I was deep in thought—it’s first period, and I don’t have class, but everyone else in my staffroom does. I was thinking about mattering to C, and about having my needs considered, because that is what is going on for me: she considers my needs sometimes. She doesn’t sometimes: She behaves like a child, who doesn’t consider the needs of others and just asks for what she wants in hopes that it will be accommodated, and has no choice but to accept the boundaries laid down. Lately, it seems like she is thinking about my needs more. Not necessarily needs I articulate, but the needs she imagines I have. So I was thinking about that, about being considered, and it was hitting a very tender place in me, because I know this is about real connection. She is polite, but not to me. This isn’t politeness.

My eyes suddenly welled up with tears as I thought about it. At that particular moment, the “dry sweeper” came wandering into the staffroom. He just came in. He had nothing to do in there. I covered my face, because I did not have time to wipe away the tears before he walked in. He clumped around the staffroom for a while in his boots, while I tried to pretend there weren’t tears on my face. It seemed he was going to stay for a while, clumping around, so finally I wiped the tears and went to close the blinds, as though the light had been making it hard to see the screen. (It was going to soon—it’s a bright, hot day.)

I asked him if he was looking for something, because he was walking around looking at all of the teacher’s tables. “No.”

“Just bored?”

He didn’t answer, but wandered out again.

Five minutes later, the office secretary wandered in, looked at someone’s table, and also wandered out again—seemingly also without purpose.

It scared me to have someone walk into the room suddenly when I was unexpectedly crying. I felt scared and angry (is there some reason you need to disturb my solitude? No, evidently not.)

I am free in second period also, but the other teachers will be. They might come in the staff room and work diligently. They might stay outside under the metal umbrella outside. They might come inside, turn on all the fans (which gives me a headache because of my shitty sinuses), and shout and terrify me for a period.

I have absolutely no control.

I don’t have control over what people do and I have no control over my delicate nervous system, which is wired to look at every stimulus as a potential life-threatening situations. Everything that happens, I must assess and calm myself down after realizing it is not a threat. I have no control over my nervous system and its automatic reaction to things. I have no control over how other people trigger it or don’t. None whatever. I get to react to life. Constantly.

What is stressful about Country X for me is that everyone else is kind of doing the same thing to some extent. Everyone responds to everything like someone is bleeding to death. There’s a pencil on the floor and it’s like, “Oh, my God! Someone dropped a pencil!” No one ever says calmly, “Excuse me, I think you dropped your pencil.” It’s always, “Pencil!” as though someone has just spotted a king cobra in the class. What is most stressful about teaching here is that people are continually alarmed, and they communicate this alarm to others without really thinking about it. I mean, no one ever takes a breath first. I don’t know why this is or why Americans seem to be able to take a breath first. But I know they seem to be able to cope with this constant reactivity, and I can’t. My nervous system is unable to handle it.

I think I had been fighting this. But this is just how it is.

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