Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why, exactly, am I doing this?

This post is probably more for my benefit than anything else. I have been having some SERIOUS insomnia lately (going on two completely sleepless nights in a row here - of four in the past month), I'll be drifting asleep and totally jerk myself awake thinking "Oh God what am I doing?" I mean... I've never been to Thailand, I don't know how to teach... what am I thinking????

But there are real reasons why I've decided to make such a radical change in my life, and I need to keep those reasons in mind.

1. I was in the biggest, baddest, mother of all ruts in my life. I've spent the past decade stuck in two mind-numbingly, soul-sucking, unsatisfying jobs. Neither my opinions nor my intelligence was appreciated, and neither job left any room for creativity - AT ALL. I had a high level of responsibility but a very low level of authority or control over how to do my job. If I didn't get out of that last job I was going to go insane.

2. As much as I love Portland, as much of a patriot as I am; traveling to Europe was the most incredible experience for me. I loved seeing that the same basic functions could be handled in completely different ways than I was used to - telephones & toilets for example, exactly the same but completely different. I enjoyed getting to use a foreign language (the very few phrases I knew) and having native speakers understand me... and I was thrilled when I figured out new words on my own from context. It was like using a secret code. I loved seeing & touching pieces of history, like the Roman baths in Arles... ruins that were THOUSANDS of years old. From the very little experience I had on vacation, I knew that I needed travel to be a part of my life from that point on... that there was just so much out there to be seen & experienced. I will always be an American in my heart of hearts, and Portland feels more like home than any place I've ever lived...but I really want to see what else is out there in the world.

3. When my friends have gone to study or live abroad - in Paris, India, England, Australia - I've always been insanely jealous. Why should they get all the fun - why couldn't I go to?

4. Throughout my life I've had the good fortune to be friends with foreigners. I've always enjoyed exchanging tidbits of culture. I loved getting to see an Australian man eat his first brownie, teaching Chinese & Indian scientists to play kick ball at a company picnic, and explaining the meaning of the phrase "hanging out" to Japanese students. It was equally fun to share some authentic German Schnapps with a man who partied in Berlin as the wall was torn down. And I think it would be fun if I got to be that person... the foreigner with strange habits and stories of a land far away.

5. This one's kind of lame... but I really want to have something good to submit to The Scene - Willamette's alumni magazine. I'm so tired of seeing my classmates in the Class Notes section - getting married, having babies, running marathons... and having nothing cool to submit about myself. I'm REALLY excited to put something in about moving to Thailand, but am still trying to figure out the most glamorous & awe inspiring way to put it.

6. When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up (I also wanted to be an artist, an astronaut, a gymnast, and a philosopher) but decided not to when I grew up and discovered I didn't really like children... and have been trying to figure out a way to get myself back towards that career path. Teaching English in Thailand requires far less training than any kind of official teaching position here in the US and will give me a chance to figure out if teaching really is something I want to pursue... something I'm willing to go back to school (and go into debt) for.

7. Although I know practically nothing about Thailand, it seems like a really interesting country. As far as 'exotic' countries - it seems pretty safe. They've always been an independent country, they've always been an ally to the US. Although they've had some chaos in their government, they are a democratic society and the people have a full range of rights and freedoms. For good or ill, there have been a TON of US tourists there, so although it will be brand new to me... they're well used to visitors from the west. In fact because of their tourist industry English teachers are in great need, and are paid reasonably well. It shouldn't be that hard for me to find a job with decent pay once I'm certified. Plus, I had a friend from Thailand in High School and he was a really cool guy. He called me "Homey G." (home-girl)* and we went out for sushi together once.... which in retrospect was probably a date... man was I clueless.

8. I need to live someplace warm for a while. As much as I love Portland... and recognize that it's hardly the coldest place in the world - I've been freezing my ya-yas off the past couple of years. This winter/spring in particular were COLD! I'm so tired of being cold all the time, and spending 9 months of the year looking like a ghost. I want to go live someplace where I can get a little sun and warm my bones. Yes, I am fully aware that I'm going to sweat like a pig once I'm there, and will probably be cursing the humidity daily... but still, it'll make for a nice change.

