It’s only been a few days that I’ve really come to grips to leave my school. I can’t lie; it’s been a pretty tough time–restless nights and nightmares and all–and I’ve come close to changing my mind a few times. But now I can honestly say that it’s the best decision, not just for me, but for everyone, even the students. I’m not exactly running on empty, but I’m pretty darn close, and I don’t think I can give teaching my all for another year. I’m just too exhausted. And an exhausted teacher is simply not going to do a whole lot of good for his students.
Still, there are moments that just feel so raw. On Friday, one of my “chess buddy” students (incidentally the one who sang “You’re the Inspiration”) ran up to me with a big smile and a cut-up elbow. Apparently, he had been jumping hurdles when he fell and his elbow got hurt. And the reason for his big smile? In his words, “Me same Tommy Teacher.” A couple of weeks ago, I took a spill while playing tennis, scraping my elbow and a few fingers pretty badly, which are still scabbed over. So the kid is happy that his elbow is now just like mine. Man, right to the heart… I did the only thing I could think to do, make a few subtle mistakes to let him win the chess game without making it obvious. I’m going to tell the kids soon; I have to.
I’ve decided on a course of action after leaving the school (after visiting my family in the U.S. and seeing Tori in Paris). As cliche as it sounds, I’m going to follow my dream: I’m going to try to write the Great American Novel. I’m going to give myself six months. I’m going to move to a small studio apartment in a cheap area of Seoul, live off my savings, and whole-heartedly dedicate myself to writing. A part of my inspiration is the story I heard about the great writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. Apparently, his family was so broke that he decided to give up his dreams of being a writer. When he told his wife, she took out a bag full of money that she had saved up over time without him knowing. She told him that she had saved up enough for him to work on his writing for another year, and so what did he do in that time? He wrote The Scarlet Letter, and the rest is literary history. As for myself, my ambition is a lot more modest. I’m not looking for a best-seller or a literary classic; but I do want to write a book that is true to myself and can touch some people out there.
You don’t have to wish me luck (though you’re certainly welcome to). It’s not luck that’s the answer; it’s going to be perseverance.
Here’s a song that’s got me through some tough times in the past: “This Year” by the Mountain Goats. (“I’m gonna make it through this year, if it kills me…”)