In typical fashion my parents dropped me off at the airport much too early, leaving me time to work on one last pre-Korea post (okay, perhaps I have taken to this blogging thing). I felt I had to mention the fact that while looking at a suggested packing list from my recruiter the other day I came across an item that, while I had thought about it, I hadn’t considered it part of the “packing list.” It basically said, if you have plans for after Korea, start thinking about and preparing for them now…. excuse me while I go make some room in my suitcase for emotional baggage.
If you’re like me, a recent college graduate looking to enjoy his/her twenties, but a little uncertain about what is next, seeing things like that might send you into a bit of a tizzy. Clearly it’s a valid statement, especially for anyone looking to apply for grad school when they get back from abroad, but for me I see this trip as being a little more indefinite, and I am hopeful that if I work hard and make connections, I might have a better idea of what I want to do when I leave. For some, teaching English abroad is an interlude between college and the “real world”, but for me this is an entry way into the “real world”, an opportunity that will give me skills that one day might help me actually land that dream job or help me figure out what that “dream job” even is…
While putting my deeply personal fear of what’s next out on the internet is uncomfortable for me, I’m writing this for myself as much as for the many other post grads I’ve talked to, even those who appear to have it altogether, that are struggling. Hopefully this resonates with anyone who feels anywhere from mildly, to completely and utterly stuck, lost, or confused. Though I always wanted to travel around Asia, I never thought taking a job in South Korea would feel like a more viable job options, or even a better career move, than staying in the States.
My fellow classmates and I stepped out into the world in the midst of a seemingly endless economic crisis, and I know a lot of people who are not where they’d thought they’d be four years ago, myself included. The adults reading this are probably thinking “duh”, but I think a lot of us have been led to believe, or at least have felt, that by the time you graduate college you are supposed to know who you are, what you want, and how to get it. That may sound silly, but people don’t tell you often that it’s a life long process of figuring it out, and wondering if you’re even doing it right. Doesn’t exactly make a great message for a commencement speech.
I’m just going to be out with it. This probably isn’t universal, but I certainly don’t think I’m alone in feeling that if you graduated from college and are not going into finance, consulting, advertising, Law/Medical School, or at the very least TFA, then you are doing something wrong. I should probably thank my parents for constantly reminding me that despite being a little unorthodox, I do in fact have a “real job.” I tend to think of it like another study abroad experience, but in actuality, I will be living on my own, on a salary, and navigating the same complexities one faces with their first “real job”, except I’ll be adding a dash of language barrier and a pinch of culture shock. I will be teaching at a public high school, just like if I applied to be a teacher in the States.
I think sometimes we all need a little reminder that the paths to success are varied and can be as interesting as you make them. In my experience, you have to play by the rules, but there’s always a little room for rebellion. Though it may be hard to come home and find that my friends/peers are a little farther ahead financially or in their careers than me, what is best for them isn’t necessarily best for me. I am trying to start measuring my success in experiences gained and things learned, as well as goals met.
My serious long-term goals are pretty much the same as everyone else’s: a career, a family, a house, and a car (or two). But lately I’ve been trying to rethink my attitude toward the future. If it hasn’t been made clear already, I totally sympathize with those who have mini, internal meltdowns when they start thinking too hard about what’s next. I’m already headed down a windy and adventurous road to my long-term goals, and I’ve decided it’s high time to stick to my guns and stop worrying about what every last “Top 10 Things You Must Do to be Successful and Happy” article has to say about my future. So here for everyone to see is a short list of things I want to accomplish in Korea:
1) Learn Korean
2) Backpack through at least one country by myself (sorry mom)
3) Meet lots of interesting people
4) Run a half-marathon
I’m putting up this list to one, hold myself accountable, and two, prove that short term goals are just as important and as fulfilling as long term ones. I don’t want to get so caught up in worrying about the future that I overlook the looooonnnggg stretch of ten, twenty, thirty years in between. I’m not saying to one shouldn’t plan ahead at all, it is important, but it is also important to leave room for the unexpected. I think if you continuously make the effort to be a better person, educate yourself, meet new people, and try new things, you may find success that is better than anything you could have planned. Hopefully if I am reading this twenty years from now, no matter where I am, I can at least say that I tried my hardest and had a good time doing it.
And thus begins my trip to South Korea. Day 1.