Author Archives: Pavowski

About Pavowski

I am a teacher, runner, father, and husband. I am an author-in-progress. I know just enough about a lot of things to get me into a lot of trouble.

Impromptu Geology


I had to step out of the classroom for a moment today, and when I came back in, there was a cluster of students gathered at the front of the room.

Any teacher knows that when students crowd in like that, there are likely shenanigans afoot, so I hopped over to break up whatever it was and discovered….

Rocks.

One of my students had brought in her rock collection, and the other kids were delicately, respectfully, excitedly passing them around. Quartzes, opals, tiger’s eye, amethyst, and a healthy smattering of geodes and fossils. They murmured and thrilled with excited questions and exclamations.

These are not elementary kids. These were high schoolers. Not jockeying to get the best picture for the ‘Gram, not taunting each other over their “dumb rocks.” Just literally passing rocks around with childlike wonder.

I typed “childlike wonder” before I remembered the phrase was redundant. We’re talking about high school children, after all.

Sometimes the simple things really are the most delightful.


Beta is Better


You need space from your work if you want to perfect it.

I know this, because I am only the tiniest bit obsessive about my work and I can still spend hours and days fine-tuning paragraphs and pages and finding new things to fix far beyond the time when the fine-tuning is actually improving the situation.

This is a problem, and it’s not a thing you can simply “turn off”. While you’re in the thick of it — editing, in my case, or whatever your chosen discipline does to self-correct errors in the first drafts — you can’t detach.

You reach that point where you have to let the thing sit for a while. Let it mellow. Let the dust settle. And if possible, have somebody who isn’t you have a look at it in the meantime.

Coming back to my novel after letting it lie for a month? The edits are coming fast and … well, I won’t say easy (because editing is never easy). But paired with notes from a couple of faithful readers whose input I believe in, the editing process feels about 90% less painful than when last I left it back in January.

Moral of the story: let your project rest for a little while.

And get some beta readers.


Just Get Me a Shot


Welp, they announced that teachers would be vaccine-eligible starting next week.

I was excited, but skeptical. “Eligible” means you’re “allowed” to get it, but whether logistically it happens is another matter altogether.

Then my district sent out the message that they would be working with the local department of health to get teachers vaccinated starting on Monday: right on time.

Again, excited, but skeptical. If lots of us were signing up for appointments (as I expect will be the case), then getting one right away might not be possible… but it was at least within the realm of possibility.

A few days later, the sign-up link went out. Wife and I were able to sign up for Monday and Tuesday — literally couldn’t get it done much sooner. Awesome! We can do our part and put our minds at ease and feel good about the whole thing.

Couple days later, the district e-mails us to cancel our appointments. “Not as much of the vaccine as anticipated”. So all appointments are cancelled.

Well, that’s sub-optimal.

Come to find out that not only are other districts around us *not* having this issue, but also that many, if not most, of them are actually closing school for a day or two next week to bring in personnel and vaccinate teachers. You know, proactively dedicating resources and time to get this thing done.

Meanwhile, wife and I have gone off on our own to make appointments to get it done. At a freakin’ Kroger pharmacy, no less.

If the disease doesn’t kill us, ineptitude will.


Out There, In Here


If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.

-Montesquieu

I’ve got happiness on the brain the last few days. Not because I’m particularly happy or particularly not, but because I seem to keep brushing up against it as a topic. And when you start to think about happiness, you really set yourself up for some interesting realizations; which is to say that the things we do that are *supposed* to make us happy often don’t, and the things we often neglect in favor of the things that are *supposed* to make us happy are actually, themselves, the things that make us happy.

So what does it mean to be happy? Do not google this question. The meaning is largely subjective anyway, but you may end up getting advertised to by a bunch of wellness and self-help gurus. “How to find joy in your life” is a common theme. I don’t like that. I’m not talking about those moments of extreme jubilation that come with hearing great news, like that your girlfriend who is way out of your league will in fact marry you even though her prospects are way better, or seeing your child for the first time, or even something more mundane like getting that new job or promotion. These are amazing experiences! But they aren’t sustainable. And you can’t build a life around them.

