what i learned after a year of teaching in the new normal

I was never a teacher let alone ever dreamed or desired of ever becoming one. If you’ve had the patience to scroll past through my previous blog posts, you’d be familiar at how daunting teaching for the first time was for me, especially in this new learning set-up. It’s been over a year and balancing my main job with handling major Psychology classes have not been an easy feat. Below are some of the things I’ve learned most from the experience.

Teaching is NOT for everyone

I believe there are people tailor-made for this job and definitely, I don’t see myself as one of them. Teaching requires a huge amount of patience and confidence. And while I do have the great ability to spread myself thin, I for one am not so confident to face people for a lengthy time. What the students don’t really see is the anxiety I feel whenever I need to show myself up online. I practice breathing exercises beforehand every single time I need to conduct a class while I clench my shaking fists behind the screen after a surge of nervous emotions come over me. Mostly, I’m frequently questioning myself on whether I’ve given the right material or not. Have I made things simpler to understand? Did the information I have given come across as I expected it to be? Well, those are just some of my constant worries. At the end of the day, I’m thoroughly convinced that there are persons made especially for this and with that I only have mad respect for them.

Make the best out of what is available

With the global pandemic causing major restrictions, the resources and activities available for class are tad bit limited. Classes only happen online and though we have technology and the internet to be thankful for, I can’t help but say just how limiting online classes are. There are no face-to-face interactions, activities and exercises are mostly reliant on outputs and data. Simply, it has its constraints. Having taught for a year, I learned we’ve got to make do with what we have at this time. I for one, spend my days on my computer for several hours a day browsing through materials that could help classes increase interaction and make things feel less impersonal. True enough, it’s always best to maximize the medium that is available and practice creativity in every way.

It is NOT without a struggle

Days I spent working behind the screen made work-life balance an immense challenge. For once, the boundary between home and work has been blurred and now, it’s as if my 8-5 isn’t at all enough. I find myself working for hours more even after taking much-needed breaks. Teaching in the new normal, is NOT without a struggle. And it’s not just about the internet or social media anymore, but it’s the wrestle to keep our mental health in tiptop shape. As a “teacher”, I do my best to keep classes less stressful than they already are all while trying my hardest not to compromise learning. Believe me, we all are grappling with personal struggles we try to keep at bay. My students’ concerns and best interests are what I place most, front and center. Sometimes, being kind to oneself and others would be the best to do now. It’s a good reminder that even at this circumstance, kindness will always have a way to shine through.

I’ve grown by a LOT!

If there’s one thing teaching has taught me most, it’s that I saw how much I’ve grown a lot over the past year. I’d like to say passing on knowledge to others have matured me in some way but it’s mostly how I’ve managed to prove myself wrong time and again. My doubts and hesitations always come first after a major leap in life but I find myself looking back and realized that I can do it, after all. Even with a day job, a side hustle and passing my Master’s comprehensive examinations? I did it all, still. I’ve become more organized and learned how to compartmentalize my life in portions.

This season of my life, I believe, is what God has given me to prune me most in my career journey. It’s not pretty, glamorous, comfortable but what’s a journey without it, right?

a reminder that healing is not linear and that is okay

One day, I gathered all courage I had left of me and mustered up to break myself away free from what it was that was still hurting me. Once and for all, I told myself that I needed to detach and decided that the dark, disruptive and tiny, suffocating space of heartache was no longer good for me to stay in.

What a redemptive feeling it was when I found myself fearlessly listening to a few of Taylor Swift’s saddest songs: All Too Well and Hoax,– without a single bit of tear shed. That must be something, I thought. One sad song that once turned me into a puddle of mess on the floor was no longer taking effect on me. I was no longer casually talking much about how things were like. Things that once were, simply became a passing thought I never gave the chance to live in my head rent-free. But I was wrong. There are still days, unlike any other, that the fragments of what you wanted to run away from for so long, still somehow remains in you.

When I think about how I would describe it, it appears like flashes of a film reel. A scene so unforgettable that you can’t help but think about from time to time. And when you do let it cross your mind for quite a bit, the sadness still sits just somewhere in the corner, lingering, lightly tapping on your shoulder to get your full attention. Oftentimes it stays there, for a day or two and then there you are, finding yourself spiraling back in. The sadness, regrets, resentment? They do come around from time to time. They come and they go. They revisit like a lost friend. And to me that’s okay because I’m learning each day that healing is not linear at all.

