- Golden years -

21st July '17

This is always a very... contemplative time of year for me because, well it seems to be the time of year that shit just gets done.

I think that I mentioned in the last blog that a couple of teachers are leaving my school to go to England/America to study master's degrees. Another is staying in this job part-time, and studying a master's in Thailand.

They're all about five years younger than me, but yet here I am... not really doing anything.

And that's ok. My whole goal in life is to not really do anything. But quickly approaching 32, I'm getting to the point now that... well the lifestyle choices I make will soon start to seem rather permanent.

I sometimes think about if I'm ever going to want to live in England again. But I never get too far because... well being realistic, I just can't. Not without taking a significant hit to my quality of life anyway.

In Bangkok I can afford to live in a private, hi-so apartment with a swimming pool in the centre of the city, with a park and public transport nearby. In London, there is no job I qualify for that can afford me even close to this.

It's nine years since I graduated with a business degree, and I've worked in business a total of, let me think, zero times. So my degree has no value to an employer. And you often see on forums, people that taught English abroad, hoping to go home and continue in the same career and... well it never seems to go so well.

Being what I think is realistic, I wouldn't be doing anything other than an entry-level job in London if I did go back, so there goes any hope of a private, city-centre apartment with a swimming pool.

The one exception of course, is if I did go back to university and get a master's degree, suddenly I become employable again.

Realisitically though, if I haven't done that by the time I'm 40... or even by the time I'm 35, am I ever going to? Probably not. So the window in which I have to go back into education is quickly closing, and with it the likelihood that I ever live in England again. And seeing these people much younger than me, leaving this job to do exactly what I'm not doing it... it makes me think.

And I mostly love teaching English. I probably am happier in this job than I would be in any other, so I'm not saying that teaching for the rest of my life is a bad choice. But when it starts to feel more and more final, it does make you think about it a bit more.

This is also the time of year that I have to decide whether to extend the lease on my condo and... well I always say that a one-year lease isn't really a one-year lease. It's a contract with a buy-out clause in the form of your deposit, so it's not like signing an extension ties me to this apartment absolutely. But still... it's certainly a barrier to leaving it. And if I did sign a year-long extension, then it does make the likelihood that I leave Bangkok to go to any other job or to go into education or anything, much more unlikely for the next twelve months. And when I'm thinking so much about if this is what I want from my future, then signing for another twelve months is certainly something to think about.

And the case wasn't helped when just days after writing the last blog, the unoccupied house opposite me suddenly became not unoccupied anymore.

It's a house, probably not more than ten yards from my bedroom window. And suddenly I had to think about things like keeping the curtains drawn, and closing the door when using the bathroom.

It was like my human rights were being infringed upon.

I've got this person opposite me, one below me that doesn't believe in walking, and up until two nights ago, I thought that I had French people living next to me.

I definitely did in the past, but I haven't smelled them for a while, so I guess that it makes sense that they've moved-out. And in their place? At least one Thai woman. How do I know?

Well at 11:30pm two nights ago, I'd got home from a hard days work. My alarm had gone off at 7:30am that morning, and I hadn't got home from work again until about 10:15pm. That's been normal all term on my split-shifts, although even take "split" with a pinch of salt.

I get three hours off in the middle, but what do I do with that time? I go and sit in a nearby coffee shop and mark writings for the 95 students that I have this term, so it's hardly a break.

And after that was my day on Wednesday, I'd gone home and made a quick dinner, and was just sitting down in front of the TV to eat when there was a knock at my door.

Seriously? It's 11:30pm. I'd literally only turned the TV on seconds earlier.

I had to put a t-shirt on to answer it seeing as I was only wearing underwear, and when I did, there was a Thai woman standing there with an absolute look of shock on her face, and to this moment I still haven't figured-out why.

I'm not sure if she was expecting a Thai person to answer, and she was shocked that I was foreign and that she'd have to speak English. I'm not sure if she was shocked that I didn't bother to put any shorts on as well before answering the door. I'm not sure if it was because I'd paused the TV and she could still hear whatever was bothering her. But there were literally seconds of her just standing there with an expression of absolute shock and disbelief where she's trying to say something, but just can't produce words.

I wasn't especially happy about being disturbed at 11:30pm while eating dinner after working for a full day. So when it got to what must have been three, or four, or five seconds or her silence, I barked "What?" at her.

She eventually managed to bumble that "I can hear your television..."

"Well where do you live?" I asked, because to my knowledge I was still living next to French people. She pointed to the room next door.

What annoyed me here, is that I know you can't hear my television inside that room. She was well-dressed; it wasn't like she'd got out of bed to tell me this. It looked like she was just coming back from work. And I don't think that she'd even been inside her apartment.

