January 24, 2006

Dude! How Much Free Time Do You have?

While it may seem that I have nothing to do but sit around my tastefully decorated condo in a foreign capital and wax poetic about an array of topics, I actually have quite a full plate. Pardon the cliché. In an attempt not to judge the use of time by others, or assert that my use of time is superior to someone else, someone who may spend their time say refurbishing furniture, I thought I would try and document an honest record of the things my mind is currently shuffling. This list has not been recorded in any order of importance. It is simply testimony that I have no more free time than your average person. And to once and for all answer the question: How much free time do you have? The answer, as I hope you will see, is not much.

An honest record of the things my mind is currently shuffling:

1. Work is the best place to start, since that is one place that seems to suck up most people’s free time. I teach five English classes: three eighth grade and two seventh grade. I have a total of seventy-six students. Which compared to the 150 I had in NYC is manageable, but it still means seventy-six students worth of papers to correct. I currently have forty-six 3-5-page essays on the themes of power, fear, and conformity as seen in the novels Lord of the Flies, The Wave and the Diary of Anne Frank. And 30 compare and contrast essays by my sevens on The Christmas Carol. I have 46 vocabulary quizzes to correct and record. We have started the poetry unit that I am designing from scratch, in 8th grade. I am trying to convince 13-year-old boys, obsessed with a game called Battlefield 2, a game in which you go around killing Arabs in the desert, that it is important to write poetry. In the seventh grade, we have started our first real novel study of a book called The Giver. If you think this is easy, take some time to reflect on the maturity level of eleven year olds, throw in three ADHD kids in there and have some fun with it.

I am also working with another teacher in running an after school activity called Model United Nations. We are teaching a group of about thirty 6th, 7th, and 8th graders how to do research on a variety of countries, argue points about a variety of political issues, and how to write resolutions to correct these issues. For example: the diamond trade and how it fuels conflict in Africa. We are preparing them for a conference our school is running in late March, where ten schools from South East Asia will come to put on a mock UN debate.

I also tutor two students an hour a day, three days after school. In addition there is a variety show coming up in which I am set to perform. I am terrified seeing that I have never sung in front of anyone. I am planning on playing The Time Are A Changin. I practice once a day, but I am not sure I will be able to work up the nerve to sing in front of students, fellow teachers and parents. But it has always been a dream of mine to sing in front of a crowd, and well I ain’t getting any younger.

2. As you know I am designing, maintaining, updating and trying to promote a website and Blog. I am planning a major face lift for Intrepid Flame. I want to update the photography and travel pages. I also have plans to create a few non-informative, but more artistic pages. Think: images set to music with text. I also want to have author pages…This preparation takes up a lot of my time before I fall asleep. I try and hatch these plans in between dreaming of my unborn child and thinking up these Blog entries. I am also working on a draft of a short piece I wrote for submission to an online zine. Chinese new year is coming up thank god.

3. I try to read an hour a night. I am currently reading the Constant Gardener. I can only do this when I am not zoned out watching mediocre TV shows like America’s Next Top Model, or on an OC binge. I am not ashamed to admit I recently watched 48 episodes, seasons one and two, in two weeks. Do the math. That is something like four episodes a night for two weeks straight. For a while I forgot I had real friends, and I would dream about what Seth and Ryan were doing. The only reason this stopped is because we don’t have season three. I have decided to take a break, but I plan on watching a few episodes with commentary by witty creator, Josh Schwartz. Once I get season three it is back to the OC for me.

I try and stay tuned with current films. Right now I am worried that I may not be able to get my hands on Brokeback Mountain or The Squid and the Whale.

4. I am on beck and call for my pregnant wife’s demands. I am not martyring myself here, but “sweety can you do this.” Or “Honey, can you get me some...” are phrases thrown around our house every five seconds. I try and cook nutritious dinners, although I am often making grilled cheese sandwiches, washing dishes, and rubbing backs or feet. We go to doctor’s appointments and have great conversation about parenting. I am constantly told to get off the computer and spend more time with her. To which I try and oblige, but this shit is not going to write itself.

5. I try to stay informed on various news stories:

Eva Morales in Bolivia
My country of birth being transformed into Battlefield 3 because we have a lunatic for president (Iran and the bomb)
The war as usual
Canadian elections (what the hell is going on up there?)
Is Ariel Sharon dead yet?
The rise of China and what that will mean for my kids
How much oil is actually left?
Will I be able to buy the book Cowboys From Hell?
Palestinian parliamentary elections and the role of Hammas
Maoist rebels in Nepal
The end of Musharif and the powder keg that is Pakistan
War again in Sri Lanka
Will the 4 Marines rapists in the Philippines be brought to justice?
The antics of Hugo Chavez

Believe it or not this activity can be very taxing and takes quite some time. It can also lead to stress, anxiety, anger, frustration and deflated sense of optimism. Which makes everything else very difficult to do. It is hard to teach kids that flowers are pretty and full of poems, after reading an article about Condy Rice’s comments on Iran and the UN. I plan on going there next spring to show my grandfather his great grand daughter and it would be nice if he hasn’t been killed by a Hellfire missile, paid for by my tax dollars.

6. I play guitar and try to learn a few songs a month and record them for my website.

I try and stay informed on new music, and if possible stay focused enough to hone my skill when it comes to writing reviews of said music.

7. I relax. Go to the pool. I play poker with the boys. Bake brownies, and occasionally go out to brunch. I spend the weekends doing little to nothing.

8.Spend some quality time feeling guilty about:

Not meditating
Not cooking enough
Not painting or drawing as much as I would like
Feeling anxiety for wanting to be read and responded to
Believe it or not for not writing enough
Wasting time watching TV
Thinking too much about myself
Not going out enough/socializing
Not getting out of the house
Not exercising at all
And finally feel guilty for feeling guilty almost constantly.

As you can see, I have the same amount of free time as the next guy. All time is free isn’t it? I guess it just depends on what you do with it. Anyway it is almost nine and I am off to bed to read for a while and hit the sack, my wife is probably wondering why I am still on the computer when I told her I would only be here for a few minutes and it has been an hour. Where does the time go? Tomorrow is Wednesday and I have a faculty meeting after school.

So I find it odd when people tell me they don’t have time to read everything I send out. What are you doing with your time?

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