I haven’t proofread this, so feel free to laugh at the typos and Freudian slips:

Today was a tough day. First, the printer wasn’t working.

It’s not the end of the world because there’s another printer but I had to bother people and use their computers to print. Then the copier broke for a hot sec*. And again, not the worst thing that could happen because there’s another copier. But sometimes it’s just like “WOW, nothing is going as planned.” I wake up in the morning and I already feel drained anticipating the exhaustion I will feel during the day. I realize I haven’t written a blog post about teaching and I promise I will. But for now, just know that I consider teaching to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

To quote The Big Lebowski: “Sometimes, you eat the bar, and sometimes, the bar eats you.”**

So yesterday I’d planned to go swimming after work. And as the day was draining I thought: Maybe I should just go back to my apartment and sleep after school. But I never actually do this! I always go back to my apartment and say I’m going to go to sleep but then I stay awake until 11pm doing random bullish*t, so why not just go swimming instead?

At lunch time, I’m reminded that it’s Tuesday and maybe the New Trier Girls Swim and Dive team is going to do a Mental Toughness Tuesday set.

After work, I’m walking to the bus stop with the hope that the swim will figuratively wash away my anger.

I get to the pool hungry (it’s 6:30pm and I haven’t eaten dinner yet) and tired. I walk through the obligatory stares on the pool deck. Behind the blocks, I’m stretching and I’m thinking: I want to go to sleep. I’m tired and I’m hungry and it’s cold outside. I wish I could be asleep in my bed.

But I really want to be strong and go swimming. It’s harder now to motivate myself to swim. When I was swimming for New Trier, the goal was to get faster, get a sectional cut, or a state qualifying time, or beat the Evanston girl next to you. But now, I’m just trying to get my heart rate up for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week to stave off on heart disease. Also I really like eating cookies and cupcakes and I want to be able to eat these things forever.

To get myself to jump in the pool, I think: So… you gonna turn around? It took you an hour to get here, you’re in your cap and goggles. Jump in the friction’ pool.

That doesn’t really convince me. Then, high school Erisa comes out behind the curtain: Is it 5:50am? Is it 10 degrees outside? Then get in the f*cking pool.

This is an allusion to 5:50am swim practices with New Trier Girls Swim and Dive. It was often very cold outside, the pool deck was cold too, and obviously the water was not a desirable temperature. So if I could do it then, I ought to be able to do it now. So I jump in and do a little set. People stare as they have every time I’ve gone to the pool.*** But at the end of my swim I feel better. That’s the magic of Mental Toughness Tuesday. If you get through it, you are better. Mental Toughness Tuesday saved me from succumbing to swine flu.**** Honest truth.

*I say a hot sec because as soon as the printer engineer showed up he was able to fix it practically instantly.

**I love this quote because at first it seems like it makes sense, but then it doesn’t. “Sometimes you eat the bar,” sounds like the type of thing you’d say if things weren’t going right. Like the expression “I ate shit” describes if you fell down, “eat the bar” sounds like you’re so drunk or worn out at the bar that you’re mouths open and you’re just sitting there drooling on the bar. But then “sometimes the bar eats you,” is nonsensical. Or it makes sense only as a feeling, not something that can be associated with anything literal. In the spirit of this Big Lebowski quote, I thought of my own during a particularly difficult day: “Sometimes you’re Sisyphus and sometimes you’re the rock.” Get it? We’ve all had instances of feeling like Sisyphus: we are working hard at a goal but it seems like we never really accomplish anything towards that goal. But the rock? That’s nonsensical. You’re being pushed so maybe it symbolizes a loss of agency, but Sisyphus has no agency either, right, because he has to push the rock? So maybe being the rock is being a burden? But then you’re a useless burden. But also, rocks are inanimate. IDK. Think on it.

***You know, it’s so weird. In America, I’ve had people look at me and maybe do a double take. I’ve been followed in department stores (only in Wyoming!) and looked at kind of like “what are you doing here?” Stuff like that. Here, it’s just so different. It’s a curious look more than it is malicious. And it’s a GAZE more than it is a look. It’s like some people have legitimately never seen a black person before in real life. It’s like I’m in a zoo where there are no barriers and I’m the animal among the crowd. I don’t know if this makes me feel bad. Sometimes I like that I stand out. That I’m different. Other times I wish I could just blend in and not matter. I think, overall, being being black in a predominately white suburb of Chicago made me want to impress people. I thought: If I can impress you with how I can swim fast or with how I know things about Chemistry, maybe you’ll see me as an individual and not whatever you think when you see black skin. So the Taiwanese swimmers look at me and some of them smile and give me a thumbs up and some of them just gaze.

****FO REALZ. As someone who can claim marginal knowledge of the immune system and disease, I can say DEFINITIVELY that Mental Toughness Tuesday saved me from swine flu. It was a Tuesday (obviously) in September or October of 2009 (peak of the epidemic) and I was feeling achy and chilly all over. My head was cloudy and all I wanted to do was sleep. I thought I was definitely coming down with the flu. But it was TUESDAY. MENTAL. TOUGHNESS. TUESDAY. The set was 60 100s on cruise, cruise-5seconds, cruise+5seconds (it varied to spice up the monotony of 60 100s). I’d never really skipped practice but I really wanted to go to my coach today and say I wasn’t feeling well and I just wanted to sleep it off. Knowing him, he would’ve said, “Yeah sure” and then cut me from relays for the next meet because he was passive aggressive like that. And I didn’t want people to think I was feigning sickness because it was MENTAL TOUGHNESS TUESDAY. So I swam the set. At first I felt really crappy, but after all 60 100s I felt fine. No more aches. No more chills. No headache. It was as if the sickness had evaporated out of my chlorinated pores. I believe (based off no medical evidence to support this statement) the sustained raised heart rate and body temperature helped my immune system search and destroy the viral particles. So you know where I’ll be if an avian pandemic is unleashed on Taiwan while I’m here. At the pool. Swimmin’.

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