So here I am again at a crossroads. There's a lot of paths that are being offered to me and it's difficult to choose which ones I want to walk. I've found that often times in life we are bottle-necked into only seeing 2 or 3 choices that can be made, when in reality there are so many more. Granted, some of those choices are just awful life decisions, but the others? They open up even more doors that reveal entire corridors to get lost in. Life is not a straight road, or even a divergence of many roads. It's a maze with hidden places, elaborate candelabras, and a chute filled with snakes that takes you right back to the beginning...or the wine cellar. Every good maze should have a wine cellar. The true challenge is seeing the bookcase swing open when you pulled on that candlestick.
Except…every now and then our paths look a bit like this:
There's just so many ways to go that there is NO definate path to take. You need to forge your own. But having the courage to handle that, which is a daunting task, is perhaps the most difficult thing any person faces. When we make a decision, our roads narrow. But until that decision is made I hope you enjoy vast plains of opportunity.
Kurt Vonnegut said the following, “It's an author's right to change the words of their story. They can either re-write what is written or erase those words and start fresh.”
So here's the stories I can write and the paths I can take:
A well-worn super highway in which 70% of my peers are traveling. Go back home to America, live with my parents and struggle to find a teaching job. Upon failing that, I'll accept a minimum wage position despite a triple certification in education and multi-faceted experiences that grant me a very well rounded expertise. This is America's roundabout that so many other teachers are driving in similar cars. We all have advanced degrees, multiple certifications and diverse work experience, that doesn't set us apart anymore. So the great circle continues.
It's not necessarily a bad thing to have hope on this highway. When I travelled it I was often disappointed about jobs that I didn't receive, perceived opportunities that I missed and ultimately no schools recognizing the experience that I held. But, like I mentioned, every other teacher (or other profession) has the exact same problem. There's nothing that truly sets each applicant apart and the sheer amount of resumes that employers get is staggering, thus it's more about who you know before you're resume is even reviewed and those differences are seen. To me? This road is luck of the draw and often the winning hand goes to family friends or acquaintances of the hirer. No, thank you.
A back-country rural road that holds about 25% of the other teachers in the great roundabout. Go back home to America, refuse to live with my parents and struggle to find a teaching job or any job. Compound this by now adding the normal living expenses associated with having rent or a mortgage and moving to an area that I want to live in. Get right back on the roundabout and join that other 70% going in circles. There's is an alternative path to this one though. Seasonal jobs. I personally consider seasonal positions to be the BEST way to see the country and meet people that have similar world views. The pay is never that great, but it's more about the experience. Unfortunately, good things come to an end and that season is no different. Once it has ended, you are right back in Death Valley up there. But hey, I'm different. I'm an independent, motivated person who is forging his own path. Do I live my parents? No. What's that? You want to hire me? Fantastic! Oh...ah yes, I can make coffee. Yeah, $7.25/hr sounds great. I can totally do that.
Don't get me wrong, I have meet AMAZING people and have had truly life changing experiences with this road. But every job that I've had on it has only been seasonal. I've lived in quite a few different places in America, bolstered by the experiences I was having and the people I interacted with. I lived this life for about 5 years. Within those years I have broaden my views, studied different forms of education, worked with people from all over the world and generally improved my soul. I like this road, and the people that walk it are just awesome. But in terms of finical stability, it's simply not a viable option unless you are extremely talented and even more lucky that someone notices your skills. Would I walk this again? Hell yes. But it doesn't solve anything in the long run.
The known of, but challenging, hiking trail that many 'sub-culture' teachers walk. Stay abroad, continue teaching in a foreign country make a wage that is less then the American minimum, but quite generous in regards to that country (disclaimer: I make approximately $3.00/hr in Thailand). Experience a different culture, see the world and beautiful scenery. Damage my chances of getting a job in America because most schools don't enjoy Skype interviews and are very suspicious of an international teacher as well as generally look for consecutive years in a single district. A point of fact that I just do not comprehend. But it's true, so this trails leads to continuing applying for jobs in America in hopes that a school recognizes my experiences and qualifications.
But that's the negative. The positive? The individuals you meet wandering about the forest that this trail goes through are going to become life long friends. Not might. Will. These are the people that not only understand what is important in life and how little money matters, they are not afraid to be real with you and more so…themselves. It doesn't matter what they do, the sparkling factor here is that they know who they are. Read that again. They are people who have struggled, risen, fallen and then got right back up with a smile. They aren't people who are simply going through the motions. These are the ones who dance to their own songs, absorb the world and return that happiness tenfold. They will give you a hug when you least expect it and need it most; because they've been there and know what your far off gaze really is. Cherish them. They are rare in this world and often times are forced onto that super highway riding a single speed bicycle with a basket on the front. Give them a ride and you'll make a friend who will support you no matter what you do.
A trail that is no trail and is only walked by those willing to go with the wind. I am a teacher. This thing I know. This is the life I have chosen regardless of the path that I take. I made a significant life decision by coming overseas and it's going to shape the rest of my life. Not only because of the aforementioned other ways that I could have taken, but also the experience. Both the heavily positive and the crushingly negative have, in essence, changed me for the better. I have a broader view of the world, I speak another language (poorly) I never thought I'd learn and I now have close friends from every continent of the world and quite a few in-between. In a nutshell, that's awesome. I like this path. I love it. Culture shock and miscommunications abound, but the good outweighs the bad and the personal growth tips the scales. I'm going to continue skipping down it and pretending the ground is lava because my head is in the clouds.
From here I go to there. From the balmy jungles of Thailand to the ancient mountains of Ashikaga, Japan…how can I be so sure of myself? I'm not. I have no idea what I'm doing. But I have support from all those people up there. That's all I need.
Walk your own road.