It’s been a while since I’ve really looked forwards.
I’ve spent the last year in Georgia basically adapting to life in Georgia. I like to portray myself as superhuman whenever possible, so I spend a lot of time denying involvement with things that mere mortals might experience – things like culture shock, loneliness, regret, remorse, self-doubt, ignorance, inexperience – the list goes on, but basically I feel that I have a strong stake in hiding the things that make me weak or flawed, and I often manage to hide them even from myself.
So a lot of the internal adjustments I made while in Georgia may not have been obvious. I keep saying that I grew a lot, changed a lot, and learned a lot, but I very rarely focus on the downsides of being in Georgia (also because Georgians seem to take great offense to my dwelling on the downsides of being in Georgia) and I almost never talk about what it feels like to put every plan and expectation and relationship that I’ve ever had in the previous 28 years on hold and go do something essentially random, like teaching English in a country I had first heard of two years before deciding to go there.
I feel like if I say things like “I miss my friends and family” people will think that I am weak, or not suited to travel. And the truth is, as much as I love my friends and family, last August I was more than ready to get away. When I visited in December it felt like I had never left and being in New York felt more like a chore than anything else. I really started missing my parents right around May, but of course I would never blog something like “I really miss my parents right now” – or would I?
The point is, I haven’t spent a lot of time in Georgia thinking about not being in Georgia, at least in part because doing so felt like admitting that I’m not as aloof and independent as I want to pretend to be. Georgia has done a lot towards breaking down those walls that I have – I’ve begun to form, I think, more healthy and open relationships with people in Georgia and to be more in touch with my connections to people – but change takes time.
No, what I think about in Georgia is how to make my life in Georgia better. It’s odd to realize that I’m experiencing something like (but not exactly like) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – that in Georgia I spend a lot of time thinking about things like what I will eat, where I will live, and how I will attain other basic necessities (like medicine, clothes, etc) and very little time thinking about things like where I want to go on vacation, how I can score myself a new Apple gadget, and what I want to do with my life.
And I think that part of that has to do with focus. In Georgia there are, for me, various opportunities to pursue things that will improve my life. There are additional employment opportunities, for instance. But everything has a scope – that scope being, “within Georgia, this year” – and I have a few clear and distinct choices to make about how to do things inside that scope. When I lived in New York, there was no scope: there was no place that I was contractually obligated to be and my choices were virtually unlimited, which made actually choosing something the source of much anxiety and self-doubt.
So I spent a lot of time in Georgia thinking things like, “is there a way that I can make enough money from a second job next year that I will be able to afford my own apartment?” and “can I structure my classes so that I can teach to my strengths, using my preferred techniques, and thus obtain the maximal personal satisfaction and sense of achievement from my job?” and even “how can I get enough protein to eat this week given my food budget and the constraints of my host family’s meal schedule and food selections?”
What I very rarely think about is stuff like “what will I do when I leave Georgia?” I’ve made the rational decision to put that question aside, on the basis of an assumption that I will have some set of options of what to do when I leave Georgia, and that trying to narrow down or select from those options now, before I have any plans to leave Georgia, would be a waste of time and effort.
I know I have a list of things that I want to do, and that to some extent as long as I’m in Georgia I’m treading water and not really accomplishing any of those things. But none of the things I want to do are my ultimate goal in life. I want to be rich – but if I die without ever having attained financial stability, then so what? There are more important things in life.
And that’s the thing – I’m enjoying life in Georgia right now, so I’m putting everything else on hold while I pursue that enjoyment.
That’s dangerous, though, because what if things go south in Georgia for whatever reason? Then I have to find a new way to enjoy life. I would prefer, if possible, to find some kind of stability or foundation from which to explore what life has to offer me. I’d feel a lot better about spending another year in Georgia if my student loans were also getting paid off.
Coming back to New York has put me back into the environment where I spent so much time thinking about the future. I’ve spent a bunch of time here, as a result, imagining scenarios for life after Georgia.
After my contract ends – just under one year from now – I’ll have two years of teaching experience, which is the requisite for a number of high-paying teaching jobs throughout the world. I’ll also have completed a contract with Footprints Recruiting, which will give me hiring preference in positions that Footprints recruits for. That means that if I want to continue teaching English, I’ll have the option of going to various places in the world and actually making a comfortable living. I’ll have the chance to pay down my debts, to get that fancy new Apple gadget, to start saving for my future, etc. One of my long-term goals is to visit Slovenia, and perhaps take Slovene language lessons at the University of Ljubljana – an expensive proposition that would be made much more possible if I had two nickels to rub together.
Of course, I’d be more employable if I had my TEFL certificate, so I’m considering doing the 100 hour online course. I think perhaps I’ll set that as one of my goals for this year – get a TEFL certification – so that I’ll increase my income potential (which could potentially be of use even if I stay in Georgia) and maybe even learn something useful for teaching.
There’s also the matter of higher education. Having a Master’s is another big income boost in the teaching abroad market. And I’ve always had a vague ambition to be a college professor, which would mean pursuing a Ph.D. – although college professors face a tough market and aren’t very well-paid. But it might be worth it to grab a Master’s in linguistics somewhere – like maybe CUNY – where it would theoretically only take one school year. With that, again, I’d have more opportunities in terms of teaching, and I’d also have more tools and contacts in case I wanted to do something like linguistics research (Georgian and Kartvelian seem to have a lot of room for research and I could potentially get some kind of funding from the Georgian government or Georgian NGOs, plus I have some university contacts in Georgia).
I had several ambitions about what I’d do with my spare time in New York, and so far rather than fulfilling them I’ve spent a lot of time navel-gazing and wondering about my future. I guess that’s good, in a way – I might decide to apply to grad school this year (to start in September 2010), which means making the decision now would be a Good Idea – but I’m letting a bunch of stuff go, like packing away all of my belongings, and that’s not good. Ah well.