A Period of Solitude

The end of January / beginning of February has been a trying time in my personal growth

Taiwan winter is days of rain and chilly winds that follow you everywhere. I am cold in my school; I am cold during my walks; I am cold on the bus; I am cold in my apartment. There is no escaping the chill or the umbrellas.

Amid this bleak winter,  solitude

I’ve been feeling rather isolated. My sister claims “solitude” and “isolation” are too dark, but it feels accurate to my experience.

  1. I’ve never lived alone until now. I enjoy the sense of community a home can have. Shifting my mentality to only consider my needs has planted a seed of loss.
  2. I’ve never lived outside of the US. The constraints are obvious: cultural differences & language barriers. Despite the recognizable challenges, it doesn’t make it easier. I regret not taking my Chinese lessons more seriously in the States.
  3. I’ve never created teaching curriculum. I am comfortable presenting information to students, but  I’ve never worked autonomously on lesson places with little to no guidance.

frankly, I feel lost.

The end of January/beginning of February was the students’ winter break. The campus was nearly vacant, with exception to teachers and a few students. I used to be bombarded with students asking to take a picture or saying “hello!” on a daily basis. Now, it’s the occasional wave to a fellow colleague.

I did teach a 3-day English Winter camp, where we watched Shrek, learned the lyrics to “Firework” by Katy Perry and “Perfect” by Ed Shereen, and completed a bunch of other silly activities. We were going to bake cookies in a “Great British Baking Show” style kitchen, but the power was out in the building. Devastating.

Posing with two students from the English Winter Camp. They also gave me a funny thank-you letter :’)

Post-Winter Camp, I really struggled with maintaining work/personal goals due to this newfound free time. I haltingly admit the wet, cold weather did not help.

As an extroverted idealist

I find that I do my best work when I am bouncing ideas off others and working with people. Sure, I can do solo-work, but I like to reconnect with a team. I am the kind of extrovert that will steal your energy all day, every day and thrive. Now, I find myself feeling alone 95% of the time, and I’m uncertain of how to cope/handle/manage. Before I moved, I knew I was going to face difficulties. However, I wasn’t necessarily expecting this amount of seclusion.

A typical day

I work with lovely, considerate colleagues who try their best to communicate in English. However, they quickly tire of translating and tend to shy away from me after saying “good morning.” I proceed to feel guilty that I can hardly say anything conversational in Chinese, so I too try to avoid too much talking.  I then conduct a few 45-minute English lessons to 12-14 year-olds, who are bright and fun, but are far from fluent. This motivates me to create fun/interesting lessons that will make them think “English isn’t scary.” Rather than pumping out lesson after lesson, I literally scratch my head for hours asking myself “How do I create the perfect lesson?” ; “How do I create a normal lesson?”  ; “How do I explain a simple game?”  I want to be a good teacher, but I think my confidence is shaken to the point that I second-guess every step of the planning process, which has really put me behind schedule.

I then come home from work – where I spent maybe 30 minutes truly talking to anyone – to my one bed-room apartment. I have a running list of things I want to accomplish – splits, practice Chinese, edit photos, edit film, make a movie, paint – but, most days I simply comfort myself with Netflix.

My bedroom in LuZhu, Taoyuan as of January 22, 2018.

When the pains of my hunger force me to leave my room, I am again confronted with more individuals that I can barely communicate with. (Insert additional guilt for not knowing more Chinese.) Though we are looking at one another and acknowledging each other’s existence, it feels so distant.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Fridays are my silver lining. Fridays mean I will spend time with Peter and FINALLY be able to express myself to the fullest extent – jokes, funny faces, obnoxious hand gestures, puns, bad accents, hugs.

A hot-pot-eque soup with Duck & Lamb, and an array of vegetables with Peter’s co-workers in celebration of Chinese New Year.

My inability to communicate with locals should fuel language learning motivation so I can express my lil-extroverted self. Instead, I feel overwhelmed. So much so, I am unable to move.

It feels as though a small hole missing in me and it’s debilitating. In the past, I filled it with friends, rock climbing, going to shows, and/or dinner with family. I’ve never had to fill this hole completely on my own, but here I am. Facing it and questioning every step of the way.

Eight Of Wind

I am trying to be open to all of these experiences, but I can’t lie and say it’s only been fun. There are fun, amazing moments. But, it’s also been sad and lonely. In times of doubt, I pull Tarot cards as meditation. I recently pulled the Eight of Wind Tarot Card, which has help to shift my mentality a notch. It states

With the Eight of Wind in this position, you are being reminded that every setback you experience is a teacher awakening you to renewed effort. This is a learn-by-doing situation; there is no formula that guarantees outcome. You can be sure, however, that an open-minded and optimistic attitude will serve you better in the face of surprising developments.

Be willing to make the rigorous effort that is being called for now. Perform wholeheartedly, with good faith and hopefulness. As such, you’ll forestall bickering and criticism, prevail against negative forces and overcome the demons of doubt and resistance. Get excited about your challenges; be confident that you have what it takes to improve the situation. If you do your internal homework, the external situation will open up for you.