Former teachers in Country X have blogs. I’ve been reading one of them today. Previously, I had read a few others. Mostly, I’m combing through for small details that might give me some idea of what to expect: How populated does the town I’m going to seem to be? What does that suggest about what I might be able to buy without travelling a long distance? (They have 2-minute noodles.) How cold does it look like it is? (Cold.) Is there electricity? (In the evenings.) And running water? (Couldn’t tell.)
What I read instead was a cheery, upbeat blog about the beauty and wonder of the country and the joy of teaching students years behind grade level with tools no more sophisticated than chalk and stones, despite such problems as contracting typhoid.
It was not encouraging.
I am neither that cheery nor that upbeat and I have serious doubts about surviving in a place where that kind of attitude might be required.
So I began to take stock of myself and my expectations—which consequently meant I couldn’t sleep. Which is also why I’m up writing at this hour.
I don’t expect to have a particularly good year. It might be wonderful. It might not be. I don’t know about that part. But I expect it to be difficult, exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes overwhelming. And then I realized I expect that because all of my life has been difficult, exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes overwhelming. Same experience, different country.
To be specific, I expect I will be horribly, miserably cold. Feeling cold will trigger intense, physical and emotional memories of the freezer. I will feel depressed and hopeless a lot while still needing to teach and interact with others as a professional six days a week.
I will fall sick—at least as often as usual, very likely more often. And being sick will remind me of other things that have happened to me that made me ache all over. So I’ll have to deal with that, while also having no doctor to consult about whether and what medication to take: in other words, I’ll need to make important health decisions while thinking maybe I’d be better off dead.
This is all part of my new approach to life: life has been difficult for me, it is difficult, it will be difficult.
Sometimes I don’t like this straight grappling with reality. Sometimes cheery, upbeat and avoidant seems like a lot more fun—or at least less torturous—and I feel like going back to the old mindset again of minimizing, denying, or trying to solve every potential problem I anticipate.
But there are only so many thermals you can fit in a suitcase and there is only so much that over-the-counter painkillers can do for you. These are problems I can’t solve. Cold was triggering to me the last time I really felt it. There isn’t any particular reason I shouldn’t expect cold to be triggering to me next week when I arrive in Country X. When I came down with a bit of an achy, stuffy cold last week, I was reminded of things I didn’t want to be reminded of. I did feel despair. It was difficult to motivate myself to do what I needed to do to prepare for the next move. I can probably expect that to happen again too.
This will be a difficult year for me. Most years are.