Here I am, waiting at the boarding area for my very first “non-business” trip in years. How am I feeling? Mixed: my feeling is caught between great and weird. It’s great because I don’t have to prepare a presentation, or a transcript for a talk, or any plans for meetings, or anything. It’s also weird because I have not done this for years. In the past decade, as I can recall, all my trips have been work-related. So, this trip is special, as it marks a new me: the me who can travel by myself and for myself, and not for someone else. Tokyo (Haneda Airport, to be precise) is the destination, where I will get to meet my former student Stephane, a few friends (such as Matt Williams), perhaps, to visit my most favorite country in the world. In my last life I must have been a Japanese! Well, so in the next few days, I’ll be writing my blog posts about Japan and in Japan.
In this post, I’d like to write about the myths many people might have about me. For instance, no, I have never won any awards — not even at a school or a community talent show; not even the tenth place of any small competition; and not even in the tiniest possible contest anywhere. I am just not special, and I am just not the kind of person who ever do well in any competitions. I want to make it clear, for once and for all, who I am, and what I did not, and sometimes never possess.
So, as opposed to keep writing as I go like I usually do, this time I’ll write each of the numbered points, and then explain them later for those who want to read more.
- I have never won any awards in my life;
- I have never been good in languages — in any of them including my mother tongue;
- I have never been the best in anything — I have never been the best in my class no matter how small; I have never been the best in anything in whatever I do no matter how easy the task is;
- I didn’t really speak English until about ten years ago;
- I never received the letter grade A in any subjects throughout my childhood years. My first letter grade A that I received was when I was in high school (and I believe that subject was ceramics!);
- I never thought I could take part in any forms of sports no matter how light because I had severe and chronic allergy when I was young;
- I stuttered throughout my childhood (I still do sometimes), so I never thought that I could communicate with anyone, let alone deliver any public speaking performances;
- As a child, I never thought I’d any chance in graduating from high school since I failed so many main subjects (my hobby, then, was to re-sit exams just so that the teachers could pass me out of sympathy);
- I never thought I would be able to go to college since I was a C-Minus average student. My high school GPA was just above 2.0 (in the 4.0 system);
- I never thought I’d get to leave Thailand and go abroad to study because I was such a horrible student.
- I never enrolled in any particular tutoring schools (mainly because our family’s financial situation wasn’t good enough to allow me to do so);
- I had never written anything — in any languages — apart from essays and school reports that I had to write to get by, until I finished graduate school in 2007;
- For the same reason (plus that I was a bad student throughout my childhood), I never thought I would have a chance at teaching anyone in anything;
- Unless asked, I never tell people where I went or go to school;
- I never feel comfortable where I am. Never a day that I do not doubt my ability to do my job.
- I never feel that I am better than anyone.
So, yes, contrary to what many may have thought about me, I have never been good at anything, particularly in competitive settings. I am not even good at speaking my mother tongue language, which is Thai. I remember a few years ago when I had to write anything in Thai, I need at least 4 pairs of eyes to run grammar and spell checks for me (and my father who had spent his entire life as a civil servant dealing with bureaucratic documents was one of those pairs and he was excellent at editing my paper). Throughout my childhood (until I was 18 perhaps?), I participated in many competitions (e.g., athletic, artistic, talent show, you name it) but I have never won anything — not even a tenth place in a competition of 15 kids. I have always been bad at competing with others. Perhaps it’s never in my blood to want to compete, which, in the way, I believe is good for me. Since I have never tasted the taste of victory (pun intended) I don’t feel as though I need to win, which I think makes my life today much easier than many’s. Looking at many people today, who are competing just for the sake of competing, I can’t help but to think that it might be helpful for them to stop for a while to think about what they’re competing for.
In a way, I think I was lucky to have such a humble background. Because of that I never get the pressure of having to fight or compete, or prove to anyone that I am worth for something and, for anything. Because of that, I get to enjoy quite a humble life. It’s good not to be the number one (or even number ten for that matter) in anything. It feels good to be among many human beings in the world, who are, like me, never win anything. People who never win anything are the majority of the world, I believe, so we are in this together. It feels good to be among the majority who want to be laid back and get by by being understanding to sympathetic to one another.
I didn’t really speak English until about ten years ago. I may have studied some basic English (in order to read signage and identify some basic words in advertisements and products) since I was in my secondary school, and of course in high school and college during which time I was interested in learning English in order to leave Thailand and explore the world, but I didn’t get to speak English at all until 2005 when I arrived in the States. My spoken English then was virtually non-existence (pun intended; one more time!), and therefore my first semester as a graduate student in the US was nothing but hell. I couldn’t communicate with anyone and not many people were interested in making the effort of communicating with me. I almost got kicked out of school because I couldn’t communicate my thoughts in speaking let alone in writing. It’s a difficult time, really difficult. I am still not sure today how I got through them.