I’m getting old. Met briefly with former students and student assistants earlier this evening after a movie date with the eldert sister. I was¬†bribed with a chocolate bar and a rose in exchange for a recommendation letter due next week and a few bits of gossip ūüôā

I see them, the students who frequented Rm. 210B, settling into their post-college lives and I cannot help but feel old Рin a nice way. It warms the heart to see the subtle changes in them. They have more confident demeanor, formal clothing, and tax complaints. And yes, they have more harsh comments for you.

I’m getting all sentimental this week. I see a some of last year’s graduates¬†returning to Los Ba√Īos for this week’s February Fair.

I thought one needed to be really old to appreciate to appreciate seeing former students. I guess not. ¬†That, or ¬†I’m really old.

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an unusual case

After more than seven years of teaching, it’s quite difficult to be surprised with anything student related. One has developed a rather realistic perspective of things as well as expectations.

Every semester, I find myself working with students who I have accepted are too busy projecting a meaningful life in their respective online accounts to appreciate the effort and time teachers put into designing class activities and exercises. This I have accepted is the norm.

At around four in the afternoon, one of the newly hired student assistants approached me and handed me a ribboned brown package. A Valentine’s Day present for the supervisor she said. The student requested that I open the package after she has timed out for the day and¬†has left the room. I could sense her¬†embarrassment for the crumpled wrapping and the value of the gift. She said¬†mumbled an apology for the gift. It’s what we could afford, she said. She and the other student assigned to me shared the expenses for the gift. They haven’t even received their first late pay yet. And I haven’t given even them anything for Valentine’s Day.

A pleasant surprise :)
A pleasant surprise ūüôā

Minutes after she left the room, I found myself still staring at the gift. I sent them my thanks. The gift was a nice gesture. I need not unwrap the package. I just stared at it and realized how a nice gesture can be such a pleasant surprise.

When the years have trained you to expect a high sense of entitlement and self-centeredness by default from all the students you encounter, you forget how to respond to a few exceptions. I can finally add one positive entry about work.

Hello 2015!

It’s always¬†worth another try.¬†A new year offers another chance to get the daily post challenge¬†right. For the nth time, I am aiming for 364 posts this year. Of course, I do always start the year hopeful to complete this challenge. Maybe 2015 is the year I get to do just that.

2015

This is the best time for reflections and plans ‚Äďto look back at the things you messed up and the moments you felt good about, draw out lessons from the best and worst of 2014, and put all that to good use for 2015.

From 2014, I have learned to care less about:

  • working beyond office hours¬†and spend just enough time at work. More importantly, I’m taking note to make sure that I use¬†all that vacation leave.
  • work backlog. I have accepted that I will never be backlog-free at work. I’ll just do what I can and stop feeling bad about the work I have yet to finish. And if I can’t help feeling bad, I don;t really have to look that far to feel better.
  • tasks that are not my responsibility. Last year, what took most of my time was dealing with tasks that aren’t really mine in the first place. I have nothing against being helpful but I have also learned that helping people ¬†(and in my case, most of time)¬†can make them dependent on the individual that does the helping. There were several situations that I failed to complete my job because I was using my time doing other people’s¬†jobs.
  • what other people think (both the good and the bad). Just do your job. I guess that’s the simplest lesson from 2014.
  • feeling guilty when I find myself doing nothing. If you did your job and/or did the best that you can given the situation, then there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
  • f*cking up at tasks. I have spent most of my 2014 feeling bad about not performing good enough, some of my students not being motivated to produce good quality outputs, or missing deadlines. In the end, one realizes that I will never be good enough based from my current standards. I’ll have to make do with “doing the best I can given the context”. No subject/course will always be perfect no matter how many semesters I’ve been handling it or no matter how much I prepared for the course. I will never be able to meet all the deadlines that I have. What I can do is to complete what I can given the¬†nine-hour daily work time.
  • not being nice or friendly or warm or sociable or diplomatic enough. I will put greater effort at work to control my irritation and temper – I guess the not doing other peoples’ jobs will help with this one – for my own health. I seriously doubt if the adjustments would ever be enough.

