All These Things That I’ve Done
by: The Killers

When there’s nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son?
One more son
If you can hold on
If you can hold on, hold on


I want to stand up, I want to let go
You know, you know, no you don’t, you don’t
I want to shine on in the hearts of men
I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no no no no, help me out
Yeah, you know you gotta help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the backburner
You know you gotta help me out, yeah

And when there’s nowhere else to run
Is there room for one more son
These changes ain’t changing me
The cold-hearted boy I used to be

Yeah, you know you gotta help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the backburner
You know you gotta help me out, yeah
You’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down


I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier


Yeah, you know you gotta help me out
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the backburner
You know you gotta help me out
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, oh don’t you put me on the backburner
You’re gonna bring yourself down
Yeah, you’re gonna bring yourself down


Over and again, last call for sin
While everyone’s lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I’ve done
All these things that I’ve done
(Time, truth, hearts)
If you can hold on
If you can hold on

I’ve always liked this song. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s also been a staple in my karaoke repertoire for some time now, but I’ve never thought much about the lyrics. Different things speak to different people at different times. Lately, it’s felt like my anthem.

“When there’s nowhere else to run… If you can hold on, hold on… I wanna stand up, I wanna let go, you know you know, no you don’t you don’t.” I spent most of the last four years feeling a bit… lost. Some of this was my own doing by way of poor decision-making and a deflated sense of self-worth. Some of it was just that Minnesota maybe just wasn’t the right fit. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I got involved with different groups. I tried different sports. I tried different jobs. I tried grad school. I made a lot of wonderful, lifelong friends, I learned a lot about myself, and I had some wonderful experiences, but it was never quite right. Many people at different points in life than me and a passive-aggressive culture that I never did and probably never will vibe* with. So I held on, and now here I am letting go and standing up.
*see paragraph 6

“I wanna shine on in the hearts of men. I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand.” We all want this, do we not? We want to leave the world a better place than when we arrived. We want our pain to be worth it. We want to leave a legacy. We want our lives to have meaning. I have felt more down than up in recent years – behind more often than ahead. I’ve watched my friends and family get promotions, make more money than me, even start their own businesses, travel more often than me, buy houses, and raise kids. And in my weaker moments, it’s hard not to think, “here I am, still just teaching. Standing still while everyone else marches onward.” But in my stronger moments I remember that I’ve done quite a bit to be proud of. I won a statewide award for my teaching. I’ve gotten to live in three different states and teach in three different countries. I just got a note from a student I had last year who wrote recently that I was his favorite person. I’ve had mothers name their children after me.* So maybe my legacy is already being formed. And that feels pretty good.
*Well, the one in Uganda is technically named “Evans,” but that was mostly just a communication error so it still counts.

“Another head aches, another heart breaks, I am so much older than I can take. And my affection, well it comes and goes.” LOL. Yeahhhhh.

“I got soul but I’m not a soldier.” More than just a great time to march around get everyone at the bar involved in the crescendo, this line speaks to me. It speaks to me being here, writing this self-indulgent blog, getting to have all of these experiences and share them via social media, while at the same time wanting to be just a guy. Sometimes I want to be Truman; sometimes I want to be one of the extras. At times I feel a certain amount of pressure with what I’m doing, but I know most of that is self-imposed. I have a hard time sitting still. I constantly want to be productive, to be exploring, or to be improving. Overall, I like this quality about myself, but there is also great peace in just like, chilling out sometimes. Just lay down and rest for a bit, dummy. I have been working on this over the past couple of years (basically ever since I lived with Clare Jacky). I’m getting better at it, but it’s still hard for me. I live in a city of millions of people and essentially 0% of them give a fuck about me. This is a good lesson for me, and it ironically brings comfort and a reminder that any pressure I feel is self-created. No one is asking me to be a soldier. I’m just a person.

“When everyone’s lost, the battle is won with all these things that I’ve done.” If you’re still here after that blithering introduction, we’ve finally reached the body of this essay. The thesis is: I’m happy. And it’s not easy for me to say that. I have a hard time fully accepting and expressing joy, success, and other positive feelings when they concern me. I can express it for others, but not usually for myself. I don’t know why this is. Well, I have an inkling, but I’m working on it in therapy, so I’ll keep that one to myself for now. But seriously, if you haven’t picked up on it by now, life is good. I feel good. I feel more comfortable, more free, and more myself than I have in a long time. I assure you, this isn’t a situation of careful content curation to give the illusion of perfection whilst beneath the surface, despair reigns supreme (have you watched “The Social Dilemma” yet?). I’m actually surprised by how smooth it’s been. I was excited, but I figured there would be some speed bumps that come with moving to any new place. But it’s been genuinely… easy? I feel like I’ve hit the ground running and haven’t lost my balance. The young kids I’m with grossly overuse the word “vibe.” I think it’s a lazy excuse of a word you use when you can’t or don’t want to put actual words or feeling to a situation. But in this case, it might be apt. For reasons that I still do not and may never fully comprehend, I vibe with this place. How long it will last remains to be seen, but for now, I’m standing on top of a mountain, arms outstretched and quoting Hamilton as I sing “look around, look around, how lucky I am to be alive right now.”

More than just vibing, I am proud of what I’ve done to plug in to the community. I don’t want this to be just a “gap year” experience. I live here. I want to get involved, see things, meet people, try new things, maintain old things that I enjoy, and overall fully lean in. Here is a recap of a few things I’ve done in the past month that have been attempts to not just be here, but to live here.

