My dad recently came for a visit and over dinner he asked what we had planned for the future. â€œAfter all,â€ he said. â€œThis canâ€™t help you in your future career so itâ€™s a dead-end job, right?â€
Wrong. (At least I think so.)
How will my time in China affect jobs and my life in the future? Iâ€™m not sure, only time will tell on that one, but I can tell you how it has changed my right now in the present.
It has made me happy, it has opened up my mind to new ways of thinking, it has given me new experiences and interactions with different types of people all while providing me with enough money to live a decent lifestyle. But am I “successful?”
I see my fathers point. Technically I am living thousands of miles away from â€œthe real world,â€ unable to network, climb the corporate ladder or ‘pay my duesâ€™ in a large company. I also make peanuts here compared to an American salary.
In fact, one could argue (and my father did) that before I left I was living a very successful life. I had two jobs. One was for an online travel company, and the other was customer service for a small, but well respected, book publisher. I was making good money, about $60,000 a year, and each job gave me enough flexibility that I could be late or do a middle of the day errand (though I did have to be in one office for 40 hours a week). Also, at the publisher job, I worked with people who I really liked.
But I never felt like a success. Why? Because I hated my jobs. Instead of feeling fulfilled I felt exhausted. Instead of feeling rich, I felt poor and overwhelmed. I woke up unhappy, went about my day unhappy and fell asleep unhappy.
In China I am a teacher. I get to create my own curriculum and I have the flexibility to teach topics that I enjoy. I work 16 teaching hours a week (plus about 10 extra hours for grading and prepping classes) and the hours are broken up throughout the week so the longest day I work is six hours. Most days I work only four.
The pay, based on western standards, is lousy. Only about $700 US a month which would barely cover my mortgage. But here in China it is more than enough to eat out every meal, buy our necessities and have plenty left over for savings.
Financially I might sound less successful, and based on the old â€œlifestyleâ€ model I am way less successful. I donâ€™t have a cubicle, a pension, or a phone in which I have to dial 9 to get an outside line. Iâ€™m not climbing any ladders or making any inroads with a major corporation.
Yet, Iâ€™m happy. I wake up everyday with a smile and look forward to the day ahead. Sometimes I canâ€™t fall asleep thinking about how much fun the next day’s classes will be.
If thatâ€™s not success, I donâ€™t know what is.
But my dad will continue to disagree. To him, safety, security and having a â€œgoodâ€ job is what defines success. In fact, I know many people who feel the same way, some good friends even.
So what about you? How do you define success, and do you feel successful in your life right now?
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