Woke up today with huge indecision about the future. Last night Amy and I discussed what we might do in the future and whether we are happy where we are at this time.
Amy’s reverse culture shock has been getting her down a lot and she is itching to go back to Australia – whether just to visit or to make more long term plans. She says once her parents have passed that she has no compulsion to stay in Thailand.
Combined with news that our school’s budget has been cut and we will have to teach more classes, containing more students, it’s a somewhat depressing look ahead. I would be happy not to work at all. I can ‘be’ in any place or country and the advantage for me here is that I don’t necessarily have to work, whereas in Australia it would be a must just to survive.
The current plan is that Amy goes to Australia for 3 to 6 months once there are less travel restrictions and I carry on teaching (or perhaps stop – to be considered) and then when Amy returns we start doing some sort of business on our land and see how that goes. If that keeps us both happy, then we stay and if not then maybe we have to decide to pack up and think about our options in Australia.
I started this post with these pictures of the summer garden taken a couple of weeks ago, but bigger thoughts have taken over. Let’s see how our garden grows.
At my school I made friends with four university students doing their internships here. They are young and vibrant people and have a youthful idealism that I still seem possess, so it was easy for me to be drawn to them.
Today is their last day with us (unless they decide to stay here and work on the pitiful wages they would receive) and I made them each a special card. Unfortunately I forget to take a picture of each card but the front features the sketches attached. None of them are perfect but they should be recognisable to themselves I hope!
I really enjoyed the process of putting the cards together and having to come up with ideas for me, somewhat inspired by Austin Kleon’s artistic trials.
“A person who knows little likes to talk, and one who knows much mostly keeps silent. This is because a person who knows little thinks that everything he knows is important, and wants to tell everyone. A person who knows much also knows that there is much more he doesn’t know. That’s why he speaks only when it is necessary to speak, and when he is not asked questions, he keeps his silence.”
-Jean Jacques Rousseau (via Tolstoy’s Calendar of Wisdom)
“I’m not sure of much of anything these days. Maybe that’s why I talk so much.”
-Robert Pirsig from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I read these two quotes from different sources today, also reflecting on the ‘loud’ Thai people in my work environment and it was made more poignant as at this time they were congratulating two other foreign teachers for picking two correct numbers on the lottery. No one won anything that I could discern as more correct numbers were needed but because they had two correct this seemed to indicate a mad belief in their fortune telling skills.
This nonsense talk went on for a while and at a volume that chased any hiding cockroaches out of the room. I think for a lot of Thai people, it is all about the show and not about the reality. I’ve mentioned before my sense of this whilst living here. It still jars but rather than say anything this time, I tried to see things for what they were – and kept my mouth shut. (Until writing this, of course!)
I’ve been thinking about many diverse and exclusive things these past couple of weeks, such as difficulties I have with getting on with people, my personal social media use, with-us or against-us political environments and I have come to the conclusion that all these thought processes have been triggered by being away from my tribe. This has caused a lot of self refection, some not so good internal dialogs and finally, a mini revelation.
Reading back over old entries show that I had quite an outgoing self confidence in the past and despite feeling happier these days I think that that confidence is decreasing somehow. I see this as a good sign somewhat, in that I am not so old and stuck in my ways that I think everything I do is right or perfect or that I have a fallen into the stale patterns of comfort. But I do feel that I can be knocked down easily by the judgement of some who don’t understand me or my style.
I try my best to fit in wherever I am but I am just not built to think like other people. Now I need to re-learn that that is ok and I am still worthwhile and offer value in this world, in this space.
In the last 2 weeks (since starting to think about this topic) I have gained back some of my self-confidence and understood (or re-understood) that I am OK the way I am and I don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations except my own. If some people are rubbed the wrong way by my own manner then I can see the balance between it being my problem and being theirs. After all, these people are not part of my tribe. I still value their connection but ultimately these are not going to be people that I will, or want to, spend my free time with.
I am who I am, and I understand myself.
So – what is my tribe?
They must be connected to punk, music and the DIY ethos that I have worked with, on and off, over the last 30 years – the people and connections I have made within those spheres are my tribe. There is no punk or music scene here where I live though the DIY ethos is quite apparent in the way Thai people tend to do as much as they can by themselves, usually in order to save money.
The DIY ethos inspires me to do things under my own influence and to work hard for a common good, even if the result is personal and self-serving, the action is often the reward rather than the result.
