Happy to kiss May goodbye

When I was young in the world of teaching, we went to a conference for classical educators sponsored by an organization that probably no longer exists. I knew very little about pedagogy at that point – I’m pretty sure this was before we had even started teaching. Everything was new and exciting and useful content.

One session topic stuck deep into my mind because experience quickly proved it to be true:  beginnings and endings are important. From the first or last moments of a class period to the procedures that jump start an entire year or help it to end well, all of us would be wise to pay attention to how we begin a thing and what steps we take to finish well. Many good ideas find themselves hamstrung due to poor planning for the start or finish.

A corollary to this, perhaps, for me as a teacher was the realization that May is a hard month in the classroom. Not only is it wise to have an end-game in mind for those final weeks of the year, it’s a survival mechanism. By this point, everyone is either too exuberant over the prospect of summer or too irritated with the human beings they’ve put up with for the past 170 days for any learning to be effective.  Sometimes a school year boils down to a race to the finish: will my patience run out before the students leave for good? Tune in next week to find out!  

[I remember the year we ended up with what felt like an eternal string of make-up snow days … I thought parents, students, and teachers alike were going to mutiny against the Maester of the Calendar and burn his schedule, taking the school building with it. No one in the South should be in a classroom after May 31.]

Though my days are no longer spent in the classroom, I find the rhythm of the school year comforting, and working at a college hardly releases me from its effects. One major advantage of school over work-a-day life lies in the regular application of vacation days. Sure, most jobs come with days off but it’s nothing like having a week all to yourself at least every 3 or 4 months.

Not being in the classroom apparently hasn’t done anything to make me less cranky at the end of a school year. By the time June 1 arrives, I am more than ready to get away from the office to do something totally different for a while. I love y’all, but something’s gotta give. 

This year in particular hasn’t been the easiest. I can call it a “learning year” and let the euphemism suggest what you need to know to fill in the blanks. Suffice to say, I’m glad to see this one wrap up and move on out.

I don’t have a lot of vacation plans for the next couple months but I’m gonna roll into June with several out of the ordinary tasks for my to-do list at work. We need a break. Something different.

I do wish Americans closed everything for a week around July 4th. Just shut it all down and go hang out with friends and family.  Let’s start a tradition!

Featured Image: I’m calling this “Two Drinks In” — it’s how every day needs to end once you get to May. Nothing less works as an antidote. 

Music Mondays: hxc blue

I dunno what the rest of y’all will think of this post. Here we go…..

I don’t know why it feels juvenile to admit that sometimes I just want music to be melancholy.  Songs that would emit shades of grey rather than shimmering color; songs that taste sour with a bitter tang.  I’m not often in a “bad mood,” though I move through seasons of irritability and dissatisfaction.

But surely we all have those days when nothing quite fits, when the wrongness of the world rubs up against the brokenness inside my heart, and I’m drawn toward introspection and a dark acknowledgement that we live as broken people in a broken world.

A lot of people mock hardcore and emo music for being immature, overly dramatic, and too dark. Those criticisms are warranted. But when I am looking for a playlist for a less than perfect day, I end up here, with a mix of music from several genres but mostly hardcore.

So here. If your day is crappy, and you need to commiserate instead of pretending to be happy, here are songs to make you un-merry:

“Sowing Season,” Brand New
This is my go-to song for when I feel like nothing I’m doing is making a difference. Yeah, anyone who works with people knows what that feels like.  Sometimes this mood drives me to write poetry, but it’s easier just to pop in this album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, and let my thoughts follow their words.

Is it in you now,
To watch the things you gave your life to broken?
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools. (lyrics)

(if you’d prefer to watch a great LineRider video while listening, here ya go)

“How to save a life,” The Fray
I don’t consider The Fray to be hxc or emo at all, but this song fits this list, at least for me. I don’t know how to save a life, but I’m wired to “care”: a paradox which often leaves me melancholic and disappointed that I can pour love into someone else but it doesn’t mean they’re going to care or get better.  “Where did I go wrong / I lost a friend / Somewhere along in the bitterness / And I would have stayed up with you all night / Had I known how to save a life.” (Wiki)

And as a close runner up, I really appreciate their song “You Found Me,” which is a pretty honest look at the problem of evil as we encounter it in our daily lives. (Wiki)

anything by From Autumn to Ashes
I mean, the band’s entire catalogue is downright depressing. Some great guitar work. Check out The Fiction We Live or Too Bad You’re Beautiful for several greatly depressing songs.
Also, the guitar opening on “Sugar Wolf” remains one of my all-time favs. Oh, and their drummer sings while he plays as a second vocalist. WHAT?!

“The Leaving Song,” AFI
One of the first “emo” bands I ever encountered, AFI is a granddaddy in the genre. This entire album (Sing the Sorrow) remains in my top playlist. I often listen to it en toto when doing design work, because the tunes are familiar and therefore comforting, despite the fact that the lead vocalists is kind of whiny (if we’re being honest) and this is a slightly embarrassing music selection to admit to my adult reading audience. lol

“In the End,” Linkin Park
I sometimes find their songs like this one or “Breaking the Habit” to help me let off steam when I don’t want “chill” music. Old Linkin Park is da bomb for exploring a crappy day in a crappy week in a crappy month. “In the end / It doesn’t even matter.” Yeah, some days are like that.

“War all the time,” Thursday
War sucks, whether it’s the real thing or a metaphor for the battles we face. This world is a messed up place, and this song captures that (for me). And Thursday is a good example of hardcore without much screaming.  Musically, I like the drum + bass lines in this song, and the simple but effective guitar work. And it’s a good example of musical responses to 9/11 that aren’t country music.

“9 Crimes,” Damien Rice
And now for a genre entirely different….I mostly just like the song itself, apart from the lyrics…. But for our purposes here, it’s not cheery and the slow quiet melody seems to sap energy rather than giving it.  Love lost makes for good melancholy. And disembodied heads are weird, so this video pushes all the right buttons…. lol

“Hurt,” Johnny Cash
I think Cash’s cover of Trent Reznor’s song (written originally for a Nine Inch Nails album) is stunning. When I first saw it as a music video, I literally stopped and stared at the screen. The piano pounds its way through my soul in the second and final choruses, while my emotions feel the weight of the lines: “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.”  “You can have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” I see it as an honest statement of failure more than of intent, but I think we twisted humans swirl them both together as we batter our way through relationships.

This video got a lot more attention since it was released not long after Cash lost his wife, and I’ve always associated the imagery of the video with the deep sadness he must have felt. “Everyone I know goes away in the end.” He died a few months after this was filmed.


Most of us aren’t too open about our melancholy days. I’d love to hear about where you turn for musical commiseration.  Comment with song recommendations if you’d like. 🙂