Focusing on Being More Happy Than Not

It’s been a strange week.

At this hour last Sunday I was saying good night to my cousin and my husband and my son, getting ready for another long night with my parents as my mom and I did our best to keep my father comfortable.

I curled up on the couch to rest until Mom would need me – and I figured she would before my alarm would go off at 3 AM to relieve her.

She did need me sooner.

My father had passed just after 1 AM.

A calm sense of relief and sadness washed over me.

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Last week, Kevin gave us the writing challenge to:

Blog about More Happy Than Not. This was something we talked briefly about at NCTE, and I read it as promised. Let’s not only blog about the book, but let’s try to document a smiley face progression of our teaching week. What is one lesson, one moment, one experience from this week that we just shouldn’t forget?

more happy than notI know why I told Kevin to read More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.

It’s freaking amazing.

I read it earlier this summer (though I realized when I checked on Goodreads that I completely stink at documenting what I have read – resolution for 2016?) and was absolutely blown away by it. The writing. The plot. The characters. Everything.

Aaron Soto is a 16 year old kid who is struggling to navigate what seem like the normal perils of adolescence. He’s got a girlfriend he seems pretty serious about – maybe even that serious. He’s got friends who pick on him, but are close. He’s also struggling with the suicide of his father and a brother who seems really disconnected.

While his world seems familiar enough, it’s got some technology that has not yet been afforded us in our world. There is a company called the Leteo Institute that can help you adjust your memories. Aaron mentions it a few times – mostly about how one of the neighbor families had wiped memories of their son from the mind of his surviving twin brother. The procedure is expensive – and it’s hard to tiptoe around and make sure that no one says anything that might unravel it.

I remember thinking, as I had thought when I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that messing with memories is some dangerous – but fictionally fascinating – territory.

And, as I would have expected, if you introduce a company like this in the beginning pages of the book, it’s got to be important.

But I got so distracted with Aaron’s character that, to be honest, I forgot it existed for a while.

That’s because he met Thomas.

I am a sucker for stories about relationships – parents and children, siblings, best friends, romantic interests. I appreciate a good sci fi story (which is what I anticipated even before the first chapter because of an advertisement for the Leteo Institute), but it’s the stuff of relationships that keeps me turning pages.  It’s how we are connected to others and how we interact with others that says the most about us, I think.

And everything about the relationships in this book – the ones Aaron makes, the ones he breaks, and the ones he wishes he could forget – that say so much about him. And his family. And his world.

There are few novels that beg me to restart them as soon as I finish the last page. This was one. And, unlike some others, where I want to see how in the world Mr. Silvera managed to tear my heart apart in fifty million pieces, I wanted to rewind the memories and relive it again.

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I remember handing this book off to my dad to read after I’d finished it. He brought it with him on vacation and we spent some time talking about it. I don’t remember the conversation so clearly, but thankfully he was far better about putting his reviews in Goodreads, so I had that to go back on.

“The reader’s memory will be tested as the story progresses, because this is no simple linear story line.

Adam Silvera has deftly crafted a coming of age story with a twist and a warning about the dangers of trying to avoid ourselves. I look forward to more from this author.”

Well put, Dad. I agree 100%.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I chose to take the week off from school to recover, to prepare, to think before I headed back to my students. I did stop in at school a couple of times to pick things up, to leave plans, to take care of a few details that I couldn’t just let go for a week.

On Monday afternoon, running on next to no sleep, I went in to school to make sure the candle fundraiser was distributed. I wasn’t even in my room for five minutes when one of my students quietly came up beside me.

“How are you doing?” was his only question.

I can’t remember what I said. Maybe Lousy, but I’ll be okay. Or I’ve had better weeks. Or maybe he asked me something more like, “Are you okay?”

No, I’m not okay. But I’ll be okay. I am a lousy liar so I generally stick with the truth.

But I also know that this tremendous heartache will lessen over time.

He put his arm around my shoulders and I thanked him.

It was such a simple gesture, so gentle and kind. It meant a great deal.

I know that all of that day – the good, the bad, and the ugly – will be forever imprinted on my mind. I’m glad that simple, heartfelt interaction with this student will be part of my memories.

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There are 2 1/2 days of teaching left in 2015 for me.

Which means that I will begin the annual ritual of reflecting on what I have done and have learned in the year that is ending – and resolving to do better in the year that is soon to start.

(I do this over the summer also – I consider this one of the perks of the profession.)

Kevin, we jumped in and resolved to write more. (So far so good…)  Let’s think about what else we want to accomplish in our teaching and writing and reading lives.

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2 thoughts on “Focusing on Being More Happy Than Not

  1. I’m in awe of the idea that you will always have your dad’s reviews. The Internet as archive was something I recently talked with a researcher about, but this is new territory for me as an idea of an archive of a loved one.

    Looking forward to reading your goals. I know my biggest problem will be prioritizing those that I want to accomplish first.

    • It’s a strange and comforting thing to know that this archive (plus his Facebook posts and comments on this blog and Nerdy) exists still.
      I always have trouble prioritizing on goals – it never fails that I want to do ALL THE THINGS.

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