14 January 2011

Looking Forward Through a Foggy Window

Today, as I sit and write, the world has been rotating for exactly 4 months since I left the United States and came to Spain. Of course, it took me 9 hours to get here (12 if you count my layover in Dallas), and I didn't actually arrive until the 15th at 10am Madrid time, but you get my point.

When looking back over the past year, I peer with humility and awe, astounded by how much stuff actually went on in my life and how lucky I have been just about every step of the way. In 2010, I graduated with my Master's, traveled to Mexico for the first time, finished my commitment to Teach For America, quit my job as a high school teacher, went to Florida on vacation with my family for the first time since I was 9, lived at home for 6 weeks, moved to Spain, began teaching elementary school English, went to 3 different cities in Spain, went to Rome, went to Paris and went to Amsterdam. I met some amazing people along the way and made some great memories. I left a life I had created in the states to pursue another across the world. The first half of 2010 was spent working hard, and the second half was spent hardly working.

I am very happy with the way that the year turned out. I made some big decisions, made some serious leaps, and I have grown a lot along the way. As 2011 has now begun, I am doing my best to continue to enjoy the present, but it is about "that time" when I should be contemplating the future. What I am going to do next year is entirely up to me, and the phrase "the world is at your fingertips" applies to me now more than ever. I have a few options and even more thoughts, but I really have no idea what I want just yet.

I can stay here in Spain next year if I'd like. I have not been formally offered my job again, but I have been informally told by my coordinator that it would not be a problem if I wanted to stay. My school is great, the teachers that I work with are great and I love my kids. Madrid is a great city with lots to offer. It is the cultural hub of Spain and the travel and business center. I love it here, but I still can't decide if I want to stay. I could reapply for the program next year in another region of Spain, doing my exact same job but in a different city (I get priority for being a renewal, so if I apply, I am guaranteed acceptance). Much like the United States, the various autonomous regions of Spain are very distinct, and while I would be in the same country, I would be in a very different place.

I can try to find work in another country, doing something along the same lines as I am doing here or working in some sort of volunteer capacity. I have already done some research on some projects in Central and South America, but I have not found anything solid to really look into. Finding work in another country is very difficult, and volunteer opportunities are usually expensive. Either way, I am counting this idea as an option.

I could go back to the United States and find work there. I have a Master's in teaching and 3 years of experience. I am also certified in the state of Illinois. So, I think that if I went back to the States, I could find something to occupy my time. I have applied for a job with Teach For America that, if I am offered the position, could land me in Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, Atlanta or Nashville; however, even if I am offered the job, I am not necessarily obligated to take it. I will have to look at everything very carefully and decide what is best for me.

The point is, I am terribly confused about what I want, but the bright side is that I do have options. The job in Spain is all but a guarantee if I want it, either in Madrid or in another region. The job in the States is definitely not a guarantee, but I have just as good a chance as any other person applying. I speak Spanish fluently and have international experience, which means that I am appealing to nonprofit organizations looking for cheap labor in the southern hemisphere. And, I have teaching credentials and could do that pretty much anywhere in the States.

Except for teaching in the States again, all of my options sound quite appealing. I love it here in Spain, and I am having the time of my life traveling around Europe. But, do I want to stay? If yes, in Madrid or in another region? I love the idea of traveling to another country and doing some sort of exotic work. But, will I get lonely? The prospect of going back to the Chicago (or somewhere else in the States) and picking back up with my normal life is also attractive. But, would I just get antsy again and run away to some random country to "find myself"?

These are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for some time now, and the clock is rapidly ticking to the time when I actually have to decide. When looking at the timetables of my various options, I have calculated that I have until about mid March, maybe April until I have to make a decision.  I have 3 months-ish before I need to figure out what my next 12 will hold.

I'll figure it out. Either that, or I'll just pick something and go with it. The adventure of it all is exciting and not knowing is part of what makes my current life sexy, but being confused about what you want to do with your life (even if it is only the next year of it) can be a bit unnerving. My only choice is to keep living and learning, and eventually, something will come to me and I will make a choice.

This time next year, will I be in Madrid? Somewhere else in Spain? Somewhere in else in the world? Chicago? The States?

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea.

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