Decision Dilemma Quicksand
Maybe Yes No
It’s only half an idea right now, but I’m thinking about teaching English overseas. This idea began germinating last year when I saw an ad in a professional magazine. They were looking for retired teachers to teach students in China in order to prepare them for university in Canada and the US. I read the ad in June or July and there really was no way for me to get my affairs in order in time for the fall semester, so after exchanging a few emails with the organizers I decided to put the idea on hold.

The concept of teaching abroad appealed to me because, as a retired person, I have more energy, health, and skills than I know what to do with. I don’t want to go back into the workplace as a full-time employee, but a part-time or temporary gig would be just fine. It would also be good to have some supplementary income. I could use it to pay off a debt or to indulge myself in more travel, or both.

I was intrigued by China because I know a few people who have visited there and came home with stories and impressions that were very interesting. They found the people kind, the landscape vast, and the historic buildings fascinating. Among other things, they said that it was a big adjustment to have to live without Google! I also know someone who has been there twice to teach English, and she grew to love her students and to feel proud of the work she had done.

I had not thought about it much since then until I recently met someone who has just come back from teaching in Cambodia. She had been there for a year and loved it. She also visited a number of other countries in her travels and talked to several people who were teaching English overseas. She recommended that I check out a website for teaching in Taiwan. I did that, and now I’m thinking about it. I don’t know much about Taiwan, so I need to do my homework about the country to see if I would like to live there. I do know that it would be different from anything I’ve known so far, interesting and challenging.

If I do decide to go, I don’t know what I would do about my already complicated lifestyle. I’d have to make arrangements to sell or store my possessions and sell or rent my house. That, in itself, is a very big undertaking. Even though I’m pretty good at sorting out and chucking out on a regular basis, I still have decades of accumulated furnishings, memorabilia, and bric-a-brac.

If I sell my house, I don’t know if I should rent or buy another place. If I teach overseas for a year, it wouldn’t make much sense to do either of those things. So, if I sold my house and put my possessions in storage, where would I stay in the interim? I need an address in order to maintain my residency in Canada for various legal reasons, not least of which is retaining my health care coverage.

The other major issue for me is that I really enjoy the time I spend with my family. I already miss seeing my Alberta family when I head south for the winter, and when I head back up north I miss seeing my family who live in California. And as for my family in the UK, well I never get back there often enough and I miss them nearly all the time. So, if I went to a completely different country for a year, I would miss even more people for even longer than I do already.

This is a kind of decision-dilemma quicksand that I find myself getting sucked into occasionally. Without another person beside me to bounce ideas around, my thoughts tend to go into infinite loops that don’t actually reach a conclusion. Like trying to figure out the plot of the film Looper, it defies logic.

Today I read that Louis CK suggests that if you are 70% sure about doing something, you should just go ahead and do it. That’s good advice. The trick is to figure out when half an idea gets a 70% approval.

Now that I re-read what I have written here, I think I have already talked myself out of it! Thanks for listening. You’ve been a big help.


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  1. If you talked yourself out, then my thought might not work but I love playing with what if? What if I did that? What would it look like? Not worrying about the how or detail of it…just the picture of my idea. Starting with the end in mind…not being attached one way or the other.

  2. Hi Anne yes I agree we don’t see very much of our Canadian relatives in England as to your idea of teaching English in China I agree it is sorely needed. Could you do three months on and three months off rather than commit for a whole year? Love Phil.

    • I would prefer to do a three month stint, but the organization I talked to said a term was five months and they prefer that participants sign on for two terms. Maybe I could find a different organization that would let me go for a shorter stay.

  3. Try the Franklin Close.
    You know? Draw a line down the centre of a piece of paper; list all the ‘Fors’ on one side and all the ‘Againsts’ on the other.
    That should give you a pretty good idea of the viability of such a plan.

    • I could do that, Arkenaten, but then I’d have to give each item on each list a relative value. Then I’d be no further ahead! 😀

      • It is used when helping clients make up their mind whether to buy/sell their house and as they say this is one of the most stressful thing the average person has to go through it can be quite helpful.
        I’ve used it with clients on a few occasions.
        The first – and probably – obvious question.
        Do I really want to go to China?
        Yes, because I adore Chines food.
        No, because I would miss Taco Bell

  4. One of my sisters said “If you went to China, you’d have to eat Chinese food for a year!” Ha ha. It made me laugh.

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