Friday, July 27, 2012

The Human Condition

Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.

Kurt Vonnegut

Some people know "what they're supposed to do" from the very get-go.  And by get-go, I mean as a child.  They may not know that they know it, but they know it.

I don't know if it's appropriate to say that I fall in that category or not.  I knew that, in those moments when I was teaching my younger brother, Derek, to do fractions and read as we sat beneath my bunk bed in a bean bag chair with my makeshift dry erase board, I was truly enjoying myself. Even if Derek didn't always grasp the concept right away. 

I enjoyed watching him learn. 
And I'm pleased to say that he is a very fine mathematics student to this day. 
(I like to think that I contributed to that in some way).

I knew, inherently, at that time that I was meant to be a teacher of some sort.  Whether it is just through talking with people and learning and teaching things via regular conversation or as the head of a classroom with the official title of "Miss F", I knew that I loved watching people's eyes as they absorbed and made sense of new information.  In the education world, we refer to it as the "Aha!" moment.

Or at least, on the Great Plains we do.

So right now, it's fairly easy to say that my discontentment with life comes not from my living situation (a spacious apartment/duplex with a dog is nothing to be discontented with), or my social situation (happily with a fella, have good friends I can call on any time and a supportive family), but it is with the fact that I feel like I'm not sharing and teaching enough.

It has taken me most of the summer to realize this.  I am happiest when I know that I am going to be a positive influence on someone that day.

(or, at least, I hope I'm a positive influence)

Which brings me to Mr. Vonnegut's quote.

For a long time.
Seriously. A Long Time.
I felt like:
 "Why does no one else seem to care so deeply as I do about eating foods of quality over quantity?" 
"Why does no one seem to care about the fact that our precious planet is being killed?" 
"Why does no one seem to care about the education system in our state?"  
"Why does no one question things?"

I mean, occasionally I would find one person who would think about  a few of the same things as I did.  I found friends that I could engage in conversations about these topics with.  In those ways, I found myself.

But, I felt like my education had failed me.
I felt like those were questions we were supposed to entertain in the later years of high school.  Sure, they may not be "on the test". The may not even mesh exactly with the subject matter, but anything can be taught in context if you try hard enough.

(I firmly believe that.  You want me to combine math and music? Done. Music and literature? Done. Music and science? Done.)

Anyway, that is why, I think, in High School I was content, but discontent.  Why I was constantly feeling like I need to find ways to push the envelope. To try and find ways to think (if that makes sense at all). I knew that there were questions that I wasn't being encouraged to ask, and I needed to find out what they where and why I should be asking them.

I felt like I needed a teacher to say:

I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.

So, when I decided (and by decided, I mean continued to fulfill the calling that I had felt since I was 10) to be a teacher, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher that continually reassured students that there is always someone that you can talk to.  If they bring up a topic I don't know about, I, as the teacher should be so interested in encouraging them to be curious that I will do research on it myself, or point them in the direction of someone with similar interests who will be happy to ask questions with them.

I want to be a teacher that students remember as a mentor more than a lecturer.  A guider of those with curiosity versus a talker of topics and nothing else.  I think that may be the concept of a true educator, way back in the day, back when people asked questions and didn't accept the status quo.

So, I guess what you could say is that I want to be old-school.....yo.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


"Go put your creed into your deed.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson"

In other words, friends, actions speak louder than words. Or, perhaps, we should back up all of our talk with actions.

Let me begin by stating outright that I fully acknowledge that I am a hypocrite, and that even in writing this, I am increasing my hypocrisy tenfold.

But I try, so very hard, to not be a hypocrite. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say one thing, and do another. When they profess to living the lifestyle of one personality, and actually live the lifestyle of the exact opposite.

(Like I said, guilty as charged).

I get annoyed with drivers who are driving recklessly quickly,
but in turn, if I am in a hurry, do the same thing.

(Which begs the question of "Why do we hurry?" and "What's wrong with arriving precisely when you are meant to (like a wizard)?" be discussed at a later date, I would suppose).

And sometimes I catch myself and say "Well, Andrea, they could be on to a VERY important meeting, or perhaps someone is sick, or perhaps this....perhaps that...."

And then my inner gut says "Yes, and you know what excuses are like."
Unacceptable for most part. On all grounds. I should be more tolerant because I should love them and feel compassion for them because they are a living being. They should slow down because they should love and feel compassion for other individuals, and because there are very few things in this world that truly warrant rushing.