In the past I partook in scenes as a show organizer or music producer but at this moment and place neither of these is feasible. Perhaps in an effort to discover something new to take part in I have cut myself off a little from those things from the past – particularly in an effort to remove myself from social media as much as possible. But I haven’t really discovered that something new that sparks my heart in the same way. So now I wish to reconnect – but how?
Must I soil my soul descending back into the hell of social media. Can I use it without it using me? I actually, really don’t want to do it at all but there seems to be no alternative. In the absence of anything local to be involved in, the easiest way to connect is via social media. I do miss message boards and forums of old and don’t feel the same connection with a Facebook group or even a Reddit thread.
The recent release of Senyawa’s Alkisah album, which was a worldwide cooperative release with 40 plus labels from all around the world, was an inspiring effort from everyone involved but I also feel a little reluctant to be taking part in the side of the music production cycle that I dislike the most and that is the promotion and marketing. I’ve never enjoyed it and I feel my influence is very minor compared with others who can muster the enthusiasm for these things.
The overall effort for the release though has triggered some further ideas to be more involved again and perhaps build on the catalogue of music that I have already been involved in over the last two to three decades.
Or perhaps I should just write about the music I discover in the future but even that feels like it has all been done before – much like the Gide quote at the top of this page. Can I make something new, that not only inspires me but also inspires others? Bring my tribe back together, rejoin my tribe, build my tribe again?
Pic: At the office, 2004, before re-discovering my tribe
When I had my original inspiration for writing this I has much more clarity around what I wanted to say. Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to write immediately and ended up with this rambling text, still searching for clues and answers.
I highlighted these quotes as I was reading, as they struck me for some reason. Now as I sit and reflect on them I sometimes wonder exactly what it was that stood out and if it’s not obvious I guess that the truth I saw in these words is not as deep as I thought. Quotes that remain obvious for their inclusion would seem to highlight a deeper belief I have about the world.
Extracts from White Nights (Dostoyevsky)
…you’re sorry that the ephemeral beauty has faded so rapidly, so irretrievably, that is flashed so deceptively and pointlessly before your eyes – you’re sorry, for you didn’t even have time to fall in love with her…
When I was a teenager or twenty-something I would often look at people in the distance and try to see through their eyes at that moment in time and wonder what they were experiencing in their head. Could I jump, movie-like, from this life experience into a totally new one? Would it be better? Did I feel an urge to escape my own life?
Other times I would see a pretty girl and pretend to fall in love in that moment, hear her breath leave her mouth as I softly kissed her neck, then live a lifetime together in blissful happiness. In an instant these thoughts would disappear back behind other inane thoughts I might have. But, for that brief moment, I lived entire lives.
…moments like this are so rare in my existence that I must repeat them again and again in my thoughts.
These are happy thoughts and memories and as I’ve gotten older I realise they are not as rare as I thought. The more I have been writing and remembering, the big transformative negative events have given way to the smaller transformative positive ones. And as there have been less negative events in the last decade or two I feel like I must be getting somewhere. Repeating thoughts of positive memories must surely have the equal opposite benefit of continued negative ones. This could be a valid use of the word exponential.
…deep down the queer fish really means well.
Just call me ‘the queer fish’.
At any moment, I see more clearly than ever before that I’ve wasted my best years.
Everyone must feel this to some degree. It’s kind of relative. I wish I was as wise as I am now when I was a teenager. I’m envious of those who seem to have a level head at that age, yet also jealous of those crazy mad dogs charging into everything without thought and getting away with it. I consider everything that happened to me has gotten me to where I am now. Ok, I’m not as fit and healthy as when I was a teenager but inside I don’t feel any different, especially when it comes to the possibilities….I feel much more capable now, capable of learning new things and persisting. Though falling off a skateboard aged 40 taught me some things are probably too late to take up.
In the end, you feel that your much-vaunted, inexhaustible fantasy is growing tired, debilitated, exhausted, because you’re bound to grow out of your old ideals; they’re smashed to splinters and turn to dust, and if you have no other life, you have no choice but to keep rebuilding your dreams from the splinters and dust, But the heart longs for something different!
I’m not sure why I specifically highlighted this but it is giving me several ideas. Those ‘much-vaunted inexhaustible fantasies’ smashed; due to maturity, due to change, due to circumstance. I think I’ve been quite flexible in this regard and been able to accept changes and moving on as they happened. ‘Rebuilding your dreams’… is nothing to be afraid of.
