I have an announcement to make: I’ve quit my job as an ESL teacher and as of 1 March 2017 I will be a full-time freelance writer.
It’s a decision I’ve been toying with for a long time, and it wasn’t an easy one to make. Since around August – it always seems to start in August, the itch to relocate – Sean and I have been looking for a new adventure. I think that in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to be a full-time, self-employed writer, but I psych myself out. I come up with reasons why I shouldn’t do it: I’m not ready, I need financial stability, what if I’m not good enough?
So this year, I’ve given myself no choice.
Towards the end of 2016, I had to make a hard choice. (Scroll down for the TED Talk by Ruth Chang that helped me through the process.) After many fruitless searches, I’d finally landed a solid job at a prestigious textbook publisher in Seoul. The pay was good, the people were great and Korea feels, oddly enough, like home these days. At the same time, Sean got the most amazing job offer at an international school in China. We had three options: I could stay in Seoul and he could give up this fantastic opportunity and find a job in Seoul too; I could stay in Seoul while he goes to China; or I could go to China with him.
In the end, it came down to the kind of person I want to be. (Seriously, scroll down and watch that damn talk, it will change your life.) When I realised this, the choice itself mattered less than the vision I have of myself now and in the future. Am I a drifter, or am I a doer? How much longer am I going to put off the steps I have to take to become the picture of me that I have in my head?
It was no choice at all. Sean and I are moving to China. Sean is going to work at a fancy school, and I am going to write. Full-time. For money. And I will meet my obligations: I will make enough money to send home to my mother; I will bring home the bacon; I will pay my own way.
Before I made the decision, I was frantic, panicked, anxious and distraught. I wasn’t being true to myself. I was factoring things into the decision-making process that were irrelevant to the final outcome. Once I made my choice, I felt a strange calm descend on me. I listened to myself for once.
I learned to listen to my gut and say no to things I wasn’t fully committed to.
For years now, I’ve been making decisions out of fear. I’ve signed up for things and invested my time and energy because I was afraid, still am, of being found wanting. Of letting people down. Of showing my true cowardly colours.
Something shifted this year. I’ve started looking out for myself. What do I need from life? Why am I always so sad? What can I do to change that? How do I live a life, filled with regrets, that’s meaningful to myself and others?
You know how on airplanes they tell parents to put on their own oxygen masks before they tend to the ones in their charge? Ever since my dad died, I’ve been trying to look after my mom before putting on my own oxygen mask. I haven’t given myself the chance to grow or to give this writing thing a solid try. I’ve made up so many reasons why I would try later, and I’ve done myself and my family a disservice in the process.
Enough of that now. This year, I will write and it will be great.
Watch Ruth Chang TED Talk on the meaning of hard choices: