Home is where…I live right now?

I’ve never really known where home was. We moved so much when I was growing up, I never had a home base or a home town. The sports teams I follow are from PIttsburgh. My best friends from my childhood are from Alabama. My high school diploma is from Ohio, and I spent the last four years living in Boston.

When I say I’m “going home” for the week, what I really mean is “I’m going to where my parents live.” Right now, that is Delaware. I lived here for a couple months after graduating last year, but I don’t have any friends here. I have no old hang-outs to visit, and I basically hang out with my parents and work-out at the JCC when I come here. It’s not home, except for the idea that home is where my parents live.

When I told people I was coming to Delaware this week, I said I was going home for the week, but being here and in Pittsburgh at a family reunion for the weekend, I realized, I’m not at home. I love my parents more than anything, and emotionally, yes, whenever I am in their house, I will feel some sense of home, but I had a surprising realization last night.

When I fly back to LA on Wednesday, I’ll be going home. I’ll be going to the place I feel like I truly belong at this point in my life. I’ll be going to the little home I’ve created with my best friends in our apartment. I’ll be going to the place where I can grab dinner and a movie with my sister at a moments notice. I’ll be going to the place I can drive around without thinking. I’ll be going to the place I feel comfortable and happy and settled. I’ll be going to the place I can’t imagine moving from any time soon, which is exactly the opposite of how I thought I would ever feel about Los Angeles.

The first time I lived there, I thought it was pretentious and loud and too spread out and too sunny. (Odd, I know.) Now, I’ve embraced and conquered (at times) the traffic. I’ve made amazing friends who always keep me busy when I want to be. I’ve found a job I’m (almost) really good at and that I feel fulfilled in. I’ve learned to love the constant sunny and 70 degree weather. I’ve found an apartment that feels cozy and comfortable and (almost) decorated, and I’ve found (for now) a guy who indulges me in seeing Toy Story 3, takes me to Dodgers games, enjoys hanging out and doing nothing but watching movies and eating pizza, and who doesn’t make me feel nervous or self-conscious or crazy about anything I do, say, or feel.

I’ve had a great weekend with my family, revisiting my favorite childhood theme park, Kennywood, hanging out at a waterpark with my cousins, and dancing to a super local Pittsburgh band at a hotel bar with all my aunts and uncles, but I am really excited to go home.

What I’ve Learned aka I’m not a first-year teacher anymore!

It is the first official full week of my summer vacation, and it has taken me this long to wrap my head around the fact that I’m not a first year teacher anymore. Everyone kept saying that this would be the hardest year of my life, and while my job was difficult and stressful and took up a lot of my time, this was actually one of the most fun and most fulfilling years I’ve ever had.

I think, as opposed to calling it the hardest, I would call it one of the most eye-opening years. I’ve learned and grown a ridiculous amount, as a teacher and as an adult, this year. I thought that today, as I try to wrap my head about this past year and all the knowledge and wisdom I’ve taken in, I would attempt to recount some of the nuggets of goodness I have acquired this year. Here goes:

– Kids lose EVERYTHING. Staple things to their faces…or just teach them to be organized before doing anything else.
– There will always be one more thing to do. At some point, you just have to accept that, stop working, and go buy shoes.
– Coffee cures all, most importantly, mid-afternoon caffeine-withdrawal headaches that come on from not drinking coffee in the morning. On a related note: don’t get too addicted to coffee.
– Kids get annoyed when you take six weeks to grade an essay that took them three weeks to write.
– Kids will call you out when you misspeak, misspell, or misquote ANYTHING. They will take great pleasure in it.
– Students are oddly interested in their teachers’ lives. Tell them a little something about yourself to get them interested in anything else you are talking about.
– Staying up late to get work done helps no one. You cannot face a classroom full of children on less than 6 hours of sleep without exploding.
– If kids don’t know WHY they have to learn something, they won’t WANT to learn it. Explain why you are making them take three pages of notes or write that fourth response to literature essay if you want them to care enough to actually complete it.
– Make time for students before and after school, even if you have 9,000 other things to do. If they are asking you for extra help, they deserve your time and undivided attention.
– Don’t take things personally. Take obnoxious teenage comments as constructive criticism. Fix the problem. If kids complain that they’re bored, be more interesting. If kids complain that they have too much to do, teach them to manage their time.
– Kids care. Even when they act like they don’t, they really really REALLY do.
– The kids you think aren’t listening sometimes are. They kids you think are angels sometimes aren’t.
– In the end, you’ll be surprised by who claims you were their favorite teacher. You’ll claim you don’t care if kids like you, as long as they learn, but its still ridiculously nice to get the “Thanks and I’ll miss you!” hug on the last day of school.

