I am back from Italy, my second trip to Europe this year. It was as amazing as I had imagined and I can’t wait to go back someday to explore the North. More specific updates about the trip will follow, but for now I have the future on my mind.
Europe has always had a certain pull on me. I’m not sure where it stems from but it’s there, and with each trip to the land of history and culture that pull intensifies. Perhaps this is because it’s the only place I’ve ever really visited; or maybe the pull is the reason why it’s the only place I’ve visited. Who knows.
All I know is that I am not yet done with Europe. I have not yet quenched my thirst for the European culture, history and lifestyle. I want to move to Europe.
And I think I know just how to do it. Languagecorps. This program would allow me to teach English abroad. For a while I really wanted to teach English in Italy, but since Spain is also calling my name I was hoping to get Italy out of my system on this trip. It didn’t happen that way. I love Italy. It’s absolutely beautiful. The sights, the language, the food, the people ;).
Still, I feel if I were to go back to Europe to teach I might like to end up in Spain. I am familiar with the language and it’s a place I haven’t yet been. I also figure that once I’m in Europe, it will be much easier for me to take trips to other parts of Europe.
So that’s it right? Simple? Someone I used to know once said to me, “you’re the kind of person who, if you don’t want to do something you just don’t.”
At the time I found that offensive. It made me feel stubborn and lazy. But as the years have passed I’ve realized I’m also the kind of person who does do what she does want! If I want something badly enough, then I can’t just stomp it out of myself. And why should I?
Still, as I look toward the future there are several factors weighing on my mind. Little dilemmas. And in hopes that someone out there will have some words of wisdom or encouragement to offer, I will share them here.
Dilemma 1: Common Sense vs. Sincere Happiness (aka Head vs Heart)
I want to go to Europe. To Spain. This is not something I know in my mind, as much as I feel it in my heart. I have always been one to follow my heart over my head. Though it has the potential to get me into trouble and to feel pain, it also is when I feel most ‘right’ and happy and free. It’s worth it.
But now I am a grownup with grownup things to consider.
I don’t care about money. Or rather, I don’t want to care about money. I don’t care about labels or big houses or fancy cars or smartphones. I care about money really only to the extent that I need it. But I need travel, and I need experiences that shock me and make me feel alive and these, well these cost money. And so does education.
I want to go to grad school. I’m not sure what for yet, but I know I am not done with school. Grad school costs money. I figure I have one more year in my Teach For America commitment (whether I’ll stay for a third year is a completely different discussion altogether). After that, I’d like to live abroad for a year. I acknowledge that this year abroad would be completely selfish, and completely necessary for my long-term happiness. (Who wants regrets? Not me.) After at least a year abroad, I’d like to go to grad school…
What am I getting at here? Well, if I go to Spain for a year, I will make enough of ‘the root of all evil’ to live comfortably. I really won’t be able to save much.
My other option? Teach in Asia. Somewhere like China or Thailand where the demand for native English speaking teachers is so great, they would pay for accommodations and I’d be able to save a few hundred smackaroos monthly (or so the site says).
Now, obviously my head says Asia but when it does my heart protests like mad. Nothing against Asia. I’d love to go someday. But my heart, silly thing that does not know reason, craves Spain.
Living abroad for a year is no joke, and if I am not truly happy then it will make it that much more difficult. But I’d also like to not be broke when I return to the states. Thoughts? I have millions…
Dilemma 2: Feeling Selfish and Lost
The thought of teaching abroad for a year, not in the developing world but in Europe, makes me feel selfish. I try to justify it by holding on to the thought that I know I want to dedicate my life to helping those less fortunate, and that this makes it ok for me to take a year to myself to be selfish. But really when you’re talking about people in need there is not even a moment to spare, let alone a year.
Of course I do believe you need to be a happy, whole and stable person yourself before you can help others with anything. Still, I wonder if I should try to squash this desire to live in Spain and replace it with one to live in Africa. Or to continue teaching at my current placement school in Houston. Or to start grad school right away and get that Masters in Saving the World.
That brings me to feeling lost. I am 23 going on 24. I have been out of school for a year. I have one more year of my official commitment to Teach For America and after that I want to wander around Europe for a year, which might even be ok except even after that I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
My dad always says to be careful and not become ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ Well, I feel like a wanderer who will become just that. I suppose it’s not all bad, but sometimes I really envy the people who know exactly what they want and how they’re going to get it. The people who are running headfirst after what they want. Sometimes, I really want that. It’s a terrible thing, this lost feeling.
Anyway, these are the thoughts that have been plaguing my mind for quite some time now and are in overdrive since my return from Italy. I know I would be much happier just living in the present. I am about to start my second year of teaching, no longer scared and confused. I love my new place in a great neighborhood. I have great friends and support systems. I have access to taco trucks, and bachata in my car. I get to have dreams of travelling the world, with the knowledge that they can be my reality.
But the future is always coming up next and that can be enough to drive me mad.