It nags at you after so long.

Everything becomes just one step away from the last straw. But the last straw is never clearly defined, and you know deep down that there never will be one, because all you’re doing is holding on and holding on.

I have to admit that these days I am struggling. I rarely update because I rarely have anything to say. I’ve stopped looking for things that I want to write about, and I have tried to suppress the things that make it too hard. I don’t tell my friends things. I don’t even tell myself things. I hide certain feelings because they don’t fit with what I want. But then hiding those feelings starts to block out what I want, and I forgot what I wanted in the first place–or maybe why it was right to want it.

Today in class I had a child who refused to do his work. There are two students in the class, both young boys–both late by ten minutes, and both thoroughly ignoring me. It was torture to get through the hour. But at the last five minutes of class, one student refuses to do his work. So I tell him he’s not leaving until the words are written two times–and I don’t care how many times he says “one time, teacher”, it’s not going to change.

So the other student says something rude to him in Korean. And the child goes off. Jumps out of his desk. I restrain him. This happens consistently. The bell has already rung. I have 4 minutes to get my materials and get to the next class. I don’t want to fight with this child. I tell the other one to leave. But the kid is crying and trying to get past me. Driving his skull into my stomach. And I’ve got him by the coat, then he’s running out the door and I’m trying to keep him from leaving in the crush of students–and I ask one of the other English teachers to help. But she just gives me this “wtf” look. “Well who is his homeroom teacher?” … “Carrie–Kim–” “Well then ask them.”

Kim comes out of the room and I explain it to her and the child is gone. Next thing I know there is screaming and crying in the hall and the child has a pencil, and Kim is DRAGGING him somewhere, and John’s got him, and then he’s swinging the pencil at the other kids.

And ten minutes later, someone thinks it’s appropriate to tell me that the child has severe anger problems and is medicated–but he apparently didn’t take it today. And oh, this isn’t the first time this has happened.

Wow. I would have loved to know that BEFORE I walked into that class. And before you put me in front of two boys who don’t speak my language, who could kill each other any minute, and made ME responsible.

It’s days like these where I just can’t deal. And I feel like I’m a terrible teacher. And I can’t do this. And I shouldn’t even be allowed to do this because I’m not good enough for these kids. I’m not teacher material. I just don’t have the patience. Or the support. Or the respect. Even from the other American teacher–not that that would mean much.

These children just walk all over me. And they know I don’t care enough. They know I don’t know their real names. They know I don’t speak their language. The older ones know that by the time I get to their classes (the last two) that I’m so tired that I don’t know who is who and that I read sentences differently, and tell them that there are mistakes in the book when there aren’t.

Today I taught a story about Mother Teresa, and I felt like there was such a hole in me… it was describing all about how she wanted to help the poor, and God this and God that, and I suddenly realized that I used to care about that, and what to be that kind of person, but now I just feel broken and not good enough. And I hate myself for it because I know if I want to be a person THAT good, I wouldn’t feel broken right now–and every difficulty would just be a challenge that would help people. And no matter how hard it was, I would still know that I was doing the right thing…

But I don’t. And I don’t think I am doing the right thing. In fact I think I’m just a superficial part of the epic band aid that seems to cover up this country’s deep, deep wound.

Doesn’t matter how many hagwons or identical highrises there are, or how many games your handphone has, or whether or not you can afford to give one to your four year old, or how many lame sculpture parks there are on Jeju Island. Surface crap can’t fix the way the dark seems to leak the wounds. Who knows if it’s the collective unhappiness of all these apartment dwellers and hagwon goers, or if it’s history. Probably both.

Some people make me happy though, because they help me get steps closer to figuring out what is actually under the surface.

6 thoughts on “It nags at you after so long.”

  1. Just remember, Mother Teresa was 40 years old when she first opened her school in India. You've got a few years between your age and forty.

    But hell. Nobody's asking you to be Mother Teresa. And there's more than one way to be a good person. You took a blind step that brought you to Korea because you were curious. But you also took a blind step that brought you to Ghana, and another that brought you to the Somali Women's Center.

    You possess a courage many other people don't have, but you also have to suffer things others don't. So don't hate yourself, ESPECIALLY because of your surroundings.

    I'm only your little brother, but I think I know enough about they way things work to say this: These problems will end. How they end may be a mystery. But they'll end, and then you'll have the opportunity to remember them how you want, while you move on to other things (most likely better things).

  2. What Aidan said. And also this: Mother Theresa wrote in her letters that she frequently felt empty and unsure of herself and unsure of God. Yet she kept at it. And you are doing something very difficult, something few people would be willing or able to do. It's no wonder it gets you down sometimes. Especially in winter. But you too can keep at it.

    I'm interested in what you say about the deep wound of the country. I've read Korean theologians who also speak of that. Perhaps part of your mission there (I do not use the word frivolously) is to learn more about that wound, not just to put up with kids with serious anger management problems. This too is something to grow your spirit, even if it doesn't feel like it on the surface now.

  3. Maggie, even when you are miserable you are eloquent, and amazing, and I know you won't give up.
    You've taken on more than many people would have the courage to do. (Teaching is hard enough when you're in a familiar place!) I know you'll get through this.
    Hang in there.

  4. Ah, sweetie. Here my behind self is, reading your despair. Again, we've talked about this stuff, but I'm sorry I did not read this when it was happening. Still, I hear what your brother said, and your dad, and Rachel, and I'm just so glad you have them to tell you what I would also have told you, so that you know how deeply you are loved – and respected, dear heart – by your family and friends. You're a good, brave girl.

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