Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

Time to Reflect

I am sitting here in the classroom I've been teaching my new media course in this semester, proctoring the final exam. Unlike the three-hour finals I had at the UC Berkeley as an undergrad, the ones here at the University of Arizona are only two hours long. But the time spent taking a three-hour exam feels way longer than the time spent monitoring students taking a two-hour one.

In the past, I've found the waiting extraordinarily tedious. The way things have been going since this semester started in August, however, I'm finding the sudden absence of pressure to do anything other than sit here downright exhilarating. Honestly, I can't even remember the last time I had two hours to sit by myself and reflect. And until today, I wasn't even sure that I wanted that much opportunity for introspection.

This is the class I came to teach immediately after leaving Kim sobbing at her father's deathbed, after I had been up late sitting with him during the night. This is the class I came to teach immediately after driving through the night from Anaheim -- as referenced by my last entry -- less than a day after driving out there from Tucson, only to have to turn right around and return to Anaheim in a few hours. This is the class I came to teach time and time again after Skylar had spent the night in terror triggered by grief and anxiety that her medication was actually making worse, not better.

But it's also a class I'll look back on fondly because of these trials. Spending an hour each Monday, Wednesday and Friday talking to smart, interested students about topics I care about provided a welcome refuge from the madness seeping into the rest of my life. Sometimes, I found ways to confront what was troubling me, however indirectly, by framing our class discussion a particular way.

Having now taught this course four times, I have discovered what works best for me, while also coming to terms with the fact that the content can never be set in stone. Simply put, the world is changing too fast. Back in the fall of 2010, my students were keen to think critically about the overwhelming importance of Facebook in their lives. Three years later, many of them only retain their profiles there as a kind of forwarding address, either because they have soured on social medial altogether or, more commonly, have migrated to other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

We talked a lot this semster about the phenomenon of accelerated obsolescence in the technology sector, especially its consumer end. The funny thing for me, teaching through such hard times, is that my perception of time started to warp to match this insight. What we covered in September now seems like ancient history. I don't know whether I've grown in a positive way in the interim, but I don't feel like the same person I was at the start of the semester.

The tricks I used to employ in reasoning Skylar out of her irrational frames of mind no longer work the way they once did. The faux cheerfulness I used to pull over my regular persona when I went to take care of my mom has become so threadbare that I'm having to seek out other resources to retain my composure as her condition slowly worsens and my father is able to do less and less to help. And the little self-deceptions I used to deploy in order to sustain my spirit and orient it towards a better future have fallen into disrepair as well.

Everything seems a lot more intense to me, but must be met with more calm than ever, because the people I spend the most time with are simply not able to cut me the slack they once did. That's part of the reason why I'm glad I started seeing a therapist, at the insistence of numerous people, with whom I can sort out the parts necessary to construct a more functional version of myself. I'm also just glad to have those fifty minutes each week to talk, even if I despair of ever getting to the root of my problems.

I've never been very good at making plans and seeing them through. Lately, though, the need to do so has become so pressing that I am trying to figure out how to improve my performance. Yet I'm also finding myself more willing to acknowledge my limits. In the past, for example, I would have surely declared that I intend to keep this journal much more regularly, as I did for many years, as a way of charting my progress and demonstrating my commitment to long-term projects. But the truth is that, as much as I would love to do that, it simply isn't a priority.

If I find the time to express my thoughts and feelings here from time to time, I know it will help me. And if I can engage with some of you on a regular basis again, as I once did, that will help as well. The most important thing, though, is to take advantage of the state I find myself in after this brutal four months in order to set down the burdens that have been holding me back and reorient myself towards a future I actually want to live in.
Tags: autobiography, blogging, everyday, health
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