Thursday, July 31, 2008

Discouraged

I write this post in a moment of semi-vulnerability; it's rare that I allow myself to write publicly during such times. It's nothing too serious, I think, and I think that "this too shall pass," but this does not stop me from being deeply discouraged lately (by which I mean this past year).

I'm discouraged because I can't find a teaching job. Yes, I know that they can be difficult to find; yes, I know that it's possible I may not find one; yes, I know that it's quite possible I will find one. But I've sent out hundreds of resumes - seriously; I am not exaggerating - and have yet to have a single job offer, even from a school I know would be a bad fit. It's hard to not take this personally; even if it's not entirely personal, some part of it is. Why does no one who is in the position of hiring me think enough of me to hire me, to think I could be just a basic, good, solid teacher? I refuse to believe I couldn't be a good teacher; I innately feel that I am and that I have talent in this area.

I'm discouraged because I'm tired of being poor. Yes, I know that there are people who are truly poor, who don't have anyone to live with, who go hungry, etc. Yet I thoroughly dislike being so financially dependent on anyone (and in the past few years, this person has been Chris) that I can't afford to buy the train tickets I need to get to and from school, to buy my school supplies and books, or even buy my own food much of the time. I've worked every single job offer I've ever gotten at school (or anywhere, for that matter, this past year), and it's still not been enough. Do you really know what this does to a person who likes to be independent enough to support herself and to live on her own? I want to feel that I live with Chris because I choose to, because we both want to live together, and not simply because it's that I have nowhere else to go. This is how I feel much (most) of the time. I hope Chris doesn't feel that way.

I'm discouraged because I feel myself getting burned out in school - again. I was tired of school by the time I reached 9th grade; I was burned out by the time I graduated (barely) from high school; and I certainly needed a break before going back to college. (I am thankful I worked for several years before going back to college, and I am thankful I moved to New York. I wouldn't have been able to develop a sense of self without doing so.) I am doing very well in school right now - the best I've ever done; my G.P.A. will be quite good - but I've been pushing myself this past year because I know I'll need to stop afterwards and take a mental break. I still have a post to write about all I'm thinking about in terms of doctoral studies, but I'm still working that one out in my mind. My needing a break from college is one of the big reasons, but there are others.

I'm discouraged because I feel I have a shaky attachment to Catholicism right now. It's not as shaky as it once was, but I'm not happy with where I stand. I want to talk to a priest, but I'm not sure what I want to say; I want to go on a retreat, but I can't afford it. I want to be happy about one thing in my life. Right now I'm not happy about anything.

I'm discouraged because I'm not happy about anything right now. I'm discomfited, and I don't know how to get myself back. I do not want to be this person that I am right now. I want to be different, in every way that I can think of.

And I've kept all this largely to myself because what I dislike most of all are platitudes that people offer. I don't want to be told that all this will be all right, or that it will all work out. Right now, this does not help me. I don't know what would.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sundries

I used to be mildly irritated at people who proclaim surprise at the time of year, indicating surprise that it was whatever month it happened to be at the time. ("Where did the time go?" "I can't believe it's March/July/insert month here already.") But I do have to admit surprise that it's already the end of July. It's the last week of the English Summer Institute; I may or may not have tutoring for the first two weeks in August. I may just show up and hope for the best (I would hope that my students show up). I wasn't entirely counting on my even tutoring, though, so I had arranged for an interview at a local employment agency. I wasn't expecting too much to come out of it, which sounds like pessimism, but was in fact realism based on my experience working at an employment agency in Allentown a number of years ago. (That was actually a job I really enjoyed, which surprised me; I worked for the employment agency itself, not going out on assignments.)

I'm a bit of a hard-to-fit employee right now. I really only want something for August (once school starts up again, I can sub and/or tutor as much or as little as I'd like), which is difficult because there's less money to be made for short-term assignments. (One works less so is therefore less of a money-maker.) Also, if there's a more permanent vacancy, a company is more likely to want to be able to hire a temp employee. (The company can always go back to the employment agency - or to another agency - to find a better fit.) If an employee is only out for a day, there may not be the advance notice to find a replacement. Even if the employee is out for a few days, or even for a few weeks, there's also a good chance that the company may not look for a replacement if her work could be covered by other employees.

