The Choices I’ve Made

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing. I’m 38 years old. I don’t have a wife and children. I don’t own a house or a car. I don’t even have much of a job (at least in terms of a career).

To be honest, I’m not even sure that I want those things. They simply pass through my mind every now and again.

But I have to admit that they seem to be coming more and more the older that I get.

Before I continue, let me explain what I’ve been up to first.

Right now, I’m living in China. I’m teaching English to children. Before that I had lived in Korea and was doing the same thing.

I never set out to be a teacher. I went to Korea on a whim. A friend of mine had told me that he had gone there for a year to teach and I thought I’d give it a try. Up until that point, I hadn’t even known that such a thing was possible.

Eight years later, I’m doing the same thing.

I find teaching challenging and the results rewarding. It’s great to have a student who couldn’t speak a word of English come up to me after a while and try to communicate. I love seeing the expression on her face when she realizes that she’s made herself understood.

Then, in between contracts, I’ve been able to travel all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of South East Asia, most of Europe, some of South America and, of course, the countries that I’ve lived in.

I’ve trekked through beautiful mountains and gorges. I’ve gone swimming in exotic lakes and rivers. I’ve ridden horseback and elephant-back.

I was also able to take off a year to work on a book that I’ve started to release online.

Hmm…after writing it down, my life doesn’t seem all that bad. Actually, it seems pretty good. And, for the most part, it is. I’ve done a lot and seen a lot.

But there’s still that something that plays on my mind, tells me that I’m doing something wrong, not following the path I should.

I suppose that there is some sort of internal clock at work – some paternal instinct that wants to settle down and continue the bloodline.

It could also simply be that I’m getting to the point where I want to grow with someone – to get support and give it in kind.

A big part of me, however, thinks that most of it has to do with the way I’ve been raised.

I should point out here that my family has been nothing but supportive toward the lifestyle I’ve chosen. They constantly tell me how proud they are of me and comment on how much courage it must take to do the things I do, to live the life I live. And I am extremely grateful for that. It has made my choices a lot easier to bear.

What I mean by “the way I’ve been raised” has to do with the ideas that I was taught at school and picked up from the media. It has to do with the sermons I listened to as a child (I was raised Catholic until my parents let me decide for myself) and the books I read. More than anything, though, it has to do with what I saw as a normal life through my own upbringing and that of my friends – which usually involved father, mother, siblings.

There are obviously a lot of changes being made to the conception of a “normal” life. Parents are getting divorced and remarried, same-sex partners are having children. There are several single parents out there as well.

But, at the end of the day, they all seem to follow the same general rules: get a career, get married, have children.

And it’s this which makes it difficult to accept the choices I’ve made.

Not impossible, I should point out. Just difficult.

I guess what it comes down to is that I simply need to keep reminding myself that, while I might not be doing what’s “right”, I’m doing what’s right for me.

And, though there may be great challenges, there are also great rewards.

The fact that I’m writing this in a coffee shop in China can attest to that.

I just have to keep positive…whichever path I choose.

Thanks.

12 thoughts on “The Choices I’ve Made

  1. B July 18, 2013 / 8:27 am

    Mike I think that the life you’ve chosen is incredible – and even more so I think that the fact that you have indeed CHOSEN this life is a testament to your self awareness and spirit.
    So many people – myself included – go down the path that you speak of simply because we think we are supposed to… No one ever told me
    I could do more! Or BE more!
    If I could go back I’d do it very differently.
    I envy you but I’m also loving that you do still sit back once in a while to assess where you’re at and reevaluate.
    Maybe one day you will find yourself settling down, maybe you won’t.. But as long as whatever you’re doing is making you happy and bringing some good into this world, who cares???
    : )
    MB

    • Michael McManamon July 18, 2013 / 11:25 am

      Hey, MB, thanks for the comment. I really appreciate all that you’ve said. You know, I think part of my reason for writing this blog entry was to show that this lifestyle is a valid one. It’s definitely not one we’re taught to believe. Keep up with all of your good work and, like you said, make sure you’re doing whatever makes you happy. πŸ™‚

  2. Silvana July 18, 2013 / 9:04 am

    I “heart” you Michael!….beautifully written….I have to wonder whether had your life been different and gone the other way…..married after uni, the kids and maybe a pet with the big house and not one but two cars all of which come with a price…..would your words be different as you are sitting in a Timmies during a stolen half hour of calm and……yes quiet πŸ™‚

    • Michael McManamon July 18, 2013 / 11:29 am

      Thanks, Silvana. You know, I wonder a lot about what my life would be like too. I’m sure each path has its own rewards and challenges. But that coffee at Timmies sounds nice. πŸ™‚

  3. Kirsten July 18, 2013 / 10:15 am

    You have done some amazing things in your life. Seen things many can only dream of and reaped the rewards of challenging job that you seen to enjoy. You are a truly talented author. There are not many people who can make a claim to a few, not to mention all of those things. Never regret. You have a lot of life still ahead of you and you never know what it may have in mind for you πŸ™‚

    • Michael McManamon July 18, 2013 / 11:31 am

      Thanks so much, Kirsten. It’s great to hear such support. I really appreciate it. πŸ™‚

  4. Seungkwon Hong July 18, 2013 / 12:52 pm

    I think as long as you are on the side of being and making yourself be positive then you are living a great life, while most of the people don’t want to believe that they have a lot and suppose to be grateful of what they have today whether deserved or not. πŸ™‚ I need to try to be positive as well right? since I already have many of items you mentioned which you consider as “normal” category.

    • Michael McManamon July 18, 2013 / 9:10 pm

      You’re definitely right, Seungkwon. We all need to keep positive. It can be a struggle at times (regardless of the direction we take). I guess that’s why it’s good to have good friends. πŸ™‚

  5. Archie July 18, 2013 / 4:07 pm

    You sure are raking up a good many digits on that karma scale πŸ™‚
    Your life sounds poetic. Hope you get a chance to pen down your memoirs. It is inspiring to see someone so passionate. I’m reminded of something my ESL student told me when I gave him a little gift for his birthday: He said “Life has given us many experiences, but helping us communicate our experiences to the world, that is the greatest gift of all”
    You are giving those children wings. God Bless!

    • Michael McManamon July 18, 2013 / 9:32 pm

      Thanks a lot for the comment. I’m glad that you liked my post. πŸ˜€
      I’ve definitely thought about writing more about my experiences, so this might be a good time to start. And your student is right. It’s certainly an honour (and privilege) to be able to communicate our ideas to each other. It’s one we shouldn’t let go to waste. πŸ™‚

  6. svriesen70 September 6, 2013 / 7:57 am

    As always, sincerely written, honest and heartfelt. Some of my favorite things about you. As a friend, you remind me to stay true to my own path, Michael – whatever that is. And for that, I’m grateful to know you. The choices we make (outside of the “norm”) are sometimes the most difficult choices to make in life, and they are not without sacrifice, at times. What propels me forward are knowing that I’m not alone in the world with friends like you, and the constant reminder from friends and family of how much “happier” and “peaceful” I seem having made the choice to cut the ties with a life I was living that didn’t feel/seem like mine. “Happiness” and “Peace.” I hope you continue to keep making choices that bring you both. I will miss you.

    • Michael McManamon September 7, 2013 / 1:04 pm

      Thanks, Stacie. I’ll miss you too. I’ll definitely continue on my path. And I look forward to what I’m going to find on it! I wish you all the best as well. πŸ™‚

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