At this point I am still unsure as to my exact living/working quarters. I do know, however, that I will be living in the Lelu municipality, specifically in Tofol. Tofol is located just south of Lelu Island off the coast and is the capital of Kosrae.
I realize I may have inadvertently surprised more than a few of you with the announcement that I’m leaving the country to teach writing. The traveling and writing shouldn’t have surprised anyone for the most part. The teaching part is what might have, or rather, should have thrown you for a loop. I realize everyone has that one thing they cannot and will not do. Two years ago, teaching was decisively mine.
While I sat here trying to figure out how I could possibly explain the journey that led me to apply as a teacher halfway across the world, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do so without first blaming the economy. Now, before you roll your eyes, I’ll rephrase- I wouldn’t be able to explain my current situation without first praising the economy.
The ”problem” with my generation lies at the intersection of our rearing and our reality. We are young Americans; growing up we were constantly bombarded with the “you can do anything, the American dream is yours to grasp” mindset. We sauntered into college with the promise that hard work would propel us forward into our dream job. College was a hazardous catapult, scooping us up from the halls of our high schools, raising us above our peers; we were thrust forward with the promises of job security and wealth, only to slam headfirst into a brick wall. We graduated into a world of limited options, a world of “you’re a bright individual with a promising resume but, I’m sorry, we just have no budget for a (insert dream job title)”. Reared and trained perfectly for our chosen field, we are soldiers with no mission, no purpose- devoid of meaning.
And yet, within this juxtaposition lies a subtle beauty. Don’t pity my generation- we have become masters of humility and mutability; a dangerous combination. Gone are the visions of business suits, 9 to 5 hours, and job benefits; instead we don aprons, serve coffee, and avoid the emergency room. We do not fear the new, the change. We have been forced to venture out of the confines of the ideal. Exploration is our game- a game that births new outlets of creativity and passion. The last-option-job at the shoe store next door gives way to a life-long passion for running and a genuine niche within the athletic shoe market. The frustrated business major, stuck waiting tables, transforms his existence into that of a young entrepreneur creating revolutionary websites for the food and beverage industry.
We continually find ourselves beyond the realm of our college expectations- recreating our options, recreating ourselves.
David Sedaris, one of my favorite authors, once wrote: “Look at yourself on the day that you graduated from college, then look at yourself today. I did that recently, and it was like, “Yikes! What the hell happened?” The answer, of course, is life…stuff comes up. Weird doors open. People fall into things. Maybe the engineering whiz will wind up brewing cider, not because he has to, but because he finds it challenging. Who knows?”
We are a generation stumbling, falling through open doors. Weird doors, yes, but most importantly, open doors.
My weird door opened shortly after college graduation. I swear I missed out on that post-grad, “the world is at my fingertips” sensation. Instead, I balked at my release, with the collegiate hand pushing at my back on one side, the world and its bleak economy on the other, daring me to cross the threshold. To this day, I’m not sure I ever actually crossed over. I’m confident I’ve created a limbo reality, a partially carved out cave sheltering me from the monotony of corporate jobs yet allowing me to usher in strange and new gigs. My post-grad persona is an accumulation of interests, passion and experimentation: a creative writing teacher, part-time Spanish teacher, volunteer ESL teacher, part-time writer for PR firms and a call center employee (I’ll consider that one a failed experiment).
Teaching is my weird door. Teaching was that ugly, cringe-worthy word during college that accompanied the raised eyebrow from folks inquiring as to my plans after graduation: “So, you’re an English Major? Soooo, what do you want to do with that when you graduate? …Teach?” I told myself I wasn’t cut out for teaching, that the responsibility and patience required for the job made me the ideal “anti-teacher”.
And then life happens, as it always does. I pursued my obsession with traveling, giving back to and exploring different cultures. I applied to the Peace Corps, WorldTeach and any other organization that would give me a second glance. Eager to make myself relevant as an overseas volunteer, I picked up a volunteer position with a local outreach center teaching English to adults. Shortly after, I landed a unique job with Lango, a foreign language company, teaching Spanish to children ages 6-12. Not long after that, I started volunteering at an under-resourced elementary school teaching 4th and 5th graders the art of creative writing.
Two years later, I look forward to a classroom full of eager 4th graders ready for a new writing prompt or a class of smiling adults waiting to use new English phrases they learned that weekend. I find myself anxious for that moment when Emeterio, the chef from Mexico tells me about his weekend, never once relying on my assistance with the past tense; that moment when Keon hands me a story that is so imaginative and yet dripping with allusions of his troubles at home that I don’t know whether to comfort him or high-five him for his creativity. I look around for the real teacher who must be responsible for these moments, but it’s just me- a young, naïve girl who just happened to fall through a very strange, very weird door.
So that is how I find myself 30 days away from standing in front of a classroom of high school students in Kosrae, Micronesia- no teaching certificate, moderate experience and two notches North of terrified.
I pity my students already.
I’ll bring to them everything I’ve acquired thus far- patience, understanding, an open mind and a smile. It’s not much but I’ll offer it. Funny thing is, I’m not scared of arriving empty-handed. The experiences I’ll gain are ones I’ll always have. I’m sure there will be moments of role-reversal and I’ll gain valuable insight from my students. It always happens. Don’t ask me how I’ll transfer these experiences into “real-world skills” when I return, I may just resort back to my cave of strange gigs. At least I know now I need not fear the economy, the change, the polite rejection. If and when that happens I suppose I’ll reinvent myself, drawing on skills I’ve acquired along the way. If and when that happens I suppose I’ll find the thing that challenges me, makes me come alive.
If and when that happens I suppose I’ll just find myself a new, weird door.