- About time -

31st March '17

In the lead-up to this impending meeting of doom, it was almost like you could sense the feeling of apocalypse in the air.

On the Saturday before the meeting, all of the Thai admin staff were nowhere to be seen. Almost like they'd been evacuated.

On the Sunday, the day of the meeting, my watch was forecasting rain for the first time in months. It was like the world knew what was about to happen.

And the good thing about being me, is that I'm always cognizant to the worst case scenario. That means that no matter what happens, I'm always prepared for it, and in most cases, things end up far better than I expect them to be. But this meeting...

It actually wasn't that bad. Lucky that I didn't make a big deal about it.

It hammered home to us quite how dire my school's enrollment numbers are, and introduced some upcoming procedural changes which, with my lack of desire to work long hours, I should be fairly shielded from.

I'm sure that some more dedicated and money-conscious teachers will be willing to jump on grenades like corporate work and young learners and private lessons before I have to.

The only thing that this meeting really did, was highlight that as these changes are introduced, there may be less hours available.

That spelled doom and gloom for some teachers, but for me it was great. I love free time. And as I've said before, for so long as my hours don't get reduced to the point that I don't have a job or that I can't cover the cost of essentials anymore, I'm always willing to not work very hard. And there was no mention or even inkling that teachers might have to be let go. We just might have to take less hours in the short-term.

Awesome, sign me up.

Makes you wonder why they sent around that email saying how we were all going to be fired.

I thought that it was a great meeting. Are you telling me that I can keep my job, and that I don't have to work very hard?

I seemed to be about the only person who came out of it feeling upbeat. Not only because I felt a lot more secure in my job and my ability to not have to work very hard, but also because I learned a lot about my new manager.

He spoke about some of the things that he's done, and some of the conversations that he's had, and I came to realise that he's really on our (the teachers) side. Because when money's tight, there have to be concessions, and he seems to be protecting us from these as much as possible.

An example that he gave, is that on weekends there's a level 12 class at 11am with eight students in, and a level 12 class at 2pm with five students in. Something that would draw the ire of any number-crunchers, because these classes could easily be merged, meaning paying one teacher to do a job that's currently being done by two.

He kept it this way though, in order to give the teachers the hours that they need.

This is just one example, but he told us quite a few things. It made me realise that he's going to fight for us.

It also made me think that he probably won't be around for too long, because there are only so many things like that you can get away with as a manager. But for now, I'm glad that he's here.

And he's even aware oh his mortality. He told us how when he got called to head office recently, he told his wife that he was either going to be offered the position that he currently holds, or he was going to be fired, and he didn't know which.

But for all the doom and gloom that I'd prophesised, I thought that this meeting was great.

My manager's awesome, my job's secure, and I'll feel very little pressure to work hard because we don't have enough students to go around as it is.

People think that being pessimistic's a bad thing, but it's not, because no matter what happens, I always end up happy. I was the only person who left this meeting happy.

It's the optimistic people that have to live a life of eternal disappointment.

I genuinely do hope that the numbers at my school improve. I don't want to work somewhere that's losing money. In the interim though, to look at it selfishly, to be working somewhere that's encouraging people to take fewer hours it... that's perfect for me.

I've never understood the desire to work harder than you need to.

So with that worry out of the way, and my job feeling better than ever, my attention focussed to the two-week vacation that I have in ten days. And in a rare move, I've decided what I'm going to do for this vacation, more than a week before it starts.

And so without any further ado, for this upcoming vacation I'm going to...

** Drumroll **

Do nothing.

Who'd have thought? Although I mean it more literally than you might realise.

I mentioned in the last blog that I was thinking about going up to this meditation retreat in the north of Thailand, primarily as a way of detoxing from all of the technology that currently rules my life.

I don't plan on going to the north of Thailand; I'm actually fairly intent on staying in Bangkok for this break, because I don't want to make the mistake of travelling in Thailand over Songkran ever again.

If you read my blogs from 2012, then you'll understand why.

But just thinking about going up to this retreat planted the seed in my head. And sometimes it can take being pushed towards one extreme, to make you realise that you should be closer to the other.

It took nuclear weapons for world powers to achieve a sustained peace. It took the holocaust for the Jews to get Israel. And it took me getting a PS4 to appreciate that technology is too much a part of my life.

I need to reduce my reliance on and use of technology, and what's the best way to see which technology I "need" per se, and which I don't?

Well why not just take it all away, and see what I miss?

So I've decided that, for this vacation, I'm going to stay in my apartment in Bangkok, and just switch-off everything.

Well not literally everything, but I want to revert to a far more natural way of living, void of the distractions and targets and goals and stresses that technology puts on me everyday. Because that's really where the problem lies, isn't it?

