- Master of none -

5th November '17

The first two days of this week were taken up by my work's two day annual seminar. And in a peculiar turn of events, I actually quite enjoyed it, and left feeling somewhat motivated to better myself as a teacher, albeit with one major caveat.

One reason it was so enjoyable, was that for various reasons, almost all of the people that use the teacher's room at work to command as much attention to the plight of their hangover as possible, or who take pride in things like going to class unprepared, didn't attend the seminar. So for once, sitting in the teacher's room at work was... different. Pleasant.

That's perhaps a bit harsh. They're all nice people, but there's only so many times you can hear about how drunk someone got last night.

So that helped me enjoy being there, and this year was also structured rationally, thanks to being planned by a new girl who's now in charge of teacher development at our school. She did away with the usual suicide-inducing speeches by the higher-ups of the company, and for much of the seminar, managers were intentionally, nowhere to be seen. It was instead hosted as a pressure-free environment to meet and share ideas with your peers.

I liked it.

The caveat attached to bringing almost every teacher of the nationwide branch of my school together under one roof, was that you got to see much more clearly the make-up of the teachers.

My branch, which is the head office and flagship branch of the school, is actually fairly diverse. Maybe a 50/50 split between men and women, between young and old. And the older men at my branch are all perfectly respectable, dignified people.

That trend unfortunately doesn't carry on nationwide, and walking into the seminar, you quickly realised that the majority of teachers in this network are older, out of shape, stuck-in-their-ways men.

Some are perfectly nice, but the most cringe-worthy moment of this seminar for me, was getting paired with a guy during a writing workshop. And in this workshop we were partaking in demonstrations of various writing activities that we can do in our own classes, one of which involved writing down your hobby, for which your partner would write questions for you to answer.

I wrote down my hobby as 'running'.

Take a guess what this plump, red-faced, approximately sixty year-old man wrote down as his hobby.

'Women.'

And let's be honest, he wasn't talking about his wife of twenty years. I can see why he settled in Thailand.

This was the most notable of several moments that stuck with me and made me think... I don't want this to be me. Twenty-five years from now, I don't want this to be my life.

So I came out of this seminar determined to better myself in this job in the short-term, but even more determined that it wouldn't be my job for the long-term, because if twenty-five years from now, I'm an out of shape, red-faced man writing down the hobby of 'women' in my school's annual seminar, then I have failed at life.

Thanks to the first two days of my week-off being taken up by this seminar, I had zero intention of going away anywhere for the rest of the week.

I'm still recovering financially from taking a term off to go home, and if I do go away anywhere, then it'll be over Christmas when I have three free weeks. So my plan for the rest of this week off was just to relax, and do nothing exceptional or out of the ordinary. And so what actually happened...?

Well I did exactly that.

My problem is that my PS4 has become so much of a dominant time-filler, that when my life doesn't have the distraction of work, then that's what I do.

A lot.

And I don't like to start something if I'm not going to finish it, although I can appreciate that there are some notable exceptions. I started learning Thai and... do I speak Thai?

Generally speaking though, if I start something, I see it through to its conclusion.

I was mid-way through Final Fantasy XII by this point, having started it a week or so earlier. And in truth, I wasn't enjoying it very much.

It's a mere shadow of the earlier Final Fantasy games, which define my teenage years more than any other media.

Some people have songs, or books, or movies that were important to them when they were younger, and to ever listen to, or read, or watch them again, takes them right back there.

Well for me, that piece of media is Final Fantasy. Especially VII, takes me right back to being an excited thirteen year old again.

Unfortunatley, they dropped the ball a bit with number XII, but I've started so I'll finish. I want to see this game through to its conclusion; how does this not very exciting or well thought-out story end?

The less I was enjoying it, the more I was having to force myself to keep on playing it, because if I stop, I just won't come back. Until it reached a point where I was investing hours into this game everyday in order to finish it as quickly as possible, and not enjoying any of them.

Every time I played it, I had to tell myself, 'ok, embrace the grind.'

Alright, something's gone very wrong here.

When you're doing something like this of your own accord, not because you're enjoying it, rather because of some self-imposed obligation, then something's gone very wrong.

Video games are like movies or TV shows; they're supposed to be the relaxing part of the day that you look forward to. Something to help you unwind.

When they're the biggest stressor in your day though...

It was only a couple of days like this after the conclusion of the seminar, although it felt like significantly more. But as I lay in bed on Thursday night, half in a state of unconsciousness as I dropped off to sleep, I had what an alcoholic may refer to as a moment of clarity.