(If Nathan reads this, he knows how unbelievably hypocritcal I am being right now, I'm the queen of punctuality and untimeliness tends to drive me insane.)

Or, perhaps the hypocrisy that kills me the most, and the one that caused me to seriously reflect upon my personal beliefs/philosophies/religious understandings.

Back log, for those who know me, skip the next two paragraphs.
I work at a coffee shop in my home town, and we get a variety of customers. Everyone from the pre-teen who is testing out their new found driving skills and freedom by meeting up with friends, to the middle aged mom catching a coffee between children's activities, to the loner old man who loves nothing more than "A 12oz coffee, blueberry muffin, heat it up please with some butter and plastic fork, and a glass of water with plenty of ice" - Every.Single.Morning.  

One significant group of customers that we cater to is the religious group. (Ie: Pastors, their wives, their congregation, their bible study groups, the individual doing a personal bible study, etc).  I bear no bad bones about this people. I think the fact that they are trying to truly understand what they believe is incredible, and I wish more individuals did something like that.

Everyone back with me?
So it's that latter group that I see daily, the religious individuals, that cause me the most hypocritical angst.  We have some folks that come in daily, daily, or perhaps even multiple times a day and order expensive drinks.

Awesome for business.
But how are all of their congregation members doing financially?
There is a lot of hidden poverty in the city I live in, and I find it hard to believe that the hundreds of dollars they spend every month at the coffee shop couldn't be better redirected to someone who needs the help more. And all of the time they spend just hanging out at a coffee shop? It could also probably be much better redirected.

Within this group, there are also a lot of older, wealthier individuals (often female), that preach to being awesome Christians. Yes, them. With their pounds of makeup, lots of jewelry, fancy Coach bag ("No it's not a knockoff! It's original!").  They, who treat the staff at the coffee shop like underlings. Like indentured servants to their caffeinated desires. These are the people that caused me to truly question my religious understandings. To look around while sitting in Mass and see more people with more things than they will ever need, wearing ridiculous things that they don't need, coated in cologne/perfume that is just causing everyone else around them to gag throughout the entire service, because they want to smell nice.

You see, my problem is that it is very ego-centric. The understanding of religion, specifically Christianity, in this area.  Everything is fine and dandy and "Our God is an Awesome God - As-Long-As-I-Can-Keep-Driving-My-Escalade-To-Get-My-Nails-Done". 

It kills me. 
I grew up Catholic. I went through a Catholic school system and got a very good education (if a bit biased). I am undeniably grateful for the opportunities presented to me by my parents and the sacrifices they made. 
But with this education, I've learned a lot about what the figurehead, Jesus, preached in a way of a lifestyle.

Here, want a good idea, let's start with the Beatitudes and move from there to the Ten Commandments.

Anyway you slice it. These individuals aren't even close to following the core, the essence, of their belief system. The moment they talk down to a staff member at the shop because the drink isn't just right, they've strayed. 

My big question is then, do they repent?
Unfortunately, I think the attitude of "I get what I want" is so inherent in society and the culture, especially around here, that it doesn't seem wrong.

But remember, I, too, am a hypocrite.
But I acknowledge it.
And I work on it daily.

Because to be a hypocrite is the biggest annoyance in my life right now, and it will be for the rest of my life. But perhaps, because I am trying to be better. Because I am making a sincere, dedicated effort to improve my existence, I can say that yes, I am a hypocrite, but I am a progressive hypocrite, working to change and improve daily.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Terrifying Monotony

I'm convinced that the time after you graduate from college but before you've secured a "real job" is possibly the most terrifying time of your life to date.

At least, that's how I feel.

I wish I could say that I've been able to do a lot of great thinking. And, perhaps, I have. But life seems to keep me so busy that I'm not able to really focus on developing thoughts.  I thought that this summer was going to be the summer for that, but between work and the Civitas project, my thoughts have been a bit preoccupied.

Between those two things, and the puppy:

(and "aww" is totally appropriate here)

Anyway, perhaps one thing that I've learned is that, if the department of education ever did decide to do it, and if all the schools perhaps stuck to it as well, creating a host site for all open education positions with a wonderful search engine would be the best creation ever.


I'm still alive and all is relatively well.
I'll be sure to have something decent posted here soon. And hopefully on a regular(er) schedule.