Nevertheless, I made an appointment at an employment agency, took various computer skills tests (which I did pretty badly on, despite knowing my way around Word and Excel and knowing how to find the actual answer if such problems were to arise in the workplace), filled out a pile of paperwork, took more computer aptitude-type tests, and met a recruiter, with whom I spent perhaps 25 minutes, and who told me she didn't have anything right now but we should be in touch by the end of the week. I'll be looking around for other employment agencies later this week, also; but I'm not too enthused because if I'm tutoring for the next few weeks, I really wouldn't mind having a week or two of not commuting to the city.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

All About BBQ

Chris has turned me into a bit of a foodie. I don't go out of my way to watch cooking shows or pay attention to culinary trends, but I have developed my palate and my tastes. (I point out does not make me a food snob; but if I go out someplace for dinner I can tell if the ingredients are fresh and have a certain degree of quality, and I can tell if the meal is well-prepared.) For years now we have had occasional conversations about BBQ. Chris has consistently indicated a dislike BBQ because the sauce that's applied generally tends to be that sticky sweet vaguely ketchup-y stuff. (I don't particularly care for that either.) Then, about 10 years ago, I was down in Florida visiting some friends who took me out for real BBQ, which I was not looking forward to, but which completely changed my mind. It was delicious: It was smoky like I wasn't expecting, and had no sauce at all. And I thought of that every time Chris proclaimed to dislike BBQ. Finally, a few months ago, he went to SXSW in Texas, where he was finally able to try some real, honest-to-goodness BBQ, and since then he and I have managed to try a few different BBQ restaurants. 

Chris discovered a place in Brooklyn, the Smoke Joint, which turned out to not be too far away from LIU, so one day last week, after he was done with work, he took the subway down to my neck of the woods and we met there for dinner. It was pleasant enough place, and I think I'd go back if I was looking for something local. (Chris had ribs, which looked great and which were apparently quite good, and a side of decent mac & cheese. I had the Brooklyn wings, which were covered in a spicy slightly yet sticky sauce - the type that gets all over you and won't let go - that I wouldn't have liked if it were not spicy; and for the main course, tolerably good hacked beef (needed salt) and a side of coleslaw, which I tend not to care for but which Chris raved about.) 

That weekend, quite inexplicably and without planning, we went to the local  Famous Dave's, which is a chain. We weren't expecting anything amazing, but we were pleasantly surprised. Not fabulous, really, but I think we'd go again. (We both got a two meat BBQ combo with an extra meat; Chris had the ribs, brisket, and hot link sausage with a side of cole slaw and potato salad; I had the ribs, roasted chicken, and sweetwater catfish with a side of "Firecracker green beans"; and of course we shared.)

Last night we met up with Vhary and went to Virgil's BBQ in the Theater District in New York City. This was probably the best of the three places we'd been to. We split an order of the "Trainwreck Fries" and "Oklahoma State Fair Corndogs," which were both good. Vhary tried the brisket melt for an entree, while Chris and I each had a two meat combo (he had the ribs and brisket with sides of cole slaw and, I believe, country greens; I had ribs and lamb, with sides of macaroni & cheese, and cheese grits). I don't think Vhary's brisket melt had her over the moon, but I was thrilled with my ribs and lamb. 

I still don't know enough to differentiate between the different types of BBQ, and I'm not that excited about the prospect of adding sauce; each place we visited within the past two weeks seemed to have different sauces available (usually on the table, but not always), in variations of hot, mild, and something mustardy. I know there are differences in smoking the meat, types of wood used, different rubs, etc. But the ribs I've had so far have been amazing and I think that from now on, they'll be a staple of whatever I order at a BBQ joint. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Days of Teaching & Tutoring

The first few days after I was home after my trip to Ireland were a bit rough; my return was not optimally planned, as it were. I got home Monday afternoon, and had to be up Tuesday morning at 6:45 to start my new gig as a co-teacher (or mentor, depending on whom one asks) for the LIU English Summer Institute.

Hanging out at the Dublin airport, I noticed a few Internet terminals that were open, so I hopped online for a few minutes (as much to kill some time as much as taking the opportunity to check e-mail); I had gotten an e-mail from Ann, who was offering an extra section of ESI to a few of us, since it seemed that one of the mentors would not be able to take the work. The timing was serendipitous, because the e-mail had just arrived in my inbox less than a day previously, so I immediately volunteered and managed to wrangle said second section, so now I'm assisting with one of the two morning sessions, and one of the two evening sessions; the only downside is that there are six hours between sessions, which is a lot but still not quite enough time to make going home worthwhile.