This year, I will need to focus on:

  • getting published and earning a permanent position. A year delayed, I admit ūüėź I need to rework that masters manuscript¬†and earn that authorship in an academic publication. This is my last chance to earn a permanent position.
  • being stable financially. The sisters would have laugh at this one. I’m near hopeless with regards to saving up, my mother would say. Well, as hopeless as I may be on this issue, I would need to seriously work on this. In 2014, it was a bit challenging to save as I discovered the joys of online shopping. I could say I went a¬†little¬†crazy with my online purchases especially towards the end of the year. That would be one of the major lessons for 2014. Now that I’ve gone past the crazy phase in online shopping, I am managing to keep myself from more online purchases. This year, the only thing I should be buying online are stocks. I needed to take a deep breath a I reread that last sentence. That will be difficult. I would need to take better care of my bank accounts. On a brighter note, I did manage to get a new investment plan in 2014, and more importantly, I managed to maintain the monthly payment for half a year now. I’m also halfway through my payment for my loan. Looking back, most of the 2014 purchases were made when I felt I was deprived or I needed to feel better about work mostly. It didn’t really help that the payment for one of the major projects this year was delayed – by more than a year now. That’s quite¬†some record in my seven years at work.
  • developing a more positive outlook at work (and if possible, life in general). In working for the government, employee motivation is hardly a priority in the management concerns. It’s up to you to want to keep going back to work every morning even if the circumstances are way far from good. Deal with it. Make it work. Do your job.
  • spend more time with the family. Mako, now eight months old, is helping me with this one. I must say 2014 has got to be the year I spent the most time with my family. That’s one of best things from 2014. No matter how frustrating work could be, I had my family.
  • going out. In 2014, I’d be lucky if I got out of Los Ba√Īos once a month. That usually means I went to the nearest city, Calamba, usually for movies or book/educational supply purchases. It was quite a feat when managed to commute¬†to Muntinlupa for Mako’s viewing, to have my passport renewed, and to purchase binding equipment.

I can say that 2014 was one of my worst years (if not the worst) – mostly my fault, I admit. The year 2014 presented several lessons, which¬†lead to the acceptance of numerous realities.¬†I can’t say I dealt with all the challenges with grace and enough diplomacy. Thankfully, 2015 is an opportunity to work on that.¬†The best thing about 2014¬†was managing to survive it ‚Äďand use everything I’ve learned to make a better year out of 2015.

1, AY 2014-2015

There goes November.

I’m taking this last chance to post something for this month – not that I’ve been updating this blog regularly. ¬†I haven’t been writing much this semester. I have been writing for work – editing and/or rewriting student articles – and reports, proposals, exercises, and the like. What I wasn’t able to do was deal with the personal journal and blog.

That would mean that I cannot remember the specific details¬†of what happened this semester. I can go back to the tasks I needed to accomplish from the to-do lists but I cannot recall the moments, the intensity of outbursts, the negativity, and the few sources of consolation. That’s what I missed. A LOT.

Usually, a semester can fill out a notebook or two and I’d manage to somehow build up enough guilt to upload a post at least once a month. Clearly, that did not happen this semester.

I’m aware that I did a lot of thinking and I was just too lazy to write things down. I’ve gotten so good at coming up with excuses to not write. That’s never a good thing. What I can remember are the things I have accepted and the changes I have done.

I don’t work during weekends anymore.¬†This is a big thing for me. I love feeling guilty about not working hard enough or not being worthy so I overdo things – work longer hours, put in greater effort and/or thought than required, and extend assistance to help get the job done – even if it’s not really part of my tasks anymore. I decided to free the weekends so I could sleep long hours and spend time to not do anything, read, watch movies, and spend time with the family (usually in that order of priority).

Instead of working during weekends, I make sure that I come to work from 7am to 9am. If I arrive at the office at 8am, I’ll promptly leave at 5pm and if I arrived later at 8 or 9 n the morning, then I’d leave at 6pm or 7pm. I need to feed Mako at 5pm-6pm so I need to leave work. If I arrive at the office past 8am, it’s usually because I took Mako for a walk. We both need the¬†exercise. The now seven-month old pup has helped a lot in re-organizing my priorities.

I used to stay until 7pm or even later if there was an urgent task to be completed. I don’t stay that late anymore.¬†I don’t work at home in the evenings or early in the morning. I check student outputs within office hours. I found that¬†I didn’t¬†have to work late hours dealing with student outputs.

I have learned to exert just¬†enough effort to get things done. I’m through overexerting myself to gain the approval of people. I just do my job.

Determining what is enough can be tricky. It took me seven years to learn that. I wish I could have known earlier that I just needed to look at the worst, the most common, and the best so I could determine what can be considered enough. 

I learned how to say “no”. And it felt good! Of course that means I have a way smaller income this year. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’m surviving somehow. I just needed to know what it was like.

It seemed like I’m bound to take on all projects offered. That I always had to say yes to such limited (and near impossible) work schedule. I guess I’ve grown weary of signing contracts with terms that¬†never followed, of accommodating demands, and extensions. I found it an unfair setup. I was starting to consider the situation a reality. That sense of helplessness drains one of all the motivation¬†in¬†doing something that one once loved. After constantly finding myself in the same¬†helpless¬†situation – for the past seven years, I knew the mistake was mine.¬†I realized that I had I have always had the option to say no. I was just too afraid to lose clients – and the money.

