Someone once told me that ESL teachers abroad are either running away from something or running toward something. It made perfect sense and, of course, I put myself in the latter category. It was easy to do with my young age and ample ambitions, to mask the truth.
There were others who didn’t wear the mask as well. They were either divorced or troubled, single and looking, or debt ridden, out of work, or escaping criminal charges back home. I, of course, was none of the above. Just there for the experience, I told myself. Just learning and growing and living for life in the moment.
The truth? I was doing all those things, but I was also running. I was running from the fear of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, of having quit my job as a publicist only to find myself back at my college part-time, serving up lattes at Starbucks, feeling lost and confused. When I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life, the answer was always the same: to travel and to write, but I’m not – and even then I wasn’t – naive enough to believe I could actually support myself on those goals alone. So I found teaching English could be a great way to feed myself while writing, and it was. And I discovered I actually enjoyed sharing my knowledge with eager students, and learning even more from them.
Now I’m pursuing those same goals, of writing and teaching writing, but like teens who cut themselves for a release of emotion, or those who shoot up to feel the unrivaled high of nothingness, when schoolwork begins to run my world, and my personal issues consume my every thought, I too dream of a release; an escape.
When life gets too monotonous, too difficult, too overwhelming, I run to find the extreme. I want to feel nothing in the way of responsibility, yet everything from the crazy to the religious to make me feel alive.
I’m an Aries, and though I’m not particularly swayed by any one religion, any one astrology, I can’t deny they exist for a reason, or the truth in the characteristics I’ve been charged with:
“Making things happen is what it’s all about to these folks. Aries are also unafraid of stepping onto new terrain. The challenge inherent in taking on the unknown is heaven on Earth for Rams. Sure, they may appear arrogant when they take on the world, but they’ll be quick to tell you it’s the only way to go.”
“Let’s just book a ticket to anywhere,” I text my friends. My Facebook page for this blog gets painted with photos of far off places and desperate pleas to “Just go!” and for a few seconds I’m lost in the possibility of uprooting once again, making life mean more than papers and due dates and broken hearts.
But I’m too stubborn, too inherently responsible, too stuck on achieving my goals that I won’t give in. I won’t make it the reality I know I can, not yet, because like drug addiction and cutting, I know it only cures the now. That’s the funny thing about escape. When the high wears off, the reality settles in three-fold.
Though travel might be better related to marijuana, a release with healing capabilities, it’s even more like the prescription drug that one needs (a lot of) money for. It’s totally 100% worth it once the bill is paid, the sand under my toes, the sun in my hair, the mountain beneath my feet. It’s true, sometimes we come back completely rejuvenated and clear headed, but other times we land straight back in the middle of reality.
For me, this reality is school. And in the moments when I’m lowest, when I’m actually pricing plane tickets and mentally checking out, dreaming of the needle, the knife, the pipe…I come back with the realization that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, because I’m exactly where I chose to be.
I am learning and growing and living for life in the moment.
I’m reaching this goal so I can accomplish the next. Life is built on goals and dreams, and sometimes the most rewarding ones take years and discipline to get there. I’m no longer the girl in my early 20s who doesn’t know what to do with her life; I’m the one in my late 20s, and I’m taking a stab at what might be the most trying, politically-charged, difficult ladder to climb – a tenured professor. My opportunities are few, the hurdles plenty, but I’m no stranger to hard work and I know how good it feels to cross an item off the bucket list.
But I’d be lying if I wasn’t also buoyed by the notion that if all else fails, if it all becomes too burdensome or too political or I can no longer understand why I’m here – when the Aries in me fires up and screams, “There’s so much more to life!” – I can always run away to teach English abroad.
Travel as Escape