reflection on mistakes and regrets

For a lazy person, I did a lot of work this semester. (The word “lazy” is a little imprecise; let’s say I’m an enthusiastic about chilling.) Teaching two classes I had never taught before, plus starting my Master’s degree, took an unsurprisingly large amount of time. I spent my time working on a topic I am passionate about, which helped the medicine go down with a spoonful of sugar.

Yesterday I reflected on how discouraged I was when I wasn’t accepted into the University of Minnesota Master’s program. It’s a great program, but the program I am in now is excellent as well. And relating my coursework to what I am actually doing in my job reinforces learning and makes it easier to do the work. I don’t know how I would have completed the U of M program with no teaching experience. I would have done it, but it would have been difficult.

He's FINE, guys.
He’s FINE, guys.

Some people live their lives saying they have no regrets. Others even say that there are no mistakes, just choices. Not me. I regret things. I make plenty of mistakes. Big ones, too. More than most, I bet. It’s OK. It’s OK to say that I wish I’d done certain things differently. It’s OK to say that I should have made other choices. Even though I’m simultaneously saying that my life is pretty good now and seems to be on track to be pretty good for the next 40 years or so. Another path would have probably been good, too.

My senior students are having a hard time with this, as many of us did in our early 20s. They want the best job possible. Of course they do. But I tell them, “If you don’t like your job, get another one.” Yes, it’s easier said than done, and quitting jobs all over town is not good, but the freedom to fail is liberating.

Free to fall, free to fly.

I feel really proud of what I did this semester. I am stating all of this very explicitly because there will come a day, perhaps soon, when I forget it all. Some sort of misstep will occur and it will insurmountable. I’ll worry that I messed it all up permanently. Trust, I am not saying this because I have it all figured out. I have it like 10% figured out. But living in a country where I don’t speak the language has taught me that you don’t have to know a lot of shit to do a lot of shit.

Tl;dr: I’m good, how are you?


a quick one while I’m away

I’m working on a longer post about my doings and goings-on lately. I went to the US, came back to China, and traveled in Beijing and Qingdao. But in the meantime, I read something yesterday that I thought was intriguing.

To say Larus has an eclectic background is like saying Roger Federer dabbles in tennis. In his forty-odd years, Larus has earned a living not only as a chess player but also as a journalist, a construction-company executive, a theologian, and, now, a music producer. “I know,” he says, sensing my disbelief. “But that kind of résumé is completely normal in Iceland.” Having multiple identities (though not multiple personalities) is, he believes, conducive to happiness. This runs counter to the prevailing belief in the United States and other western nations, where specialization is considered the highest good. Academics, doctors, and other professionals spend lifetimes learning more and more about less and less. In Iceland, people learn more and more about more and more.

from The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

The relevance to me, someone who has had more careers than many people have had jobs, should be clear. I’ve been a little apologetic about the fact that I’ve bounced around a bit in my career life, not to mention my life life. But maybe my experience is not the problem. Maybe my perspective needs shifting. Maybe YOUR perspective needs shifting. Ever think of that?

Yeah, I could hang here.
Yeah, I could hang.

Who we are is so affected by where we are. It’s hard to get out of that perspective. Living in China has been useful for seeing the world as other people see it, or at least beginning to.

I had a conversation with my friend Mike while we were traveling in Beijing. We were discussing his future. He wants to study in the US, but it might be prohibitively expensive. I told him that, even if he can’t spend two years in an international master’s program, he can and will manage to get to the US. I said, “I don’t worry about you. I worry about me.” He said, “Why would you worry about you?” I don’t know. Habit? My point is (and if I have to use those words maybe I’m not making it very well), seeing yourself, seeing your problems, and seeing your culture from the outside is useful. And damn difficult.