Everything's recorded, everything's ranked, you're continually being compared to other people, and I just want to do away with that.

Most obviously, I'm going to switch off my iPhone, which most prominently means that for the first time in years, I'll be free from the shackles of my to-do lists.

But it'll also mean no emails, no instant messaging, no Reddit, no news. Gone will be the obligations that I feel to keep up to date with all of these things. It'll also mean no sleep analysis for the first time in about a year. I'll be able to sleep without being graded on it.

I'll also turn-off my laptop for the similar reasons, and it'll also mean no blogs.

Obviously my PS4 will remain off because... well that's what started this whole thing off. But everything on a PS4 is about achieving meaningless trophies, about competing with other people, finishing higher in tables...

I want to rid myself of pointless competition.

I also won't use my TV or my Apple TV. I want to rid myself of the feeling of obligation to watch the next episode in a show. And I won't weigh myself or take my body-fat percentage, because again, I have self-imposed targets of how much I should weigh and how fat I should be in order to be a healthy person.

And I'm going to turn-off my Apple Watch because... well the constant movement tracking it's... I guess it's useful to know how active you've been, but having these daily move targets is... it'll be nice to get rid of them.

So I think that all of these things are kind of obvious. They're necessary to get rid of if you want to cleanse yourself of technology, but I want to take it a step further. While I have these two weeks with no obligation to my job, I want to return as much as is comfortable to a natural way of living. And when I thought about turning my watch off, I also thought 'well do I need clocks at all?'

Sure I do when I have to be at work at a certain time each day. But there are engrained obligations that you feel to time.

You must sleep by XX time everyday, you must eat lunch around XX time everyday.

At the end of the day though, I'm human, and humans are diurnal animals. We evolved to be awake during daylight, and asleep during night-time. And with my job, that's not something that I can adhere to, as I always have to work beyond sundown.

When I'm on holiday though, with zero social requirements because... well without my devices, the only way that a person will be able to contact me, will be by knocking on my door, and they'll need a security card just to get up the elevator.

I'll have no work commitments and I'll have no social life, so... well what do I need time for?

The only time that should really matter to me is daytime, when I should be awake, and night-time, when I should be asleep. The times of other things like lunch should be determined by how hungry I feel.

I have a very photographic memory when it comes to maps, and I always look at them with north at the top. Therefore, I can tell you which direction north is from pretty much anywhere that I go to regularly, so long as I'm standing outside.

Therefore if I really need to know the time, I'll be able to tell from knowing east to west, and the position of the sun. But I just want to rid myself of all the obligations that come with time, and focus simply on daytime and night-time.

I'm not going to ban myself from using electronic lights if I need them, but I do want to as much as possible be in bed when it's dark outside so... I doubt that I'll need them very much.

So this isn't going full caveman. I'm not ridding myself of electricity altogether. I still plan on using my electric stove to cook, for example.

Even something like a blender to make a smoothie is unnatural compared to eating pieces of fruit though, so if I can do away with something then... why not?

I'll probably keep the AC on as well because... well I'm white, with blonde hair and blue eyes. It's therefore fairly safe to assume that my evolution suits me to the climates of northern Europe. Thailand's tropical climate is completely unnatural to me anyway, despite how much I like it, and so having the AC turned off would be almost as unnatural to me as keeping it on, so I may as well be comfortable.

Basically what I'm getting at though, is that while I have these two obligation-free weeks, then why not return to a more natural way of living. To get away from all of my technologies, to see what I really miss and what I really need, and come back after this holiday with some real perspective.

How long will I last?

Well this holiday starts on the Monday in ten days. The maximum that I can last is about eleven days, because after that I need to see things like my work schedule for next term, which will be delivered by email. So at an absolute maximum, I can keep everything off for eleven days.

Truthfully I'm not sure if I'll last that long. Maybe I'll last for an hour before I just say fuck it, I want to play GTA 5.

But assuming that I have a bit more willpower, I kind of see this holiday going as follows:

On the initial Monday to Wednesday, it'll just be like any other days-off really, with the exception that I won't be walking around with a phone or a clock and will have no electronic entertainment in my apartment.

So I imagine that I'll spend some time people-watching in Starbucks, and outside in the park because... well what else will I have to do?

That's not a bad thing though; it'll be good to be outside.

I'll perhaps also go to a bookstore, and to a supermarket to stock-up on foods, because Songkran proper starts on the Thursday, and lasts in earnest for three days, although there might be pockets of people trying to throw water at me for a couple of days afterwards.

And Songkran is one of those things that's amazing if you want to get drunk and take part in the festivities, but a fucking pain if you want to avoid it altogether and go about your life.

