- Game of fear -

4th August '18

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Haha, fuck you Fitness First.

Back when I went to sixth-form college (age 16-17), the four subjects that I signed-up to study at AS Level, were psychology, communication studies, film studies, and computing.

I chose psychology because I wanted to learn to read people's minds.

Turns-out that was a massive disappointment because they just taught us about different research methods.

I took communication studies and film studies, because at sixteen years old, all I wanted was an easy life, and I figured that communication studies was just English but easier, and that for film studies all I'd have to do is sit around watching movies to pass.

Turns-out that's a lie. They made us watch movies from like a hundred years ago and write about them, so that was a massive let-down too.

And then I took computing.

I remember going to this first computing class of the term, and the teacher being this charismatic-less middle-aged man who spoke in a monotone voice about some things that I didn't understand, and the other students were the kind of people that at age 16, I'd aspire to be the opposite of.

I had some friends at the time, who were raving about the economics and business class they'd just taken, talking about how fun the teacher was and about the concepts they were learning and...

Yeah, that sounds much better.

After just one class, I dropped-out of computing and took-up economics and business studies instead, and the rest is history.

I loved it so much that I proceeded to study another four years of business at university. And since graduating more than ten years ago, after six years of study in college and university, how much time have I spent working in the field of business?

Fuck all.

Six years after dropping-out of computing to study economics and business, now 22 years-old, my teenage desire for wealth had dissipated, and nothing scared me more than spending the next forty years of my life sat in an office.

That was the motivation to go travelling instead, and from there pretty much every significant moment of my life has been documented in this blog.

Another thing that I did when I was younger, was that at a guess from the age of 8-10, I did karate.

I was quite good at it as well, getting two trophies; a second place and a third place, from the tournaments that I entered.

On both occasions I lost to the same guy; this kid who came all the way down from Milton Keynes to compete, and I'm still bitter about it today.

The fuck are you coming all the way from Milton Keynes for? You're nine years old.

I'd have two first places if it wasn't for him, but that's besides the point.

I still remember the day that I stopped doing karate.

I enjoyed karate, but there was this 'Adventure playground', this place for kids to go and hangout that had rope swings and table tennis and a basketball hoop etc., in the park near my house.

I'd end up spending quite a lot of my youth there, and at this particular time, the adventure playground was my favourite thing, so ten year-old me made the choice to stop doing karate because I wanted to go and hangout there instead.

Roughly a decade later, I was studying in Canada, and I was friends with a guy who was sort-of dating a girl. They weren't properly dating, but they weren't not dating. So in their not going out on a date together, a load of us went to a bar, because as I'd find-out later, this girl and her sister were huge Mirko Cro Cop fans.

He's a Martial Arts fighter, and this day, April 21st 2007 in 'Oasis' bar in downtown Halifax, would be my introduction to the UFC.

And truthfully, I was kind of disgusted by it.

I was very anti-violence in my younger days so couldn't even watch boxing without grimacing. And this was a hundred times worse.

Cro Cop got knocked-out cold with a head kick in what even today, is seen as one of the sport's infamous upsets.

Little did I know at the time, that less than two years later, I'd have become completely desensitised to the violence, and a huge UFC fan, and that it would have displaced football and the NFL as the most dominant spectator sport in my life; a position that it still holds today. Although not wanting to sound like an old man... but it's not what it used to be.

By that time I was travelling. In fact I have fond memories of buying bootlegged DVDs of UFC events, when I was in South America. They'd always appear in the markets in Peru and Bolivia and Argentina, about three days after the event took place live. And in 2010 it wasn't so hard to avoid the results as it would be today.

Travelling came at an opportunity cost though.

When you're going to a new city every few days, and a new country every few weeks, you don't get the chance to plant your roots. You can't really play sports or join a team or anything.

Having played American football in university and watched my former team-mates continue playing in adult leagues after graduation, I did harbour some envy towards them that I didn't also take that opportunity but... well travelling was more important to me at that time.

