"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Monday, October 06, 2008

writing personas

i got a wonderful email from my friend Kathee today. i don't get a lot of friendly correspondence lately. i can't even remember the last time i got an actual letter in the mail (i think it was in 7th grade when i still had a pen pal... oh blissful youth!) all i get now are bills, paperwork and forms to be signed and mailed back with checks attached. even my email is being overrun by work-related things: grad school assignments, work-related meetings or conferences, reminders about bill payments and obligations. i like that technology enables me to be so easily and rapidly connected to ppl, but i hate the immediacy and omipresence it gives to my work, too. no one just sits down to write a friendly letter any more, to ask "how are you?" and share a story. i wonder if email will soon become the same?

i have self-identified three writing voices, and sometimes they overlap and/or take over each other:
1) my academic self – the tone and word choice i use when writing an academic paper. this has recently been subsumed under 2) my personal reflective/critical-reflective voice – the perspective i often assume when i'm actually writing, when i'm trying to be creative, when i'm thinking of language in a careful way, when i often have something to say and i'm being deliberate. that is, my "blog" persona. and then there's 3) casual/conversational – when i write the way i would probably speak if you were sitting with me face-to-face, if we were sipping cups of coffee (i'll be drinking tea) and we've been friends since childhood, or had just reunited after our returns from long adventures and were just sitting down together again to share our experiences. these voices, i've noticed, have come to blur and bleed together over time, which is a good sign, i think. lessening of the Cartesian dualism, onward toward symmetry. i'd like to think of my blog as an endless conversation (tho regrettably one-directional and monologic) between old friends about recent adventures.

which is what brings me to today's post. as i was writing a response to Kathee's wonderful email, i could see myself steadily switching my voice toward writing a blog post, too. it's not that the email i sent her wasn't meant as personal correspondence, but it generated an honesty that i thought deserved a wider audience.

and so, i give you updates on my life in L.A.:

I've been having a hard time adjusting to being a teacher, but I think about you from time to time and wonder how you'd handle similar situations and it makes me feel sane again. I'm a pretty shitty middle school teacher because I let the kids run amok and I get frustrated when I have to explain the most meta- things (over the summer, it was context clues. This fall, it's place values and times tables. I've been trying to shy away from the "it's this way because that's the way it is, so memorize it," but with math basics, it sometimes takes too much mental energy to explain everything. And the kids just get more confused when I try to tell them that multiplication is just like addition, but faster. So, onward...)

I know it's bad to have favorites too, but I definitely do. I hope it doesn't show in the classroom, but I can imagine it does. There are kids who are so cute and smart that even when they do something wrong, I just laugh and smile, and then another kid will continuously get something wrong and I'll get upset. It's hard not to, but I know it's HORRIBLE practice. I try to be fair, and I try to be consistent, but I'm not very good at remembering.

L.A. is sunny and warm. It got cold last night and I was worried that maybe it was finally going to start getting colder and I didn't have enough sweaters to wear to school yet, but sure enough, it was back up to 85 in the afternoon when I left work, and I felt silly for wearing my only sweater in that morning. It's weird to live in a place where the weather never really changes. It's actually extremely aggravating, because I can't feel time passing any more, and I want so desperately to feel the seasons change, so I can understand bodily that I will be going home soon.

I'm making friends. Mostly with people in my grad classes. Beyond work, that's the only way I meet people. My colleagues at school are pretty great, our science department is young, hip and friendly, the math department doesn't know I exist, and the special ed department is the crowd that really means business. But they're all great people, and I'm pretty happy with where I work. Whether intentionally or not, I've managed to successfully distance myself from most of the TFA crowd. I don't think we really get along. I kept hoping I'd find at least one really cool person who shares my views on education and activism, empowerment and the need for education reform, but I've yet to find those kinds of people. It's been really difficult for me to be so removed from that kind of community. I hadn't realized how much of a comfort it can be. It's funny, now that I think about it, because I guess at Miami I really came to depend on that intimate and distinct crowd of people who I knew I could have an intelligent conversation with, and we more or less had similar views and critical perspectives, or would at least be knowledgable enough to challenge each other. There were so few liberals and progressives on the Miami campus, that we could really build a sense of community and connection thru political interests and delight in being politically different. I don't know if it's because most people in CA are liberal-minded, or if because there's more diversity they take it for granted, but everything here seems so dull and uninspired. There's no fire, no energy, which surprised me for a while but then it made sense. I don't even think I'm going to vote this election because my vote won't swing anything. I can't find anyone to talk about politics with because they all feel indifferent. If I'm not talking to someone about work or state standards, the conversations turn to traffic, neighborhoods, or getting drinks (we can't even talk about the weather because it never changes!)

Anyway, I've made a few good friends in my grad classes, people who keep it real and let me vent to them about our work and our grad program. It's nice, but I desperately miss Western. I find myself missing it most at meal times, or when I have moments outside to walk around and I long for a bike ride and think of you and Will and Susan, and how we had some good bike rides last year and wonder if we'll ever be together to ride around Southern Ohio again. It makes me sad, I think I underappreciated that space when I was actually there. I imagine coming back sometimes, but I know it's different now, and the ways in which it's changed sound awful. It makes me sad to know there's no returning to that place.

... Sometimes I really wish I had gone straight to grad school instead of teaching, I imagine it will be hard to go back to being a critical student of spectacularization after even two years of the "real world." It's such a crushing place...


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