March 30, 2014

Musings of a Math Teacher

Well, holiday is coming to an end, and I'll be going back to school as a math teacher. It's been a great holiday; I had a really great time with Ifo and my friends, watched an awesome movie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Seriously, you gotta watch it. It's brilliant!), rewarded myself with some fancy stuffs, etc. I also spent this holiday doing homework: checking math papers. I'm so glad I almost cry that most of my students pass the test, I mean, my effort paid off eventually. There's still a few students who don't get good scores, but it's not the end of the world though because I'm sure they can do better next time. So I showed it to my mom, the scores, as she's cooking dinner and she said what a great job I had done with them.

Truth is, even though I'm just a substitute teacher, but I get to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, just like other teachers. Each day, 90% of it is wonderful. I get to make a difference in kids' lives. I get to make them think about problems and ask questions. I get to encourage them and make them feel good about themselves. I get to challenge them and make them see others' points of view. For some, I get to be the person in their life who actually cares. I get to be one of the teachers who makes them change their opinion of math and to help them see how enjoyable it can be. Not every kid is going to be a math genius, but every kid should feel some kind of success every day in math class. That could range from being able to solve a two-step equation to simply being able to finally remember that three times four is twelve.

Then there's the other 10% of the day. This part of the pie-graph includes parents who don't believe me when I tell them that their kid misbehaved. It includes watching kids bully each other and knowing that sending the bullies to the principal is probably just going to make it worse. This part would include the kids who don't bring a pencil and a book to class because they honestly can't afford one. A fraction would be homework with just answers, and no work shown. A small percent would be dedicated to not having any time to actually create lessons during my planning time because I have a meeting about school activities. 

It has been a really nice break, but I'm beginning to actually picture the math that I taught my students flying out of their heads. Lol. I hope it's not true. 

March 28, 2014

On Sadness and Its Place

There's a friend who asked me about sadness, noticing that I seem to skip the negative here on my blog nowadays. She wondered whether I purposely kept things positive, and I said, yes I do. Truth is, I like to hold on to this as a lighter space, and I save the good, darker stuff for fiction. In any case, I thought I'd take a moment to share my thoughts on sadness and its place. I hold on to sadness like holding on to a new dress, waiting for the just-right day to wear it. I've always been a saver of new clothes, the sort of person who buys something and swears not to wear it until the perfect occasion comes up..only to finally debut it at some place. In any case, I tuck new clothes toward the back of my closet and make a mental note to grab them when the time's right, when I'm eventually ready. And so it goes, I've realized, with sadness.

Melancholy has always felt comfortable to me. Nostalgia and melancholy, those I can do, those are the backbone of the things I love. But sadness? It's not something I easily wear. I tug and itch at it, then reach for something softer, something a bit more worn-in. I pick melancholy usually, which tends to bleed into some shade of understanding if you sit with it long enough. 

Scattered weekends and occasional rainy day. Those are the times that I normally decide to unfold the sadness I've been stashing away. And when I unroll it, I spread it out, letting it splay across my chest so that I can really feel its weight, its pressure. Then I wallow. I  wade and sink and sometimes drown in whatever it is that made me itch, because I've come to realize that I can't let those stacks of sadness pile up forever. At some point or another, it's necessary to pick up each piece, see it for what it is, and throw it away so that I can move on.

This isn't to say that I always toss the bad stuff aside. There's room for pockets of sadness within each moment, I think. And if those spaces start to spill over, that's when it's time to bring them to light. That's when it's time to wallow, to call someone, to curl up in bed and read a book or listen to rainy-day songs or just sit there feeling sorry for yourself. Every so often, that's okay. There's a time and a place for sadness, and I've found that eventually, when I come across the right occasion, I'll try it on.

March 22, 2014

On Regrets

I believe in regrets. I appreciate the people who don't, and I find the saying "no regrets" both wise and optimistic. But to tell you the truth, there are some things that I'd handle differently, if given a 2nd chance. There are some things I said that I wouldn't say, and some things I didn't say that I'd love to speak aloud. As someone who probably writes and talks too much, it's the unsaid that I tend to regret most.

