Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Danny Sucks at Dating - Giving Poor Advice

It's only right that seeing as how it's my brother's birthday, I would share some of the best advice he's ever given me. It's certainly helped me grow, and it's something that I keep in mind every day. If you knew me in college, you probably knew that I wasn't the smartest or best of people, but at least I had my brother to keep me in check. This probably isn't true for most people though.

When I'm not staking out bathrooms, working on my interrogation skills, or paying home visits to truant students, my office tends to turn into a revolving door for girls with boy issues. I don't know how or why I became the go-to person for advice on these matters, but seemingly, I am a wise man with plenty of knowledge to dole out. I think these students might need to reconsider their options. They're taking advice from a guy who threw up on his fifth grade crush while we were sitting together on a field trip. I have no idea why she never talked to me again.

If there is one piece of advice I give them every time, it's what my brother told me many years ago: boys are stupid. They're young, they're impressionable, and they're eager to please. They don't ever really grow up; they just learn to hide their immaturity when it counts. And, for the ones who can't, well, they're really not worth your time. However, this is not to say that you excuse them for forgetting important dates, things you said, or just being good people overall, because, at the end of the day, it doesn't take that much to remember something that your girlfriend was taking a long time to look at while shopping, or to text her, "Good morning" or "I miss you," or to just spend time holding her hand. If you can spend a couple of minutes updating the world on your snapchat or tweeting about your new shoes, you can remember that the best interactions are the ones you have in real life with the people that matter. So, if your boy can't do that, well, maybe you should slap him upside the head a little bit. And, if he still doesn't get it, then he doesn't deserve you. Just don't lose any sleep over all of that. There are plenty of immature boys out there who can hide their 16 year-old selves at 28 just fine.

Remember, life isn't that serious. Just be careful of stupid boys.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Secret is in the Telling

Remember when you were a little kid and someone told you a secret? You would feel giddy and anxious all over for days. It was a pretty good feeling, and it was fun. No one really got hurt. Sure, little Timmy might have peed his pants while trying to talk to yet another girl, but that was the extent of the pain. Laughs were had (and are still had) all around.

However, as you got older, secrets became worse. Your friend accidentally got someone pregnant and told you not to tell, your sibling cheated on his/her significant other...and told you not to tell, or one of your close family members became sick with a terminal illness, and you still couldn't tell. Knowing those secrets meant being backed into a corner, and they became not so fun anymore. If you had a secret of your own that you were trying to hide from others, well, that made life feel like a ever-tightening space. In that space, the walls that kept your secret contained became your home. And everyday that that secret remained inside of you, was another day that the walls closed in and made you even more withdrawn. Secrets became burdens.

That's the thing about secrets. The reason why they don't hurt anyone when you're a kid is because you were still following the golden rules that Sesame Street laid out - always be nice; always try your best. Timmy may have hurt his dignity and pride when he peed his pants, but that was it.

As you got older and kept more secrets about others and yourself, you lost more of your ability to trust. That box, or closet, or whatever other container you had to live in in order to keep that secret tucked away became a place where nothing good could grow. It was a place to survive. And you know what? Surviving is fine for a short while, but at some point, you have to ask yourself  - do you want to just survive, or do you want to live? We both know the answer to that question. Because, the truly strong ones are the ones who understand that the secret is in the telling, that their photoshopped, perfect selves on social media are not their true selves. The truly strong ones showed their real selves, with all of their imperfections and shortcomings, with all of their humanity.

So, do you want to know a secret? I believe in you, more than I believe in myself most days. I believe that you will always try to do the right thing, and that when you don't, you'll try to fix it instead of bottling up a secret. I believe you won't take your significant other for granted by saying work or other "busy" things take priority. I believe you'll remember to appreciate all the people in your life who love you and you'll try to return that love every day because tomorrow might not be an option. I believe you'll let your armor down and let people in, instead of keeping everyone at arm's length. But, most of all, I believe that you'll remember the golden rules - Always be nice. Always try your best.

