4- What has been your favorite non-writing job?
I know serving was a wonderful experience with a daily variety that defied a routine grind, invigorating pacing that my ADHD thought was scooby snacks, and immediate feedback (in the form of tips) that galvanized me, but I'm going to have to go with teaching. Day to day, I think I found serving more stimulating, but at the cliché "end of the day," it's a pretty high-stress career that burns up people's physical bodies, encourages substance abuse, and creates an emotional pressure cooker just so that customers can get a meal without waiting too long for a refill on their soda. And the struggle within fine dining for good shifts and good tables had as much politicking and sycophants as ANY office job. Honestly probably more. (There is quid pro quo harassment happening behind the scenes even at your typical mid-scale restaurant.)
There was nothing quite like building a curriculum, and then taking the students on a journey. And while I enjoyed teaching certain topics (creative writing) more than others (study skills), the parts I really liked weren't necessarily about the facts or knowledge that I was imparting, but walking through an idea about HOW they could develop a skill themselves and then watching them cultivate the skill set and confidence to be able to get there on their own. I used to imagine lesson plans for classes I wanted to teach complete with scaffolding, standards, and robust active learning—which was so absent from so many of my courses.
I liked my middle-school students who would rather have been getting root canals. I liked my 13th graders who didn't really want to do college, but didn't have any other cromulent after-high-school plan. I liked my dedicated middle-aged returning students who took college as seriously as a cliché. I liked being handed lesson plans. I liked coming up with my own lesson plans. I really liked being given the free rein to design an entire course from the ground up.
I loved the lightbulb look when I didn't give them the answer and they struggled but figured it out on their own. I loved using whatever we were studying—whether it was puns or coordinating conjunctions—to encourage higher-order thinking. I loved when they realized, at the end of a course, how far they had come.
If I could have somehow beamed to my teaching job, I would have kept doing at least one class a semester forever. But Bay Area commutes have only gotten worse every year since I started, and I was spending two hours commuting. I miss it, but I prefer giving all my work time to writing.
5- Thoughts about your running and why you are pushing yourself to do a marathon?
How deep are we going here?
I'm absolutely sure there is some stuff going on that a first-year psych student would recognize. My body betrayed me and did something I couldn't control when it got cancer. For months it was poked, prodded, examined and didn't entirely feel like my own. It was subjected to strange sensations and didn't perform the way I had come to expect it to. It felt weak and insubordinate.
Now I am delighting in the sensation of getting it under control, and bending it to my will. I feel strong when I can make it run ten miles. I feel like I'm the one in control. I faced an existential threat, and I'm overcompensating. I'm defying that feeling.
More superficially, I've been running for about the last year, having stepped up my pandemic walks to something more vigorous. For months, there always seemed to be something or another getting in the way of progress, but whenever I could, I would return to my regimen and try to do some running. I hit a goal right before surgery (to run ten miles in under 2:30:00), and someone suggested that I not jinx my surgery survival by going into under the knife having accomplished ALL my goals, so I set a new goal that day. Within one year of my physical recovery, I would run a marathon.
It sounded ambitious but achievable. I've always been blessed by an unswerving endurance. Even in my twenties I would try to spend my gym time doing ski machines or leg climbers for hours, and it's been trying to improve my pace rather than adding distance that has proven to be the tougher goal.
Technically, I have until February (that's when I was physically recovered from surgery), but there aren't a lot of good marathons in the winter, so I'm looking at the last few in the Fall.
6- Do you enjoy camping?
I do, but I haven't had a camping buddy for a long time, and it's really not that much fun alone. I enjoy alone time in nature, but I can get most of what I like about that in a day trip or a long hike. Sleeping in a tent and making meals alone…I'm sure it's some people's thing, but it's a bit much for me.
My ex-partner and I used to go to Burning Man every year, and that was technically camping. (Actually, most campsites I've been to had MORE amenities and usually running water.) The ex-partner didn't really like camping, but it was the cost of doing business for us since we didn't have the money to go to BM in an RV or something.
At this point, I don't even have camping gear. Maybe someday…