I fall into the latter category, so Songkran basically signifies me going into hibernation for a few days. That's why I might pay a visit to the bookstore and stock-up on food in the days prior.

But imprisoned in my apartment out of fear of people throwing water at me, but without elecronic entertainment, I'll almost be forced to use those three days for meditation and reflection.

That doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. Going to meditation retreats is always at the back of my mind for a reason, and I use meditation apps on my phone regularly. Time for mindfulness and reflection is always good, and should I make it to a bookshop, I can see that I'll buy a book on meditation to read whilst I'm hibernating.

From the Sunday onwards, things will more or less return to normal. Songkran will largely be over, so how long I keep up this technology detox will depend partly on my willpower, and partly if I feel like it still has any benefit.

I'm not going to keep it up indefinitely if I don't think that it's worthwhile.

It's kind of hard for me to know how this sounds. If someone told me that they were going to stop using clocks and go to bed at 7pm everyday, I'd probably think that they'd gone a bit crazy. But the more that I thought about how ruled by technology my life is, and how it would be good to get away from it for a bit, I just started thinking about how I could get back to a more natural way of living, without the obligations of daily life. And first and foremost for me, that meant sleeping at night and being awake during the day. And that's the only time that matters.

So that's my plan for the holiday. I literally am going to do nothing.

I'm not going to go to a meditation retreat, but for the main days of Songkran at least, I'm going to be sitting in my apartment with little but my own thoughts for company, so it more or less amounts to the same thing.

And the one irony in all of this, is that I would love to know how doing this affects my weight and my sleep patterns, but yet to monitor these things would jeopardise what it is that I'm trying to do, so I'll just have to do it the old fashioned way.

When I wake-up in the morning, how well do I feel like I've slept?

I have ten more days to figure this out in full. That means things like writing-down recipes that I want to cook, because currently they all reside on my iPhone so I won't have access to them anymore. But unless I have a sudden change of heart, this is going to be a holiday to return myself temporarily, to a life more suited to my evolution, so that I can look at my life and see... well what about it is good? Do I really need a PlayStation or an Apple Watch in my life? Is it worth me recording my sleep every night? Should I have all these goals and targets?

Because look at it this way, on any given day, I have roughly ten things on my to-do list that I have to do. My watch monitors my movement, and bleeps at me if I'm still for the first 50 minutes of an hour, and has two other goals for overall movement. I wake-up everyday to a score of how well I slept in the night. Every evening I weigh myself and take my body-fat percentage, and have goals in my head of a range that these should be within. Everytime that I play my PS4, which I believe has been everyday since I bought it, I get put into tables or given scores based on how I'm doing. I expect lunch and dinner to come at certain times.

It's just a life of constant rankings and scores and obligations and... well wouldn't it do me good to get away from them all and see if they're actually necessary?

That's my thinking.

When was the last time I went a whole day without the Internet?

Certainly not since buying an iPhone, and that was more than three years ago.

How about a whole week?

I can't say for sure, but it must have been more than a decade now.

And the worrying thing about this, is that I probably use technology in a more acceptable way than most people that I see in my day.

I still limit my iPhone usage to when I'm alone and stationary. I'll never be out socially and start using my phone. And I'll never stare at my screen as I'm walking.

I would hazard a guess that 90% of people in Bangkok can't say that. Not working until 6:45pm every Monday to Thursday this term, I have to go to work during rush hour. And walking through the shopping mall that I work in, the majority of people walk along staring at their phone. You see people in restaurants with their friends, and they're all staring at their screens.

I'm not that person, and I hope that I never will be. But yet I still feel that technology is too much a part of my life. Jesus Christ it would be nice if I could make everyone do a detox like this.

Can you imagine if the Internet suddenly just broke. There would be teenagers experiencing a life without Internet for the first time ever. They'd have to talk to people and wouldn't be able to look at their screens anymore.

It's why I maintain that, depite my usage, the world would be a far better place without smartphones.

I certainly believe that I sit on the more acceptable side of the fence when it comes to smartphone usage, but even I'm determined to do this detox and see my life without them.

It's a funny old world that we live in. I kind of feel like humanity is so rabidly determined to "advance", that they forgot to think about whether these advancements actually make life better.

We can all be guilty of such determination on a personal level.

Did my determination to run this 100km in 36°C heat make me a better, healthier person?

Nope, but I did it anyway. But when instead of one person, it's seven billion, all chasing advancement without anyone stopping and asking 'will this actually help us?', it's almost a little bit strange.

Anyway, now I'm chatting shit.

I've got ten more days to figure this all out, so I imagine that I'll write another blog before I go off the grid. And then it's back to a life of sleeping at night-time, and eating because I'm hungry and weird shit like that.