- Resigned to fate -

4th May '18

"It's shaping up to be a busy term and most of you have at least one long day. I hope we all can pull together and get this term off to a great start."

This, the text in the email that marked the arrival of our weekday schedule. I hope that we can pull together and get this term off to a great start.

You do realise that two months ago you threatened everyone with being fired, and that these "long days" were an anomaly under previous managers, given-out under only desperate circumstances to consenting teachers. Now just handed out like candy because you can't be bothered to look at some preference forms anymore. But sure, let's all pull together and get this term off to a great start.

My initial feeling from my schedule was kind of how I felt last term.

It's shit... but others have it worse.

I only had three weekday classes, but for reasons known only to this manager, one was a Monday/Wednesday morning class, and another a Monday/Wednesday late afternoon class.

So what am I supposed to do with the almost four hours in between?

There were other teachers with an early afternoon class, and an evening class on Monday/Wednesday, who also had long breaks in between. And I've since asked them... did you ask for that break? Was there a reason that you couldn't teach my late afternoon class, and I couldn't teach your early afternoon class, meaning that neither of us have to have these almost four-hour breaks?

There was no reason. My manager just decided to hand-out split shifts, these "long days" as he put it, for no reason.

So for an extra two-and-a-half hours pay, I was going to have to hang-around at work until 6:40pm, instead of finishing at 12:30pm.

That's worth my while.

By this point I gave the logic of my manager the same credibility as a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a dartboard. In fact that probably would have made a better schedule for most people. And like I said, I wasn't exactly happy, but then I looked at other people's schedules and was... well I guess it could be worse.

Come the first day of work, I hadn't left my apartment in more than three days, and I wasn't entirely sure that I could, such was the severity of my sprained ankle.

But I got up anyway, thirty minutes earlier than I otherwise would have done, because I was moving at a much slower pace than normal now, and I needed some time to wrap my foot. Which I did immediately after getting out of the shower.

I wrapped my foot in two bandages, then put on my thickest socks; a rarity to ever wear in Bangkok's heat, and then I put on my tightest shoes.

My hope was simply that I could wrap-up my ankle so tightly that I could keep it all held together well enough to stay upright enough to teach. Although the moment I left my apartment and was walking down the hallway of my building, my ankle already felt weak and I was all... "shit, this is a bad idea."

I persevered though. And you know when you see someone walking along who's had a spinal injury, and they walk in such a way that you can't help but stare, but to them it's completely normal?

That was how this felt.

I was walking like a total spacco, but was so focussed on walking without falling over, that I just paid no attention to anyone else around me.

At the front of my building I hailed a motorcycle taxi to take me the 20 baht ride to the MRT station, a price clearly indicated (in Thai) on this noticeboard. And when we arrived, "30 baht" he said in Thai.

And this is exactly why I never take motorcycle taxis.

All my travelling has taught me that the world over, the scummiest human being work in taxis.

Car-taxis or motorcycle-taxis, in no other industry can there internationally be such a high proportion of scummy human beings.

I feel bad for tarring them all with the same brush because there are some good ones, but what a piece of shit this guy was.

You're going to take advantage of a disabled person for your own benefit?

I was pretty clearly in a lot of pain and discomfort so... oh yeah, let's take advantage of that guy. Why not rob some blind kids while we're at it?

For 10 baht it wasn't worth an argument, but this clown has probably put me off taking motorcycles for about another twelve months, so good job genius. You made yourself ten baht at the expense of the forty baht per day that I otherwise would have paid motorcycles to get to the station and back.

With forethought and logic like that you should... probably apply to be the manager of my school.

So that was a fun start to the day, although I was having to put so much focus into walking that it didn't stay on my mind for long.

The most frustrating thing about this injury, probably wasn't the pain or the discomfort. More it was that every single person I encountered felt the need to tell me that I was limping.

Thanks, I hadn't noticed.

The most frustrating of those was my boss, who I saw quite early in the day.

He made the rather astute observation of "you seem to be walking with a bit of limp there."

"Yeah, my ankle's really not good right now," I responded.

"Well, keep chugging along" he said as he walked off.

I'm not an emotionally needy person. I've said before and maintain that I could be marooned on a desert-island alone for a year, and I would probably quite enjoy it.

Through this injury I at no point even thought about asking anyone else for help in any way. I don't like to be a burden and I don't need emotional support.

Even so, I found this reaction from my boss to just be unnecessarily cold.

There wasn't a "well let me know if you need anything."

