A couple of years ago I stood in New Delhi, India shaking hard inside. I kept repeating all the old wisdom about how a writer needed a home (DH Lawrence), a writer must have a day-job (Writers Market) and I continued to shake. ESL Teacher burnout is quite unpleasant, and this time it was severe. I badly wanted loose! Beware the modifier: but it was severe, because I going broke, and I needed to keep teaching so I could keep writing and traveling.
I was between contracts, and I knew I’d have to go back to China and work. I dreaded working there again, but I knew I could get hired quickly. Other countries demanded much more paperwork and even personal interviews. I’d developed a habit for times of uncertainty like I was living through then: I’d simply ask my surroundings to ‘tell me what I need to know.’
Standing in the Dalai Lama’s temple in New Delhi, India I asked this, and clearly heard the answer: ‘go back to China.’ This was exactly what I hadn’t expected to hear from a Tibetan monk’s spirit, so I slept on it, I didn’t obsess about it, and I asked the same question in other places ( but always addressed it to the Dalai Lama of Tibet). I even admitted that returning to the PRC was my own wish and that the Dalai Lama had little to do with it.
And go back to China I did. Further, I decided to continue working in China until my dreams and visions told me to stop. Working in China — with my beliefs — is unpleasantly Huxleyan. My burnout has flattened into hardened and general fatigue.
I do feel, though, that this period of exhausted cynicism is an important part of my development, because what can I expect? I haven’t shirked looking hard at what’s around me, and I’ve paid the price. I feel like hell. I’m even slightly apprehensive about returning to ‘the rough and tumble of democracy’ next year. (Will I be able to stand it?)
Yes, it’s a good habit to develop — paying attention to your thoughts, dreams and visions, and acting on them. Tomorrow’s writing class will discuss how exactly your writing and literary skills help you to do this.
Write to me! Mary Ann