Saturday, January 26, 2013

Work Out

I joined a gym recently. So far I have been a total of three times in two weeks. I do not know how long it's been since I've really physically exercised, I guess since I moved to Boston so over a year ago? That's a long time to be a bum, especially for me considering I once worked out the mornings before high school in the fall to get ready for winter wrestling season.

I put an enormous amount of energy into wrestling. 3 hour practices after school daily will take alot out of you, not to mention going to wrestling meets and tournaments every single weekend in the winter. That's alot of time spent wrestling, working out and being physical. I was in the best shape of my life, but then, in high school, you have so much free time. You don't have to worry about anything except dumb kid stuff. You can spend 25 hours a week into training. I don't regret it, not at all. In fact, I miss it, I miss having that intensity, having something that brutally rigorous in my life. A workout I was devoted to every single day of the season. Wrestling made me work harder than I thought possible, give more than I thought I had to give and for that, I will always be thankful. That's a lesson few people learn, I think. That you always have more to give, you can always do at least one more push up, or sit up, or lap, or sprint, or suicide run. You really can give 110% but only because we limit ourselves before our bodies do. In wrestling, we were forced to give all of what we had, 100%, and then give more. That's when you realize how you fool yourself all the time, you tell yourself you've gone as hard as you can, you've done as much as you can do, when, in reality, you really could do more. It helped on the mat, when you were down 5 points and only had 30 seconds left of the match. You don't get down on yourself and think you can't win, you realize what you need to do. Escape, take down, let up, take down, put him to his back, to win.

Regardless, after putting so much time and effort into a sport for so long, I think I was kind of burnt out when I went to college. I used weak excuses not to try out for lacrosse and even talked myself out of joining the wrestling club which is something I do regret, now. It was too easy not to do it, to be lazy. I wanted that free time that I hadn't had in high school. I finally got around to playing rugby and am glad I did. Talk about an intense sport, it is one of the most brutal. I would go to practice once or twice a week and give it my all and more, like I used to do. But not like in high school. I don't know. I just couldn't muster up the same devotion, the same intensity, but it was close. Running an 80 minute game exhausted me like wrestling used to, and was a hell of a lot of fun.

But anyways, I came to Boston and haven't even gone for a run in over a year. That's why I finally decided to join a gym with my girlfriend. It's been fun each time, picking up weights like the good old days back in high school. Working on my chest, my biceps, triceps, etc. Waking up the next two days with my body sore as hell and loving every second of it even as it hurts. Reminds me of a day after a wrestling or a rugby tournament. Can barely move from the ache and pains but laughing at myself because of it.

It hurts. In fact I'm still in pain from a workout I did three days ago. I feel exhausted, like I was beaten with a stick. Its as if somebody stabbed my biceps with tiny little daggers and left them in there.

Why do this? Why do we put ourselves through torment and pain? Why do we go for the Tough Mudder or the Warrior Dash, or anything else? Why do we make the choice to feel pain. When you have the option to feel pain or not, you would think you would choose not, wouldn't you? Yet human beings time and time again do things that are dangerous and agonizing. We rip our muscles over and over to make them stronger. We run ourselves ragged to get healthy.

I think it's the challenge. We love to struggle and to overcome difficulty, regardless of the situation or context. It gives us that feeling of winning, of beating something or someone, even if that someone is ourselves.

I remember that feeling from wrestling. It was the most pure form of that feeling, there was no team that helped you on the mat, you did everything yourself. If you lost, it was your fault, nobody elses. You didn't work hard enough, you didn't lift enough weights to get strong enough, you didn't spend enough time in practice...but when you won, it was fantastic. You alone overcame another human being whose sole purpose was to stop you, yet you won.

We love the challenge and the risk, whether it's physical or mental. It reminds us we're alive, that we have a strength within us and when you realize 'I can do this', and it becomes 'I did do this.' It's a great feeling and the aches and soreness, the pain merely reminds us of what we did.