And of course, the downside isn't really a downside, since Courtney lets me hang out at ARC and tutor, help out at the desk, and generally make myself useful. This makes for a long day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays - get up by 6:45 a.m., get back home at around 9:45 p.m. - but it's only three days a week for the month of July, and once I get home, even though I have to get to bed almost immediately, I don't have any work to accomplish by the next day. And the four day weekends are good compensation. I'm enjoying ESI pretty well at this point (I still can't believe it's already halfway done). I'm really enjoying the students, who are varying degrees of eager and friendly.

I've been conflicted about which age group I'd like to teach. I was convinced for a long time that secondary (grades 7-12) was where I should be, but I never quite found my groove during student teaching, but it's quite likely that it was just the places where I student taught, and the short amount of time I was there. I liked the middle school kids, and if I were to be at a school like the Center School again, I could be quite happy there. But I really like the high-school-to-college arc, that young adult age in which kids are still really open and want to share what's on their minds. I also really enjoy being able to guide and mentor the students in a way I hadn't been at that age. The trouble I'm having finding full-time work within the field of teaching is making me doubt how much I want to be teaching at the secondary level. I suspect I could be quite happy teaching undergrads, actually, and could slip very easily into that level; but I feel I owe it to myself to at least try teaching at a high school or middle school for at least two or three years - long enough to get permanent teaching certification, which is the other aspect of it. In order to get permanent certification, one needs at least a master's degree (and I'm two-thirds of the way there) as well as two years full-time teaching. I certainly could use the experience - as well as a paycheck - and I'm not likely to get much more than adjunct opportunities at the university level with just a master's degree.

I also need to consider whether I want to go further in graduate school and get my doctorate - but that's a whole other blog post, which I suspect will be forthcoming.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ireland - Part 4: The Skelligs

Well, I have to admit that the trip out to the Skellig Islands (the larger of which, Skellig Michael, is home to the monastery that we wanted to climb up to) was quite an adventure. We showed up on Friday morning at Port Magee hoping for the best, in terms of sea conditions, since the Skelligs are about 10 miles out and the ocean out there has the potential to be very choppy, even in more ideal situations. Friday morning was also rainy, which didn't help the situation. I did manage to take one short video of us when we had gotten on the boat, and had wanted to take a few more, but I didn't want to test the waterproof status of my camera:



We (Mom, Dad, and I) crawled over two other smallish boats to get to the boat that would take us out there; there couldn't have been more than a dozen passengers on each boat. We were all given rain pants to put on, but they weren't that great; the pair I was lent didn't fit; Mom's weren't waterproof. By the end of the afternoon we were all pretty much soaked through.

The boat trip took about 45 minutes, and the ocean got choppier the closer we got to Big Skellig (Skellig Michael). There were steps that had been carved into the side it, but one had to wait for the proper conditions to clamor over the boat and onto the steps, which were somewhat narrow. (The boat's captain had tied the boat to something-or-other that was protruding from the steps, but didn't actually knot the rope; he was essentially holding the boat as close to the steps as he could; between the rough waters one had to wait a minute or two until the boat was steady enough.) The walk up started easy enough, and there was a little shelter under which one could wait (and which is where I hung out for the duration), but by this time it was raining pretty steadily, and everything was thoroughly wet. I knew that it was a strenuous walk up to the top of Skellig Michael, that we didn't have much time to explore, and I couldn't envision possible safety measures at the top, so I decided to just admire the view of Little Skellig, the scenery. and bond with the several hundred puffins that stick around, while Mom and Dad made it all the way to the top - no small feat, considering there are just over 600 steps; no hand railing; and apparently the steps are sandwiched between a wall and a nothing. (Mom said she had actually gone down some of the steps sitting down, and was glad she did; another tourist slipped on the steps, which were slippery, and fell on her; had she not been sitting down, they both very well might have fallen off the cliff.) And by the time Mom and Dad got up there, they only had about 10 minutes before having to come back down. As it was we all just barely made the boat.

