As a teacher, you’re not supposed to share your personal life with your students, at least not anything beyond what they already know about life in general and what they consider to be pretty unmeaningful in the grand scheme of life (your marriage, your eating, your drinking coffee). Heck you should hide from them the fact you have bowel movements.
The same precaution should be applied to fellow teachers and colleagues, who are more than likely to use it against you if you’re not too careful. I had many colleagues who caused me great stress, through months at a time, because they would frequently take my personal life to other faculty members, who I didn’t know and hadn’t spoken to. They would ask me about dates, about my adventures in this or that city, and what I was up to (my thoughts and feelings and stresses). I was giving away precious information without a profit and that’s just bad business.
Sometimes, it was great for them to know my personal business because it was usually mostly connected to the school, but oftentimes it was hard to get away and it felt more encompassing and entrenching, kind of like an existential prison that I couldn’t get out of. Much like the feeling you get when you can’t shut your brain down to sleep, but with less productivity.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Hellraiser II or even the hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, then you’ll know exactly what my world was like. Obviously there were no nurses, and definitely no hot ones.
No, it wasn’t hell, just the gateway to hell, which is sometimes much worse. Kind of like running into an ex.
Call me conservative, but I like boundaries. I like maintaining them and I think there’s a time and place for everything. I recognize that in some countries, the work and personal life are blurred together. Celebrities get this. The U.S. president gets this. But Karen in the office needs to mind her own business. I see you peaking over the cubicle Karen!
For many people, the work and your personal life are deeply connected to who you are. I get this, I respect it, and I aspire to have this profoundly deep connection with what I do and who I am and the value I give to others. Which is why I don’t like blurring the bounds in fields that are temporary for me, where I am considered a Guest English teacher. Emphasis on the word “guest.” In the grand scheme of things, we are all “guests,” on this planet, so it doesn’t really matter much. However, while you’re a guest on the planet, you also want to maintain appropriate boundaries to live a stress-free existence and sometimes that means having boundaries with people. Yes, life can be painful and you can’t completely escape the pain, but you can at least take some measures to ensure that the pain you do feel is controlled and you’re not feeling it 24-7 from your colleagues who are gossiping about your love-life and speculating on whether you’re accepting buy-backs from homosexuals in the local jimjilbangs. If you want to share your personal life with strangers do it like everyone else and post on Facebook.
You have to draw a line somewhere and decide for yourself what is within bounds.
For more information on managing boundaries at work, I highly recommend the following books for further advice: Working With Bitches, The No-Asshole Rule, Difficult Conversations, The Underminer, and my personal favorite, Necessary Endings. And if those don’t work, remember that a taser is a great tool for keeping people away.
These books will prove invaluable tools in your arsenal of life and move you forward to live a stress free existence. And until you become a yoga master you will have stress.
Take it from me, there’s hope in there these words. Unlike reconnecting with an ex. There’s never hope there.
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