Sometimes change can feel overwhelming, but a little bit of positivity can go a long way. Public health warning - earnest blog post coming up!
Many of my friends and family know that last September I gave up my full time position as Head of Libraries at Bangkok Patana School. This freed me up to spend a greater percentage of my year living at home in Lincolnshire, in the UK, than that afforded by visiting in regular school holidays.
The arrangement isn’t perfect. My brain often seems to lag behind where the rest of my body is, worrying needlessly about things that it cannot change in a country that it isn’t even in. And, of course, I miss the people in my family who I'm not currently with. My two home bases are a bit far apart and time travel would be welcome: Bangkok and Broughton definitely need shoving a bit nearer to each other. However, as a way of embracing two different lifestyles, and keeping a foot in two worlds and enjoying time with family who happen to live thousands of miles apart, I think I can announce that living in two countries is distinctly doable.
Since quitting work during the time I’ve spent in Bangkok I’ve largely been a lady of leisure. Some might say I’ve been living the expat dream! Five thirty morning starts are a thing of the past; coffee and cake feature most days; and on some mornings my biggest decision is whether to have my breakfast at the club house, before or after my morning swim. In my defence, if one is needed, I structure my days purposefully, (admittedly sometimes around watching Homes under the Hammer) and have committed to a range of self-improving literary and physical activities (this sounds more torturous than it actually is!) In addition, I’ve tentatively become a living embodiment of a city explorer. I’ve accomplished tasks that have had me venturing out on the sky-train and into the big smoke on enough occasions to not even be able to count - well, at least not on one hand...
I can justify my leisurely Bangkok life (for now at least) as I have been busier during my time spent in the UK. In fact, I have made time to move house, renting out our much loved, but very tired little cottage. Note to self: next time you move house, remember to check with the family first. “Mum, you’ve moved house and didn’t even tell us!” “Ah, sorry kids.” We’ve moved into a really lovely bungalow, just across the street from my mum and dad. Another note to self, Don’t take someone else’s credit: Thanks Rob and Anne for making the bungalow beautiful for us. Living there has been a success and I very much enjoyed our whole family’s first Christmas there. I am even confident that once I have learned to allow the kids to sit on the velvet mustard sofa, whilst eating chocolate at the same time, that they might enjoy living there too!
The proximity to my mum and dad’s house means that my mission of never giving them a minute’s peace has been an unmitigated success. They in turn pretend not to mind too much when I get bossy accompanying them to hospital appointments, and forcing them on trips down memory lane, playing old vinyl LPs, (do you ever feel you are being humoured?), An added bonus of being in England more frequently is that I can also see more of my lovely eldest daughter, Annie, studying in London, than I would have otherwise been able to. I’m steadfast in my belief that when she calls my enthusiasm to visit and stay in her digs ‘extra’, that she does actually mean it as a compliment.
Weather wise, (now I’m in the UK more I’m embracing the English culture of talking about the weather) I get the best of both worlds. For the first time, in twenty plus years I could watch Autumn kick Summer into touch. And as Summer seems to be never far from the doorstep in Bangkok, I haven’t minded Winter at all. Nothing like a crisp blue sky to blow away the cobwebs.
I thought I might worry about the things I am missing out on when I’m not in Thailand, but in my absence, things in Bangkok seem to run smoothly. My husband, affectionately known by my friends as “Saint Mick of Thana", has not only accepted, but relished, the primary parent role to our, admittedly practically grown up, youngest daughter, Betsy. His responsibilities extend to chauffeur to confidante to cinema buddy, to birthday gift shopper, to snack provider to sleep enforcer, to ‘you’ve got this IB, mate’ encourager. They are great buddies.
At work things haven’t fallen apart either. I know right, a little bit annoying, but at least I’m not wracked with guilt at having let the school down. The large conference we’d spent a year planning successfully went ahead without me; the Kids’ Lit competition, first one in Thailand was a rip-roaring success without me, and the wrangles about whether bags should be allowed in the library or not, seem to be occurring, without me. And what’s more I’m nearly in a place where I don’t really mind all that ‘without me’ input.
The reality is that I can’t be defined as teacher, or librarian anymore. My roles as mum, wife, daughter and friend are still as strong as ever, but even there the job description has changed. I do far more commuting and less one-on-one conferencing. The communication channels required now rely heavily on electronic devices, but there are lots of opportunities for personal development and growth in these changing expectations and locations. The dual based nature of the role affords itself both flexible hours and lots of travel opportunities.
I am currently on a plane flying back to see family in UK. I’m grateful and excited to have the chance to do so. I am, of course, missing Mick and Betsy but I know that they are fine. I also know I’m very lucky. I have a supportive family, good friends who make plans for when I’m in town (looking forward to being back in Bangkok for book-club ladies), excellent wi-fi so I can keep in touch; and importantly a healthy awareness that looking for the benefits and perks of having two homes is a positive thing to do. So, with this positive growth mindset to the fore, (hope it lasts!) I will post this blog and ‘embrace the change’!
From sea and sand to being allowed to sit on the sofa!