When I lived next to French people, which is something I never thought that I'd miss, they played loud music all the time. If you were in the corridor you could hear it right down at the elevators. The second that you closed the door to your apartment though... silence.

I don't know what they're made of, but the walls in this building are just really good. Someone can be playing loud music in the room next door, and you don't notice it. Which is why I know when I'm watching an MMA talk show on YouTube with my TV volume only loud enough to be able to just hear it from my sofa, you aren't going to hear it in the room next door.

I'm assuming that she was just coming home, heard it from the corridor, and decided to complain, which is something I never get.

I hate people's desire to complain about dumb shit. It made me angry when the guy downstairs expected me to stop walking around my apartment, and it made me angry now.

For all the time I've been teaching English I've lived in apartments, and do you know how many times I've complained to my neighbours?

Zero.

Do you know why?

Because I'm living in a fucking apartment. People make noise. You can't live in an apartment building and expect silence all the time.

Where I live, it's a nicer place than the typical riff-raff off the street would be able to afford, but it's not really high-end. If you're a a really rich Thai person, then you aren't living in this building. It's more a place for people who've made more money than average... but still aren't rich.

And that kind of person, is seemingly the kind of person who thinks they're successful enough that they have a right to look down on others and tell them how things should be, while lacking the intelligence to realise that they don't.

Random signs are always going up in my building in response to what has obviously been complaints that've been made.

I think there's one at the moment that says that you can't use a suitcase's wheels because they make too much noise. You have to carry your suitcase down the corridor apparently.

And that kind of thing only happens, because there was obviously some fucktard sitting in their apartment, they heard a suitcase once, and they just had to complain about it. They had to try to change the world to be one without suitcases.

Needless to say, I didn't respond too well to this woman being at my door at 11:30pm. Like I said, I believe that she'd complained on a whim walking down the corridor, because she'd have never heard my TV if she was actually in her apartment. Either that, or the look of shock on her face was because having paused my TV and opened the door, she could still hear the sound that was bothering her and she realised it was actually coming from another room. I did hear her knock on someone else's door a few minutes later.

I don't know which it was, but either way I didn't appreciate her being here.

She'd looked like a scared puppy from the moment I'd opened the door, so I really just looked at her angrily until she moped away with her tail between her legs.

But the point I'm slowly working towards, is it gives me even more pause about signing a new 12-month lease on my condo when I've got a retard living below me, a retard living next to me, and someone now living opposite me who might be perfectly nice, but they can see into my bedroom anytime I leave the curtains open.

I messaged my landlord a while ago telling him when I'd be out of the country and when the apartment would be unoccupied, and had said within that message that I plan on extending. He agreed, said we'd take care of it once I was back, and that was the end of it.

Although it wasn't said, it was assumed to be a 12-month extension. I may ask to go back to a 6-month lease but... well that brings its own problems, so it's something to think about while I'm away.

I do think that the decisions that I make over the next... maybe four or five years, will shape the rest of my life though, so I am wary of being tied-down.

If I'm not married with kids, or at least some way towards it by 35, am I ever going to be? Probably not. If I'm not back in education in some form by 35, am I ever going to be? Probably not.

I don't really think that I want either of those things, but it's still a little scary to know that being without them will last forever.

That's life though I guess. You're always going to wonder what could have been.

If I don't get married and have kids I could lament having a life of loneliness, but if I do, I might regret waiving my freedom and independence.

If I don't get a master's degree and change my career, I'll regret it any time I have a shitty day teaching, but if I do and I very likely don't enjoy my subsequent job as much, I could regret leaving a career that I actually do like.

So basically what I'm saying is that I'm going to be disappointed with whatever I do, so I may as well just not think about it.

I guess that's where mid-life crises come from; people regretting the choices that they made and lamenting what could have been. I'm not quite old enough for a mid-life crisis yet, but I'm getting there slowly, so it's something to look forward to. But there were a few things recently that made me realise... damn, I'm old.

Wayne Rooney re-signed for Everton thirteen years after leaving.

Everytime I see that, I have to do a double-take. Thirteen years?

I remember it like it was yesterday. He was the first player I ever cheered for who was younger than me, and as he returns to Everton at the tail-end of an illustrious, record-breaking career... I still can't decide if I want to do a master's degree or not.

About six hours ago, OJ Simpson was granted parole after nine years in jail.

Nine years. I remember him being sent to jail clearly as well.

Then, two weeks ago I was getting ready to go for a run. I'd just finished my pre-run cup of green tea, and the tea that I drink is loose-leaf tea. There is no tea bag, you just put the leaves into the mug and pour-in some boiling water, so to clean the mug, you have to shake-out all the leaves into the bin.