The boat ride back was really an adventure. As I was waiting for Mom and Dad to come back down, I was peering down at the three boats that had deposited tourists, and I noticed that they (the boats) were all bobbing like corkscrews. (I truly never appreciated that imagery until that moment.) Getting back on the boat from those slippery, stone steps was even more of a challenge, and it was at the moment I ceased caring about personal space and just used several other tourists as a means to balance myself as a I found a seat. Mom and I decided to just sit on the floor of the boat and hold on to the side, which was a wise move, I think; more than a few waves came over the side and doused us pretty well before the boat's captain shuffled us off to the other side of it.

We stopped for a few minutes to take a look at Little Skellig, which serves as a nature preserve; boats aren't allowed to dock there, and it serves as a gannet colony. Truly, Little Skellig is absolutely covered in gannets; there are so many that it looks snow capped. (I took a picture for reference.)

We were all glad to get out of the boat, though. We had to drive back to Arigna still, and we didn't get home until about 11:15 p.m. that night, all of us exhausted. We spent all of Saturday recovering, Mom and Dad especially, since they were wiped out from all the climbing (after which Mom drove all the way back herself). It was most definitely worthwhile going to the Skelligs, and I was very disappointed that I didn't get to climb to the top, but I didn't trust my (lack of a) sense of balance with the weather as it was. This was a total judgement call - I observed various other people also deciding not to climb to the top - but I'm doubtful I'd ever go back. The sea was just too unpredictable and too rough for me to chance that again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ireland - Part 3: The Countryside

We had attempted to get to Skellig Michael today, but we were unlucky; the ocean wasn't cooperating, and we were told that it was too dangerous to go out (it's a 10-mile boat trip from the coast of Co. Kerry to the Skelligs, and apparently the ocean can be rough enough to deter travel). But this was okay, because except for a few brief showers this morning, the weather was perfect - sunny and warm and breezy and I got sunburned because of it. We spent the day doing something that I actually enjoy almost more than organized travel: Driving around aimlessly and coming across interesting things to look at.

In our driving around, we discovered St. Brendan's Well; climbed Geokaun Mountain (which has very many sheep prancing about, and which overlooks the Fogher Cliffs, on Valentia Island); hung out on the beach at Valentia Island; and meandered through the remains of the Ballinskelligs Priory (12th Century remains). This took pretty much all day, but since there was no rush, and because we had to agenda nor any place to be, it was really nice to just drive around and be outside.

We rested at our B & B - which we are leaving tomorrow, whether or not we get to Skellig Michael (we have a reservation on the boat in the morning, but our actual going will depend on the conditions of the ocean) - and went to the local seafood restaurant for an amazing seafood dinner; they offered a hot and cold seafood plate that was just really fresh and simple and delicious - smoked salmon, wild salmon, deep fried squid, crab salad, shrimp with a sauce over it, and a type of cooked fish whose name I forget. It was really excellent.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ireland - Part 2: Ireland's West Coast

Yesterday was family day, such as it was, even though we wound up not seeing many folks. Mom had arranged to get together and have lunch with Aunt Mary just outside of Limerick (the city, which is the seat of the county), after which we checked into our B & B, a working farmhouse with cows and possibly the world's most friendly dog (and maybe the first dog I've ever met that I've liked), and found dinner, after which Mom called up cousin Mike (only one core family still lives in the area, but of the five cousins, four are married and three have children, one of which is maybe 2 or 3 years old, and the other under a year old; on this trip down we only saw Mike, who is neither married nor has children) to say hello, and lo, we were asked why did we not stop by for a short visit, so we drove on over, and our short visit lasted two hours. (As a family, we tend to be talkative, and Mike can hold his own - he's very funny and welcoming and I really enjoy his company.) We eventually left the poor man, who of course had to be at work the next morning and theoretically needed to constructive today.

We drove a bit further south today, down to County Kerry, down to the Dingle Peninsula to check out some beehive huts. Curvy are the roads in Ireland, and narrow, so we actually spent most of the day driving to see the remnants thereof, after which we parked ourselves at the B & B which is across the street, more or less, from the ocean (and in any case has a view of the ocean).

I'm not sure I'd ever call Ireland "home" but one thing I do like is how light it stays here, even at night. It's about 10 p.m. here, and we've still got another hour or so of sunlight - so I'm going to go for a walk.