I'm not sure if there's a video games equivalent.

These two days had been stressful for another, personal reason that I won't go into, so this wasn't the only thing occupying my mind. But as I lay there in bed I started thinking... alright, something's got to change. Is this really what's important in life?

I'd gone to a yoga class on each of these two days, so it wasn't like I'd been a complete hermit. My body felt as though I had though.

I wasn't smiling, everything felt like a chore, I had four days worth of stubble on my face for the first time in years.

It's hard to put into words how I was feeling mentally; I guess that my brain felt crowded. Almost lost.

Alright, starting tomorrow, things have got to change.

I had a yoga class at 12:15pm on this day too. I'd have otherwise filled the time prior to it with gaming but... not today.

Instead I went and sat in Lumphini Park, looking out over the lake and contemplating life.

It was the first time I'd been to Lumphini Park since getting back from London, despite paying a premium in rent every month just to be nearby. And it was amazing how much, instead of sitting on my couch starting at a screen, looking over the water and watching the monitor lizards did to untangle my mind.

I was still determined to finish Final Fantasy XII, which at this point only had about ten hours remaning. And I intentionally say 'only', because it's more like fifty hours from start to finish.

That's the commitment you make when you start a video game nowadays.

Witcher 3, which is another game that I have waiting in the wings, takes roughly 120 hours to complete.

Fuck, I can't do this anymore. I'm not even playing games because I enjoy them. It's just almost part of my identity now; it's just what I do when I have free time. What did I even used to do in my free time before I had a PS4?

No, I'm seriously asking. I can't remember.

Regardless of what it was, I'm sure that it gave my brain far more time to think and understand life than it currently has.

And right there I decided, alright I need a break.

Out of principle I'm finishing Final Fantasy XII. I've started so I'll finish. But once it's over, I'm disconnecting my PS4 and seeing what else is out in the world.

Actually disconnecting all the cables would be a massive inconvenience, but I'll at least hide the controller somewhere so that I can't play it again without some concerted effort on my part. My body and my mind need a break.

The only problem with going away over the Christmas break, is that's peak season here in Thailand, so is perhaps the one time of year when you have to plan ahead. But having felt so much benefit from just sitting in the park, thinking about life for thirty minutes, I decided that I wanted to go somewhere serene, that I could sit undisturbed.

During peak season that might not be so easy, but I have a couple of ideas.

Although this doesn't sound like me, because I'm an off-peak kind of guy, in that I only ever like doing things during quiet times.

I never go to restaurants at lunchtime because they're too busy, so the service is bad and the food takes a long time. I wait until 4pm, when they're quiet.

I never go to shopping malls or supermarkets on weekends. It's one of the reasons that I love working evenings and weekends. My free-time is when other people work and vice-versa.

And lately, I've even skipped going to the gym on weekends.

You go to a yoga class on the weekend, and you're fighting for space in the studio and in the locker room. Not very relaxing. If you try to use the gym itself, the equipment you want is continually occupied.

At lunchtime, during the week, that's Jethro time. I've twice had yoga classes where I was the only one to show up.

That was actually a bit awkward, but you get the idea. I still prefer it to being too busy.

You can just call me Jethro 'Off-peak' Williams.

So even during this week off, I had no intention of going to the gym yesterday or today (Sunday).

I wanted to exercise somehow though, and I'd enjoyed sitting in the park so much, that I went back again yesterday, this time to go running. The first exercise I'd done not at my gym, since getting back from London.

Yoga's great, but it doesn't prepare you much for running. So I went there yesterday with no pressure on myself for how far or how fast I should run. After a more than two month hiatus from running, any would have been unfair. I'll just go as far and as fast as I enjoy, which ultimately turned into a rather slow 5km, but a very enjoyable 5km at that.

I hadn't gone anywhere during this week off, or done anything of note, but somehow it had still been quite a roller-coaster.

The seminar was great, and I really enjoyed it seeing as I considered it work.

Two days later I was feeling low and depressed, and can't for the life of me explain why; probably just too long staring aimlessly at screens.

But then two more days later, here I was again, prancing around the park with a big grin on my face. I can't explain why that happened either.

I wish to Christ that I better understood my emotions but... well I've been trying to figure them out for years, and I never seem to get anywhere.

I sometimes think that routines are good, because they allow you to fit in all the things you need to fit in, and you feel comfortable. But then you do that routine for too long and it becomes cumbersome and you start longing for change.

So maybe you need a flexible routine, but that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.

I guess that you've just got to conclude that some days you're going to feel good, and some days you're going to feel bad, and there's not a fucking thing that you can do about it.

