One of the things that probably hasn’t come through sufficiently on this blog is how miserable I was in the year before coming to Georgia.
I was reading my facebook statuses from last year – spurred by a friend’s comment about being tired of “snowmageddon” and “snowpocalypse,” I journeyed back to last February to look up the cutesy names I had made up back then for the snow (snowgnarok, snowklahoma, and snowmg) – anyway, I was reading my status archives, and it reminded me of some of the incidents in my life that have embittered me.
I say “reminded” because I basically haven’t thought about them since I’ve been here. I’ve done a remarkably good job of putting the past behind me and making a clean break from my former troubles since I’ve gotten to Georgia. I guess you really *can* run away from your problems.
Should I list the things that have gone wrong in my life? I used to have this habit – perhaps I still do have this habit, actually, but we’ll see – this habit of rationalizing every major failure in my life by focusing on the elements of these failures that I could blame on others. On the one hand, this tactic makes it possible for me to preserve my self-image as a valuable and deserving person. On the other hand, this tactic makes me extremely bitter because I tend to focus on all the great things I could have had and done in life if only it weren’t for other people screwing me over.
Now, of course, every really sucky event in my life can be blamed on a combination of circumstances that I could control and circumstances that I could not control. I don’t ignore the circumstances that I could control – on the contrary, I always do my best to learn from my mistakes – but in the end, once I’ve learned everything I can from a bad event, what I’m left with is the chain of continuing consequences, that I can do nothing about, but that constantly reinforce the feeling that if it were not for circumstances beyond my control, my life would be much, much better.
And I don’t even need to outline the individual misfortunes that have led to my life being the way it is. I can paint a picture in very broad strokes – I got a nearly perfect score on my SATs in high school, and on my LSATs in college. I test very well overall, am capable of doing very well in school, and went to the best high school in New York City. I could routinely get As in my college classes without a great deal of effort.
That is the description of a person who could have gone to a great college, then gotten into a top ten law school with a great financial aid package, and who, by the age of 29, could easily be making a six figure salary. And indeed, from a very young age, my parents always told me what great potential I had.
So what went wrong? I’ve rehashed this question over and over and over in my mind, and the most general answer that I have is that I was simply not able to overcome the circumstances in which I found myself. I was just not up to the task.
Sure, I can say that I grew up poor, that my parents were not college educated, that my surroundings were detrimental, that I was bullied in school, that I lacked guidance, that I couldn’t get financial aid to go to college until I was 25, and even when I did get to college I had no direction, that when I finished college the economy was total shit and there were no jobs… that’s a lot of stuff, but what does it all amount to? That’s life. People have challenges. I have more than some and less than others.
One of the reasons that I came to Georgia was that I felt that my outlook might be a little better if I were surrounded by people who were, in some ways, less fortunate than myself. I don’t mean to imply, in any way, that people who live in Georgia are not incredibly lucky to have been chosen by God to be born in the best country on the planet – that would be offensive. What I am saying, instead, is that Georgia, like me, has had its share of challenges, and in many ways is still struggling to recover from them. The Georgian economy is still weak, the Georgian infrastructure is in disrepair, and the Georgian people don’t necessarily have a lot of opportunities for class mobility.
By virtue of the fact that I speak English natively, and have a degree from an accredited four-year university, and have no criminal background, I could teach English in various places throughout the world – Korea is an option that would pay a lot of money and would probably suit my temperament. Istanbul is another possible option. After teaching English for a year here, I will have the experience required to teach elsewhere, as well. That, alone, is an advantage that most Georgians do not have – the ability to leave Georgia and go somewhere to make a lot of money. I actually don’t want to leave Georgia (something else I share with many Georgians), but the point remains that I have the advantages of marketable skills, qualifications, experience, and a US passport.
So compared to many Georgians, I am actually very fortunate, and it’s comforting to be able to think of myself as fortunate – because in New York, I am often surrounded by people who grew up with the things that I never had, or who, through the luck of circumstance, are much more fortunate than I am, and it is hard not to envy these people, hard not to compare myself to them and, coming up short, feel bitter about my misfortune. When they are on the other side of an ocean, however – and when I’m enjoying most days of my life without significant amounts of stress or worry – it’s easy to feel good about my life.
Don’t get me wrong – I still have money problems. I just found out that my share of the utility bills for the month of December was 250 lari – of which I have to pay about 150 out of pocket – due to heating costs in the wonderful, but old, house that I live in in Gldani. Add to that about 60 lari a month for medications for my asthma and acid reflux, and suddenly it’s a challenge to buy food cheaply enough to eat every day, let alone to buy a new pair of sneakers or start addressing my student loan debt. As I’ve said before, my life in Georgia is not currently sustainable over the long term because I don’t make nearly enough money, and if I can’t get a second job here I won’t be able to stay past my contract, but at least I have prospects for something to do after that time.
But the problems that I have now are problems that I have with making a better future. At least I’m not struggling to survive. Last year, every day was a bitter struggle to get out of bed and drag myself to school. Every day I was angry and resentful. Every day I wondered if my life would ever not suck. Now I know that the answer was yes, and that I have reliable ways of making my life better, and that I’m not being screwed over by circumstance at the moment.
And I don’t believe in Fate or anything like that, but the saying “everything happens for a reason” comes to mind when I read about things like the appalling job market in the legal field, which is where I might be if things had turned out differently.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that I joined TLG and came to Georgia because I needed a drastic break from the direction that my life had been headed in, and because I needed a drastic change in outlook – and it worked. It worked so well that it’s shocking and disturbing to me to read over my old facebook status updates and see how miserable and bitter and angry I was, every day, and know that my facebook updates were only the tip of the iceberg because I was actually attempting to spare my friends and family from having to read the worst of what I was going through.
And so I guess that’s what’s underlying my extreme lack of desire to return to America, and what makes me so willing to embrace the aspects of Georgia that seem to frustrate my fellow TLGers, and probably what made me react so badly, in my first few weeks here, to things that reminded me of America (i.e. Americans, the Metro, etc.). It’s probably why I wasn’t thrilled about vacationing in New York this winter, why I was so willing to cut my time home in half, why I was so happy to be back here in Gldani when I got back, and why I think of my house here as “home” and New York as a hostile territory.
It’s cliched, but I guess sometimes you just need a little change in scenery to put things in perspective.
This about sums it up: