September 4, 2010

"Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking"

There are moments in our lives when we find ourselves at a crossroad, afraid, confused, without a roadmap. The choices we make in those moments can define the rest of our days. Of course when faced with the unknown, most of us prefer to turn around and go back. But once in a while, people push on to something better, something found just beyond the pain of going it alone, and just beyond the bravery and courage it takes to let someone in, or give someone a second chance, something beyond the quiet persistence of a dream. because it's only when you're tested, that you discover who you are, that you discover who you can be. The person you can be does exist, beyond the hard work, faith, belief, and beyond the heartache, and fear of what lies ahead.
[One Tree Hill]

There is a place in Cali called "Siete Esquinas" or Seven Corners, because it is a spot where literally seven different streets come together abruptly and then rush off in different directions to different neighborhoods. Sounds like the perfect conglomeration of madness that could only exist in Latin America, right? However, in all the madness of seven streets converging together without a single stoplight, I have never seen an accident there and everything seems to ebb and flow together.

Lately my life feels a bit like Siete Esquinas and it has made for a challenging two weeks. With the return to school and the beginning of the second (and final) year of my contract, the big question on everyone's mind is "Are you staying next year?" Yes, I agree it seems way too early to be thinking about this, but realistically we have to tell the director by December at the latest if we are coming back next year, and probably decide sooner than that if we need to start looking at options for future jobs. So even though my time in Colombia is barely half over, here I am thinking about what I am going to do next.

And that is terrifying.

Two years ago I was sitting in my apartment on 9th Street in La Crosse, Wisconsin asking myself the very same question >>> "What next?" At the time I thought about everything - Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, teaching abroad, teaching in Minnesota, grad school, volunteering abroad, teaching in a big city like NYC or Boston or Chicago. Eventually, through lots of self-discovery and talking to friends and family, I settled on teaching abroad in Colombia.

Twenty four months later and I haven't developed any clearer vision of what's next for me, my career, or my life. The options abound, and that is exciting because I truly love having a location independent job that doesn't tie me down to a specific city, country or continent. However, this means that narrowing the options is quite the daunting task. For 22 years our lives have such specific guidelines around the idea that we will grow up, go to school, graduate, then go to college, but then what? Where is the handbook on how to be a real person with a real job who makes real life decisions?

I thought the summer back in Minnesota would help me to figure it out. I went back to the place I call home, to the people who have known me for what feels like forever, and all I decided was I am not done exploring yet. I love Minnesota and everything about it. I just don't know if I am really to move back there right now and stay for a long time...I just haven't finished this journey I am on quite yet. In the mean time, that means I will probably do one of four things next year. In no particular order...
  • Grad School - Where? Who knows! Somewhere in a big city that I can explore and somewhere with a good program in education. Lately I have been craving professional development, learning and being a student so this would definitely be a welcome change for me.
  • Year 3 in Colombia - I love my job, my apt, and the country so staying would be simple, easy and there is still so much I want to do here and in South American in general. Upside - keep saving money, continue with a housing allowance that I get to save most of, get a round trip plane ticket to Minnesota paid for by my school, continue to develop as an international teacher. Downside - many friends are considering leaving and I don't know if I would like Cali as much without the people who have made this experience great so far.
  • Teach in the US - Where? Again...who knows! Also somewhere in a city that I can explore. I would love to teach in public schools in a big city because I feel like I might need a change from the privileged private school thing for a bit.
  • Another International Teaching Placement - Probably in Central or South America so that I can continue with the Spanish language thing and this culture I love so much. This would expand my diversity as an educator even more, challenge me to try new things and allow me to experience a whole new place. Downside - I feel like I just got settled with the whole Colombian visa, moving all my stuff here, learning the ropes, making new friends situation - am I really ready to try that again somewhere new?
In summary, those are the options I am most highly considering at this point in time. One of them needs to be chosen by December at the latest, and clearly I am not getting any closer to figuring it out, so weight in now please. All opinions welcome :)

1 comment:

Melody said...

I would vote for grad school, simply because it sounds like something that excites you, and that's a good thing when it comes to grad school. I feel like I'll eventually reach a point where I don't want to return to school again. Also, being a young grad student has a lot of benefits, especially socially, and with nothing to tie you down, you can take fun trips and do interesting things. Also, you can basically go anywhere in the world--for example, Spain has really good education programs. So, you can keep traveling and exploring for sure! Also, you'll still be a teacher when you graduate, and there will still be all those teaching options available. You'll have grad school out of the way, too, so you could stay in one place for a REALLY long time and not feel like you were putting off returning to school. Just a thought--and apparently a long one! Good luck with the decision making!

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