A Day in the Life
This blog has been gathering a lot of dust lately, and due to my friend Martin’s recent post about a day in his life, I thought it would also be cool if my students got some insight into how my day runs. Time to take advantage of a temporary reprieve from stress.
The light from the driveway filters into the window as my iPod’s blaring alarm klaxon startles me into wakefulness. Through the blinds I can see that the sky is a deep purple, with the light of the rising sun just beginning to wipe the darkness away.
Above my head, rows of figures and toys–Gundams, Zoids, and D&D dragons crouch like gargoyles.
The only background noise is the humming of the fan, occasionally punctuated by the clattering of cutlery in the dining room as the maid sets the table.
My mind begins to stir. It hops from thought to thought, bouncing between the day’s agenda, the approaching weekend’s D&D game, and that cute girl. Eventually it realizes it needs to greet someone.
“Good morning, Lord. This day is yours.”
The new shower heater pours a stream of near-scalding water all over me. The feeling is invigorating. My mind has not stopped thinking.
The thoughts are fully awake now, no longer idly bouncing around but now wrestling and competing for my attention. Plans begin to form. I decide whether to go to the gym or not (thankfully the former is becoming more common nowadays), decide what to do after work, and start thinking about dinner.
I sit down to two of the vital things that start my day: breakfast (always with coffee) and reading the Bible.
I’ll be the first to admit that the latter is not always as appealing as the former. It’s easy to blaze through Genesis, but once you get to Numbers, you begin to struggle. There really are times when I don’t feel like it or feel like it but don’t understand anything. That’s fine; I try to do it anyway.
More often than not, however, I’ll hear exactly what I need to hear—or pick up something that I’ll end up sharing with another person who would need my help later that day.
I should be on my way to PSHS. The new shortcut I found through Trinoma gets me there in 5 minutes; sometimes less. It’s too early to listen to anything metal, so I settle for some trance. 片月下円舞曲 (Dance Beneath The Half Moon) has been a common pick as of late.
After timing in, I settle into my early morning cramming. This is something new that I’ve developed as of late. I couldn’t get myself to do any work done at home, so I have to settle for doing it in the afternoon at the mall or very early in the morning before classes begin. I do find that I’m at my most creative early in the morning, so I end up having very little trouble finishing the presentation for the day.
After putting the finishing touches on the day’s lesson, I head off to class.
Teaching isn’t my entire life, but neither is it just one part. I’m one person who prefers not to compartmentalize my life. I try my best to see everything as a continuum. That’s why I end up telling a lot of stories (and sometimes seem to be stalling or wasting time) in class. Everything is either a potential illustration or a lesson in itself.
Some students may not enjoy this style. Perhaps they would rather I get straight to the point and so tune out the storytelling. I guess that’s okay. I just think that a lot of people nowadays suffer from a kind of schizophrenic life. What goes on in one part only stays there; the lessons learned in one part of the life stay there was well. I think it’s a generally unhealthy way to live. The universe functions on the principle of cause and effect; it’s impossible to completely isolate something from everything else.
Strangely enough, the stories are usually not part of the lesson plan, but since my mind never stops thrumming, those connections snap together at the last minute and an illustration is born.
Classes have ended, but the day has just begun. I usually take a break at this point and eat an early lunch while winding down with a mission or two of Mechwarrior 4 or maybe an arcade run of Touhou Hisoutensoku. Lunch is typically pasta or a sandwich–heavy enough to replenish my energy reserves, but light enough so that I don’t feel bloated by the time I get to the gym.
This is a time for me to re-energize my neurons or learn something new. It could also be a time to socialize with my co-teachers—sometimes I butt into a conversation going on on the other side of the room, usually with a random sarcastic comment, and with amusing results.
“She thinks she’s doing us a favor.”
“Oh yeah? I’ll do her a favor.”
“You know things have reached a new level when Joey launches a comment like that.”
I leave work immediately. On Mondays, the car’s not supposed to be on the road between 3 and 7 PM, so I have to get to the university I have my MA classes at quickly. On Wednesdays, I leave early to avoid the elementary and high school dismissals at the university; one just can’t compete with those. The rest of the week I endeavor to get a ride to the gym as soon as possible.
The drive to the university is usually rather boring, save maybe for a few close calls with trucks and buses. Sometimes I listen to something by Blind Guardian to keep me up; the two albums I have, A Night at the Opera and Nightfall in Middle Earth, are both pretty hardcore. Battlefield and Mirror Mirror are excellent high-tension songs to play in the car at this time.
By this time I’m either beginning my afternoon run or settling into Starbucks with my favorite drink. If it’s an MA day I catch up on my readings; otherwise I run 3.5-5k and do 300 crunches.
Just because I run doesn’t mean my brain stops working. Quite the contrary. It takes a serious amount of mental discipline to finish that 5k run.
On MA days, I pour a lot of effort into studying.
I’ll be honest—I wasn’t much of a student in my undergrad days. It’s only now that I’ve taken reading seriously. At least this way, exam preparation isn’t so taxing. The thoughts are already there and have been filed; all I need is a little mental jogging.
For many people in the academe, 4 PM is time for the brain to power down and coast along until dinnertime. Not so for me.
If it’s an MA day, I pack up my things and head off to my class.
I only recently started my MA, and I have to say that despite its numerous challenges, I enjoy it much more than my undergrad classes. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. I’m actually paying for it.
2. The eternal student’s question (“Do I even need to know this?”) is moot—of COURSE I need to know this; this is relevant to my chosen career.
3. It actually feels good to learn something I know can apply immediately.
Connections are made, and the learning flows through the continuum of my life.
If it’s a gym day, I’d be sitting in Starbucks getting ready to unwind. Even here I do not stop thinking. “Unwinding” for me is usually an exercise in creativity, planning, and critical thinking. “How do I make this battle interesting?” “What tactics should this monster use?” “Will my players find this monster to difficult or too easy?” Yes, I spend the last few hours of my afternoon planning for my future D&D sessions.
Now people might ask why I invest so much time in such a hobby. One, it makes for interesting stories. Two, it’s good socialization. Three, it exercises my creativity. Four, believe it or not: I’ve found that my mental math has improved dramatically. Being a dungeon master forces one to make numerous arithmetic competitions on the fly. It’s fun stuff, actually.
At this point I would be either on my way home or having dinner. The drive home is always an opportunity to think and reflect on the day. It always is. I also thank the Lord for a productive and blessed day—been having more and more of these lately.
After I’ve spent the rest of the evening online chatting and attending to my various online obligations, I would be exhausted and sleepy. I would call it a day and drift off to sleep.
This is not the end; it never is. As the hobgoblin bards of the Dhakaani empire would say:
Raat shan gath kal’dor.—The story stops, but never ends.