intermission, folks

We interrupt these Malaysia posts to bring you a massive life change...again. 

While I was in Malaysia, I had a heavy decision to make. Do I stay in my current position coordinating the Women's Empowerment Project, or do I look for something where my skill set feels more utilized? I felt as though I had pushed as hard as I could to develop a program I envisioned within the strict framework I was given with the organization. At six months, I had to decide to continue in my contract, otherwise 3-months notice would be required. 

I had to ask myself, did I feel fulfilled? Did I feel like the impact I was making was sustainable? Was I even making a fucking impact?! 

In 2015, I volunteered in Luang Prabang for 1 month. At the time, there was no Women's project. Just a musky classroom with 10 girls eager to learn English. Some were quiet and shy, never looking me in the eye unless I bent down next to their desk. Some had sassy attitudes to match their cheeky grins. All of them were beautiful and bright. They stayed with me on my continued travels and stayed with me after I arrived back from those long months traveling. I was my most passionate self in that month. 

After those exciting months traveling, I got lost. I thought maybe I needed to be back in familiar Montana. I craved some comfort and the mountains in Montana always provide that. My health wasn't up to snuff and mentally I was all over the place. The girls were in the back of my mind. I knew, after a few meltdowns, that what I needed to do was return to that little town filled with magic and help in a larger capacity. I remembered the purpose I felt working with them. 

Cut to now. Me having the internal crisis of leaving or staying. It's been really hard to make the decision I've had to make. There are so many facets and complexities related to me leaving, but it boils down to this: I no longer feel as though I can work for my current organization and make a difference in the capacity I initially envisioned.  

I have been so lucky to get the position I snagged. I love Laos. I love Touk like an older sister and I'm not sure I know what life without Luke will look like. I loved spending time building relationships with Ly Ly and Xeng Lee, who are part of my Lao family. I love working to help women-- because this world is filled with inequalities and girls deserve opportunities. 

It has been an emotional decision-making process. One that required I lean harder into myself. I stand in front of the girls and I find my fire. I sit in a meeting with Touk speaking Lao to the Library Director and I feel a spark. I organize an event and I know I am at the top of my game. And all of those things combined make me want to stay in this little bubble longer. Forever.

But I know I am capable of more. I am fulfilled when I see the girls smile or I am eating dinner at the home of one of our students from the women's class, conversing in English. I don't know if the work I have done here is sustainable within the system as it currently exists. And it is a system I don't feel works for the people it is supposed to be serving-- the students and local community people. 

However, I know I made an impact because today I was handed a letter by one of those shy girls from last year. A page-long letter in English. Tears in my eyes and in hers, I took that letter knowing I'd done it. That some day she will become a doctor like she so hopes and she'll be able to speak English to her patients if required. 

I said good-bye to the girls. I kept it together until two of the older girls started to cry and then completely lost my shit. I read my letter and as the one who wrote it went past on her motorbike, she stopped and said, "Teacher Tara, helmet." Then she winked and drove off. 

So, where from here? I have an interview with the United Nations on Wednesday. It's a long shot. It's a really, really long shot. I've continued on looking for other positions knowing how long a long shot it is {but wouldn't it be fucking great?!}. Positions where my skills can be utilized in countries, like Laos, that need them. And I'll be spending the holidays at home while I find a role that fits. I'm not hopping into bed with any position. It needs to be something that makes me feel as alive as Laos does, while positively impacting the community in a sustainable way. I'll wait and finish my grad studies until that job comes along. 

And, so, once again, I leave Luang Prabang feeling changed. 

I leave reminded of what I was made to do-- use my deep capacity for love to help people. To make changes in communities. To fight the good fight. 

I will be back in Luang Prabang, someday. This is just an intermission, folks. So...ya this space and until I make any news final, Malaysia posts will continue and I'll be sitting here crying while I pack my worn-in suitcase.