I have accepted no new projects.¬†I wanted to experience what it’s like to¬†just do this one job and I found that I’m doing enough.¬†I’m not¬†great or exceptional at¬†my work. I don’t strive to be the best, most, or anything of similar nature. I just want to do my job and¬†to give my salary’s worth of work.

I have accepted that people have the tendency¬†remember you not for what you managed to do or accomplish¬†but for what-you-should-be-but-you’re-not, what you didn’t do, or the¬†select situations when you¬†performed¬†poorly.¬†It does not matter how many hours beyond the required time one put in a task or how many times one went beyond one’s responsibilities to make sure that the job would be completed –¬†considering the number of non-performing and/or non-processing members in one’s team. What people¬†will remember is how stiff, indifferent, and ill-tempered you have become.

That’s the frustrated state one can get into¬†when the work load is high, the demands are near impossible, and the other member of the supposed team are not doing their job. People will not bother to think about how one came to reach that intensity of irritability – and still manage to get the job done. It’s always easier to assume and to judge. Why bother asking?

I need a different environment.¬†It’s not always better but it’s different. I need different in a year’s time or I fear I’ll self destruct.

I’m not quite sure when I decided that I needed the change but I do remember waking up the next day feeling¬†light – unburdened by the belief that I have nowhere else to go to if I do decide to leave. There are always options. Not always better but they present a possibility of something different.

In hindsight, the contents of this semester’s posts – had I uploaded more entries -would be mostly about these¬†changes/lessons. It was because of these changes that I have (relatively) enjoyed teaching this semester.

I got sick only once. That’s a major¬†achievement! I used to get the regular flu at least monthly. I say¬†regular because I still manage to come to work. I’d have the more serious fever that requires staying at home at least two times in a semester. I believe I’m more rested and that’s not necessarily less productive – as I once feared. This semester, I didn’t have the fever. I only had the sore throat and flu.

I have time for lunch Рwith no work to multitask it with. Granted, I still have late lunches. My achievement for this semester would be not having to juggle a meal with a draft revision.

The 7am classes don’t bother me anymore. I used to dread early classes because¬†I’d be sleepy and slow processing for the rest of the day. This semester, I managed to have an early sleep because I leave the office early. And I found time for light reading after dinner – even if I spent the day working on student drafts. I can remember how I used to drag myself back to the apartment, eat dinner in a hurry, and finally get some sleep. I’d wake up still tired. I sleep better now. I even remember dreams! I wake up – courtesy of Mako’s licking –¬†recharged for another day’s work. I still dreaded coming to work for a period of time. Now, I dread it less – if that makes any sense.

I have greater tolerance for students. I have learned not to expect too much and to appreciate what they can manage given the context. I realized how high my expectations were so I made major adjustments.

I may not have written much about this semester, but I will remember it as a period of major changes and decisions.

 

Week 1 in a pup’s company

IMG_4336

It’s been a week since Mako became my roommate. We’ve gone through¬†our¬†routines and our temperament. I still can’t get him to respond to his name – or the the name the breeder gave him (I’m not sure if the latter should give me some consolation.) It’s been¬†a week and¬†I¬†have noted some changes.

1. Dealing with expectations. I can feel the pressure of¬†people’s expectations on what the puppy can do like respond to his name or do the tricks we all see in our newsfeeds. One can get defensive about it but then again, that wouldn’t be helpful. Instead getting anxious about the things I haven’t managed to train Mako, I try to get people’s (mostly the sisters’) inputs on¬†what worked for them and their pets.

2. Patience and tolerance (Things I seriously need to work on). Nine-week old Mako can be quite a handful during his active hours Рearly morning and late afternoon.

It’s not advisable to walk the puppy before his rabies shots so I need¬†to come up with activities for him to use all that energy JRT’s are known for. So far, 10-20 minutes of brown paper fight and running after the bone treat keeps him busy and drains him enough to lull him to sleep. Thankfully, he sleeps for hours allowing me to get back to work or to sleep in peace.

His boredom is usually expressed in all that biting and chewing and in greater levels of boredom – ¬†barking. This pup ¬†sees my hands as his chew bone as well as my slippers and feet ūüėź My shoes are safe at least – until I wear them at the office. There have been several tips from pet owners on how to discourage this behavior. Most tips boil down to redirecting all that chewing to other objects.