I like a definition of happiness that’s more like *contentment*, even though to be *content* is its own dirty word (more on that later). And it’s an enviable position, right? Ask most people if they’re “happy”, and there’s a lot of hemming and hawing, and your most likely answer is probably something like an uncertain “I guess?” And that’s how I’d answer the question.

But if you’re not sure you’re happy, then maybe you’re not happy. And if you’re not happy, the question must become: what are you doing about it?

And the world is very happy to offer solutions to that question. Newer, better *stuff* is always top of the list: a bigger house, a nicer car, a bigger television, a better-paying job. “Get these things,” the world seems to say to us, “and you will be happier.”

Thing is, though, that we want those things because they make what we currently have look *less-than* by comparison. My house isn’t the biggest, fanciest one on the block … surely if I had *that* one over there, I’d be better off. My car’s an old clunker… I should really get a new one. We’ve had this old television forever… let’s upgrade. But this is a never-ending cycle. Get the bigger, fancier house, and you’ll start looking in nicer neighborhoods with even nicer houses. Ditch your old car for the new model, and well, it won’t be top of the line for long. Upgrade that old television? Yeah. there’s always a bigger TV.

If you’re always chasing the new, shiny stuff, that’s a journey without an end.

And what about our interactions? We’re all on social media now, which is terrible for our happiness. Because we can’t help but compare ourselves to each other. And in that comparison, we must inevitably look at the people who *really have their lives together* or who enjoy the successful careers we wish we had. Or, worse, we begin to chase validation on social media, which is just stupid. We post pictures for the likes or the retweets or the follows because, somehow, internet popularity has become this source of validation for who we are as people, even though *who we are as people* isn’t necessarily the same as *who we are on the internet*. It’s all performative on some level.

I have a pretty tiny Twitter experience. I’ve had maybe two tweets get more than a handful of interactions outside of a tiny circle of writer-ish people I follow: one about the blizzard that didn’t happen in Atlanta a few years ago and one about Star Wars. I got maybe a hundred likes and a handful of retweets, which was a pretty big deal for me. And that felt good! But then, when things got back to normal, I found myself wondering “well, if I had that much success with those other tweets, surely I can recreate it talking about something else… and if not, maybe I’m doing something wrong.”

Heck, I do the same thing with my blog here. Back in the beginning, I had lots of comments and interactions…. these days, not so much. Did I do something wrong?

MAYBE I DID.

Maybe something in the way I write, or the (in)frequency of my posts turns readers off and they don’t come back like they did when I was younger and full of authorial piss and vinegar.

Or maybe it’s just flukey, and the algorithm has forgotten me like an old Metallica t-shirt at the bottom of the drawer, and that’s that.

Some days I stress about this. Should I change the way I write? Should I tweet more, or act in a certain way?

I *could* do that, but then I think… I started this site as a sort of mental pressure-release valve, a way to write and put things out there, to talk about what’s on my mind and if it resonated with people, great, if not… no harm, no foul; the internet is a big place!

What makes me happy is the act of writing itself, of letting the words fill the page, of finding the right words to express an idea, even if most of the time I come up woefully short of the mark. I started the site because it was *fun*. And if I’m writing, or tweeting, or whatever, to chase re-tweets and likes and comments and whatever, instead of because it’s fun… well, that kind of defeats the entire purpose, doesn’t it?

I’d rather keep writing what’s fun for me to write than try to figure out what people want to see in some random internet blog and cater to that. I’d rather tweet about what I find amusing and interesting and topical than just ask a provocative question to generate a bunch of superficial interactions I don’t care about just to boost my numbers.

I think what brought this whole post on was seeing yet another “where did my followers go” tweet on the old Twitter. (It was, I’m pretty sure, unrelated to one of those periodic purges of bots and trolls, but I guess you can never tell.) People agonize on Twitter all the time about losing followers. “So-and-so followed me and then unfollowed. What’s up?” “People who don’t follow back are the worst.” “Lost thirty followers today. Did this happen to anybody else?” And I’m just like … who is out there watching their follower count closely enough to notice?