But suddenly I felt great. Like my brain was untangled again.

I went for a run, then came home and shaved the overgrowth from my face. And yesterday afternoon/evening, I embraced the grind and did what I had to do. I completed Final Fantasy XII.

And exactly as promised, I hid my PS4 controller away in a box and put it in the closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

I'm not sure how long it'll stay there. Maybe just a day, or maybe I'll try and go the entire term. But at the very least, I'm giving myself a short break. Much needed.

It's why I'm writing this blog really. Because I have time. I think I'll go for a swim in a minute too, which'll be the first time I've used my pool in what must be six months or more.

I looked up a new app for studying Thai, which inevitably won't last long, and UFC 217 finished in the last hour, so I'm just waiting for someone to post that on Pirate Bay.

All of these are things that normally would be prioritised below my PS4 in what I do with my free time, and seeing as my backlog of unplayed games is hundreds of hours long and growing quicker than I can play them, it basically means that I would never do any of them.

Without a PS4 though... ah, the world is my oyster.

It's strange to say that I'm actually looking forward to the distraction of work again. I could actually do with that routine in my life. And speaking of routine, the weekday schedule arrived in my inbox a couple of days ago, accompanied by a somewhat morbid email saying:


Hi All,

It's [the schedule] a bit grim. For many of you, probably as grim as you have ever seen it. Most teachers have two [classes] only. Some of you have three because either you had two last term or that's just how things rolled this term

We will do our best to split up SLC hours among all those who want/need them and, of course, we will do our best to get people what they want on weekends.

It's been the perfect storm, so to speak, and all branches I have checked in with are reporting record lows, Bangkok and beyond.

Private classes will be offered to those lowest in hours first.

I'm off radar today but will be back in the office tomorrow for placement tests and walk-ins.

Regards,


I always like these emails because they mean that I'm not going to be lumbered with more classes than I want.

'Better to work too little than too much' is what I always say.

Which goes to show how my attitude to work differs from other people.

And if I wanted routine... I got it. My weekday schedule was identical to that which I had last term. The same levels on the same days at the same times.

Every term I seem to think 'there's no way I can ever get a better schedule than this,' but then the next term they seem to outdo themselves.

I don't even have to remember a new schedule this term, and can slip straight back into the routine I had last.

Of course, you'd think that an email such as this would be a catalyst for some kind of marketing campaign to get student numbers up but... well I've been thinking that with every email for the last two years, and nothing meaningful ever seems to happen, and it's all way above my head. So instead, until one of the higher pulls their finger out, or until things become so dire I don't have a job anymore, I'll just keep riding this wave of great schedules.

And maybe by the time the latter happens (which seems the more likely of the two), I'll have figured-out a future on my own. A presently hopeless quest, in that it's become frustratingly obvious that I don't have a clue what I want to do. And more than that, where I want to go.

Stay in Thailand? Go to England? Go somewhere else? Live in a city? Live in the countryside?

At any given moment, on any given day, I could be leaning towards any of them.

Half of the time I feel like I'll be leaving Thailand next September. The other half I just can't imagine it.

And what can I glean from this glut of indirection?

That the perfect scenario for me is one where I have an ability to make a living regardless of location, most likely meaning something online.

If I had the freedom to go where I pleased and to still be able to support myself... well then trying to decide where to go, it becomes far less important.

Unfortunately though, that is as far as I've got.

Deciding that I want an online-dependent income is the easy part. Because I've been wracking my brains and can't for the life of me think of a palatable way how.

I've been thinking about any area of "expertise" or above average knowledge that I have, and so far none have led me down any helpful paths.

For example, one idea I had was to make a website about being vegan in Bangkok because... well for me, when I decide to go anywhere, the first thing I consider is what I can actually eat there.

If I'm deciding whether to go somewhere new, the most important bit of research I do is put that town/city/island into Happy Cow, and see how many vegetarian-friendly restaurants show up.

If it doesn't show many, then I generally don't go there.

Travelling's not easy if you want to be strict about your diet. Restaurants tend to cater towards taste and little else.

Well Bangkok is, according to Forbes and many others, the most visited city in the world, and I just so happen to have an intricate knowledge of being vegan in this city.

Not just the restaurants, but I know all the main supermarkets backwards, and know the specialist shops to go to, to get rarer ingredients.

So I was thinking that it might be fun to build a website that not only reviews all of the restaurants I go to, but that also includes all of the recipes that I cook, including where in the city you need to go to buy all of the ingredients. So if you're vegan and you visit Bangkok, whether you're in self-catering or you want to eat out, it would be the one place you need to look to know how to eat here.

