Coming into 2015, I’ve already been hit with a lot in only a month. This year is still a big unknown, but at least some plans are being put into place.
First of all, Fulbright is a no-go. Looking back on the end of the summer when I really got into the application process, I can see so clearly how unprepared I was. Italy is one of the most competitive programs, and I should have known that I needed to set the bar a little lower for myself. The problem with me is that when I get my mind set on something, I trick myself into thinking it’s totally possible, even if it really isn’t.
When I found out the news that I didn’t even make it past the first screening, I was tempted to feel sorry for myself. I mean, I did put so much effort into the application and I really believed that I wanted to teach English in Italy for nine months. But, after all those emotions settled about an hour later, I was surprised to find that the underlying thing I was feeling was relief. It sounds so weird, but it’s true. I don’t think I had fully grasped what I had spent so much time signing up for.
After going through all the classes for my International Studies degree, I went through a kind of identity crisis. I felt like there were these two paradoxical ideas tugging as hard as they could to get me on their side. The one side was the traditional, comfortable side that just wanted to have the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a totally stable future. The other was the unconventional, “I’m going to travel the world and no one’s going to stop me” vagabond side. Throughout college, I was trying to totally disregard the first side, because the “I’m young and this is the time of my life” ideology is literally everywhere on my campus.
After college ended, I thought I would be out travelling all the time and writing a travel blog and being such a cool person with cool pictures and cool stories to tell. I lived that life for a semester and, while it was definitely unforgettable, it took a lot out of me. There’s also something about that lifestyle that feels a little superficial and a little selfish. I don’t want to shirk responsibilities towards my family and friends because I’m travelling and livin’ the dream. I also don’t want to be wanting that kind of lifestyle just so other people can see it and think better of me, just so I maintain a “cool person” image (this then goes into my whole “I’m going to delete my facebook and instagram” rant, and we’re not going to get into that right now).
I used to to make myself belief I was more adventurous than I actually am, and I really think I was doing myself a disservice. Now, I’m not talking about two years ago when I went on that backpacking trip where everyone almost died (note to self: Write a blog about that one soon.). And I’m not even talking about my semester abroad last year. Those were both really good experiences where I went out of my comfort zone and grew so much as a person.
I’m talking about the fact that when I used to envision my future, I just saw myself travelling and being super independent. The past few years, whenever I declined to go on a crazy trip, or didn’t have the kind of money needed for that kind of lifestyle, I would get really mad at myself and frustrated with how I wasn’t being who I thought I should be. I think God has made some great people out there that can do that kind of thing, live abroad and travel all the time, and that was what they were meant to do. But the more I pray, the more I realize, I’m not one of those people.
God didn’t make me to be the spontaneous vagabond. He made me to be me and do the things that make my soul happy (not the things I think I should want to do). If that’s just hanging out with my family and reading books and listening to music, then I think that should be okay. If that’s being an elementary school teacher in Virginia instead of in Europe, then that should be okay too. I need to constantly remind myself that God made me to be me, and when I try to live someone else’s life, it’s like I’m telling Him that I’m not satisfied with the way he designed his creation. And it also just results in me feeling discouraged about how my life is going.
Back to my paradox situation though, I think I’ve come to understand that I can have both sides. I can have a stable job and a family, and I can also go on cool trips with them and teach them about the world and get out of my comfort zone every so often. I don’t need to live in a foreign country or jump from place to place to learn new things and get new experiences. I have new experiences and learn new things every single day, if I continue to keep my perspective focused on God and on eternal things.
You don’t have to be looking at a gorgeous view or walking the streets of Paris to have an epiphany or a philosophical thought. Sometimes it’s just a great conversation with someone you love that clears up all your doubts and everything feels sublime after that. Maybe it’s a moment when you’re walking around campus and you just feel really thankful for life and the sunny sky and the trees.