An ordinary life

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark. A year is a surprisingly long time. At the beginning of August last year, I was on the verge of starting my first non-temporary office job. I had never seriously considered a career as a freelance writer, personally blogged or mixed a classic cocktail.

After spending several months in a cubicle, I was restless, lethargic and generally miserable. Tutoring and freelancing were the only paid gigs that reflected what I'd learned during my time in school, so I focused my energy there. At a certain point, it was too much. I'm pretty good at pacing myself, but six hours of sleep couldn't replenish the amount of energy burned each day.

Then I got an offer I couldn't expect -- a chance to learn the art of craft cocktails from one of my favorite bartenders in Birmingham. Two years' experience writing about cocktails had given me a taste of the industry, but not the deeper knowledge I needed to cover the topic in depth. My full-time job wouldn't accomodate this change, so I put in my two weeks' notice.

Yes, I quit my job to tend bar. Yes, it may sound like a quarter life crisis. No, it was not a bad idea.

So far, it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I have learned how to properly stir/shake a cocktail, explain a bar's worth of product and actually taste wine/beer/liqueur/liquor. Historical cocktail books became my reading materials, and my drink flashcards became a permanent fixture in my purse.

I love it. I love it all, and through it I've become part of the up-and-coming food and drink scene in Birmingham.

With my recent career and lifestyle changes, I've been considering splitting this blog into sections: writing, mixing and running. All three are topics I love, and each brings a part of my life into balance. However, the division into three separate blogs might be out of reach both financially and time-wise. For now, I will categorize posts based on these topics.

Today's title comes from a yoga instructor's discussion of the importance of an ordinary life. Obviously, my definition of ordinary has drastically changed over the past few months.

Can you just be whelmed?

Signs, y'all. As I have said several times before, one of my biggest struggles is balancing my schedule and making time to be mindful. Right now, my hamper of clean laundry is overflowing and dust bunnies are breeding like…rabbits in my house while a shameful number of unfinished blog posts languish as drafts. To top it off, I have now gone four days without a workout and have not cooked a full meal since last Wednesday.

In the midst of it all, I went through my first week in a new position at my company. The switch has forced me to closely inspect all aspects of my future goals. Financially, I found I would be living paycheck to paycheck if I did not tutor and freelance. No matter how I crunched the numbers, I cannot currently afford to leave the apartment unless I work past 5.

Over the past week, I have been pitching stories like mad. Though some of these ideas will be unpaid, I will still get to gain experience in the field and possibly cultivating larger future projects. I have also started putting together a master list of potential, likely and unlikely publications I would like to write for.

Since all the my public school tutees returned from spring break, my schedule has been steady. Even then, I have started reserving at least part of one weeknight to visit with friends and family. The small amount of mental health space that this move has created keeps me saner and more centered.

The combination of my schedule and the new social media policy at work has left me with little time for online interactions. That said, I’ve still managed to geek out over Doctor Who all over the Twitterverse, hang out with a new friend and write out some (very modest) resolutions for the new season.

I will be introducing a new editorial feature later this week and another at the beginning of next week. The first will be website and app reviews for services that I have found to be incredibly helpful. The second will spotlight people in Birmingham who are harnessing social networking tools to foster growth, development and general awesomeness in the community. I will also begin sharing some of my favorite entries from Birmingham Box Set as I get them posted.

Hang on, y’all. We’re in for a ride.

Title today comes from 10 Things I Hate About You. "I think you can in Europe."

Lighting a fire

If I had my way, I'd tutor and freelance to make my living. Both are fulfilling and each is a type of non-traditional education. As of now, I usually pitch math and learning to my students during our first session. Usually, the response is silence and nodding, but the kids come back and work. Now, many of them only need support and encouragement to see how to work through problems. Yep, I'm proud.

Have I told you what I think of education? So many teachers present their material as being proprietary knowledge. As a student, that approach can make subject seem like it's completely out of reach. I'm here to tell you that this stuff isn't locked in a box. You can understand it. It is within your reach. I'm going to push you to learn. You can do it. You can. Shall we begin?

Title from a quote: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." It is often misattributed to William Butler Yeats.

Teaching learning

As a tutor and educator of sorts, I get to see what kind of legacy I would leave if I was in the classroom. Right now, I do a lot of work with kids who come into high school with little or no foundational knowledge. Many of them have been taught that the only paths to knowledge are guarded by teachers, and are otherwise inaccessible. Yeats put best when he said "Education is not the filling of pail, but the lighting of a fire."

Because I'm not a teacher, my legacy will not be defined by the number of kids who start loving a subject after my class. Instead, I hope to be remembered as having provided a safe place for my kids to learn how to study through their own trial and error. Though it may be bad for business, my ultimate goal is for my kids to learn to study without needing my help.

When I was in high school, several of my teachers' classrooms were safe havens. I was more shy then, and their care and compassion shaped my idea of what education should be. I have had more than a few sessions of tutoring that were as much a conversations about life as they were educational. If I had had someone five to 10 years older as a confidant at that age, I might have behaved differently.

Over the next few years, I hope to be in a classroom as a teacher. I hope to pass along the love of learning that was taught to me. I hope to see them grow and learn and I hope for them to come back and visit.

My tutoring kids and their families have taught me a lot about kindness and welcoming in strangers so for now, I'll continue to focus on leaving my mark on the kids I work with.