And there was no "well thanks for making the effort to come in anyway."

There wasn't even an "oh, how did you do it?"

Just a "keep chugging along... because your only purpose on earth is to work endless unpaid hours for this school thanks to my incompetence/laziness."

I really try to like my boss. I know that it might not seem like it from this blog, but I really try to, because it's not fun when you hold disdain for the person that you work for.

It makes your work far more enjoyable if you like and respect the people that you work for but... how exactly am I supposed to like this guy?

At this point it's almost like he takes pride in showing how few fucks he gives about his staff.

It's near impossible to like him, and combined with the motorcycle taxi, it did get me asking... what the fuck am I doing?

Why did I just spend the last three days, rehabbing my ankle as quickly as possible with only one focus; to be healthy enough to go to work on Monday, and then going through quite a lot of pain in the morning just to make it here, only to get ripped-off by a scummy motorcycle, and face a boss who couldn't have less compassion if he was a robot.

I initially posed that question, 'what am I doing?' thinking about the day's events. But it did move onto a broader sense.

"What am I doing with my life?" I started asking myself.

I'm not enjoying this job right now. Thanks admittedly to one man; under my previous boss this was a great job, but right now, I'm not enjoying my job.

Perhaps as a consequence of this, I don't think of Bangkok too highly either.

And what I mean is that the current state of my job has made me less happy in general, which illuminates other parts of my life in a far less favourable light as well.

It wasn't so long ago that I was researching if it'd be possible for me to buy a condo in Bangkok. Now though...

It bugs me that all people do here is stare at their smartphones. The pollution here's pretty bad nowadays. The motorcycle taxis are shits.

That stuff doesn't bother me when I'm in a better place mentally. But with my job the way it is now, I was all...

"What am I doing? Why am I here?"

And I think that the reason is simple:

I've got nowhere else to go.

I'm very comfortable, in an apartment that I've been in for the better part of three years, with a kitchen that I've cooked over fifty unique meals in (I counted), and my gym nearby, and a park next to that.

I've got no other job to go to anywhere, and no other country that's screaming at me to go and live in. And without that luring me away, I'm a prisoner of the comfort that I've created.

And before, it made sense. Before, I had the time to pursue other things. To chase my dreams. Lately meaning that I had the time to try and learn app development but... well that's not true anymore.

Under this manager, I have no time for anything.

Wrapped so tightly that it was almost bullet-proof, my ankle loosened-up a little throughout this first day. And by the time I finished work at 6:40pm, I'd been on my feet for most of the day anyway, so decided fuck these motorcycles, I'm going to walk home from the station.

I regretted that. My street isn't exactly known for how even it it, but I made it, even if in rather a lot of discomfort while dodging cars on the craggy surface. Which seeing as two days earlier, I couldn't even put a gram of weight on my foot, was either impressive or stupid.

Probably a bit of both.

But this was how it continued. I walked to the station and back everyday from there on, so cheers to the genius motorcycle for lining his own pocket with an extra ten baht.

And my work was... I've said in this blog in the past, how at around week four of the term, you often fall into a slump, where you just become a bit fed-up with the job and with your students, before things pick-up in weeks five and six as you edge closer to the end.

Well this was the same, except you were in the slump by day two of the term. And I wasn't even the only person to say that.

I had this completely unnecessary almost four hour break on Mondays and Wednesdays, which just wasn't worth going home for, but of which my ankle precluded me from doing anything worthwhile in. So I just kind of sat there and looked at the wall for four hours on each day during this first week.

That was fun.

My injury had also created quite a backlog of things I needed to do, because those final two or three days of the holiday are usually when I take the time to get set-up for the term by cleaning my apartment, and by restocking my cupboards. Just kind of resetting my life to start the new term.

I hadn't been able to do that this time, and it wasn't until the Thursday that I had both the time and mobility to give my room a much needed clean.

And I'm not a big fan of cleaning, I don't know why. It's always a pretty painless process, but for some reason I never look forward to actually doing it. But one thing that it is good for, is thinking.

It takes me roughly three hours to do a basic clean of my apartment, which I do every two or three weeks. And for those three hours I'm basically on autopilot, so it's almost meditative in that it's three hours without distraction in which my mind can wander.

And as I was thinking about my current predicament as I was scrubbing away, I started thinking... ok, how long am I really willing to put up with things being like this for?

Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' is one of the songs I've got saved in my Spotify playlists, which is a song I've always enjoyed for the lyrics.

