Worried/Existential Issues

I hope this doesn’t sound too much like a whining post.
If it does, please accept my apologies, and please read no further.
I guess I’m looking for a bit of understanding or resonance from other souls who are going through what I’m going through.

What is the meaning of life?
I often ponder this and other issues at times like this.
I recently left my editing job under pressure.
I couldn’t take it.
Not the work, but all the ambiguity, indecision, and miscommunication that comes with the territory in Taiwan.
It drove me insane.
Teaching jobs are easy to find in Taiwan, but not one I feel comfortable with.
I’m worried about paying rent, etc.
I don’t want to take a job that I won’t keep for awhile.
And I’m worried about what happens to a guy my age who only recently became an editor and teacher.
A (very) late bloomer.
I think it takes a lot of pluck (or something) to come here and try to start a new career and life.
Thanks for listening, and for your (hopefully) understanding and/or positive responses.

Hang in there mate. We’ve all been there. In a few months time, you’ll wonder why you felt like this.

About the editing job: You were going for one of the big ones. Start with an ESL editing job. Tedious, but it will give you some experience.

When things get to you in Taiwan I think you have two choices: Philosophy or Alcoholism. There is no shame in taking the first option. Indulge yourself in some self-pity for a while, and as Alleycat says, it will pass. You’ve got to take the lows to appreciate the highs. Man. Look at me, I gave up a profitable career in writing Country & Western lyrics and now I’m just a bum.

Chorus x 2


Verse 1

The meaning of life, Johnnie, is to have fun. But unfortunately, we also have to put food on the table and a roof over the head. So, most of our time is spent in dreary pursuit of the almighty dollar. If you can combine the two, earning money and having fun, that’s great. If not, we all have had to persevere through a crappy job just because we needed the money. But hopefully you will find work that you find satisfying, enjoyable or at least tolerable much of the time.

I think we’ve all questioned what am I doing here? what am I doing with my life? have I spent my time in the best way? why did I waste all those years getting drunk/stoned/watching TV/goofing off/going to school/traveling or whatever? I should’ve studied more/worked harder/saved money/learned a language. where should I go from here? what does the future hold in store for me?

I know I’ve had those thoughts. I’ve had a great time in the many years since high school, partying, outdoor adventures, enjoying life, screwing around, traveling and having fun. So, while I’ve earned my college degrees and had some good job experiences, I’ve also screwed around doing this and that rather than sticking diligently to a sound, conservative 50 year plan towards the wife, kids, big house, stable job, fancy cars, college for the kids, and easy retirement. Heck, 50 year plan? I’m lucky if I can stick with a one-year plan.

A lot of feeling miserable comes from comparing oneself to others. I know after my mom told me about my older brother cooking his Thanksgiving turkey in his second home in the mountains, and my younger brother cooking his turkey in his new home on an island, after a while I felt kindof crappy. How come they’ve got nice homes in beautiful places and I’m stuck in Taipei? While I love my rich older brother, he sometimes makes me feel crappy with envy. And that’s a natural feeling. You may have read of the many psychological studies that reveal that happiness does not depend on how much you have, but how much you have compared to others around you. If we have less than those around us we feel crappy. If we have more we feel good.

One author I really enjoy is the great Vietnamese buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who puts things so clearly. He explains that your mind is like a TV with many channels and only you hold the remote control. You can turn it to an angry violent channel if you want or to a quiet peaceful channel. You can turn it to a happy channel or a sad channel. It may sound simplistic, but it’s true. Only you control how you feel. People and events outside of you will happen but it is up to you to decide how you feel inside your head. Why are there blind people, cripples and amputees who are happy and enjoy life? Why are there rich, beautiful successful people who are miserable? It’s all inside your head. And, while it may hard to pull out of a funk, only you can do it.

So, you’re right that living in Taipei can be discouraging (look at all the discussions on Segue bitching about life in this hellhole), and that it sucks not being rich, but we’ve just got to continue on and things will get better. Find a job, because you have to earn $, but don’t forget that only you control what is going on in your head.

I couldn’t agree more. If you can be content being content, you will always be content.

Such hedonist:)


'Kin 'ell, MT, thanks for that! Maybe its something to do with the approach of the festive season (not that I celebrate Christmas) or the phases of the moon or something, but I’ve been feeling a bit fucked off these days, too.

Anyway, I found your post quite comforting, in a way. Thanks.

