- Shit-tinted spectacles -

21st April '18

I had three 'goals' really for this two-week holiday.

The lack of exercise, but equally importantly, the lack of sleep and the lack of happiness last term meant that I finished it feeling far less healthy than I started it.

Don't ask me to explain the science, because I can't, but I know that you can never be in shape or healthy if you aren't sleeping properly and are stressed, and despite doing what exercise I could last term, I was testament to that.

My body just looked and felt soft, so my first goal was to get back to how I was before last term started.

If you remember, prior to last term, I'd gone to a Monday morning yoga class every week since September; an opportunity which my schedule last term robbed me of.

And through last term, the only yoga classes that were available to me were with trainers who, being polite as I can, I'm not a big fan of. So I had done basically no yoga for six weeks. And it felt like it.

It was good to get back to it though, and on this morning, the first of the holiday, I even had a momentary smile.

Prior to this I hadn't had a second when there weren't fifteen things on my to-do list for the day, so even when I was at the gym, I wasn't really there.

I was there in body, but I was just kind of going through the motions of exercising. The same with everything else I'd been doing, because my mind was just so distracted and busy with everything else going on, that I wasn't really present for anything.

On this morning though, I was just there.

No thoughts about work, no worries. I was suddenly present and able to enjoy the moment.

I sat in the steam room after exercising. For the first time in weeks.

Why?

I dunno, I just felt like it. For the first time in weeks I didn't have to rush home to do something. For the first time in weeks, I could do something just because it felt good. Because I wanted to do it.

I had a cup of tea and relaxed in the seating area at the gym for the first time in weeks too.

Why?

I dunno, I just felt like it.

For a brief moment, I actually felt happy. Unfortunately it didn't last.

My second goal for this holiday was, predictably... alright no excuses, you've got fourteen free days, time to really start progressing with app development.

I had taken some inspiration from the person on Reddit who I linked to in the last blog, who went from zero knowledge to a job offer in 45 days of teaching himself.

I didn't expect to be able to make that kind of progress, but I've got fourteen free days, why can't I put-in four, or five, or six hours per day? Especially during my Songkran hibernation when I literally don't plan on leaving my apartment for three days.

Let's try and reverse all the damage that my schedule last term did, and get myself back on track.

And then lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my third goal for this holiday, was I've got fourteen days to get myself back, mentally, to the place I was before last term started because... well being pissed off and hating life for an entire term isn't especially fun.

I had fourteen days to start smiling again.

Who knows if I'll be able to overcome my manager and keep it up once work starts again, but I can give myself the best possible chance by starting the term in the right frame of mind.

I had a few errands to run, and a couple of people that I wanted to see, but that was it really. That was all I wanted to do with this two-week holiday.

Smile, exercise, and learn to develop apps.

I'm such a simple person when I break it down like that. And I hate when life forces things to be more complicated.

I couldn't entirely escape the disdain that I felt towards last term, because my online app development course is one that builds on the knowledge of the previous things that we've learnt. And when the instructor would refer to something in a video that I studied two months earlier but had since forgotten, such was how little I was able to study last term, I would still become a little embittered by the existence of my manager.

Maybe I would have been lost and confused by this point anyway, but I was still resentful that my manager robbed me of the chance to find-out with his nonsensical scheduling methods.

And perhaps it's a little rich to blame someone else for my own shortcomings, but if I am going to fail, I want it to be through my own incompetence, not someone else's. I want no excuses for regret, or doubt. As I said in the last blog though, the important thing... just keep going.

By the end of the first week of this holiday, numbers one and two of my plan were going pretty well.

I was exercising as much as I wanted to, and I was spending about four hours per day on my course, albeit with less progress to show than I'd have liked.

I was struggling so much to understand the content that I was having to watch things multiple times and look up what was being taught, meaning that at one point a ten minute video took me more than two hours to get through. And this was somewhat standard.

It had become a bit of a slow grind.

And the fact that I have zero reason to believe that next term will be any different, made this the least holiday-like holiday I've ever had.

Instead of being a time to relax, it was more just a time to try and catch-up on things that I otherwise would have done during the term.

There was a feeling of obligation to do as much of my course as I could, and to get to the gym as much as I could. And that was perhaps part of the reason why number three wasn't going so well. I was just having a really hard time smiling and seeing the brighter side of life.

It's kind of hard to explain, but my brain just felt jumbled. Like there was too much going on in there to know what to focus on.

