The Truth About Working From Home

COVID-19 has turned our very world upside down and I don’t believe my internet router can handle it much longer. Working from home is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I can be safe at home, but a curse because I miss out on social interactions.

My initial thoughts about working from home were positive. Sure, there is the constant technical setbacks, at least in my situation, but the good news is, I can make snacks whenever I please, enjoy the comfortability of an environment tailored to me, and have the option of rolling out of bed five until my shift begins if I choose. The first week was great. I was extremely productive with a good sense of enjoyment that my new come freedom paired with, but then week two began and I started to realize the negative aspects of this new arrangement.

There are long term effects of an extended stay at home order.

Now, now I understand that to battle this disease, we need to distance ourselves from each other so we have a chance at slowing the spread, but it comes at a cost to our mental wellness. It’s come at a cost to my mental well being. I NEED interactions with people. This is hilarious to admit because the ability to work from home has always been seen as a must for me. I’ve actually requested it from my direct supervisor in the past and now having tried it, I’m not a supporter.

I am an introvert, loner, wallflower, whatever you’d like to call it. I’m okay with the feeling of being alone. I opt to work individually on projects with my employment, but this entire event has changed that. I feel the loss of connecting to the outside world more than ever– if I even did before. It seems funny to admit, considering I naturally like to exclude myself from gatherings.

I miss the interaction with people, over the phone or through email is not the same. It doesn’t have the same feel as an in-person conversation. I thrive for helping others when problems are presented in front of me but subtracting the ability to work face-to-face has really been a challenge.

One thing that I’ve held close to my heart during this troubling time is this verse. Although the light at the end of the tunnel seems a long ways walk from here, I am taking this all day by day and not thinking about tomorrow.

Stay Home and Be Safe,

Alexander

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ”

Matthew 6:34

10 Fiction Books to Get You Through the Quarantine

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I cracked this story open with an Instagram reading group during January. As we chose in alphabetical order, naturally my name is Alexander, I was the first to pick and this was it. My first run-in with A Darker Shade of Magic was on the shelf of my local Barnes and Noble. The cover intrigued me and I loved that it was set in alternative Londons. At the time I didn’t buy it, but it was always placed on my “to be read list”.

I love the way this novel plays out. It kinda reminds me of a movie with scenes. Chapters are broken up into small sections and they flow like chapters you’d find in a movie’s table of contents with a name defining a group of moments. The overall characters are believable, Kell and Lila being my favorites. I enjoyed the sass and pain in the bottom that Lila was and Kell’s drive to do the right thing even when he knew it was wrong. There’s magic, multiple Londons, and a greedy set of royals who want it all.

 

2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Who doesn’t love a great murder mystery by a warm fireplace? Murder on the Orient Express was the first one that I’ve ever read, can you believe it? Now I’m addicted. I will shamefully confess that I watched the film adaptation before reading the actual book and while it was a better book than the film, it helped clarify the story for me, which was very hard for me to follow. There are so many characters, perspectives, and subtle details that are important for the reader to catch for the story to make sense. If you don’t read closely, then the pay off at the end is not as worth it.

 

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

If you want to take a literal journey back in time, then this is your book. I felt immensely deep in a world from the past. Written from the first-person view of Claire, Outlander explores the deep and dark history of Scotland while weaving an intense love story in the middle of it. I love this book because it presents real decisions that need to be made between living in the past and Claire’s life in the present. Another book with many subtle details, PAY ATTENTION, they really are worth finding.

 

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Does this book need any explanation? It’s brilliant on so many levels. The underlying themes and messages of friendship and love make it one of my favorites in the entire series.

Harry discovers so much about the past and what’s to come in the future. It’s in many ways a coming of age story. The first two books, Harry is much more in a child’s world, but the third book really shows Harry entering manhood with the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. It’s everything you’d expect from a Harry Potter book with its clever characters, sprinkled cookie crumbs, and story driving dialogue. Cannot recommend this book enough. I’ve read it like seventeen times and probably will read it seventeen more.

 

5. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Polished blue stone and a farm boy. What could go wrong? A lot! This is Paolini’s first published book in the Inheritance Cycle and although it shows throughout the writing, I as I writer enjoyed that. I enjoyed seeing how the writing progress unraveled throughout the story. In a way, it was a self-discovery tale for myself. The overall plot is really engaging and drives at a decent pace. The author builds languages, a deep world, and lots of back story to interest the reader kind of reminds me of Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth.

 

6. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

I’ve read this book a couple different times and listened to the Brendan Fraser audiobook and I have to say, each time is better. A silver dragon named Firedrake, a brownie named Sorrel, and a boy named Ben set off in an adventure to find the hidden Rim of Heaven where they will be safe from evil humans and an even more so evil beasts. Gosh, this book really ignites your imagination. I hope one day I can read it to my children!

 

7. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A fallen star, a lost boy, and two vastly different worlds separated by a stone wall. A fairytale story that will bring you back to when you read The Brothers Grimm as a child, Stardust is full of humor and true love. It’s definitely targeted as an adult fairytale and as a grown adult, I enjoy the less childish approach that a normal fairytale might have.

 

8. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

A story of beginnings, The Fellowship of the Ring has always been my favorite book of the series as well as favorite installment of the Peter Jackson films. I enjoy this number because it has the start of what is to be an epic journey. Not only do we meet all of our important characters and watch them traveled to Mordon to destroy the ring, but we see them face adversity and watch their plotlines weave away and travel in different directions. I recommend it to anyone! Tolkien’s work can never be praised enough.

