Well, it’s almost over. 2022 is rapidly slipping away from all of us, and we may even have that hope that emerges just as the last weeks of December approach: it can only get better in…
For me, 2023 does have some promise. I have a renewal of some contracts at my college, along with some other work promises that may or may not be broken. I also plan to take one of those ubiquitous UX design or Google Certificate courses available online (anything to make me think that there is still something out there that can take me out of the regular course work). So, I wait…
…And I write. One thing that we all deal with is that terrible urge to not only look forward, but also backward; our rearview mirror has objects that are much closer to us than they appear. What does not help is that every possible media source converges on the best and worst moments and events and other things of the year. Magazines and web sites allow us to consider what was lost and gained; what we forgot and tried to forget.
I have my own lists. I began by making a list of deaths that affected me in some way, and I had to stop (any year where you lose Sidney Poitier, Jean-Luc Godard and the Queen can be depressing). It was not right for me to do what all those other sources had done. And I could barely remember most of the year anyway without referring to my journal.
So, why am I writing this? I am going to make a list of moments that stick out in my own life; things that still make me smile or cringe, but from which I can learn from and amuse you with for the space of an article.
1) The Book on the Bus
I was riding the bus to work one morning when I heard the following:
Now, I was sitting in a single seat, with the other seats next to me on a higher level near the ear that heard that noise. At first, there seemed to be a leak with the pneumatic system that opened the exit doors. That was my guess, so, I ignored it. And then it happened again.
I could not ignore that. I had to look up. The young lady who attempted to grab my attention got it. I was curious about this on a weekday morning, but I did not need to ask too many questions.
‘Are you reading Murakami?’
Now, I have already mentioned my reading for the summer period. I had a copy of ‘A Wild Sheep-Chase’ to finish and was trying to complete it on bus trips to work. The young lady was a very devoted fan of the writer and we chatted for a long time in front of the other passengers who wondered what was actually happening.
‘I hope I run into you again.’
As a university student, I wished her the best with her studies. As a fan of Murakami, I think I owe him for the introduction.
I still wonder if I will ever see that lady again.
2) The Five-Month Break
I am taking a big chance by writing about this, but I suppose that there won’t be many readers from my place of work reading this.
I work as a contract teacher at a college in one of Canada’s more attractive destinations. This means that I usually spend the summer period working through the vacations and breaks that the other members can enjoy because I take on some of the responsibilities of their classes. I have done this for over a decade now, and in the year that just passed, I expected to continue with this work.
Well, the school had other plans.
It is strange when you start to see things as a habit. It is like going through what people love to call a “Golden Age” of some sort. Things seem like they will continue to be as sweet or as prosperous as they always were. What we all forget, however, is that all golden ages have to end.
I am not about to compare my summers to certain “golden ages” in history, or on cable television networks, but I did enjoy them a lot. I was alone in an entire office with just a skeleton crew of office staff and other workers who did not feel the need to ask me for help or interrogate me over a student’s behaviour or grade. I was usually on with two or three classes that only ran a few hours per week and could put aside enough money to see me through to the autumn period. And since I had been doing it for more than a decade, I had course plans and notes that I could settle into and review quite easily (strange how many of these courses had no textbook apart from my notes and adaptations).
So, why the change?
I did not find out until the very end of the winter semester that the summer period would be a blank on my schedule. No one bothered to even hint that, with a change in administration, there would be a change in the course plans and lessons. Now, this is what truly bothers me, even as I tap out these words: yes, I understand that some things have to change. That is a part of life. But you do not even give a teacher who has been with your school for that long any time to prepare and plan for five months of no work? You did not think to send me a message about this?
I was asked by someone once what was the greatest difficulty when dealing with administration, and I answered honestly: communication. Why is it so hard for the ones who run things to tell us exactly what the plans are? I found out about my little change through an email. No one seemed to have the nerve to speak to me directly.
It still seems unfair…
…but I did survive it.
My savings and some borrowed money will have to be paid back (still trying to make up a plan for deposits and digging myself out of the red). I was lucky enough to have a credit card that I only used for phone bills and transit payments (they even extended my credit limit because I was such a loyal customer; maybe they should speak to my school). There are debts to pay, as I said, but I do not really fear destitution. And I am no longer worried about losing another summer period. If this is how the administration wants to treat me, I will return the favour and not communicate with them, either.
However, there is one little problem.
3) Christmas and the Getaway
Our college is about to celebrate its annual Christmas party at a very fine restaurant in one of the nicest parts of the city…and I will not be there.