It was still lost in the mindset of last term, where there were a hundred things happening at once, and I couldn't just be happy in the moment.

Thoughts were flying all over the place, and I was very irritable, as one or two people found-out the hard way.

I can't have seen Pulp Fiction for a decade or more now, but I still remember that scene where John Travolta says "I'm a race car in the fucking red. I could blow."

That was exactly how I felt. But all the time.

It's somewhat ironic that it was only a couple of blogs ago that I was saying I felt so happy with life despite no longer meditating, and that I'd proven to myself that it was unnecessary to do, because that was now the only place that I had to turn.

I decided that for this second week, I'd go back to thirty minutes per day, just focussing on my mind and trying to get it back to a better place, because after last term... it wasn't in one now.

And when you're pissed off and frustrated with everything in life it's... it's not fun.

Like I've said in this blog a hundred times, apart from some extreme exceptions, your situation doesn't really matter too much. What's important is how you're able to look at it.

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they make the best of everything."

And I could sit here and tell myself I'm a healthy, self-sufficient person, with the means to live in more comfort than probably 90% of the world, and that I have no right to complain or be angry about anything. For some reason though, it just didn't resonate in my mind.

It's like my mind wanted to be angry and pissed off, and wasn't willing to listen to logic. Like I was seeing the world through shit-tinted spectacles.

Consciously I wanted to be happy, but it was like there was another part of my brain determined to overrule that so... well maybe getting back to meditating and having thirty minutes per day as void of thought as possible could help.

If you remember back, it was during this holiday last year that I did a big technology detox where I had no phone, no TV, no PS4, and even no clocks and no lights. And one of the things I did to pass the time, was read a book on meditation. And to paraphrase this book that I read over a year ago and didn't really understand at the time, thoughts follow pathways around your brain. And the more that thoughts travel down a certain pathway, the more trodden and easier to travel it becomes. And the less that thoughts travel down a pathway, the more overgrown and harder to travel it becomes.

So the more that you have thoughts that travel to good places, the easier it is to have positive thoughts. And the more that you have thoughts that travel to bad places, the more readily you'll have negative thoughts. And right now, my brain had become very accustomed to thinking about things negatively. My thoughts were effortlessly reaching negative conclusions.

The point of meditation, so far as I remember from this book, is to clear and widen the pathways that lead to positive thought, making them more accessible and easier to travel, so when you think about something, it's more likely to have a positive outcome.

And it really helped actually. I found that adding this thirty minutes of meditation everyday just unscrambled my brain, and I was able to control my thoughts a lot more and really focus on what mattered, and not get lost with ideas that don't.

So I added this to my daily routine for the second week, although like most things, thirty minutes of meditation doesn't take you thirty minutes.

You need a few minutes to relax before you start. You can't be running around at a hundred miles per hour then suddenly stop and expect to be able to focus. And you want to relax and enjoy how you feel afterwards as well. So it started taking about an hour of my day everyday. But seeing as how good it made me feel, it was time well spent.

But add this hour onto the time spent exercising everyday, and the time spent on my course, and the time I was spending cooking new things as well... my life is a full-time job, even without my job.

Getting the schedule I expect to get next term, I'm not sure how well it'll translate. But what I really wanted to do was get my mind into such a good place that it doesn't matter. That I become manager-proofed, so no matter what kind of stupid shit he tries to pull with the schedule, I'll be able to smile though it.

I guess that time will tell whether that's possible or not, but for now I was happy and enjoying life again.

With all of that though, this was the quickest two-week holiday in history. I'm at work again in two days, and holy-fuck it's flown by.

Seeing as I rarely go more than a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, it's amazing how I never seem to feel bored and how I never have enough time for anything.

And I had plans, albeit boring ones, for the final three days of this holiday. But how do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans for the future.

I was at the gym on Thursday, doing a Spartan class, which is basically very intense circuit-training. And I was on the station where you have to hop over these two ropes that are laying flat on the ground, getting wider apart, the further down you go.

And as I was hopping over one of these ropes on my left leg, the right side of my foot just caught the side of this rope enough to turn my ankle and... ah shit, that's bad.

I bounced straight back up, immediately unable to put any weight on my left foot.

Pride or... I don't know, stupidity, doesn't ever allow me to let-on when I'm in pain though, and I didn't skip a beat. I just switched legs, and finished this set on my right leg instead.