I bent-over to shake the leaves into the bin and... owww.

Something went in my lower back.

Nothing serious. I couldn't stand-up especially straight for a couple of days, and I took a week off exercise just to be safe. But... lower back pain? At 31?

I'll put it down to the way this term has been to honest. I said in the last blog, that people's surprise about how many teachers have been phoning-in sick this term has been misplaced.

No one should be surprised that on being asked to work split shifts and long days, people are getting sicker.

It was the same for me. I didn't get sick at all, but I'd been forcing bodyweight workouts into my weekly routine, but then working 12+ hours the next day. When's my body supposed to recover?

Exactly, it doesn't, until it's damaged to the point that you hurt yourself making a cup of tea.

More to do with my schedule than with my age I think, but had I been 21, I wouldn't have got a bad back. So that made me feel a bit old too.

The worse thing though, was that I've started playing a new PS4 game called 'Rocket League'.

Knowing that I'd have so little free-time this term, and then not taking my PS4 to London, I didn't want to start a game with a long story because I wouldn't be able to finish it until September. This term I just wanted something that I could pick-up and play on the rare occasion that I had 20 minutes free.

I was thinking that either a racing game or a football game would be best. So when I heard about Rocket League, which is basically playing football with cars, it seemed the perfect fit.

75% of the news I receive nowadays comes from Reddit.

I go on the BBC app a few times a day to check the headlines, and I spend a couple of minutes per day scrolling Twitter. But most of the time that I'm finding-out about the world is on Reddit. And if I have an interest, I subscribe to the relevant subreddit, and that's how I'll keep up with it. I'm subscribed to r/Everton, r/MMA, r/PS4, and 65-70 other subreddits of various interests I have. And on buying Rocket League I subscibed to r/RocketLeague.

That was all good, but in this online game where I can just about touch the ball sometimes with my car, I was almost in awe of the videos people were posting of them flying across the entire arena to score.

One so much that I actually commented on their video, asking "How many hours did you play for to get that good?"

'About 900 hours' they replied.

Great. Only 892 hours to go until I can do that too.

Then someone wrote another post looking to gage interest in a 'League for players over 30'.

Someone else had obviously got tired of being given the run-around by teenagers and their quick-learning ability too.

There seemed to be sufficient interest, and it wasn't long until I'd signed-up for an over 30's league.

It didn't actually materialise, because based in America, they set it up for times I was working, but the memory remained. I had to join the senior citizens league because I can't keep-up with the kids that're playing this game.

All of that really compiled to make me think... alright, life is moving on. I'm not getting younger. Is this really the life I want to live? And if not, do I really want to sign a 12-month extension on my condo?

Lost in the blur that was this term; of which now only two days remain, that was really what I was thinking about.

And now I sit here and think back, it actually was quite an eventful term. I think that I was so busy and so focussed on what I had to do though, that most of it didn't really register with me.

There was the return of the retard-surveys, although with a very different feel this year compared to last.

My boss made it perfectly clear that he holds their findings with very little regard, and compared to last year, where three people were called in to speak to the now-departed manager based on their score, one of whom ultimately left this job as an indirect result, and where as the scores were published and served no purpose but to harm morale, this year they were done with a bit more common sense.

My boss made it clear that his hands were tied; he had to do them. But this time, scores won't be published, there is no score that you have to achieve, and what little findings there are will be kept private.

It was also good that we were only told about them the day before they happened, so unlike last year, where I spent the whole term trying to be as popular as possible with my students, rather than actually focussing on being good at my job, this year there was no time for that.

I will add that it seemed a term of complete frustration for my boss, in that it felt like a lot of decisions, like this survey, were being made above his head, and then he was being forced to deal with the consequences.

Talking to him over the last couple of days, he's seemed almost exasperated, so I hope this doesn't spell a short tenure for him in this position, because I think that he's actually really good.

So there was that. And then in the last blog I think I said that we had two new teachers. Make that one new teacher; one of them got fired, which is impressive in itself. He was the first person I've seen get fired from this job, and he managed it in his first week or two.

He was from Fairbanks in Alaska, and I had wondered what could possibly attract someone that lives in the clean air of Alaska, to live and work in the centre of Bangkok. It'd seemed odd to me from the beginning. You can't really find two more contrasting places.

From what I've heard since his departure, is that he was lonely in Alaska, met a Thai girl on the Internet, and flew here to be with her. He then got this job, phoned-in sick on his first day, and when he was asked why, cited some kind of emotional girlfriend troubles.

So he didn't last long.

