“Joan of Arc came back as a little girl in Japan, and her father told her to stop listening to her imaginary friends.
Elvis was born again in a small village in Sudan, he died hungry, age 9, never knowing what a guitar was.
Michelangelo was drafted into the military at age 18 in Korea, he painted his face black with shoe polish and learned to kill.
Jackson Pollock got told to stop making a mess, somewhere in Russia.
Hemingway, to this day, writes DVD instruction manuals somewhere in China. He’s an old man on a factory line. You wouldn’t recognize him.
Gandhi was born to a wealthy stockbroker in New York. He never forgave the world after his father threw himself from his office window, on the 21st floor.
And everyone, somewhere, is someone, if we only give them a chance.”
— Iain S. Thomas, I Wrote This For You
”Why do some of the current Mercedes models have no dipstick, for example? What are the attractions of being disburdened of involvement with our own stuff? This basic question about consumer culture points to some basic questions about work, because in becoming less obtrusive, our devices also become more complicated. How has the relentless complication of cars and motorcycles, for example, altered the jobs of those who service them? We often hear of the need for an “upskilling” of the workforce, to keep up with technological change. I find the more pertinent issue to be: What sort of personality does one need to have, as a twenty-first-century mechanic, to tolerate the layers of bullshit that get piled on top of machines?”
— Matthew B. Crawford in his book, Shop Class as Soulcraft
I’m always hesitant, as a blogger, to write too much about myself—or this blog. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but there it is. Tonight, I’m going to break from that a bit because, well . . . what the hell.
This blog, boy I tell ya.
It’s been an interesting ride. Without getting into too many boring details, let’s take a quick look back:
Started: September, 2006
Total unique page views all time: 2,203,401
Highest traffic day: 13,483
Started earning money: April, 2007
Total earnings all time: $14,394
Highest earning month: $867
Total posts: 256
September 2011: Recieved my first “serious” offer to buy chriswondra.com. (a 4-figure offer)
October 2011: Got hacked and overcame my first serious cyber security attack
Okay. For the record, I’ve never done that before. As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve never looked those numbers together in quite that way. Here’s what jumps out at me:
Holy shit! That’s over seven years ago!! Where did the time go? Additionally, I think: Sheesh did I waste it.
Only 256 individual posts. In over seven years?!? Well Christ, that’s only (tappity tap tap, grumble months, tap click, times 12 plus 4 click 76 buzz whir) . . . that’s only a little over three posts a month!! And since I have a good idea about the quality of most of those posts, again, clearly wasteful.
Wasteful because the past two years, especially—I’ve done next to nothing to the blog. Next to nothing. The traffic, an average of a little under 1000 unique visits a day would come without me doing anything, really. I worked at it the first few years, had success and just rode it. Rested on laurels.
Wasteful perhaps when I also consider the number of interesting things I could have been writing about. Things I’ve done. Things I’ve experienced. Running my first marathon. Running my second marathon in the barefoot style wearing a pair of Vibram Five fingers. The challenges of raising a family and caring for aging parents. All the do-it-yourself projects we do around here like, building a deck, installing cement board siding on the house, fixing a well. The garden. All the parenting stuff. And then there’s the significant emotional and spiritual work I’ve done. Whew. . . .
Lots of really interesting stuff. Valuable stuff.
I take solace, however in the words of Frank McCourt. You remember Frank McCourt, right? Angela’s Ashes? The Pulitzer Prize winning author? He didn’t publish his first book until he was sixty-six! His next one when he was sixty-nine! Da-Fuq?
What took him so long? This was his reply, which I read in the prologue of this book, Teacher Man.
“I was teaching, that’s what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools. When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you’re not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.”
I teach middle school. 12, 13, 14 year olds. Seven classes a day. And with the continued budget cuts to education (that nobody gives a fuck about in Wisconsin), I’m teaching more and more students more and more classes every year—for less and less compensation every year. The time I have after teaching has been devoted to figuring out things like how to fix my breaks without bringing it to the shop so I don’t have to pay someone else to do it or fixing my ageing in-laws snow blower, or freezing carrots from the garden, or watching my daughter play volleyball. That’s my life. That’s been my life.
I’m not complaining. I’m just being honest. It is what it is. And only the wealthy get any special treatment. Teachers? Fuck ‘em. And hard. Don’t get me started. Oh, and you, yeah you reading this and feeling like taking another shot at me in the comment section because you think we greedy teachers have it so cushy—you might as well just piss off now because I’ll delete your comment faster than you can type it up.
Open and honest debate time is over. Teachers lost. Schools lost. Students and families lost.
Time to move on.
Of course—those that know me better understand that I have been doing some writing. Whether it’s correspondence with a good friend (hi Bobbie S.), or writing for my side project, taking a shot at NaNoWriMo this past November, or working on that top secret project with my sister (hi Jess)—yeah, I’ve been sputtering along.
