One of the best parts of being a teacher (and what a lot of people probably think we’re in it for) is the schedule. Public holidays, summers, a few weeks at Christmas off are beautiful things. They are also ABSOLUTELY necessary and if you don’t agree, maybe you try teaching 30 kids long division and essay structure and properties of rocks and minerals for seven hours a day, keeping their parents informed but also happy, attending a million meetings that should have been emails, etc., with a full bladder knowing you’ve got hours of work to complete after they finally walk out to bus line and then tell me it’s not important to make sure these people get substantial mental health breaks throughout the year.
I can always tell we’re getting close to a vacation because I start to get too tired to monitor my words, and will say regrettable things like “the next kid that forgets to cap their glue gets drop-kicked out the window.” And my class is on the sixth floor, so that statement carries some weight. The students all laugh, but I always have to take a beat and say “Rachel . . . maybe bring it down several notches.”
And then the vacation finally arrives, and it is THE best thing. I love sleeping. I LOVE sleeping. Like, you know that feeling when you wake up, and look at your clock and then realize you still have an hour or more before your alarm will go off? That has to be right up there with fresh burrata, cookies out of the oven, jumping into the pool on the hottest day, and a most-relieving poo feeling. Absolutely amazing.
I love staying up late doing things that aren’t even important but I am a night owl and come alive past 10pm in the worst way, every night of the year, whether I’ve got to teach fronted adverbials and decimals fractions the next morning or not. So when I get several days off in a row and don’t need to medicate myself in order to catch zzz’s before three am, it’s bliss.
What do I do in those wee hours of the morning? Well, um, I watch “The Voice” auditions in languages I don’t understand but still make me cry because of the translingual power of music, then I watch military homecoming surprises, plan my future life living in a converted van camping around the world, practice baking bread with new recipes, try to detangle necklaces I’ve moved to three different countries with and still haven’t managed to unravel. In short, nothing that needs to happen during that time at all.
But I can’t help it. It’s how I’m wired. It’s the only time I ever want to reorganize the bathroom drawers or pair all my socks or fill in missing information in my iTunes library or contact that ex-boyfriend just to see if there’s any connection left sparking. It’s when I write the blogs you do see and the thousand deleted ones you don’t. It’s when I look into the process of using a sperm donor, and the logistics of starting an animal rescue farm, and sign up for a Hispanic film club.
I have tomorrow to get back into the classroom and plan, clean things up, rearrange my mind, and then after three months of online learning, we’ll actually be back in the classroom! I’m filled with equal parts dread and excitement. Dread because five of my students have left since we went online, making my class size smaller and duller. Dread because I’m not ready to wake up at 6am again and put on a bra with underwire and get dressed from the waist down again and watch the ew-factor that is nine-year-olds eating lunch.
At the same time, I am looking forward to the routine. One of the wildest parts of being an adult is that I am just unsupervised all the time. Like, I wake up ten minutes before I start teaching my first online class? No one notices. I eat only toast for a whole day? Three (let’s be honest, four or five) meals of butter and toast? No one knows but me. Same pair of leggings four days in a row? Zero accountability there.
Sometimes I go on my daily stupid walk for my stupid mental health at 9pm. Sometimes dinner is at 5pm, sometimes at 10pm. (Lol lets be honest I usually have two dinners a night) Sometimes I start a true crime series at 11pm and finish the season that night at an ungodly hour, and then am unable to sleep for other reasons.
The point is, the value of routine is that it provides a circuit-breaker for all the self-sabotaging behavior I engage in without a routine to be held accountable to. I’m undoubtedly more productive and healthier when on a regular schedule due to work, which is how I make money to live. But I wonder if I’m as creative? Am I fighting my natural creative clock? I notice that I don’t blog as much when school is in full-swing, and I also haven’t traveled in two-plus years, due to Covid, and travel is the reason that I _______ (fill in the blank, there are so many options).
Long story short (which my grandma, bless her heart, always used to say, and it was never going to be a short story, and it never is with me, either) I’m trying to re-ignite my creative writing with this exercise – twenty stupid minutes a day. I’ve done a blog-a-day before and I’m hoping this has similar results and sparks a writing revival with me.
The idea is simple – just set routine by setting a timer for twenty stupid minutes a day that I would probably waste on instagram or something, and spend it writing instead, publishing the blogs as a set every few days. No agenda, no pre-set topic, just a desire to practice something I want to get better at, connect with people, hone a craft, create a discipline.
I’ve been blogging for over 15 years now. I started with xanga, then Myspace, getjealous.com, Facebook notes, before I finally landed here. I’m grateful that writing is something in me that I want to do and want to share. It has preserved memories I would have otherwise lost, connected me to people I might have forgotten, and given me an outlet to explore and understand feelings and experiences I would have just tried to drown or shove away without a tool to help process them.
This whole blogging thing – wanting to share my story and myself through writing – hasn’t come without regret or cringe. That’s part of putting a part of yourself “out there” into the nebula of the internet. Even from the small corner I sit in, I’ve received weird trolls and hate mail, criticism both anonymous and from those I love. Or it’s just ignored by family or friends I thought would support me and read it, which can hurt worse. A conversation for another day.
Society and social media keep pumping out images of perfect, cute and curated lives, and so I wonder what it might look like to just record every day for thirty days? Just one month of complete vulnerability – a commitment to the uncurated, unedited version of me at this very minute? Including a birthday I am equal parts excited for and dreading? I can only imagine that years from now it would be more valuable and more representative of my life than a few overly filtered photos of brunches and hikes and the expected.
So here is what I want to try – twenty stupid minutes a day – writing as much as I can or want to in that time, about exactly that happened or exactly what I was thinking of. Capturing the very real moments that existed that day without Valencia or Lo-Fi or Juno. See how it helps my writing, how it sparks my muse, how it represents the authentic. Because it will come too quick to editorialize or glamourize – it will just be real. Real real real. Twenty real minutes a day.
Jump in if you want to, the water’s warm.