Trying to Understand

bucket list

Good evening from Filet,

The stress of both 8 months and the last two weeks sort of culminated in the same afternoon and evening (a spans of about 5 hours). When I tried to renovate a barn (circa 1880) and after deciding in consultation that it could not be saved, I began a project that seemed to be a reasonable (and helpful) upgrade. After eight months of roadblocks, a lot of painful actions on the part of others, and more money and paperwork on things I could have not imagined in my wildest dreams, the desired outcome was achieved. It is still not a case of winning because feelings have been hurt and relationships have been strained. That was neither my intention nor anything that leaves me feeling like this is a great thing. I have never been one to desire confrontation, but on the other hand I do not like being bullied. I am pretty sure that the initial intention was not to be drawn out. I know that it surprised both the builder and my eventual attorney. Yet, there is still more to accomplish. I am not exactly sure when it will finally be completed, but it appears the most difficult part is finally behind me. There are still some survey issues, but I have left it to the attorney to figure them out. I too will be speaking with Multi-County Abstract.

In my last post, which was begun after this initial writing and posted before the writing in this paragraph, I noted the connection I feel between writing and thinking. If you have followed my blog with any regularity, you know that I am always pondering, questioning, imagining, and yet reflecting. On one of the building on campus (called the Ben Franklin Building) above one of the lintels is the following quote (one by Franklin? I am unsure, but it would be logical), “Wisdom is the fruit of reflection.” It is both a truism as well as something which inspires me. Wisdom is what academe is about. It is a foundational tenet of what we should be doing as professors. Again, I remember my first trip to Europe with Dr. John W. Nielsen. I was 25 years old, but he provided a thoughtful sort of homily on the word professor. He noted insightfully and passionately that the title itself meant more than merely teaching. It was the actual action of professing something, but it was all encompassing. It was not merely what one did, but it was who they were (btw, I am aware that some will argue an agreement issue here, but what is standard/acceptable in this context is evolving). I remember the conversation clearly, but I am not sure I imagined needing to reflect on it in such a vocational manner. There is a difference, however, in the role of the academic today versus when I was in college in the early 80s, and even more so as I walk into a classroom today. From what we need to know and for what we must prepare our students to how we deliver it in and out of the classroom, the evolution of the academy has been dramatic. As I sit in a class right now, I have tasked my students with coming up with a PowerPoint progress report of what they have done up to this point in the semester. This is not something they were aware of, and that was done intentionally. First, it is something that could happen in a real professional setting if one is working for a company or on a contract. Second, it pushes the students to realize exactly where they are in their process and that is important because the end of the semester is coming more quickly that they actually expect. It is easy to get lulled into some sense of comfort. The end of the semester is coming more quickly that they probably anticipated.

This past week has been a week of students seeming to find it difficult to come to class. I think they are still psychologically (academically) and, in many cases as exhibited by their absences, physically.  This is always frustrating to me, and I am not even entirely sure why that is the case. Perhaps it is because I did not skip classes regularly when I was a student, at any level (there was one exception, but I will not elaborate on that here). I do  believe I work hard to create classes that make a difference and where students walk out, particularly in the program courses, with valuable and life-long skills that help them be fundamentally more successful. From cover letters to resumes, from proposal writing to memos, from instructors to usability testing and reporting, all of these things happen in my technical writing courses. Everything builds on what happens before and to fail to participate regularly affects both the student and their group. This is one thing that always frustrates me more than anything else. It has shown up in more areas of my life as of late than I would care to imagine. While I am certainly not perfect, and I drop the ball at times, I am usually willing to take accountability for that mistake. My willingness to help is coming back to bite me and I am going to spend most of the morning trying to put all of that together. I know that situations happen; I know that the unforeseen can mess up our best laid plans. Yet, it seems I have a propensity for being willing to jump in to save before I consider all of the consequences. Those who know me, even a little, are probably shaking their heads, both in agreement and in a kind of dismay that I make similar mistakes again and again. I am learning, but as I often say, “I am a SLOW learner.” – and that is certainly the epitome of understatement. The struggle with that is I get myself in trouble because I stress myself out over the consequences. The work I need to do today to manage all of this is going to keep me up for the next couple nights to try to gather all the paperwork to put the pieces together. Idealism is a dangerous thing. My wanting to see the good and believe there is good in all people has been a downfall at times. In spite of what I write here, I am not bitter, but merely battered about a bit. It will be a long rest of the week, but hopefully, I will get it figured out. The other difficulty for me is that these things can overwhelm me and then I shut down. However, I am not in a position to shutdown. There is too much to do and too many people depend on me doing what I am supposed to do. I think it might be a 24 hour work marathon if I am to get all my ducks-in-a-row. The Statler Brothers’ song, “Class of ’57” comes to mind at the moment.