So I became this huge UFC fan, but as I was watching I always wondered as these fighters jumped onto the cage, championship belt lofted high into the air... what if I hadn't given-up karate? Maybe that could be me receiving the adulation of the bloodthirsty crowd, but instead I'm watching a grainy bootleg DVD three days later on my laptop.

Now I think I'm realistic in saying that there's a 99.9% chance that I'd have got my face kicked-in. But that 0.1% still leaves me wondering... what if?

In the words of Keanu Reeves, "pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever."

I'd have taken a beating to find-out for sure, but instead that 0.1% chance of glory will haunt me until my end.

Glory lasts forever, but so does its antipode, regret. And you don't regret the things you fail at, you regret the things you don't try.

You only get one shot at life, and you don't want to regret it.

At almost 33 years old, it's too late for me to go back and take-up martial arts again to find-out what could have been. At this stage of my life, I could never be more than an also-ran.

Of course, I'm not going to dwell on this decision that I made as a ten year-old. But in the same vein, programming is something that I want to try.

It's something that interests me, and it's something that I think that I could be good at.

And maybe I do have the same chance of success as there was that I'd have become UFC champion. But you don't regret failure.

It might be too late for me to go back and change this decision to stop doing karate that I made as a ten year-old, but the athleticism needed for martial arts thankfully isn't required in programming, so it's not too late for me to go back and change the decision that I made when I was sixteen, to drop-out of my computing class.

I'm still just about young enough that I can learn this and can become successful at it, and have the chance to turn it into a career.

And in this game of fear that we call life, what scares me more?

Does the fear of throwing away the life that I've built in Bangkok? Or does the fear of regret? The fear of not knowing?

After having a week to get settled back in and to make a start on this app development book, it was on the first day of August that I suddenly felt a sense of urgency to start making progress with my future.

Perhaps there was a subconscious blockade that, on giving myself until mid-August to get everything sorted, when I looked at the calendar and saw it was still July I was all... ah, loads of time left.

As soon as I looked at the calendar and saw August, I was all 'fuck, I need to get on with this.'

So the first day of August was when I really started researching and finding-out as much as I possibly could about these bootcamps.

I joined the Le Wagon London Meetup group, and signed-up for a free talk that they're holding next week. And I actually contacted the school in Bali to ask them several things about visas, accommodation, but also 'if I want to study from October 1st, when is it necessary to have signed-up by?'

My hope was they'd say 'You have plenty of time, just let us know by late September.'

The actual answer was 'We still have seats left for October but I recommend to start the application process shortly as we might sell out.'

Oh. Well that changes things then. I guess I can't wait until mid-September to decide if this is what I want to do.

For obvious reasons, sorting-out my future has been one of my priorities, and has taken-up the vast majority of space in this blog for a while. But the one thing that I've prioritised ahead of it, is sorting-out my mind.

Prior to coming back to London, I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to just wake up happy. Or to smile for no reason.

At no point in the last six months have I been... happy.

I've always blamed it on my job. I've blamed it on having six months of schedules where I didn't have the time to... be me.

I was always so rushed that I didn't have the time to look around and enjoy life, and that prolonged stress just wore me down.

Who knows if my job was really to blame or not? All I know, is that somewhere along the way, life just stopped being fun. But now that I've got this term-off; now that I've got time on my side again, I can finally start getting my mind back into a good place. And happiness is a habit.

I've tried unsuccessfully in the past to recite the science of the meditation book that I read a while ago, so I won't try again, only to say that it talked about how your brain has pathways that lead to different thoughts.

The pathways that you take more often become more worn and easy to travel, and the pathways that you don't become more overgrown.

After six months of bullshit from my job, the pathways in my mind to negative places are dual carriageways, and the pathways to positive places are overgrown country lanes.

Happiness is a habit, but then so is negativity, and I've been consistently frustrated with life for quite a while.

Two blogs ago I gave the quote that "...it's not your situation that matters, but how you're able to look at it."

You can find people smiling in some of the worst places in the world, but take Elon Musk as an example of someone who you'd think has everything, and how embittered he appeared when responding to accusations against him regarding the Thai cave rescue.