Healing, as I’ve learned, has no specific timeline. It demands no pressure or perfect path but instead, it gives you the freedom to carve your own. Healing is not some pretty, romanticized course of action. If there are days more difficult than most and somehow you feel like revisiting old wounds and being reminded of the hurt it caused makes you feel like a failure, remind yourself that it happens, multiple times in the process so put your hand over your chest and best believe that it is alright.

It’s your story that’s either taken a pause or is simply moving slowly forward where the end of that chapter is already in sight.

Truly, the road to healing, to get there, allows you to step on territories that aren’t comfortable or easy but the best thing is that even though it’s not always beautiful, each step you make to work on it, gives you a chance to grow and become a person better than you once were.

“on ways of seeing”

Dear friend,

My days stretch far too long these days. There never seems to be a day where I’m not tired and giddily excited about one thing: crawling into my bed after a long, hard day. Sitting behind a wooden desk that’s far too ergonomical all day long, with the computer screen brightly glaring right back at you for hours on end? I know you feel this and agree with me too– they’re not entirely the best place and view to be in. With our current experience of confinement at a time of isolation, I understand that it’s hard to set your eyes upon the beautiful things.

But what really is beautiful? Does it take extravagance and glamour? What defines it?

I’d like to tell you something of what I see is beautiful these days although know, that they’re not what you would always expect. When I go to work in the morning, I arrive in the office and see my tall glass windows covered by these white-colored blinds. I open the blinds to let the light in on what seems like a dreary-looking room but when the natural light comes through, it always feels slightly different. As the yellow light comes in, I feel warmth and goodness, more positive, like I could take on the day even if some minor trouble or tiny glitch gets in the way.

Have you seen the sunsets lately? I don’t know about you but sunsets are what I look forward to most, even more so now that I try my best to find little pockets of something wonderful somewhere. We usually neglect it as we coast through our busy lives but it’s just simply there, oblivious of how it takes our breath away. I would look at the sky on my way to the stop of my commute going home. Oftentimes, I see it on a long drive with friends whom I rarely get to be with these days. Whether the sky goes from pinks to purples and warm oranges, it always appears magnificent. I wish they stay longer up there, or even here right in our memories. And so I open my phone instead and take a picture because that’s where I am sure I can keep it.

There’s a coffee shop and a tea shop I go to usually. They don’t seem crowded these days– busy still, but not with the usual crowds sitting closely next to each other, their voices drowning right in the middle with no loneliness or emptiness in sight. It’s different, but the drinks still make me smile a little bit more. It makes my day. It always feels like a hug or a soft pat on the shoulder telling me that I’ve done a great job at surviving today.

You see, friend it’s the littlest things, really.

I found a really good song the other day and loved it. I shared a good laugh with work friends. I made coffee this morning from this espresso machine I just got recently. Though it always takes time to make, I appreciate at what a huge impact a simple, peaceful moment could bring me. It’s beautiful over here and I wish it’s just as beautiful over there.

Friend, the beautiful things may seem difficult to find these days but you don’t really have to search for them hard enough. Just look around you– there’s always something beautiful in the ordinary.

*This is my writing prompt for #TheIsolationJournals

reverberations

In your deepest core, in your most vulnerable moments– what do you want?

I’d like to tell you something about one major lesson I learned most in life and it’s this– to be strong, to put up your strongest suit even when you’re falling at the seams is one thing. It does seem brave, but to be vulnerable? To cut yourself wide open for another to see– hurt and flaws and all? It’s another.

Vulnerability is what we fear most and what would seem to be the most difficult thing anyone of us can do. One can think I’ve mastered the art of it by being in the field that requires some level of vulnerability but I’m still just as learning everyday on how to do it. Here’s a question I’d like to throw at you: in the silent, vulnerable moments of your everyday life, have you ever thought about what you really want? Right there in the deep recesses of your heart had you allowed yourself to be vulnerable?

I for one have thought about so many things I want to have and do in my life but mostly they appear to be more goal-oriented. Our career plans, our next steps in the years or so, would always be the ‘want’ that we could easily talk about. Want is such an intimidating word, don’t you think? It comes off selfish and puts yourself front and center, but we all have a want and the desire to have it, as many of us should. However, when we speak of what we really want right deep in our core, it goes beyond work and career plans in the next five years as I’ve come to know.

I want to be kinder to myself because I haven’t been for so long. If anything, all I do is call myself bad and ugly and that’s not a nice thing to say to anyone, especially towards oneself.