I probably have more, but I’m tearing up. I’ll leave you with my favorite student letter to me on the last day of school, not because she said nice things (She did), but because of how observant she was and how well she seemed to know me. It completely caught me by surprise. I always forgot that these kids had to stare at me for two hours a day, five days a week, for nine months. They noticed EVERYTHING I did.

“I think it was really funny how you would sing or hum when you were trying to get the class to calm down or when you used to “hmph” really quietly. lol You are a great teacher Amanda, and I love you for that.”

What happened in Vegas?

So….Vegas happened.

It was, once again, ridiculous and magical and full of hugging and laughing and inside jokes and and and me looking FREAKISHLY good in hats (and also a bit like Jason Mraz when I quickly glance in the mirror after several afternoon drinks).

(FYI I look good in all hats. I feel I may have mentioned this in a post before…oh yes, here.)

So, there was my ride with Ev’yan and Andrea, during which we stopped for SONIC, which I have not had in years and which made me flash back to sitting in the back of my boyfriend’s truck after Battle of the Bands when I lived in Alabama in 10th grade. Yes, that happened.

Then there was the mad sprint Nicole and I went on while trying to get to the Planet Hollywood “I Just Came from a Theme Party” Bar Crawl before everyone else, caused by the fact that instead of actually, you know, walking towards the giant hotel marked “PLANET HOLLYWOOD” we walked in the opposite direction, forcing us to haul ass back the correct way in order to beat the large group slowing converging on the bar and causing me to almost knock down a small child.

A little later was the time I fell asleep (also known as passing the eff out) only to wake up to Kerri to shouting that she needed to go out and “live my life!”

The next day, there was us getting free stuff by the pool before Chelsee and Michelle (and husband) ran around the strip like crazy people looking for a giant statue of David and taking some photographic evidence.

After that there was a ridiculous amount of laughter, Kori teaching us that life is never that bad when you’ve got a jaw and that hooker cards are meant to be organized, me rediscovering I look great in hats, a delicious meal that was made “breader” by bread, Amy and I discovering we are clearly soul-mates, fountain-jumping, 60-year old brides belting out “Simply the Best” (“Maybe her husband IS simply the best…”), insane amounts of dancing at Margaritaville (but sadly, NO Ke$ha!), AND a tiny penis straw.

Lastly there was an incompetent cashier, creepes covered with bacon, (finally!) champagne, and more carbs than I care to mention.

Giving it my all while giving myself a life

I’m alive. I promise. This weekend, after staying up for 24 hours on Friday (not. ok.), I started the week feeling like the three weeks I had left of Institute would be ENDLESS. ENDLESS I tell you!

However, after getting the afternoon off yesterday (Happy TFA Day!), which then allowed me to get four hours of sleep from 7 until 11:30 before I drove across town to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Stephanie before returning home at 4 to get two more hours of sleep, and after finishing three lesson plans tonight without breaking a sweat (and before 10:00PM!), I’m feeling like the two weeks and 2 days of Institute I have left are totally manageable. Especially since tomorrow at this time, I’ll be rocking out to Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, and Allison Iraheta at the American Idol concert…..andagainonSaturday.