 

9. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

To be frank, the first time I read this book was a few months ago. I’ve read the most popular entry in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and never bothered venturing into any of the other books. After I received quite a bit of praise from other readers and a couple quotable moments throughout the book from my church, I decided to give it a read. My overall thoughts about the book were great. The story really mirrors the creation story in the bible and having diving deeper in my faith, I’ve noticed all the subtle easter eggs that Lewis incorporated in the fundamentals of Narnia and their stories. There’s a real sense of discovery as you find all those moments that make you smile. This book by far is my favorite in the series. Polly and Diggory’s characters were relatable as children and the Witch really remained me of the snake in the book Genesis.

 

10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A classic novel that really makes you think as you read. The Great Gatsby isn’t a particularly long story but I think that it packs a punch with the words it has. This book is a very old world. Times have changed, so it was nice to step back into New York during the early part of the 1900s. The lingo, the characters, and the story greatly reflect a time that has long since been forgotten about.

 

Happy reading and be safe out there!

Why Do I Love Harry Potter?

The world of Harry Potter has contributed a great deal of happiness to many people. It has created a community that welcomes anyone. With the creation of Fantastic Beasts, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Harry Potter is the idea that we can all carry our imagination firmly into adulthood. That the thoughts we had as children are never too childish to abandon, and I think that’s powerful. Powerful because our world lacks the amount of imagination and creativity that it needs. I say with certainty, that when people explore a love for Harry Potter it ultimately makes the world a better place.

Now the character of Harry was one that I had very little in common with. I lacked the physical appearance (although I greatly resembled that of Draco Malfoy), had both of my parents living, and did not live in Little Whinging, a fictitious town in Surrey just south of London. We did however share the uncertainty of a new world and aching for it’s true purpose. Harry encounters many situations that each one of us do in life: the death of family, being different from the status quo, and living up to people’s expectations. That’s something I adore about the character, he is just as human as we are. He isn’t rich, doesn’t have super powers, isn’t the most popular person in school, and doesn’t always get things right the first time. All of these I can admit to sharing.

During my childhood I had a strong imagination, and I used that imagination to establish worlds that I found in my favorite children’s books. Lucky enough for me, I was raised on a farm that had lots of land to play. This land gave me the space to do whatever I wanted. It was during this period of time when Harry Potter entered my life. I quickly learned to love the books. Even going a step further to reenact scenes from the story in my backyard. I was convinced that these stories were written for me. I remember having friends over and dressing up as our favorite characters, mine was always Harry. I had his house robes, his replica wand, and even a can of black hair paint so that I could look like him. Those were the best of times. Thankfully, my parents were very supportive in this period of time.

The films first entered my life at the age of five. My sister and cousin were headed off to the premier of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and although I was absent from the screening, my sister gave a detailed review. At that moment I hadn’t realized how much of an impact it would ultimately have in my life. Sorcerer’s Stone would be the only movie from that point forward that I missed. I went to the premiere of all the following movies (often seeing it multiple times). Stretching ten spectacular years, I grew up with the films. I matured with the films and entered adulthood when the series concluded just as the actors had. It was sad to see the final film, as I knew something truly special had ended, but I was grateful that I could have been a part of the phenomenon from the very start.

Something I value greatly about this franchise, are the themes that J.K. Rowling incorporated. Friendship, love, and sacrifice to name a few. The friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione taught me that friendship is the strongest bond that any person can make with another. Friendship was something to trust, and something to value close to your heart. The theme of love in the story was done in a way where sacrifice became necessary. It was after all Lily’s love for Harry that saved him from He Who Must Not Be Named. It was love that made the story of Harry Potter possible. Love is an element that all humans look to find. Love is something worth sacrificing over. I did not understand just how important love was to the world around us until Harry Potter taught that to me.

The question I’ve received the most times from other fans has always been what my favorite book in the series is and without a doubt it’s book three. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hit me at a rough patch in my life. I was the age of nine, and started to become more aware of the world around me. My innocent idea of the world was slowly being muddied away. I started to experience fear for the first time and realized that eventually I’d have to grow up and face those fears. Just like Harry does in the story. Another part about book three that ranks it number one is the message about depression. Rowling has expressed that the idea of the dementors came from her constant depression and although I didn’t understand the concept at that age, I could feel the darkness enter my life. Depression is something everyone struggles with at some period of their life, and the story shows us that it isn’t something to lose hope over. It is something to fight and push forward against. Albus Dumbledore said in the screen adaptation, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Although book three is quite darker than some of the other books, I believe it to be the best. 

When I entered adulthood I, without knowing, was slowly abandoning my imagination. I forgot about Harry Potter, the childhood that I created, and the person I truly was. It was not until years later when I reread the first book that I realized I was missing something important in my life. It was at this point that I reread the series, rewatched the movies, and entered the community once more. It was also at this moment where I would finally determine who I wanted to be for the rest of my life; A writer. From that point on I’ve welcomed back my true self, and wiped away the person that society wanted me to be. Each day writing gives me a nostalgic feeling from my painted black hair and robe wearing days. I can smile knowing that Harry Potter was at the nucleus of it all. 

In closing, Harry Potter is just as brilliant as the mind behind it and her mind is brilliant. I think it’s one of the reason I can connect to it so much. J.K. was at a point in her life when she made a decision, took a risk, and showed the world her dreams. I think that if anyone is to take anything from this it would be this statement. J.K. Rowling will leave this world better than when she entered it. Don’t we all want to leave the world better than it was before us? Whether it’s with literature, music, or perhaps just some honest kindness. The world has truly benefited from Harry Potter, I know that I have and I am truly thankful for her story telling.