On the current state (after Anna)

So in the past few days, I:

(1) tweeted this

and (2) made this comment

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on a blogpost called “On the current state” by Anna Loseva which includes this statement:

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Cognitive dissonance? Absolutely. Plenty of that in my current state.

And plenty of potential things to write about on this blog that I haven’t posted to since…let’s see…June 26th’s #ELTchat summary. Yes, it’s been a while. Like Michael Griffin recently did, I could list many reasons why. But I’d rather just typity-type here at 5am (I went to bed early!) and see what tumbles out. Just “get down the bones” as Natalie Goldberg puts it.

Regarding my current state, I could have written this line of Anna’s myself: “My own diagnosis is as follows: a time-out at the crossroads. Re-evaluating the purpose and meaning, locating professional self, contemplating directions.

What converges at my “crossroads”?

I recently found out my current job working on CELTAs here in Seattle, WA will disappear. Poof! Thankfully we were given fair warning and have until October 1st to wrap things up and build our bridges to what’s next. I can’t complain about the circumstances and the support given, but it’s been destabilizing. There’s no away around that. A lot of anxiety comes with the sudden need to shift into a new state built around much more future-oriented thinking and decision making. I can feel it in my chest right now.

I’ve done some looking around locally for work in teaching and/or training, but my wife and I have decided that it’s time to move back to Thailand. This whole unplanned and destabilizing episode we’re looking at as a…catalyst. The ellipsis there indicates had to google the spelling of that; it’s one of those words for me!

I also ended up (“hyperlink heroin” style) on the wikipedia page for ‘ellipsis’ and was reminded of another emotional reaction my job going poof! incited in me by the bit in bolded italics here: from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψιςélleipsis, “omission” or “falling short“. 

No matter how clearly/intellectually I understood that it had nothing to do with my performance, there’s a voice in my head saying “ya fell short, buddy”. That’s not very nice, is it…but thems the evil ellipses of my inner monologue! 😛

It didn’t help to have proposals I was sincerely excited about rejected by TESOL right in there.

Anyway: a catalyst. One connecting back to what happened 6 years ago.

In 2011 we moved from Bangkok (back, in my case) to Boston because 1) I decided to do an on-campus MA TESOL and 2) my wife wanted to live and work in the US for at least a spell; we wanted to balance out our planetary partnership, you know.

Those two things have happened. And more. We’ve had a great time. Professionally it’s been great for me. The MA was enlightening. I’ve taught so many great students in some wonderful places (remanufactured calipers factory, anyone?), worked with amazing people to present at TESOL and other conferences, and become *GASP!* a teacher-trainer. My wife has had good, if sometimes challenging, professional successes here as well. Personally, we’ve also grown. Our marriage is strong. We’ve dug East Coast and West Coast cultures. We’ve had some great family time with my relatives here and there. We’ve done some satisfying traveling and had some uniquely American adventures. It’s been awesome experiencing my home country afresh through her discovery.

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Now, even though I feel – if I’m honest – somewhat disconnected to much of what and who I was in 2010, I feel it’s now time to head back (but not backwards) past the trailmarker I set for myself then.

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But it’s not all about me and my path. What I didn’t include above is another aspect of family: our attempts to start one. Talk about destabilizing! Here’s some rather personal ‘real talk’ you don’t read on the ELT blogs very often: from the time I became sexually active at age 16 to recently, I did my damnedest to avoid having kids. And then finally the time comes to let nature take its course and…it’s a whole thing?! Really?!

Where am I going with this. Not much further I suppose…but if I want to piece together the puzzle of what my current state is like and feels like, that is certainly there. Here. Right here in the middle of the feeling in my chest. It plays its role in our “forced” decision-making process too, because I’m not rich and procedures that assist in starting a family can be much more affordable outside of the US. And it plays its role in my anxiety these days, the feeling that you might never have certain joys you seek.

Speaking of money: we live pretty much paycheck-to-paycheck. Boston was expensive. Seattle is expensive. Places like Bowling Green, OH aren’t, but I just don’t want to live there. My wife doesn’t either.

That trailmarker I set? The 2nd home I have back in Thailand? That may be a place where my skills and interests meet opportunities that mean I can save something, and so make something. Not just do, make. I want to open a school someday. I want there to be a learning center for both students and teachers that functions in a way that I’ve envisioned. Maybe that center is down a trail back the way I came.

Pause….breathe…or try to, through the anxiety in the chest….

Jumping back to Michael’s recent blogpost, his reason #11 for not blogging much:

My home country is, ahem, destabilized. It’s sometimes hard to prioritize blogging. I find it difficult to, say, dive into the intricacies of ICQs when my home country’s political situation is so chaotic. It’s sometimes hard to muster the outrage of a good rant when the news provides an excess of outrage.

Exactly what he said, and more. I’d be lying if I said the political situation here in the US doesn’t also have some role to play in how this catalyst-sparked process is playing out. But am I running away from patriotic duty? Should I double down, should I up my activist game? I’m conflicted. Mostly I’m just disturbed, and – echoing, echoing – destabilized.

