Today started out like any other day. I woke up at around 6:30 in the morning and slowly stepped into this plane of reality. I know I had some dreams, but I don't remember what I was dreaming about. As usual, I reached over to the nightstand for my IPad or laptop and I checked emails and Facebook. The pile of emails was larger than usual because students were anxious to see if they had to meet on Zoom today or use the classroom time to complete their video projects. Sometimes, I like to give students a break from Zoom because I know they get burned out from watching a screen all the time. I also like to keep them actively learning and practicing rather than passively listening to me drone on about something or other. To make my decision fair I sent them a survey the night before and asked them to decide which direction we should choose. 75% said they wanted to use the class time to finish their projects another 23% said they didn't care either way and a small sliver of 2% wanted to have the lesson as usual. So, I sent an email to everyone letting them know what was happening.
After my email I posted notes on Google Classroom so that students would understand what was happening and then cleaned up a few miscellaneous bits in the classroom that might have been confusing. When that was done, I began to gather my thoughts about a couple of research projects I am working on. It's like dancing Kung Fu in my mind before an actual fight. I try to visualize the moves, or, in this case, the steps leading to an argument and how I tested my ideas. I actually hate writing research papers because it's so convoluted. I want to be able to freely express my thoughts as I am expressing them here, however, every thought in research has to be tied to someone else’s thoughts before you can freely express your own.
After that, I answered other emails. There seemed to be some mix up about my grant application. It usually happens because of the back and forth between languages. Originally, I had not planned to apply for a grant at all but over the weekend I received an email saying that everyone in department had to apply and that I was to submit my application in two or three days. When working in two languages, something inevitably gets lost on either side. Occasionally, the thing that's lost is a crucial bit of information. It can be hidden in one sentence that can change everything. Sometimes when people translate the information back to me even more gets lost, making it difficult to decipher. I've gotten good at this back and forth, but sometimes I lose the gist. Today, I spent a great deal of time trying to interactively explore the core of the problem, so I could decipher what the missing information was. It took a while, but I finally got it with the help of my colleague.
It was just before noon and I decided to take a short break to do some laundry at the laundromat. They have a very nice washer dryer system that works wonderfully. I filled a bag with about a month worth of dirty socks, T shirts, pajamas and underwear and went to the laundromat. I also took my dog Lucky for a walk. After I came home, I sat down at my computer again, ready to plan the next thing I had to do when all of a sudden I noticed a message waiting for me. “Where are you?” it said. “Are you on your way?” In the moment, I had no idea what the person was talking about and suddenly I had the sinking feeling that I had missed something. In the next line of the message, I saw what I had missed.
Every Tuesday there is a class that I only participate in three times in the academic year. Today was a midterm exam for that class and I was supposed to be there to watch over the students as they took it. I knew there was an exam but somehow the idea that I actually had to be there got lost. I'd forgotten that I was there for the midterm last year. I only remembered being there for the final exam. Since my next lecture in that class isn't until July, I completely pushed it to the back of my mind. It's not totally in the back of my mind because every day or so I visualize my academic Kung Fu. My next lecture will be about design thinking and how to improve creativity and problem solving in the context of medicine. I'm going to try to make an argument for the improvement of creativity and the overall positive impact it has on physicians’ diagnostic ability and overall health care skill. From time to time I visualize how the lecture will go. I was doubly vigilant about doing this because the last lecture I gave, which was on the importance of cultural competence in the health care system, was the first hybrid lesson I had ever done in my life. There were a handful of students sitting in front of me and the rest were attending online. It was very difficult to focus on how to deliver a message to both audiences. I hated it because when I speak to the class, I want to speak to the individual students I couldn't quite figure out how to speak to the computer, where a large portion of the class was (135 people) and to the students sitting in front of me. I fumbled a bit and didn't want a fumble in the next lecture.
Anyway, I dropped the ball today. I was sitting two hours away from where the students were about to take their midterm exam. There was absolutely nothing, I could do to get there on time. I felt horrible. I don't like messing up at work though it does happen from time to time. I miss something every other year or so. I have never missed anything this big though. I don't like being seen as a slacker or someone who does not take his duties seriously because I most certainly do. You can kick me later for saying this. I know some of you will. I firmly believe that when you agreed to do a job it is crucial that you try to do that job to the best of your ability. If you're unwilling to do that job to the best of your ability, then I also believe that you should choose to not do the job and find something else.
Doing the job to the best of one's ability doesn't mean not making mistakes. Those are unavoidable. I suppose I should be better at hiding mine. I've seen colleagues lie. You can always tell by the tone of their voice or way the email feels. Emotions get transferred through the wire just like words do. I've seeing my share of sudden illnesses and unavoidable excuses. I knew those people were just trying to cover up a mistake or didn't feel like engaging that day. I don't blame them at all because we are all human, and sometimes we make mistakes, or we just need a break. Still, I had sunk way low because I don't like making those kinds of mistakes. They overshadow everything, all of the good, all of the progress, all of the positive impact I've had over the last seven years can be wiped out in an instance because of a single mistake. Unfortunately I find that the reaction to those mistakes tend to be 10-fold because of the fact that I am a foreigner. Sometimes I speak up when I don't agree with something. I'm sure that doesn't help. I try to use a professional tone and the language of academia but still people don't like to be told when you have a thought different than theirs, especially when they feel your station in life should be below theirs. I suppose speaking my mind is a part of my American upbringing that probably will never go away. I don't think it should because stifling one’s thoughts only leads to mental illness or stagnation. Neither of those are good.
Speaking of good, after I finished my last lesson of the day at 6:00 PM, I was about to do another load of laundry when I found a 10,000 yen note in the pocket of my shorts. That's a little bit less than $100. Before that, lots of beautiful friends were helping to cheer me up on social media. Writing this blog and social media have been the way that I've been able to release the pressure of existence in a society that is different from the one that I grew up in. Sometimes it can feel very lonely, even though there are millions of people around. Digital platitudes and hugs really do help. I don't feel so alone when I know that I have you there listening. Today, that 10,000 yen note I found in the laundry made me feel as if the universe was listening too.