Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Real Life

Real life has gotten in the way of blogging, much to my disappointment.  I apologize for anyone who has been wondering where I've gone to and when I would be back again with a new post.  Here I am.

I feel like I've been in a state of flux since November, with school stuff, friends, extracurricular activities, and every day life.

The hardest part of it all has been school.  Imagine my surprise when my school chose not renew my contract for another year, as well as the contracts of a few other female teachers.  The principal had chosen instead to hire several new male teachers, even though the current teachers now had experience working with the school. The decision left some of the other teachers baffled and confused as to the reasoning behind it, and it left me reeling.  To me, it felt like a slap in the face.  Had my teaching not been good enough?  Was I not a good enough teacher to warrant a renewal after all?  Was my desire for teaching and my appreciation for my students not enough?

All these questions and more went through my brain, and in some way, still do.  In the States, there are laws that prevent this kind of thing from happening, but in Korea, traditional mindsets rule.  I'm uncertain if this had anything to do with the principal's decision but whatever the reason, I've been trying to move past it and see what is next.  Easier said than done, of course, and not without struggle or feeling depressed.

As a result, I've been questioning what exactly I want to do with my time in Korea.  Do I want to stay longer?  Is it time to go home?  Have I learned what I can from my experiences?  Am I ready to start the next chapter of my life?  If so, what is the next chapter?

This year I turned 28.  I arrived in Korea in 2008, when I was 24.  At that time, I had been out of college for almost 2 years, working as a teacher assistant/tutor in a local elementary school but not making a lot of money doing it.  After several unsuccessful applications to graduate programs for a master's in English Education, I wasn't sure if teaching was something I really wanted to do anymore.  Cue an email about teaching in Korea.  It seemed so far-fetched and foreign at the time.  However, a little part of me started thinking...what would be so bad about living in another country for a year, making/saving money, not paying for an apartment or car, and learning about teaching ESL?  It would definitely help me decide if teaching was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Not knowing much about Korea or teaching, I took a leap of faith and jumped right into a new adventure.  I was determined to learn what I could as I went along, and take things as they came.  Some people might have thought I was crazy doing it, but the time I've had here has taught me more about living than what I would have gained at home.  Living in a foreign country gave me a kind of independence that I hadn't felt before, making all my own decisions about how I wanted to do things.  I called all my own shots about grocery shopping, travel, even what I would do outside of work in my free time.

I thought it would only a be a year.  One year of my time and I would return to NC ready to see what my life had in store for me next.  Little did I know that year would pass quickly and lead to another.

Now after 4 years in Korea I'm on the fence regarding what to do next.  My plan was to stay for another year with my current school and then head home in 2012, but recent events have made me reconsider.  After much debating and thinking, I decided to stay one more year, but go into the public school system.  This would be similar to teaching back home, and with the benefits of vacation and higher pay, more enjoyable.

My plan after that is to head back to NC to get my teaching license.  Originally I wanted to be a high school English teacher, but teaching here has changed my perspective on younger students.  All my experience in Korea has been with elementary and middle school students, and I feel like this will help me in teaching these age groups in the States.  This year will be spent preparing to return to NC, studying for my PRAXIS exam(s), applying to grad school and lateral entry programs, and wrapping up my time in Korea.  It's been a good few years in the land of morning calm but I feel in my heart that it's time to bid farewell to this country that's been my adopted home.  There's so much more I want to do, and I can't do it all here.  I've been putting my career and life on hold while living 7000 miles from home, watching friends marry, move away, have babies, start jobs, and live their everyday lives--experiencing these changes through phone calls, emails, and Facebook posts.  Even being in the "future" I still feel stuck backwards in time, finding out about things long after they happened.  I want things to happen in real time.  I want to go back to the place that is calling me home.  I want to go back to the land of the long-leaf pines, Outer Banks, the Appalachian Mountains, Chapel Hill, crisp autumn nights and summer thunderstorms, sweet tea, barbecue, WalMart, Target, shopping malls, family, friends, my house....the list goes on and on.

This post is long in coming, but sometimes real life gets in the way.  Sometimes our lives get in the way of other things we should be doing, but just don't know it yet.

It's time I stopped living on pause and started living on go again.

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