It was the same thing almost a decade ago now, when I injured my knee when I was skiing.

I remember tumbling down the mountain, then thinking... ah fuck, this is bad. And there was a ski patroller no more than twenty yards away from me, who saw it happen. I waved him away like nothing was wrong, and proceeded to ski down the mountain on one leg. And my knee still hurts today.

I also finished the last fifteen minutes of this Spartan class, named as such because of how hard it is, on one leg, doing as best as I could to hide that anything was wrong, all the while knowing full well that my ankle was... fucked.

I think that the trainer noticed, because I heard him, this very stoic Thai man who wouldn't be out of place as a bootcamp sergeant, asking someone how to say in English 'Are you ok?'

He never asked me though, so I grimaced through to the end.

Ok, now I've got to get home.

I knew that this was a pretty serious sprain already, and when I went to the changing room and took off my shoe, there was already some quite impressive swelling. But my experience with ankle sprains, albeit from a long time ago now, is that you're ok until you sit down.

As long as you stay on your feet you can keep moving around, but as soon as you sit down, the swelling gets worse and you aren't getting up again. So I was just... ok, stay on your feet and get home as quickly as possible.

I still had a quick shower at the gym, such was the amount of sweat I was covered in. But then I hobbled my way to the lift and then outside, hiding as much as possible that anything was wrong. I hailed a motorcycle taxi; the first I've taken in years, because I really don't like them. They just don't feel safe to me, although on this occasion I was very thankful to be able to save the fifteen minute walk home. Or what now would have been about thirty minutes.

But even on the back of the bike I was stretching-out my ankle and putting as much pressure on it as possible to simulate still being on my feet.

And then once I was back at my condo, I hobbled to the lift, then down to my apartment at the very end of what felt like a very long corridor.

Thank fuck, I made it.

Ah shit.

That was the exclamation I made by being greeted by two empty water bottles as I opened my apartment door.

Every couple of days I have these six litre water bottles that I take to the machine outside my condo and fill with drinking water. And when they're empty, I leave them in the middle of the floor to remind myself that they need filling and...

My plans for these final three days of the holiday, which included doing some much-needed shopping for work clothes to reflect my current weight, and taking-in my ailing iPhone to get looked at, were now completely out the window. I was already accepting that I wouldn't be leaving my apartment for the next three days. That I already knew. That's how bad this instantly was. My hope was just that I could rest enough to be able to make it to work on Monday.

I also knew that as soon as I sat down, I wouldn't be getting up again anytime soon, and do I really want to be bound to my apartment for three days without any drinking water?

So off I went, hobbling back downstairs to fill-up my water bottles. And as I was hobbling along, I started to think back to my childhood days of going to St. John's Ambulance classes.

And for all I've forgotten, the one thing I still remember is RICE:

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate.

To give an example of how much better placed my mind was right now, compared to a week earlier, I wasn't angry or upset at all that this had happened. In fact even at this moment, I was thankful, thinking that if I was going to bugger-up my ankle, then better to do it when I've got three more days-off work and when I'm just a two-minute motorcycle from my apartment.

It could have been a Hell of a lot worse.

So 'Rest'... I've got three days I can rest it.

'Ice'... I've got a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer, that'll do.

'Elevate'... I'm sure I'll figure something out.

Compression though. All I could think of was wearing about six socks on my left foot to keep my ankle pressurised. A solution if need be, but ideal? Not in Thai weather.

Fuck, if I can put-up with another ten minutes of pain, then I can make it to 7-11 for a proper solution.

So I dropped-off my water bottles, and hobbled back out to 7-11 and bought some bandages and some duck-tape. Alright, compression sorted.

Finally I can get off my feet and see how bad this is going to get.

Fuck, this is bad.

I haven't sprained an ankle for years now. But holy fuck, I don't remember them hurting this badly.

Perhaps the last time it happened, I was young enough that someone gave me painkillers, I'm not sure. But my attitude to pain nowadays, is that pain is my body's way of telling me that something is wrong. And so I never take painkillers, because if my body is telling me that I've moved my ankle into a position where I'm doing it more damage, for example, then I want to know about that. So I don't even have any painkillers in my apartment, or any kind of medicine at all for that matter, because I never take it. The next eight or so hours certainly gave me pause to rethink that policy though.

