When offered a chance to teach in Italy this summer, I immediately said yes. I had been living in Los Angeles at the time in an attempt to live what I thought was my “American Dream.” I had finally grown tired of people telling me that living abroad was “unsustainable” and that I should be pursuing my artistic passions at home in the U.S. where I supposedly had a real chance of getting ahead. I returned home after teaching at a university in Nicaragua for a year, full of expectations for my literary career. I began searching internship opportunities in New York, LA, and Miami. I sent my resume to nearly 100 different publishing and production companies, and I waited. A month into being home, I could barely remember why I had left my old life or understand why people believed that life was automatically better here. Still, I held out hope that I had made the right decision by coming back.
Shortly after Christmas, I got the chance to intern for a production company in Los Angeles that was filming a web series I had been a fan of for a while. I thought this was were my life would begin. Looking out the window at the Miami skyline as the plane took off for LAX, I remembered the excitement I had felt when departing to Nicaragua a year ago, and the even bigger excitement when I had departed to Senegal a year before that. I noticed then that I was lacking that same excitement this time around. Rather than excitement I felt dread; I felt lost. I ignored the feeling (big mistake) and shook it off as jitters. Wasn’t this “the right way” to become a writer and producer? This is what you do if you are 21 and not in college, you get a fancy internship in some big city, right? Wrong.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t being true to myself. Los Angeles was amazing, but it wasn’t where I was meant to be. I had valued myself more when I was a teacher in a small community than as a struggling writer in the city of dreams. I was more fulfilled by my student’s progress than I was by my name in a scroll of credits. I knew then that I had been wrong to let others convince me that my path was not valid. Teaching is what brings me the greatest joy and the most validation and I desperately needed to get back to it. One night, after spending hours looking through my old lesson plans and pictures of my life in Nicaragua, I logged onto Dave’s ESL Cafe and applied to nearly every job opening I could find. I reached out to previously declined job offers and prayed for a ticket out of the U.S. and back into the classroom. Luckily, a few days later I was offered the chance to tutor three kids in a tiny coastal town in Italy. I didn’t even check where it was on a map before agreeing to the job and I am so incredibly glad that I trusted my gut and said yes.
This past summer was the best summer of my life. Those three kids I agreed to teach five days a week are practically my younger siblings now. The youngest who is turning two, greets me by dabbing and says goodbye by throwing up two peace signs. The older kids are both brilliant and completely different kinds of learners, and so, have made me a better teacher by pushing me to find ways to teach the same material in vastly different ways so that they both understand. Having had them for four hours a day, five days a week this past summer, I now have an arsenal of new games and new ways to teach ESL that I never knew I was capable of building on my own.
I found a new family, a new life, and renewed my passion for writing. Taking the road less traveled led me to completing my first manuscript and motivated me to start submitting my writing for publication again. I also spent the summer exploring my passion for film through a failed attempt at a YouTube career. It turns out I hate being in front of the camera and hate creating content for myself but LOVE doing it for other people.
Teaching English abroad fills me with confidence. Confidence leads to creativity. Creativity leads to art. What do you know? A career in ESL led to me pursuing my artistic passions after all. I didn’t have to choose, and I didn’t have to grit my teeth through an internship to get here. That road was never meant for me, this one is. A classroom, lesson plans, great food, and lots of laughs. I can’t believe I ever doubted myself for doing this, but I know I won’t doubt myself again.