And, ok, Twitter is a hellscape, but the same thing happens on all social media. You make a post, you want the interactions. It doesn’t come, you feel bad. But why the Fargo should you feel bad? Nothing changed in your life. If a thousand people “like” something I tweet this afternoon, literally nothing in my life will change. Yet we chase those interactions anyway.

Know what really makes me happy? Going for a run in the quiet of the early morning. Watching favorite movies for the 7th or 8th or 28th time. Wrestling with my kids. Teasing my wife (and trying to find *just that point* where she’s annoyed but not actually *mad* at me). Reading good books. Complaining about bad books. Writing stories of my own. Heck, writing blog posts about happiness that, statistically, maybe 50-100 people in the world will click on and move on from without me ever knowing.

These are not things that increase my station in the world. They don’t generate likes or “engagement”.

But they do put a smile on my face. And they make life a little more worth living. They make me content.

There’s this sort of vilification of the whole idea of contentment today: that somehow to be “content” is to stop growing, stop improving. You have to always be getting better, you can’t stop, can’t rest on your laurels. (See also: Shakespeare wrote thirteen plays during the plague years, or whatever that meme was when COVID started, and all of us writer-types were just gibbering masses of anxiety and stress all the time, but YOU SHOULD BE PRODUCTIVE ANYWAY.) You have to hustle, keep grinding, no matter what.

I agree with that in general, maybe? Like, if you’re not improving, you’re stagnating. I get that.

But that brings with it the other side of the coin. That if you’re not improving, you’re worthless, you’re wasting your time. And that self-talk can put you into a spiral real quick.

We need to stop chasing what’s *out there* at all costs and start appreciating what’s *in here*.

I started off with a philosopher so I guess I’ll end with one:

It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.

-Sheryl Crow

What Will We Forget?


I wonder what’s going to stick with us after this is all said and done.

I mean, COVID is not going away. It spread too far, it’s in the ecosystem now, it’s mutating… it’s going to be with us basically forever. We’ll get better at mitigating and treating it, no doubt. And the vaccine will allow us to return to something like normal. And I imagine that “normal” will look pretty much like “normal” before COVID, with the exception that a lot more people will die during cold and flu season. That will be the new normal.

But it shouldn’t be, right? I mean, you look at a disaster like 9/11, and “normal” after that day was a pretty far cry from “normal” before. Society made some lasting changes as a result. Airports, to say the absolute least, have never been the same. (I remember, when I was in high school, on a boring summer day, driving to Atlanta Hartsfield airport and just playing around there all day. Roaming the terminals, getting lunch at the restaurants, riding the automated sidewalks and trams around. What a great day that was. Also? There is *so much* art and other neat stuff on display in airports, and the average person probably has occasion and access to see so little of it. One of the great invisible losses. Anyway…)

And, not to belabor a point that’s been made here and many other places, but the loss we’ve incurred from the pandemic absolutely dwarfs the horrific losses of 9/11. We’re over the half a million mark, and still going. That’s very quickly going to become 200 times as many people dead of COVID as died on 9/11.

200 times worse. There’s really no way to grapple with that.

So what will stick with us, and what will fade into “can you believe that happened” territory?

In particular, I fixate on masks. Probably because they’re the most visible sign that something is amiss in our world, and also, there was that whole thing where they became this ridiculous political symbol here in America. But we’ve learned, haven’t we, that masks are an easy way to mitigate the spread of not just COVID, but many airborne diseases, right? So will it become a normal thing to wear a mask in cold and flu season if you’re feeling symptoms?

Or how about taking a day off work? We so rarely take days off from work for the most part here, and people in my profession (teachers) are especially guilty. (In my own case, unless I’m well and truly impaired by whatever’s ailing me, I would rather go to work and suffer than deal with missing a day of school. Getting a sub, making lesson plans, dealing with discipline issues that come up because kids are awful to subs… it’s a whole hassle.) Will we relax a little bit about missing a day at the office in the interest of public health?

What will we learn, and what will we forget?


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