I have two uncles who are both happy, contented, 50ish. Both are top guys in their fields (clinical neuropsychology and commercial construction) and wealthy. Uncle Psychology, from the time I was about 12, has unflinchingly encouraged me to do what I love, because only then will I both enjoy what I do and be able to sustain a growing income as I become more knowledgeable in that field. This has held true, though it took me a few false starts in fields that made brought no joy to figure it out. He is the chair of the psychology dept. at a large university, has founded several clinics, is the author of dozens of texts and hundreds of journal articles, and even finds time to run a ranch that hires mentally challenged people. He does what he loves, so the problems he encounters are a joy to solve.

Uncle Builder has told me that his philosophy on life is: Desire everything; Need nothing; Love what you get. He’s got his share of challenges, like anyone, but while he pursues his ideal in most everything, he isn’t so tied to the outcome that he gets frustrated when things don’t go as planned. This kind of calm is truly remarkable. His advice and example have been extremely valuable to me in my personal and professional life. The company he runs has been the largest commerical construction firm in his state for the past five years running.

I agree with MT and tigerman in that happiness is a choice. I often say to friends who want to discuss the fleeting nature of contentment: “Tried being miserable before. Didn’t like it. So I went for the happiness option.” Life is full of challenges, humans are rife with weakness. Forget about past failures. Better yet, embrace them as learning opportunities. Find what you love to do, even if the pay sucks, and adjust your life to fit the income level and demands of the job. If you are doing what you love doing, be it teaching, writing, engineering, or producing porno flicks, you won’t mind the time demands and the income issues.

This is the theory. Now, the practice is the hard part. But it’s also the fun.

Good luck.



I feel for you, and I do hope that things will get better. I agree with Sandman; it might have something to do with the seasons. For some reason, I always get down in January or February.

A few quick questions, and please do not answer if you don’t want to, what happened with your editing job? Were you downsized? Or did you make the decision to leave? What magazine or publishing company was it? Had you worked as an editor before you came to Taiwan? Was it the industry or the company that drove you away?

I know this won’t mean much now, but you will feel better at some point in the future. Cold comfort, I know, but I think you are making a good first step here.

If you need further help, consider the Community Services Center. They have trained counselors in Tienmu and in a downtown office. Anyway - consider it - you may feel better tomorrow, though.

Take care.


I made the decision to leave.
I guess I would have to say that it was the company that drove me away.
No, I wasn’t an editor before I came to Taiwan, but I have been an editor in Taiwan for about a year and a half.

And now, may I ask you a few questions?
What does your name mean?
What do you do in Taiwan?

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts.

Hello Johnnie,

Hope you are feeling better.

Some answers to your questions – I work in publishing in Taiwan. I worked in publishing in the US before coming over to Asia.

I wasn’t being mean when I asked if you had worked in publishing before. Some of the problems I encounter here are just part of being in the industry; others are probably cultural.

So, from my expreience, the miscommunication and politics in the office are always going to be there – in Taiwan or in the States. Content creators (editorial) versus the marketing gang, designers clashing with editors – same here as it was in NYC and SF.

Did you work for Tradewinds or for any company connected with them? I seem to remember quite a lively thread between Juba and someone else about this company (sorry, I am too lazy to go looking for it). I mistakenly thought that the other person might be you.

Did you work in the ESL field? Were you a copy editor for one of the English newspapers? Were you an editor for a government agency? Were you an editor at a investment firm?

You don’t have to answer any of these questions. However, you did mention that the stress and other related problems in the office got to you (can’t recall your exact words). So, I was just trying to understand where you were coming from. Being an editor for one of the investment firms is different from being an editor at a newspaper. I meant no offense, and I certainly would never try to heap problems on you when you are going through this rough patch.

Things will get better. I know this may sound rather pedestrian, but make sure that you are getting enough sleep. You were probably working long hours before and this might have taken a toll on your physical state. Rest up if you can.

Oh, and the name – it comes from a song by Phish. I am not really a big fan but I like that song and the lines, “Oh fee, you’re trying to live a life that’s completly free. Your racing with the wind, you’re flirting with death, so have a cup of coffee and catch your breath.”

So, Johnnie, tomorrow is Sunday. Have a cup of coffee, get your hands on a copy of the Sunday New York Times, and catch your breath. I wish you the best of luck.


Isn’t “Fee” often short for “Fiona” ?

Hello Johnnie,

How are things going?

Let us know how you are.


