By learning to teach, I not only discover potential- I create it. I find the opportunity to progress. Now I know that I’m capable of unearthing parts of me that are currently hidden. Now I know that success has nothing to do with talent, and it has everything to do with hard work. I want to improve. I want to reach out to people in the most effective, loving way that I can. I want to lead. And I’ll accomplish this by following- by learning from others. I want to give all of myself.
To live each day as though one’s last, never flustered, never apathetic, never attitudinizing – here is the perfection of character.
Today I choose to forgive others for their wrongdoings. I choose patience instead of anger- and I take the initiative to love others who don’t even love themselves. Today I strive to achieve the perfection of character.
I have never felt more joy than in this moment, when I feel my viewpoint is no longer focused on myself but on others. If I am thinking of myself, I am contemplating how I can better myself so that I might be able to give more to others. I have never cared more about other people- not truly- until these last few weeks.Until now, I don’t think I knew how to.
This may bring shame to the perspective I used to have. I feel exposed and slightly embarrassed. But that’s the truth; I never knew how to invest myself in another person without expecting self-centered pleasure in return- without being in want of attention or affection. I never thought I’d perform a task for any other reason. I’m ashamed to say this. However, I finally feel ready to admit it to myself and to others. I hated myself for functioning in this way. Sometimes I still do.
I’m glad I’ve found a part of me that I can admire again. I’m relieved to discover a part of of me I never knew had potential- the part of me that can love others selflessly and honestly.
Teaching is something my 15-year-old self would have never considered as part as her future. My heart would pump out of my chest, my face would turn red, and I would sweat profusely every time I had to speak in front of others. If someone even looked at me for more than a second, my embarrassment was apparent to everyone. It is weird to think that that person was me…I no longer identify with any of those feelings. And yet, when I was feeling them, I thought I would be bullied by fits of embarrassment forever. A few years ago, I stopped feeling this way for the most part. After teaching for just three weeks, I don’t ever feel this way.
I thrive in silliness, in drawing attention to myself- so that other people might feel liberated enough to do the same. So that other people might stop looking at themselves, and begin observing the situation from above. . . so that others might begin to love themselves as I have begun to love myself.
I’m speaking in front of crowds of people. I’m acting, teaching, making a fool of myself for everyone to see. I’m being pushed to all my uncomfortable limits… and I’m loving every bit of it.
I only experience true joy when I am challenging myself, surprising myself, and becoming proud of myself. I only experience true joy when I see my joy spread to other people, when I know they have received some benefit from my efforts.
Why is this? I think it’s because I love life more when I give to other peiple, even if it’s hard at times. I think I receive more when I give more. Not in a victimized way, not anymore. I’m giving because deep down I actually want to- not because the act is expected from me. I’m exhausted and I’m happy. It’s all worth it.
Maybe some days my effort feels wasted or ignored or ineffective. But those days when I put everything I have out on the table, the days when I hold no part of me back, reaching as far as I can reach, I lean back and admire what I have done, and what others have done because I extended all of myself.
I think my mind is supposed to be shared. My ideas, my love- what use are they if I keep them hidden from veiw? They have the potential to be a drop of red dye in a glass of water- dye that instantly spreads and is absorbed by the surrounding matter. That matter is the mind of each one of my students. And that dye is every thought I’ve ever had, capable of innundating the minds of others, and capable of so much more than I can predict.
I’m in a car with a Taiwanese mother and daughter who do not speak English. We’re driving on roads I’ve never driven on, passing by mountains I’ve never seen. I’m eating food that, two weeks ago, I never knew existed. But these roads, these mountains, this food, is all most Taiwanese people know. It’s all they’ve ever seen, and it’s all some them will ever see.
Ninety-nine percent of the people I’ve asked tell me they’ve never been to the United States. Of those 99%, about half of them have never even left Taiwan. And they are happy. They are content with their familiar life-styles. Who am I to tell them they are “missing out” if they don’t visit the U.S.? What exactly are they lacking, if they are happy? Awareness? Maybe, but most of them do not even have the means to be aware. And by that I mean money. They are poor by U.S. standards.
I gaze out the window and I smile to myself, knowing that there are so many sources of happiness in this world, and that pure amazement is one of them. I stare out the window and I feel warm and appreciative of simple things-like the fact that I’m in a car with this mother and her daughter, who is a student in my classroom. And the fact that they are simply there, offering me awareness of another life’s course.
