60. Aggressive shots
Back to work
What I’m up to
We are less than a week away from the beginning of a new school year.
Our school theme this year is “family,” and while I know there are many think pieces about how your colleagues are NOT your family and your workplace is just that — a place of work, not home — I do feel like our work community is unique in that we literally live next to (and above and below) our colleagues and, as expats, we are each other’s extended family in the absence of blood relatives. Our kids grow up together and look at us as aunts and uncles. We take each other to the hospital and care for each other when we are sick.
We spent some time this morning sharing stories about how our community has come through for us. (Our recent move came to mind.) It was a good way to start the school year.
What I’m reading
I’m still listening to Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now (by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang) on audiobook for the few minutes every night before I pass out. I borrowed it from the library thinking it would be a funny breakdown of Asian American pop culture, but it’s actually quite weighty and informative. The first few chapters define what “Asian American” even means. Who counts as Asian, and how has that changed through history? Why are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders grouped together in the US? It’s fascinating, so much so that I know falling asleep listening every night is not doing it justice. It’s a book I now know I want to purchase and read like a textbook. (A quick perusal of the online version of the book tells me that while the audiobook is great, the physical book includes images and text features not translatable to audio.)
But what I’m really doing in my dwindling hours of free time is watching The Bear, about a renowned but troubled chef who goes home to take over his deceased brother’s sandwich shop. It’s gritty and at times dark, but instead of violence, there are aggressive shots of food preparation. Haha. I love it.
What I’m thinking about
We sent out a survey to teachers to get a feel for what topic they’d like to cover in our learning groups this year. Out of at least a half a dozen topics, the vast majority chose “teacher self-care.”
There are of course many jobs harder than teaching, but one can’t deny that teacher burnout is ubiquitous to the point of being cliche. I am thinking about what it is about teaching that is so exhausting. Our emotional investment in our work? The fact that for most of us, teaching is a vocation, not a job? The many stakeholders with conflicting demands? The fact that we put ourselves out there every day, and our personalities are judged as much (or sometimes more) than our actual work? The way our jobs never really end even after work hours, because there’s always more grading or planning to do?
I recall being quite stressed at times in my previous job, where I sometimes worked crazy hours, and I was almost always thinking about work. I wouldn’t say teaching is more stressful than journalism (especially now that I have 7+ years in the classroom under my belt). But I definitely feel like there is less opportunity in this career to hide or tap out during bad days or tired moments. Being a teacher means always being on, and not just in your head.
Teaching is incredibly rewarding and a joy the majority of the time, but it is hard.
What I’m learning
I am also (of course) thinking about China, particularly in the wake of Pelosi’s visit. China made threats, Chinese citizens got mad when the government didn’t make good on the threats, and now it looks like military exercises are pointing to the possibility of a blockade. People ask me if we’re scared to live in Taiwan in such a volatile time. Well, no, in that the threat of “China attacking” has been present pretty much all my life; I remember doing air raid drills in 5th grade when China fired missiles over the Taiwan Strait. I have to say, however, that watching China’s heavy-handed response to Hong Kong’s resistance and Russia wage war against Ukraine has me brushing off fears a little less confidently than before. Do I think there’s potential for escalation and military conflict? Yes…?
However, China doesn’t really figure in our day-to-day life (thus far). It’s an imperfect comparison, but I think maybe it’s like how Americans feel about shootings — you know it could happen, the idea is terrifying, but you still go to public spaces, still go to school. The fear cannot rule your everyday decisions. What can you do but live your life normally until you can’t?
(In the case of shootings, what we can do is advocate for gun reform. Like I said, imperfect comparison.)
What I’m doing
Marveling at the fact that I now have an 11-year-old. Lucy starts middle school this year, and Anna is starting high school. Mind blown.
Wearing my hair down despite the insane heat — I am determined to break my 25+ year streak of wearing my hair in a ponytail 95% of the time.
Hoping my missing AirPod did not get sucked into Gregg, our robot vacuum, and subsequently discarded.
Listening to Anna learn how to play the opening of “Master of Puppets” by Metallica (thanks to Stranger Things) on the guitar.
Getting a little heavy-handed on my under-eye concealer application; I am waking up early but still going to bed late, and you can tell when you look at my face!
What I’ve saved
Not much time to wander the World Wide Web these days, but here are a few things I saved:
“What Are 5 Things in Your Kitchen You’d Never Be Caught Without?” I love reading comments on posts like this. My answer: cheese, tortillas, pesto, eggs, and limes.
I’ve been reading former NPR journalist Elise Hu’s newsletters forever. They’re chock-full of links that run the gamut from politics to pop culture, like this one about Elon Musk’s offspring. Plus, she likes The Bear, too.
For later: Alison Roman on my favorite kind of burger, the smashburger.
Until next week,