My name is Annile Alexander and I’m a Jersey boy from the United States. For over a decade I lived in New York City and a little over 5 years in California prior to moving out to Bangkok with a one way ticket, a cocktail of questions and wanderlust coursing through my veins. This would probably be the best time to cue Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ I left America almost three years ago and I haven’t looked back.
I never planned to live abroad, but then again, I don’t think I’ve actively planned for much in my life until now. I’ve just seemed to succumb to different chapters that unfold as time moved along. I suppose I have always been opportunistic in nature and extremely adaptable. I’ve led an interesting life, lucky enough to pull off the coveted double coast transition, a bohemian right of passage for many Americans; live in New York and cut your teeth then move to San Francisco and drop your dukes. I have strong and healthy relationships with my friends and family that many would envy. I really am lucky in that department. I’ve always tried to enjoy life to the fullest, having my fair share of ups and downs. I can safely say I have always looked for the laugh. I get involved, maybe too much, but I am certainly not apathetic when it comes to relationships, hardships or challenges. I am not afraid to fight the good fight, I stick my neck out for people, I hold friends to a high standard and I ask a lot of myself. Still I had no answers and remained restless; even with more going on than the average fella who kind of coasts through life. What is it I needed? More importantly, where would I find it?
Let me attempt to explain how I got from A to B. I was always good at sales and business development was a natural fit; yet working in corporate America I knew well enough it wasn’t for me. I was doing well, leading an office in sales and in title, but still not feeling like I had found something meaningful. I could sell a half million dollars to fortune 500 companies, take home a $300 bottle of scotch sales prize and a free trip to New Orleans yet still not feel true pride. I feel more pride in ten minutes helping a child figure out the difference between ‘had/has/have’ knowing that they’ll have more of a chance gaining entrance to a good school or attaining a great job later in life because they can communicate effectively, than I ever did selling some intangible computer software to a bunch of suits.
In my life I’ve worked construction in the middle of a New Jersey winter, managed clubs and bars on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, traveled first class to Seattle to meet with executives at Microsoft, and for a short time apprenticed as a cabinet maker for a boutique custom furniture shop in San Francisco. By the age of 30 I quit more jobs than most people will have in a lifetime. It was always some justifiable reason at the time, I assured myself of that. The F Train is way too crowded at the West 4th Street exchange. The glass ceiling depression; I am not going to continue doing this for the next five years. There was the mis-management blues; I refuse to let this guy talk to me like this for even one more day. The caged bird syndrome; this cubicle makes me curious what the end of a double barrel shotgun tastes like. There were the days when the realization of being a spoke on a wheel would set in. With all that, I never felt truly satisfied and I never felt content. I decided it was time for a new direction. I acted on the one thought that every one of us has at least once in our lifetime:
“What if I were to drop everything and become a teacher?”
So I hung up my hat and left the corporate arena for a late in life stretch as a student at Fordham University in Manhattan. I began an intensive 2 year program whereby I obtained my Masters Degree in English. I can’t tell you how many times I questioned that decision when it came time to work on a thesis or discuss differentiating techniques early in the morning with my cohorts. I digested enough theory to talk the talk around the Thanksgiving dinner table with my folks or opposite a principal in an interview. I didn’t learn how to walk the walk until my first day in front of a classroom with 40 Thai eyes staring at me. This state of mixed curiosity and estrangement I have come to know so well from students. I still vividly remember cold sweat running down my palms as my hands fumbled and gripped at my pockets and the pens inside them, anything to hold onto while fear welled up inside me like a balloon about to burst. I remember trying to speak, but my mouth was as dry as the Nevada playa. Words wouldn’t come easily for me this time. The one thing I could always count on in the past, winging it, just wasn’t happening. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t wing it. I was speechless for lack of better words, no topical pun intended. This was one of life’s true tests. A stranger in a strange land about to embark on a life changing venture which started the moment I made eye contact with my first classroom full of kids on the other side of the world. And so it began, my life as an English teacher in Thailand, my life abroad…..the next chapter.
I’m 35 years old, and I am thankful to be able to say that I finally am making a difference in this world, and I finally know that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. I’m not looking anymore. I am employed at the International School of Bangkok as the head of Upper Primary Level Education and an English teacher for a group of amazing children. I am a school community leader and I am a big part of the lives of the families I work with. The past I described and all the experiences that came with it have uniquely enabled me to transfer knowledge in a variety of settings across multiple disciplines. I am head over heels in love with the kids I work with and the bond I share with my class is indescribable. I am proud of what I do and how I do it.
I enjoy my life these days. I have a lovely girlfriend, who like me is involved in the educational system here in Bangkok. I drive a beautiful motorcycle that I picked up from a friend about a year back and I live in a nice one bedroom with a pool that always helps wash the stress away. I’ve begun to carve out an existence for myself that for the first time since I was a young man is void of confusion or question about my lot in life. I left home looking for something, not a hundred percent sure what it was, and yet I sit here today thinking that I just may have found ‘it’. I found it through living and teaching abroad. I found it through challenging myself, exploring and remaining open to new experiences. But mostly I found it through working with children.
It’s funny because you don’t really know that at the time, it’s always hindsight which provides the clear picture. It’s a nice feeling to know now that I did make the right decision. Funny how life makes you wait sometimes before sharing a secret with you. For purposes of clarification, to me a teacher collects a paycheck at the end of the month, an educator is paid through gratification and measurable success.
I wrote this to describe the fulfillment I have managed to find in coming here to this amazing country and this city of Bangkok which I now call home. I wrote this to remind myself that I am happy, because maybe I speak for us all when I say, it can be hard to remember that and sometimes we all need to take a step back and reflect. Most importantly I write this to say thank you. This is written for those people, like me, who want to challenge themselves and find a deeper meaning for it all, find something that brings you a feeling of satisfaction. Something that fills you with pride.
The only two things I really know for sure…. I am an educator, and I’m here now. And that is all I need to know right now. Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want information or advice. Like I said, I’m here!