1.31.2005

Teaching Again

Tonight I have to teach again for the first time this semester. I'm always scared at the beginning of the term. I have to hide my shaking hands on the first day of class. This time the anxiety is greater than it has been in the past. I dread it. My students will be better because I only have night classes, which means the majority of the students are adults. The night students are so much better. More of them do the reading. They even seem appreciative of the teacher at times. They tend to take more responsibility for themselves. Some of them even seem to respect the teacher as a source of knowledge instead of an object of ridicule.

I don't have my syllabus done yet. I was just going to rearrange the one I used last year but I realized this afternoon I don't even have the book at home so I can't do that. I'll have to go into the office. Nice one with the procrastination. Once again, I'll be printing and xeroxing the syllabus right before class. So I should leave home now to give myself an hour and a half to get the crap done. yep. leaving now. I don't want to go.

One of my colleagues called me yesterday after getting high. He told me how excited he was for classes to start. How much he just loves teaching. This dude is a source of envy for me, not in a hateful way. I like him. I just wish I could be more like him. He's already published some articles, he finished all his coursework, he never gets incompletes. He has no fears about his abilities or talking to professors or getting into discussions, he seems to have limitless confidence. More confidence than anyone else I know at the department. A lot of guys don't like him for that very reason. They resent his confidence and bravado and berate him in displays of obvious envy. The women, however, seem to get along well with him. Interesting. He's also disgustingly young, 24 or 25.

Time feels frozen. Time feels external to me. The world feels external. Can I expel myself from reality? In many ways I already live in a space external to reality and this is why I have problems. But I exit life to escape my problems so it's all a vicious circle really. I watched a show about John Nash this weekend. He's the mathematician who did some genius work in the development of game theory then went mad. After 20 years he willed himself sane again. The producers interviewed him for the show. He said madness is an escape, that sometimes it's easier to let oneself go, to give in to the voices rather than deal with reality.

Sometimes I've yearned to leave everything and run forever. Every single day of life is this arduous fight with myself, my nature, my various levels of desire and rationality and the demands of the physical world. Just making sure to remember to complete my daily hygiene routine is a struggle. One of the psychiatrists they interviewed for the show mentioned that for the mentally ill things like brushing their teeth in the morning are difficult or monumental tasks. That made me laugh because lately I've been writing out a to do list for my morning hygiene routine in an attempt to make the whole thing habitual and thus no longer a 'task'.

Imagine a person who must make it a goal to shower every morning and has to write herself lists to remind her to shower in the morning. Imagine what it must be like for her to navigate adult life and responsibilities in addition to the monumental task of her own self-care. My forays into the world wear me out, causing me to spend days alone to recover. And now the semester cycle begins again, the cycle that became a nightmare from which I was released only 5 weeks ago. I willingly walk back into it, pretending I'm ok. Pretending I'm not terrified. So terrified I must shut down all feeling and thought. Turn auto-pilot teacher adult act on now.

Will I survive it this time? I still don't know if I survived the last one, this may be the last attempt. Or it could all turn around and be great. I walk the plank towards the chilly ocean waters. I love swimming, so maybe it won't be so bad this time. The numbers on my computer that mark the time keep going up and up....with each passing second I increase the danger of not having enough time. I have to remind myself to care about that, that things like being on time are important in the world.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if John Nash was faking his symptoms to promote his game theory. If game theory means that you take advantage of situations that aren't the optimal because of less competition, then by acting different he would avoid the confrontations of his peers on a competitive level. I would like to have seen Reese Witherspoon opposite Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and have her sass him every once in awhile.

I don't like cleaning, but now I have declared war on all personal messiness. I am stronger than dirt I am hoping. Right now we're have a truce but tomorrow I am resuming the war. 

Message from Anonymous

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a movie where Dana Carvey played a private detective who forgot everything when he woke up the next morning. He had to leave himself notes and recorded messages in order to pick up where he left off the next day. 

Message from Kim Siever

Anonymous said...

I like getting a warm syllabus. It tells me that teachers are jsut like me. I have handed in every paper in college still warm from the printer. Way to go. 

Message from jake

Anonymous said...

This was a very moving post. Thank you for sharing (that takes a lot of courage). And don't worry, you're not alone in procrastination (or making lists for things that must get done in the morning ;-). 

Message from Lizzy

Anonymous said...

Also, good luck on this coming semester! 

Message from Lizzy

Anonymous said...

Hey JL,
I know what you mean about everything becoming such a task. Even brushing teeth, taking a shower, changing, cleaning.. Very difficult to do while in fetigue(sp?) mode. It's always when the very last pair of knickers have been worn and there's none left will there ever be laundry done. 

Message from Varant

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey JL! I'm queen of procrastination too. I guess I prefer to sit and worry about it instead of actually doing it. I'm so prone to worry. A sickeningly optimistic/disciplined friend recently told me, "Don't worry about the things you can't do anything about; and don't worry about the things you can do something about." Great. I guess I'm just lazy. But its true I guess...if you can do something about it, then do it. If not, oh well. Just think of it as a "fresh" syllabus.

Oh yeah! There was a time in my life where I made so many lists; one of the things on my To Do list was to -make a list. I even had 1. Wake Up on there at one point.

Love,
ADW 

Message from Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lizzy! I never considered that it took courage to write stuff like this. Probably because this feels natural and real life is what scares me.

That's cool to know Jake. I assumed the students just looked down on me for being a slacker when I do things like pass out the first page of a 5 page syllabus still warm from the machine. I know I have been called lazy by one of them on rate my professor.com  

Message from JL

Anonymous said...

I thought Russell Crowe was good in Gladiator, but in 'Master and Commander the Far Side of the World' the DVD special feature explained how he was telling his fellow actors to treat him like the captain during breaks and down time so they would stay in character. I can imagine that would get old after while.  

Message from Anonymous

Anonymous said...

JL,

It was Clean Slate

Message from Kim Siever

Anonymous said...

I liked Clean Slate! Thanks for the reminder, Kim!

J, as a former night student myself (always a student, only sometimes in classes!), have a wonderful time teaching them. Someone in there is trying to get their life out of your class. You can be there for them, even when it feels like you're not there for yourself.

Isn't that the magic and the mystery of life? The magic is that giving always causes you to receive... the mystery is how it works other than Divine Intervention.

"...willing to submit to all things the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him..."

Take good care of yourself! 

Message from Rahhb

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, may I call you, "J"? Sorry so informal! LOL 

Message from Rahhb

Anonymous said...

Rahhb,
Considering how I expose about myself on here, no formality is necessary.  

Message from JL

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