The Best Worst Year in the Blue Ridge

I’m the kind of guy who compares anything to everything: my favorite TV show (Survivor) to my least favorite (The Bachelor), the best month (April) to the worst month (November), the greatest year of my life (2012) to the very worst (2006). I can’t help it. I compare. It’s what I do. It’s why I love rankings and ratings and top-10 lists, the best and the worst. I can’t get enough of the comparison game. I especially enjoy comparing all […]

And to All a Good Riddance

As the grotesque mass of space garbage we call 2016 hurtles toward oblivion, people everywhere are cheering the prospect of a new year. Myself included. We’ve proclaimed this the worst year ever, what with a most bizarre election cycle, the deaths of numerous beloved celebrities, raging wildfires and natural disasters, and the opening of the first seal of the Apocalypse. 2016 wasn’t that great a year for me personally, either. I lost my first car. I lost my second car. […]

Why I Hated Blogging Every Day This Month

Before November could unleash her usual dread upon me, I decided I’d take a proactive approach with this month. Blog every day, I thought? Would that do it? Would that do the trick and make me somehow look forward to this month instead of loathe it every day? Some days were better than others. Some days were easier to blog. Some days, posts were planned; other days, I opened up this blank white screen clueless as to what would emerge. […]

I Peed in the Woods This Morning

Well, I missed a day of blogging. My dreams, dashed. My hopes, crushed. My legacy, tarnished. But I have a good excuse. I took the students on a campout last night, my first overnight excursion on the job, and I couldn’t exactly blog ‘neath the stars. So, I cheated with this Instagram photo yesterday afternoon: #MakeNovemberTolerable DAY 25: I won’t make it to the blog today since I’m taking the students on a rare overnight camping trip! But first, let […]

Why I Do What I Do

A year ago, I knew nothing about recovery. Phrases like “twelve steps” and “Alcoholics Anonymous” may as well have been as foreign to me as “World Champion Chicago Cubs.” But then I started working with teens in recovery, both in the woods and in a beautiful building, and I’ve learned I’m not that different from them. “You’re a flawed individual,” an instructor told one of our students this morning. He didn’t mean it in a derogative way. He also called […]

The Opposite of Addiction

Back when I worked in wilderness therapy last year, I learned an important lesson: the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. I had to think about it for a while. Absorb it. Reflect on it. Think back on the times I’ve experienced addition — pornography, promiscuity, a poor self-image — and realize that the saying is true. In my most desperate times of overwhelming addiction, the only effective counteracting agent wasn’t mere withdrawal or […]

I Got Triggered Today

“Weekend Tom” returned to “Weekday Tom” at school today. One kid struggled with recursive sequences. Another kept falling asleep learning about dear sweet Pythagoras and his most beloved theorem. Yet another needed my step-by-step guidance, only to fizzle out of patience by hour’s end. It wasn’t the flashiest of mornings. No inspirational artist studio visits or personal hand at graffiti art. Just a job and a desk and formulas and lingering frustrations that one day life will feel epic again. […]

And the Message is Fun

The last two days, I’ve taken our students to the River Arts District here in Asheville to visit with local artists in their studios and even do some painting on canvases and walls alike. It’s rare that I get to go out with the students, as I usually aid them with math or writing in the classroom throughout the school week. To become “Weekend Tom” every now and then is good for my soul. I think it’s good for the […]