I’d really like to get back into this blogging business, but I’m not going to make any promises. So I’ll start with some light fare.
A few weeks back, I finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Incidentally, this is the FIRST Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. Over the years, I’ve had several friends tell me that Misery is a great jumping-on point for the worldof Stephen King; but no, I chose to take on this nearly eleven-hundred page behemoth for a starter.
Time travel stories have always been a big favorite of mine. As an adult, I have become fascinated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and all the theories surrounding it. A novel that marries these two favorite topics of mine seemed almost too good to be true.
11/22/63‘s main character is Jake Epping, a school teacher and divorcee – that’s where the similarities between Jake and Your Favorite Blogger end. Jake is almost moved to tears by an essay written by one of his GED students, Around the same time, Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, tells Jake of a time portal located beneath his establishment. After Al introduces Jake to the wonders of time travel, the two address a question that has become the stuff of time-travel cliche – What if you could change history? Al defines the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a watershed moment in world history and charges Jake with the task of preventing it.
There are of course, a few catches. This is not a “time machine”. Jake can only travel back to a certain point in time, in this case 1958. Should he decide to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, he’ll have to wait for events to unfold in the past. Much of the novel’s action includes Jake living in the past, waiting and preparing for the fateful titular day in Dallas. The novel explores the idea of a man living in and having a working knowledge of the past, but addresses the conflict of unfamiliarity with everyday life there.
I was absolutely hooked on this book. I typically don’t read books of this size, but I was amazed at how quickly I moved through it. At times, I found it easy to get lost in the daily minutiae of Jake’s life in the early 1960s – making a living, working, personal relationships – and actually lose sight of his over-riding mission to save the President. To that end, I was absolutely amazed at the level of research that King, and his researcer put into the creation of this story.
If you were history, how would the world be different? What would be the inherit dangers of something as exciting as time traveling? These are all questions the novel explores. Inevitably, King does have to address the conspriacy theories regarding Kennedy’s death. He makes a nearly-definitive statement on this matter – stating both in the novel and in interviews that he’s pretty sure Oswald acted alone – though in the story Jake does take steps to determine once and for all if Oswald was infact, the sole assassin.
Does Jake succeed in saving JFK? Does he even bother, or let history unfold as we know it to be? How would the world be different if Jake did save JFK that day in Dallas? And what becomes of the people he meets while living in the past? Of course, many other conflicts and complications arise through the story. I’ll let you, the reader, find these answers for yourself; but I will say this: at 1100 pages, there is a little something for everyone in this novel.
One day, shortly after Jabba and I separated, The Old Man called me out to his Man Cave. It was his garage, but he had put a TV, a couch and a fridge out there. At the time, I was back living my parents. I had no job, no car and no money and I was ready to start using the George Costanza line from Seinfeld episode “The Opposite”. I know I’ve talked about this one before…
The Old Man asked me to bring out a pen and a notebook – something that I was going to keep. He gave me the following directions:
- Create a list of goals – on where I want to be in five (5) years
- On a separate page, create a list of things I need to accomplish in four (4) years in order to reach the aforementioned 5 year goal.
- On another page, he told me to create a list of things I need to accomplish in three (3) years in order to reach the 5 year goal.
- On yet another page, he asked me to create list of where I want to be in two (2) years, in keeping with the 5 year goal.
- On a final page, he asked me to write down where I want to be in one (1) year, again keeping in mind the 5 year goal.
I specifically remember him saying that these lists were for me, not him. But he wanted to know that I would be okay; that I would have some goals and direction. He wanted it written down because he didn’t know if he’d be around in 5 years to see if I accomplished what I was setting out to do.
I logically understood what he meant when he said all of this. I just never actually thought he would be gone in less than three years of this conversation.
On his own blog, the actor, writer and self-professed geek Wil Wheaton wrote about a life reset. This is the story of mine.
Shortly before the holidays, I made the decision not to make a trip down South to see The Kid for the holidays. I could have pulled it together. Mother would have certainly helped me finance it. But I haven’t been working much lately to help contribute financially to my own family, and making one situation slightly, momentarily better with The Kid didn’t seem worth rocking the proverbial boat with my own family. Of course, I didn’t want a repeat of The Perfect Storm. Most of all, I felt like my life needed a good old-fashioned ass kicking. I’m hoping that that ass-kicking starts here:
The List of Rob
This was going far beyond a hokey New Year’s Resolution that would be forgotten before Groundhog Day. This was to be a multi-faceted look at my life – what works, what doesn’t work, where I am, where I want to be, where I’m going and how I plan to get there.
Without getting into too much detail – out of respect to the parameters I set down upon the creation of this blog – I broke this list into ten distinct areas:
- Me & The Auteur
- My family (me, the Auteur, 1B, The Kid & The New Guy)
- My relationship with The Kid
- Dealing with Jabba
- Health & Wellness
- Mending Fences
- The Future
There are action points listed under each of these categories but again, respecting the parameters of this blog, I will not get more specific here.
I’m still working on some of the details on certain parts of this list, but I am focusing a little bit on everything. I’m not saying everything is going to magically be better by 2018, but the truth is, there are many areas of my life with which I am not happy. There are other that I would like to see improvements. Then there are others still that like all good things in life, need maintenance. But this is the most comprehensive self-assessment I’ve ever made – including the list The Old Man had me make nearly five years ago.