You can find happiness in almost any situation, just so long as you're able to look at it the right way.

And there's nothing wrong with thinking things through, but it has to be balanced-out with an element of risk-taking; a point where you stop and just say 'what will be will be.'

You can't plan-out every moment of your life.

But it's much easier to do that; it's much easier to take that risk when you are in a good place mentally, because you spend less time thinking about the possible negative consequences.

It's probably why I've had such a hard time committing to any of these possible scenarios of my future.

I think I'm leaving my job but... ah, I'm kind of scared to because of something. And I'm pretty sure I'm leaving Bangkok, but what if I miss this thing. And I think I'm doing a programming bootcamp, but what if it goes wrong? That's a lot of money. Well I could just go into the woods and teach myself programming but... well what if I fail and I don't have enough money for a bootcamp then?

This entire decision-making process has been stalled by fear. Focussing on the negatives really mothers indecisiveness. And so now, and going forward, everything would just be a whole lot easier, if I could get my mind back to where it was six months ago.

Not to mention, life's just more fun when you're enjoying it.

But how do you do that? How do you return a mind, battered by six months of retarded management, to a place of positivity?

Just being away from my job surely helps. Just being away from this school that I now associate with negativity. Looking back at it from such a distance and thinking... ah, maybe it wasn't so bad after all.

But more than that, the one thing that I've prioritised, ahead of even programming and sorting-out my future, is getting back to meditating for thirty minutes everyday.

Trying to widen those pathways in my mind that lead to good places. Because if I can do that, if I can find myself happy without needing a reason to be, like I was six months ago, then nothing else really matters.

Stay in my job, do a programming bootcamp, become a hobo. If you can smile no matter your situation, then they're all the right decision. You can make the best of any of them.

Being prepared is one thing, but if ignorance is bliss, then over-thinking is agony, and I've been thinking about this all way too long.

Another, sort-of, convoluted benefit that I've always found, is that when you're of a positive mindset, good things start happening to you. And I don't just mean in the sense of things turn-out the best for the people that make the best of the way that things turn-out.

I mean that luck seems to get bestowed upon those of good mind.

In my experience at least, good things happen to me when I'm happier.

I've started meditating again. Thirty minutes per day, focussing as best as possible just on my breath.

I've always been of the suspicion that doing so makes you happier long after you've finished your practice, and books back this up, but I've just never been able to definitively prove it to myself.

I've just noticed that at times in my life when I'm meditating regularly, doing seemingly unconnected things, for example teaching a shitty class, just become more bearable.

It's hard to make that cast-iron connection though, because you think 'am I really happier today because I focussed on my breath for thirty minutes last night, or am I just having a good day?'

You can't really prove that connection, so I guess that's why meditation is one of the first things that falls by the wayside whenever time becomes short, hence I've barely done any for the last six months, thanks to my schedule.

But is it a coincidence that I now hate my job and I'm on the verge of quitting?

Perhaps. Who really knows?

As if to almost prove my earlier conjecture though, I did a thirty-minute meditation practice, then a couple of minutes later I was looking through a drawer, trying to find an old Oyster card that I thought might still have money on it.

It's been a long time since I took public transport in London; I tend to just walk everywhere. But perhaps having to make multiple trips to the city centre in the coming weeks, and with time already being short... ah, maybe I can afford myself the chance to be lazy once or twice, and take the train.

So I just finished thirty minutes of meditation, and I was looking through this drawer, trying to find my old Oyster card and I'm all... the fuck?

There's £3,000 in this drawer.

Not in cash, but on a bank statement in my name, from an account that I forgot existed.

This is what I mean. Get your mind into a good place, and random good shit just starts happening.

I'd only meditated for thirty minutes, and I'd already found £3,000. Imagine if I'd done a whole hour. I'd be a millionaire.

But seeing as this whole decision-making process that I'm trying to navigate through, has been heavily-influenced by money, I was all like... well this changes things.

Common sense should probably say that 'hey, now you have a bit more of a financial safety net, so you can afford to be unemployed for longer after doing a bootcamp while you search for a job.'

