Thursday, November 27, 2003

I went through a long through a lengthy thought process before deciding to leave my job, life and country to instead teach English. I had several angsty conversations with friends at the time, most notably with workmates who became soundboards for my latest rants and existential dilemmas: “Is this me? Am I an Instructional Designer?” I would ask. Those workmates deserve thanks. Needless to say I decided that no, I’m not an Instructional Designer, otherwise I wouldn’t be here: An Englishman in Verona. After logging onto the site one of those former colleagues emailed me: “Good to see you’re no longer suffering from existential angst” he said. Quite.

But now this site is undergoing a certain amount of existential angst itself: what do I want it to be? This comes about because yesterday I had my first serious bout of doubts about this new life: what am I doing here?

With regard to the blog, the first question that springs to mind is: do I want to write about this, about these doubts? Is this a diary? If so, who’s it for? If it’s for me, I should be wholly honest but in that case: what the fuck’s it doing online? So is it a diary for others? Is it a way of keeping my friends and family up-to-date with my life without having to write 50 identical emails? Or is it aimed at a wider audience? If so, with what purpose?

(Ooo, look: a paragraph with only questions. I didn’t even realise I was doing that. That says more about me than I’d like.)

I’m digressing. Whatever the eventual answers to these questions it didn’t take long to conclude that there’s some diary element to the site. Which is why I’ve decided to write about why I felt crap yesterday.

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s never been diagnosed but the only year I’ve not felt throughly miserable in February was the one I spent in the other hemisphere. This winter it feels like it’s hit home significantly earlier. As I pointed out this morning to my present workmates: Italy is not doing what it says on the tin. It’s been grey for two weeks. “Ah, but it’s warm” say the Italians. Fools; I don’t care about the temperature, I just want blue skys. It's been pissing down for days. I hear it’s worse in England but that doesn’t make any difference to me, does it?

Anyhow, this greyness and darkness – fucking hell, I hate winter – gets to me. I feel shit. The delusionists will say "But that's not the real you". Sweet as they are, they’re wrong: it is me, just like that gregarious, gorgeous (stop me when you’re ready), intelligent, extrovert, friendly, funny, (no, really: please stop me), charasmatic, charming, confident young man you met in the summer is also me. And besides, it’s easy for us to remember the good times – our memories treat us well, fortuanately – but we tend to forget the crap; I should record this whilst it happens.

This life – the life of a nomadic English teacher – can be lonely. Yes, Italy is beautiful. Yes, the food is wonderful. And yes, there’s no Daily Mail. But similarly there are no real friends, not yet: I’ve known these people two months, or less. My hobbies are all thrown into the air. There are only twelve Frisbee teams in the whole of Italy and none in Verona; I don’t yet have a skiing or mountain biking companion; the films are all dubbed into a language that I speak only a few words of; and of course that most English of things: there’s no Radio 4.

So this all makes one wonder why one bothers. As I wrote earlier: why am I here? I know there is much of the life I want to lead waiting for me in London, so why aren’t I there? I know the answer – work – but I’m afraid that doesn’t stop me from wondering what if. I enjoy teaching English – and I know how rare a truly rewarding job is – and it’s a necessary step towards doing my Master’s degree. But I’m human and I’m allowed to look at what’s here and decide that today I don't like it.

There is, however, no question of coming home. Not only do I know all this will pass but the wages for this work in London would destroy any ideas I had of enjoying myself. And, as I said about a week ago, I should throw myself into these experiences now whilst I’m still young enough and adaptable enough to do so.

There is clearly only one solution to all this. Now, would somebody please pass me the wine?

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