May 17

A Breakup Story

This breakup story starts on a Thursday. The Thursday in question was perhaps, the worst Thursday of my life. Though, admittedly, the breakup was only part of that.

A Breakup Story

This past semester, I’ve been teaching an extra class. And that fifth class took place Thursdays from 6 PM to 8:50 PM. And since Thursdays are the last day of my week, they were always a little arduous.

Imagine if your Fridays required you to be a functional human for a really long time. That’s what it’s like.

Anyway, I came home carrying extra bags of library books and an umbrella. The day itself had been gross simply because it was one of the most humid days in recent memory, and I was covered in several layers of sweat that had dried throughout various times in the day.

My clothes, for the record, smelled like the cast iron skillet of onions and bell peppers that accompany your order of fajitas.

This Thursday was also the final day before my students would be turning in their formal reports. It’s always a harrowing time, simply because no matter how much time you give your students, they will wait until the last minute to ask questions. So in addition to giving tests in my two classes, I had 3 hours worth of questions in my office hours. I tweeted about it.

After office hours I grabbed nachos in the student union, because you get to eat nachos when you’re worn out. And if you work on a college campus, you get to eat like a college kid. It’s in the employee handbook.

Then I went to my class, gave a test, and let the students leave when they were finished.

And when I got home that night — that’s when the breakup happened.

I don’t feel it’s right to say all the reasons why, because some of them are Chris’s reasons, and not my story to tell. But I will say this: The breakup was probably a long time coming.

Which feels weird to type after posting about house hunting, but like, I guess forever decisions like mortgages make you take stock, and had Chris not done so, I probably never would’ve either.

All that is to say that yes, Chris is the one that brought it up. He stood at the kitchen table just minutes after I walked in the door that night. As I put something in the trashcan right next to the table, I asked him what was up, because he looked super anxious.

And that’s when he did it.

There were no major fights or blowups. There were no big red flags. There were no conversations with friends over drinks about all the problems we were having.

Because there weren’t any major problems, nor have there ever really been. Chris and I are really good friends. And we always will be, at least I hope. But we’re not meant to be together.

We’re like a reverse When Harry Met Sally.

And I think we both knew that the relationship itself had been on autopilot for a really long time. It’s kind of like we had built up enough momentum over the years and we were able to just coast for the past few years.

But coasting and momentum are no way to live.

If we hadn’t broken up when we did, I’m sure we would’ve gotten married. I’m sure we would’ve had a couple of kids. And I’m sure that we would be the couple that gets divorced when we were in our fifties because the kids had grown up and we no longer had anything in common.

I can’t say that it’s been easy, because it hasn’t. And I haven’t told many people. (If you’re getting the news of the breakup via this post, and you feel slighted, sorry, I guess. But also, I owe you nothing.)

The breakup itself hurt. I cried. But I gotta be real. The minute Chris did it, I exhaled. It was like a small weight had been lifted. Because I think we both felt that we were moving in this direction. But I’m glad Chris did it, because I don’t think I could’ve.

See, in the sober light of day, we aren’t the same as we were almost 7 years ago when we met. I was 24, a bartender, and barely capable of being a human. He was 30, fresh out of a divorce, and just going to a bar to blow off steam on a Monday night. Neither of us were looking for a relationship, but, well, life happens.

In those years we’ve been together, we’ve changed dramatically. And though we’ve pretty much grown in the same direction as friends, we aren’t in love anymore.

I think here is a good place for me to say that I’m not posting this to solicit advice. In fact, I rarely, if ever, solicit advice. I know some will say that there are natural ebbs and flows in relationships, and that Chris and I should just stick it out. But as my friend Mari said, when you know, you know. And I know we’re doing the right thing.

So, I dealt with my emotions the way I always do — on Twitter.

I am a garbage millennial, always on the social media. WRING YOUR HANDS AT MY LIFE, BOOMERS.

But other things that have helped during this time are:

  • Bingeing 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I absolutely hated the show, thought it was poorly done, and tried too hard to be deep and serious, all while paying lip service to actual issues. But, hey! A breakup can’t be worse than having to be the overly tattooed 20-something pretending to be a high schooler for a show that will probably go down in history as one of the worst portrayals of mental illness and revenge fantasies. So, there’s that.

  • Reading Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons. I love Brittany’s blog, and her general attitude toward life. Plus, she’s relatable, so much so that I can imagine us meeting up for nachos and margaritas to gossip and just bitch about life. (Second nachos reference in this post, because I use food to deal with life.)
  • Listening to The Minimalists podcast. If you ever find yourself in a life situation where you’re going to need to pack up all your crap to make a life change in the very near future, it’s so much easier when you’re listening to Josh and Ryan answer questions about the process of downsizing and getting rid of crap. Bonus points for how soothing it is too.
  • Grading papers. I seriously went through all the papers I had to grade in 9 days. That’s a new personal record. But it’s so much easier to get work done when you don’t really want to be alone with your thoughts.
  • Talking about writing. Thankfully, I was able to attend the OWFI conference this past weekend, and just being there felt really energizing. It’s great to know that there are people in the world who are into what you’re into, and that they believe in you even when everything else is falling apart. Also, as if the universe needed to remind me that everything is a very small, closed circle, it was announced that Jay Asher, the author of the book 13 Reasons Why, will be the keynote at next year’s conference. Weird, huh?