So if you're feeling bored or like there's too many hours in the day (you're crazy if you think that), then join a gym. Workout for an hour, go for a run. Workout your body until you're gasping for breath and it hurts. It will feel good after, trust me. Eventually.

Man, my arms are still killing me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year, A New Post

I can't figure out how to start this post so I'm not going to.

2013 is going to be a good year. I feel like I've found a place. No longer am I a different person every day, substituting for real teachers, being a temporary 'robot' simply going through the motions and following a set of simple instructions. That's simplifying what a substitute does immensely and I'm not saying it's not difficult, it can be, but you are simply following another teacher's directions, doing what they would be doing, a temporary replacement that ultimately means very little. I know, I've done it. I even enjoyed it. It's not a bad job by any means but it does feel somewhat pointless. Wasting time being another person. 

Now I work with the same children everyday. I am what is called a Paraprofessional though it seems few people know what that means. Actually, I honestly didn't know what it meant until I just looked it up. Apparently, it means "a person trained to assist a doctor, lawyer, teacher or other professional but is not licensed to practice in that profession." Another definition is "a trained worker who is not a member of a profession but who assists a professional." I suppose that makes sense. Whatever. I work in special education with other paraprofessionals under a special education teacher. We work with 4th-6th graders and essentially make sure they don't go crazy in class. That's a bit simplified. We work with students who need more support than others, who may need a little help academically or socially, who need to work on controlling themselves in various situations. We spend all day with 1-3 students, working with them in and out of the classroom. It's fun! I enjoy it. Children are the most ridiculous people. They will say the craziest things, the worst things, things that just don't make any logical sense. It is very strange to work with them and remember yourself at their age, the similarities and the differences. 

They also drive you crazy. They refuse to do simple tasks, they make meaningless excuses, they bluff and lie and infuriate you but in the end, you have to remember they're just kids. Stupid stupid kids, but kids nonetheless. Everyone says you have to have alot of patience to do my job and that is very true. I find myself feeling aggravated, wanting to scream "JUST DO THE WORKSHEET ITS A STUPID LITTLE WORKSHEET AND THEN YOU'LL BE DONE JEEZ WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?" But then I remember the most important part about the job, the fact that you are not working with a fellow adult, you are working with a child and children are stupid. They are. It's not their fault, they're just young. I remember that and the irritation fades away. I remind myself they're going to get it, eventually, just have to help them get there. Help them understand the world a little more. That's what my job really is. 

So I enjoy my new job. It's going really well. I make just enough to cover expenses with a little(and I mean little) extra and for now, that's enough. Yes, I want to make more money and yes, I want to be a full-time 'real' teacher but for now, I'm pretty happy with where I've ended up in life, especially in a nice apartment with my girlfriend. She is the one who 'brings home the bacon' as it were. Sometimes, I feel aggravated about this, that I'm not providing for her nearly as much as she is providing for me. She's bought all the furniture and that shit is expensive, meanwhile I pay my half of the rent and utilities and little else. It's frustrating, I want to buy her everything but I can't. It's not about her making more than me, I could care less about that, it's simply the fact that I can't give her everything she wants, I can't even cover my half of the expenses of everything. But it is what it is. I'm working on it. You'd think we'd pay a little more for the people whose jobs it is to work with the nation's youth day in and day out but ya know, priorities and all that. 

I don't really like new year's resolutions. If you make a resolution simply because it's a new year, you're not going to keep it. If you want a change, make a change regardless of what month it is. A new year means a new start, I guess? But does it, really? What happens to all those previous years? They're still there. What's the difference between making a decision to go to the gym more in August 22nd rather than January 1st? I tell you what, I'd bet on the one who decided in August to keep going longer than the one in January. 

What's funny is despite not liking "New Year Resolutions", I kind of made one. I decided to attempt to edit my Nano-Novel a chapter at a time, one a day. I'm probably not going to stick to it completely but so far it's working well. I guess I also resolve to write more and send my writing to publications and stuff. That's a good one. This should be the year my Novel finally becomes "Finished," at least as much as it can be. That's exciting to me. 

