For some unknown reason, this blog is still getting decent traffic, despite being completely dormant for 4 months. I feel flattered.
So I’m coming up on the 5 month anniversary of my return to America. At times, it feels like I was living in China yesterday, and others it feels like it was a million years ago. But as my life continues, in disarray, I’ve been spending more and more time reflecting on my life in China, what I learned, and what I’m taking with me as I continue down the path of my life. I decided to share these things.
It’s no secret that I was wildly unhappy in China. To this day, I’m not sure exactly what it was that made me struggle so much. While the culture was quite difficult to adjust to, by about October or November, I felt acclimated enough that it didn’t bother me on a daily basis. It was something much deeper than that. Like I said, I still don’t know what it was. But I have realized a few things.
I didn’t realize it until long after I returned to America, but I did not come back from China the same person. Emotionally and intellectually, I matured so, so much in my 6 months in Shijiazhuang. I feel it when I think about college and student teaching and the way I processed my life just a short year ago. I am changed. I am emotionally much stronger. I am finally capable of operating alone; spending time alone, dealing with my feelings and problems alone, and taking time for myself are no longer difficult for me. I kind of like being by myself at times, something that I honestly could have never said in my time at Drake.
I’ve learned that I am a strong, motivated worker– when I’m working within boundaries. Part of what stressed me out (and, ultimately, made me slack) when teaching in China was that I could teach whatever I wanted. And with no understanding or guidance as to my students’ abilities, previous knowledge, or upcoming lessons in their other English classes, it became a horrible guessing game where I always seemed to guess wrong. I need boundaries in my life. I need someone to tell me which tasks I need to complete, and then I will go above and beyond. But if there is no marker for “satisfactory”, I struggle. I see this every day in myself now that I’m back to waiting tables; I need structure in my life. It is a necessity to me.
This also may be the first time in my life where I finally can say that I know myself, enjoy myself, and think that I’m worth it. Even three years ago, the mere experience of every Chinese person staring at me in that stupid furry hat that I loved so much would have shattered my self-esteem. Actually, I think that hat probably helped build up my self-confidence, but that’s another point altogether. I do things for me now. I know that I’m worth it, and I know that the good things that come to me are what I deserve. I’ve had a lot of people tear me down, marginalize me, and set me aside in my life, and I’m finally done putting up with it. I know that I’m quirky and a little different, but I’m okay with that.
But mostly what I’ve realized is that part of the reason I feel so anxious all the time is because I’m still waiting. I wanted China to be MY BIG MOMENT and it wasn’t. I’m still waiting for something to happen in my life that completely sweeps me off my feet, and I’m the only one that can make that happen.
A lot can change in a year. Hell, a lot has changed in the 5 months I’ve been back. But I made a pretty major decision the other day and am really excited to share it. Unless, in some stroke of pure luck, I acquire a full-time teaching job next year, in February of 2013 I plan to return to the UNI Overseas Teaching Fair. This time, I’ll be completely geographically flexible. Through this fair I could go and teach anywhere; when I was there last time, there were schools from Costa Rica, Germany, Qatar, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, UAE…. That’s what I want. I’m going to find an amazing school in another country where I can teach in my content area and do something amazing. I want to go SOMEWHERE and do SOMETHING that is just for me. I want an adventure and I want to see the world, and this is my chance to do it.
And, honestly, (unlike when I decided to go to China), I’ve never been more excited.