[quote=“fee”]Did you work for Trade Winds or for any company connected with them? I seem to remember quite a lively thread between Juba and someone else about this company.[/quote] ******** :sunglasses: ********

Hey mate, sorry to hear you’re feeling down… as the others said though, it may be just the seasons. It was only this morning I was having a conversation with a guy on the bus about why everyone becomes depressed in the holidays; so you’re not the only one feeling it. :slight_smile:

If you can, get a job as a temporary source of income. I know you said that you didn’t really want to get a job that you can’t stay in for long, but it may help to stabilise things while you find something you really want to do. It may help you look at your situation objectively and rationally, and who knows, you might enjoy yourself. I have two jobs, and can assure you that I hate them both so much it hurts. One of my bosses is constantly insulting me either intentionally or inadvertantly, and the other one makes me do her job for her. But, for me, these jobs are a means to an end. And that end is simply quality of life. If I need to relax, I’ll simply go for a nice long ride, go to the pub, or whatever. The job is immaterial next to the my life outside of work.

As for being a ‘late bloomer’ I can’t comment on that, but my mother and father are good examples. My mother began learning French at 40, and now speaks perfectly fluently, and my father is still working full time at 73. Personally, I think you just have to put your mind to whatever you want to do. Taiwan, although morosely depressing at times, is full of wonderful people and opportunities. Don’t let things get you down too much. It’ll be alright soon enough… and if it isn’t, well, you can always go sing KTV; a sure way to forget who you are. :wink:

Take care…

-Dave :smiley:

First and foremost: Thank you Dave, Fee, and ALL OF YOU for your helpful and encouraging support!
You are saving my life!
Segue (and yes, Tealit) are a major part of my life-support system here in Taiwan.

I hesitate to talk about my foibles and frailties here, because every time I’ve done so, I’ve gotten lots of support, but also lots of HATE MAIL (on Tealit, NOT on Segue).
The Segue posters have usually been very helpful.

So, here goes.
My problems were not so much with company or industry politics.
They were more about CONSTANTLY BEING PISSED OFF OR otherwise unhappy with coworkers, especially Taiwanese ones.
I want to stress (and here’s where I might get reamed or flamed) that THIS IS MY PROBLEM, not theirs.
So, I have a lot of work to do.

I could go on, but I think I’ve said what I needed or wanted to say.

So often, when I make this kind of post on Tealit, I get royally reamed, as well as a certain amount of support.
It’s my hope to start or continue a dialog, not argue about who’s right or wrong, or get into some nasty exchange.

I also hope to continue our dialog about meaning of life and quality of life issues.

Thank you all again for all your positive support and good vibes.

Since these are “Confessions,” should they be addressed to Mother Theresa??

Well anyway, I said that I wanted to continue a discussion about meaning of life and quality of life issues.
So here goes.

One poster wrote that a relative of his started to study French at age 40, and now speaks it fluently.
That struck a chord with me.
I am close to that age.
I also speak French and two other languages fluently.

The name of the brick wall, strangely, is

“I don’t want to.”

When I was a bit younger (about ten years ago), I worked hard at learning those other languages.
I did so because it was intrinsically rewarding and satisfying.
And I am a person who LOVES TO LEARN LANGUAGES.

Maybe it’s:

My age
The inherent difficulty of Chinese
Cultural issues
Generally low quality of instruction (compared to most of what I’ve seen in Europe or North America)
Or ???

Even this list doesn’t explain why I DON’T LIKE STUDYING CHINESE HERE IN TAIWAN.
I want to stress again that I AM A PERSON WHO REALLY LIKES STUDYING FOREIGN LANGUAGES, and I speak several of them.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and insights.

I always found learning Chinese in Taiwan an extremely dull experience compared to learning it in the UK. The choice of reading materials was uninteresting, and one of the reasons I think I hate simplified characters is that nothing interesting was written in them until recently. I also found Taiwanese newspapers immensely dull. In order to try and find something remotely interesting, I even started reading English novels in Chinese translation (!)

One book I did find interesting in Chinese, was The Private Life of Chairman Mao or whatever it’s called (the diary / biography of his personal physician). That book is now doing the rounds amongst my wife’s family in China, who all find it very interesting reading material !!!

I would rather learn Chinese from a western trained teacher any day of the week. I’m sure these days though, a wide selection of reading material could be sourced on the internet, if any teachers could be bothered to deviate from their 50 year old teaching methodolgy and look it up.