Super Asian chubby Danny says it's okay to show others that you bleed as well.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Motivation for Monday (and for every day)

I guess I've been taking it on the chin lately. Last Friday, my colleagues said to me,  "Kid, you're looking beat.", "You're the shit catcher, you gotta keep your chin up.", "Man, I wouldn't want your job." I mean, I did literally throw one kid to safety and restrain another that day, so maybe I looked slightly worse for the wear, but overall, I'd say that I am looking pretty rough these days anyway. At some point, we all pay our dues. As a dean, I guess I pay more of mine on a daily basis, and it seemingly manifests on my already-haggard physical appearance. Next time you see me, don't comment on the bags under my eyes. They've only enlarged since the last time you saw me. Be nice, and let's just drink in relative silence, or talk about sports. Go, sports.

Let's be honest. Being in education can really suck sometimes. Most of the time, it's as rewarding as a career can get, but the job can take a serious toll on you. That's because this is a job that's unlike any other. There's no monetary or otherwise extrinsic motivator to do better for your constituents. The only thing you really get at the end of the day is peace of mind that you did your best. Everything about education is intrinsic. That's why the burnout rate is so high for fledgling American teachers. If you've ever wondered why 3-5 years is the average career span of a teacher, look no further than the long hours, low pay, and endless hurdles that teachers go through every day just to do their jobs.

Aside from those reasons, being an educator is unlike most professions. You wake up at some ungodly hour, and the job is there with you, sharing your bed with you and your significant other. You leave work at whatever ungodly hour you can manage, and the job follows you home, or to the restaurant, or the bar. You try to take a vacation, and the job follows you there too, to the beach, or the resort, or the bar. Did I mention the bar? It's no wonder so many teachers burn out so quickly. The job latches onto every fiber of your being if you actually care and do it right.

So, here I am, looking to give all of my fellow educators a leg-up on Monday. We've made it this far because we've found something special in education. Is it the scant pay and inordinate number times we facepalm every day? Possibly. Or maybe it's the feeling of being indoors so long that you've forgotten what sunlight looks and feels like. I personally enjoy mounds of paperwork. You know you like it too. Let's admit it, if you're a lifelong educator, you're fairly masochistic. However, you also know how to thrive under pressure, and you do it knowing full well that you won't get thanked for it very often, but you do it anyway. Your sense of silent virtue is stronger than most. How many students have now come through your doors and made something of themselves because of your efforts? I bet that number is pretty damn high. Those are the educators I love and keep in touch with, even if they knock out at 9pm on Friday nights. They keep doing it, and no one sees or thanks them for it. You want humility? Find a good teacher.

The only thing I have to say to you is: whatever you need to do to keep making it worthwhile for your students, do it. Whether it's daily yoga sessions, getting up early for a run, or shooting the breeze at the local watering hole with your favorite soldiers-in-arms, don't forget to lean on your fellow educator every once in a while. It's a long and thankless job, but here's a thank you from a lowly dean. You kick butt, and sometimes, your students recognize that too.

(Always remember, wear a tie, and keep your finger out.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Upside of Fear

Mark Twain once said, "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened." I'd be lying if I said that I didn't spend a lot of time in my youth being scared; some days, when things get really rough at work, the concerns about the future and the fear/stress of tomorrow still weigh heavy on my mind. In fact, my lack of any modicum of courage actually lent me the nickname of "play it safe" when I was younger (you can thank my brother for that one). That was a...not so pleasant time for me. Think 6th-grade Danny holding up an entire line of people trying to cross a suspension bridge because of his fear of the ropes snapping, which consequently paralyzed him at the halfway point. Add on some pretty disorienting swaying, and you've got me clutching onto the ropes for dear life. And then imagine my mom coming to try to rescue me from my crippling fear (and also from the hoards of angry tourists piling up behind me), and you pretty much have the whole scene. Embarrassed beyond belief wouldn't even begin to cover that moment.

Do I still worry about the future? Hell yeah, I do, but most days, I can hide the crazy. If you've seen the crazy though, I apologize to the less-than-handful of people who have had to deal with me losing my cool. It's not pretty. These days though (for the most part), I embrace the possibility of failure with gusto. Because, here's what I've learned about fear over the years - it has two faces. On the one hand, it can paralyze you with concern about the future so much that you cannot enjoy the present. That's really no way to live. On the other hand, fear has an upside too; it can be your best friend. Fear lets you know that you care, just as much as love does. The things that you're scared to do, the feelings you've kept locked up, and the people you're concerned about losing, that's fear letting you know that something is probably worth doing. That's fear telling you that you're invested in and care deeply about someone/something. And that's fear putting you at the fork in the road - Choice 1) Let fear freeze you and stop you from putting yourself out there. Choice 2) Embrace fear and put it on the line (with the potential for catastrophic failure, but at least you'll have a great story to tell). That would be you choosing what is right over what is easy. Your move, chief. New year, new you?

