Bitter Sweet Freedom

I am free. The shackles that bound me have been removed. I am no longer a trainee teacher. This feels both good and bad, hence the title of “Bitter Sweet Freedom”. On one hand, I hated what I was doing and am glad to be rid of it. I finally have the time to exercise, to cook, to write. It’s a wonderful feeling. However at the same time it signals the end of a wasted year and the start of unemployment. That feels terrible. I’m not one to sit on my backside though, so I guess I have something new to focus on; getting a job in the lead up to my hopeful masters course. However, this does mean that I will be going full steam ahead with writing as well, now that I actually have time and don’t have to spend every waking moment thinking about teaching or planning lessons / resources / units of work. I won’t delve into the “why” I got kicked off the course, though I will say that every single formally assessed lesson of mine was at least a pass, yet they still failed me.

Would I recommend teacher training? In this country, I’m not sure. It’s entirely luck of the draw whether you get a good mentor as there is no vetting process; I am not the first person to have been failed because mentors have taken a disliking to them, nor will I be the last. If you get placed in a school where you don’t get along with your mentor and/or department, you are going to have one hell of an uphill struggle. If you are a trainee teacher and you find yourself in this situation, raise it with the university. I was just far too typically English and just got on with it, teeth gritted and determination flaring. On the topic of teaching in this country though, it’s a rather thankless profession. You work long hours, deal with a lot of stress and get paid pretty terribly. It was fairly normal for me to leave the house at 7am and get home at 8pm, due to meetings, lesson planning, resource creation etc. This is for a job that pays around 21k a year at the start, without growing too much. Sure, you get good holidays, but really it doesn’t make up for the insane workload during term time, as well as the incredibly political nature of teaching; if someone tells me teaching is a caring profession, I’m going to laugh. Teachers can be some of the most venomous individuals. However, I have heard wonderful things about teaching abroad, so if you’re considering teaching, my advice would be to work abroad. Better conditions, better pay and an actual respect for the profession go a long way.

Anyway, enough about teaching and my new found freedom from it. What have I been doing this week? Well, I’ve gotten back into The Division again. Sure, it’s a bit repetitive, but the Dark Zone isn’t. I… really enjoy the Dark Zone, which surprises me due to my aversion to PvP. However, one thing I have noted in the Dark Zone is that a lot of players are more willing to team up and make mutual gains rather than turn on each other, gain rogue status and risk losing their own stuff. Rolling through the Dark Zone in a group is a very rewarding experience and is generally safe, as most players won’t mess about with a group of four unless they’re also a group of four; though a group of four is easier to spot than the one guy with a marksman rifle taking pot shots at you. I’ve generally had a good experience in the Dark Zone, though I was sort of expecting full blown DayZ levels of asshattery so it would have been hard to truly surprise me in a bad way.

I’ve also played a decent amount of Monster Hunter 4 on the DS; I won’t lie, it was because one of my friends is incredibly into it. I also won’t lie when I say that I can see why. It is by far the most complex game that I have for my DS, with the large number of different weapons and play styles, as well as the insane amount of customisation options available. I’m enjoying the light bowgun for multiplayer and the dual swords for single player, as I like my mobility over the sheer power of weapons like the hammer. I’m still a massive scrub when it comes to Monster Hunter, but I’m getting better. I would totally recommend it for the DS, though it is not for the faint of heart. With the amount you have to remember and everything that you have to do on a successful hunt, it’s not going to be a casual game. For that, I think Fire Emblem retains the top spot in terms of my favourite DS title, as it’s much easier to pick up and play without really taxing myself. Yes, I’m a scrub with low mental capacity. Sometimes. I like to relax whilst gaming, okay?

For roleplaying, we had a massive rift in the party this week during Pathfinder. Everyone apart from my character is lawful good, and they were prying into my secretive character’s employment history and background, which she was unwilling to share. Also, having been away from my beloved bard class for too long, I will be switching in Pathfinder. My current character is going to leave the party to pursue her goals without them, as they are inept (in her eyes). I will be replacing her with an Aasimar bard, who is unaware of her celestial heritage. She has the leadership feat, and the natural born leader trait as she is supposed to be a leader of people, a bastard child of a noble house that is now in ruin (our setting has a large army of Orcs and Hobgoblins and undead wrecking faces). Her cohort (main follower) is her family’s former captain of the guard and has made me realise how stupidly good the fighter class is. He can tank, make ludicrous numbers of opportunity attacks, hit things with his longsword, shoot things with his composite longbow, sling daggers when disarmed or just hit things hard in the face with his bare hands… If it’s combat based, he can do it. He’s way better in combat than my actual character, despite being two levels lower and my bard actually having decent combat feats (going to build her like a duelist in combat).

