What Matters Most?

I want to talk with you all about a revelation that I’ve made while in the midst of teaching and also in while doing some market research for a new business idea that I had planned to go with but am no longer pursuing.

One of the big reveals I was going to have for all of you that, on top of my teacher hat, my trainer hat, my author hat, I was also going to go into business here for a while as a bar owner. I have a great idea for a bar, although I won’t mention it here because I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas. After conducting market research on the bar idea, and asking the question you see below you in the survey, I have come across a revelation. Rather, a confirmation of something I already knew before.

Atmosphere (7), Price of Drinks (6.3), Location (5.8), Reputation (5.5), Staff Receptiveness (5), Smoking/non-smoking (4.8) Innovative drinks + drink menu (4.3)

What do you notice is the number one thing that people look for when deciding a bar? Atmosphere. Essentially, it is our environment. They care about the whole ambiance of the location, the people there, the vibe they get. How does this affect our life? Well, in many ways, I believe this is how we choose to do or not do many things in our life. Let me explain, as I have multiple examples of it in my life.

I’ve always believed that it truly is the environment that matters most for me when it comes to working. Some people it may be money, some people it could be job advancement, or what they do, but for me it’s always been environment. Actually, my first job ever was at Culvers (a fast food company that originated in Wisconsin). I worked there for 6 years! It was minimum wage so I can’t say that I worked there for the money, and it didn’t offer the best opportunities for job advancement that aligned with my career path, and I definitely didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment at my job, not like the sense of fulfillment I have now being an educator. But, what it did have, was atmosphere. I absolutely loved my bosses; I loved the employees that I worked with; I loved the camaraderie we had there. It is the reason why I could work there for such a long time and still happens to be the longest job I’ve ever held.

Environment is what brought me to China originally. Let me explain that as well. During my time in South America I had two possible life paths that I could go down, well, three actually.
(A) I could obtain a job at my hometown high school
(B) I had a job lined up in China
(C) I had a job lined up in Burma.
After doing some research and having an interview, I quickly decided Burma was not the place for me. So, it was between China and my hometown, Slinger. The benefits were completely similar:
(1) I would be earning relatively the same amount of money,
(2) I wouldn’t have living expenses (China pays for it here, and I would have lived with my parents back home),
(3) I would be teaching English to high school students in both cases.

It was nearly identical, but the biggest difference was environment. Did I want to teach in China or in my little small hometown of Slinger, Wisconsin? Obviously, you know the answer to that question already if you’ve been following me. But I decided to pursue China because the environment was new; it’s something I had never experienced before and anyone can do anything for a year. After living in South America, I thought it would be easy. And life is (for the most part). But China’s environment will never make me stay here permanently, I don’t love it that much, and I’ll get to that in a little bit.

Before that, though, I want to say that environment has affected me in China here, too. I work here in China for a company called Ambright and my first two years I worked in Yixing. That was not a healthy environment for me. The city was dead, and many of the foreigners there were older, so there wasn’t a young crowd to hang out with. For me, this is not good. Like I mentioned two blog posts before, I am a people person–I thrive off of the energy of others. So, when there is no people, there is no energy, and thus a rather boring existence. Not only the environment in the city was bad, but I also found the school environment to be rather toxic in many ways. There were cliquey groups, disobedient kids, and we functioned within a school that always wanted us, but competed with us all the same. They didn’t provide synergy; instead it was toxicity. I have since moved to Suzhou (still with the same company) and my life has been a complete 180. I can’t believe my life to be honest. The students at this school are so well-behaved compared to the other school, the Chinese staff is friendlier, and the main campus wants us on the campus and are supportive in things that we do.

Now, don’t get this wrong. I like the school environment, but I still have quips with China and its environment. However, it’s cultural, and no one asked me to come here, so if I cannot accept China for China then I should leave, but it is a great opportunity to make money so that is why I am here. However, the environment is not good enough to make me want to stay permanently. I love China for the ability to make money as a teacher and have a low-stress job–I have both of those things. But, I also enjoyed Latin American culture so much more because it was friendlier and more open and welcoming to foreigners. People aren’t as rude. There weren’t as many annoying things about South America as there were China (although every country has its annoyances). That is one of the big factors in making my decision to pursue a master’s degree down in Colombia come January 2022. The environment, for me, is just much better than that of China. There aren’t any internet regulations, it is closer to family, slightly cheaper, and the language barrier isn’t as apparent (as I can understand and speak Spanish slightly better). That big life changing decision will be a whole different blog post as I focus on my outward goals and vision and explain to you just how using a weekly schedule (what I mentioned last week) can help me eventually achieve those goals.

Now, about making money. One of my ideas to make money was to open a bar here in China, but the process has been so incredibly frustrating and difficult that I am no longer opening a bar here in China and instead pursuing a different passion and life path that will most likely put me down in South America again in a few years. Until then I am working in China, saving money, using my unique and awesome situation to get writing done and hopefully continue moving to build my author hobby into more of a career.

I think environment is how many of us choose what we do as well. If we don’t like our current relationship, we should change it. Understanding what you will and won’t put up with is huge, so if it’s toxic, there has to be a compromise, change, or understanding that will result in hopefully a less-toxic environment and thus a healthier you and a healthier relationship.

When writers write, I usually see them on the beach or in a library or study area. Why is that? Because the environment shapes us in many ways.

When we take a test like the ACT, SAT, or any other state-regulated exam what do you notice about the testing environment? It’s silent. It’s a conducive environment meant to allow us to get the best score possible in line with our capacity as an individual. I believe this idea of environment actually plays quite the dominant facet in our daily lives.

Besides the bar epiphany, this idea actually came to a forefront when I was giving an English lesson the other day. I was going over a prompt with them in class and we decided to brainstorm. The prompt was: “If you could change one thing about your school, what would you change and why? Give reasons and details to support your response.” The first thing that was mentioned? Environment.

For me, it was absolutely crazy to hear it mentioned. I mean, I already knew that this is my biggest draw about any place that I go, but I never knew it was others as well, or it is as ubiquitous as I am making it seem. Perhaps it isn’t, though. Perhaps I have just managed to get a sample of people who want the same thing as me. But, I don’t think that’s the case. I want to know, what matters most in your life when making decisions? How large of a role does environment play on your life decisions? (i.e. going out to eat, where to work, what things could be better, etc.)

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