teaching english

Depression makes me do crazy things (like be a teacher in China)

That’s not a picture of me. I figured having someone take a picture of me while teaching is braggadocios considering a) I’ve only been training for one week, b) I have only taught three classes and have plenty of room for improvement, and c) seriously, who does that?

But I am the one behind the camera, watching my mentor as I learn how to teach English to adult Chinese learners. How did I get here? I applied for a teaching a job because I was looking for work. I committed to coming to China because depression has continually made me do some crazy or questionable things.

Let’s focus on the last sentence. I wouldn’t say depression made me go to China. I didn’t rise up from a bed of tears and think to myself, “that’s it! I’m going across the world to a country I know nothing about.” It’s more appropriate to say the chance to go someplace far away seemed alluring at the time.

I have always wanted to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted a career I could be proud of, one where I feel good about what I do when I come home at night. There is an odd excitement to watching someone discover or learn something they didn’t know previously. I wouldn’t call it a dream job. I don’t dream about labor. But the prospect of teaching is something close to it.

I just never wanted to go through the American process necessary to become one, or accept the low salary and high stress that comes with the profession. So lo and behold, here’s an opportunity that only requires a certification and desire to teach English to non-English speaking students.

At the same time, I wanted to get away from a life I crumbled with my own hands. I didn’t have false dreams of starting a brand new life like in the movies. Taking risks in real life doesn’t always come with happy endings. And yes, I chose those words on purpose. I wasn’t happy. I haven’t been for over a year and some change. Some people seek therapy or talk to someone they trust. I chose to leave. It’s more cowardice than bold.

There was nothing keeping me in Atlanta. There was nothing to lose by leaving the country–other than a car, an apartment, and maybe a chance to make amends with people I have hurt. This was both an easy and uncomfortable choice to make.

Now I get to do the job I’ve always wanted in a place very unlike where I came from. I’m here for a year unless I’m fired, something goes terribly wrong, or I get incredibly tired of being a black foreigner in a country where everyone stares at me then frowns. It’s not as bad as I make it sound. I’m used to being stared at for being black in the wrong places. I’m just not used to the frowning.

If you are thinking about becoming an international teacher in China, visiting China, or want to learn about the country through my experience, I invite you to visit daily (maybe more like weekly) to read and listen to my content. And I promise I’ll write about stuff closer to the original purpose of this blog.

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