I want the peace that resembles like the candy-colored sunset you see on your window, one that sounds like your favorite song, and the peace that tastes just like a warm cup of coffee.

I want love in it’s healthiest, purest form. I learned I didn’t always want to be alone but I want that solitary life shared with another. A love that erases all the hesitations and the hurt that was caused by the one who came before. A love so real that cancels all the noise inside my head. He’s just there and I’m just here. We’re two separate people, but together– saving the world and living in it one day at a time.

I want to love my body as it is, not because I have to be something or someone else.

I want to make my parents smile, brew them coffee the way they always like and and see them grow old.

I want to keep my best friends forever and see each other for months on end, but even then, we’re still just as right where we left off.

I want to be happy, really truly happy even without the accomplishments and the degree and the pressure to be more everyday.

I want to be me. Just me. Still me.

What about you? Have you thought about what really truly lies right in that heart of yours? When you’re stripped off of all the mask and the front?

*Reverberations is my writing prompt for #TheIsolationJournals

mind your own progress

There is one question I get asked about by several people. If it’s not about my relationship status, my unwritten thesis in graduate school or an unsolicited commentary about my body and weight, it’s “so, when are you leaving your job?” in an imaginary high-pitched voice. As if it’s a measure of success, I daresay I hate it.

A few weeks ago, I attended an exclusive webinar by She Talks Asia. It was a wonderful experience getting to listen to various discussions about life, mental health and career-related advices. A question was thrown to one of the speakers about dealing with a job that no longer makes you happy or satisfied. And while resigning typically as we know is the easiest advice and surefire way to do it, I was surprised that the speaker never mentioned anything about quitting at all. In her words that remain etched on my memory forever, quitting is not the best advice to give someone as people have varied personal reasons they’re dealing with that they’re weighing on themselves. And I could not agree more.

I work in a demanding work environment. Five years was an experience like no other. Throw in an insurmountable amount of caffeine and a bucket of shed tears too, my work was a mixture of both highs and lows. The pressure was always on, ugly as that may sound, but that does not mean I didn’t learn a thing or two because I’ve learned a ton over the years and it helped me grow and become the person I am now to which I appreciate more than most. It’s not as financially fulfilling as I expected which led me to take side hustles here and there, but I found the challenge of balancing both, and gaining wonderful work friends, still just as rewarding.

While my efforts and my inability to pause and rest most times were concerning for most people, what always seems to set me off is another’s uncalled for sarcasm. I get it, the trend has always been this way– get a job, leave it if it no longer serves you and go find somewhere nicer, more comfortable. I acknowledge that that is true and it is what many millennial workers like me go for and if that it someone else’s decision right now, I respect that. Because that is their decision to make and not mine, just as my own choices are not for others to decide upon. Heck, your progress, your calling, your vocation in general is not up for anyone else to keep tabs on. Let’s say a person wishes to leave because they want to explore more of what’s out there or to simply look for a greener pasture. A person remains because they prioritize staying close to home or working on to move above a career plateau. Both can be polar opposites but they’re also valid. There’s a fine line between just being nosy or asking the right questions. And truly, there’s a level of sensitivity to distinguish one from the other.

It’s a person’s progress and like relationships, your goals and decisions, whatever they may be, should not always be up for other people’s discussion, especially if it’s an unnecessary advice or a question you certainly did not ask for.

We live different lives. We write our own stories. And we tread on this world trying to make our own mark. Life is not a race at all, as I’ve learned. You could bide the time to work on your goals while others do their own thing. Mind your own progress. It lessens the external pressure you impose upon yourself and thus will allow you to work on more freely on you. Do not worry if you haven’t gotten there yet or if you feel like you’re missing out on life because you’re getting there day by day as you work on diligently towards whatever it is your heart desires.

an ode to folklore: our album of the year

If you haven’t known by now, I consider myself the biggest Taylor Swift fan. When I mean it in that sense, I’m the “listens the album from the first track to the last, knows every track number and song lyric by heart, dissects every music of hers by theories on the internet, considers her the mother hen of every swiftie in the world” kind. Okay well, that went overboard, but my swiftie fangirl life has always been out in the open. There are few other musicians whose entire track in the album I could not skip on which was of John Mayer’s Continuum and Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, but then again, it was always Taylor’s album, even from day one, which I always attended to so religiously, without missing a beat.

I love her both as a person and most of all, an artist— a musician who is truly so one of a kind.

