I ended a big chapter in my life. After calling Tunisia home for two years, Justin and I ended our teaching contracts, we packed up our things, and said goodbye. On our final night in the house, I had my own little ceremony to represent all of the big feelings brimming under the surface. Over the past two years, we had a tradition in our house to write down things we were thankful for and put them in a vase. We collected enough gratitude to fill a large glass vase and I wasn’t sure what to do with the scrolls of paper now that we were leaving.
Those colorful papers were filled with big and little things we’d written; fresh peaches, sleeping in, beautiful flowers and sunsets, friendship, connection with family back in Kansas. I decided to put all of those good thoughts into a bowl and burn them, sending our gratitude into the universe in plumes of smoke. That night, I watched the fire burn and enjoyed our peaceful garden one last time. Eventually, the papers were replaced by a pile of ashes. I poured them into a flower bed with the thought that our words of gratitude will literally bloom and stay in Tunisia long after we’re gone.
That was about 4 months ago. Now, that big white house, our orange car, the bluest skies, and Roman ruins seem like a distant memory, like maybe it was all just a dream. We have settled into our new home, surrounded by friends and family. It feels good. Despite the impressions given off on social media, our final year in Tunisia was hard. It was more than Mediterranean views and cute kittens climbing into our yard. Leaving was the right choice for our family. I’m beyond grateful for my time there; the lessons I learned and memories I made, but I knew we could not stay. It was time to move forward in a new direction.
And that brings me to the present day. I’m working part time as a barista, creating art and job searching for something more permanent. Let me be more specific. I’m job searching despite the fact that I have no clue what I want to do. I’ve been a teacher for 12 years. It’s the only professional career I’ve known. How do you break into a new career when 1) You don’t know what that should be, and 2) You don’t have the degrees or experience requested on the job postings? People have been telling me there are SOOOO many job openings right now, but I can’t seem to get my foot in the door. I’ve been scrolling though Indeed.com, going to networking events, writing cover letters, and applying to a variety of jobs that sound intriguing. Sometimes I choose job postings because they seem like a good place to work- art museums, universities, or small innovative companies. Sometimes I choose job postings based on my interests- jobs related to design, travel, writing, or creativity.
Though this process can be frustrating, I’m trying to keep in mind that this is also an exciting time. I am making a leap and to me, that is the best feeling. I think back to the times in my life right before big changes and I smile. I had no clue of all the wonderful and challenging things lying ahead of me, the things that have forced me to grow and change into the person I am today. The person I am today is a better person than I was the year before or the year before that. I’m glad that I continue to evolve and I want to keep pushing myself to do so.
As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’ve discovered that big change leads to soul searching and self-discovery like nothing else can. So although I don’t know what lies ahead, I know a better me is waiting on the other side. I also know that the opportunities that don’t work out are not meant to work out. There is something else out there. I just haven’t found it yet, but I will. I just have to be patient and open to the universe.
One of the things that has kept me motivated is a poem written by the Irish poet and priest, John O’Donohue. This poem was written on a bookmark and given to me when I left my school in Tunisia. If you are going though a time of change or considering one, I hope this gives you the focus and faith that it has given me.
For A New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.