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Exhibit A: An Introduction

Chris Schneck

I am two years removed from college, as such it seems appropriate for me have stumbled upon two tentative Rules of the Real World. These two rules will form the foundation for this project, my blog, titled "Exhibit A."

Thankfully, I seem to coin rules at a considerably slower pace than Barney Stinson. Anyway, here is what I have come up with so far: 

  1. Hobbies = Happiness
  2. Super High Expectations ≠ Happiness

For these reasons, I am starting a blog (a hobby), about which I make no promises about its subsequent success or lack thereof (a reasonable expectation). 

Happiness is a fascinating topic on its own. But it seems that most folks agree that hobbies help happiness. Google has coined (or rather borrowed from HP) the 20 Percent Rule: spend 80% of your time on projects within the scope of your job description and spend the remaining 20% on any side project of your choosing. And it works: GMail was once a side project.

Academia agrees with Google. San Francisco State psychology professor Dr. Kevin Eschleman and his colleagues asked over 400 employees whether or not they reserved time for a creative hobby: those who answered affirmatively were more likely to be helpful, collaborative, and creative. I would like to be more helpful, collaborative, and creative!

And, perhaps even more relevant for this endeavor: Eschleman said, "the results indicate that organizations may benefit from encouraging employees to consider creative activities in their efforts to recover from work."

Now, for those of you who do not know, I teach Sixth Grade Earth Science to 11, 12, and 13 year-old children living in College Park, Atlanta. I work for a various accumulation of organizations (my school; my district; and previously Teach For America); yet, all of these organizations are charged with the difficult task of teaching children, a task made more difficult by the social, economic, health, and opportunity disadvantages my students carry into my classroom, often in place of textbooks. Teaching can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be even more draining, especially if I am not paying attention to my own well-being. For that reason, I am especially curious about Eschleman's claim that hobbies can help employees "recover from work" - - although I would prefer the phrase "recharge" rather than "recover."

In other words: On the one hand, I may be an employee of a principal and a school district. On the other, I have often had to take charge of my own professional development and (more importantly) had to work personally to ensure that teaching continues to be a sustainable career choice for me. Teachers do not have the luxury of Google implementing abstract rules about hobbies or universities granting permission to study abstractions such as happiness.  So, like the happy philosopher Dory, I shall start a blog, and it shall be mine, and I shall call it Exhibit A. 

Now, before I jump in, one additional aside: this blog will not be perfect, and often times it will be far from it. I will promise but two things: I will update regularly (1-2 times per week) and I will work hard to produce the best product that I can. This blog will be more Vexing than it will be Vox; it will hopefully Trend Up, but it will not be Upworthy; and it will Feed my blogging Buzz, but it will not be BuzzFeed. I think that is a good thing.  

Some of my evidence for reduced expectations this is anecdotal: I had more fun shooting an 84 on golf course two weeks ago when I expected to shoot a 92 than I did in high school when I shot an 81 but expected to shoot a 76. My high school 81 is a better score than my adult 84, until you take into account those danged expectations. My first semester last year was frustrating because I expected myself to be an all-star teacher and fell far short. My second semester finished and I was still far from an all-star teacher, but I achieved and even surpassed my more realistic expectations for myself. And, I was far happier for it and my students more successful.  

This blog is a case study for reasonable expectations. Even though Teach For America has seared "Hold High Expectations" (along with a half-dozen other catch phrases that unfortunately distort truth as much as illuminate it), this blog aspires to the wisdom of Miss Goldie Locks - - neither too high nor too low, but juuuust right. 

It feels similar to those who brew their own beer. Home brewers openly acknowledge that they are not producing Victory, or even Miller Lite in their bathrooms and garages. Yet, these altruistic entrepreneurs are still offering you a free beer. So, don't complain! Don't insinuate that it is "too hoppy" or imply that it doesn't have the "grapefruit and citrus aftertaste" that accompany many popular craft beers. I will always welcome feedback, but please offer that feedback kindly because this blog enters the World Wide Web like those vacationers who lower themselves into the Atlantic Ocean one toe at a time - - slowly and cautiously and with no small amount of apprehension. 

I hope you enjoy what happens next, because I know that I will.