…has been a bit of a struggle. A struggle between the things that I need to do, the things I want to do, and the things that I feel I need to do. Life in Taiwan (for me) is interesting in this respect. See, as an ESL teacher, I find myself with much freedom to travel around and do things I feel like doing. But I don’t do them as often as I would like – or feel I should. The way my brain works is that I believe that I can’t do anything like that until after I have accomplished my main priority for the day, which is why I tend to procrastinate on certain projects (like this blog) or certain little things that are probably easy, which, depending on their necessity in relation to the rest of my day. So, because none of my classes start until the late afternoon, I feel as though I should not be going out anywhere or doing anything until that is taken care of. Basically until 11PM when I return home. (What?!) (Oh, yeah, did I also mention I’m a morning person? lol)
My personality is also one to say, “Wait, you have things you should be doing; so, you cannot have fun until those are done.” I’ve been working on overcoming this, but it follows the same lines as above. Instead of exploring, I’ll think about how I should do the dishes or score those essays that aren’t due for five days, despite that this may be the only sunny day of the week here in cloudy Taipei, or despite my quiet internal voice saying, “Hey…I wanna read…pleeeas?”
So, what happens? I continuously check my email to see if my boss has comments on the previous essays I scored or if I can find new material for my classes or come up with new ideas for my tutoring sessions…or nothing productive at all. The things that I need to do or want to do because I’m “addressing the things that I should do” never seem to come before those things that are taking top priority in my life – the shoulds, and of course the actual musts.
Which leads me to my next point. Taiwanese work way too much and way too long because their bosses say that they should, and it’s so easy to get sucked into that lifestyle, as I’ve mentioned before. Seriously. So, despite wanting to change the way I plan my day and do things on a day-to-day basis here, I haven’t yet because this one (at least seems) a bit tougher. When so many people around you don’t, it’s hard not to follow along. And with so many people expecting me to be working on something all of the time – in other words, appearing relatively busy – leads me to think that if I’m not working on the aforementioned shoulds, then what am I “wasting” my time on? Nothing…and everything. (Obviously.)
See, in a culture where the bosses assume/know you only work work at your desk for 1/2 the time you’re there, they make you practically work double shifts so that you work the appropriate amount of time. E.g. 8AM-5PM is the normal working time, but that means you have to work anywhere from 8AM-10PM so that you’re working-working at least 6 hours of your day. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Thankfully, I’m not under the same requirements as a foreign teacher, as our laws are a bit more precise, but the ideology is there. And this idea has nestled itself so neatly into my mind over the past three years that now I have begun to think that if people don’t see/think I’m working, then indeed they may think I’m not a good employee or doing what I’m supposed to be doing either. (This is also why I don’t take vacations even though an advantage of my employer is that it’s easy to. Ugh)
Which brings me to my wants. There are things I really want to do throughout the day and my time here (and just in general), and I think that because of all of these other ideas and beliefs that float around in my mind, there are so many things that I’m missing out on because of it all.
- “I want to go out and explore both new and familiar places again – really sit/walk and enjoy them.” I realize I have priorities and things I must do, but, “Wait, there may be some speaking tasks that need to be scored that come in today,” should not be one of them.
Other excuses that follow this logic include:
- “I want to go outside and read.” “Well, then read that TOEFL book for class prep.”
- “I want to go out and enjoy some time with friends.” “Wait, what? NO – you have to clean the apartment…”
- “I want to write/blog.” “Well, good, ‘cuz I’m sure some essays will be coming in for you to edit.”
There are so many more excuses and other wants to go along with all of those excuses and wants, but the main point is that I really want to quit this habit, and obviously, the only person who can do that is me. I want to take the time to enjoy life here and really grow because, while in some ways I feel like I’ve changed and I feel like I’ve experienced things, there are also many ways in which I feel like I haven’t actually grown that much either. In fact, I actually sometimes feel like I’ve regressed in some areas. But maybe that’s part of showing progress? I don’t know, but for instance, now I’m not so much afraid of public speaking anymore, nor am I afraid of being rejected during interviews, or of trying new, strange foods – well, usually – but in the same respect, I don’t feel I’m as outgoing as I was in college, and sometimes I feel like parts of me have become lost. I know this is somewhat common to different degrees in people, but for me, I do believe this is [at least partially] because of all of these shoulds I keep telling myself.
So, today I took a small step forward. I did something I wanted to do in spite of those shoulds. I took some white wine outside and a new book I found and have been waiting to indulge in, and I read. I took time to read and enjoy myself on this rare sunny day. (Don’t worry, it was 3PM – no morning drinking here! lol.)
And it was grand.
Image by Laura Smith
What do you do when you are confronted with all of those shoulds? Do you ignore them and do what you want, or do you succumb to those excuses, too?