I have already made it clear to at least one other teacher that I cannot sit down at a table and break bread with people who smile and laugh and pretend like they did not just put me in an ugly situation over the summer. This one teacher, I should mention, took it upon herself to send me money through some sort of lottery that the she set up to help me out (I still wonder who and how she deceived them into collecting that fund), and she really does want me to be there.
But I cannot do it.
My mother also thinks I should attend.
I still cannot do it.
Usually, after such a treat, my next step is to return home for roughly two weeks with the family I escaped from many years ago. Two weeks seems to be the ideal amount of time necessary for me to realize that I really do not miss my hometown that much…or maybe at all. I love my family and wish them well, but I see that return home for the holidays as a sort of “vacation penance”. I rest and I wonder what I have done to deserve such a place of rest.
So, I miss one event while pretending that I do not want to miss the other one.
4) New Digs…You Dig?
I must be luckier than most teachers with my former students. One of them informed me that the school she worked for needed a new English teacher. I, of course, accepted and found myself working for a school in the city connected with game design and technical art for video games and online culture. My first semester covered the October to February period of 2021 to 2022 and with that, I established a reputation with the staff and students that was very favourable. I was then brought back to cover the same group plus another set of students in a different group. Again, it did not really matter the subject matter. I was the only English teacher and had the opportunity to bring in whatever I felt was relevant for several weeks of instruction. Once again, there was no course text book, no material I could borrow from a previous instructor, and the lesson plan was all my own (grammar followed by an issue from the news related to gaming culture and possibly a debate). It was ideal for me and perfect for students who seemed more interested in their art and design lessons and Discord accounts.
But this year, there was a hitch.
The entire school moved to new offices…and my worst nightmares about what such a change could bring came to life.
On my first day, every computer and monitor was disconnected. This can be a problem when, once again, one finds oneself teaching a course with no textbook or papers. I managed to find one man on staff who seemed to think I was challenging him by asking for help (guess it was strange to have a teacher asking a technical worker for help).
During other sessions, the monitors stopped working, the projector either did not work or kept going on and off over long intervals, and sound was not available. The interesting thing is that none of my students had any problems with their computers (some were smart enough to bring laptops and tablets). The school also kept labeling the different rooms with numbers and illustrations that grew and became more striking over several weeks.
Most importantly, there were problems with my invoicing. I was supposed to continue from the number submitted in the previous semester. This was not something I could shrug off, and I settled the matter very quickly (hopefully, the last set submitted have been accepted – not a word of dissent or complaint has been submitted to me). The teaching will go on.
And I better end this on a happier note:
5) Two Recordings
When you write for online pages, you are often the one who yells into a void without being heard. I have had many pieces that received no likes, comments or hearts (thank you, Vocal). When you do finally get a response, it can feel like a minor miracle. That person said that they were moved by a poem you submitted. This other reader was impressed by an article you wrote. These points matter. I have gone out of my way to always write back to readers who took the time to comment on what I have done, and I have also written to the ones who have dared to post their work on line. Feedback gives you something to feed on.
But even I can be surprised.
This happened when I did that rather vain thing that we are often tempted to do with too much free time on our hands: I Googled myself. The usual links went up, but I also discovered something that I never thought I would see.
Someone made a YouTube video of my work.
Now, let me be careful here. It was not like someone hired an entire film crew and had actors performing their roles based on what I had on the page. Nothing that lucrative took place. What did happen is that one woman took a story I wrote called “The Only Dog I Know” and transformed it into an ASMR clip.
I listened to it once. Only once… I thought that it was rather odd that she would pick that story, but then I realized that the woman who read the piece often read out stories and recorded erotic narratives on the same page. I was flattered, annoyed, a little bothered that I had not thought of it myself, and slightly confused. When I wrote to her, she politely explained herself and I accepted that she was an admirer of at least one of my stories. No court case was pending.
And now it is gone (her account has been closed).
Now, if this had happened only once, I would have dismissed it. But no; it was bound to happen again.
Another group decided to record a story I wrote.
The link really through me, as did the hashtags: #humour, #funny, etc. Again, I am very grateful that anyone has been reading my work, but I still have to wonder why a story about a very awkward food trade was the one they chose to record.
To each their own...
And with that, I think I can say that this might be my last piece of the year. I have one other piece on another topic, but that may have to wait. A lot of weirdness remains unmentioned, but I am sure that I will have plenty to talk about in 2023.