I bought a scooter! In full honesty, it was a pretty strong draw to Taiwan in the first place. I’ve driven a scooter since college and I’ve always loved it. It’s bordering on becoming a personality trait at this point. All of these other newbie girls have been too scared to get on one, but I was pumped from day one. I can’t judge them too harshly. Admittedly, the traffic is a little hectic and my first time on, I was more tense than I thought I would have been. But I got used to it quickly and now it feels amazing. Driving is a bit of an obstacle course every time, and there are certainly more than a few accidents, but I got a good helmet, covered it in unicorn stickers, and feel really comfortable buzzing around everywhere. Having a scooter has opened up so much more of the city to me. I have been able to get out and see places without having to pay for an Uber everywhere. Last weekend, I took it up into the mountains and went on a hike. It’s been amazing.

Me and my new best friend, Bubu.

I’ve been hiking! Hiking is huge here. It’s honestly probably the number one method of exercise for most Taiwanese people. The cities are so close to the mountains and most of the trails are very accessible and well maintained. They are challenging! The hikes I’ve been on so far are all significantly harder than the average hike even in Colorado. The trails are steep and unrelenting. It provides a great ego check when I am standing to the side chugging water and trying to catch my breath and a 75-year-old couple with their 6-year-old grandkid in flip-flops casually trot right past me with a heart rate of 55 bpm. The vast majority of people here are extremely active and fit. I’m getting there, but still a ways to go to work off the beer that 2020 made me drink.

Crazy log bridges in Dakeng.

Speaking of getting in shape, I signed up for a half-marathon! (God I am nailing these transitions.) December 20 in Taipei. I got new running shoes and have been running at the track at the university near my house. It’s been great, although the combination of getting fat during quarantine and the heat and humidity here have made me feel much slower than I used to be. I’m still not sure if my knees will be able to make it 13.1 miles, but I’m going to try my best. I’ve signed up with one of my coworkers, John. He’s very fast and in incredible shape, which is annoying, but also motivating. Can’t let myself be embarrassed too badly, so need to keep training. Somewhat related but mostly not, he and I are hosting the first annual beer mile this Friday. And by hosting I mean that we are the only ones participating. What is a beer mile, you ask? Well, it coincidentally was on both of our bucket lists and was one of the first things over which we bonded. A beer mile is an unforgiving combination that tests both your athletic ability and your alcoholism. Drink a beer, run a lap, repeat. 4 beers. 4 laps. 1 mile. First one to cross the finish line wins. Try not to throw up. If you must, don’t do it on the track. Simple. Challenging. Douchey. It’s everything I love and excel at. John is way faster than me, butI think I’m a better drinker than him, which is an equalizer here, so I think it’s anybody’s race. There will also be a spectator drinking challenge with prizes for all participants. It’s become a full staff event. Look for an update next week.

Not directly related to the previous paragraph, but found this beautiful view on one of my runs and just needed to show it off.

What else am I doing to train? I joined a soccer team! Well, for now. I found the Taichung Savages on Facebook. They are a group of foreigners (mostly Brits, Irish, and South Africans) who get together and practice once a week and play games on the weekends. After I went to my first couple of practices, Some people at school told me emphatically that the Savages are, and I quote, “a bunch of scumbags.” At first I didn’t really mind. I just want to get out there and play. But today was our first game and, can confirm, scumbaggery ensued. A lot of adult men acting like children, whining to the ref, yelling at the other team, and trying to pick fights. I got out there for a few minutes and had fun while I was running around. Blew a good chance with a bad touch, but overall played decently. There’s only a few games left in this season, so I’ll see it through and then reevaluate. Even if they’re scumbags, it’s still nice to do something different, meet some new people, and spend time around 40 year-old has-beens who are full of machismo to counterbalance against all of my time with the 22 year-old sorority gang.

Savages win 4-0! Evan Wettengal with 0 goals, 0 assists, and most importantly, 0 major injuries!

On the topic of meeting new people, I went on a date! It was my first first date in a loooong time. I was nervous. It was pretty fun, mostly comfortable, a little awkward. I think there is a lot of cultural learning to be had here too. For example, is her relative meekness cultural or individual? Is she expecting me to be more assertive, or would that type of American gregariousness be off-putting? Need to collect more data. Or maybe I need to stop thinking of everything as research and just fucking relax. Anyway, super nice girl. We’ve since gone on a second date. Not sure if it will go the distance or anything, but at the very least, it’s nice to eat dinner with someone who can read the menu.

Dim sum date. Did not know that “bee buns” were made to look like literal bees. Incredible.

Honorable mentions:
Karaoke – if you’ve been to Asia you know that it’s way better here
Touristy stuff (Rainbow Village, Painted Animation Lane, sculpture garden, Botanical Gardens to name a few) – take a picture, say you’ve been there, move on. All really beautiful though!
Homemaking – I bought some rugs, hung some pictures in my room, installed the ring on the hook game, and fixed my busted shower and bedroom curtains. I know these are little, normal things that everyone does, but to me, they are not insignificant. They help make this feel more like my home than that I’m just staying in someone else’s. I am very grateful to my school for this nice place, great location, and great view.

So there you are. That’s what I’ve been up to. Thanks for reading and caring! And if you’re in the US, I’m sorry. If you can hold on, hold on. Hopefully in 16 days the world will get slightly less shitty. Until then, we’re not soldiers, but we soldier on.

Leave a comment to let me know what you think!

3 thoughts on “All these things that I’ve done

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s