The other morning I sat at the kitchen counter forcing cereal down my throat. Sipping K-cup coffee. Staring into the dark oblivion.
That is what time I woke up, fell out of bed, wrapped myself tightly inside my baby blue bathrobe, and stumbled down the stairs to eat breakfast before going to my first day of training at Starbucks.
As I stared into the darkness through the kitchen window and wondered how I had come to this place in life—getting up at 3:30a.m. to work a minimum wage job—I realized something quite significant.
I was eating from a silver spoon.
Not just a silver spoon, but a silver spoon and a fine china bowl. I was sitting in a two-story home, in white, middle class suburbia, eating organic granola out of a fine china bowl. . . from a silver spoon.
Not only was I displeased—I was horrified.
What. Is my life.
I wondered aloud.
What is my life and where is my blue, plastic bowl full of posho and beans and where is my Desire (orphan boy) with whom to share my posho and beans??? Where is my African sun and my red-dirt stained pants and my $0.25 fresh pineapple????
Where is my plastic bowl.
Later that evening I shared red wine and Baby Mama (a Tina Fey classic) with my two St. Louis girlfriends, the three of us crammed onto a love seat, stuffing our faces with cold pizza and discussing life.
“I had a very enlightening moment this morning,” I said. “I realized that I need to get out. I am antsy and tired of living in America. St. Louis is soul-crushing. I don’t like suburbia. I miss being a foreigner. I miss having foreign friends. I can never stay here for too long. In America—much less St. Louis! Eight months is too long. Way too long.”
I told them about my plastic bowl epiphany.
At this point, my dear friend Carrie, in her let-me-tell-it-to-you-straight Carrie sort of way, offered me a morsel of Truth:
“AmyRose. You need to find your plastic bowl in St. Louis. You need to quit putting living abroad in foreign countries on a pedestal and find your plastic bowl right here. You haven’t found it yet. But you need to. And you will.”
I didn’t respond.
I’m pretty sure I just took a swig of Merlot and gave her my usual “I hate that you’re right, Carrie!!!” glare.
When I lived in Korea while teaching ESL, I remember the day I realized that most of us were there avoiding life. I don’t think I met a single foreign teacher who was legitimately passionate about teaching English as a second language. We were all there in order to travel. We were there for adventure. We were there because we couldn’t find jobs back in the United States. We were there for a decent paycheck, a pension, free rent and cheap Soju (Korean vodka). We were there for all kinds of reasons—not necessarily negative reasons—but the point is none of us were there because teaching was our passion. We were there for every other reason, and teaching afforded us the opportunity to live abroad.
I also remember turning to my boyfriend one day and saying, “I feel like coming here was, in a sense, putting my life on hold. I’m glad I came. So glad. But I don’t want to do this forever. I want to do so much more. I want something so different. I thought I would come to Korea and realize I wanted to be a teacher. Instead I came to Korea and realized that I don’t. Now what?”
Now I am a teacher.
I spent the last several months getting background checks, filing for a substitute teaching certificate, and applying for various school districts, private schools, and most recently, Teach for America.
A couple weeks ago, after quitting my job at the winery, I applied for an ESL teaching job in Brazil.
Because I can’t find a job doing what I want to do here. Because the economy is horrid. Because I work for minimum wage. Because I’m restless. Because I want to travel again. Because I want to be a foreigner again.
But mostly because I can.
Because I don’t know that I can get a job in nonprofit development. Because I am surrounded by people that look and walk and talk and eat like me and it is appalling.
Notice, I did not say I want to move to Brazil because I want to be a teacher. I want to go to Brazil because it's not the United States.
Christine asked me last night what I know I would be good at. She asked me, of the two (nonprofit humanitarian aid/teaching) which do I know for certain I would be really great at and really enjoy.
Nonprofit work. I said. Hands down, nonprofit development. Humanitarian aid. I am a good teacher. I know that. But I don’t think being in a traditional classroom for eight hours a day for the rest of my life is for me. Fundraising and raising awareness for something I believe in is.
“Then do that. There’s your answer. It’s that simple. Do that. Why haven’t you done it already?”
Because what if I fail.
I very well may. I may fail. Already I have ‘failed’ twenty-six times. That is the number of development resumes I have turned in during the last eight months. And because I have not yet acquired a job in the career field of my choice—I have decided to be a teacher. I have decided to move to Brazil.
Because I’m tired of eating from a silver spoon. Because I haven’t found my plastic bowl. Because I haven’t tried.
Not here. Not in America.
When I lived in Uganda for six months, almost everyone that knew me believed me to be some sort of saint. They imagined me in a straw hut in the Sahara surrounded by lions and cockroaches and living on rations. The only reality to any of that was the surrounded by cockroaches part.
Africa was easy. It was safe. I don’t mean physically safe—we were robbed in broad daylight in the middle of the city. I mean that when I lived there I was automatically doing something right. I was in Africa. I was a world traveler. I was a humanitarian. I was an adventurer. In reality I didn’t have to do much at all while there—my mere presence in Africa and absence from America meant that I was something special. I was “really living.”
The same was true of my time in Korea. Although it was far less ‘easy.’ It was not easy at all, in fact. I was sick more than 50% of the time. I hated city life. And because I was there with my boyfriend I was an entirely anti-social version of myself. But again, being there meant I was a traveler. A teacher. A go-getter. Even. . . “brave.”
Traveling, to me, is safe. It is like the go-to answer for when I don’t know what I am doing with my life. I don’t regret living in either place. They were both life-changing experiences to say the least. And at the time, it was a good choice to go.
But now? Now it is a cop out. Now it is a safety. It is what I want to do because life doesn’t make sense here. It is what I want to do because I haven’t found my plastic bowl.
My brother, while sharing his philosophy of life the other week, said to me,
“Amy, there is no such thing as safety.”
He is right.
There is not.