When the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards aired yesterday, the only person I looked forward to seeing was her— her dress, her performance and indeed, she was glowing like a queen fairy in the woods. Seeing her up on the stage confident and truly joyful, having the time of her life, was magical. Other than that, I was mostly excited yet nervous for the results. Was she going to win Album of The Year for the third time or was she going to get snubbed? I’m certain fangirls like me wouldn’t want her to get snubbed as her two previous albums were. But the Recording Academy finally gave the prestigious award to her. A well-deserved win. A no-brainer.

Folklore was released nearly a year ago at the beginning stages of lockdown where everyone around the world, stuck in the confines of home, badly needed something to hold on to for that unexplainable longing for a faraway feeling, or place, or even a person. We were all just inside, grappling with the grief of the uncertain time that we had. In that season, we tried to find many ways to cope and one that felt like a warm embrace from a distant friend seen again was listening to her album.

The first time she dropped the news about it, I was surprised as one can be. If staring at her Instagram post announcement for a mere few minutes was an indication of utter disbelief then yes, that was my reaction. Usually, she takes about two years to finish an entire album but this one came surprisingly early. Shockingly so early that she caught us all off-guard. From then on, she just threw one surprise after another.

Folklore was created so spontaneously not because it wasn’t well thought of and carefully crafted because it really, truly was— but because it was purely made out of love, without the confines of fame and recognition. She made it because she too like us, found a way to cope in such a trying time, and only wanted to share such vulnerable piece of gift into the world so we could listen to it, hold onto it and escape into. During that time I had been dealing with such personal struggle of heartache to which I fought so silently on my own. Heartbreak is already such an isolating feeling in itself but to listen to the album frequently was a relief, some kind of therapy, and one that felt like a tight, reassuring hug that says, I will be okay soon. And because of that, I am grateful for it, really.

From the first track to the last, she gave us a voice that was deep and mature— a woman sure of herself, confident that she does what she does best which is to tell a story like no other person could. With every song, Taylor was different but still the same, a homecoming to softer parts of herself. More so, she reminded us that she knew so well how to speak the language of heartache, despair, regret, extreme happiness and sadness. Although indescribable those emotions may seem, her music found a way to put a word for them and promises us that we’re not alone in the pursuit of our experiences.

It was the album we needed and wanted. Definitely, it was our Album of The Year.

here, the story ends

There is a narrative of you and me I wrote that’s left unfinished. Somewhere in my cranky laptop lies a draft where several chapters fill the pages, but it was one I never had the courage to put an end to. I was stuck for many reasons I wasn’t certain of. Was I scared? Have things been painful to recall and write to? I really don’t know. 

But one thing I am certain of was this— our story was just as incomplete, partial, as it was written. And we both left it that way. 

It has been a year since then when March used to be so beautiful. Oh how good things once were— you were there, across the ocean, just simply being the perfect portion of that fragile part of me. Yet things change, as they always do, but not always for the better. For us, it only made things worse. 

I still ache for you, you know? But a little less now I guess. It used to hurt so much— the absence of closure and apologies, the torturous honesty. I wish you knew it all. How delicate trust was given and now, I carry it so gently, fearful that I may give it to someone who knows so effortlessly how to break it the way you did. Even so, know that I am growing out of it everyday, that this heartache, is a difficult lesson to learn and in time, as the days pass me by, the pain wouldn’t weigh as heavily as it was. Walking on eggshells a year after and I’ve been careful with the steps I take ever since— to move forward past the unfinished story of ours.

I take one foot, then another, so slowly and clumsily I go. Don’t worry, I will get there. 

As parting messages usually go, I bid you well. I hope you saved a life today. I hope New York is not at all bad as you think it is. I hope an unfamiliar good song from the subway made you smile even in the midst of a toe-numbing winter. I hope you read good books you once never had a chance to read but now have all the time to. I hope everything worked out just fine for you, for me.

For what it’s worth, I’m glad we did find our way to each other, no matter how cut short the story it seemed. The narrative of ours may have been incomplete, partial, as it was written but I guess this is it. There are no room for regrets, no more bitterness, here is where our story finally ends.

an open letter to my skeptic

Dear you,

I would like to recognize that this hasn’t been an easy month for us both. You and I both have our struggles of our own in varying degrees and with that I only have validation and respect for our experiences. But more than that, I hope you know your doubts and questions upon me have placed a heavy weight on my shoulders. Not a day in recent time have I felt more disturbed, agitated and anxious for this matter as it seemed to me that your words only signified one thing– that your misery and difficulties have no one else to blame but me. I believe we all have our opinions and perceptions towards others but to mean those things directed towards someone like myself has only ever been purely hurtful.

