I lived my life in a different context: Random bits from Journal 234

There’s something about the new concussionball season—that it’s pretty much just like all the other seasons. There won’t be much that’s brand new—which, I know, is what fans like: minor variations within known and set rules. But I’d like some novelty, I guess. My old joke: “Hey, there’s football game on–wanna watch?” “Nah, I’ve already seen a football game.” Not a hilarious joke, or even a funny joke, but comic in that it misunderstands the fan mentality. And of course, the business of sports requires multiple games, multiple seasons for revenue and, of course, there’s some value in the tradition. Winning the Superbowl in its first few years probably didn’t mean as much as it does in the 50th year of that prize, once the prize is known. Of course, by year 50, your team’s win makes it only one of 50 winners. [Page 96-7, Sunday, 4 Sept. 2016]

The school days make the day go slowly, in a good way—to be alive each day at work, to know I’m alive. Sometimes the amount of work seems overwhelming. Neighbor Beth walks Lou-dog just now. A student wrote that his dad beat his dog after the dog chewed the dad’s boots. That’s probably not great (an understatement, and I’m not sure why). It makes me feel bad, when jackasses beat dogs. Dogs are so wonderful—and it’s not like beating them does anything but make the beater into a monster. Dogs as nonviolent protestors? [Page 68-9, Friday, 2 Sept 2016]

I feel bad for how busy students taking A.P. courses are–take a study hall instead! Ah, well. I lived my life differently, in a different context. There weren’t A.P. courses offered to me. But, you know, these kids could—but don’t have to—max out on stress here. I’m pretty happy with my life. It is a little odd that we make choosing a career such a big deal when, frankly, we all get to a point of settling. Maybe that’s cynical to say, but I don’t say it out of bitterness. I mean it in the best way possible—not even “settling” but letting go of ambition. Ambition  belongs to the young, and even there it might not be so great. What if following your goals (your usually arbitrarily chosen goals) is exhausting, doesn’t make you happy, anyway?

I read or saw something—the statement that someone (the “I” speaker) was willing to do anything to reach his/her goal. But why, I thought? As I’ve said before, how do you really know you want that goal you’re working so hard for—how do you know you’ll be happy in that job? I had a thought last night—got a fortune cookie message last night: “Learn Chinese: Still, Hai” and “Lucky #4, 7, 34, 22, 50, 32,” but also, “Your dearest wish will come true,” and I actually felt a little hopeful—”Maybe I will publish a book of my own writings, done my own way, and it’ll be popular!” But I also (or later) thought: maybe what maturity is is getting what you want while also being wise enough to know how to take it, how to receive it, how to react to it—which is to say: maybe I publish a book only once I’m also aware that doing so won’t be all that big a deal. That even if you published and won a Pulitzer, you still have to live your life, deal with dog poop and back pain and daily classes—new students won’t care who I am. [Page 22-43, Sabado, 27 Augustus 2016]

What matters is a focus on my own life, interests, being alive, thoughts and feelings, writing what I want to write. Living in a way where I choose what I want to do, you know? I mean, instead of doing things for others, to try to impress others. The last thing I’d want right now (well, OK, not the last) would be to be nominated for the Man Booker prize—who wrote the best example of the novel genre. I don’t want to write to those standards, to that outcome. Teaching poetry, sometimes I do read kids’ work aloud to the class (anonymously) and maybe this gives them a notion that there’s a standard for writing poetry, that they should be externally focused on product rather than internally focused on process, on their writerly experience. It’s hard to focus on internal/personal/individual experience in the classroom setting, which is kinda outwardly focused on doing what teacher asks, earning the grade, though I do try to focus on process, on having them try, on giving them some leeway.  [Page 170-1, Weds. 14 Sept. 2016]

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