The world of international teaching provides quite a different landscape than our teaching comrades stateside. There is of course, the obvious fact that we live in a foreign country and walking down the hallways you will hear multiple languages bounce off the walls. Our staff parties are a bit more vivacious and stained with wine, our classes typically remain small and we are a bit more tight-knit. There is one aspect of teaching abroad that we keep pretty hush, hush.
Everyone knows that the initial jump to break from our roots is a courageous one. People admire it, commend you for it and occasionally you find some people to guide you through it and push you through airport security. What we don’t talk about is as the world is on the brink of winter, it becomes hunting season. You must typically decide if you will not return for the next school year before most jobs are available. Whispers swirl around the hallways, rumours and speculation become plenty. Who will stay? Who will go? Who is willing to throw the dice and gamble it all?
These next few months are a mess of emotions. Any person gambling is high strung and tears are plenty as tensions run high. There is a lot of talk, a lot of standing on the edge and looking into the unknown and pulling back. Sometimes, people are pushed into the vast darkness forced to change their scenery. Other times, people refuse to jump unless they have a parachute. There are those people who have stood on the very edge for years but have yet to make the leap. But then there are people like me, who just jump.
At this point, I have nowhere to land and if I look into that vortex my mind can spiral for hours. This can keep me up at night, second guessing my decision. What if I never land? When will it end? What if they think I am not good enough? Why does it feel like I am about to break?
I have been a tangled mess. A front of happy, a brave facade but my veins are overflowing with anxiety. It scares me sometimes that I have this self-doubt. That my mind becomes cloudy and my reactions are filled with emotion. I try to keep a steady hand and light touch because right now everything is fragile and I don’t want my words to be venom or my movements to cause an unnecessary spark. I don’t want to break anything. My mind repeats conversations and dissects all the ways I could have scorched the earth.
The key to surviving this I have found is the fact that I am not isolated in these feelings. Though my voice has been shaky in conversations it has become clear that every single person has felt this way before. Just because these storms of self doubt come busting through, it too shall pass. Having self-doubt does not define you or what you are capable of. The one thing I have taken note of is that successful people feel this doubt, but they move on in spite of it. To those of you who are struggling to say no, who have drawn boundaries and then crossed them time and time again, to those of you who were forced out of the nest too soon and to those of us who jumped into the abyss… hang in there. I see you, I get you and you are not alone. That deep knotted pit in your stomach, the feeling of unworthiness it will all fade. When we take that step into the unknown and relinquish control we may find ourselves stunned by the creative mind that orchestrates the universe, or not. But here’s to hoping right?