I’m about to start a new job with two new, more challenging courses to teach. I am also starting my master’s degree coursework. I’m feeling strangely at peace about it. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be OK. Right? Yes, dammit.

southern prosperity

First, the big news: In September I’m going to teach at Nanchang University. Nanchang is located in southeastern China. It’s about 5 hours by high-speed rail from Shanghai and close to other cool places as well (Hangzhou, Taiwan, Xiamen), and has a lot of lovely sites in its own right. It’s smaller than Chongqing (most places are). I am told that the weather is not as humid and the food is not as spicy. Nanchang means “southern prosperity.” Here’s hoping, right?


A recent Nanchang weather report. Better come correct with rain boots.
A recent Nanchang weather report. Better come correct with rain boots.

I had to think long and hard about whether or not to stay in China. It’s not always easy living here. I had a really rough time this spring for about 4-6 weeks. And it was in that hard time when I realized that I have a lot of support here. I’m not Miss Popularity. I don’t have loads of friends. But the ones I have are surprising me with their love and support. I wish I could have learned this the easy way, but noooo….

I mentioned in my last post that I have been accepted to my Master’s program. Due to a lot of factors, I decided to postpone the start of my studies until this fall. I’m anxious about how I’m going to do the work and do my job. I’m not always the best student, and working online is new and requires a lot of discipline. But you know, I’ve done hard things before.

Also, I submitted my application to work at two universities, Nanchang and another. Yesterday I got an email from my first choice asking if I am available. Well…no, I already accepted this one, signed the contract and everything. But next year? Maybe? I am learning to embrace uncertainty, which is a big change for me.

I got a job in China

This is where I will be living.
This is where I will be living and working. WEIRD.

Finally, after much (unnecessary, maybe) internal drama, I got a job teaching English. I’ll be an instructor at Chongqing University. I don’t know when I’ll be leaving, but the school term starts September 1, so late August sometime.

Allow me to anticipate some of your questions:

“But I thought you were going to Korea?” “But you said something about Taiwan?” You weren’t wrong. It was hard to keep everyone in the loop all of the time, so I’m sorry if you got left out. And frankly, I tried to keep my cards close to my chest so I wouldn’t have to update everyone all the time, as it can be a little emotionally draining to constantly engage with my anxieties. But yeah, it’s China. It’s confirmed. It’s happening.

“Do you remember any of that Chinese you took in college?” A little. It’s coming back. I’ll have more time to focus once I’ve moved out of my place (which I should be preparing to do instead of writing this, but social media generation, urge to share, etc).

“What’s it like in Chongqing?” Hot as balls, apparently. I’ll miss snow! But I won’t have to bring a winter coat or boots, so more room in my bag. It’s the fourth largest city in China, so there should be a good-sized expat community. Spicy food. I don’t know. I’m learning.

“Bitch, aren’t you almost 40? What are you doing?” Whatever I feel like doing, gosh. Here is something I read the other day: “Your Comfort Zone is designed to keep your life safe. Instead, it keeps your life small.”

“Can I Skype you while you’re gone?” God, yes, I’ll need that. sarahsnider612, because my heart is still in Minneapolis.

Details to follow.

I have no idea what’s going on

We're going to need a lot of kittens.
Please enjoy this kitten (includes bonus kitten).

It’s July 17. I certainly thought I’d know where I was going by now. But I don’t have a job yet. It’s really starting to wear me down.

I got really upset with my placement agency in early July. (I’m going to name them eventually so that other people can use the information, since there’s a lack of good reviews and information out there. Right now, I don’t think it would be wise to do so.) Mainly, the recruiter in Korea wasn’t answering my questions. So I asked to be moved to their China program. China is so eager for teachers, I’ll be much easier to place, right?

Well. I have yet to hear anything. It’s really getting me down, I have to say. I’m going to be 40 a month from today. What do I have to show for it? I’m leaving my job and my home, giving up my sweet kitty, and for what? I thought it was a sure thing, but it feels like a gamble. And like every other gamble in my life, I seem to be betting wrong.

I’m looking for other jobs without the agency. It’s quite apparent that I put too much faith in them. I haven’t gotten any results yet. It sounds like things tend to be very last-minute in Asia generally, but if you factor in the time needed to get a visa, time is getting short.

