I was recently described by Schmoop (bff/life-partner) as a sad optimist: someone who has the ability to gain perspective when you need it, and to lose it when you need it. I find this to be hilariously accurate. The talent to just kind of skip over the bullshit (when it suits me) and move on without really thinking about it is a skill I’ve acquired and refined over the years. Most call it denial. I call it not dwelling. It’s easier for things to feel okay when you pretend they are. This works some of the time. But, as I’ve discovered this week, there are exceptions.
Exhibit A: my 5th Grade class at my Wednesday school. I have three 11-year old girls who, until forced to interact by their homeroom teacher, I thought to be savant mutes. They refused to make any sort of eye-contact with me and instead proceeded to aggressively colour in in their text-books. Despite my wild gesticulation, desperate animal sounds and eventual singing, they barely enaged (except to tell their homeroom teacher they would rather be outside than in my classroom. It was raining at the time.) Ten minutes into the most frustrating class of my life, I scraped the prepared lesson plan and put on a Pixar short (because who doesn’t love a Pixar short, right?) Well, apparently these girls, who never even looked up to see the adorable green extra-terrestrial fail his spaceship driving test. Did I mention it was a double-lesson?
Then there was the time I ordered something at this restaurant down the street, because I was ravenous and my cupboards were so empty, Mother Hubbard would have taken pity on me. I thought I’d be daring and not go to the fried chicken place, but instead try the little Korean pub I’d been to once before (with a friend who could read the menu). So instead of ordering what I’d had before, I went for this chicken dish because the picture on the menu seemed to look like a nice, non-threatening chicken stirfry). I walked home with this steaming plate, my mouth watering, my belly rumbling, only to find the “chicken” was instead some scaly, starfish-shaped meat (that I’m pretty sure was not from the sea, or even this planet) which I tried so I could say I know what disappointment tastes like.
So, there was that and the numerous other language-barrier related incidents that have me too exhausted to rehash. It’s not really as torturous as I make it out to be. But for someone like me, someone who appreciates applause if I get dressed before 11am, I feel like I should get a 10-minute standing ovation at the end of each day, for making it out the other side. I want to walk to my apartment after work and have the streets lined with people smiling warmly and slow-clapping my achievement of surviving the day. Not unlike the end of Titanic when Dream-Rose is walking up the steps. “You did it!” they would say. “You’re amazing!” they would say. “You deserve those three choc-chip cookies you’re going to scoff down after your dinner of instant noodles,” they would say. And I would smile graciously at these common-folk who so clearly appreciated my great effort.
But there are no people smiling. And there is no applause. Because honestly, I’m not doing anything that thousands of English teachers before me haven’t done. This rite of passage is old and boring and I’m no different from the hundred other foreigners who arrived three weeks ago who are having the same kind of chaotic interactions in this chaotic country.
And so, I spend a lot of time staring out of windows. A lot of time. Which could be a great (read: accurate) analogy for my life, but I mean it literally. I take a 40 to 60 minute bus ride through the sublime county almost every day. I spend my mornings before school with a palm pressed up against the cool glass of my balcony door, observing the rural happenings below me (which, as you can imagine, is just riveting). It’s a lot of introspection, a lot of inside thinky thoughts. But I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
In some ways, there are more distractions, new people, new sights, everything colourful and smells different (yes, I am thinking of that guy who stood awfully close to me on the bus yesterday), so it’s easy to just lose yourself in the anonymity of it all. On the other hand, every night, I’m coming home to me and there’s no squawking family (I love you all) or emotionally distant feline (for now) to distract me and so I’m forced to hang out with me. And there’s all this Inception-y losing myself within myself. “Which is both terrifying and freeing,” said the sad optimist.
And now I leave you with this random gif of a puppy cutely assaulting a cat.