When I came to Bloomsburg, it was a beginning of my life in a very different way. It is hard, at times, to imagine that I have been here for 6 and a half years. I was mentioning just yesterday that it was the longest I have ever lived in one place since I graduated from high school. I do not think I believed I would have had a rather nomadic life that it has turned out to be, but that is what has happened. I have, a number of times, realized that I am probably destined to be more like my Uncle Clare than I might have imagined. I have to admit there are moments that such a prospect for the end of my life frightens me. Yet, in spite of his seeming curmudgeonly demeanor, he was genuinely grateful for things and people. What I think most amazed me about him to this day was his love for reading, and I think he taught himself to read. Second, it would be his knowledge of plants and animals. In today’s world he would have been a conservation officer or a game warden. I think he would have been terrific in such a position. There are times I still miss him and I smile when I think of him driving around his 1965 Chevrolet Impala. I think he might have had a car after that, but somehow, I do not remember what it was. I think about coming in his back door and his house always looked the same. I think there were things he never changed from when Gladys, his wife (and my father’s eldest sister) passed in 1960. He was born in 1896 (I had mistakenly thought 1892) and was 93 when he passed. He was still as clear as could be and as cantankerous as one could ever fear. I am pretty sure I will not be that clear. I forget more things than I want to admit (keys, checkbook, what I went into a room for, where I put things, and planning a sort of laundry list of things and not remembering some of it immediately afterwards).  I must admit that some of this scares me. When I consider my genetics (as an adopted person), I am not exactly sure what my propensity for Alzheimer’s or dementia is. If I consider my adopted family, which is still part of my biological family (again a long story that I will not attempt here), I know that if I follow their traits, I am in deep trouble. I do wonder at times with my other history if I will make it to the point where I might have to experience such a difficulty, but then again, as noted, it seems there are already some red flags. It is something upon which I need to focus, and probably sooner rather than later.

Significant time has really passed since I first began this post, and my initial title still stands. There is so much I understand, but there is still much more that I seem to witness and experience that causes me pause. I do wish I had more figured out, but somehow, the infamous when I think I get something squared away, circles are more in vogue. What I do know is there are no guarantees and just when something begins to make sense, something else will change. I cannot remember who said this, but something like (paraphrased) the only thing constant is change itself.” It seems there are some truthful clichés out there after all.

Thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin

 

 

2 thoughts on “Trying to Understand

  1. I am very ecstatic to hear that you’ll be able to rent out your apartment! If I weren’t a student of yours, I would definitely be looking into it as your property is gorgeous and closer to human civilization than where I presently live out in the countryside of Riverside, across the river from Danville but strangely considered a Danville address where I’ve lived my entire life. Change is constant and ever perpetual, and as much as I yearn for it, I must warily confess that I’m a victim of the negative mindset that when things change it’s more for the worse than the better. Traveling and gaining experience in life, learning about the world and broadening my knowledge is one of my top goals in life at the moment. It would be such a thrill to go to a foreign country, one of my many dreams. You are wholly committed to and passionate about your profession which is one of the aspects that makes you such an interesting and thoughtful professor. You’re not just “teaching” for the sake of pounding course materials into students’ heads, but are dedicated to the overall thought-processes and understanding of others’ perspectives through intelligent conversation and discussion that really makes your students ponder about the tribulations of life and how they want to grasp for the future. Your writing is very genuine and always a pleasure to read.

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