Monday, August 27, 2012

The Price of Silence

I am sitting at my computer screen doing something I am very good at – not what I’m supposed to be doing.
I’ve washed all the dirty dishes in the sink, checked nearly every social network I frequent several times, combated the email inbox, spent far too much time reading the Atlantic and I’ve lost track of how many ants I’ve swept off of my computer. The little ones must like the heat of the battery or something…

I haven’t written on the blog in a couple of months. While I will use the month of Great Fire Wall as a convenient excuse, and I’ve certainly been busy – I’ve also missed it. And I’ve been at a loss for what to say.

You see what I’ve realized is that somewhere over the past several months, there was a greater tectonic shift in my mindset from “oh my gosh I’m a three-days old newbie” to “do I really have to explain this again? Should I even explain this?” And while that summary may sound negative, I do not intend to convey that it is a completely negative thing. Quite the opposite in some ways.

But I realize with greater clarity the difficulty of blogging about what I’ve been up to. And the thing is – I’m not just blogging about travel. I’m not just blogging about another culture. This is my career path, this is my job, and this is laced with a heftier responsibility than I’ve sometimes given it credit.

I was presented with this scenario before, regarding etiquette when visiting orphanages: the hoards and hoards of tourists that photograph the kids, hugging them and playing with them and posting them to facebook, blogs, etc. Something I have done, by the way. And then being posed the question, would you ever do that in your home country? No. Then why do it here? Having the lens turned like that, and not just in this one example, but over and over and over again has left more questions than answers, and more doubt than clear charge ahead courage.

It’s actually written in my current contract that I not discuss my employment, students, parents, anything on any social media in any shape or form. That’s a pretty hefty clause there. And while I understand it’s purpose, that it’s much more ‘international’ to hold that standard, it’s also an interesting line to draw having set myself up as blogging through my education experiences in Thailand. It’s kind of a cold hard slap in the face, really. And where does one draw the line? Can I say oh hey, I’m excited about such and such painting project? And really truly it comes down to common sense and discretion. Or what I like to refer to as proactive paranoia.

But just as I’m feeling cut-off from myself having felt uninspired to create my own artwork, or find a venue to play my trumpet in a concert setting, or the vast majority of the things that for many years – seemed to define me, as I saw fit to define myself – I cannot deny myself writing.

I haven’t learned how to balance what I want to write, paint, draw and say with the above the bar, role model expectations of a primary/secondary teacher. I know I am not alone in that. I’ve learned to embrace a quieter self, a more reserved presence – but that’s ultimately not who I am. While there is power in silence, restraint and stopping to think – sometimes that’s exactly the problem.

The more you stop to think, to self-censor, to adjust – the more you just end up with silence.

It’s funny, that as a woman so opposed to censorship, I’m most intrigued by the places that most limit these freedoms.

What I do know is that as I grow as an educator – I’ve got to lead by example, and I’ve got to develop my own voice again if I can ever expect to cultivate the same in my students. How many times have I read that, bookmarked a blog post, scoured an education blog – but simply increasing how many pages of the internet I read per day does not equate taking action.

I’ve grown a lot, in this time of silence. And I’m not sure how to accurately convey that in words. Which perhaps says enough in itself.

In the past two months I’ve done a lot. I’ve taught kindergarten. I’ve lost my paternal grandfather. I’ve ridden the China Harmony high-speed rail. I’ve encountered my first drunk chicken. I’ve partied in Pudong. I saved the night, I might add, but you’ll have to ask for that story in person.
I’ve set ridiculous new travel goals.
I’ve faced Thai Immigration again. No red ink this time! *huge sigh of relief*
I’ve been superwoman on an epic trip back to Bangkok from the east coast of Thailand; including grabbing two packs and bucking off the Khao Sarn Road taxi vultures in a stressful situation.
I started the school year as a One Woman Show. My fellow art teacher quit the night before the kids came back. Thanks dude, thanks. We have a new art teacher starting in his place from tomorrow, thank goodness.
I’ve taken up a couple of part time tutoring gigs to supplement my income, as well as expand my teaching skills.

I still haven’t caught up on my photo backlog. If you know me well enough, you probably know how much of a hard time I’m giving myself about this fact.
I’m feeling paperwork paralysis. I’m making great strides and still giving myself the same ridiculous hard time I always do. But – I’ve realized that last part.

I suppose the pent up need to write, to paint, to belt something out on a trumpet, to run, to do all the things that make me who I am have been screaming that there’s more than being a travel superwoman and educator, and while I’ve rocked those two pretty well lately; the other aspects need some attention.