I got so far as to look up available URLs, and 'veganbkk.com' is currently available. 'veganbangkok.com' is owned by someone else until the middle of next year, but they're not currently using it for anything, so it might become available.

So this is one idea I had, but does it make money?

I don't think so, I can't fathom any way that it would generate enough traffic to. It would just be a fun hobby for me.

I also have an above average knowledge of the English language, and how to teach it to non-native speakers, including the problems that they'll have.

And you can teach students online and make money doing so, but... if I'm going to work as a teacher, I'd rather it be in a classroom. I'm old fashioned in that I like face-to-face contact. I rarely even engage in conversation on social media, other than to arrange where to meet people.

Another "fun" hobby for me could be to make a website focussing on particular grammar points that the Internet surprisingly fails to explain well.

On many occasions I've needed to know something and Google just can't help me.

Through books, forums, and sometimes just common logic and trial and error, I'll eventually figure them out, but there are certain gaps of knowledge out there on the worldwide web, that were you to fill them adequately, could have you finishing high-up in some Google searches.

Again, that's something I could do, but again, I don't see how it could be more than a hobby. I don't think it would garner enough traffic to generate anything other than negligible revenue.

I also now have five years worth of English teaching activities and handouts that I've made to use in my own classes. There's perhaps some value to them and to making more of them but... well I'd be very late to the party if I did go that route.

The Internet is already very overcrowded with websites offering handouts to lazy English teachers, so I don't really see that as a viable option.

One thing that I have been interested in for a while now, is app development. Although when I say 'interested in', what I mean is I've looked at it from afar, and thought 'that looks fun.'

There are a couple of areas where I've been crying-out for apps that don't exist, hoping that someone will make one, but no one ever seems to. So I've on multiple occasions looked into app development, and how long it takes to create an app.

Posts sometimes pop-up on Reddit of people promoting their new app, saying something like 'I started two years ago with no coding experience, and today I'm finally launching my app...'

From what I can gather, Apple makes it pretty easy to educate yourself on how to make apps for iOS. The tools are there to help you learn, even if you have zero programming experience, so I've often thought about doing that.

The one stumbling block for me has always been that you need a Mac to do it. There are apparently work-arounds, but basically you can't do it on a Windows PC, so I'd need to invest in a Mac before I could get anywhere and... well I haven't felt motivated enough to do this to spend that much money, so that's always stopped me in my tracks.

My ailing Windows laptop on which I type this blog, is now well into her sixth year. She'll need to be upgraded at some point. Could I justify spending close to £1,000 for an Apple computer, as opposed to the roughly £300 I'd expect to spend on Windows?

That was how much this laptop cost me, and having lasted me this long, it's hard to say I need to spend more.

And then, of course, the one obvious thing that I enjoy is writing.

No one's holding a gun to my head as I write this blog, and I don't expect it to reach many people. I'm certainly not doing it for the notoriety, and even if this site went offline tomorrow, I'd keep on writing.

Why?

I enjoy it. It's relaxing, and it helps me clear my head.

Am I good at writing?

Well if you've read this far into this blog without giving up, then you perhaps think so, but the lack of hits this website gets says most people think otherwise. But that doesn't mean that I can't get better if it's something that I want to and can do professionally. But where? How?

What do I know enough about, that I can make money just by writing about it?

Is there someone out there who'll pay me to write for them? Is there a way I can write and publish things myself and make money?

I long ago had an idea for a short book. I can't even remember what it was; something health-related though. And I thought about writing it, just as something fun for me to do, and I could offer it online for free. And back then I remember looking up how to publish a book on iTunes, and it seemed relatively easy.

You don't need to find a publisher who likes your work nowadays. If you want to publish it, that seems to be enough. But again... what can I write about, that I have enough knowledge about, and that can garner enough interest, that it makes money? Either publishing a book, or putting it onto a website?

Yeah, I can't think of anything either.

I seem to have an average knowledge of many things, but I'm expert in very little. Jack of all trades, master of none I guess.

So that's kind of where I've got to.

Basically nowhere.

I'd like to generate an income that's not dependent on my location but... well I'd like to be able to be able to fly and I've made about the same progress figuring that out.

Maybe void of a PS4 for the short-term I'll get a bit futher.

It's become the latest feature to finish these blogs: How little progress have I made in figuring-out the future?

And as yet, the answer has always been very, very, very little.

Ah well. Rome wasn't built in a day, I'll keep chugging along.

Maybe I'll figure something out within a year, like I planned.