Why I Dropped Everything to Teach Abroad

Skylar Wooden

September 17, 2017

On September 25th I will board a one-way flight to France. There, I will teach English conversation to middle and high school students for the next seven months. If that sounds like a drastic change from working as a tech writer in Kentucky…yes. Uh huh. Absolutely. You may be wondering how I got here.

The decision was not made lightly.

For months, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was nearing the end of a chapter. Before I understood what these feelings were, I labeled myself as three things: depressed, unhealthy, and unmotivated. My days felt like I was working toward a goal I didn’t want or care about.

I consider this a confession, an exclamation, and a guide. It is my hope that you read my experience and learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, as long as you use it as a tool.

Aimless Wandering

As I mentioned, I was working toward a goal I had no interest in achieving. It took a long time to admit that to myself. My job was stable and my coworkers were (and still are) my favorite people. The company I worked for is full of talented individuals, two of which were my supervisor and the owner of the company. They were there to listen to me and help me advance my skills. The situation sounded so ideal on paper that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. What right did I have to be unhappy?

This boils down to a typical “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario. Except, it was true, it was me. I could have made a career there, but it wasn’t what I wanted. It was no one’s fault; it just wasn’t on my path anymore.

Herein lies the problem: it wasn’t on my path, therefore I no longer felt like I had a path at all. I couldn’t see the next step, so every day felt like yet another meaningless day, wandering.

Ignoring My Feelings

Thoughts like “maybe this is just what adulthood is” or “no one can be happy all the time, maybe this is normal” haunted me. What if this was just my life and I should ignore these feelings?

I ignored my feelings of discontent and this is what happened:

  • Waking up with a sense of dread in the morning
  • Feeling mentally absent during the workday
  • Coming home exhausted and unhappy
  • Allowing my physical health to deteriorate

The truth is, this wasn’t helping anyone—not me; not my coworkers; not my company; not my friends, family, or significant other. You get the picture. I was becoming a version of myself I didn’t like.

Listening to My Intuition

When these feelings started creeping in, I was listening to Jess Lively’s podcast The Lively Show on a daily basis. I especially loved the interview episodes. Her topics always surrounded the idea of intuition. Listening to your internal compass isn’t a value that is preached in a work setting, usually. We all have it, but we listen with only one ear and ignore what our body and mind tell us. No shame. That’s exactly where I was.

That’s exactly where I was…until I wasn’t. Tuning into my intuition and searching for what I really wanted wasn’t easy. It wasn’t that the act was hard, but that I was scared of what I would realize about myself. I can’t say the fear wasn’t justified. I learned that I wanted to leave the stability of my job and my home to do something life changing.

Taking Action Steps

What does one do when they decide to throw a grenade in their life and make a change? Action steps, my friend, action steps. After you’ve learned something about yourself, you can’t put it in a box and walk away. You can, but you shouldn’t, for obvious reasons.

The TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) application opened in October. I nervously waited until January to turn it in. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally, in JUNE, I heard back. It was a congratulatory email. I was sitting at my desk waiting for my Chinese food to be delivered when I read it. I pulled my coworker, and close friend, outside to tell her the news and process what was happening. This mood continued for a while.

Pacing the yard outside my office, I insisted that Katie walk me through why this was a good idea. She steered me in the right direction, as she usually does, until I was thinking clearly and sent in my acceptance.

I spent the day informing my loved ones, quietly freaking out at my desk, and holding back the terrifying thoughts running through my head. “Have I made a mistake?” was the star of that show.

The answer was, and is, no. I made a decision based on what I already knew: I needed a change and this was exactly what would bring me closer to a life I wanted.

Channeling the Energy

Coming across a landmine like this gives you the opportunity to reframe other parts of your life. In this case, it gave me the opportunity to focus on Pare and Flourish. While I’m away, teaching and traveling, I will have my laptop with me, helping the business grow into what we know it can be.

My focus has also shifted to learning to take better care of myself, mentally and physically. This change will give me the time away to think about what I do and how it affects me. I hope to go to yoga more regularly, walk more, eat more fresh food, and start a journal. All of this, in hope that I continue the habits when I return home.

My Message to You

If you are unhappy with where you are or what you’re doing, please change it. You don’t have to run off to another country. Your intuition will let you know what is best for you. No, this is not “just the way it is.” Give yourself every opportunity to grow into a person you’re happy to be and a person you’re proud of.

I know you may think you’ll make a change “one day” because it’s “not the right time.” Well, it will never be the right time. Make this your time. My advice is not to be reckless, but to stop depriving yourself of happiness. Even a small change like finding a therapist, joining an exercise class, or starting a side project, can do wonders.

Keep trying until you feel that you’re exactly where you should be, doing exactly what you should be doing.

Have you ever had the feelings I described? How did you move away from those feelings and into a better headspace?

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