the art of getting lost

I got lost. Not in the "OMG-I'm-lost-in-the-world-and-my-life-is-such-a-journey" kind of way. Like, in the "I-took-the-wrong-exit-out-of-the-tube-station-and-walked-for-nearly-two-hours-up-and-down-Brick-Lane-and-I-have-shin-splints" way. It almost takes real work to get as lost as I was, given my intended destination was literally at the exit of my tube station. I seem to have mastered the art of getting lost around London while on my daily long walks. 

I made every effort to take advantage of being lost down Brick Lane by taking in the murals and graffiti that line every alley. That's what I sat down tonight to write about-- how I'm not sure I'm into street art {though I can absolutely appreciate the artistic efforts and creativity required}. Instead, however, I thought about routes and life paths and destiny and how my journey has not been linear.  And I have decided to press 'publish' on a post I have been wimping out on publishing for months now. 

I'm finally hitting the button. It's time. 

Life plans changed a lot in December. I left a place that I really love, filled with people I really love for reasons I just recently learned were completely founded {so validating, guys!}. We all know what happened next, right? I finished my M.A., applied to international NGO jobs, got rejected by some and received offers from others, worked a temporary job {covering someone's maternity leave}, turned down received offers, completed a slew of online courses, and bumped my 5-hour Global Vision International Introduction to TEFL to a full 120-hour TEFL certification. I kept busy and waited. I just didn't know what I was waiting for and waiting felt a lot like getting lost. 

It was after I had to reject an offer to work as the Project Manager for an organisation in Fiji that I was ready to call it a day. Throw in the damn towel. $200 quarterly per year?! No health care?! What was my grad work for? Does any of my experience add up to anything?! 

"Maybe you should do what you and S said you were gonna do a million years ago and teach English in South Korea?" a friend suggested. "At least you'd be overseas? Maybe you could make connections with NGOs while you worked over there to help you get closer towards the career you want?"

I put my name in the mix. At that point, I felt like I'd either turned down or been turned down by every job I actually felt passionate about. So why the hell not, right?

I began being recruited for TEFL jobs all over the world. The Maldives, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Spain, Japan, and {of course} South Korea by both private and public learning institutions. I was pointed in the direction of EPIK, a program that places you in public schools all across South Korea and is well-known by Americans seeking to reap the benefits that TEFL in South Korea offers. Free housing, around $1,200-$1,800 {depending on experience and education, minus your phone bill, electricity, and whatever school lunches you eat}, flight reimbursement {in 3 payments over time}, and a decent amount of vacation days.

A dream for someone looking to be in Asia while still living comfortably. 

The paperwork was pretty heavy and getting my documents lined up was basically a full-time job, but I landed an interview {and second interview} and I got the gig

Korea. Okay, you're going to South Korea. Story over. 

Except, it felt like the easy way out. I'm not saying teaching English in South Korea is easy. I'm not saying it isn't a valuable experience. I'm not saying I'd rule it out. It just seems like so many people do it. Fair enough, right? Those benefits are a sweet deal. 

But I'm all about taking the path less travelled, even if that means taking the more difficult route. It's always turned out to be the most rewarding, in my personal experience. I guess what it boils down to is this:

I never want to take the easy route because growth and experience are proportionate to challenge.

There are full blogs, ever-growing forums, and resources galore for those who wish to teach in South Korea. And that's great. It just felt done already to me. I don't know why. It just felt like I would be following a path that many people do because they want to escape or work overseas. Which brings up the other question: do these people even want to teach and are they any good at it, or is it just the salary and benefit of living in a place with easy access to many countries that is appealing?   

The places I love and the people I love and the things I'm passionate about all stimulate me. Challenge me to grow. They allow me to be myself but they always push me. I wasn't sure South Korea would. Having travelled and lived in Asia previously, I knew that remaining true to myself and stretching myself would mean returning to the continent somewhere I could get lost. Somewhere that feels a bit less done. 

So, I re-negged on EPIK {gracefully} before signing the final copy of my contract. 

Okay, not South Korea. You're not going to South Korea. Then where are you going? 

China, guys. I'm going to China.

That's right. I'm going to the one place I said I'd never make any effort to go. The place who's history and culture I've never researched or taken an interest in. Because it's going to be a challenge and it has already felt like a real adventure. So, how did I get here? 

I was contacted by an organisation that teaches in Russia, mainland China, and Indonesia. Due to my experience living and working in Asia, my TEFL certification, experience in educational institutions and with project coordination as well as curriculum and program development...I was offered an amazing deal. One I'm not sure I'm worthy of, honestly. 

But I took it. 

All the benefits that South Korea offered, plus more money, free Mandarin lessons with a private tutor, more vacation time, and I'll be organising the design for the curriculum at a BRAND. NEW. SCHOOL. 

Once again I'll be coordinating. This time it won't be my dream Women's Empowerment Project and it will be a smaller coordinator role, but I won't be strictly teaching. Which is perfect because, as we all know from reading this blog, I never loved TEFL. In Laos, when volunteer numbers were low, I would need to step in front of the whiteboard and help teach the curriculum Touk and I mapped out. It's true, I felt totally in my element teaching the girls. But I felt the real magic working behind the scenes. Organising and strategising and developing the project. That's where I felt the spark. This job won't be the same, but it feels like the unpaved road and it already feels like I'm stretching myself. I'm stepping into the unknown. 

Seriously, I have no idea what I'm getting into. And it feels great because that's who I am.

All my friends were shocked. Touk couldn't believe China, the one place I'd never cared to go. Luke helped me weigh pros and cons in true pragmatic Luke fashion. Tash cheered for me to make whatever decision felt best, of course, because she's the best friend and I don't deserve her. My mom celebrated with me. Everyone else I haven't listed that you all know from the archives of this blog...I mean, everyone was just so supportive. I'd say they expect the unexpected from me, but the truth is I think this took everyone by surprise. 

Am I nervous? The world is a big, scary, exciting, crazy place. There are so many bits of it I've yet to experience. My bucket list is always getting items added to it. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like whether this turns out to be a dream job or a 1-year-and-done type of thing, or whether I continue to move up the ladder with the company or it opens pathways for me to pursue other's something different I'm stepping into almost blindly. I know nothing of China other than glimpses I saw of the culture in Hong Kong {which is filled with expats and a world all its own}. 

It's...China? A massive question mark. 

This could go horribly wrong and I could hate it. I might develop black lung in a year. Or I could grow from it. It could test me. I could learn. I'm giving 'it' a chance. Just like I promised someone I would. 

And just like today when I eventually looped around Shoreditch, landing at the cafe I was looking for {matcha almond latte in one hand, notebook in the other}, I think my not-so-straightforward life will put me exactly where I'm meant to be. 

I'm just a girl who's still figuring out where that place is if it can't be New Zealand yet. 

I'm waiting on my medical clearance and my final documents to be authenticated because I have to take them by hand to Washington D.C. Until then, I'll be finishing my internship and travelling around until my {yet to be set officially} start date in September. 

There you have it. Almost everything I know, you know. This could all fall apart. But, ya know what? If it does, I'll find a different path. Probably getting lost along the way.