However, my new unemployed status means that cuts have to happen. My Warhammer 40k projects are going out the window, as that’s very expensive and I need to be saving up for my masters. I might get the jetbikes that I need, but then leave it at that, as that’s a fairly central concept to my Eldar army. However, this does mean that I will still lack an “average” strength army, as my Eldar, whilst fluffy and lore-abiding, can be quite brutal when played right… And I’ve played Eldar now for about 6 years. If I get a job that pays well, I’ll either start a Chaos army, or a Militarum Tempestus one.

Also, writing high fantasy fiction when your mind is currently in a space / cyberpunk mood is…an interesting experience… A very interesting experience.

The Meta

I think the thing that really irritates me about teacher training is the conformity. “As a teacher, you are always on show. As such, you have to be a professional both inside the classroom and out,” was something that we were told near the start of the PGCE, along with “make sure your online presence is totally professional and private because parents and students alike will Google search your name.” Now, I understand that to a point; after all, no one wants to have a teacher who goes out on a bender every weekend and passes out in the gutter, or has a public Facebook profile covered in photos from that hedonistic holiday to Marbella.

However, like all things to do with this course, it goes to the extreme. I’m the kind of person who prizes my individuality. I love being me; one hundred percent pure, unadulterated me. I like my (cyber)gothic style, I like my strangely coloured and/or designed contact lenses, I like my (limited due to hereditary hair volume. Women who complain about having too much hair should really consider themselves lucky…) out-there hairstyles. What I don’t like is having to slot into what I am going to call the “teacher meta” where you have to be as generic as possible so you don’t scare parents into thinking you’re incompetent and unprofessional. To eternally present this image of the perfect role model. I’m never going to be the one to go out partying and get drunk and act like a buffoon, but really? My individuality makes me unprofessional? Specifically, my individuality in my own free time makes me unprofessional? My individuality makes me a bad role model? I have a younger sibling, and this is the last thing I would want them to see. Not me being an individual, but the idea of individuality being seen in a negative light. As a budding fantasy/science fiction author, I know dystopias, and this is really starting to feel like I’m living in a dystopian society.

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Okay, rant over. I have come up with a new revelation this week. That revelation is that dice hate me. Last weekend, I managed to roll a double 1 in Stars Without Number, used a psychic power to re-roll and… rolled another pair of 1s. Double snake eyes? Really? Not only that, but on the Sunday, despite having ludicrous numbers amounts of talents and skills and stats that make my Imperial Envoy a social god (and utterly incompetent at just about everything else), an NPC managed to charm my character by rolling incredibly well against my utterly atrocious dice rolling, which basically made my character appear useless. For most of that session, nobody came to my character for anything. At all. Even when we had a diplomatic situation later on, the intelligence officer took it and nobody thought to contact the actual diplomat. What am I even around for? It was a rough weekend for roleplaying, but at least I manage to perform well in pathfinder, though as a sorcerer I don’t really have to roll to hit or anything like that; most of my spells auto-hit with enemies having to make saves to avoid damage, thus removing my utterly terrible dice luck from the equation.

I’ve also gone back to SWTOR, but as a totally new character so nobody in the galactic starfighter community knows who I am (apart from one guy that I told who is very nice and shares my views on both gunships and overly-competitive pilots). It’s great being the new player; there are no expectations to do well, no victimisation where half the team comes after you. It’s liberating and, dare I say it, fun. I’ve also been playing a lot of VoidExpanse recently as well. On hardcore mode. Permadeath is very worrying, but the way the game is designed it wouldn’t be too harsh if I were to lose and have to start again. I’m playing a trader type, so a lot of my XP comes from buying resources on the cheap, then flying them elsewhere and selling them for large profits. The XP gains for this are pretty decent and it doesn’t take too long as you can just autopilot and minimise; most of the time it doesn’t bite you in the backside. Come to think of it, I’ve been in a real “space” mood. Space is pretty cool though… I wish I had the time to work on my science fiction…

I can be on time too!

Haha! Writing this! On time! I feel so alive!