I also want to go back to those writing exercises I did, though that feels so long ago. Taking those story ideas and expanding upon them, working upon them. It would be nice to work on a few short things after spending so much time on Blood and Ashes. I'd have to find that writing exercises book again. It should be around here somewhere. 

I'm also rereading The Wheel of Time. It is an Epic Fantasy Series by the late Robert Jordan and helped finished by Brandon Sanderson. The last book is dated to come out January 8th, 2013. I have read them all and in preparation for the final book, I am reading them all again. When I say 'Epic Fantasy', I mean it. You will not find a story with more scope, a world more fully realized, a tale more fantastic than The Wheel of Time. 14 vast volumes (+1 prequel), more than 11,004 pages, more than 635 chapters, more than 4,056,130 words. It is an enormous amount of text, monumental. It would take more than 419 hours to listen to the full tale in audiobooks. The first novel, The Eye of The World was published in 1990. Nearly as old as I am, I suppose it makes sense I fell into this world and have never wanted to leave. I discovered them from my brother in high school and devoured them. It was as if someone had taken Lord of The Rings and created something...BIGGER! More compelling, with more intricate characters and plots and twists and turns the likes of which you couldn't even imagine. Throw in a world with deeply complex political machinations, various different cultures and a uniquely amazing magic system. Throw in badass combat and gruesome battles and you have something amazing. 

So I'm going back in, starting at the beginning with books I haven't touched in years. It feels really really good, going back to the characters I grew up with, seeing them at the beginning and knowing what they become...It's fantastic. Is it slow? Is it boring? Of course, with the world as huge as it is, Jordan spends too much time detailing various things, he takes his time as he weaves the story, too much time many people argue. I love it, though. I love being enveloped in the world. I love the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies, I love the detail and world building and everything else. I would say The Wheel of Time is simply put, the most complex and deep fantasy epic ever told. Yeah. Pretty much. Eat it critics. 

I finished the prequel in two days. New Spring, it's called and it is essentially pointless. It adds little to the overall story and ultimately, Jordan should not have wasted his time. It feels like an overlong prologue, really, which I guess is what it is. It gives you information about a few places, a few characters but with the story in The Wheel of Time so huge, the cast of characters so enormous, why give these few a little more time? Like I said, it adds very little. 

The Eye of The World, however, is a great fantasy story and would be if it were on its own. Three farm boys  from the middle of nowhere will become crucially important in a battle of Light versus The Dark One, good versus evil? Awesome. Chased by creatures of The Dark One? Great start. Periods of intense action and battle are punctuated by pauses and rests of calm, filled with detail about the world and the places the characters find themselves in. It's a great story, each chapter revealing new information, giving you hints and feelings about a world ultimately more vast than you can imagine, with the feeling that there is always something new to experience, to learn about, to discover. 

It can feel slow, however. It's fairly lengthy and certain parts do feel overly long, leaving you wondering when the next awesome thing is going to happen. That's why The Great Hunt is so great. It is the second novel in the series and it starts off with a bang and doesn't seem to let up. I am about a quarter way through and loving it. It seems to take everything about the first book and make it better. 

What's also amazing is how much I'm picking up on while rereading it. There are so many hints and tells that Jordan gives you that you simply don't see the first time you read it. It's amazing how much he knew of the overall story he was going to tell. I am a writer who simply sees where the story is taking him, fixing things along the way. It's obvious Jordan had so much of the story plotted and figured out even as he wrote the very first book. It's wild. 

This post has become lengthy and wordy, so I'll end it and say Happy New Year. Try to keep those New Year's Resolutions. I know I will. 

Also, it's apparently JRR Tolkien's birthday today. He essentially created the fantasy genre and his stories are great. Middle Earth is its own deep and fantastic world. In honor of him, I leave this quote, it's a great one:

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."