I'm fortunate enough not to have any significant regrets, nothing so earth-shattering that it leaves me up at night. My regrets are mostly little things, tiny tweaks I'd make to the random moments of my life. Given a 2nd chance, I'd have spent more time with my grandmother. Told my high school teacher that she inspired me a lot. Tried more vegetables when I was younger. Helped my mom gardening. I'd have chosen different course in college. Learned Mandarin.

Given a 2nd chance, I'd have forgiven myself more easily and held others to a higher standard because I'd have known that self-respect reigns most important. I'd have recognized love more quickly and acknowledged when to let go of the relationships that had run their course. I'd have skipped the unnecessary apologies, the meaningless guilt and the heavy boots that came with holding on to things for far too long. I'd have allotted more time for art. I'd have saved the petals from the first red roses Ifo ever gave me. I'd have taken more pictures.

Like I said, nothing earth-shattering. Just tiny regrets, small 2nd-chance dreams that teach me what I value and what I need to do with the rest of this life I've been given. Do you have a no-regrets attitude? Or are there things you'd have done differently?

March 21, 2014

1 Verse, 114 Revelations

بِسْــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِالرَّحْمَنِ اارَّحِيم 

Bismillah (in the Name of God) is the start of all things good. We too shall start to it. 

We're the travelers, and this world is a desert. Our impotence and poverty have no limit, and our enemies and needs are endless. Since it is thus, take the name of the Pre-Eternal Ruler and Post-Eternal Lord of the desert and be saved from begging before the whole universe and trembling before every event. The person who acts saying, "in the name of God," resembles someone who enrolls in the army. He acts in the name of the government. In the same way, all things act in the name of Almighty God. He has fear of no one; he speaks, performs every matter, and withstands everything in the name of Allah. 

We should know that there's a way to ascend to the throne of Divine Mercy, and that is, bismillāhi r-rahmāni r-rahīm. If you want to understand how important this way of ascent is, look at the beginning of the 114 chapters of the Qur'an of Miraculous Exposition, and at the beginnings of all estimable books, and at the start of all good works. And a clear proof of the God-determined grandeur of bismillah is that the very foremost Islamic scholars like Imam Shafi'i (may God be pleased with him) said: "Although bismillāhi r-rahmāni r-rahīm is one verse, it was revealed 114 times in the Qur'an."

Excerpt taken from Sunnah In Action.

March 19, 2014

This is How You Lose Her

Here's to all the guys, dudes and gentlemen out there..
This is how you lose her.

You lose her when you forget to remember the little things that mean the world to her: the sincerity in a stranger's voice during a trip to the grocery, the delight of finding something lost or forgotten like a sticker from when she was 5, the selflessness of a child giving a part of his meal to another, the scent of new books in the store, the surprise short but honest notes she tucks in her journal and others you could only see if you look closely.

You must remember when she forgets.

You lose her when you don't notice that she notices everything about you: your use of the proper punctuation that tells her continuation rather than finality, your silence when you're about to ask a question but you think anything you're about to say to her would be silly, your mindless humming when it's too quiet, your handwriting when you sign your name in blank sheets of paper, your muted laughter when you're trying to be polite, and more and more of what you are, which you don't even know about yourself, because she pays attention.

She remembers when you forget.

You lose her for every second you make her feel less and less of the beauty that she is. When you make her feel that she's replaceable. She wants to feel cherished. When you make her feel that you're fleeting. She wants you to stay. When you make her feel inadequate. She wants to know that she's enough and she doesn't need to change for you, nor for anyone else because she's she and she's beautiful, kind and good.

You must learn her.

You must know the reason why she's silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her that you're there. You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she's about to. You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she's worthy to be loved, that she's worthy to be kept.

And, this is how you keep her.

March 16, 2014

Best for Last

I've always had this habit of 'saving things for later.' It's cropped up across several areas of my life, translating to anything from food (best bite for last!) to music (I won't listen to this playlist until...) to clothes. And it's this last part: clothes..that I'm trying to change.

