My hodgepodge preparations for leaving North America for the first time in my life have been eye-opening. Once I began, it was actually rather easy to commit to a drastic, life-changing decision. If I take it one step at a time, I can forget that I’m working toward the ultimate goal of putting 6,637 miles between me and everything I know and love. Each new step makes it that much harder to back out–and that’s a good thing. I don’t want to back out, but I will admit to being afraid. And fear makes me look for respectable excuses to quit, which is why I still sporadically apply to other jobs here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Passports, bank accounts, visas, air fare: they all swirl around me as expensive obligations that further bind me to the decision I made when I sent in my deposit to the CTLC (Center for Learning and Teaching in China). I agreed then to pay for a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and, assuming I pass said course, become a faculty member at a public school in Shenzhen, a huge, booming city located in Guangdong Province, China.
So far I have applied for and received a U.S. passport to the rest of the world, purchased airline tickets (Detroit, MI –> Chicago, IL –> Seoul, South Korea –> Beijing, China), bought my first set of matching luggage (purple), started slogging through old Chinese textbooks (Ni hao ma? Hen hao. Xiexie. Zaijian!), opened a Bank of America account (no-fee withdrawals from China Construction Bank and ATMs) and have been saying a long, slow, sweet goodbye to cheese, bread, milk, and American Chinese cuisine.
It is hard to be excited. Because I know so little about what I’m doing and where I’m going, the future seems to be a big, fuzzy blank, instead of something concrete. That itself can be exciting, but it is also disconcerting, even ominous, like walking through a heavy fog. If I make it through to the sunlit meadow beyond, great, but it will be less awesome if I stumble off into a swamp and suffocate in quick sand.
But I am aware that not being comfortable with something is no reason not to do it. Just the opposite! Everyone should be pushed out of their comfort zones. Doing so can only make me stronger, less fearful, and more open-minded. I’ve never been a minority (there’s, um, a lot of white women in the U.S.), and I believe that is an important thing to experience. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about my life. The next step I take should be–and will be–a big one.
(For the record my roommate’s cat, Maeby, wanted me to tell you all: eeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyik. She typed it herself, I think with either a hind leg or a roll of fat. It is difficult to tell. I think it means something like, “Don’t forget me when you’re gone!” or “I’m ready for my third breakfast now!”)