The Frogs haven’t sent a bill yet but doubtless it will come – perhaps at the same time as my tax bill, and just as my classes end for summer. i don’t, however, feel too troubled by this; i don’t feel anything. Like Dr Manhattan, i no longer have a stake in this world, or rather, i don’t feel it.
i feel that i died last week. As if, in going that close to death, something was knocked loose in my mind. This week’s lessons were strange. i feel more & more that i’m a conman of sorts, since almost none of my students make any improvement. Just about the only improvement i see is in fluency & listening comprehension, and a few isolated phrases & words. But this is really quite slight. i don’t think it’s possible to effect a noticeable improvement, in anyone over 30, who’s already intermediate – and this is 95% of my students. So i just go and entertain and try to stop them complaining about me.
Students often fixate on grammar, and perhaps because German grammar seems so clear-cut (albeit complicated), they expect right or wrong answers, clear rules which they can learn like mathematics. English grammar doesn’t work like this: it’s so idiomatic and peculiar, and the usage will vary so much depending on origin, education, character, that after teaching some of the basic rules one can only hope the students pick up the inner music, through practice & error correction. Most don’t. Or they do then don’t have any classes for a month and promptly forget everything.
More & more i’m thinking about my job and its horrid pointlessness. A friend advised me to figure out what i want to do and then learn the skills necessary. The problem is almost no paying jobs interest me; and in any case my extremely poor German, my age, and my lack of funds, qualifications, linear career path, etc. would prevent me getting a real job in Germany. It’s not that i couldn’t do a normal office job – it’s just that, as in England, i couldn’t get one; which is for the best as i would go crazy doing, e.g. the Kurgan’s job – a typical day for him consists of spending 10 hours creating Excel spreadsheets to show profit distribution, presenting it to one boss who says he hates the colour, redoing the colours, then another boss comes in and says “what is this bullshit colour?” so it is redone again, then boss 1 and boss 2 argue for 3 hours, then they come to a complicated compromise (some blue, some green) and so on and so forth.
One of my students is going on a 3-month sabbatical, helping out on a farm in the mountains. Her normal job, for a large German company, is to deal with experts who go from Germany to China, or vice versa – to deal with their tax, social security, car & accommodation allowance, etc. It’s a job that requires concentration and some intelligence, but no real thinking or knowledge. She told me her job, while paying well and being fairly interesting, is unsatisfying and feels largely pointless. She said she’s beginning to wonder, in her words: “why am I here?”
“In this department or company?” i asked.
“Here. In the world.”
My job could not be said to pay well but i understand her position. There is no justification for my existence. Last week’s asthma attack – my own body trying to kill me – has brought this feeling to the fore. It is not enough for me to turn up and entertain the Bosche, do futile grammar drills, take my subsistence pay home and try to survive another week.
i wonder if i am being insufficiently radical, in trying to earn enough money to pay my debts, my rent. Perhaps i should simply disappear completely and leave everything behind. Perhaps my mistake was to try to live a new life as a continuation, or development, of the old. If i left everything and everyone behind, disappeared without trace, would it be possible to live? – for i do not feel i am alive at present.