Sometimes when people ask me why I’ve decided to teach English abroad, I catch myself thinking, ‘Because I don’t know what else to do with my life.’ Or, ‘Because nothing else has really jumped out at me.’ But out loud I say, “I’ve always wanted to live in another country and I love travel almost more than anything else. Teaching English just seems like a good way to make that dream happen while still making–and in a country like South Korea, saving–money. Plus, I enjoy teaching. Or, at least I think I will!” I rattle off the list of latter thoughts instead of blurting out the former two because, in all seriousness, a) I do feel that way; and b) I don’t view teaching English abroad as an easy way out, a quick escape from “life” or a tactic to avoid “getting a real job,” which is the message those preliminary thoughts suggest. Contrary to conservative opinion, teaching English abroad is a job. A real job. And the choice to pursue it is exactly that. It’s an active choice, intentionally made, thoughtfully planned and willfully realized.
Social media has done an outstanding job of making every twenty-something believe that they should have their act together immediately out of college. “Congratulate so-and-so on her new job with XYZ!” “Thursday July 23rd, Joe Shmo got engaged to That Girl.” Being someone who falls into that age category, there are days when it feels like that’s all I see on my newsfeed. Instead, I wish I received LinkedIn notifications like “So-and-so is still working at her unfulfilling desk job, but congratulate her for taking this art class on the side!” I wish I logged into Facebook and read, “Joe Shmo’s last relationship was over a year ago and lately he’s not planning to get married until he’s at least 30.”
The same way the news seems to only show stories of wrong-doings, horrific disasters and depressing economic stats, the likes (pun intended) of LinkedIn and Facebook trick us into thinking that other people’s awesome jobs
and awesome fiancés
with whom they soak up each other’s awesomeness
are the norm. But I don’t believe they are. They’re not abnormal. But they’re not the standard to which we should all aspire. Think about it. How many FB friends and LinkedIn connections do you have? Probably quite a lot. Now think about how many new-job and engagement notifications you get. Maybe one each week. See? Those people are the minority. Of those who are in their twenties and even have
a job, the majority of them are working at the entry-level in a position that somewhat relates to their interests and that they kind of like, if they’re lucky. And they’re either single or in a relationship that’s nowhere near the altar. And furthermore, I bet you anything that the people who seem to be kickin’ the most butt and takin’ all the names in the game of Life are actually just as much of an internal hot mess as the rest of us.
Both the cyber world and the real world have cast this subtle spell of silence that makes it socially unacceptable for us to admit when we’re lost in life. Without realizing it, we voluntarily under-report ourselves as the ones who are just figuring everything out one step at a time; who sometimes, or often, feel like we haven’t the slightest clue as to what we’re doing with our lives or where it’s all going. We do this because we feel like we have to maintain the outward impression that we’ve got it all under control, despite the fact that it goes against everything we feel. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by society’s standards for our generation? On behalf of us all, I raise mine. I raise it high, flail it around wildly with spirit fingers going like crazy. I do so in rejection of the unrealistic (and just blatantly false) expectation that we should know what the hell we’re doing with our lives and the imposition that we should follow a traditional, predictable “normal” life plan. Because really, there is no “normal.” There’s your journey, and then there’s everyone else’s. None of it’s right or wrong.
So, you go Glen Coco. Go ahead. Keep working at Starbucks so you can play gigs with your band. Live with your parents while you scrape together money to make
it on your own. Teach English abroad, like me, or go elope in Vegas because it’s what you frickin want to do. Whatever you choose to do, you’re not running away from real life, you’re chasing after it; balls out, guns blazing, eyes wide open. The world is your oyster, so crack that bugger open and eat the whole thing in one bite.