It’s 10 days since the arrival of the “latest edition” to our small group of western teachers… I’m referring to Ricky, the new English teacher and our new roommate.
When he first got here, it was strange to have someone talking in a broad Irish country accent, here in Jinzhou. It brought Ireland so much closer to this part of the world, especially when he told me he’d only passed through Arklow (my hometown) 7 days before landing himself in China.
On the first night of him being here, whilst getting to know him, I found out that we have far more in common than just our ”Irishness”. I found out that not only would Ireland feel a lot closer, but also… Holland! He told me of his Dutch connection: his father is Dutch and mother is Irish – not very odd. BUT… when I heard that he’d lived in Holland for the first 10 years of his life, before moving to Ireland, I was intrigued. THEN… when he told me WHERE in Holland he’d lived, I couldn’t believe my ears… He told me he’d lived in BREDA for those 10 years, which is the city where I went to college. It’s also where I lived for 9 months after returning from my first year of backpacking, in 2007. THEN he went on to tell me the street he grew up on and even showed me pictures of the house he used to live in, which was down the road from the college I went to! THEN he started speaking Dutch with the broad local accent that only people from Breda speak!
I couldn’t believe it… Here I was, sitting at the kitchen table in the apartment in Manhattan, Jinzhou, CHINA, talking with an Irish dude, who only just passed through Arklow a week before arriving here AND who is talking to me about the streets I remember to have walked down and cycled through, 4 and 5 years ago in Holland… AND who I’d be sharing a flat with, for the next few weeks. Really, the world felt to be the tiniest place EVER…
Anyhow, after the excitement of these coincidences was settling down and he was getting over his jetlag and finding his feet, I was getting caught-up in creating some much needed space in the apartment that suddenly has decreased in size, now that there are 3 people and an Australian Sheppard living together. The time I would otherwise use as my p-time (“personal-time”, “down-time” or “me-time”) has also decreased. It feels silly and strange to admit that living with just one extra person suddenly is taking up so much more of my time, energy and focus and it’s taken me by surprise. And it’s probably even silly for me to be writing about it here, because it’s not a permanent situation.
But I still need to vent it. Today it’s 10 days after Ricky’s arrival and a lot has happened. The group dynamics have changed and I’ve been trying to find a balance between the life in the office and at home. Ricky coming here has only showed me just how much our lives are all mingled. There’s a fine-line between private life and personal life that is often invisible. Why? Because outside of work we all socialize, at school we work together (even though we all give separate classes…) as well as sharing a living space.
The fact that I want to do so much during my free-time makes my down-time feel to be so precious. The past week I’ve been trying to spread myself. It’s been hard. And I’ve been exhausted for pressurizing myself into creating my own space. For 7 days, all I was doing was leaving the apartment at 8am (even when I wasn’t starting work until 1pm) and coming back 12 hours later… It was as if I was running a race. If I wasn’t working, I was either sitting in a coffee shop, writing or meeting up with people who aren’t connected to work. Every morning I’d wake-up at the crack of dawn, do some yoga in the living room (hoping that Matt and Ricky wouldn’t wake-up and I’d then urgently leave the apartment before they’d be up). On the days I’d be working, I’d head to the office where I’d be alone to do the things I’d usually do at home. This caused so much pressure and I was exhausted… Even though I was enjoying my days and so happy that I was still able to do other things by myself.
The following 2 weeks I won’t be putting myself under this pressure. It’s not worth it. Once I move, I know there’ll be certain things I’ll miss about living with others. And it’s true what they say: in every situation, even when it doesn’t feel to fit as good as it could, there’s always something good to find and something to be grateful for. So, I’ll savour the few more weeks left here in Manhattan, with Matt and Ricky and Cooper (Matts Australian Sheppard) and I can rest assured that once I move, I’ll have all the space I need.