Jumping again, back to my own current state vis a vis the online PLN, etc. These things are true:

  1. During the time I’ve been creating this post I signed up for an upcoming webinar. I’d say I still have some interest in these, but whereas I used to truly prioritize them in my schedule (even when it was like 4am my time), I now end up actually attending if and when it fits in a reasonable way.
  2. I’ve checked Twitter and Facebook open in adjacent tabs a few times each. Also open in other tabs: https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feelhttp://davidbyrne.com/journal/eliminating-the-humanhttp://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html. And I’m reading 3 books at the moment and one of them is Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. A pattern, no? There’s obviously something that needs to shift.
  3. I got a handful of encouraging, informative, and generous DMs saying “come work in X!” when I tweeted out my status on Twitter recently. It confirmed that everything I want to say about Twitter in that imagined talk is still true.
  4. I had a Skype job interview tonight, for a great CELTA-related position that essentially SCREAMS “MaThew I am ze job for yUUU!” (that’s how a job screams in English) and ten minutes before it was to start my neighborhood’s (it turns out) whole internet connection died. So I ran, not walked, to a cafe and made it 10 minutes into the damn thing before needed to abort because the connection was just not good enough. And a million other things went wrong. But the main thing that really got to me: my connection when down. When you’re hyper-connected, it HURTS. Also, there are no straight lines to what seems to be in your future.
  5. I nearly yelled at my wife who was just trying to help; it was a visceral reaction that put into sharp relief the kind of psychological bind that the articles and books above describe. 😦

And now the sun is coming up. I am going to go jogging. Then I am going to meditate. Because when this much cognitive and emotional dissonance arises…less internet, more innernet. I even bought a new mediation cushion set. But this was a few months ago. I’m not yet into double-digit usage yet. Mostly I’ve been using the TV screen behind it to not meditate so much as watch 5 seasons of Homeland. Hmm, would that disqualify me for a job like this one?

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Okay, now back to my current state and PFPBCs (potential future plans because catalyst).

On the way back to the Land of Smiles (Thailand) I’m hoping to spend 2.5 months in Korea working on a section of a teacher-training program there. This is not settled yet, but in the works. That would be my fall into the 2018 new year. What makes me very happy about this prospect is…well it’s a bunch of things, not least among them: re-uniting with some of the very same folks who I had as trainers in the past. I mean…what? Wow. Also, the chance to maybe meet some PLN folks I’ve been interacting with online for what feels like a long and fruitful time.

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My wife has already put in several hours of internet research and knows about to say the 7 most practical Korean sentences, the difference between regular and deluxe taxi services, and the best way to book a ferry ticket to whatever island you do that for. Plus 60 other things people should know before they leave for a place. What would I do without her?

Meanwhile, the news. Involving the Korean peninsula and the rumblings of WWIII. Great. Breathe….

Jumping again – back to the vital zen koan of the moment: is ALL THIS connectedness real connection? Are my 12 open tabs each a link in a heavy samsaric iron chain I’m wrapping around myself? What am I doing and what do I really want to be doing? Anna says these kinds of questions start to emerge when she’s “lost in vacation, knee-deep in idleness”. And it’s happening to me, too, in this neither-here-nor-there state where I’m going into work but not prepping for a next course, not sure where/when/what I’ll be this fall of my 39th year on the planet, looking around me at everything, including the mediation cushions waiting for my butt, thinking: how much will I get for that on craigslist?

Truth be told, my best and most healthful ‘meditation practice’ of any sort recently has been cooking. I signed up for Blue Apron and for the first time in my life have been cooking for two 3x week every week for the last few months. Everything from calzones to bao to exotic curries. My current state is overweight but because I’m cooking so much, they’re more soulful pounds. Sure, Blue Apron may be one of those things that’s “eliminating the human” to some degree. But I can justify it. And I certainly won’t bring it to Asia with me, where things are still organized around the daily collection of fresh food  for preparation to a greater degree. And now I know what to do with it back in my kitchen much better. What’s really amazing is this, though: if this cooking thing sticks, it will be the first new hobby I’ve picked up since entering ELT, I think. That’s big! Like me.

And…and…I think that’s it. I don’t have any clever wrap-up to bring it all together – like I said, cognitive dissonance. Also, clearly I’m getting hungry.

But not just for food. I hope that this painful catalyst of change brings about a healthy shake-up for both mind and body. I hope that some of my current muddles can be transformed, manure-like, into fertile soil for learning, doing, and maybe even eventually making.

There’s the “deep work”.

In the process of writing all that, I dug up some humor and some perspective that feels good. I needed it. My chest is a little more open, and I’m ready for that jog. If you made it all the way down to the end here, congrats and thanks. I bow to you in my apron – the blue one.

PS – after writing this I thought back to something in my interview with Cecilia Nobre where we talked about the “pain” of learning and growing. That morning, I talked about realizing there was “no way around” the fear and discomfort of the learnings I was after and the necessity of risk taking. I’m so glad I can listen back and try to skim some wisdom for me now from me then (talking about me even thenner). We also learn so much from ourselves and our own experience though. If you have any advice or thoughts, please do share.

8 thoughts on “On the current state (after Anna)

  1. One of the best things about this outpouring of words from people this week? Knowing that we’re not alone and that life isn’t perfect for all of us. There are tensions there, and things we can’t control. And that’s what this community is for.
    When I arrived in Sevastopol, I thought I’d be there for at least 5 years, and probably 10. A few months later, that all changed, and I ended up only being there for a year. The CELTA training I learnt to do at the end of my time there set me off on a whole new adventure, and the IH DoS conference I attended half-way through the following year, while I was still nominally the DoS at IH Sevastopol, but knew I wouldn’t be able to go back permanently, led to the job I have now, and the fact that I’m now sitting in a flat I have a mortgage for (adulting!)
    You never know where life is going to take you, and sometimes you just have to wait and see. I hope that you make it to where you need to be, both mentally and physically.
    Good luck!
    Sandy

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations on the life developments! Best of luck with the trepidations and very much love. One door closes, another one opens. Never has it felt so true. What a lovely post. Optimism rules!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, Matthew…I would say that I’m sorry that you’re going through all this, but I know that somehow your life experience will be richer at the end of it all. You are a wonderful teacher and trainer and anyone would be lucky to have you. We were lucky to have you for the short time we did. I wish you and Apple the best for your return to Asia and I sincerely hope our paths will cross again – somewhere – sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

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