For starters, I am settling into my newest classroom at my mom’s place! (And yes, I live in this thrift store “blanket” sweater now).
If you read my 2020 reflection, or have been following me on social media, you know that coming back here was not easy for me this time.
When I came back to Chicago in 2019, between traveling around Asia and getting locked down in Colombia, I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. As cliché as it sounds, I was all kinds of enlightened and at peace after traveling around Asia for nearly a year. I was excited to come home and share my experiences with my family and friends. Plus, I had a PURPOSE for coming here back then. I came home to watch my newborn nephew so my sister could return to work.
That season of my life couldn’t have worked out better.
I taught in the early mornings, before my sister and brother-in-law went to work, then spent the rest of the day chillin with my baby nephew. We listened to music and audiobooks (that kid listened to the entire 30 hours and 6 minutes of Roots by Alex Haley with me before he was even big enough to crawl). I cooked and cleaned. When the weather was warm enough, I walked around the neighborhood for hours, with my nephew sleeping soundly in the stroller.
Everything about it was so meant to be.
This homecoming was not that.
When I returned to Chicago this time, I was stressed, anxious, and unsure of what I wanted and who I even was anymore. I was grieving old dreams that would never become reality, friendships that had suddenly ended and the life I’d created for myself in lockdown that had run its course.
My plans of living and working in Colombia for a year or two, had completely fallen through because of the pandemic. Schools and borders around the world were still shut down and the thought of traveling at all, but especially solo, made me extremely anxious- as did staying in Colombia any longer.
Things that I thought I’d never let get to me, were getting me down.
Someone I used to be really close to made an offhand comment one day while we were discussing issues I had learned a lot about while traveling. She said, “… I don’t have the leisure and time you do to move around the country and the world and study all of these things. I am trying to run a business … I am trying to raise a family and be a decent, hard working, contributing member of society.”
My heart sank. I realized, for the first time, that she did not think that I was a decent, hard working, contributing member of society.
I started doubting myself in every way.
Should I be “settling down,” getting a “real” job or starting another business, buying a house, maybe even getting married and having kids? Am I getting too old for this traveling and teaching lifestyle? Is it selfish of me to spend by my days traveling, doing yoga, reading, writing, interrogating the world, and fighting for what I believe in? ALL of my closest girlfriends and my little sister did hit HUGE life milestones during the pandemic- babies, home purchases, marriages and job promotions. Is she right? Am I not a decent, hard working, contributing member of society?
Honestly, my anxiety about traveling and my doubts about my nomadic lifestyle were getting to be so great that I thought it might be time to call it quits for good. This, mixed with missing my family and friends back home, made Chicago seem like the only place I could go.
While I was still in Colombia I tried to forge a purpose for returning to Chicago (and prove to this girl and myself that I wasn’t a loser). I applied for two different full time jobs at a Chicago based company that I’m a big fan of. I didn’t get either one. This double blow to my ego made coming home even more difficult.
Really, what am I doing with my life? I wondered.
Fast forward to right now.
I’ve been here for three months and things are falling into place! I still have A LOT of work to do, but overall I am in a MUCH better head space.
I am spending a lot of time with my family, enjoying the comfort of being around supportive people in a familiar place during these unpredictable times.
I am doing hair regularly and teaching English online a lot more. I still teach young learners from China in the early mornings but I also started with a new company and I am loving it. I can work anytime I want and I basically just chat with adults from around the world. It’s easy, hilarious and I am learning so much from my new students.
I have a regular student who is a 40-something-year-old South Korean businessman, living in Indonesia with his wife and 10-year-old twins. Last week we discussed the phrases “to turn someone on” and “put out” because he had heard them in a movie and didn’t understand. We were laughing so hard! (So was my mom in the next room lol). A couple of my students are niche YouTubers. One is an engineer who creates paper airplane tutorials in Arabic. I have no clue what the other guy’s YouTube channel is about but one of his videos has over 200k views! I also teach a Saudi Arabian homemaker and a new mom living in Beijing. My students have not only reminded me how much I enjoy meeting people from around the world and learning about other ways of life, but that I actually really enjoy teaching English.
Chicago is NOT my final destination.
My traveling and teaching abroad journey is NOT over yet.
I plan to stay in Chicago for at least the next several months before going abroad again. I still have some anxiety and doubt to work through, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Where I’ll end up is a mystery, although my intuition is pushing me towards teaching English in East Asia (pandemic permitting).
I may decide to settle down one day, buy a house and maybe even get married and have kids. But I know, that even if I never do any of those things, I am a decent, hard working, contributing member of society.
When I set out to travel indefinitely, one of my main goals was to be able to come back to Chicago to spend long periods of time with my sister and her kids. I said this in 2016, before kids were even on her radar. You have to understand that before I started traveling indefinitely, I was running a salon in Las Vegas, 1500 miles away from my sister in Chicago. I was fortunate to come back here from time to time but the trips were always quick and chaotic. Now I get to be here, for months at time, just like I said I wanted to be able to be, five years ago.
My nephew is now 2 1/2 and my sister is expecting baby number two this May. If it wasn’t for this lifestyle I’ve created for myself, I wouldn’t have the time or freedom to be here to help her with the kids, to go on a family vacation this summer, or be writing this post on my mom’s back porch while I wait for her to pick me up for our vegan sushi date tonight.
This life I am living is an immense privilege and I have no doubt it has made be a better person. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by people who understand my vision, support my goals, and see my value, even when I don’t.
I have included links to apply to teach with VIPKid and Cambly in this post. As someone who genuinely enjoys working for these companies I want to pass along the info for anyone who might be interested. If you are interested in applying, please use my links so I can make a little extra cash. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about either company!