On Wednesday, I had my first appointment outside of the house in months. My learner’s license expired in August. They give you two years to try and pass the road test, and I’ve failed five. So on Wednesday, I took my longest and farthest bus trip since March. I had booked the appointment for 10am, because I’m not a morning person, but it worked out even better than that. I was on the bus during the lull after morning rush hour, with only two other riders for most of the trip.
It rained off and on that day, and every day since. The weather has been miserable, and so have I. When I got home on Wednesday afternoon, I tried to sleep even before I made lunch. I’ve been sleeping odd hours again. My mind has been restless. I didn’t write you on Wednesday, and then I skipped Sunday, too.
I’m a perfectionist of the highest order. If I can’t do a thing correctly, I just won’t do it at all. I can’t even bring myself to try. You might look at five failed road tests and wonder how I’m feeling about that, but it actually makes me proud. Because I tried. And I’ve kept trying. This is when it would be easier for me to give up—because it’s never gonna happen.
But I got on the bus, I took the knowledge test, and now I have my license again so I can try and fail a sixth time. For me, that’s growth.
On Sunday, my plan was to write up my recipe for tofu scramble. I made this for the first time when my mom brought me a truck-load of groceries for my self-isolation in October. (I’m calling it a tofu “scramble” because that’s usually what restaurants call it, but to me, it’s really more of a tofu “hash.”) I even bought more tofu on Friday so I could cook it again on the weekend.
But I didn’t. I haven’t. When I woke up on Sunday (not in the morning), I ate the pancakes I made the night before. When I woke up at 9:30 last night, I made oatmeal. It’s now 9:30 Monday morning, and all I’ve had is coffee.
My friend, Shana, has relaunched her newsletter, and she’s writing every Sunday, too. (She’s a professional journalist and editor, so she’s a lot better at deadlines than I am.) Yesterday, she wrote about time. And also yesterday, I finished reading Douglas Coupland’s biography of Marshall McCluhan, who figured out—long before it actually happened—what the new technology was going to do to our brains and our sense of the world around us. It’s not that time has no meaning anymore, but that the meaning of time has changed faster than we can comprehend.
My current group of students are between 6 and 13, with the largest group around 10. The other day, I spent a good 15 minutes of an hour-long class explaining how to find words in a book-form dictionary. Most of these kids own tiny computers, whether in the form of tablet or phone. (One was very excited to finally upgrade from the iPhone 6 to an iPhone X because their dad is getting the brand new model.)
I started teaching when I was still in high school, when my French teacher recommended me for an in-school program tutoring elementary students. That means I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years now. I didn’t go to school for this job; it’s just a thing for which I have a kind of natural talent. And though I definitely took some writing classes in university, sometimes it feels like I never learned the ~real way to write.
I just keep doing what seems to work for me, and I hope it works for others, too.
As we race towards the end of this wretched year, I find myself slowing down—body and mind. Hibernation is on my mind. December isn’t just the month of Christmas—my favourite holiday—but also my birthday. And while I can’t get away or plan to see friends this year, I can give myself a break.
December will be a month off for this newsletter. I’ve been writing more, but writing differently, writing pieces that want to be longer, that need some time. From Shana, again:
I can write a thousand words on nearly any subject with some mix of personal recollection and cultural commentary without breaking a sweat— I have trained for and done that exercise itself a thousand times over probably in the last 20 years.
Recently, I’ve started calling myself a blogger, a zinester in those necessary one-line social media bios, rather than a writer because this is what I do. I don’t write books; I can’t write books (believe me, I’ve tried). I write short. I write spare. I write sentences which I like to set off from the rest of the paragraph with a lot of white space.
But I want to write more. Not differently, just more. I want to write beyond my blog, beyond those years, almost decades now, I’ve trained myself to fit my thoughts into a proprietary text field.
Don’t be precious about your work. It’s not good just because you wrote it.
We’re not good enough to not practice.
I need to go practice.