9. I want to get healthier and hopefully lose some weight. There's something about the American culture that's making people fat... myself included. I can take responsibility for eating crap & drinking entirely too much soda, but there's got to be more than just individual lack of will power going on if fully a third of us are overweight & obese. I kinda want to immerse myself in a culture without a weight problem for a while and see if I can learn anything.

10. Spiritually, I think I'm ready for something completely different. I've done the Christian thing...I don't mean to sound dismissive, but honestly I'm done with it. I grew up going to a small Baptist church, sang in the church choir, was president of my youth group - even gave the sermon on "Youth Sunday", and went through a charming "holier than thou" phase through much of High School and College. I've read the bible (well, skipped a few chapters of the Old Testament) and prayed the prayers. I've sat through sermons and gone to retreats. And through it all, I never felt especially close to God... never felt whatever it is you're supposed to feel ... and I'm not convinced it didn't do more harm than good to me. Between my own experience and all that's been going on in this country over the past 8 years, I'm pretty well sick of Christians and good Christian virtues. I want to know what it's like to live somewhere with a different dominant religion. I'm not about to convert to Buddhism, but I would like to learn more about it, more about the way the Thais integrate religion into their daily lives. I want to see the temples and see how Buddhists interpret divinity, how they describe the human condition. What are their answers to the big questions? It's not an immediate goal of mine.... which is why I want to actually LIVE abroad for a year or more... I want to have time to let this soak in for a while.

11. I want to know what it's like to be a minority. I don't anticipate particularly enjoying this part... but I think that it would be a valuable experience. I know it won't equate with the experience of a minority person in the US... in fact there isn't just one "minority experience" in the US, not even among people of the same race. But race is an issue that I find interesting... that I have the privilege of finding 'interesting'... so I hope to learn something about that - what it means to be different from the majority.

12. I want to be interesting. One of my big insecurities in life is that I'm not interesting, or more that other people aren't all that interested in what I think or what I do. I mean, I think I'm kind of interesting... or at least as interesting as your average person off the street. But I want to do at least one thing in my life that qualifies as undeniably "interesting". You know, that thing about 'if someone wrote your biography - would anyone want to read it' - I want there to be something to write down in my biography.... or you know this blog... something other than "Creepy guy stared down my shirt at the Max stop."

I'm sure there are more reasons...or more things I want to learn about and/or experience living abroad... but that's a pretty healthy list. Enough at least to answer that midnight ( or 3am) question "Oh god - why am I doing this??" And with that - I'm going back to bed. Wish me sleep. =)

*He also called me "34C" on a regular basis, especially in class and it irritated the crap out of me... which is, in retrospect, probably exactly why he did it. Boys.


T is said...

It looks like as many doubts as you are having... you also have that many reasons to leave to back them up. Anyone who is doing what you are about to do would be a bucket or nerves as well... you are moving to a different country for gods sake. I'd be more concerned if you were not a bit antsy. As soon as you get there and get settled you will realize that this was the best thing to do and everything will be OK.

Libby said...

I think there is pretty much no way to leave the country for an extended period of time without being at least partially terrified by it. Everyone I know who has done it including myself has been there. Getting through that part of it and actually getting to your destination is half the battle in some ways. So I agree...it's completely normal to go through this. Hang in there and stay focused on the positive.

Exuberant Color said...

I can really understand your 5, 9 and 12 reasons. You will definitely have interesting things to talk about after a year over there. Good luck and stay positive.

Olga said...

The thing is, if you don't step out and try something completely out of your comfort zone- you will always bemoan you didn't. Change is hard, but the new insight and knowledge will be worth it. I wish I had did stuff like that,when i could, now I feel it's too late because I have too many responablitys now, like kids and debt. Don't get cold feet now!

Michael5000 said...

Good reasons.

If you have to sedate yourself to the gills and then have somebody point you towards the airplane and push, I'm your man.

's gonna be great.

mlle b said...

I know it feels like an enormous thing, but I think you've named a whole lot of great reasons to go for it! If it helps, my "major change" inspiration of late has been this: "The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes, in seeing the universe with the eyes of another, of hundreds of others, in seeing the hundreds of universes that each of them sees." - Marcel Proust