Ever since I was little I've reserved my favorite outfits for certain days, especially weekend. There was something about the end of the week and the start of the weekend that felt important, like something to dress up for. And so I would. It's normal, I think, to save certain outfits for the weekend. But somehow, somewhere along the way, I started saving my favorite clothes for..who knows? For some time in the distant future, some time when Possible Event X might require me to look my best. 

See, here's the problem, though: Possible Event X usually comes and goes, and I end up wearing an old standby..because in my mind I think, what if an even better event comes along and I've already sported this fabulous dress? What if I wish I'd saved it? What if it would have been absolutely perfect for this event and I've just worn it? What if? This sounds ridiculous, I know. They're just clothes, for heaven's sake. What's the big deal, huh? Well, the big deal's that it speaks to a larger issue: my absurd forward-thinking.

Saving best for last can be good for some things; the center bite of a hazelnut chocolate, the killer playlist that'll get you through that tough workout tomorrow, and..did I mention the center bite of a hazelnut chocolate? But I'm changing my tune when it comes to clothes. I'm shifting gears, wearing what I love whenever I please, whenever it strikes my fancy..even if it's on a..*gasp*..Monday.

Because sometimes, yes, there's a time and a place to save best for first.

March 14, 2014

Rain, Finally

I spent the past week soaking up the sunlight, cherishing the bright blue skies and the clear sunsets, knowing full well that the rainy days were on their way. It arrived today, the rain, and I'm surprisingly thrilled. There hasn't been any rain in weeks, hardly any at all since I started teaching, and I've been missing that mood. The mood that can only be found on a rainy day.

I listen to music more often when it rains, quietly, so I can still here the drops. I drink more coffee. I read more, write more, take baths just because. I watch movies I've meant to see for years. I cook; stews and soups, foods that leave you warm and fulfilled. I clean and catch up with friends, occasionally attempt an art, and I lie there, half awake, half dreaming, and watch the water blur the view from my window.

Yes. I've missed the rain.

March 12, 2014

Some Rules plus Other Things

We talk too much.
This is what you said after asking me to call you. 
We talk too much? 
Yes. It's strange. I don't talk to my best friends as often as I talk to you.
I managed to stutter an OK out while hoping he couldn't hear my tears through my voice. 
I'll talk to you in 7 months then, maybe 10, who knows. Whenever. Whatever.
That's a bit harsh. Don't you think?
I'm merely repeating back your suggestion. It's what you want.
You make it sound so cold.
I don't make it sound like anything except the truth.

I'm tired of the norms and the insecurities and the hiding behind fears. I'm exhausted from reaching out, opening up, and being told that I have to "not care so much." That's precisely what the world needs more of, not less. 

We need to care. About others. Ourselves. The future. The past. Being apathetic is not why we we're here. There's a difference among getting by, being cordial, and being apathetic. A time and place for each. With relationships, I don't want to remain indifferent. One of the most important things in our lives, most influential, how can one remain indifferent? I can't.

I've tried. I've attempted to live a life of being passive, going with the flow, playing dumb, and merely trying to fit in. It was one of the most miserable times of my life. I felt as though I was living one way on the outside, only to suppress my true self within. Never. Again.

And that's what I'm trying to learn and practice and honor this year: caring. Caring so much that I live each moment, each relationship to the hilt. We weren't put on this Earth to be robots. We're not stepford people. I'm me and you're you, and we're here to help each other and learn from one another. How are we supposed to do this if we're all the same? We can't.

And that's one of the saddest things in the world. Do your thing. Own it. Speak it. Live it. And if your thing happens to be..*gasp*..caring about people? Care on, my friend. Care on.

Live to the point of tears.
- Albert Camus

March 6, 2014

Need a Break

There's something to be said for disconnecting, for letting yourself do just one thing at a time. Such a foreign concept, right? Lately I've been making an effort to dial back on all the multitasking. To walk down the street without checking my phone, to eat a meal without reading twitter updates, to spend each night computer-free because, really, my eyes..and my sanity..need a break.

It's funny. In all of this, I feel as if I've returned to some piece of myself. As if some lighthearted, more carefree and childlike part of my personality has resurfaced. Or maybe I'm just living, you know? Maybe I'm just living and listening and noticing in a way that had been lost.

Being mindful is a pretty powerful thing, don't you think?


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