Sunday the 28th, my last day of teaching for EF; it turned out to be a day that shook me about in too many ways. It’s now Thursday the 1st of September, I’m sitting in Shanghai airport, and only getting a chance to properly reflect on what happened – I’ve been massively preoccupied with moving, ever since… So I’ll just play catch-up for now.
Looking back, the entire day was a daze… From 8am in the morning, straight through until 11pm. I had maybe a grand total of 30 minutes in between those long hours to be by myself, to shed some tears and to take stock of what was happening.
Why did it turn into such a big day? Well, on top of the normal hours of teaching, I, of course had to say goodbye to the kids at the end of every class – which brought up many unexpected emotions – AND I had to give unprepared teacher meetings in my breaks. After walking out of every class for the very last time, I had to walk into the next class that was filled with the parents of the kids I’d only just said goodbye to. They were eagerly waiting for an explanation from me, as to why I was leaving. I had no time to get myself in the ‘presentation zone’ before talking so openly with the parents and ‘breaking the disappointing news’ that I was letting down the kids and thus letting down the parents, by choosing to leave China.
So, basically, I was being told to confirm to the parents, in English, that what the ‘head teacher’ was telling them, in Chinese, was true: I was leaving China and returning to ‘Ireland’, for the sake of my health. The school was using my physical appearance as justification for my departure; in the hope that it would lessen the disappointment the parents would feel when realizing the school wasn’t providing their kids with the foreign English teacher that EF had ‘promised’ would be teaching them. My boss and the other ‘head teacher’ figured that by using this ‘excuse’ – and getting me to confirm it - my moving-on wouldn’t be too damaging for the reputation of the school.
Was this ‘excuse’ made up? And where did my boss and ‘head teacher’ suddenly get the notion from that it was ‘okay’ to be speaking of my health, just so the school wouldn’t loose business, as a result of my departure? Well, they got it from me! 5 or 6 weeks ago, I realized I’d lost a small amount of weight since first arriving in China. To me, it was a shock and it brought back many of my old issues. I used this realization as the sign that Jinzhou wasn’t right for me. The subconscious yet slight weight loss, told me that I wasn’t truly happy in the situation I’d been so desperate to place myself in. To me, this minor ‘loss’ was a result of trying to be somebody I’m obviously not entirely happy being, by pushing, forcing and proving myself and my abilities in and to the world (when deep down, this really isn’t needed. Not anymore. I know exactly who I am and what I want to be doing in this life and I don’t need to force or to push to be that person).
This painful dawning however, led me to break down and so I made the ‘rash’ (but wise) decision to break away from a place that was affecting my health, because of the force I’d been applying in order to be happy in Jinzhou. Some of you will understand, others may not… but I can’t go too much into it right now… not enough…huuummm…. space… in this post ;)
Either way… when I approached my boss with the news that I was definitely leaving, I touched the subject, stating that ‘when I’m unhappy in a place, I can be affected physically’ (or something along those lines). I had to be as superficial as possible, whilst trying to be honest and real at the same time – just to attain some degree of understanding from him. And on a personal level, it did come. But he also knew that my actions could potentially cost him business, so he chose to openly use the ‘evident truth’ of the kilos I’d shed and so, my reason for leaving became real; I had personal issues (that will always to some extent, be health related) and I needed to attend to them.
To stick to the matter at hand; my last day at EF. During every single meeting, I felt as though I was being punished for following my heart; my heart that was no longer in Jinzhou. I was paying my dues, for having exposed myself to my boss and for having told him of my unhappiness. My punishment was; standing in front of 10 to 14 parents, five times over, and telling them I was leaving, because I had personal issues to attend to. I had no choice but to expose the truth. As I sat there, I felt as though I was lying… Health problems! What a joke! I was living, I was breathing, I was teaching, walking, talking, eating and smiling. How could I sit there and say such lies???!!!!