m dying to return.  In reality what I miss is the way I felt in Boston, and what I am dying for is to have those feelings back.  I daydream about graduating and moving up to this city that I fell in love with, much like a girl daydreams of running off to elope with the lover from her spring break fling.
My mind filters out the logistics of the scenario as inconvenient details.  People mention the Massachusetts wrecked economy, insanely high taxes, and lack of jobs and I just tune it all out. “Details! I will deal with those another time!”.  I respond with memories of beautiful parks, exciting museums, the amazing food and rich historic culture.  My family, being from South Texas, naturally assumes I won’t be able to survive a New England winter, to which I say “Watch me!”
Union Oyster House: Boston
March 2009 

 

In reality, people move all the time.  People pick up and relocate for any number of reasons.  When people move for a job or school, people praise them on seizing an opportunity.  When I consider moving for something as monumental as happiness, people scold me for chasing pipe dreams.  Then I think about all those things that were once considered pipe dreams, and what if the creators had not brought those things to fruition.  How drab the world seems in which one never chases dreams.
Who knows if it will ever happen.  While I know that I will certainly see Boston again in my life, the jury is still out on if I will actually reside there someday.
But I think that jury is leaning towards a yes!

After all, tomorrow is another day…

Another spring break is coming to a close and I’m sitting here procrastinating reflecting on the events thus far.  It’s been a pretty appalling semester.  It seems the closer I get to graduating the worse I do. From a C in Differential Equations and Discrete Math last semester, to failing Multivariate Calculus and holding on by a thread in Linear Algebra this year.  I keep feeling that if I had it to do over I could have done better. In hindsight I can see exactly where I went wrong and what I should have done differently.  But hindsight is always a day late and a dollar short.

I think for the past couple years I’ve been holding on to handy excuses. It was convenient to blame my shortfalls on the grief of a break up, the recovery from surgeries, and the adjustment to medications.  But excuses have expiration dates.  They’re only valid for so long before one must accept that it happened and move on.  I’m never going to get over these two men. We don’t just over people we’ve cared about. We simply learn to appropriate the emotion. I can’t continue to dedicate emotional real estate to people that have long since left.

It’s always easy to list the changes that need to be made and talking about when, where, and how they’ll be made.  But it’s quite difficult to actually do it.  Two years ago I was ok, and then everything went bad and for the last two years I’ve been trying to get back to that point where I was ok. Sorta like some personality restore point.

But we don’t get to go back. Life doesn’t come with do-overs. We simply dust off and keep going forward.  Perhaps that’s why things have been so consistently difficult.  I’ve been trying to go against the grain. Instead of moving forward with the natural momentum of life, I’ve been trying to go backwards to a time that no longer exists.

Yesterday is something I can never see again. Tomorrow however is a much more attainable goal.

So spring break is over. All in all it wasn’t too bad. Got some sleep, had a fling, did some research and I’m ready to come back and finish this semester with a bang. It may be too late to correct the mistakes of the first half, but it’s not too late to preempt any mistakes of second half.

Deep breath.

Here we go.