Finally off my feet, I figured if I ever needed an excuse to play some PS4, this was it. So with my ankle wrapped in a bandage and elevated on a cushion, I sat back to get in some overdue game-time.

I'd stopped within about thirty minutes because I just couldn't concentrate. There was no position that I could put leg in where there wasn't this constant discomfort in my ankle. I decided instead that I would lie in bed, but that wasn't any better.

I was in bed from about 9:30pm, yet at 3am, there I still was, lying there wide-awake in some significant discomfort.

I do not remember sprains hurting this badly.

From the time I sat down, to the time that I was able to finally get to sleep, there was about eight hours of throbbing pain, in which I could find no position of comfort.

It was a fun night.

By yesterday, the constant pain had subsided, but I couldn't put any weight on my ankle at all.

Somewhat ironically, seeing as hopping was what got me into this mess, my only means of moving around my apartment was by hopping.

Then come this morning, about forty hours after the initial injury, I can just put some very, very light weight on my ankle. But walking... no.

I'm supposed to be at work in two days.

Possible?

I'm still assuming so. I thought about emailing my manager, telling him that I was doubtful for the first couple of days of term, and that it might be wise to amend the schedule to reflect that but... well knowing this guy, he'd take that as a cue to give me as many hours on Monday and Tuesday as possible.

Under previous managers, I'd know my schedule by now, but this guy doesn't seem to really think that we're deserving of advanced notice. I'm expecting it to come tomorrow afternoon if I'm honest. And with high hopes do I await its arrival?

No.

From the beginning of last term to the end, there was a very noticeable change in my manager. He grew far more timid as the term moved-on.

I can only speculate as to why. Perhaps he could sense the mood last term, and how low morale was, and he rightly felt a sense of responsibility for it.

Perhaps it was a sense of helplessness, in that his drive to actually reform the retarded teachers at my school, by actually having them do their jobs properly, was basically failing.

I try not to fret over the things of which I have no control, so I don't really let the school's retarded teachers get to me, even if I do find it frustrating that their inability to go to a class prepared or on time is a bad reflection on me. And for all the enmity that I feel towards my new manager for how little care he seems to have for the people that work for him, one thing that I do give him credit for is at least trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to reform this culture of ineptitude.

Every workplace in the world has one or two retards who have an inability or a lack of desire to do their job to even the minimum standard. But in most workplaces, they're a vast minority.

In my school, I'd probably classify about 40% of our teachers as retarded, and it is very frustrating, when I've never gone to a class late or unprepared, that some teachers do so as a matter of routine.

I can't control what others do though, so I suppress these feelings of frustration as much as possible, but I did appreciate how my manager came in and at least attempted to reform them.

He failed. Their desire to be forever lacklustre trumped his attempts to free them from the shackles of inadequacy. And I'm sure that he knows that he failed, so perhaps that also caused him to hide-away, as he seemed to be doing for the latter part of last term.

What I am pessimistically hoping, is that his timidity was a sign that he learned from the shambles of last term, as he isn't going to be such a dick with the schedule this term. Because from a teacher's perspective, there is no more important thing that your manager does than write your schedule.

In fact in this job, there's nothing else of note that a manager does at all. I remember when I first started here, my then-boss went on a three-week vacation.

I wasn't even made aware of it until the third week when I had to ask him a question. So from a teacher's perspective once you know who you're teaching, you need nothing more from your manager all term.

But there's a pretty defined correlation:

If you have a good schedule, you have a good term. If you have a bad schedule, you have a bad term.

I'm yet to be proven of my boss' ability to process consequence.

"Hey, I'm going to send around an untrue email telling all of my staff that they might be fired. That'll improve morale."

"Hey, I'm going to close reception at 7pm everyday, the time when 90% of our students study. That'll improve service."

So I have my doubts if he'll put two and two together here, but what I hope last term taught him is 'ok, if my staff are happy, then they'll work better, so the students will be happier and will be more likely to re-sign to study next term. And all I have to do is push aside my pride and spend a little longer writing the schedule, so that people are working the hours they want to work, at times they like, with classes that they're comfortable teaching.'

That thought-process seems kind of obvious to me but... well it turns-out that it's not obvious to everyone, so I'm pretty pessimistic about the schedule for this term, let's put it that way.

It is what it is though. I have a couple more house-bound days to get my mind in the right place to overcome my schedule, whatever it may be. But if I don't write the next blog for a long time then... well it's probably not a good sign.