I've said in this blog many times, that I kind of look at life as if one day, I'll be dying in a hospital bed, looking back at the things I've done, unable to change anything in my life. And on that day, when I'm looking back at my life, I want to be proud. I want to be happy with what I've done. I want to look back and smile.

And that's basically what this song is about.

And with Frank Sinatra singing in the background as I scrubbed away in my kitchen, I was thinking, 'would I be happy to look back and see this?'

When it comes to resigning from jobs, I've always been one to do things on my own terms.

How many other people would have got on a boat and left Nantucket in the middle of the night because they felt slighted?

I even remember someone who I was close to at the time, getting angry and saying "people don't just do that."

I guess it's just me that does, but you know how many times I've regretted doing that?

Not one. At no point have I ever thought 'damn I wish that I'd stayed in that job where I wasn't happy and finished-out the season.' It's never even crossed my mind.

And if you look back at some of my other resignations, they might not have been as dramatic as that, but I definitely don't have a history of following conventional logic when it comes to leaving my jobs.

For me, the moment that I stop smiling; the moment that I stop enjoying waking-up in the mornings, is when it's time to leave.

My only regret about my previous Bangkok job is that I stayed there unhappy for far, far too long. And I don't want to make the same mistake here.

You could perhaps liken it to being trapped in a corner. For so long as you're unwilling to leave that job, you're at the mercy of whatever bullshit gets thrown at you. But there's a choice. There's always a choice. You don't need to stay in that job. And once you fully appreciate that you have that choice, you no longer feel backed into a corner.

Obviously there are repercussions for any decision that you make but... there's always a choice.

As I scrubbed away in my kitchen, I started composing my letter of resignation in my head.

Not because I plan to resign or that I've made any firm decision to resign. More, I was just envisioning what this letter would look like. Reading it back to myself. Seeing if the reasons that I gave still made sense to me.

Once I finished cleaning, I even typed it up in bullet-point form.

I doubt that it ever sees the light of day. But it was still liberating to have this immediate counter to all the bullshit.

'Oh, you want to give me seventeen split shifts per week? Fuck you, I quit.'

And as I was almost salivating at the prospect of leaving this job and regaining my freedom, my mind couldn't help but turn to... well what then?

The reason that I stayed in my last Bangkok job way longer than I should have done, wasn't that I didn't want to leave, it was just that I didn't have anywhere to go. And the comfort of a guaranteed salary can keep you locked somewhere that you don't want to be.

Losing that safety net is when you're forced to be resourceful, and to find a new path. And I was thinking... ok, what if I do resign at the end of this term? What if I email this letter to my boss on the last day of term, telling him I'm not coming back, what then?

Well first I'd have to deal with an angry response as next term is our busiest term, and he's already chased-off four other teachers. But being our busiest term is, if anything, an even greater justification for me to leave. Because the bullshit's going to get worse before it gets better.

But what if I did that? Where would I go? What would I do?

I didn't really find any answers, other than to think that I'd probably see-out the lease on my condo here, probably staying unemployed for that time, because getting a new job when I've already got flights booked for four weeks-off in July/August wouldn't be easy. But that would give me some time to actually make progress learning app development.

But after that. What would I do? Where would I go?

I felt very different after these three hours of cleaning compared to before, because just ok'ing it in my mind; giving myself that option to leave at a moment's notice is... it's empowering.

It puts the power back in your own hands.

When you don't feel like you have a choice, that's when you feel trapped. But now I'd ok'd it with my conscience, who was like 'yo man, if you want to just get on a plane tomorrow and never come back to Bangkok again, I'm cool with that,' then I suddenly felt better. Liberated. Like there was a line in the sand now, and if it gets crossed... I'm out.

I didn't have a list of criteria or anything like that. But for me, there are only so many mornings that I'm willing to wake-up not smiling.

My favourite saying, which I've repeated in this blog ad nauseam, is the Einstein quote that 'insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.'

If I didn't wake-up smiling yesterday, and I didn't wake-up smiling today, then how can I expect to wake-up smiling tomorrow if I don't change anything?

If you're unhappy in your life, then you change your life. And I'm yet to ever regret doing so.

I never regretted leaving Nantucket, I never regretted leaving my last Bangkok job.

Who knows if I'll ever regret leaving this job, but the way things are now, I guarantee that I'll regret staying. And I'll regret continuing to work for a manager, who proudly doesn't give a fuck about his staff.

The clock is now ticking for things to change for the better on their own. Because if they don't, I'm going to change them.

