A walk and a comedy podcast on the quiet back streets between the school and the station. No need to talk to anyone and no one to bother me. Alone time. This is how I decompress at the end of each working day.
That I wound up wrangling fifty-plus elementary schoolchildren daily is a product of circumstance: I needed a new full-time job so I could renew my visa, they needed teachers, and time was in short supply.
And though my title is English teacher, really I’m a child care worker who tries his best every day to get the kids to do their homework and engage in a modicum of English study in the few hours we have them. They come directly from school, and we look after them until their parents finish work.
I like the people I work with. The kids are mostly pretty great, too. It is, however, very intense during the time the children are present.
As with most jobs I’ve had, by the end of the day, I am physically tired.
What makes the job especially difficult for me, though, are the social and communicative aspects. I have to be authoritative, confident, and captivating enough to keep the students engaged and in line. At the same time, I am by nature a shy, quiet introvert, which makes the job emotionally and psychologically exhausting, as well.
I can do the job—I am up to the task, and even enjoy it sometimes. But it requires me to occupy a sort of persona at work, a version of myself with the volume turned up. It’s something I put on in the mid-afternoon and take off in the evening. Part of my uniform.
It’s not pretending to be someone I’m not, so it doesn’t feel disingenuous, but by the end of the day, the stress of it has built to where I need some manner of release.
If I fail to do something with the built-up pressure, I am sometimes not the most enjoyable person to be around after work. And who needs that? I don’t want to take that home with me.
So on most days, I don’t go to the closest train station, opting instead to walk to the next one down the line. It’s not far, just shy of fourteen-hundred meters and a little under twenty minutes on foot if you go directly there. I don’t go directly there, though, and prefer to take both a more relaxed pace and a more meandering route that roughly double the time and the distance alike.
By the time I get on the train, I feel a world of difference, and find myself able to be in a much better state upon returning home, better able to be a good partner.
Though this habit somewhat decreases the amount of time she and I can spend together in the evenings, it improves the quality of that time considerably, and that seems a fair trade to me.