Just two weeks after graduating university at 21, I moved to Thailand to teach English. I had a blast. My job was pretty easy, I had good friends, there were elephants and I travelled throughout South East Asia. I was just starting the process of becoming a genuine adult, and everything was an adventure. The only issue was that I just wasn't making much money.
Even though I had a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification and a bachelor's degree, I wasn't a "proper" teacher, and that kept me out of real, accredited international schools that payed three to five times what I was making.
I knew I wanted to teach, that I loved it and that I wanted to do it away from my home country of the United States. But to teach as a career and possibly support a family one day, I had to elevate myself to international school level. This meant going back to university to secure a master's in teaching, and leaving my relatively stress-free life in the process.
The opportunity to do just that arose 18 months later, when I left Thailand for the US to complete my studies while also teaching. It was hard, I was working 50-60 hours a week at a terrible school, and studying full time on top of that, but I did it, at the cost of my health and sanity. I then jumped at the first international school job offer that came my way and moved to Bahrain, starting a 13-year career as a "proper" international school teacher.
The money and benefits are indeed better. It's opened many doors for me around the world, and given me incredible experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise. But, it hasn't always been easy. The hours can be long, the parents demanding and the administration exacting. Many a time I have looked back at my life in Thailand with envy for the lack of responsibility I had, for my freedom from stress.
No matter where I find myself in life, I envy the other side. I've wanted the other option for what was lacking in my current situation. But we can only live the life we currently inhabit and that life will always have downsides, with things that annoy or frustrate or enrage us. We will always imagine our lives without those things, whether that's a future state where we have a better job in a better country with better bosses and co-workers, or a nostalgic view of a past situation where we look with rosy glasses at a time we didn't have our current difficulties.
Downsides lead to desire, which causes suffering because of our perceived lack of something. Due to this system, it seems like we are doomed to a life of dissatisfaction and envy.
There is a solution, however. Just be thankful and focus on the things you're grateful for instead of what you're lacking.
Here are a couple gratitude enhancing techniques I've used to help me be more at peace with my current situation.
Keep a gratitude journal
I do this on my phone, but some people recommend writing it down on paper. I simply write down the things I'm happy about. When I start to feel envious of another situation or person, I read through my list and try to add something new.
Learn a gratitude mantra
When I get consumed by negative thoughts and swept up in those anxieties, I think of people in my life that bring me joy, that I'm grateful for. I repeat their names and picture their faces for a minute. It is extremely effective at breaking my thinking out of negative patterns.
I bet there are plenty of things in your life to be grateful for, whether it's the ability to see, have enough food to put on your table, or read my amazing articles. Start a gratitude list today that you can re-visit whenever you need to make yourself grateful for what you have already achieved in life. Break the chains of negative thought that keep you mired in envy. What have you got to lose?
Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher