Three hours into nowhere

This kind of thing tends to be wasted on me.
This kind of thing tends to be wasted on me.

I know where I’m going.

I don’t mean where I’m going in a general, this is what life is all about sense. Instead, I mean something specific.

The Country X people sent me an email. In a continued effort to keep my work and personal life separate, I cannot reveal the location to you. However, suffice it to say that, on a good day, it is a few hours into absolutely nowhere. Also, it is ass-bitingly cold for much of the year. And they usually have electricity except for the odd week here and there when everything goes kaplooey. So this all seems acceptable.

Incidentally, the Village Where I Am Headed is also very pretty in an alpine kind of way. However, to someone who has spent most of life in arid climates, that kind of pretty isn’t terribly appealing. Pine trees are just, well, okay. As are mountains generally. But you would probably find it stunningly beautiful. Most people do.

Don’t get too excited. You can’t come. Only relatives are allowed to visit.

But I am wandering away from the point. (And there is a point. In fact, I expect there will be several points.)

joshua treeThe first of these points is that, now that I know where I’m headed, the fact of my going has taken on a sharper sense of realness. My application has been formally approved by the Ministry of Education. All of the requested documents have been submitted, including my application for a work visa. I had my cheek swabbed and my blood taken. (Ok, not really, but it started to seem like it.)

Reality requires you make sense of it. So, we enter a new stage—the making-sense stage.

And this moves us closer towards this first point. The take-away message of all of this is that God failed to strike me dead for doing something almost purely for my own personal satisfaction. (Yes, Nandhini played a distant part in this decision, although I won’t see her there either. Yes, a desire to contribute to my world played another part. But mostly I just thought it would be interesting. Oh, and fun. Fun and interesting.)

I am taking this to mean something more general: God does not strike you dead for “taking your own way.” After all. This is big. Seismic, in fact. Pardon me while I duck, cover, and hold.

Phew. Okay, back to the post, now that the world has stopped shaking.

Nonetheless, I am not sure if he is generally for or against doing fun and interesting things just because you feel like it. But he doesn’t kill you over it. Which is great news really. And probably will require all kinds of reshuffling of other misconceptions.

Remind me to get a good night’s sleep tonight. I’ll need it.


Reasons to get up early

I think I woke again at 4:30 in the morning. Just anxious, I suppose, but I don’t really worry or ruminate when I’m anxious. I’m just alert. So, I woke up thinking about a post. Because, you know, it’s the small hours of the morning and there’s nothing else to do.

But when I’d really given up on sleep, I checked my email. And although I didn’t get a formal offer, and I  am still waiting on approval from some other administrative branch, it looks like the Country X job is a go. The last set of approvals is expected to be largely a matter of rubber stamping–they have never been known to deny a candidate approved by the Ministry of Education.

I think maybe I should be excited, but I don’t feel anything. I just want a cup of tea.

A Magic Mountain Day

roller coasterI know I owe another installment of my Psychotherapy 101 series. I promise I have not forgotten. That is still forthcoming. Never fear.

But today was just too exciting a day not to write about.

I went to the doctor.

Although it may not be an event in your life when you take your clothes off and let a near-stranger feel all of your most vulnerable parts, it is for me. It is a little like the rides at Magic Mountain. It’s an event.

Of course, Magic Mountain is actually fun, and although the doctor who examined me is hot in her own quiet way, getting felt up by her in the way she felt me up is not fun. I mean, I could probably kind of convince myself there was some fun to be had in there, but it would take some doing.

I feel a little queasy just looking at these.
I feel a little queasy just looking at these.

Nonetheless, I have a sense of accomplishment afterward, like jumping off the high dive for the first time. “See, Mom!” I want to shout, “I did it. All by myself.” I’m not really sure who “Mom” would be in this situation. Certainly not my mom, but that is what kids tend to shout, so it’s still what I feel like saying.

It especially feels that way because I had blood drawn, as they tend to do when you go to the doctor, and I am awful about blood. I am even worse about needles. Shots tend to make me nearly faint.

Also, since I am going away, I expected other needles to be involved as well. Fortunately, I am much more up-to-date on all the exotic immunizations–like typhoid–than I had expected. They didn’t have what I really did need (Japanese Encephalitis).

But the anticipation of all of those immunizations meant I entered the examining room sweating and shivering at the same time. Having fasted and gone without my usual morning tea (which has lately stepped up to coffee for reasons I can’t fully explain), I wasn’t my clearest or most coherent.

Getting on the examining table turned out to be its own challenge. It was me against the paper. I’m not sure who won. Probably the paper. But the doc set that right again, so it was all fine.

Anyway, I survived it. Furthermore, I managed to more or less coherently ask the questions I needed to ask despite being caffeine deprived and terrified and get the paperwork filled out for the Country X officials.

So it’s been a good day.

Staying warm is really expensive. I may have to sell a kidney to get one of these.
Staying warm is really expensive. I may have to sell a kidney to get one of these.

Then, afterwards, I stopped at a sporting goods store to check out things that people who live in sunny climes like myself don’t typically have unless they ski (and I don’t): like waterproof rain jackets, long underwear, and wool socks that don’t make you want to tear your feet off they itch so much.

I had a small heart attack after looking at the prices and left. More on that later.

But, really, if you have suggestions on where to buy those things cheaply, let me know. I do remember from living in a cold climate that being cold and wet because you can’t afford the proper clothing sucks. It is infinitely better to be broke in a warm region than a cold one. I remember that very clearly.


Not Country X.
Not Country X.

In my college days, people sometimes held BYOB parties (Bring Your Own Beer). I think this was an attempt to get around college regulations on serving alcohol, which involved hiring a not-inexpensive licensed bartender and security guards. But maybe people were just being cheap. Maybe we were taking our first steps into being the DIY generation.

I’m not really sure, since I don’t drink, and I don’t like loud parties unless the music is especially good. College kids have terrible taste, so it was never good. Consequently, I didn’t actually attend these parties. I just saw the fliers.

Anyway, maybe BYOB still stands for Bring Your Own Beer. Maybe it doesn’t.

Does it go checked or carry-on?
Does it go checked or carry-on?

But yesterday I received a packing list for Country X and it turns out that Country X is a Bring Your Own Salt and Pepper destination.

Which gave me pause.

There is remote. And then there is BYOS&P. BYOS&P is remote. I mean remote remote. And I started to have some doubts.

I’m not exactly scared. I am aware that I could die during this placement. Someone did last year, although they usually don’t. It’s not that Country X is especially dangerous. It’s just that if you fall sick they may or may not be able to provide you with adequate medical care in a timely fashion.

At the same time, I am also aware I could die pretty easily here. The probability might even be the same.

The difference would be in the cause of death. Instead of perishing from lack of access to medical care, in my home country, I am more likely to die from being struck by a vehicle whose driver was texting at the wheel. Or in a mugging gone too far. Or a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve or in a gang shooting. We die of different things here. But people die everywhere. So I am not so worried about death.

I am worried about being able to cope.

In light of this, I took up some soul-searching this morning over a pot of tea and some oatmeal. This is what I came up with:

They will have better birds. Pretty sure.
They will have better birds. Pretty sure.

1) What I really enjoy are things you can find everywhere or very nearly: birds, quiet mornings, tea. Even my city is quiet in the mornings if I get up early enough. Anyway, it is so loud most of the time that quiet doesn’t take much.

2) Change is stressful: Any kind of change is stressful. Even good change. It’s as stressful for me as for anyone else. But what I’ve done in the past is try to adjust. You can’t prevent the stress, but you can shorten its duration.

3) What is most stressful about change is the sense it creates of being powerless and without control. You can compensate. International travel in a developing country–and needing to pick up and move to a new hotel in a new city every few days–made me an extraordinarily neat packer. The unconscious or whatever it is that is taking note of things doesn’t know the difference between trivial and important forms of control. If your boss can change your assignment and schedule at a moment’s notice, start eating the same thing every day for breakfast. Or get obsessive about ironing your clothes. There is power and control to be had if you look.

I know how to adjust, and there will be birds where I’m going. I can do this.

Bucket List

Will a job in Country X make me happy?
Will a job in Country X make me happy?

In light of yesterday’s (almost) news, I have been considering.

Specifically, I have been considering what makes me happy, because really what I am wondering is whether a job in Country X is the path to happiness.

The reality is that it may not make me happy. It may not make me happy at all. I may be damp, cold, lonely, stressed and sickly for a year.

But I probably won’t regret it.

I watch TV because it makes me happy. I eat raspberry sorbet and eat chocolate croissants because they make me happy. I don’t make important life decisions because I think they will lead to happiness.

I make them because I think they will be good for me. I think a job in Country X will be interesting, and I think it will make me grow. And I think it will open doors–either in my own mind, or in the real world.

Happiness is an elusive thing. You run after it and it disappears. You ignore it and find it cuddling up to you. Most of us are pretty much as happy as we’re going to be–regardless of what we choose to do.

But learning is something you can plan for.

Yes, they're amazing.
Yes, they’re amazing.

I’m obliged to admit I’m not a bucket list kind of person–first of all, because I can’t think of anything I’d like to put on that list. There are some really amazing and breathtaking places in the world that you can, for the right price, visit. Watching kids grow up is amazing and breathtaking. Amazing and breathtaking is all around us. We see it all the time, so it blends in and we forget to pay attention to it. It’s only in the ice caves of Norway, that we are startled into remembering again.

It seems easier to me to just try to remember now, at home, minus the flight and the equipment.

But also, I assume I’ll be the same person both before and after hang-gliding (which I do think would be rather fun). So I’m not really sure what the point of it is. A few minutes of ecstasy don’t seem like enough bang for my buck.

And I guess what I’m saying is that I think the real fun in life might be to keep trying to be someone else aside from who I am today. Someone with a broader view, someone more compassionate and understanding.

I am the bucket list.

(Almost) A Job in Country X

I awoke from my usual afternoon nap to find this in my inbox:

This is not, incidentally, actually a picture of Country X. It is just Far Away.
This is not, incidentally, actually a picture of Country X. It is just Far Away.