I was struck by a passage in Sam McPheeters book ‘Mutations’ where he says he suddenly changed from going to see shows many times a week to not being interested in seeing live music at all – like a switch that went off for him. My circumstances in 2013 suddenly meant that I could no longer afford (or choose to afford) going to shows after about 8 years of being out every weekend. I missed the thrill and the camaraderie, meeting friends, frenzied noise and the joys of working together but ultimately I easily accepted this new situation. Perhaps because I had a higher goal at the time – to move myself to Thailand.
‘Grow out of your ideals’….this, I feel, is something that didn’t change for me. I still carry the same ideals – even useless ones. I am an idealist more than a realist. It’s a source of personal unhappiness but by itself a virtue.
‘But the heart longs for something different’…the grass is always greener. I’m learning now to be satisfied. My brain is not switched off to new ideas and possibilities and I don’t wish to become an old man stuck in his ways but I am learning to relax into a peaceful rhythm of life, sitting in my own comfortable space within a beautiful house with a beautiful garden, in a strange otherworld of a foreign country and in the comfort of my own mind. This is what I wanted, this is what I got, so now I must enjoy the reward.
I know exactly why I highlighted this yet I think I only agree the first clause of this sentence. I have some very vivid memories of certain places that contributed to a great passionate love that sticks with me to this day. It was a very special time that I hope I can put into words one day. I would often revisit those places, searching for that brief passion within me, ultimately knowing that it won’t be found again. I have accepted that and even feel happier without that high, because those kinds of highs were always followed by lows, whether the following week, month, year or decade. I am much more at peace these days. I do still wish I was more mature at the time. I would’ve hurt less people, including myself.
It has been a sad, drizzly day, without relief – just like my future senility. I am oppressed by strange thoughts and dark sensations; throngs of vague questions obsess me, but I have neither the strength nor the desire to cope with them.
“…just like my future senility’ made me chuckle. What about my current senility? Although not this day, I am often oppressed by throngs of vague questions. Some days I love them and others I don’t have the strength for them. On those days I usually accept the situation and watch TV. I am trying to be kind to myself, waiting on my future senility.
…our own unhappiness makes us more sensitive to the unhappiness of others.
I can feel this deeply sometimes and the effort to take other people out of their funk may help my own depression yet the advice I can give others is much more difficult to follow myself. This is a common experience for most people and I have tried to practice talking less and trying to find other ways to pick people up. This is particularly interesting when there’s little point in talking to ESL students or friends as they don’t have the vocabulary to understand anyway. Cultural differences often stand in the way too. I don’t want to come across as being some kind of expert or having the right way but can only try to offer suggestions.
Tell me, why aren’t we all like brothers? Why does even the best person hold something from another?
What a crazy world it would be if we never held anything back. All truths were told. There must be science fiction stories about this. A utopia or a place where humans completely destroyed each other? This concept is too huge for my tiny little brain right now. Is it even worth thinking about?
Naval Ravikant suggested that asking the question ‘what is the meaning of life’ is pointless, at least in the purpose of producing an answer, but the process of trying to answer the question will still provide worthwhile results.
…we won’t resent for long a wound inflicted by those we love..
I’m reminded of a recent time when a friend offered me advice along with the statement that “I’m only saying this because I love and care about you.” I forget what the advice was now but considered this statement. I took it at face value at the time though also felt a little strange about it – what was the real purpose of the statement?
A few months later and for one reason or another I had done something to upset this friend and now they no longer talk with me. Of course, I could have behaved better though it’s not exactly clear to me what it was that triggered this change in friendship status. Then I thought back to this statement and I realised that it was said without sincerity. It was said just to make them feel good.
Now, that’s ok. Because I’m sure I do this all the time. But I try not to. I want to be completely sincere (or obviously insincere – that’s the English in me again!). I would be a terrible poker player – I cannot hide my feelings on my face and I don’t care to learn.
As to those I love, all wounds are forgiven but I also don’t spread my love so deep and far. Maybe I should. But I’m afraid. What am I really afraid of?
Now I’m getting to vague questions that I may not have the strength to contemplate.
Take it easy. No need to push real hard, just do something – every little bit helps.
You are a student and a teacher. Clearer mind this morning – not so much in it.