Perhaps the saddest thing though, was that we have this old teacher; a guy who's 70 I think. He's been ill before, but about halfway through this term, he phoned-in sick and didn't come back again. And he's been told that he needs chemotherapy at a cost of around three million baht (£69,000).

He doesn't have that kind of money, and I heard another of the older teachers saying that my school wouldn't be paying for it for him. Speculating as to why, he was then saying that it would be goodwill that could never be repaid. He wouldn't be able to continue working long enough for them to be able to recoup anything like that much from him, so...

It was the first time I've ever really experienced a financial value being put on someone's life.

'Your treatment's too expensive, you're not worth it.'

I don't know what his illness is, but I think I can assume that if chemotherapy is involved, then the choices are getting treatment, or dying. And it just feels like... "your life isn't worth £69,000."

There's a lot of speculation in this story; I don't really know what's going on or what my school said or how sick he really is. I'm just going on hearsay from around the teacher's room. But it's still kind of sad.

He's a nice guy, and to think that he might be allowed to die for financial reasons when there's a treatment available is... sobering.

Growing-up with the NHS, these things don't ever really happen, but he's American. I'm assuming that flying home for treatment isn't an option either.

It certainly gives more credence for living how I do though. Only healthy food, regularly exercising, valuing sleep above all else.

I'd always see this guy drinking Coke in the teacher's room. So I feel bad that he's sick but... are you surprised? You're drinking poison everyday.

Someone went home to Canada recently and brought back some maple syrup cookies to share. And the first thing I did? Took the box, looked at the ingredients, and concluded I didn't want to eat them.

They were vegan, but my general rule is that I don't eat things that I can't pronounce. If it looks like and it sounds like it comes out of a lab, rather than out of nature, then I don't eat it.

Another teacher commented that "you need to treat yourself sometimes."

No I don't.

I never get that attitude.

"I'm dying of cancer, but at least I ate that maple syrup cookie six months ago."

Health above all else. I don't want to be lying on my death-bed one day, knowing that I could have done more.

We're all going to die and no lifestyle makes you immune to disease, but at least when I get there, I'm going to know that I gave myself the best shot at being a healthy person and living a life void of ailment.

How is lessening your health a treat? I guess that's the bit I don't understand.

Hey, it's your birthday, here's a cake and some diabetes. Oh look it's Christmas, have some turkey and cancer. Celebrating your retirement? Have some champagne and liver failure.

I don't know, I guess I see the world differently to other people. Much like the rest of this blog, it's one of those things where you're going to have regret no matter what you do.

Have too much fun? Dead. Don't have enough fun? Alive and bored.

I'm not an especially sociable person; never have been. I like my own company and I like my independence. I probably go out with people once every couple of weeks here; usually friendships that remain from my last Bangkok job.

I don't really go out with people from my current job, primarily because everytime I have done before, I've ended up regretting it. And I've regretted it because all they do it go out and get drunk. And most bars here are outdoor bars, so people are smoking. I go there, don't have a very good time, and leave with a sore throat.

But it did make me wonder, when was the last time I met someone that I became close to, when alcohol wasn't involved?

In my last job here, I drank, and I still have more friends from that job that I left three and a half years ago, than from this job that I do today.

It's kind of sad in a way, that alcohol is such a necessary component for socialising.

I even found myself browing 'Meetup' recently, which is an app that allows people of various interests to meet together. That was the app on which I found the Bangkok running club that I met with once a long while ago now.

And on this app, if you want to meet people who are interested in movies, 'Hey, we meet in this bar at...' If you want to meet people interested in crochet, 'So we meet in this pub at...' Even half of the running meet-ups are 'We'll run together and then we'll finish at this pub.'

Not drinking and having a social life, it's... it's worryingly difficult.

It's like smartphones; the world shouldn't be like this. It's very backwards.

"If you want to make friends, you need to drink poison."

Well this is certainly going to be the last blog that I write this term, and it's been a memorable one.

Like anything, once I got into the routine, I actually started to enjoy this term, and having said goodbye to three of my five classes already, I'm actually going to miss some of them.

That doesn't mean that I want this again once I'm back from London. I would happily go back to teaching just evenings and weekends with small classes and nothing to plan. With so much uncertainty at the moment though; my school being organisationally in disarray, prices going up and teachers leaving, I honestly don't know what I'm going to come back to. My next term could be just like this one, or it could be like the one before. And I think I'm hoping for the latter.

Although having money could save my life one day, and I did save a lot this term, I'd rather opt to not work very hard in the hope that stops me getting sick in the first place.

We'll see though. Doing the opposite of this blog, and being happy with your circumstaces no matter what they are, is probably a better plan than hoping for something that might not come true.

Less thinking, more relaxing. That sounds better.