I’ve been giving the whole returning to 40k thing some thought and have decided that I will do so. Perhaps not quite yet, as I do still have mountains of work to do for my teacher training, but I finish soon and will once again have free time to toy around with. I will be buying some jetbikes (as I’ve been meaning to do so for around a year now), expand my Dark Eldar a little by getting a mix of more kaballite and wych style units, then maybe start a small Slaaneshi Chaos army (CSM + Daemons + Traitors) and possibly some Imperium stuff to get my Imperium army under way. The main drawback for the Imperium is that I would need lots of Valkyries/Vendettas for two reasons: firstly, my Astra Militarum regiment is a space-faring one since their planet is no more, so they sport a good many fighter aces and generally specialise in tactics revolving around naval support (and yes, I will be paying the points for every single flyer to have the fighter ace rules); secondly, Militarum Tempestus are amazing when used in conjunction with Valkyries and Inquisitors sporting servo skulls. Grav-chuting elite infantry (who still have personalities, unlike Space Marines!) on top of the enemies of mankind and hitting them hard and fast? That’s a visual that I want to have concerning my army! I will also consider getting some Sisters to go along side my Militarum Tempestus + Inquisition wonder army, but it’s a long shot. They’re just way too damn expensive!

In other news, Masters applications are a go. No, I have not sent them off yet, but I am applying for both journalism and creative writing and crossing my fingers that at least one of them accepts me. I’m still sort of riding the high of “hey, I’m actually moving to do something that I actually want to do for the first time in 8 years!” and hoping it carries me through the last few months. I am still keeping an eye on things and making sure I continue to write for the university paper, but teacher training is also ramping up a bit towards the end. What’s the phrase? “There ain’t no rest for the wicked.”

What about gaming? What about gaming indeed. I’ve actually had a chance to play The Division properly and get into the swing of things (it got so much easier when I found a marksman rifle and an assault rifle to replace my submachinegun and shotgun build that lacked any semblance of range). My thoughts are still the same, though the game can get a bit repetitive; you run around New York, fight rioters, grab resources, run around New York, fight rioters and so on and so forth. The MMO aspect of the game is very noticeable and I’m not sure how I feel about that. My relationship with MMOs is tumultuous; it’s the kinky sex-fantasy in that it hurts so good, until you realise your partner hasn’t been performing safe practice and you have to go see a doctor. You know it’s bad in the back of your mind, but you keep going back for more. I’m going to move on before this metaphor gets any weirder…

Roleplaying has been… interesting (why the hell did I leave roleplaying until after the kinky sex metaphor…) in that we’re starting a new Star Wars campaign that I’m still a bit unsure about. It feels like whilst PvP is discouraged, betraying the others is wholly encouraged and I’m not sure how much I like that. As a result, I think the Pathfinder game that I am in has retaken the top spot in terms of which campaign I am enjoying the most at the moment. It’s just… fun. I don’t have to worry about the other players screwing the party over. I mean, there is some level of deception, but it’s not party-breaking. For example, the vampire hunter keeps lots of secrets from the party and I do creative “accounting” that leads to me being paid more than the others, but it’s not like we’re going to turn on each other… I hope. We’re still a cohesive group, with the only potential conflict being that the vampire hunter is slipping into the lawful evil alignment and the lawful good paladin wouldn’t be too keen on that. Stars Without Number is going okay, but I just don’t trust the judgement of my murder-hobo associates. Playing a character with morals in our game is just a bad idea, but I still keep doing it!

It’s also 00:20 on Tuesday. I need to go to sleep now.

Good night.

And finally, one month later…

I get my ass into gear and write another of these. Apologies for my disappearing act (sort of), the world decided that it was an opportune time to crumble around me (sort of). Got way too close for comfort to failing my teacher training, which would be a wonderful way to render my entire year as defunct. Nevertheless, things have settled and I am writing once again; and what a better time to do so than the week including International Women’s Day!

So, what’s new? Well, I think the largest thing is that I am seriously considering (translation: I am going ahead with it and hoping it works out) is a Masters in journalism. It’s what I actually want to do with my life, so why wait any longer? I’m finally in a position to follow what I actually want to do, so it’s time to put together the most kick-ass application I’ve ever done. It’s not a question of want by this point, I think it’s more a question of need. I’ve had 8 years now of doing the wrong thing, and then trying to repair the damage and gain some ground back. I finally feel like I am able to push forwards, and forwards I shall go!

