We’re NOT moving, for the first time in several years.
But the clouds are going fast in Fuzhou. Our entire office seems to be turning over, with three new teachers in one month and several people moving to new positions at other places in the same company.
But we’re staying for another year, and I don’t intend to make any changes in terms of what position I work and broadly how I work. At the moment, this is my work schedule:
Monday and Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday-Friday: Go in at about 2 PM, finish at 20:30.
Saturday and Sunday: 8:30-17:30
That schedule means that I have a ton of evening and morning time to relax, cook, make crafts, write (supposedly….) and drink tea. Five days a week, we don’t use an alarm to wake up. I can go to bed whenever I like those days and still get at least eight hours of sleep.
This is something that I’ve worked hard to achieve. It sounds counter-intuitive, but being “just” an ESL teacher with no managing responsibility in China is the result of several years of turning off learned patterns of striving, aligning my days with what kind of life I truly want to live, and ignoring pressure/advice to get out there and work so hard that everyone notices (Pro Tip: Basically no one ever positively notices if you work extra hard. They might notice and give you things that they don’t want to do themselves, because they know you’ll work hard.).
The last time I lived in China, I was still trying to climb the corporate ladder to some extent. I took a managing position I was qualified but not prepared for, worked longer hours than anyone else in my branch, and commuted 2 hours every day. First one in, last one out.
I’ve been pulled aside and asked to take a manager’s role several times this year.
I thought that’s just what you’re *supposed* to do in your late 20s. Work long hours. Commute far. Ostensibly get noticed. Get more…money? Because you certainly won’t get more time; you’re already shaving minutes off your lunchbreak to get back to spreadsheets just a little earlier than everyone else. Maybe if you just use this scheduling app to track your habits in real time and correlate them with your heart rate and 15,000 steps a day that you just have to take, you’ll be able to find a spare moment to log the data of your morning bowel movement.
This min-maxing that people in my generation have decided is the way to a fulfilling and successful life is bullshit. It’s never good enough. It’s designed not to be.
Humans were never meant to be optimized. We should do things that we always have done – climb every mountain, walk every forest, explore and write and see and draw and create and share and cook and tell stories – but to try to squeeze extra productivity out of every second of the day is a recipe for feeling inadequate. Beyond that, after you fail yourself to become the pinnacle of human optimization, you’ll start forcing it on your children.
Trust me. I’m a teacher in a middle class neighbourhood in China. These kids have never played Tag or looked up and seen a bat flying outside. Their every second in my class is invigilated by their grandmothers watching the CCTV and taking photos on their phones to send to everyone. The issues that Millennial adults are having with min-maxing our lives are expressed intensely in the lives of the next generation not just here but all over the world.
To be clear, this rejection of that narrative I’m espousing is not minimalism, nor simple living, nor descheduling, nor any other buzzwordy label to make it seem trendy and somehow less “bad” in the eyes of the min-maxers. I’m advocating sleeping in, lazing around, and then doing things that you truly love in the time you’ve made for them in your life. Taking the decision to do less leaves me with time to do more.
Time for work. But I’ll have time for more of what I want later. I hope you’ll choose to as well.