People often lament about the things in their life that they want to change. Some even use that blanket statement “I really got to get my shit together”. The List of Rob is not only about getting my proverbial shit together. It’s about keeping it together, and putting the tools in place to keep it together for the long haul.
I’m going to be 43 later this spring. I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve lived most of my life day-by-day and for the most part, it has worked out pretty well for me. But things could be better. Of course, there are some things that will not work out for me, no matter how hard I try – areas of my life in which I will inevitably fail, but I’m tired of just going with the flow; being reactive instead of proactive..
Oh, and speaking of that list The Old Man had me make, like any list of the sort, there are things I accomplished on it and others I didn’t quite get to. But the things that I personally deemed very important, I did.
A few days ago I finished reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I’ve personally read the play “the diary of Anne Frank” a few times as a student and have now taught it several times as a teacher; but this was the first time I read the diary – from which the play was based – itself. Having said that, I knew the story, as it is fairly common knowledge – Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, spends two years in hiding with her family in order to avoid be arrested in Nazi-occupied Holland – but I was surprised at how much the play glossed over some of the real-life facts. Granted, the play would have to leave out some details for the sake of time, but I think that the play does so to a point that it doesn’t do Anne Frank – the young girl or her thoughts and experiences in hiding – justice.
3 things prompted me to read the diary at this time: One, As a teacher on summer break, I have the time. Two, Anne Frank and her experiences have been discussed in two movies I recently re-watched: Freedom Writers and The Fault in Our Stars (both based on books themselves). Three: While teaching the play this past spring, I had a student ask me “What is the big deal about this book?” I thought the answer was so self-evident that I struggled to even answer it.
I’m not going to try and critique the diary or say anything new about it. Countless other critics and historians who are far more articulate than I am have done that. Rather, I want to point out some difference between the play The Diary of Anne Frank and the original work The Diary of a Young Girl.
Some of the things that stuck out with me:
- the extent of frustration Anne felt with both her mother and her father. This is not so surprising to hear from a teenager, but the play glosses over Anne’s clashes with her mother and virtually ignores her growing disconnection with her father.
- Anne’s burgeoning sexuality and the fluidity of it. The play addresses the courtship of Anne and Peter, but completely ignores Anne’s innermost personal thoughts and curiosities about members of the same sex.
- The sheer monotony of life inside the Secret Annex. The Anne Frank of the play talks of life in the Annex as if it is some adventure. While in the diary Anne does at times romanticize her time in the Annex, she makes sure to address the sheer monotony of life there.
- the hardships that come along with living in forced isolation: having to remain silent out of fear of being discovered; being forced to eat the limited food options available, never being able to go outside, as a young person, growing out of the few clothes – among others.
If I could have a conversation with that one student who asked me “What is the big deal about this book?” I would probably tell them this:
The Diary of Anne Frank was written by a girl who was your age (or close to it) and tells of her first-hand experiences trying to survive through perhaps the greatest atrocity in human history – The Holocaust. It is a story about a young person going through a lot of the same hopes, fears, dreams and anxieties as yourself. From a historical point-of-view, The Diary… is the great primary-source about life in Nazi-occupied Europe. For millions of people worldwide, it has been the gateway into learning about the Holocaust. And finally, it well-written personal journal by an extremely gifted writer who was cut down way before her time.
I don’t normally talk about stuff like this on this blog, but I have toyed with the idea of having a “Rob’s Book club” type feature on here for some time.
At long last, I finally sent off my copy of the STBX’s separation agreement – with my counter-proposals of course. I’m finally glad to have that off of my chest. I still get a chuckle out of the fact that she said to me “you mean you’re retaining a lawyer?” Did she really think otherwise? Especially after I told her I was going to get a lawyer?
I went for a walk again tonight – trying to get back into the habit of that as well. which brings me to my point: I’ve been drifting lately – losing sight of my goals. Right now, my main focuses are getting re-certified and getting back to South Carolina, so I can be there for my son. Nothing else really matter right now.
i have class tomorrow night – and while I got my books over the weekend, I’ve been putting off doing my homework for the last few days. No better time that the last minute – that attitude has probably done more to get me where I am today than anything else.
It’s time for me to get re-focused. I have many of the tools that I need at my disposal – to bring about the changes that i’ve needed for so long in my life. It’s time to start using them.
Okay, one last daily affirmation – only because its so ridiculous:
I got my financial aid refund for school. Basically I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul but it enables me to take care of some of my current financial obligations. To paraphrase Forrest Gump “one less thing to worry about”
With that dinero, I was able to get my textbooks – another thing to scratch off the list.
- Is Forrest Gump’s Run Even Possible? (neatorama.com)
- Exploring Gump and the Popular Movie (10086sunsetblvd.wordpress.com)
- Best Financial Aid Resources for Attending Public Universities (college.answers.com)
Wednesday (yesterday as of now) was my first day back at school. It felt good being back in familiar climes once again. As of now, I only have the 2 classes this semester. I’m still hoping to add at least one more, but this is a good start.
Wednesday was the day that the whole “rebuild rob” officially began. I mentioned in an earlier blog that this may be my last chance to get things right with teaching. I plan to make the most of it. I did very well at Wayne the last time I went there. This time will be no different.