Frequently my surroundings stimulate a powerful realization, one that is becoming more and more apparent to me the longer I’m here: there are very few customs that can be universally defined as “good.” You can argue which customs make you happy- but they won’t please everyone. You can argue that a certain way of living is ethically good. But there will always be someone who disagrees with you. What I think I know is good and just- I will be re-evaluating, exploring, doubting for the rest of my life ( hopefully). I want to doubt. I want to reconsider. I want to welcome criticism and I want to know better so that I might be able to do better.
I’m learning- absorbing everything new and different, slightly disturbing, awesome, scary…Every day I am reminded that we can have beautiful moments with people without speaking, without knowing each others language. We can look in someone’s eyes and see them smiling, without needing to hear the words that describe their happiness. Every day I am once again blown away by the similarities among people all over the world. I may not know how to speak to you, but we both know what a smile means.
We both know what tears mean. We both know what embarrassment feels like. We both feel sadness at times. Both feel excited when good fortune arises, when we receive something we’ve wanted for a long time. We both feel. We may react to stimuli differently, but we both react. Feelings, emotions run through every body whether that body is in the United States or in China or in Italy or wherever. And within those emotions we find common ground, we find connection. Not always within language.
Words can only do so much. But what if I don’t want you to talk to me, what if all I really want is a hug. What if all I want is a smile, a hand to hold, a person to dance with? What if I want the comfort of your presence, or reassurance through facial expressions? Can you give that to me through words? Every day I am motivated by the answer to that question. I will build a connection with my students, because I know that connection is built upon so much more than language.
I’m tempted to say that Taiwanese students are shy. But shy is an understatement. I feel like there is no word in the English language to describe their overall behavior, behavior that seems to be instilled in them from the moment they open their eyes as a baby. They demonstrate a shyness that is not just indicative of an awkward teenage phase. This trait is bred not just in students but in the entire culture. Adults, kids, teenagers…everyone, with the exception of a few people who we would describe as confident but docile in the U.S.
In the classroom I do whatever I can to help the students feel comfortable talking, but a lot of times I’m left feeling frustrated an confused. The feeling of “talking to a brick wall” comes to mind. But I know they are just scared. I keep having to remind myself that they aren’t used to talking back to the teacher; education in Taiwan seems to promote teachers lecturing the students, while the students sit there and listen, mute. They have been taught to respect- and fear- the teacher. And not to talk back. So how do I make them un-learn these tendencies?? It’s not going to happen.
All I can do is try to get them to see me as a friend- a friend who knows English and plays games with them.
The first day: lost my phone, but I got to ride on the back of a moped through the streets on Tainan to retrieve it. Hardly anyone speaks English in Tainan. I’ve resorted to pointing and smiling I’m order to get food/ whatever I need. A lot of locals seem to stare at my group and I, almost as if they’ve never seen a white person walk this earth. I expected this response somewhat, because that’s what I experienced in Singapore.
Yesterday I started my orientation for teaching english. Today I’m expected to perform my first pilot lesson in front of a classroom, even though I’ve never taught a class of any kind before. I feel like I’m going to be pushed to all my uncomfortable limits this summer, whether I like it or not.
So far, the locals are polite and the food is yummy. A few nights ago, our group of teachers went to the night market, which was visually fascinating.
Tons of vendors in every direction, bright lights illuminating delicious food, kids laughing, people on mopeds flying by…these are just a few of the sights and sounds.
The humidity had me delusional and dehydrated the first day I arrived. The hotness here sticks to my body and never releases itself, even indoors. I know I’ll get used to it. One thing I don’t think I will get used to, however, is squating on the ground to pee.
This place is awesome, and there is so much left to explore.
In one week, I leave for Taipei, Taiwan. I’ll be teaching English to students involved in a program called World Passport. For two months I will live in and around Taipei. I’m excited but also partially frightened by the news I’ve heard regarding the weather in Taiwan. I mean, 3-4 typhoons per summer? Should I just walk myself out now…? Lol aside from the horrifying article that told me Taiwan is the 4th most dangerous place to live in the world, everything else I’ve heard is positive about the environment and the people. (Apparently) cheap food, polite locals, beautiful mountains.
But for real, I have no idea what to expect. That’s what makes this experience potentially challenging, thrilling, surprising, reawarding, and completely awesome. Travelling is unpredictable and that’s precisely why I love it: It provides me with a new breed of happiness from an unexpected source. In awe of new people, new scenery, new ideas, I thrive in new joy. I relish in the depths of learning, of a mind absorbing all that is foreign and frightening but also beautifully different. Here, in this state of mind, I am my best self.