As for future plans, I’m slowly making them.

I’m still house hunting, but for a very different type of house. Me and Rosie, the greatest dog in the universe, need a swingin’ bachelorette pad.

I also plan to put a lot of time and energy into writing. Chris didn’t prevent me from writing, but I was in a really comfortable place in our relationship, and I definitely didn’t focus on artistic growth in the way I should’ve. It’s time to stop coasting.

Fitness is going back on the radar too. I mean, it’s always on the radar because I am a woman in a First World country, and I’ve been conditioned to believe I’m garbage if I don’t obsess about fitness in a pathological way. But I’m looking forward to establishing a new workout routine.

As for dating again, I’m sure it will happen eventually. But for now, I’m going to respectfully decline all your offers to hook me up with that one single guy from your office/church/homeowner’s association/fantasy football league/biker gang. I’m really good at being single, and after 7 years of being in a relationship, I’m really looking forward to being single again.

Apr 16

This Super Simple Phone Hack Will Save Your Sanity

When it comes to productivity, the four horsemen of my getting work done apocalypse are text messages, Twitter, Instagram, and emails. Obviously, I needed a super simple phone hack to save my sanity.


If I want to #tellstories, I want to sit there and #tellstories. If I want to grade papers, I want to sit there and grade papers. If I want to read, I want to sit there and read. I have to be immersed in what I’m doing, and anything that takes me out just kills my ability to get things done.

I absolutely hate the cult of multitasking. And it’s most definitely a cult. People who brag about being able to multitask are most likely just lying to themselves, kind of like people who think some dude out in a field will bring them salvation if they give him all their money. I won’t budge on this statement. I don’t care if you’re offended by it.

Here’s why:

Most tasks require concentration.

The things that I find myself doing on a day-to-day basis are writing, lesson planning, and paper grading. All of these things require me to focus. I have to become absorbed in the task at hand so I can concentrate. And if I’m able to concentrate, I can usually finish these things in about half the time it would take if I were trying to do something else at the same time.

When you focus, you can work in a straight line. When you multitask, you have to stop, go in different directions, then figure out where you were. I consider all the time spent figuring out where you once were to be a waste. I overheard Jackie Wolven talking about Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes while I was at OKWB Mini-Con. Apparently, Rhimes talks about something similar, only she talks about a train on the tracks, I think? (Either way, I have that book on my to read list. I plan to tackle it next!) Basically, it takes too much time to come back to where you were once you set off to do another task.

You can’t produce quality work while distracted.

I used to work for a terrible company that thought if they made technical writers work as project managers and software QA analysts on top of their writing duties, that it would be more efficient than if they were to hire a separate person to fulfill each of those roles. Naturally, no one ever felt like they got to complete a task because they were to busy touching every last aspect of a project, or stopping work in one area to put out a fire in another. Needless to say, the company did not produce quality projects, and the vast majority of the employees were terribly unhappy.

No one can do it all. I’ve realized that prioritizing is key. So I pick a task and work on it until it’s done, or at least, until I get to a stopping place with that task. When I’m working on one thing, I don’t do other things. I also purposely try to “batch” my tasks, so that I do all of the same things in a batch at once. For example, I’ll grade all the papers. Then, I will enter those grades into the online grade book. Then, I will move on to lesson planning. Then, I’ll check email.

By doing that, I actually get things done more quickly because I can focus on each individual task.

We are amusing ourselves to death.

You can tell someone attended a journalism school when they reference Neil Postman! And to get a little bit more pretentious about the whole thing, I truly believe we are oppressed by our addiction to amusement. I see it in my students. They can’t sit still and take notes without checking their texts or leaving a comment on someone’s Facebook post. But even worse — I see it in myself at night, when I’m trying to relax and watch TV with Chris, but can’t seem to stop scrolling through Instagram.

It’s like we have to be so overloaded with stuff all the time just to feel normal. And I don’t know if this is anxiety manifesting itself in the form of FOMO, or what. But dude. It’s terrible.

So, obviously, I’m not a psychologist or a productivity hack professional, or even someone that gives good advice more than 60% of the time. But I know what irritates me, and I know what I need to do in order to get things done. And honestly, it was so RIDICULOUSLY SIMPLE.

(Cue the “You won’t believe this super simple phone hack, and it only took 5 minutes!” clickbait headline.)

I got my first smart phone in 2012, a good 5 years after all my friends got theirs. I waited because if I had a “dumb” phone, I got free service through my mom, who works for AT&T. I was a broke ass working full-time and trying to finish my MLIS degree. The dumb phone worked just fine.

