Christmas eve was horrible.  Having been deprived of running hot water and the internet for several days, at last we had managed to have someone assess each problem severally and we hoped (after a long day of work and expecting another to follow) to at last wish our family blessings.  With each hour of ‘we’re coming’ our frustration mounted and hope dwindled.  At last we broke down and began to boil water in every vessel which could conceivably serve the purpose; at last resulting in something akin to a bath.

Christmas day a foul mood hung in the air.  Angry and mistrustful, there was little of any ‘holiday spirit’ to bestow upon our students.  The cold gnawed greedily as we limped home and prepared our sullen meal, seething too much to talk to one another.  We retired quite early hoping to wake up a little cheered, but were awoken by a sudden knock (when you live on the sixth floor with no elevator, all knocks are sudden).  Our internet was being seen to! Within an hour our contact was restored and we proceeded to contact what family we could before settling back under the sheets satisfied (there may have been some compulsory sports-viewing which went rather acceptably as well).


As a student I dreaded to hear those words, but say them Dr K did.  It was hard enough to drag oneself to class every day for two weeks knowing that she or he would be subjected to three hours of lecture…nearly all of which was simply summary.  Staying awake was a challenge.  Paying any attention was another.  But this was intolerable.  He opened class by telling us that we should be leaving ten-to-fifteen minutes early that day.  An audible silence ensued (as it always does) as cheered heads smiled at the prospect.  Not I.

I knew better.

I tried to hang on, as did my fellows, but could do nothing but watch the time (and I ‘m a chronic clock checker both as student and lecturer).  I do n’t recall a word he said, but I anticipated the end.  I finished his sentences for him, inspected what material we had yet to cover and knew as we rounded the turn toward the end that it just was n’t going to happen.  He hurriedly finished his last segment and announced we could depart.  There were three minutes to spare.



I refuse to submit my students to the same because I know, ever so intimately, how destructive expectations are.  We are busy tallying, trying to sort out just whether this will happen.  As soon as I ‘m offered extra work I ‘ve spent the money in my mind (often wisely — usually toward debt reduction and letting my wife know she matters).  I ‘m not sure if I ‘ve ever had healthy expectations.

–When I performed above average on my tests, I expected to see opportunities open for a career

–When I discovered I did n’t like my studies or the prospect of working in my field, I thought another would be fine so long as I worked hard

–When I worked, I expected to have a chance to get ahead

–When I went to school, I expected my studies to be rewarded, if moderately (instead I saw tuition rise and my scholarship remain the same)

–When I excelled, I expected to see opportunities for graduate school open up (though I had no expectations before my sophomore year)

–When I starting thinking of going to graduate school, I expected to see opportunities to pay for it open up

–When I performed above average, I expected to see opportunities for an academic career

–When I studied abroad, I expected to get a jump start on graduate school

–When I realised I had low expectations, I waited a year (expecting to find work)

–When I sought work, I expected to make enough money to reduce loans

–When  I applied to graduate school, I expected to get ahead of a poor job market

–When I joined graduate school, I expected to grow in job prospects and academic enculturation, but mostly in inspiration

I found the pattern for myself as a student was to become enthralled with the course calendar, to accept what the course could be at the beginning, and to consistently lower my expectations as inspiration drifted far from my grasp.  In undergraduate there were moments of fire, and I expected that these would be multiplied in higher education.  Mostly they were n’t.  Certainly not in the classroom.  I wrote one or two inspired papers, staged the coldest grammar war imaginable, and felt my frustrations mount.

Then came this year just past.  We married (it’s been too much work on either of our or our community’s parts to use the passive) and began life in the North Capital.  I expected nothing but work.  I was rarely disappointed.  When I was disappointed it was because of something I expected.  I wanted to add ‘logically’ to that last bit, but all expectations are logical — we estimate what is reasonable and are shocked to find how much less we are forced to settle for.  Deflating.

Like watching the clock tick away your seven extra minutes of freedom.  Like looking at your bank account.  Like looking at the useless phone number you ‘ve been dialing for help and none comes whatever its promises.


I ‘m tempted to end with all the positives of this year (marrying being on that list of course), but still we ‘re left to temper hope.  We made lists and now have to pick up some of the scraps.  Others wonder why we ‘re not in the next step on the road to success (PhD and publishing and the wondrous world of academe await).  But I have no idea what success really is, or why my expectations are so externally defined.

I ‘m still learning what it means to care for my wife.  I ‘m still happy to be paid to teach college kids, even if I highly suspect I should be treated more fairly and compensated better.  I ‘m still learning how to write.

I honestly did n’t expect the last of these.  To look outwardly.  I blink and find my eyes have stared far far away and are none too near to the tasks of today.  Tomorrow can worry about itself.  That does n’t mean I pretend tomorrow won’t come and toss away my budget but I ‘d like to see my expectations for what they are: arbitrary.  They ruined our Christmas eve.  They ruined quite a few days in the last year and I ‘d like them to have a bit less say in this coming one.  So I ‘m making no resolutions, and ex-specting over days and weeks, rather than months and year, and shall endeavor to wake with the opportunity for each day to surprise.