In other news, I became a demon. No, not literally, but yes I am making a Metal Gear Solid reference. My Cyberpunk 2020 campaign has ended with a pretty intense finale that saw one PC die in a fiery explosion, one got tranquilised and forgotten about (the player wasn’t there and the GM wasn’t about to kill off a PC whilst the player was absent), one ran away, avoiding more close calls than I have fingers, and one… was me. Our party got caught by two corporations working together who wanted our VIP. Whilst everyone was arguing, I slipped away unnoticed (after critting an earlier disguise roll; I went from clean and corporate to Mad Max Fury Road). Two corporate teams showed up and attacked, so I hid in a dumpster and contacted my own corporate overlords and requested an extraction for myself and the VIP. Whilst everyone was fighting, my corporation sent in a clean up crew of 4 cyberninjas and extracted me. The cyberninjas cleaned up, as they were supposed to, grabbed the VIP and then we all flew away in the helicopter that they came in on. So yeah, I betrayed the party; I became the monster that I feared rather than breaking character. The guy who had all the near misses got out okay, as the journalist who wanted the story and helped us get across country was killed in the firefight, leaving this guy’s character (a media who also wanted the story), to write it and become a big time journalist. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that my character “won” the game, as she was deployed to a top secret facility in Switzerland to train corporate spec ops, her family were moved to a corporate-owned resort, which was both luxurious and secure, and she joined the corporate hall of fame where only like… 14 people knew of her achievements. As a covert operative, she would have it no other way! Oh, there was also the 500k advance payment. We’re going to be playing a Star Wars game now on Sundays, but we’re Imperial and limited to only humans. I am distraught by the prospect of being human in a Star Wars setting; I want to be a Chiss! Or a Mirialan. Or a Miraluka. Or a Twi’lek. Not a boring ol’ human.

I also had my first totally improv RP moment. So, my character in the Pathfinder game I’m in is very good at lying. She’s an elven courtesan with a serpentine bloodline that gives her magic and she learned that a trade prince was in the city, staying in the keep as a guest to the regent. Naturally, she decided to lie her way into the palace to go see this trade prince. Why? I have no idea. I did it because I could. Do I need a reason? Not really. Plus the GM wasn’t prepared for it, so he was on 100% improv as well. I had no reason to be there, but I did manage to get on the trade prince’s good side. Win-win.

On the topic of winning, I’m considering dusting off my Eldar collection and getting down to the local wargaming club. I don’t know why, but I’ve just had that urge recently; however, I am unsure whether I will as I don’t want to buy any more 40k models, but at the same time it’s hard to play Eldar as a “middle of the road” army. Either they are incredibly good, or they’re incredibly dead. I’ve been toying with the idea of an Imperium army with a central core of Militarum Tempestus and an Inquisitor. If they weren’t so ludicrously priced, I’d also put in some Sisters and have an old-school Witch Hunters style army, but those Sisters models are incredibly expensive! I think the main factor against me playing any more 40k is GW’s business model. Good job guys…

Another part of the past month (that’s why this is turning into a huge post. A lot can happen in a month…) saw me finally getting a Nintendo DS with Fire Emblem (Awakening. Fates isn’t out in Europe yet…), Monster Hunter 4 and Final Fantasy Explorers. Of the three games, I’d say Fire Emblem has been the most addictive; I love Fire Emblem so much. I’ve completed it on normal difficulty in newcomer mode, but I am now playing through it on hard difficulty in classic mode. Permadeath is scary, especially with critical hits flying about. I think I’ve managed to stave that off via level grinding the DLC, but those first few missions were far too tense; nothing hurts quite like losing a unit to a 3% chance crit…

Another gaming part of the last few weeks has been the release of The Division. Whilst I haven’t had too much time to play it as of yet, due to being incredibly busy with the whole not-failing-my-teacher-training business, but I do plan on playing a whole lot more and writing a more in-depth review of it. What can I say about it now though? Two hours in and I absolutely love it. It reminds me of the fun times I had in Defiance (which I have also been tempted to return to, but won’t with casual SWTOR starfighter and RP, The Division and TF2 taking up my gaming time. Being an adult sucks; I don’t have limitless time to spend gaming and writing about it!

I guess I should really finish this post before it gets too-… Where did these 1100 words come from?! Well, I’ll end it here by saying that I wrote another thing for my university’s paper. Go look at how I talk politics without actually stating my own beliefs.

This is my link. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Never talk about politics on the internet. That’s one of the more well-known rules of the internet!