Midlife Crisis (Default Setting)

Actually, it’s presumptuous to label one’s funk, angst, or funky angst, a midlife crisis, considering no one knows how long each of us has got, but at least the phrase has yet to be reduced (or elevated, depending on your perspective) to a brand name.

Apologies for not writing for awhile.  The title of this post may offer you a clue.

One of the hardest things for any of us to endure is boredom.  Unless you’re some kind of glamorous movie star, playboy, or freedom fighter, it constitutes an unfortunately large part of most of our lives.  This is a pity, as you only go around once, unless you include all the cycles that make up our orbit around the sun and the relentless hands turning around the clock, giving everybody the finger.

I have been teaching English as either a second or a foreign language for over twenty years, and I’m fucking sick of it.  Don’t get me wrong:  I like my students, and I appreciate the effort most of them are making to try to improve their skills in a difficult language that’s wholly different from theirs, but I’m tired of having to do the same thing over and over again, year after year.  I also feel too worn out (as well as afraid I couldn’t score another type of gig, considering I’m half a century old and less marketable than I was before in the jaundiced eyes of the youth-seeking workplace, especially in the crowded field I’m in, which is full of people who share my prodigious lack of skills and ambition, many of them half my age and a lot better looking) to reinvent myself.

So I trudge on.  

The other night (okay, early morning) I had a dream in which I was yelling at a group of students because they weren’t paying any attention to me.  When I say that, I don’t mean they were just avoiding eye contact.  Their backs and heads were turned away from me as they slumped over their desks.  They looked as if they just wanted to get some sleep.  Maybe my unconscious mind was making some sort of product plug, even though I was already drifting like a cloud over Slumberland Farms myself.

The funny thing was that I kept berating them even after some low-level administrative observer appeared to keep tabs on me, freely employing the F-word (meaning “fuck”), then apologizing in an angry tone for choosing that term, and just as quickly saying it was utterly justified in my next breath.

When I went to sub a two-hour class of young adults on the outskirts of the city yesterday, the students tricked me by asking if they could take a break–at the beginning of class!   Since I’m as gullible as the most devout follower of the farthest-fetched religion you can come up with, I said they could.  They turned out to be mainly cooperative and seemingly keen to learn and practice their English, at least during the first hour.

After we took a second break and I introduced the grammar point (third conditionals, meaning “if” sentences that refer to situations contrary to the fact in the past–for example, “What would have happened if Charlie Chaplin had been elected prime minister of Great Britain instead of Winston Churchill?  Would he have waged war against Hitler for having stolen his mustache?”).  In accordance with my dream, several eyes started to close.  As I was only a sub and gaining their respect was that much more of a challenge, instead of acting out my own unconscious episode I just apologized for waking them up after asking each one of the sleepers a question.  

I also found it odd that they were waxing comatose before lunch, not having a full stomach requiring the attention of their blood cells to aid them in digesting their food as an excuse.  Was I that boring?  Were they?

One thing that prevents me from lashing out at students, despite my status as a superfluous dust rag, is not so much that they’re nominal adults who’ve earned the right to be treated with respect and dignity, as the notion that they, like me, are slaves locked into a system that doesn’t care about them.  Although the system is ostensibly made up of human beings, it has, paradoxically, become inhuman, not to say inhumane.

The original term for what we now call fascism was corporatism, coined, if I’m not mistaken, by Sir Benito Mussolini. I know as little about politics and history as I do about anything else, so I’m not going to go out of my way to impress you with a dazzling display of breathtaking ignorance.  I just find it curious that there’s a link between the two ideologies, one of which sounds relatively benign to certain ears (for instance, Mickey Mouse’s), the other positively malignant (unless your name is Hitler, God rest his ball).

Don’t ask me if the apex of human civilization is a world of people publicly hunched in atomic solitude over their sophisticated phones, universally ignoring one another in their hungry pursuit of the latest ephemeral information.  Maybe so.  Or maybe it’s some of the things I’ve been reading on Korean T-shirts lately:  You’re So Vague, All Crackled Out, Armed, I Don’t Need You Anyway, I’m Hatin’ It, Life Sucks (that was actually on a guy’s baseball cap), The Bubble Gum Killer Bug, The July Noodle Mood Journal, or the most eloquent one of all, Acne.

The astonishing thing about all of those urgent messages was that there wasn’t a single typo in the lot, which is more than I can say for one sentence (practically even one phrase) of any of my students’ written work.  (Proofreading is a big part of my job these days, and it’s remarkably time-consuming, tedious, and soul-destroying.  Korean writers of English seem determined to violate every rule set down in Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, being as redundant, bland, and passive as possible, favoring negative constructions over directness or a refreshing display of simplicity (when it’s called for) or a point succinctly made (that clause is also in the passive voice, proving the viral possibilities of hypocrisy).

So if my writing has become unreadable, at least I can have them to blame.

And if I managed to put you to sleep, please don’t forget to turn off your computer when you wake up.




2 thoughts on “Midlife Crisis (Default Setting)

  1. Your boredom is fascinating! Let me tell you about mine. Don’t worry, I won’t. I once yelled at my little children who were 8, 5, and 3 at the time “Life sucks and then you die.” It was a very bad day. But, hey, in Korea I could make some good coin putting that on t-shirt.

  2. Heh-heh, I could imagine saying something like that. It’s hard not to snap sometimes, and I’d guess that raising three small children ranks high among life’s most formidable challenges. I doubt I could do it. By the way, I’d like to recommend a blogger to you whose work I feel you’d appreciate: http://www.smirkpretty.wordpress.com. (I’m not sure if “wordpress” is included in her blog’s address–you’ll have to check.) Like you, she’s an excellent writer; in fact, I’ve been meaning to introduce you to each other for several weeks. Procrastination works in not so strange ways. Please let me know what you think of her stuff after you’ve had a chance to check it out. Nice to hear from you, and thanks for liking the post!

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