If you’re here expecting a ramble about romantic love, then you’re in the wrong blog babes.

It’s a Sunday and my work is having a non-production day, which means all six of my classes are cancelled for the day! Unfortunately, it still means I have to show up at the office but my line manager is pretty loosey-goosey with office hours as long as you do you work and – let me humble brag – I am efficient as fuck when it comes to lesson planning, classroom prep, et cetera.

So I spent the morning having a relaxing breakfast, took some time with my skincare routine instead of rushing through it like normal, and I even had a few minutes to reflect over some things as I watch the city skyline get brighter.

LiberaTarts Ruminates: Life, Love, and Other Ls

I have this weekly Skype chat with a friend from university, and while I was waiting for her to be available (timezones, amirite?!) I noticed an email from the guy who recruited me for my current job. He’s an independent third party who has nothing to do with my current company, essentially just a bloke who introduces graduates to potential employers in China – and I suppose, reaps the monetary bonuses and other benefits from that, but I digress.

He wanted to know how I was coping with life in China, how difficult was it to get an apartment and settle into a foreign city, and what my work hours were like. It was obviously for the benefit of potential new recruits – once the borders open up again, of course – and I was more than happy to help out. I remember being a new recruit myself and being, not quite worried, but a little apprehensive about uprooting my entire life. I was the type to get two paid VPN subscriptions and pack one whole suitcase with UK snacks because I didn’t want to change my social media / snacking lifestyle.

On Life

The email got me thinking about my current work-life balance, as it goes a little like this:

  • officially, I work three days Wednesday to Friday from 1:30pm until 9pm
  • I also work on weekends from 9am until 6pm with back-to-back classes
  • I then have overtime on Mondays because my company is understaffed and need international teachers very badly – hence my apprehension regarding the borders still being closed in China

And because I love, love language learning and am not disciplined enough to self-study, I have Chinese class two days a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Depending on my mood, the errands I have to do, and sometimes the weather becase YOLO, I try to pop over to my expensive gym and swim a few laps. (Yes, my dear readers, I’ve joined a gym. Two gyms, actually.) I haven’t been swimming lately, however, since work has been tiring and this gym is a whole bus journey away from my apartment.

swimming pool

Every Saturday after work, I go to another gym with a coworker that’s much closer to our workplace and do this workout class together. This is my second, much cheaper gym since I only pay for this one class and the place isn’t fancy enough for a pool. I’m more consistent with this once since it’s literally right across the road from work, but even so the distance and city traffic mean I don’t get home for the day until dark. My Saturdays start at 8:30am and end at 8:30pm – a whole 12 hours for commuting, working, gym-ing, and being on my feet.

Despite all this, I am aware that I am in charge of my own schedule. I am only as busy and not busy as I choose to be. Going to the gym isn’t necessary. Chinese lessons aren’t a requirement though they do help in surviving daily interactions over here.

Let’s not forget the weekly Skype sessions I have dotted around my calendar. Has anyone else tried coordinating three different time zones for two different occasions every damn week? My family chat has to take into account my brother in the UK, my mother in the Middle East, and myself in China. My Discord book club includes myself, several friends in the UK, and a friend I met through family who is based in Texas. Talk about an online lifestyle! I’m living it every bloody day.

I’m only as busy and not busy as I choose to be.

– wise words that I made up while writing that email to my old recruiter

I’m struggling to juggle all of these things I’ve told myself I would do after the Lunar New Year; I’m tired all the time and I am disgruntled to admit that my monthly Starbucks budget has increased to less manageable levels. I think I need to re-evaluate my priorities and see if I can lessen the Skype chats in my life or do something mature and like, sleep at a decent hour. Time zones are really troublesome to deal with, which leads me to the second L that I’ve been thinking about…

On Love

If you’re an Internet homebody like me then perhaps you’d be familiar with those personality quizzes that tell you what kind of letter combination you are or what your love language is. My main love language is quality time without the distractions of mobile phones or social media, which sounds totally contradictory since I appear to live and breathe Instagram.

And I think I know this is why I put so much effort into organising Skype chats or Discord meet-ups with friends and family. Much like my favourite author Jane Austen, I am intensely loyal to those I love and care for: my family is a given, my best friends from school are a shoo-in, and the friends I made at uni are like the bonds of brotherhood you get from undergoing hell together. Some things are just hard to break.

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.

Jane Austen

But aye, here’s the rub: I am so, so exhausted. My dear readers, I am tired.

It’s always me reaching out to people proposing a catch-up, and whenever that pushes through it ends me up doing the timezone calculations and dealing with Person X’s schedule as well as my own. For once I would like someone to message me and say, “Hey, it’s been a while. Let’s chat at XYZ o’clock your time.” It implies they know my schedule (because goodness knows I don’t keep that a secret since I even blog about it), that they’ve considered the time difference (despite its breadth, China runs on Beijing Standard Time), and that they were thinking of me and actually had the balls to do something about it.

I love my friends; I really, truly do. I also love my family beyond filial obligations: my mother is Life Goals and my role model, and my brother is my fellow introvert buddy and I am more comfortable spending time doing absolutely nothing with him that anyone else in my life. But I suppose, it would be nice to have all my efforts acknowledged and to be someone’s priority for once. I am exhausted and I would appreciate not having to exert the mental gymnastics that comes with keeping in touch with people across the globe.

So that’s my current take on love. A little depressing, in retrospect, but c’est la vie and all that rot.

I’m trying to be An Adult about this by not cutting everyone off and becoming MIA, though it is quite tempting sometimes. I’m also trying to see things from other people’s perspectives – just because my love language is quality time does not mean it’s the same for everyone else in my life. Still, the exhaustion is still there, lurking like that dreadful Duolingo owl.

On Other Ls

There isn’t really another L, I just wanted to do the whole Triple List thing so round out my sub-header. There’s something about listing things in threes that sound so lovely and I’m sure there’s a literary term for it but alas, I’m not a literature graduate so like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

Let’s pass the mic: I’m on my twenties so the concept of a work-life balance is new to me and yet it is dear to my heart. But what about you, my lovely readers? Any bits of advice you care to share? Or to commiserate with! I’m all ears.

3 thoughts on “The Work-Life Balance and Love Languages

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