Yes, I am going to the American Idol concert twice. And yes, I am aware that the do-gooders here at TFA probably judge and don’t understand my pop culture obbsesions. I know in my heart, though, that the fact that I’m going twice is just the consequence of a weird set of circumstances that involved me not thinking I could make the LA show, buying tickets to the San Diego show instead, and then finding out I could go to the LA show….but I digress.

The seeing HP and the seeing Kris Allen are the things that are keeping me sane and allowing me to plow through these last two weeks. I went into this thing telling myself that I would not change. I would not let TFA consume my life. I would not burn out by pushing away the things I love and becoming scary-serious-sanctimonious chick. I do want to give all I can to my new job, but not at the expense of my life. So…yeah, no guilt. And I won’t complain if I’m tired, which surprisingly after last night’s weird split up sleep situation, I’m not. (I still got 7 hours of sleep, which sadly, is more than I’ve been getting on a regular basis) Although, this post is sounding more and more like I am super tired. Or like I’m drugged.

Whatevs. The whole point is I’m alive. I’m going to make it through Institute, and I’m going to allow myself to have some fun along the way. The end. Good night.

Living the Good Life

For the first time in a long time, I’m not here to apologize for not blogging. Not because I’ve been blogging a lot. Clearly, I haven’t been. No, I’m not apologizing, because I’m not sorry I haven’t been blogging. I got an email about a week ago from the lovely BlogHer ladies reminding me I hadn’t posted in two weeks. Usually when I get these emails, I’m stung with guilt. I usually rack my brain for something to post and throw something up, head hung low in shame. That didn’t happen this time, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Thinking back over the last few months, I realized that the only times I’ve really been driven to post has been when I’ve been stressed, tired, or needed to vent. Lately, I haven’t felt like that. These last three weeks, I’ve been genuinely happy. Work has been stressful and crazy, but good. My personal life has been weirdly calm, simple, and comforting. I’ve figured out that when I’m happy, I kind of just want to keep it to myself.

I don’t want to share it with the internet. Maybe I think I’ll jinx it. Maybe I’ve taken one to many TV writing class where I’ve been told no one likes stories without conflict or drama. Maybe (no….for sure) I’m not as amazing a writer as some of my blog friends, who can make even the smallest and happiest things in their lives interesting and funny in a way I can’t. Whatever it is, I don’t like writing about good things.

And the weird slash sad thing is, I haven’t really missed writing about my life, probably because I’ve been pretty happy living it. And now thinking back over the last three years since I started blogging, I’ve found that the times I’ve blogged the most have been when my life has been at its (relative) worst. (Note: I’m not claiming my life has ever been terrible.)

For instance, I think my blog hit its creative peak the miserable summer I spent living basically alone in Boston before my senior year. I needed blogging to be creative and sane and to have human contact. Now, my creativity and human contact is tapped out during the day, so when I come home, the last thing I feel like doing is giving any energy to the internet.

I don’t know what this means for my blog right now. I’m still trying to figure that out. In a way, I kind of want to take an indefinite break and keep living my life. On the other hand, I love my blog, despite my neglect. And I don’t plan on being happy forever. I don’t think I’m that lucky. I’m sure in the future I’ll have another miserable summer where I’ll need my blog to stay sane. I don’t know when that will be, though. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

My Rollercoaster

This week has been one gigantic fucking roller coaster.

I’ve had some of my toughest weeks teaching yet, mainly because four of my students were asked to leave the school, upsetting not only me, but also most of my students right as we started a new project I really need them to be excited about. I’ve been feeling bad for these students and wallowing for myself, feeling kind of responsible for not catching some of these problems earlier, neither of which I should really be feeling. Also, the amount of work I have caused me to come pretty close to having an actual panic attack this morning, as opposed to the ones I hyperbolically claim to be having most Sundays.

On the other hand, I started dating someone. This does not seem like that big of a deal to most people, but to me, who has been technically single since I was 16 and who has been screwed over more than once by boys in the intervening years, this is a (lovely and) big deal. Things are going eerily well, and the whole situation is literally the only reason I’ve made it through the past two weeks of ridiculousness. With all the other crap going on, I’m just trying to enjoy the this stage while its still fun and new and…filled with me smiling.

On yet another hand, my summer plans are once again up in the air. I was all set to head back to Camp this summer, but now scheduling issues have come up with my school, and it’s seeming less and less sane to fly off to Ohio for every single day of my summer vacation. I’m feeling more and more like I need a real and true break this summer. Plus, I possibly have a part-time job I could take with Teach for America in the summer that would alleviate the money issues that led me to seriously consider camp in the first place, but the whole situation still sucks.

And that is my roller coaster. Crying at school. Smiling with the new boy, and desperately scrambling to figure out what I’m going to do with my July.

A Change in Me

This weekend, I flew across the country to see one of my best friends from high school, and one of the few genuinely awesome people I know, make her professional acting debut as Belle in the National Tour of Beauty and the Beast. Um…what!?

It was madness. There were huge pictures of her lining the lobby. There were little girls dressed up as her milling in the lobby. There were audible gasps as she entered the stage in her iconic yellow dress. I feel like I just was one of those little girls gasping at Disney Princesses, now one of my best friends IS one. What is my life? When did this suddenly happen?

We went back stage. She showed us around her dressing room. We had dinner with the cast, and I grabbed drinks with her after the evening show. We reminisced about all the bastards that were bastardly to us our senior year of high school, who were jealous of her freakish talent and angry that I sided her her, and who now have babies, and ex-wives, and apartments next to our old high school. I feel like it was just last week when we were wandering around the mall in Ohio, gossiping about people we hated and how awesome our lives were going to be some day, and now…they kind of are.

*cue bragging*

I’m living in LA. I’m a part of a nationally recognized organization that takes about 4% of the people that apply to be a part of it. I make good money (for a 23-year-old). I have health insurance. I drive a pretty sweet little Prius. On weekends, I run into Mathew Perry and Elizabeth Perkins on the street. (Note: I love the UCB theater for that…) I have friends who feed my passion for fancy food and mash-up parties. I can vacay in Vegas. (Note: I GOT MY ROOM FOR VEGAS! yesYesYES!).

And my friend? She moved to New York last Spring, and got called into this audition a mere two months later. She ran into Julie Andrews in the bathroom at her temporary job in Macy’s. She’s touring the country, with her ensemble boyfriend in tow (with stops in San Fran, Chicago, Florida, LA, and HAWAII) as an effin’ princess and when she waves at little girls? They spontaneously combust into tears.

And those bastardly bastards from high school? Living in central Ohio. Raising babies alone at 22. Working dead-end retail jobs. Performing in local theme park shows. I mean, maybe that’s what they want. Maybe they are truly happy, and maybe I’m overly judgemental, but (and you are free judge to me for it) the inner 17-year-old in me (and in her) who had to deal with side-long glances in the hallway, bitchy comments during my monologues (Note: I went to a performing arts high school), and snickers at the posting of cast lists is taking great pride and happiness in the fact that I’m “successful” and happy and awesome and they…to me…are not.

But that is not what I wanted this post to focus on, while it is fun to focus on that sometimes. What I meant to focus on is that sometimes I don’t recognize my life at all. I’m used to changing and moving and doing new things, but sometimes I find myself flying down the 405 or walking around the Farmer’s Market or standing in front of a classroom of 14-year-olds or watching my friend waltz in a giant yellow dress in front of 3,000 people that I stop and think “When did this become my life?”

What do I love?

I love impromptu day trips to The Getty, when I remember what it feels like to be intellectual and realize just how beautiful California can be.