Definitely not my proudest moment. As you can see, the bridge was only wide enough to go single-file in each direction. I stopped it in both directions. Go, me.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Boy with the White Box

There once was a boy who carried a white box wherever he went. Inside of the box was something that had shattered a long time ago, but it wasn't always that way. It was once whole and thrummed with energy; however, after years of lending it to others and wearing it down, it had slowly fallen into disrepair. So, he took it upon himself to find a way to piece this fragile object back together. He drove south in high hopes of a cure, but found only more pain. He journeyed east with cautious optimism only to meet its cold, frigid, and unwelcoming lights. He flew to the mid-west, hoping for deliverance, but finding nothing of the sort. He traveled far and wide, wearing down the soles of his shoes, collecting stories and souvenirs, and finding everything except for what he had originally set out.

When he finally returned home, he told his friends and family tall tales of faraway places, fascinating people, and forlorn heartache, but no matter how many stories he had accumulated or how many people he had run across in his travels, the pieces remained broken in their white box. And so he settled down in the city he once called home, and over time, the boy became a man, who stayed hopeful, but dismayed. Every day, he would pull the white box out of his dresser drawer and stare it, wondering if its contents would ever be whole again.

But, as life would have it, he found that for all the traveling he had done, there was already someone right where he had been his whole life, someone who knew about his white box and how to repair its contents. This someone could melt him with a single smile, could make him feel like he was looking at her for the first time every time he saw her, and could call him out whenever he wasn't at his best. But most importantly, she opened the white box that he had hidden away for so long and bit by bit, she made whole what was broken so long ago, until his heart again resembled its original shape.

Monday, November 30, 2015

No Bullshit

I'm going to ask something of you that I have no right to ask, but at least hear me out.

I am an after-thought, a person of convenience, the guy you call at 3am to bail you out of a jam. I've been that guy my entire life. Maybe it's an unsustainable way to live, to be everyone's #1 when you know that you're not prioritized reciprocally. Maybe it's why I asked one of my best friends why I'm so defective. Maybe it's why I constantly hear, "You're too fucking nice." But I have no problem being nice, I have no problem being your secondary or tertiary priority, or at least I didn't until a couple of weeks when I thought that maybe I deserved better, that I was shouldering too much. I still don't know.

What I do know is that it's really easy to make a New Year's resolution. It's the start of a new month and a new year. It feels like a chance to start over and reinvent yourself. Today is not January 1st, however. It's not the start of a new anything. It is actually the end of a month, exactly when people tell themselves that they'll start something new when the calendar flips, but I have a November 30th challenge for you. For however long you can stand to do it, a week, a day, or an hour, I want you to try this: accept no bullshit, and give none in return. Life is already too short, and you have enough people and bureaucracy to answer to on a daily basis. You don't deserve to waste any of it on a sugar-coated version of reality, and you certainly don't deserve sugar-coated versions of people in your life. You deserve life in its most unadulterated form, with people who truly appreciate and care about you.

Life should not be an exercise in keeping people in the dark as a means of "protection" or bottling up and dismissing our own feelings, both positive and negative. This doesn't mean you completely remove your filter, a la Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar. What I'm asking is that you don't put forth a second-rate version of yourself. No one deserves a second-rate, glossy, fictionalized version of reality or people in their lives. The world deserves the best version of you that you can muster every day, and you deserve the same in return. Accept no substitutes. Let's leave the bullshit for the bullshitters.

The human experience should involve good, honest, genuine, compassionate people, and that's the non-bullshit version of me you're going for as long as you have me, and I'm hoping for the same in return because the 19 year-old boy to the left, who watched your amusing drunken escapades and cleaned you off at 2am is now a 28 year-old man, but he hasn't changed. His phone stays on, and he'll pick up your late-night calls to come get you Tuesday night every time you ask him to. The only thing that he asks of you in return is that you don't bullshit him.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Only Human

This is a long one, so I apologize in advance, but the majority of it is thanks. It's been a long year. I haven't had a single month, or even two-week stretch, this year without finding out that I've lost another family member or friend to illnesses or violence. And, while I've been angrier and more hurt than I've been in years past, I haven't externalized most of these feelings. Instead, I've spent a lot of my time feeling frustrated with all these pent-up thoughts, but as the year progressed, these events served as reminders that at the end of the day, we are only human. We cannot control everything that happens to us, and we have little say over when we go.