Or... fuck common sense, you can become a hobo and live on that money for months if you're careful with it in places like Thailand. You can be a much more comfortable hobo than you were already considering being.

From the Friday after I got back, so for a week now, I've spent an average of maybe 4-5 hours per day learning Swift. And I'm loving it.

At times it's been frustrating as I feel I'm getting nowhere, at others it feels like everything's really coming together.

But the most important thing is... I'm still standing. At no point have I been bored and I haven't contemplated stopping it.

For the duration of this trip, at any moment that I'm not exercising, cooking, eating, meditating, seeing people, researching bootcamps, writing blogs, buying groceries, selling PS4 games on eBay, trying to find-out about German passports, or any number of other things that seem to take up time in my day, then I'm sat in front of my MacBook, learning Swift.

And the most important thing, I'm enjoying doing it.

And a programming bootcamp like Le Wagon, wouldn't exactly be a U-turn from app development. I'm sure there would be some crossover. But it would maybe be a bit of a side-step.

To quote the FAQ on the Le Wagon website:

Will I learn mobile app development?

Yes and no. Let’s be clear, you will not learn iOS, Android or Windows Phone development. We really think these skills cannot be taught (honestly) in 9 weeks. We prefer teaching you the basics of programming and web development for many reasons. First, these are the core skills of a software engineer, even if you want to dive into mobile development later on. Second, the web is THE open platform you need to understand. Thanks to Responsive Web Design (which is part of the program), and WeChat mini programs (in China), you’ll be able to create apps that will display nicely on mobile devices. You’ll also learn to create APIs that will be used by your mobile apps. It will then be very easy for any mobile developer to code your iOS or Android interface starting from the API you’ve built.

And you've got to remember what initially attracted me to programming.

It was never about becoming an employed programmer, it was about having the knowledge-base to develop my own projects. I've just come to realise that my chances of successfully making a living from programming are greatly increased if I go the bootcamp to employment route.

But if I've just found £3,000 so can afford to follow the app development pipe-dream a little longer...

Based on everything that I've said in this blog, and based on how time-consuming not knowing what to focus on is, so having to focus on every possible avenue, I'd like to be able to tell you that I have a definitive answer for what my immediate future is going to be.

I don't.

But what I can tell you, is that this is probably the last blog that I'll write where that's the case.

There's been enough thinking and enough stalling. My hand is being forced by things like my self-imposed deadline of what is reasonable notice to give to my job, and by the possibility of Le Wagon Bali booking-up for October. But I'm kind of over this now anyway. I just want to make some decisions and act on them.

So this may be the last blog that I ever write as an employed English teacher.

At no point since I got back, have I thought 'do you know what'd be a really good idea? To keep on working this job where I've been miserable for the last six months.'

The way things are now, there's a 99.9% chance that I resign from my job.

I do want to stress that that by no means means that quitting is going to be an easy thing to do.

I was looking over my photos from teaching there for the last three years, remembering some of the students I've had, and to say that I wouldn't miss this job would be a lie.

Not only can it be a very rewarding thing, but for the past six years, it has been me. Teaching has been my identity.

My description on my Instagram profile says 'Teacher'. My description on my Meetup profile says 'Teacher'. It's the one thing that I do to bring value to the world, and to suddenly lose that identity, and to wave goodbye to the art of standing in front of a group of people and leading them, something which I've perfected and relished over these six years, it's... it's not easy to do that.

Change is always scary, but it needs to be done.

A former student posted a somewhat obvious but still poignant quote on Instagram yesterday:

'If you wait, all that happens is you get older.'

Her English is still at beginner level, but sometimes that can help when making candid points. And I read that quote and was just like... yeah that's true actually.

I'm done waiting. There's only so much time I can get older.

And if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that there's a 75% chance that I end up doing a bootcamp, and if I do there's a 75% chance that it'll be the one in Bali.

I've tried to be as open-minded about this as possible, and have researched other bootcamps, but everything points at Le Wagon as being the best one available.

