Paul Gauguin was working as a tarpaulin salesman in Copenhagen, when one day in 1885 he walked out on his wife of eleven years and his five children. He went to Paris and then Tahiti, never seeing his wife and children again, living a dissolute alcoholic existence, fathering an uncertain number of children by the native women of French Polynesia and painting some of the most famous pictures of his age.
Today, I was giving one of my weekend teacher-training courses, where I train people how to teach English abroad. It’s my eighty-somethingth time giving the same course. And I’m good at it. But I’m bored of it. So bored. The job has saved me from sinking below the poverty line more than once, but I just don’t care any more.
This morning, I sat there, smiling at the students, pretending I was open to liking them, when inside, I really wouldn’t have minded if they’d all had to be rushed to hospital before 11:00 am. And just before the lunch break, one of them said, “You must find teaching so rewarding.”
I’m not curing small children of horrendous diseases. I’m not saving endangered species in the Amazon. I’m not in any way making the world a better place. I like teaching English. It’s fun. But it’s not rewarding. I don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when Mustafa finally uses Present Perfect Continuous correctly, or when Yung-Hee gets every single definite article right in a practice exercise.
During my lunchbreak, I just wanted to leave. I wanted to get on a boat to Tahiti and not go back to the course. The students are perfectly nice people, but I’ve had enough.
And then, as I ate my lunch sitting outside Spar, I overheard an argument. A man and a woman were standing outside the shop with two small children. The woman wanted them to plan exactly what they were going to buy before they went into the shop because they had plenty of food at home. The man looked at her with tired and emotional eyes.
Oh, my God. Is that what awaits me once I “grow up”? Two children and an argument about planning what to buy in Spar on a Saturday? I looked at that family and I saw my own personal Hell. How doesn’t everyone run away? Why is there anyone left in notTahiti?
Tahiti’s pull grew even stronger over my lunch hour. They probably don’t even have Spar there. They definitely don’t have TEFL weekend courses. And I could just lie on the beach and learn to write poetry. A young Polynesian man would bring me a local rum in a coconut shell and no one would wear any clothes.
But I didn’t go to Tahiti. At 1:55, I got up and returned to the course. I don’t know where I’d get the cash to get to Tahiti and I have no idea how their broadband is, and I’m not going to miss the rest of Season 2 of Revenge.
But I’m quite capable of walking away. I walked out of secondary school the November before my Leaving Cert and kept walking, and then got a bus home, and didn’t go back. And Tahiti really is tempting.
I am a bit trapped by my debts. I owe Bank of Ireland €19,256.92. I owe the tax man €1,085.16 (due last October). I owe one of my PhD colleagues €23. And I owe my parents around €10,000. I don’t know if this makes me more or less likely to run away to Polynesia.
I’m staying here for the moment, but don’t be surprised if you hear one day soon that Connor’s just gone to Tahiti.
I can totally hear the waves lapping at the seashore.