I don't know when, but I don't have a history of thinking this stuff through for too long.

On Nantucket my mind switched in a moment one night, and before sunrise the next day, I wasn't even on the island anymore.

Perhaps I'm a little embedded in Bangkok for that kind of dramatic exit but... well what would happen if I did just get on a plane tomorrow?

I'd leave behind a lot of possessions and certainly lose my condo deposit. But with the exception of leaving behind my ex-girlfriend, who is the only person in Bangkok who really means anything to me, all I'd lose would be material items. Things that can be replaced.

It's kind of tempting now that I say it like that.

Put some underwear in a bag, go to the airport, see where there's a flight going, never come back here again.

And when you're willing to truly entertain that as an option, when you have that choice of escaping at a moment's notice, it changes how you feel.

Rather ironically, it makes you smile. Which if you were doing in the first place, you wouldn't have been thinking about it at all.

Now I'll add the disclaimer that I genuinely hope that it doesn't come to that. Even though the thought of having the freedom to go anywhere in the world and start a new life from nothing is enticing to the point that it makes me quiver, because it's something that I haven't done for almost three years now. Even though I'm salivating at the mere thought of doing that... I hope that it doesn't happen.

I'm a little older and wiser than the person that left Nantucket in the middle of the night all those years ago. And common sense says try not to burn bridges, and wait until you've got all the information before acting. And one thing on my UK to-do list for when I go back in July/August, is to find-out definitively if I'll be able to get a German passport or not. And seeing as that could have huge implications on my employability within the EU post-Brexit, I'd like to know before making any huge life-changing decisions on where to go next.

So I'm going to try... I'm going to try so hard, to just make it to the end of next term.

If I make it to the end of next term, then I get a term off, and who knows what will have changed by the time I get back.

Will I though?

When I think about working here for the next eleven weeks, my eyelids feel heavier, my mouth opens despondently, and I just kind of stare into space at the prospect of it.

When I think about going to the airport and jumping on a random plane to nowhere, my muscles tense with excitement and my eyes squint lost in hysteria at the thought of it.

I'm having to fight that right now. I'm having to fight doing what excites me and what my instincts tell me to do, to keep on doing what my brain is telling me is sensible to do.

And I guess that the biggest determinant will be how things go at work from here. And I'll be honest, the signs for next term are, frankly, terrifying.

Term four is always our busiest term of the year, and this year we're losing four teachers right before it thanks to our genius manager, who seems oblivious to his role in the departures, but who also seems determined not to hire anyone new to replace them.

And for all the planning I've got to do this term, and all the time I'm having wasted by unnecessary split shifts, it pales in comparison to how bad next term could potentially be, if my manager continues to display the logic of a blindfolded chimp at a dartboard.

With a good manager, I wouldn't be bothered because they, when giving you more hours, would attempt to accommodate you in other ways by not giving you new levels to plan, which would make it bearable.

You'd help them by taking the extra hours, and they'd in turn help you. That's how it used to be. That's how most jobs are. The bosses need the cooperation of the staff, and it's in the staff's interest to be in the good graces of the bosses.

This new guy doesn't exactly see it as a working 'relationship' though. It's more like a working dictatorship. There is no give and take, and he fucks you over whether you're doing a good job or not.

And so let's say next term is as bad as I'm anticipating it could be. Maybe I have two more classes to teach, and two more more new levels to plan than what I have now. What then? What is my reaction?

I quite literally wouldn't be able to do all of my work, to the standard that I hold myself to, within the waking hours of the day.

What then? Do I just resign myself to that fate? Or would I be fated to resign?

Do I stay and let myself get walked all over yet again, by a manager whose only skill seems to be taking up as much of your time as possible, for the lowest possible pay?

'Hey, here's an unnecessary split shift so you have four unpaid hours in the middle of your day.'

I'm done sacrificing my happiness, and consequently my health and well-being, for a guy who reciprocates by just fucking you over even more.

In fact as a side-note, do you remember how I started the last blog by saying that I know that you can never be healthy or in shape if you're stressed, but I can't explain the science of why?

Well by pure coincidence, or not as privacy campaigners may claim, a video that explains exactly that popped-up on my YouTube feed shortly after:

So this is a bit of a 'watch this space' situation.

I hope that I'm still here by the end of next term. But at this point I can by no means can guarantee it. If my line in the sand gets crossed, I won't be in this job any longer.

In that situation I'll probably stay in Bangkok for a bit rather than just getting on a plane but... well we'll see how I feel when it happens.

The irony in all of this is of course that in giving myself the green light to leave my job, I started feeling happier about everything anyway.

Life is always very up and down regardless. I'd say that for me, maybe three times a year I'll go from a period where everything in life is rosey, down to where everything in life tastes of shit, and then back up again.

I've fruitlessly tried to understand why and how that happens, but have ultimately succeeded in nothing more than accepting that it does happen. At one moment I'll be happy about everything in life, but a couple of months later I could be in the exact same situation again, and it pisses me off. I guess it's just a part of being human. And this had been a down-period. I'd definitely got myself into a... mental slump.

And the fact that I'm even able to put the blame on my own shoulders is progress.

Do I have a shitty boss?

Sure. But so do many people. And just because he's a (huge) step-down from the boss we had before, isn't an excuse to let everything else in life go awry.

In the words of David Brent, "life is a series of peaks and troughs, and you don't know whether you're in a trough until you're climbing-out, or on a peak until you're coming down."

I'd let myself get into a trough, mentally. And now I'm climbing out again.

I think it's justifiable that I'm frustrated about the things in my life that I unnecessarily no longer have time to do. Like to exercise properly, and to learn app development. But it's time to get over that.

That first step in climbing-out of this trough was to draft my letter of resignation after cleaning my apartment, and ok'ing with my conscience that... 'ok, you can go.'

Just knowing that made it more bearable.

And actually acting-out on that, and upping and leaving this city never to return, that's kind of the nuclear option. But let's try some other things first.

I'm very consciously trying to tell myself all the positive things that I have in life, and trying to look at everything in a positive light. To make positivity more habitual than it has been lately.

Sure, my boss is a dick who's making learning app development nigh-on impossible. But now it'll just be more rewarding when I do. He's just a part of my redemption story.

Sure, my ankle's caused me all kinds of problems over these past two weeks, but this time away from exercise has given me the chance to reassess what I'm doing.

I've had way too much tunnel-vision for these freestyle/Spartan type classes at the gym. I need to start mixing things up again. I need to start running again; I miss that.

I need to get away too. I haven't been outside Bangkok since August. And that's partly by design; I save all my money for the year to fund my eight weeks-off that I take when I go back to London.

But at the same time, how often did I used to talk about the importance of getting away, and looking at life from a distance?

I used to say, based off my own experience, that eight weeks should be the limit; that eight weeks was the longest you could stay in the same place before you started obsessing over things that didn't matter, and losing perspective for things.

I've been in Bangkok for 36 weeks without a break, so no wonder things have been driving me crazy.

Even though there'll only be six weeks left until I fly to London by then, get out of Bangkok over next holiday, dummy. Just get out for a few days, and get some perspective.

Chiang Mai is my sort of... go to location for an easy vacation, and right now Air Asia has flights there for about £11, so that's looking pretty likely.

I am trying to find somewhere with a little more wilderness to go to, but I'm struggling a little bit with where.

Unsurprisingly, all the wilderness type resorts, where you can just sit there surrounded by nature, need a car to get to. And I am not driving on these roads.

For once I'm actually intent on going somewhere for the next holiday though. And if I can't figure-out anything else soon, it'll likely be Chiang Mai.

My ankle's slowly healing as well, meaning that everyday life gets a little easier.

Last Wednesday I was able to get to the gym during my unnecessary break on my unnecessary split shift.

It was perhaps the most pathetic workout I'll ever have, but I just wanted to lift some weights. To remind my muscles that they do exist, by doing some exercise that was very low-impact on my ankle.

That went fine, although running for a train yesterday I got a painful reminder that I'm still quite a long way from being fully-healed.

Today I'm going to try a cycling class, and from there slowly build-up to more and more high-impact exercising.

The way I feel now, I'm guessing it'll be one or two more weeks until I can go running again, and can join freestyle/Spartan classes again.

Each day's getting better though. Each day I'm becoming more and more mobile.

So that's helping too. It's easier to be more positive everyday when something, like my ankle, is noticeably better everyday.

And that's really where I am now. I'm trying... trying to look as positively as I can at things. Trying to make a positive mindset the norm again. And I guess it's slowly working.

When your life is completely dominated by an unnecessary workload, how positive can you really be? But I'm trying.

From here though, we'll see how things go. I'm going to try and stick with it for at least until my trip to London. Don't be too surprised if these blogs suddenly start appearing from another random country though. It's definitely possible that they could.