The Power of Perspective

Today was one of the hardest days I’ve had in a long time. For unnecessarily complicated, illogical, and infuriating reasons, I was forced to accept additional hours at work teaching at a separate location. These hours have turned Wednesday’s into personal hells, keeping me out of the house teaching from 8:30am to 9:00pm. Aside from the obvious damage this could do to a person’s voice, charisma, and general well-being, it certainly doesn’t help that I’m also… me. Even when I’m hanging out with friends and family, without small breaks to recharge by myself, I’m infinitely more prone to crippling unrest, anxiety, and (at worst) panic attacks.

Which leads us to the jolly events of today.

 
The anxious, depressed, tired, and downright evil part of my brain would tell you my day went like this:
 
Today was my first Wednesday after the schedule change, and I was already experiencing anxiety when I woke up. I taught for 4.5 hours straight with no breaks from 10am to 2:30pm, then couldn’t even make it to go get lunch because an anxiety attack left me curled in the fetal position in a bathroom stall for half an hour.
 
At 4:30pm, I got on my shuttle to a city over an hour away to teach my first 2-hour Beginner’s English class. Upon arrival, I found out that the cafeteria that was supposed to provide dinner for me on these days closes about 8 minutes after I arrive each day and will NOT be providing food in the future. So, I only had time to scarf the pity white rice I was given (which cost $6 for a serving, by the way) before my first 2-hour class.
 
Exhausted from thinking of how I’ll plan food for these future 13-hour days, I slogged to class, taught as hard as I could, then cried quietly on the car ride home before shuffling into my apartment around 9:15 to sit and cry at my desk.
 
Sounds pretty bleak, right?
However.
 
The now-calm, reflective, grateful, and normal majority of me will tell you my day went like this:
 
Today was my first Wednesday after the schedule change. I was already experiencing anxiety when I woke up. But I also woke up to an encouraging text from my brother, who knew I was having a tough time and was cheering me on. I couldn’t muster a reply, but it did help me smile through the tough morning.
 
I taught for 4.5 hours straight with no breaks from 10am to 2:30pm, then broke down in the bathroom for too long to make it to lunch. However, I did cap off my bathroom breakdown with a lovely 7-minute compilation of the best of Colin and Ryan from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which never fails to make me laugh. I was able to watch it because, as of last week, I officially own my first ever cellphone contract and data plan that allows me to say “screw it” and binge YouTube whenever the hell I damn well please, and that makes me feel pretty lucky.
 
At 3pm, I was even gifted some Vitamin C tablets and cacao nibs from my group class students — a group of 4 adorable middle-aged men who could see that I’d had a hard week and were worried that I was working too hard, so they banded together for a small collection of healthy gifts.
 
At 4:30pm, I got on my shuttle to a city over an hour away to teach my first 2-hour Beginner’s English class. Upon arrival, I found out that the cafeteria that was supposed to serve me wouldn’t be able to provide food for any of my teaching days. I stuffed my face with plain rice and processed it all out loud with my Quality Manager, who had come to observe my first class. She listened to my worries and tried to comfort me, promising that she’d do everything she could to help me fix my eating schedule and make things easier. She even texted later to check up on me and remind me that I was doing a great job.
 
When the time came for class, I did my best to power through, forget the day, and welcome my students as happily as I could. By an amazing stroke of luck, all six of my  students turned out to be a cohesive, good-humored, focused, and lovely group that made teaching as easy as it could be. I ended the class exhausted, but extremely thankful that I’d essentially struck gold for a group class. It was an incredible weight off of my shoulders.
 
On the car ride home, the exhaustion from the day came out in a wave of tears that felt more like relief than sadness once they were out. Around 9:15, I shuffled into my apartment to see a note from my brother on my desk, telling me that both dinner and my favorite dessert were in the fridge so I didn’t have to worry about eating anymore. I immediately sat down at my desk, alternating weeping and laughing into a paper carton of dumplings and a separate carton of cream puffs, endlessly overwhelmed and thankful for that kind of love that makes even the worst days feel alright in the end.
 
Today was absolutely far from perfect. But I know it was far from the worst it could have been, because I’ve been at my worst before. It’s because of those “worsts” that my brain is especially hard wired to hold onto the negative stuff. When I’m feeling anxious, or my brain is back in the hospital rooms and bedrooms that can still keep me up at night, it’s so extremely hard to convince my brain that everything is alright.
 
But, especially on days like today, it’s important to at least shift perspective after the fact as much as possible. I would be doing such an injustice to the love and the good in my life if I only focused on the negative stuff. Even today, there were so many special nuggets of good stuff that would have been lost if I’d believed the first summary more than the second. The first summary is correct, but it doesn’t mean it’s true — the second is the true one, and that’s an important distinction to make.
 
So, as I get ready for bed, I’ll be doing my best to cling to the happiness. I’m really grateful to be surrounded by love, whether it’s here in Korea or in my home across the sea. If you’re reading this — thank you 🙂

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