One of the challenges in our last days before moving to Argentina was struggling to answer many of the shall we say… specific … questions from family and friends. But a year and a half later, there’s one I still find myself asking from time to time.
“You have to keep in mind,” my grand-dad gently pressed us. “Are you running to something or running from it?”
My grand-dad is slow to impart wisdom. Even in his 80s, he seems to prefer listening and learning from those around him.
And at the time he asked me this question, I couldn’t answer him. Or, more truthfully, I didn’t want to. It felt like the right answer was to tell him I was running to something. And that wasn’t exactly true.
When I left my job in Los Angeles, I was definitely running, fast and far, from it. For five years, I had taught in at a public high school in South Central L.A. And, for four-and-a-half of those years, I had loved it. Helping kids become first-generation college students, teaching teenagers how to read, being a part of the movement to close the widening social divide in the U.S., it all filled me with a great sense of purpose, pride, and joy.
And then, halfway through year five, I lost the joy in it. There’s a bit of a mantra among good teachers, “Once you’ve stopped enjoying teaching, Stop teaching.”
It was time for me to go. Sometimes, these huge life decisions can seem difficult, even impossible to make. For me, one day, I went home, started to cry, and I couldn’t stop. I mean. I. Could. Not. Stop. It was really that quick. In one night of extremely sad clarity I knew it was time to go.
And so Grand-dad, I was running from something.
Some people are blessed with overwhelming awareness of one thing that they are really passionate about and good at. I had that for a while with teaching. And then, it ended. I didn’t know what was next, or where I was headed. I simply knew that this particular chapter was over, and I didn’t want to just sit and wait for a new one to begin.
This is obviously only part of the story of why I moved to Argentina. Stephen has his own personal one. And, we also have a more important one together.
It being Easter season, a time of mourning loss and celebrating hope reborn, here’s the hopeful ending to this story.
After six months of feeling professionally lost in Argentina, an opportunity came to teach elementary kiddos at an international school here in B.A. One conversation with the principal, and I knew I wanted it.
I never thought I could enjoy teaching such little ones. Turns out, it’s mostly thanks to them that I get to love teaching again. Through their young eyes, I’ve regained delight in the simplest of pleasures and amazement in all things new.
For me, this season has had me reflecting upon some of my losses leaving L.A. A humbling realization that I could no longer hack it at a job I still believe so deeply in. A grief over my vision for those kids, their future, and the harsh contrast with reality. A desperate silence that can come with unwillingness to accept God’s handling in all things, wanting him to do more.
And, it has me celebrating in a way my own renewal. From a night of tears and loss, to my simple day today in a café – smiling as I lesson plan for my new group of kids, reflecting on my hope for their lives, and feeling grateful in the work I get to do.
So now, Grand-dad, I think I can tell you that a year and a half ago, I was definitely running from something more than I was running to anything in particular. And, I think that’s okay.
I’ve noticed a trend among long-term travelers and expats. It seems many of us experience a similar urge to run from something at the beginning of new travels. I’m convinced we’re not the only ones.
We’re all created to continually search for renewal, in essence, to run from the parts of ourselves that keep us from being our best, loving our best, serving our best. It’s necessary at times to shed the old before we can find the new. And while we find different solutions to these crossroads in life, my grand-dad’s sage words can probably help us all along the way.
What are we running from?
What are we running to?