I love Saturday night dinners with my sister where even after spending 4 hours together we still have endless things to talk about while splitting gnocchi in four cheese sauce and spinach ravioli in sage butter sauce. (Food swoon.)

I love Friday nights spent waiting for the valet, complaining about reruns of “The Office” while standing behind a cast member from “The Office”, after seeing my favorite actor from “Friends” in an improv show and before seeing my favorite actor from “Parks and Recreation” walk past with my second favorite character from “Will and Grace”. (“I feel like I’m living Must-See Comedy Thursday!”)

I love scrapping plans to go out in exchange for playing “Lost” drinking games during which mind-blowing first season episodes send everyone running into the kitchen for refills.

I love annual Sunday morning coffee dates with my three best LA friends when I realize how much I love The Farmer’s Market, Coffee Bean Hazelnut lattes, and the fact that my three best friends live in LA.

I love endless texting and impromptu dinner outings with new LA friends that remind me that surprising things can still happen to me.

I love how I’m at a point in my life where Facebook stalking makes me feel insanely good about myself and my life choices rather than the other way around.

I love that even though I spent 5 hours working today, I’ve been insanely tired for a week, and I still feel that stress creeping over me, I’m weirdly happy right now. Love.

What is my biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge? I’m living it this instant, surrouned by papers I should’ve graded weeks ago, a week from a huge school-wide exhibition my students are no where near ready for, wishing more than anything I could be watching the finale of Top Chef instead of slowly melting down in my room…..

What is my biggest challenge? Balance. I can’t seem to find it.

I put off work. I relax.

I feel guilty. I overwork.

I oversleep. I feel guilty. I work harder.

I snap at my students. I drink too much.

I undersleep. I drink too much coffee.

I get hyper. I have a good day. I think I have it figured out.

I break down. I have no idea what I’m doing.

I procrastinate. I cram. I overshedule.

I yell at my kids for not being on top of their shit. I laugh. I’m a hypocrite.

My biggest challenge? Getting up everyday knowing I’ll go to sleep with more to do. Figuring out how to live my life and do my job without failing at both.

I hope by next year my biggest challenge is something I know I can work through, because I’m having doubts about this one.

The Month Of May

Last year, in May, I officially graduated from college.

I sounds so cliche, but it feels like yesterday. It feels like yesterday I was walking down the street in Boston, trying to drink in the city. It feels like yesterday that I got the email that I needed to prep for a phone interview at a small charter school, that I read their entire website and instantly fell in love. It feels like yesterday since I packed and pumped myself up for the madness that would be the first ever Bloggers in Sin City Meet-Up. It feels like yesterday that I was cooking my parents elaborate good-bye dinners. It feels like yesterday that I was offered an amazing job at that small charter school.

I feel like all I’ve talked about (if I’ve talked at all) these past few months has been how fast my life has changed and how different it is now, but most days I don’t think about it. I get up, I got to work, I come home, I got to sleep. I don’t think about how much time is passing. This week, though, my Austrailian BFF (you may remember her from my insane, amazing trip to visit Australia last year) is visiting, and I realized that while I feel like I just saw her, it’s been a YEAR AND A HALF. I visited her right after I finished college, and that was a YEAR AND A HALF AGO!

I know this is going to happen again with the Vegas trip this month too. It doesn’t seem like that first Vegas trip was a lifetime ago, but in a way, it was. I went to Vegas on my way out to LA. I literally had half my life packed with me in that hotel room. I’d never stood in front of a classroom before, nor did I know what the hell to do if I did. Now I consider LA to be my home, and I like to think I have some idea of what to do in front of my classroom.

The month of May is reminding me that while I miss some things about my old life (all of which I was reminded of when I took my students on a college tour last week….oh all-you-can-eat dining halls. How I miss you so!) that is now feeling farther and farther away, I feel very settled right now, like my life is where it should be. Hopefully, next May, I’ll feel the same way.