Quick Status Check

It’s January 23rd, 2021. Let’s do a quick status check.

The inauguration of the 46th president of these United States was reasonable. Aside from Lady Gaga. And Uncle Bernie. This land is not ruled by an angry mob. Or a wild boar. So I guess that’s good.

The spring semester at The Pennsylvania State University is underway. Virtually. I continue to teach from my basement bunker. The wine box I use to prop my computer up remains hearty. My students are twenty faces in little Zoom squares. They seem nice. We talked about literacy and pedagogy last week. So I guess that’s good.

How’s the tenure-track treating me? Thank’s for asking, you. Life as an assistant professor literacy education at The Pennsylvania State University, ALTOOOOONA campus continues. Finding time to work on scholarship. Meetings with colleagues. Everything virtual. Yes, my momentum has taken a hit. Much of my educational research remains postponed. Hard to get into schools to think about schools these days. But I continue to do the things scholars do. Write and meet and play with word documents. And hopefully I’ll be tenured this time next year. Fingers crossed. If not? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll run for congress.

How’s my creative life? You’re too kind with all these questions. Well, friend, I continue to write. Continue to improvise. I’m even teaching a youth improv class on Wednesday nights. So I’ve got outlets. Albeit virtual ones. And I’m working with my friends at Happy Valley Improv to imagine what we will be when this pandemic dies down. I think there’s a future for us, and that’s exciting.

You know what I miss? A coffee shop. Four hours on a Monday morning to sip hot coffee and drift away in my writing. It’s been a year since I did that. Downtown State College has two great spots. Saints is a crowded little cafe with uncomfortable chairs. Websters is a basement bookstore with booths and great lattes. I miss them both. That’s where most of my writing happens. Scholarly and creative. Man, I could use an introverted session in a coffee shop.

But my family remains healthy. And fed. And clothed. Solomon and Samson are becoming great readers. And I’d love for them to get back into a real live classroom, but they are learning all sorts of things from virtual teachers. So that’s good.

Quick status check? Fine. I think we are fine.


But, of course, we are also not fine. It has been a fine year and a hard year.

It’s hard for me to process loss when I’m in the middle of losing things. And I’ve lost all sorts of things this year. Big things, yes. But little things too. And I understand that others have lost far more than me. Jobs. Homes. Their lives. I have all three of those things, and I’m grateful. But it’s still okay to be sad about the slings and arrows of fortune. Little or big.

I’ve referenced Hamlet like a million times this year. That play sticks to my guts.

About my guts. I’ve yet to take stock of the hits I’ve taken this year. Been too busy making my way through. No time to feel the things I know I’ll eventually feel.

I’m 40 now. I have a good sense of how I process emotion. How I make sense of pain. There’s a good cry coming. I know that. An ugly cry. Toxic masculinity be damned. It took me about a month to cry after Mom died. And you should have seen what came out when I did. My wife Katie held me in a kitchen. We were staying in a friend’s house in St. Paul. It was our first trip home after moving to Pennsylvania. It was late at night, and I wept for an hour. Monstrous tears. Huge waves of repressed emotion.

There’s a universe of energy and emotion inside people. Most people I’ve met keep those things at bay. This includes me. I create all sorts of coping mechanism to avoid getting swallowed up. But that world is always there. Sometimes it slips through the cracks as an act of violence. And sometimes it comes out in other ways. And sometimes I acknowledge it, sit with it, and let it go. Laughter and crying, I’ve found, are productive ways to release all that energy and emotion. Here’s a few other ways I use those energies: Writing and improv and teaching and basketball and bouncing on a trampoline. There’s ugly ways to let it out too. See: any and all forms of physical or emotional or energetic violence. Yuck.

Anyway, there’s a good cry coming. And there’s also the work of figuring out and lamenting the hits I took this year. That’ll come.

I guess this rumination on lamentation is part of my quick status check.


Nothing profound in my blog this week, kind reader. Just a quick status check. I’m still moving through a year that has been a heck of a year. I’m sure you are too. It’s hard to be alive. Being a human being is terrifying. That much is always true. Relative creature comforts and privileges aside. Some of us are better acquainted with that terror than others. Seems important to acknowledge it, to me. I certainly can’t do a status check without playing around in that ocean.

Vaccines and new administrations and another semester and the Tanner family remaining alive in Central Pennsylvania. That’s January 23rd, 2021 for me. And I’ll publish this in a week to document where I’m at. Because that’s what I do.

As the sage poet Kurt Vonnegut wrote, and as I’ve often written because I steal his words all the time, we do what we muddily must until we boddily bust. Because what else are we going to do?

No busting over here. Not yet, anyway.

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