I’m really trying to stay positive about this and keep going. I still have hope and a lot of skills to offer. But it’s getting really difficult. I hope I can look back at this and say, wow, that was all for nothing. Who knows, though?

Opting in, out, and otherwise

I don't know. Punch a shark?
I don’t know. Punch a shark?

A group of friends and I had an online discussion last week about work-life balance. The impetus was some comments by a friend of a friend that rubbed my friend the wrong way. In a nutshell, the offending guy’s comments implied that work-life balance is not so hard, and if you don’t have, you’re doing life wrong. This guy, and other guys like him, have wives who do not work outside the home and manage the household duties and childcare. Is it POSSIBLE that that’s why they find achieving balance to be so much easier than the rest of us? (Spoiler alert: yes.)

Some of our thoughts included:

  1. Household duties are often invisible and thankless
  2. Having someone to manage these duties is a privilege that this ding-dong is obviously taking for granted
  3. For whatever, reason, men don’t worry about whether or not they’re prioritizing incorrectly to the extent that women do
  4. It’s hard, especially for parents

I found the discussion interesting in a mostly anthropologic way, since I’ve opted out of a lot of the choices my friends have made. No kids, no house, no really nice furniture, no partner, no advanced schooling, no career ladder. I’m practically Roger Miller in the song King of the Road compared to most of my friends, who are admittedly a talented group of intelligent women.  I don’t feel the pressure of being measured against my peers because I’m using a whole different yardstick.

Is this a great option for most women? No, it’s terrible for most women. I am missing out on a lot. But I don’t miss the things I’m missing out on, so that’s cool. And I’m sure they didn’t want to go to Korea or run a business (however half-assedly) as much as I did, anyway.

I remember another conversation shortly after my divorce. I asked my friend, “When am I ever going to be good enough?” And she replied, “Uh…you’re good enough right now.” And I was like, but I’m SO not! But I was, and I am, and I don’t feel that way anymore most of the time. Even though I’ve had way more failures in the years since that conversation.

It’s been a real project to learn who I am, what’s important to me and what isn’t, and to let go of what I don’t, and to realize that I can’t have everything and don’t want it anyway. I’m sure it will continue to change throughout my life. Some people learn this a lot younger than I do, but I don’t know, I’m slow or something. If reincarnation is real and we’re gifted with the wisdom of our past lives, then I’m a new soul fresh out of the package. Hey, it’s cool, you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

So, what is my point?

  • I want to know what I’m choosing.
  • I want to be aware that my choices are the best choices for me. If someone else chooses something else, they can make that decision for themselves, too.
  • I want to be aware of any privilege that make my choices possible, as well as any obstacles that will make them more difficult.
  • If people don’t like any choice I make that doesn’t harm anyone else, I’m going to give their opinion the respect it deserves. If it’s a trusted friend or family member, I may take their advice or not. Anyone else…pffft.

Ex-pat bound?

Search result for "sardonic as all hell."
Search result for “sardonic as all hell.”

I’ve had a lot of time to think this weekend. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I might have to leave my beloved Minneapolis soon. The fact that this winter has been a wide-awake nightmare probably helps.

I’ve been eyeing everything I own and mentally tagging it “bring,” “discard,” “donate,” “sell,” etc. I even brought a cardboard box home from work yesterday to pack up books. I know it’s silly, as any move will be several months in the future, but if I can take whatever baby steps I can, I’ll feel better. And for a reader, I’m really not that attached to books. I’m sure I could get a whole $5 for the contents of my shelves.

In my world, you don’t have to dig too deeply to find someone who has taught English abroad. I have two friends and a few friends-of-friends who I’m asking for advice. So far, advice has been conflicting, so I don’t even know. I’ve started the TESOL course, and it seems OK so far. Not too tough or time-consuming, but not a joke, either.

I’m also looking for ex-pat blogs. I’ve found a few. More recommendations would be helpful. Especially if they are a) teachers b) women c) American d) funny.