I ‘ve tried enough times to disturb some difference worth mentioning in describing my upbringing or culture to recognise I do n’t easily produce a helpful product.  ‘My home is different from here in that…’  Worse yet, I found myself endlessly searching for what distinguished ‘me’.  Some of us should cede the field upon dis-covering we are not experts.

I ‘m not sure exactly why, but over the past year I ‘ve been collecting reasons not to write a book.  One is being added tonight: the best biography (=least mis-leading?) is rarely the auto-biography.  In short, I should perhaps choose not to retain sole privilege of recounting what boundaries of events and experiences distinguish me from you.  A third party may do a fairer job.

Part of the reason is because I rarely become aware of the mis-understandings which constitute my daily existence.  I react not to the world as it is, but to the world as such — as I expect it to be.  As such I am hoping the approximations produce acceptable results — but who would I be to tell you what was most important about my story?  My job is at best to invite you in to the home in which I myself am a stranger, and let you misunderstand it for yourself.

So I ‘m giving up my rights as an authorised witness in order to extend the horizons.  I do n’t doubt I could add a few ‘we don’t do that’s which might dissuade the easier misunderstandings, but I do not pretend to know who is in the best position to know how specifically I may best be misunderstood.

Non-Working Title

The primary element which drew me to select the current title under which to pen these thoughts (if anything can truly bind them together other than the inexplicable unity I pretend to understand as pertaining to myself) was the expectations it was likely to generate. 

Previously I penned thoughts under my own name, but came to think there was too much cheek or pride or some such attached to it; too much permanence for someone who is convinced that one can’t step in the same river twice (or truly deliver the same lecture twice to channel that thought anew).  And worse: specifically using my own name suggests that you are becoming more familiar somehow with me, as if that were a significant part of why I read or research or ponder or do anything in the first place.  It ‘s mildly interesting for me, but it ‘s always secondary – I prefer learning from what I have been/done.  In the end I shall have little say over how I am to be viewed anyway, so far better to try learning to be someone than to defend a name I did n’t choose (though I ‘m no less than proud of the associations that come with my name for family’s sake).

So, when this title hit, I liked first that it interested me as a reader (though I do n’t think my writing to date is up to the level of the title’s originality or the interest-level I have with the image it evokes), but contemporaneously could see that dismissing the expectations of being understood relieved a great deal of tension.  Instead of dismissing my arguments and myself wholly in one go, this core concept allows for others to be conceived and dismissed in service of discourse.  I think of it much as though I am learning a language (for I am somewhat acquainted with this): one must make innumerable mistakes before one learns to speak meaningfully by means of such (and one cannot communicate without some linguistic medium). 


There seem to be two sorts of geniuses* generated by my mind in contradistinction: one who generates a new system which all others must take account therefrom or the one who readily understands how to summarize and apply each system of interest.  I suppose I cannot say with any conviction that either truly exists, but some certainly have an easier time of it than I do.  I should like then to think that what understanding (linguistic or otherwise) I attain to is then the result of much hard work and discipline, but in all cases I am trying to write a narrative in which I am special due to the perceived quality of my thoughts.  Here we are back at the name-formation issue.  I.e., I only know differentiate myself by seeing what is different in myself, and therefore my actions, from what I understand to be you and your actions. 

But honestly, I do n’t think thoughts, or systems of thought, truly attach themselves to people in such manner.  Instead that which we speak (for who can recount all that one thinks but does not say) reflects who we are…meaning it establishes a point of discourse which another can respond to.  But it does not tell us truly wherefrom we shall speak at the next moment, nor what points of discourse precede this one.  For that we require relational understanding to one another.  Friends speak another language to each other.  Although one might end up anywhere along the spectrum of possibilities allowed in language, such freedom is enacted in a way a good friend might learn to predict.  While we may never give precisely the same lecture again, we are likely to speak of the same subjects and to attach to them similar language patterns; all is not thoroughly randomized.


Returning then to how a reader may encounter a discourse in which misunderstanding is not only acknowledged as likely, but serves as the core expectation: what may be expected of the author is that for every thought marked in his discourse, others are being necessarily concealed.  So it is not unlikely that misunderstanding may arise due to stylistic choices, such as voice or mood.  Even the intonation and stresses with which a reader approaches this text shall lead to a different manner of misunderstanding (which is necessarily an understanding as well).  But a wholesale dismissal of such thoughts is much harder to express (aside from choosing to ignore completely what is posited).  Further, it admits that as the author I am not claiming to understand precisely what I mean to say (though I can dismiss many misunderstandings of purpose or minor foibles).


In fact, I am trying to learn what it is that I am saying.  This is the very reason I write: so that I may not only encounter thoughts but respond to them and learn their advantages.  By being informed of disadvantages for which I did not account, I may yet learn how to better locate such thoughts in the future.  Therefore writing as I would have it is an invitation to feedback; a chance not only to express thoughts so as to test my abilities to communicate them (and I am quite certain I miscommunicate with myself as well as with you, the reader) but to learn what faces such ideas have for those outside myself.  For that, I am truly interested.  And so, ironically hopefully, I yet am learning how to express that which is beyond me, perhaps to the benefit of those who may move well beyond me. 

Let us be less serious then in defending ourselves and our thoughts simultaneously as we pursue learning how to speak and act in better accord by the negation that is genial discursive opposition.





*or genii, if you will

(Every time I see Working Title Films’ logo, I admire their name choice)