I also found most of the Chinese I was reading told me nothing I didn’t know already, so the motivation to read it was a purely linguistic one, rather than an attempt to gain new knowledge. The absence of an “information gap” really did make a lot of it a purely academic exercise. I would like to think this has changed somewhat, but my most interesting Chinese language learning time was spent reading economic / financial or legal texts (both in relation to my work) where I was reading them, not as skills practice, but in an attempt to learn something I didn’t know already.

I hear you Johnnie. Though I’ve lived in Taiwan for three years, my Chinese ability is limited to ordering food, giving directions to taxi drivers and telling clerks I don’t want a plastic bag. I was excited about starting classes at Shida two and a half years ago, but then I got a real job, had to drop the classes, and ever since then have told myself, “tai mang.”

It is a difficult language. I regret that I never learned Spanish, living in California for so many years. What a breeze that would’ve been, sticking "o"s and "a"s on the end of words and speaking a new language. Instead of Asia I could’ve traveled through central and south america, eating great food, drinking margaritas, checking out chica bonitas, playing in the ocean, and sleeping in hammocks beneath the palms.

I’m not sure what you mean by cultural issues, but that may be an issue for me. While I’m open and accepting of different cultures and people, and I love exploring Asia, there are many things about Chinese culture that I find it irritating. Of course, I’m not alone – look at all the Segue threads complaining about rude, selfish and disgusting behaviors here. Not to mention rampant dishonesty: A-Bian’s aide stating that A-Bian has no plans to travel to Indonesia when it was a blatant lie – how can one lie so blatantly? Or the prof who was up for a university presidency, a couple of years ago, till it was discovered he was a plagiarist. Or in the paper today the Taiwanese businessman who fired 600 Burmese workers who had struck in support of fellow workers who were cheated and underpaid. Often it seems that Chinese culture is not all that great.

If you think it sucks being almost 40, wait till you get to the other side. I can tell you, because I’m there (barely). It’s bad enough watching your stomach grow, your hair recede, and your knees creak, but then there’s the pondering what the hell have I been doing all these years? Where I am I going? We’ve been through that already, but I feel it can affect one’s language learning abilities too. At least it does for me. If you’re just 20, with your whole life ahead, learning Chinese would be easy. But when you’re 40, it seems natural to question is it really worth the effort? How badly do I want to learn this?

The cultural thing takes on greater significance when combined with the passing years. I love my former home in cool, green, beautiful northern California and I greatly look forward to returning. I try not to bitch about Taipei because it’s not nice to others or oneself. But I know I won’t be here for life – maybe just a few more years. So, I have asked countless times if it is really worth spending so much effort on the language. If there are other places I’d rather be, other cultures I prefer, and I know I won’t be here long, then why bother learning Chinese?

Sure, if I learn Chinese then I can chat in Chinese restaurants back home, or speak with my girlfriend who may someday become my wife in her native tongue (though her English will always be better than my Chinese). But if one does not have a great love or enthusiasm for Chinese culture or society, then it seems like an awful lot of work memorizing all those characters. Especially when that precious time could be spent on something one is more excited about, whether it’s reading, writing, exercising, or whatever.

As for me, despite the above doubts, I have just signed a new two-year contract with a firm in Taipei, so I have decided to start taking classes again after work, and I am greatly looking forward to it. If the locals can attend classes after work so can I. Sorry if I failed to enlighten you, but I’m just trying to figure it out myself.

Johnnie wrote:

[[Maybe it’s:

My age
The inherent difficulty of Chinese
Cultural issues
Generally low quality of instruction (compared to most of what I’ve seen in Europe or North America)
Or ???]]

Relax, Johnnie. Good post. I can tell you what it is, and others can agee or disagree. It’s your brain cells, man!

See, after a certain age, like around 19, but more like around 29 or 35 tops, one’s language acquiring brain cells begin rapidly dying.It’s true. ask any doctor.It’s not the culture, it’s not the textbooks, and it’s not your motivation. IT’S YOUR BRAIN CELLS, Johnnie, get used it. It’s okay. you have peaked, most of us have already.

had you come here when you were 21, no problem, you would be fluent like others who are fluent. But to learn a new language, espcially a new written and reading language like Chinese, after 40, forget it. Near nigh impossible. It’s not you. I am sure you love taiwan, you love your wife or girlfriend, you love your job.But forget about acquiring Chinese after 40.

Sure, you can pick up some words and phrases. But the DNA has done spoken, Johnnie, and the brain cells be rapidly dying. Like Bob Dylan said long ago: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Get used to it. go with the flow.

And buy an electronic dictionary!