I may also change the name of this blog. I know I’m sardonic as all hell, but I feel like it’s a little bit edgy toward myself. And maybe that’s not what I need right now.

Failure is good for the soul

I feel ya, cat.
I feel ya, cat.

I was not accepted to University of Minnesota. I don’t know why. Maybe because my application was late. Maybe because Wonder Woman and her 50 cousins applied this year. It hardly matters at this point. What matters is deciding what’s next.

On January 1, Groupon had a great deal on the 150-hour TOEFL course. I bought it as a back-up plan. I’m planning to sign up soon so I can get started. I know a few people who have taught English abroad, so I’m going to pick their brains.

I will probably beat cheeks out of the USA in August or thereabouts. My lease at the Healing Garage ends July 31. And since many schools outside the US start in January, I think I’d have trouble finding work if I started looking in late October-December. It seems like, based on my limited research, many places have a high turnover rate for ESL teachers, so mid-year would not be a terrible time to job-hunt.

Good things about not getting in:

  1. I don’t have to retake the Spanish test I failed back in October (glad I put off retaking it!).
  2. I don’t have to do the work for my Master’s (at least, not this year).
  3. I can live abroad and maybe (ideally, necessarily) learn another language.
  4. Maybe I can get some interesting stories out of it and write a Fringe show or a memoir or a novel, or at least tell some cute cocktail party stories.
  5. Technology means I’ll be able to keep in touch with people, download Kindle books, etc. It’s not like I’m planning to go off the grid.

Bad things about not getting in:

  1. If I go abroad, I will miss my cat. I’ve known her her whole life, and she’s a bit clingy.
  2. I don’t know how to get prescription meds in other countries. Or prescription glasses. Or health care.
  3. Who will cut my hair? Will I be able to find henna? Shut up, it’s a serious concern. If you could see some of the awful haircuts I’ve had in my life….
  4. I’m open to working in Asia, but people there tend to be of a very different physical type than me. What if I can’t find underpants to cover my fat American ass?
  5. I don’t know what to do with all my shit. I am mentally making lists of what I can sell, what I can give away, what I can keep, what I can bring. And if I keep stuff, I don’t know where I’ll store it.

This weekend is set aside for processing this news. Stew now, be proactive starting Monday.

I am tired

Also, tired of being admired.
Also, tired of being admired.

…of wondering if every male potential client who calls me is a potential creepy dude. Maybe I should have thought things through before I started massage school, but I really didn’t realize I would be accused of/mistaken for/butt of jokes about being a prostitute.

I had a creepy guy come in last May. And let me tell you something: I don’t use the word “creepy” lightly. (I normally dislike the word, since it’s imprecise and, I think, often used to marginalize harmlessly odd people.) This guy was just…strange. And he wanted a lot of groin area work. He stormed out before the session started. Why? He REALLY objected to using a face cradle when face-down, and I was just getting the vibe that he wanted to boss the situation. I’ll work with people, but you have to acknowledge that I have a skill set and respect that.

I think I’ve always been cautious about this sort of thing, but I feel like I have way less tolerance now, or less willingness to give the benefit of the doubt. Meeting new people isn’t my strong suit anyway, and having to on guard against that sort of thing is an added stress I don’t want to deal with.

Sorry to be so whiny. I’ll post about volunteering soon. It’s going great.

Hold the phone

"By now you're probably familiar with the IntoxBox." Are you saying I have a problem? Maybe YOU'RE the one with the problem!
“By now you’re probably familiar with the IntoxBox.” Are you saying I have a problem? Maybe YOU’RE the one with the problem!

Let me take back every complaint I have about the massage therapy industry. Because now I can promote my business to Uptown drunkies and watch the profits roll in!

This guy is just doing his job. I realize that. But my target audience can’t go to Cowboy Jack’s because they would have to pay a babysitter and they’d rather spend that money on self-care. Not to mention that my work phone is my cell phone, and I don’t need 2 a.m. prank calls about HJs.

P.S.: Why does a breathalyzer need a 19-inch HD monitor? Is the entire bar placing bets on my BAC?