Your files have been sent to NXY office in Z City where they have been reviewed by our office staff. This means that we now plan to officially recommend you for a position as a teacher in Country X. Congrats! Throughout September, your documents will go to The Ministry of Education, and then finally the Civil Service Commission. We hope to have final approvals and an offer of employment for you by the first week of October.

Also, I look way better in a vest than he does.
Also, I look way better in a vest than he does.

So, things have moved along.

And, while it’s not an offer of employment, I am optimistically viewing it as the next best thing.

My head is quietly exploding.

Like Onslow, I think the thing to do now is have a cup of tea while I work out the next step. (I’ll skip the fag though.)

(I do apologize for taking out all of the country-specific information, but I am just slightly paranoid and wish to keep my blog completely disconnected from my work. Which I’m sure you can appreciate, if you’ve been around here for a while.)

Gender, Jokes that Aren’t Funny, and the Unknown (Again)

The little red purse. With matching shoes today.
The little red purse. With matching shoes today.

So, it is post time. I have nothing much coherent to say. So hold tight. Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle. And do not attempt to tamper with the safety bar.

Today is a weird day.

Maybe it’s the shock of waking up to a clean bed, with no feline bodily fluids in it. For the first time in more than a week.

But I think some days are just that way. Some times I live the dialectic more than others. This is one of them.

I looked in the bathroom mirror on my way out the door and thought, “I’m a boy.”

Some of the parts are boys. Or maybe it’s just one of them. I’m not entirely clear on this. I had in a way hoped this would be one of those problems that would just dissipate along with the other indications of dissociation. That I wouldn’t need to actually do any work with it.

It hasn’t gone away. Like most things, I will need to deal with it, but I don’t really know how. So I haven’t.

And today I feel both male and female.

It is, to say the least, odd.

Which is probably why I was walking around yesterday dressed more or less than a 14-year-old skate punk and toting a cute little red purse. I have paired it with matching shoes today.

Odd. It feels odd, it looks odd. It’s probably a duck. (And here I am making jokes that aren’t funny again.)

Life is better with coffee.
Life is better with coffee.

Also, walking to the grocery store this morning (mainly to rectify the coffee problem I’ve having–namely, that I don’t have any), I suddenly began to think “I’m not going to get the Dream Job in the Far Away Country.”

This was not a worry. This was certainty. This was creeping dread.

I think maybe I want to know if I’ll survive if I try for something, pin absolutely all my hopes on it, arrange my life around it, and then don’t get it.

Will I?

I have no idea. Probably. I have lived through most things.

But yesterday I felt equally convinced it was a done deal.

The dialectic.

And also emotional reasoning. I felt certainty yesterday regarding something of which the outcome has not been decided and which is now entirely out of my hands. Today, I feel hopeless and equally certain of something for which the outcome has still not been decided and which is still entirely out of my hands..

Neither way of thinking about things is actually accurate. The fact is that I simply don’t know. That I’m waiting. And there’s really nothing to do but wait. And, you know, buy coffee.

It’s hard to give up emotional reasoning, I’m finding. It provides an illusion of certainty, the appearance of control. For God’s sake, it gives you something to do while you wait.

If I feel positive and hopeful, I can busy myself planning and scheming. I can start packing. If I feel despairing and hopeless, I can make back-up plans instead. I can find ways to soothe myself. I can try to calm all of those horrible feelings.

I don’t need to feel uncertain. I don’t need to feel anxious. I can just act.

But I also know that it’s a false sense of certainty. At this point, they are checking references. I have no idea how important this stage is. I know, when I’ve made hires in the past, if the candidate was otherwise outstanding, checking references was largely a formality. I was really trying to verify that the candidate wasn’t a sly con artist who had totally hoodwinked me into buying a can of snake oil and some holy water.

In other cases, such as being torn between two otherwise equally qualified applicants, or if I wasn’t wowed but the candidate in question seemed marginally better than the others, then this stage tilted the verdict decisively.

And I think I have very good references, but I don’t quite know for sure. One of them–let’s call him Alan–talks about me in a way that makes me want to hire myself. But, recently, Alan has replied to any of my emails. And Nancy, well, I never quite know what she thinks about anything, including me. But I’ve gotten jobs before with Nancy as a reference. One, in fact, where the referees sung my praises so emphatically, that the district called me back the same day to hire me. Or maybe it was the next day. But, for a school district, that is lightning speed.

But did they call Nancy? Has she changed her opinion of me over the last year? Because some people are like that. And she might be one of them.

Unknowns. All of it is unknown.

There was a third referee. But she hasn’t responded to my phone calls or my emails recently. I think maybe her mother–who had been ill–took a turn for the way or perhaps even passed away. Or they’ve gone on vacation. Or my colleague has decided she hates me. (But that seems rather less likely). So, I didn’t give her name to the Dream Job people.

But I think to some extent, that’s how life is. Uncertain. Beyond our control. And I want to be able to simply live with that. I want to be able to live with the unknown.

I don’t know about anything else, but I think learning to live with uncertainty is, in fact, the right thing to do. I am certain of that.