Time Changes Nothing
Doing Things Changes Things
Countless conversations with friends and those dear to me have encouraged me to write this to all of you:
I know it’s obvious I’ve been a tad less consistent with my blog updates lately – but there is good news behind it all. The past few months have been a transition in career for me: while I am still very heavily involved in the education sector, I feel that after a decade of being on the front-lines as a teacher, the time has come where limitations must be accepted, and thus I have transitioned into writing. It is for these reasons that my updates have been less frequent, as I have been writing curricula across Hong Kong and also editing upcoming textbooks. Furthermore, if all goes well, my novel is to be expected by the end of the year. In making this information public, it serves as a personal motivation to meet a goal – which leads to my next point: What I’ve learned in the past few years.
Though it seems fictitious, isn’t writing all about living a life worth writing?
2006-2016: “If they can’t learn the way you teach, teach the way they learn.” ~Mandela~ This decade of life was all about education: in the classroom through teaching, or in life through learning (and doing my degree on the side). I taught Chinese children in both local school streams and international school streams. This provided the exposure to the core parts of humanity across the spectrum: education is the breeding ground of all knowledge, and if you ever have the opportunity to explore education in different cultures, languages, or countries, you begin to see the world manifest before you in the form of words.
2009-2013: “I didn’t need to go to college to get my degree. I just read and studied all of my college material and took the invigilated exams.”
As many of you know, my degree from London School of Economics was not obtained though physically being present at the institution. Yes, I may have missed out on a lot of social aspects – but what I gained was the freedom to choose my friends rather than being lumped into a community of whoever was in that college. College provides a community, a world, and in some ways, a bubble – but it also provides opportunities and resources. Being a distance learning self-motivated type of student, I was able to benefit from going out and meeting an array of people from different walks of life – people who later provided me many opportunities.
My social group in college comprised of racial mixes, cultural mixes, class differences, religious differences, and gender & orientation differences to name a few. What I experienced through this was true equality. When all is blended together, you learn how to function homogeneously. This is not to say that there was no conflict: of course there was conflict! But it’s how the conflicts are resolved that make the biggest difference. People say only results matter, but experience tells me that process defines results. Being in an international group with many cultures and no nationalism does cause certain ambiguities though, such as “If I say this, will (s)he be offended?” or “If I phrase it that way, is it disrespectful to so-and-so’s culture?” It makes for highly entertaining group interactions!
2011-2013: “Sometimes, when you work really hard, people start to believe in you. But first, you gotta believe in yourself.”
I’ve always felt like a writer since I learned what sentences were. When I was six, I remember going through one Enid Blyton book a day until I realised I, too, could write sentences. The first thirteen years of my life were spent in a local Chinese school where – though at home English was my native language – at school, I learned it as a second language. In that system, I learned Cantonese as a first language, and Mandarin as a third.
At seven, my mum bought me a diary at Disneyland, and goodness me, my spelling was appalling! But I kept writing. I wrote in the diaries every single day until I was seventeen; then it faded into once a week, and slowly, once a month. The only subjects I excelled in at school / college were those that required a lot of essays or musical courses. I was interested in math and science but didn’t always take well to the rigid testing schemes, so that wasn’t exactly an academic option.
Then, on May 4th, 2011, my manager – a big fan of the original Star Wars – let me teach the topic of Star Wars to a class of eight year olds as an interactive oral discussion to get them talking. It somehow resulted in a mini-political debate about the Jedi‘s vs. Sith. I stood there looking at the board and what I had written, then thought… I could sell this. From then on, I started putting all of my ideas down on paper and finally typed them up into notes. Admittedly, at the time, I just thought it was an efficient way to seem more prepared; little did I know it was the beginning of my second career. (At this point, I should probably clarify that I was studying politics and had plans to further my studies in law – I had all the paperwork and the right qualifications – but then decided to follow my heart with writing instead of my head with law. More on that another time.)
2013-2016: “Change cannot be effected by our presence blocking the cogs – sometimes, the most productive change only happens when we take ourselves out of the picture.”
In 2013, I started working for a very corporate education company where information was manufactured at a speed I never even thought humanly capable. And I was right, I wasn’t capable. Having developed three different courses within eight months (roughly amounted to 1,100 pages) meant that by the time 2014 hit, I had used up all of my energy and fuel – yet running on empty wasn’t an option for the type of position I had at that place – eventually I just had to say “no” and slowly fade out.
By 2015, I knew that teaching just wasn’t for me – at least, teaching in this type of environment was definitely not my understanding of “education”. So I left, retaining every single experience I had there – it was tough, it was painful, it was tedious, inhumane, and at times abusive. But much like a cactus in the desert, I grew in a harsh environments. I refused to give my power to a place that had only tried to hold me down and suppress my abilities for the sake of a business image. I was hurt and broken when I left, to say the least, but the most valuable lesson I learned was that: Change cannot be effected by our presence blocking the cogs – sometimes, change only happens when you take yourself out of the picture.
Within three months of leaving that place, I had signed on as a writer with one of the bigger education publishing houses based all around Asia. My first project took around six weeks to complete, and I continued writing courses for a couple of friends who were looking to sell curricula. Working from home became the new norm while I healed from the negativity and destruction that was inflicted in the past few years. I just needed some time to “take it easy” and do what I could to pay the bills.
Thankfully, I had very supportive friends and an extremely loving family who had my back all the way, and did what they could to keep me on track. They did, and so all I that I do now is my way of thanking those who have not only reaped the results but have been part of my process. Every single person throughout my life – the good and the bad – has each planted whatever form of metaphorical seed. Some stuck with me and kept watering them, others were merely hikers who stopped by for a quick visit. Then there were those who tried to colonize by chopping down some of the plants and forcing houses, but the ones who actually stayed in those houses ended up being the reason I am able to heal.
It is for these reasons that I say no one can grow with one-sidedness. We need hybrids in our lives to challenge, to mold, to build, to grow. Even those who try to destroy us are the ones who end up being good models of who we should never become, but if we do not go and embrace these experiences, we will never grow. Yet, if we are only ever trampled on, we, too, will not grow. Life needs benchmark, it needs accountability. Life is not about having one right answer, but in knowing how everything we know comes together.
It is the essence of humanity.
It is the essence of us.
It is the essence of you.
Don’t cling onto a cause or a human construct just because you feel insecure. No.
Be that cause that effects change.
You are that cause.
Love and peace,
Mikaela Mikavelli Gordan