I have a planner book. It was given to me over a year ago by my mentor teacher, while I was still student teaching in America. I didn’t use it last year, instead opting to use the planner provided by my school. However, this year I had a bit more space in my luggage (since I wasn’t transporting my entire life in 1.5 suitcases) so I brought it with me.
Around Thursday of every week, I look at the next week. Usually, I have some notes to myself already written in the small squares that divide my four different grades.
My three English 8 classes should have a reading quiz soon, my book reminds me. Maybe a formative writing assignment too?
Other squares are intimidatingly empty. My four Grade 12 students are wildcards: I know what direction we are headed, but every day is so different that it’s hard to plan more than a day ahead, so only Monday has a note, suggesting that I assign some reading homework.
After reading my notes, I write more notes, trying to fill in the squares for the entire week. (Is Monday too soon to talk about how the novel is an example of Bildungsroman? Probably. Better slate that for Tuesday.) After deciding exactly what to do each day, I write on top of the penciled text in ink, sealing my plans for the week. The pencil marks get erased, leaving only the permanent plans.
A lot of my life I approach in the same manner as my schedule book.
I think (too much) about the future, and I pencil in notes for myself. “Take the GRE next month?” one note asks me as the invisible montly calendar flips to September. “Make a more solid budget for this academic year,” and “get a Bahasa Indonesia tutor” are also high on my mental list for this month. I schedule my first lesson, and it’s in ink in both the schedule book of my mind and my physical planner. I highlight it, just in case.
For some things, this drafting process is golden: I have three trips in their outlining stage, booking left and right for a possible trip to Thailand and a March trip with my students to London. I have deadlines for graduate schools smudged in the calendar of my mind and yoga times scribbled in every Tuesday time slot from here until Christmas holiday.
But it’s a dangerous business, this drafting of life. Even when it’s in mental-pencil, and reality is written neatly over top, I can’t erase everything as neatly as I do with my class planner. In fact, most of the emotions I had attached to the maybe-events remain after I have lived out the real events. Even more unsettling than the past events that never came into fruition are the future events, so able to be rewritten and reshaped a hundred times before they occur, all with no clear direction.
My mind flips forward to December. In messy mental- graphite are the scrawled words, “Sign a contract, or go home?” “You’re 24 now, what will 25 look like?” “Who will you (not) meet? Who will you (not) be? Where will you (not) teach?”