I’m easily irritated¬†and I have low tolerance for a lot of things. I also have been used to living alone so I’m not that used to adjusting to another’s routine/temperament at home. So far, I haven’t had a breakdown, which is good I think (?). I feel like I’m also under the sisters’ observation. I think they’re quite curious on how I’d deal with having a living companion ūüėÄ

3. Initiating the talking. I’m not one to initiate¬†a conversation – or even voice thoughts to anyone or anything. I think this is one of the things that I am changing. I would need to talk to Mako – more often. JRTs (or any pet) thrive on praise and encouragement and that requires talking – as well as his training.

4. Regularly cleaning the apartment. In my six years here, the apartment has never been more clean and disinfected as it is this week. Early morning routine involves cleaning the cage, sweeping and disinfecting the floor, feeding Mako, and then my old routine.

As I prepared the apartment for Mako’s arrival, one of the apartment caretakers¬†thought I was moving out because of all the junk I was getting out of the apartment. I have to admit, it was the first major apartment clean up since I moved in at the apartment ūüėÄ I could see color images from the kitchen window! The window view used to be almost set in grayscale from all the dust that settle from my five years ūüėź I can feel the breeze pass through the apartment after I cleaned the windows. I used to blame the two-storey apartment building which stand in front the unit I occupy for not having enough ventilation.

5. Rethinking spending habits. I now view prices based on dog food, vitamins, and vet consultations. A Php 150 meal would be like Mako’s one-week dog food or a month’s supply of supplements. The Php 650 family size pizza for an entire day’s meal is like two deworming sessions with the vet or grooming sessions. I realized that I ¬†spend money for¬†food as an incentive/motivation¬†and to make me feel better. I have less need for that now. I find greater utils for money saved for¬†Mako’s vaccinations and vet visits. There’s also heightened awareness on the need to have an emergency fund (emergencies now exclude seat sales as well as a shoe sale) ready for Mako. I never considered this for my case ūüėź

6. Making time for non-work activities. Mako’s a living reminder of my resolve to invest more time for non-work related activities.¬†Financial advisers encourage people to diversify their investments so when one/some of their investments take a loss, they can still reduce/recover their loss¬†other types of investment. This is also true for investing one’s time.

Work used to dominate my day¬†with very little time¬†for family and non-work related matters. That was why when things weren’t going so well at work, I’d be losing sleep on it thinking about my inability to meet deadlines. The lack of sleep and the disappointment on my work performance made me irritable and anxious. It increased my tendency for sarcasm and¬†made a living source of negativity out of me. In such state, cases of snapping at friends and family became more frequent. I just happened to be blessed to have great family and friends.¬†It wasn’t the person I knew I was and it definitely was not the person¬†I wanted to be.

A week after bringing Mako home, I can’t say I’m completely changed. That would take a while. I’m just happy to spend more time with the family. Since the eldest sister and the third sister have dogs, I constantly seek their advice on puppy care. I could say it increased out common field of interest/experience. I noticed that I called more often this week and I also received more calls from the family. Then again, that may just be because we there were several family activities this week. My greatest achievement would be being were the family gathering was even before it started. In the past, I usually used work as an excuse to not attend a family gathering or arrive late. I still have a lot to work on but this week has been a good one.

I have yet to see how I’d handle caring for¬†Mako¬†when work is at one of its most intense and the deadlines pile. I’m just relieved that I have a month to make the arrangement and hopefully adjust to the increasing work load.

While I aim to spend less time for work, that does not mean I would be performing poorly. I would deliver the outputs and work on the duties assigned to me. Easier said than done, I know. I need to go back to that article on working I may need to place that previous sentence on the work table as a reminder, just in case. Also, I would not want people seeing Mako as a reason for a decline in my work performance.

 

For the first week, everything did not go well – as expected. I’ve learned many things though. I think that’s what matters more. I feel better. Yes, I’m still anxious about some things but Mako’s play time helps me deal with it. Is this how it feels like to be in therapy? I wouldn’t know.

I know things will not be easy and I also have doubts on how well I’d manage to adjust this coming semester. I’ll be getting¬†more scratch marks and dog barks, I’ll be put in way more awkward situations, I will not be able to meet a lot of pet training expectations, and I will be clueless on a lot of things about dog care no matter how much I research on it. ¬†I will continue to try to do better ¬†though ‚Äď as I would¬†do with work and family. That is what would make this work.

 

:D

IMG_4164Our latest issue was delivered today!

I always look forward to seeing our final¬†outputs¬†for the first time. I like that mixed feeling of anxiety and relief — anxiety for possible errors (there are always errors ūüėź ) and relief that the publication is finally out for circulation.

Spent the afternoon distributing copies at the municipal hall. It’s just a great relief to have completed this issue (or any publication for that matter). Now, I just have to update stories at the website.