And I did consider and am considering branches of this school other than Bali.

London would be great, because assuming that I end up living back here afterwards, it'd be good to do some networking, and meet some local people who'll be going through the same struggle that I am. But London also has the most expensive tuition, and is far enough from my house that if it's as stressful and intensive as I'm anticipating it being, then the two hours of commuting everyday would be a problem.

Barcelona's been on my list; I'm not really sure why. I guess because that was the branch that the person who wrote the article that got me thinking about bootcamps went to, so it just comes with that extra bit of credibility.

If money wasn't an issue then Tel-Aviv would probably be my top choice.

I've always wanted to go there, I'd be able to catch-up with a certain person, I love hummus, and I kind of associate Israel with efficiency and high quality.

I don't know exactly why, but when I think of Israel, I think of it as being very well educated and modern when it comes to computing.

Perhaps it's all the accusations that get thrown around of Mossad hackings.

I also think that if you're going to do a computing course in Israel, then you're serious about it.

It's not a place known for students to go on their summer break. When I think of the kinds of people that go to Israel, I think of them as being quite dignified.

Bali on the other hand is known as a party city, so my biggest fear is that it'll be full of backpacking-alcoholic types who stumbled in there without really thinking about it, but who have no intention of actually working hard to learn anything.

On the other hand, its proximity to Bangkok, and how cheap it is to live compared to the other cities on my list, mean that it's been the favourite from the start.

This was some data that I took from Numbeo (the numbers are all relative to New York City, so New York would be ranked at 100 in each category). I included Bangkok for my own reference:

Cost of living index (excl. rent) Rent index
1. London 81.31 1. London 70.30
2. Tel-Aviv 77.39 2. Tel-Aviv 40.17
3. Barcelona 62.15 3. Barcelona 32.44
4. Bali 41.48 4. Bali 8.45
Bangkok 53.61 Bangkok 25.72
Groceries index Restaurant price index
1. Tel-Aviv 62.34 1. London 91.85
2. London 57.74 2. Tel-Aviv 85.86
3. Barcelona 48.06 3. Barcelona 60.42
4. Bali 44.51 4. Bali 24.08
Bangkok 52.65 Bangkok 29.92

Also, studying at a school from which you can see the beach and are likely to have nice weather everyday... I mean, that's appealing.

Unlike Tel-Aviv or Barcelona, it's cheap enough that I wouldn't have to stay in absolute bottom-feeder accommodation, and could get somewhere close to the school and close to the beach. And when doing this stressful, intensive course, what sounds a better surrounding? London in the approaching winter, or the sunny beaches of Indonesia?

Plus, if I'm being brutally honest, I have no idea what to expect on finishing this course.

How employable will I immediately be? Will I have to hide-away in a quiet corner of the world to improve myself for a couple more months before I start applying for jobs?

I honestly don't know. I'd go into this not knowing how I'd come out the other side. And if there's so much uncertainty... then fuck it, being in a part of the world where places as cheap as Thailand and Cambodia are just a short plane-ride away, might pay-off in the long run if I do need to hide-away and study for a while longer.

I'm going to this event at Le Wagon London next Wednesday, and that has the potential to make me think 'wow, maybe I should study at the London branch after all. Screw the extra cost.'

It also has the potential to make me say 'maybe this whole bootcamp thing isn't for me after all.'

I'm scheduled to have a phone call with the manager of Le Wagon Bali at 9am the morning afterwards, and then... it's decision time.

The other 25% if I opt not to do a bootcamp, is the enduring lure of... fuck, I just really want to try my hand at making my own apps.

I believe, that should I have the time to dedicate 5+ hours per day to learning, like I am now, for a sustained amount of time; maybe three months, maybe six, then I'd have the competence to either create something of my own, or at least be employable.

I've read enough examples online of people who dedicated that sort of time, and were.

Especially after finding £3,000, that is still a possible outcome. But if what I think in my head is going to happen is what is going to happen, and it rarely ever is, then prior to writing my next blog, I'll have quit my job and signed-up to study in Bali in October.