I kept thinking about how all of this turned out the way it is. I asked myself several times over and over. Have I been a terrible person? Have I not taught well enough to be deemed so negatively? Most of all, have I ever been unkind to anyone along the way, especially to you? In my defense, I’ve been careful. I tread this world carefully, albeit imperfectly, but made certain I didn’t place any pain or hurt to anyone I come across. If anything, I chose it everyday, even when it is difficult, even when it is not known, even when I have to take the high road and even when I have to be the bigger person in things– I still chose kindness. I hope it reached out to you but it appears, you do not want to recognize it. Kindness, no matter how palpable it is, still isn’t enough.

I hope you know that this month already felt like a year for me. To settle this, I had to bend down on my values and beliefs to accommodate your needs. It was conflicting, very much so, but I had to for there is nothing more than I want but peace. Some days just like this, I have to risk it– I would never want to move forward with my life knowing someone out there might hold a grudge on me.

There are only two things I wish to say to you to end this letter. One, that I hope you choose the paths to take on wisely and with great responsibility and second, I pray you have learned from everything this experience have shown you.

Still, I hold on to good things ahead.

Best,

Alve

grAyson

grAyson

as far as parting words go
your “good night” hurt the most
exceptional was what it was
marvelous too in every sense of the word

because i,
never heard from you since then
i wonder, did the keys sting enough
to stop you from hitting send?
how could you leave me reeling
from all of these questions
left unanswered
stuck inside my mess of a head?

because i,
never saw it coming
didn’t you see the heartaches
that make up myself
as some beautiful silver lining?
you said all of it has lead me to you
i couldn’t care less if
any of those could be some lie or the truth

because all i know was,
i had you

and from then on i was met
with my ultimate fear
that i had someone to lose—
a perfect part of what has become
a whole of me torn in two

but you didn’t hold back
as far as parting words go
you were certain it pained me enough
to read there is no better goodbye
than leaving me with nothing else to know

as far as parting words go
yours was something
i could never forget
nearly a year has passed
yet you still hold power over me
like some string tied
onto my back called regret

as far as parting words go
i still wish you the best

you’re on the other side of my world now
living as you should

but i hope you still remember
that there was a girl
who once wished for closure
and wanted nothing more but for your return.

Adieu, First Semester!

I was overcome with a huge wave of hesitation and nervousness about four months ago when I was asked to teach classes this year. The fact that we were just coursing our way through this whole online working scheme back then, and then there I was being suddenly thrust into teaching Psychology classes, really made me anxious. I haven’t taught any classes before so the feeling of working on something so unfamiliar made me doubt myself. Other than that, I was painfully awkward and shy around people that having to face people online while they listen to you for an hour so, gives me an endless amount of jitters.

Our semesters are divided into two so when you look at it, it’s still pretty loaded. I honestly didn’t have that much time to pause and rest. If I do, it only ever made me feel guilty and all the more did worry about yet another workday. Teaching online really did take up so much of my time. I would study materials, prepare presentations and discuss them. When another class day would end, I’d have to prepare for yet another day or week of sessions. It really was a never-ending cycle. Never have I craved more for an 8 hours worth of sleep.

Part of the biggest hurdle that a teacher would have to get past through when teaching online, is getting your students’ attention. Now in the online world, you can only do so much. At times they’d turn their cameras off you and it would all feel like you’re talking to a thick, brick wall. It kind of is disappointing sometimes but you’ve got to make do with what you have. I try to shrug that feeling off so I could get past it, deliver my work and move forward. I have to say, not only did I learn from my students this semester but also, I did learn a lot about myself too when I was teaching. You see, I never really thought I could do it. Being the shy, socially awkward person that I am, taking a huge leap beyond my comfort zone always makes me feel apprehensive at first. The doubt and fear was always there at the beginning but as the days and months went on, I fought them over and did what I could do best. I learned so they could too even when it took time and energy.

I never knew I could appreciate teaching Psychology now more than ever by making my students love it as it should be– that it is one of the most interesting and promising fields out there. And one day, I hope that when they look back, they will have appreciated every tiny concept and know they’ve learned all of it even at a time as uncertain and as frightening as this. I am crossing my fingers I’ve made a difference even at the tiniest bit.

I can’t entirely say teaching is my most favorite vocation to pursue but I can attest that it is the most underappreciated yet most fulfilling job there is.