Where I’m At

Let’s take stock.

I’m 41. Vital signs seem okay. My cholesterol test a few years ago sucked, but I feel healthy as an ox. Or a team of oxen. Oxen is the plural form of ox. That’s just grammar.

I’m a dad. Two boys. One is eight and the other six. They are loud. As loud as oxen. And good at math.

I’m a husband. Katie is my wife. We continue to partner with each other. A real team. A team of oxen.

Oxen makes me think of Oregon Trail. There was nothing better than playing Oregon Trail on an ancient Apple computer in sixth grade. What a treat.

I’m here in Central Pennsylvania. Where the hills roll. And the people say yinz. It’s beautiful country.

This little nuclear family continues to weather the ongoing pandemic. It’s 2022, and I go as my family goes. We’re bracing for whatever comes next.


Let’s take some more stock.

I had visions of being a college professor during graduate school. At the time, I was teaching high school English. And high school drama. Living in a little house in Northeast Minneapolis. No children and crazy hours. Classes at night. Directing plays after school. 60 or 70 hours a week. This would have been 2011 or 2012. The good old days. In my mind, being a professor offered me more time to think, to be creative, and to make stuff. More autonomy. I like autonomy.

So I took a pay cut, left my job as a teacher, traveled 1,000 miles East, and became Professor Samuel Jaye Tanner, PhD. Not M.D. and certainly not D.D.S.

I’m seven years in. How’s it going?

I’ve written all sorts of stuff. Books. Memoirs and monographs. I’m even shopping a science fiction novel right now. I’ve written articles and essays. Comedy and poetry. Even these blogs. Lots of words have poured forth. I’m like a spout.

Are they good words? Who’s to say? I can’t say that I’ve found a big audience. But some people have read my work. I know this because, every once in a while, somebody writes to tell me they connected with something I wrote. That always feels good. I haven’t made any money writing. Who cares? Writing is part of how I make peace with things. It helps me figure stuff out. And this job as a professor has made writing a central part of my life. So that is good.

I’m a co-founder of an improv theatre company with my friends Andrea, James, and Nate. Artistic director. Small business owner. Comedian. Artist. Teacher. So many hats. We have a delightful little theatre in downtown State College. Yes, the hours are a little grueling on top of my day job. Leaving my family on Thursday or Friday nights to go to the theatre takes a toll. But we’re growing a really good improv company. So that is good.

I teach literacy methods to pre-service teachers at Penn State’s prestigious Altoona campus. And I work with graduate students at Penn State’s world renowned University Park campus. I lead workshops about race, education, and theatre all over town. I’ve been in the high school several times this year, teaching in a gorgeous blackbox theatre. Working with teenagers. Flexing the muscles I developed earlier in my career. I connect with all sorts of scholars and students across the country in my work as a professor. So that is good.

And the boys attend a wonderful little elementary school a mile down the road. And I struggle to find balance between my work life and my personal life. Boundaries are hard when you do the things you feel called to do. And I feel called to do all the stuff I’m writing about here. Still, being called to do something is better than punching the clock. So that is good.

It’s been a wild seven years in Central Pennsylvania. It’s not all great. Lots of ugly moments I haven’t mentioned here. This part of my life has been hard, unexpected, rewarding, challenging, satisfying, joyful, peaceful, etc. Being an adult is complex, but it’s been a good seven years. And I’m open to what is next.


Because I’ve learned that I have to remain open to what is next.

Things rarely happen as planned. There’s way too much complexity. Being alive is wild, man. It’s a challenge.

I try and move through the world like an improviser. Such an approach wards off fascism. It resists the urge to impose on others. To make reality bend to my command. That’s not a healthy way to go. Better to be flexible. To be open to difference. To adapt. You get the idea.

So there you go. A blog about taking stock. I’m here. And being here is good. And who knows here I will be next? Who knows where you will be next? Nothing to do but to keep moving. Like an ox. Or oxen.

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