While we are often "too busy" to talk, lost in a quagmire of work, or failing to honestly connect because of our phones, we are reticent to express ourselves or disconnect from that which matters little to actually connect with those who matter most. You're never too busy to say thank you, I love you, or I miss you. Work or school will always be there the next day; those things are constants. People who matter won't stay around forever, especially if you neglect to let them know just how much they mean you.

To my brother William, you will always be the first on this list. You are my role model and my inspiration. I am understanding, loving, forever patient, creative, athletic, nerdy, neurotic, over-zealous, etc., etc. because of you. I am my best because I never want to let you down. You have supported me and my dreams my entire life, and this year was no different. Your advice and love mean the world to me. There's no person that I respect more than you. You are my front line and my pillar.

To my other brother, Michael, you come to my side at the drop of a pin, and you ask for nothing in return. I can't thank you enough for picking me up over and over again. You've seen me at my worst, and you've never judged me. I've been a poor friend over and over again, but you have been unwavering. My only wish is for the two of us old Trojans to live to a ripe, old age and share many, many more memories.

To my sister, Emily, I never knew I wanted a sister, but now that I have one, I don't ever want to lose you. We've put up with a lot of heartache and pain these past few years and despite the many, many tears that have fallen between the two of us, we have genuinely stood by one another as siblings should. I can't believe what an amazing young woman you've become, and I can only say thank you for all the times you've listened as I've talked your ear off. I can't thank you enough for the unconditional support you've shown me.

 To my cousin Carly, we grew up as close as two people on opposite sides of the country ever could, and I could not imagine where I would be this year without you. You showed me love when I couldn't love myself, and you held me up when all I wanted to do was give up. You know all my secrets, all my weaknesses, and all of my greatest aspirations. I don't know what I'd do without you.

To Fred, one of my newest, but best friends, you are a genuine human being, and that is very difficult to find today. You play no games, and you are the definition of honesty. Thank you for being such a great support system for me this year, even though we haven't known each other for very long. We are kindred spirits, and I'm glad we found each other.

To my wifey, Laney, I have been incredibly blessed these past few years not just to have been able to work alongside you, but to have had you by my side as a good friend. Your advice has kept me calm, and the example you set reminds me to try to empathize with my students. You are one of the good ones. Don't let bureaucracy or the system pull you down. I will always be here for you like you've done for me for so long.

To my fellow amazing educators, Meredith, Erick, Alex, Alma, and Nichole, your drive to do the best you can for your students gives me faith in humanity, and it reminds me daily to treat my students with respect and compassion. I know our profession is often a thankless one, so here's one from me: you are all wonderful and strong people for choosing and staying in this field. There is no greater calling than dedicating yourself to bettering youth, and you are all doing a phenomenal job, not just for your students, but in setting examples for budding educators.

To David Rink, the best running buddy I've ever had: not only were you an amazing teacher that the students and I looked up to, but the times we shared, runs we conquered, and conversations we had all made me a better person. I'm sorry that we didn't hang out as much after you left Terra Nova, but that last 10-miler we blazed through this summer reminded me of all the great times we had together. When I run now, I constantly think about how great it would be to find another you, but I know that there is only one Senor Rink, only one teacher friend that I connected with so heavily because of our life goals, mutual interests, and running passions. Thank you for being such a great friend all these many years.

And, finally, to my baby, you are more than I could ever ask for. You make me a better man every day. I'm constantly reminding myself to be patient, loving, and caring towards everyone that comes into my life, and while I may go home exhausted every night, I hope you know that you're always my priority, that I'll do whatever I can to make sure you're happy. You're always the first and last person I want to talk to, and you're first thing on my mind every morning. When I wake up, I think about how I can be a better boyfriend than yesterday, what will come up at work, and how I can deal with all of the madness of the day, but it's always you first. <3