Being Thankful in Taiwan: Learning to Get Past Awkwardness and Move On

What has kept me feeling thankful in Taiwan the most is my scholarship.

I am not sure if I could have pushed myself to come to Taiwan if I didn’t have a scholarship. I had the savings to make the trip here and set up shop, but I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that.

I know a lot of people who study here without scholarships and work part-time to make sure they have their fees and rent taken care of and I commend them a lot for their hard work.

I am not sure I could have the balls to do that, but I think after seeing how much life has moved forward for me in Taiwan, I am not afraid to make that leap in the future. That leap could be anything, not just going abroad, but maybe opening my own business or going forward with someone in life that interests me.

That Awkward Feeling of Doing Something New

I am not afraid of that silly awkward feeling when doing something new or the anxious one. Those feelings are so small and forgettable when you finally – hopefully – reach the other side and see the rewards life can bring you.

Sometimes those rewards can be small, like walking into a small local eatery and asking for a menu. That might not sound like much, but it can be intimidating to ask for a menu in a busy place and take your time to read it, considering it is all in Chinese.

The rewards can be big, such as gaining a scholarship, your own place and a sense of moving forward.

What they both share equally in common is that awkward feeling and that anxiety for wanting to try something new. I can’t help but feel a malaise of distress when I decide to undertake some new chapter in life or push myself into a new situation, when I could easily stay where I am and be content.

It takes real guts to tell yourself that being content isn’t enough and sooner or later that rhythm and monotony is going to kill both your ego and sense of direction in life.

In Ireland, I had a job earning roughly $18 USD an hour. It was seasonal work and the money was comfortable enough to make a nice enough living from. However, it destroyed my ambitions.

Easy money is a dangerous thing and my understand of that is what prompted me when I arrived in Taiwan to avoid English teaching. To some people, teaching is a calling, to others it is a gig on the side to get some cash in or something they fell into because they had nothing else going on in life.

I knew I didn’t have a calling for teaching English to kids in Taiwan and I didn’t want to be looking at myself in 10-20 years time wondering why I didn’t try something else; I could do that in Ireland anyway.

You Can Make That Leap Too

What I did in Taiwan, making that leap, can be done anywhere else, and you don’t even need to move abroad to do it. You just have to push yourself in some way and find something that makes you click and makes you want to move forward.

I have already wrote about “How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Taiwan”, where I discussed how much more grounded I feel in Taiwan.

That feeling of being grounded is now more pronounced for me and I have grown beyond simply living in Taiwan, to feeling somewhat slightly more a part of it. Well, as much as a ginger Irishman can. Nothing is funnier than surprising people with a Beijing accent when they didn’t even expect me to speak Mandarin in the first place.

But, back to my main point. I needed a scholarship to kick start my drive, and as pathetic as that sounds, it is the truth. A positive of understanding that is I now know what I must do to not require a scholarship to move my life forward; I need to stop being afraid of my own desires, success and ambitions.

Regaining My Mojo

A lot of my friends in Taiwan tell me that they don’t know where I get the time to do everything I do. From college, work, writing this blog now and again, taking part in activities and being all round active, I would seem to be someone who values their time.

However, I always feel like I am chaotic. I make time for things I shouldn’t and end up rushing to do the important things quite late. I am still very active, but only in short bursts.

A lot of that has to do with being in Taiwan.

After I finished my undergrad in Ireland, I felt a lot of my motivation lost. I had spent so much time learning Mandarin and putting pressure on myself to do well in exams in business too, that I forgot to grow as a person. I didn’t take the time to do what I wanted to do to grow my own hobbies, interests and build ambitions.

Instead, I focused on one sole task, my degree, and what a stupid fool I was.

With my master’s I take time off whenever I need to. I make sure to take time to engage with what makes me interested and happy, and most importantly, I take time to  challenge myself to do something I might otherwise have the courage to do; hence this blog.

I don’t want to be an authority on anything, not even on myself, let alone an entire island of 24 million people and their society and culture. I just want to have my own perspective and express that in a meaningful way.

I don’t want to live somewhere without being a part of it. Even if I am not a citizen, I still want to understand, critique, enjoy and take part.

That to me is what gives me some meaning and a semblance of belonging in Taiwan.

I could sit back and not care about what goes on in Taiwan. I could stick to dive bars and only be able to say “shay shay” to shopkeepers, and perhaps tattoo “Taiwan” in Chinese on my forehead too, but I prefer to be a part of society in some meaningful way to myself.

Regaining my mojo hasn’t been because I live in Taiwan and I have rediscovered myself. I am not a namaaste expat or living my life through the sole experience of being an ‘other’ in the land of the orient. Rather, I was jumped started by way of being given the opportunity to prove myself to myself. I am not doing what I do to prove anything to anyone else. I don’t care if that awkward feeling of doing something new in life wasn’t worth it because I finally got passed knowing that the awkward feeling is nothing short of an illusion to stop myself from getting what I want.

What I want isn’t dramatic or big. I just want to try my hand at living life in a way that gives me some satisfaction and input into the path I go on.

Ireland and My Future

Ireland I love you, but you were bringing me down. Maybe If I ever move back to Ireland, I would still have my mojo and sense of worth I have here. The only problem is, why mess with a good thing? I enjoy my life here and I know if I return to Ireland down the line, I would be paying over $1,200 USD a month for rent in Dublin and more than likely live at home with my parents at 25.

I will end up returning home to see family and friends, and I will enjoy every moment of it, but Taiwan is my home now. The Irish government was never going to help me through a post-grad and the Taiwanese government did. I have a lot to be thankful for here and I will continue to work past those little inklings of anxiety and awkwardness when I try something new.

 

 

 

Tomás 孫柯

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