The other day I caught myself observing me in the overhead mirror on our car. The mirror was very clean and the light was very bright, so I was able to see myself very clearly and very definitively. I realized that I was ok with my looks and my age. There were a few more lines and my eyes looked wiser and somewhat more hesitant but I still looked open and willing to hear the next person’s story. I didn’t mind my reflection. Although I didn’t feel as beautiful as when I was 28, I saw a beautiful woman in the mirror.

I had a facebook friend who is 46 years old and for the past decade has not settled in. At first when I returned from overseas, I envied her always on the go with new friends and new adventures. But when I looked at her recent picture, I saw a tired woman. She still looks young but she looks tired. When you are overseas, it can be challenging to make a decision. When I spent three years in South Korea, I became almost flippant and nonchalant about the culture. This is when I decided to leave because I didn’t want to spend the next five years spinning my wheels. It was time to return to the United States which is my country.

I didn’t have a plan but by making the decision to leave; I made a plan. When I arrived home, I was fortunate to have my family let me stay with them as I wrote letters to graduate schools in different parts of the country. Back then, we weren’t as computer friendly as we are today, so it was challenging but I did it by phone, by mail, and by fax. As always, I didn’t have one plan but three possible plans of study and directions of where I wanted to settle. I received acceptances from a University in Baltimore; Tuscaloosa, Alabama;¬†and Tampa, Florida. I choose Florida because I had to move by myself in a newly minted car. With money saved from working overseas, I paid cash for a car, packed two suitcases and left for the 13 hour trip to Tampa.

I won’t say it wasn’t challenging leaving everyone I knew and everything I knew with two suitcases; a promise of a scholarship; no job; no housing promised; and no one to fall back on. Sometimes I cried that I wanted to come home but my family encouraged me to stay, and so I did. I met some very good people who helped me along the way and about two years later, I met my husband. I accomplished the goal I set out a decade later with a professional teaching certificate and along the way finished my masters. I took many jobs outside of teaching including paralegal, sales, security, customer service, and eventually Tampa became my home.I didn’t expect to be teaching at the University level, but I have as I didn’t also expect to own a business which I did with my husband.

Sometimes, you just have to decide and stay with the decision because travelling is tiring. I am glad that I had the opportunity to travel so much, but I am also happy that I had enough self-awareness to know when to leave before I was so blase that I made bad decisions.Travel is fun and addictive but sometimes you have to know when to come home. I guess the moral of the story is sometimes you must make a decision and stick with it. I never expected to live in Tampa so long. Before I met my husband, I interviewed for a teaching job in Hong Kong but didn’t have my professional certificate just yet, so I was told to return after I had it. After I had my professional certificate, my first overseas job would be in the United Arab Emirates. My husband realizing this was part of my dream encouraged me to go. I went but realized it was not as easy to adapt to the Middle East as it was to Asia.

Sometimes we are always chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but maybe the greatest happiness and reward comes from settling in and realizing our path.

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