Some unsolicited advice to myself, 15th November 2004 —
Tomorrow you finally start teaching. Congrats. It’s going to be one heck of an experience, you have no idea.
You’re going to be broke most of the time. The weight you lost over the past year? Half of it’s coming back. You won’t have much time for a social life, much less a love life.
So give yourself a moment. Is your call center job really that bad? Come on. The money’s okay. You meet new girls on a regular basis. The job itself is repetitive as hell but it isn’t stressful. Kid, I forgive you for being idealistic. You’re in search of meaning, but perhaps you were put in that call center for a reason. Think about that. You can still back out, you know.
But who am I kidding? You’ll end up in this school eventually. You’re too stubborn that way. So let me paint a picture of what you’re in for.
This first batch you will be teaching for only four months. Not enough. Just not enough. So try to make the most of it. Rosal will be your lucky charm. They virtually hired you. Six school years in, you will still be handling that section.
So have fun. Lots of it. As you grow older you will be playing less PlayStation with your students, so play as much Tekken while you can. By your third school year students will begin to pwn you (it’s a new word which you’ll learn in 2008) so either you keep at that game or begin practicing the “I’m too old for videogames” excuse. You’ll be so good at that excuse that you’ll begin to believe it.
Don’t worry. What you’ll end up doing will be way more fun than anything you have ever done before. It will be really fulfilling. You’re going to take some bold risks. Some will pay off, others won’t. Be wise and learn from both, especially the failures. But don’t think for one second that you need to rely on cheap games and gimmicks to be cool and effective. Whatever happens, don’t do Wu Wei (just don’t). Be true to yourself. Be honest to yourself. Keep on learning. Be humble. Your desire and enthusiasm to always do better is what will define you. Just keep your feet on the ground and remember that it’s not about you — it’s about the students.
That’s a lesson that you’ll have to go back to over and over again. Pretty soon you will be given so much work, but not because they want to punish you but because they know you can do it. So believe in yourself. You will be offered to take over the S-Club (don’t worry, you’re going to rename it AKSIS) and the work you do there will be among the most important you’ll ever do. You will meet students who will make you believe that our country will have a better future. And when you grow older and more cynical, they will remind you that at one point in your life, you have the same dreams and aspirations as they currently do. They just need a push in the right direction, and that is what you’ll be there for.
Later on you will also be asked to take on the job of Batch Adviser, a job which you will soon ask for. I hope it happens to you around the same time it happened to me. Batch 2011 is a phenomenal batch and the things you get to do together — amazing. The parents will be incredible friends and partners to you, so don’t get intimidated by those you meet early on in your career. Take care of your students, for you have no idea how much they will mean to you. My stint as Batch Adviser was marked by some great trials towards the end. You will feel like giving up, but they will inspire you. They will make you carry on.
Because, to be honest with you, it’s going to be a tough life. Leave as soon as you can, otherwise you never will. You will think you can juggle more than one thing at a time, but this job will consume your body, mind, heart and soul. Despite your tenacity, you will never receive all the support you will need, and a lot of what you do will be thankless. You will be heartbroken in ways more profound than ever before. You will lose yourself, and yet you will be defined in ways you never thought possible. In the end you will learn why, when it comes to you, no truer words will be said than these — “Commitment is what drives you. The problem is you’re not good at letting go.”
Where did I get that quote? I’ll leave that as a surprise. You’re going to love it.
So do you still want to teach?
Martin, my only hope is that when you arrive at where I am now, you will be able to answer that question — positively or negatively — with a strong conviction and steady heart. All I can say is that it will be difficult, but it will be worth it. I wouldn’t want to tell you why for I wouldn’t want to deprive you of your own discovery.
Just remember that no matter how bad things may get and you begin to lose faith in yourself, never lose faith in other people. Don’t stop believing in their inherent capacity for good for it is there you derive your own strength. You’ve always believed that you were meant for great things and trust me, you are. You can still be anything you want to be so don’t let anyone — most of all yourself — tell you different.
That is why I write to you now. For tomorrow will be a moment that will define the rest of your life. There is only one way to go and you know it. You’ve always known it.
So I will be here, nearly five years later. I will be here waiting for you.