Then, I got an iPhone. It wasn’t anything special, and it wasn’t even the most recent model. But I got it, and I was super stoked about how easy it was to tweet. (Does anyone remember tweeting using SMS? Man. That makes me feel real old.) I liked that I could take pictures easily. And I liked that I could check my email at any time.

Now, I’ve had a smart phone for 4 years, and holy hell. I want a burner flip phone so bad. I don’t even want to use it for the sketchy reasons that most people get them for. I just want to be in a place where people don’t have constant access to me.

Let me clarify that last statement.

I don’t mind if my family or close friends text at any time of the day. But I absolutely HATE getting a notification on my phone about someone responding to one of my tweets with “LOL.” I love knowing that my students can email me at any time, and I can see it, so if they have technical issues with online quizzes and assignment drop boxes, I can work on getting it fixed. But I hate when my phone dings, and someone who uses an entrepreneur portmanteau to describe what they do has sent me an email about their new e-course where they will give me all the secrets to make money online. I love that my coworker can text me a picture of a donut and ask if I want one. I hate that people can send me invitations to leave my home whenever they want. (#IntrovertProblems) I love that Facebook can connect me to my cousins who live in Tehran. But, if I’m being real, I just kind of hate Facebook, and it’s not on my phone anyway.

For me, it all boiled down to getting my phone under control and I needed a super simple phone hack to make it happen.

First, I deleted a lot of apps. I decided my phone was a tool and that was it. I didn’t want to feel like I was missing out on life if I didn’t have my phone in my hand. This step was fairly easy. I didn’t have any games on my phone (except the ones Apple won’t let you delete), so all I needed to do was get rid of chatting and social media apps that, while I enjoyed them, were causing me to spend precious time that I could spend writing or grading.

Once that was done, I went into my iPhone’s settings. I turned off all sound notifications for EVERYTHING but calls. Then, I went into the settings for each individual app, and took off all banners and lock screen notifications. So now, my phone only makes noise when someone calls. And if I get some sort of notification, I don’t see it on the lock screen, and thus don’t feel the urge to unlock my phone and spend time scrolling through tweets or watching hours of face swaps on Snapchat.

“But Marisa,” you say, “don’t you know your phone has the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function?”

Why yes, yes I do. And I still use that function every single day. From 9 PM to 7 AM, my phone is on Do Not Disturb. The only phone calls that would come through are from the people on my favorites list, which is all family members. (I worry about getting a call in the middle of the night about some family member having emergency surgery or something.) But during the day, when I give everyone the open invitation to disturb me, I can hear the ringer for anyone who calls.

I’ve been using this super simple phone hack for about a month or so now, and I have no regrets. I’m sure people get really angry when I don’t answer texts in a timely fashion, and I know my Twitter followers have noticed that I’m not so quick on my replies these days. (Though, since they rolled out the new algorithm, it’s not like anyone is responding to tweets in a timely manner.) And I have a group of friends affectionately known as Dumbledore’s Army that I no longer chat with on Group Me that I miss.

But right now, I’ve got to be a mercenary for my time. And since I’ve started using this super simple phone hack, I’ve gotten so much done.

I’ve found that most people like to chat during their work day. I used to love it when I worked at any other job, because they didn’t take my whole brain. But my schedule is set so that I don’t even really begin work until the afternoon and my mornings are set aside for yoga and journaling and writing and grading. I need that time to focus.

And that was what this was all about, really. I don’t believe in multitasking, and that means I don’t believe in checking my text messages while I’m writing or grading or planning. I don’t believe in carrying on a conversation on social media while I’m working on other things. I don’t believe in splitting my focus between work and amusement when I could just focus on work and be done so much quicker. Plus, the amusement I have when I’m completely done with work is so much more fulfilling than any amusement I have while I’m trying to do something else.

Now, I know that there will be those younger people who think “well, I’ve grown up with technology and I can handle it.” And to them I say DO NOT CALL ME OLD I AM ONLY 30 YOU ARE A PILE OF GARBAGE AND YOU KNOW NOTHING.

Not really. What I say is this:

Stop lying to yourself. I’ve grown up with technology. I’ve watched it evolve from the Zack Morris mobile phone (a reference you are too young to get) to these water proof smart phones I keep seeing ads for on Hulu. I started blogging on a Xanga site. I had a Myspace. I chatted with SmarterChild on AIM. I remember when internet came through the phone lines. And while this may all seem irrelevant, I do know this. There has never been a time when people and corporations have been so dependent on digital technology. Technology will be as invasive as we let it. And I don’t want to have to let technology be a part of everything I do, nor do I want to feel any sort of dependence on my phone for entertainment.

Because that’s the thing. I can’t get things done when I’m not actually getting things done.

So, if you’d like some quiet time to yourself to get things done, try this super simple phone hack. You have to leave the cult of multitasking and be content with the knowledge that your texts and Instagram followers will be there when you’re done.