But this year I’d like to see if I can take a little poke at the universe. With wage and benefit cuts coupled with new laws guaranteeing that teachers never get another raise above the CPI, it’s pretty clear that teaching is no longer a real career option in Wisconsin. I could bitch and moan about it, and watch my family’s standard of living continue to drop, or I could, again, take a little poke. See if I can’t make a dent.
I’d already started a bit last spring by committing to writing one 500-700 word column/post that I’m publishing not only in local papers, but also syndicating out in blog format to media web sites across Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Of course the columns also show up on WeTeachWeLearn.org – a platform I’m building around the art and science of teaching and learning.
So, anyway, most of the time, the column runs just over 700 words. My point is, I’ve been writing 700 words a week now for just over nine months. I never miss a week. I’m proud of that.
I’m also proud that in addition, I’ve also been able to crank out the 50,000 words of fiction required to win NaNoWriMo. I didn’t say it was good. What I’m saying is that in November I averaged about 1,600 words a day. A day! So I can do this. I know I can.
Do what, you ask?
Well, I’ve got a couple of goals this year. It’s that time, you know, for everyone to have goals, resolutions – – call them what you will.
Last year, it was forgiveness. I realized that in order to survive the attacks that I and my profession were taking from the people in Madison and my own State representatives, I had to forgive them. I’ve put about as much as a person can into this (what do I call it now)
profession, career, job as a person can only to have it pissed on by not only my governor, but my own friends, neighbors and relatives–it was clear that the anger and bitter resentment had to go.
It might not sound like it by the tone of this post—but one of the things you have to do in order to forgive is accept the facts. If the facts above make you uncomfortable, tough shit. It’s my blog and I’m not pulling any punches in order to be politically correct. It is what it is. I’ve accepted and, in fact, done a pretty good job of forgiving those who have trespassed against us.
Forgiveness is deep. We’ve been over this before. I’ll just remind you (if you’re new here) that if you do it right, forgiveness never ends, but is is something you live with—like alcoholism. The facts and circumstances around them remain. And so does the edge. It’s just that you’ve run your delicate fingers along it enough to build callouses and the edge becomes less painful when you touch it. Also (and this is the part that you never hear anybody talking about because hardly anybody does forgiveness right), done correctly, you become more powerful for having gone through it.
The power comes from the fact that you can now take the circumstances and facts and all the tumult and pain of the story at issue entirely within you. It never goes away, like an old barb wire fence that now runs through a tree, you simply grow to surround it. Assimilate it. Accept it ALL for what it really is and was and means—leaving out nothing. Avoiding nothing. And finally be thankful for the experience—because of what it has made you: more bad ass than you could have ever been without it.
To be clear, this forgiveness I speak of is not forgetfulness, it’s not nice, it’s not pretty, it’s not selfless, and though you may call on spiritual resources to help you get through it—it’s absolutely not God’s doing. Not the real now-the-ground-is-solid-under my-feat-forgiveness. Not the Hero’s return from his journey kind of forgiveness. Not the death and rebirth type. And that’s what we’re talking about here. The tree encasing rusty barbs. Because, really and truly—I’m not fucking around. If you stick with me here, I promise you one thing—heretofore, reading chriswondra.com ain’t gonna be no tip-toe through the tulips.
But I digress.
Where was I? Oh, yes. This year’s focal point.
Last year, I set one overarching focus: forgiveness. This year, it’s confidence. More on that later, but one sort of offshoot of that is to write more. How much more? I set a modest but I believe very achievable goal of 500 words a day. This post alone is going to end up being three days worth. Which, actually is fine—because it took me about three days to write my last 700 word column.
I’ve been at this now for only five days. 360 left. You can do the math on word counts if you like. But the thing I’m really after is the practice. Yes there are a few things I’d like to accomplish. Finish that NaNo Novel, the project with my sister, keep up the columns, and maybe even this idea that’s germinating for a non-fiction book as well.
And then there’s this blog. I figure it’s time. And I figure, it doesn’t have to be pretty. There are a lot of things that have held me back from writing for a long time–even before the invent of this (or any other) blog. One of the first things my focus on confidence is inspiring me to eliminate is the fear and self-doubt that has slowed down my writing for so long. It’s already taking root and changing other things too, but the writing thing; that was the first.
Which takes us back to the blog. Last month was the lowest traffic month in this blog’s history. This month is shaping up (so far) to be even lower. While the increased writing may affect that, I’m not focusing on it. Notice, my goal is not to revive the traffic, status, rank or earnings of the blog. No. This is about the writing. Pure and simple. Down and dirty. I’m going to scrape the scum from the sides of the tank here and the only way to do that is with words. The way I see it, blogs are made of words. The more, better, and interesting the words, the more current, relevant and valuable the blog.
And of course, you’re welcome on this year’s journey—if you can stomach it. All I promise is honesty and bloody fingers though.