A few weeks ago, I blogged about uncertainty and life choices. Monday, I chose to let my school know that I’m not coming back, and that I’m leaving academia, at least temporarily, to concentrate on writing and photography. As poet Robert Bruce said on Chris Guillebeau’s phenomenally inspiring The Art of Non-Conformity blog, “If you have a fall back plan, you will, inevitably, fall back onto it.”
Financial Security v. Personal Fulfillment
Part of the problem with deciding whether or not to renew my contract was the idea that I had to choose between financial security and personal fulfillment. My current job pays very well, and I’ve just paid off about 80% of my old credit card debts from the States. My plan was originally to remain here in Colombia for another academic year, stacking the bills while taking some exotic trips before finally heading down to São Paulo to write. The serious flaw in that plan: the sheer exhaustion caused by wrangling a hundred upper-class adolescents into submission for eight hours every day. I’d leave work with headaches, a twitching eyeball, general malaise, or in a bad mood, having restless nights and sometimes even nightmares. I’d barely have enough energy to bang out a blog post, let alone hit the gym, revise a novel, study my Spanish subjunctive, watch a movie in its entirety, or, Heaven forbid, get laid. In addition, the bedroom community that is Barranquilla doesn’t offer much in the way of cultural amenities and is often a harsh reminder of what life would be like in the American South had there never been a Civil Rights Movement. This week, I chose personal fulfillment.
“You seem so happy, sir.”
The first thing my senior English class said to me after I submitted my notice to the school’s administration was, “You seem so happy, sir.” I didn’t tell them what I had done – they’ll find out soon enough – but being on the cusp of adulthood and an overall good group of kids (my favorite), they’ve known for a while that I’ve been generally unhappy this year. Bless their hearts, they even tried to hook me up as a model in the big annual fashion show (“You’re hot, sir,” they say) just to make me feel better. Fact is, I’ve been trying to put on a game face and do a job in which I’m not emotionally or intellectually invested; high school teaching is just not for me. My friends have all told me they think I’ve made the right decision. They said I seem happy as well.
Foregoing or Postponing
To think that moving to Brazil now means giving up on travel plans and financial security makes for a false choice. Over the summer, I was scheduled to do my first round-the-world trip for about $3500, making stops in Montreal, New York, DC, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Istanbul, London, Madrid, and Algiers. In December, I would go to Mumbai for two weeks, hitting Mexico City and Tokyo on the way over, and Paris on the way back. February would mean Carnival in Trinidad ($357 round-trip from Barranquilla). Summer 2010 would be a third circumnavigation, culminating in the move to Sampa. Yes, on my current salary, it is possible to travel like this and still save $700-$1000 a month, and what others may consider frivolous travel, I consider contributing to my own education and personal development, as well as that of the people I encounter. But if the days between these mega-exploits are exasperating and intolerable to the point of needing an entire week of rest and solitude (like the week that just ended) just to recover a basic sense of motivation and momentum, isn’t the cost greater than the benefit? Wouldn’t I be spending unnecessary amounts of money in an attempt to “get away” from the tedium of the job and the vapidity of the place? But who says I can’t do that same type of traveling from Brazil? Who says I can’t find a way to make enough money there to do the things that I want to do? Who says I can’t do whatever I want to do?
Mama, I Wanna Write!
What I want to do now, more than ever, is write. I want to finish the re-write of my first novel and prep it for publication. I want to begin a new novel set in Brazil. I want to broaden my travel writing portfolio. I want to try my hand at literary translation. I want to get paid for all that. And there’s no better time to go all-in, establishing myself in a new home and launching a new stage in my career; I’m single, childless, relatively good-looking, with above-average intelligence, and decent writing skills. It’s time to capitalize on those qualities before I no longer have them, or before a cadre of Fly Babies hits the scene.
So, write I shall. And take photos. And I’ll set up housekeeping in São Paulo, which will be Fly Brother’s new hub for both round-the-world treks to SydneySingaporeCapeTownDakar, and weekend road trips over to Rio. And I’ll find new and improved ways than babysitting children to get paid. And I’ll do other great things that I can’t even fathom yet. Because it’s written. Because my mama said so.
Now to prepare my annual review, a few months early (or late…click here for more on gettin’ your life right), minimize my expenses, wrap up these last two months of school, then I’m off into the unknown: anxious, excited, committed, open, free.