When I was 8-years-old, I had three major objectives for adulthood: have a happy family, be physically healthy, and work among all of the beautiful architecture in downtown Chicago. I did not set a deadline for any of these plans, but they were the three big goals I really wanted to achieve when I imagined my life as an adult. Any other good things that would come into my life would be a serendipitous extra.
Three summer ago, I moved back to the United States after living in Asia for a period of time; and in August 2016, I started working in an office on North Michigan Avenue along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The setting was exactly how I had always pictured it in my mind. I could walk out of the office into sidewalks bustling with people from all over the world; famous restaurants with the most delicious menus were a stone’s throw away, and the buildings were so tall that they brushed the sky.
I started working for Chicago’s oldest newspaper via the Tribune Publishing Company in February 2017. Working for the Chicago Tribune meant that I got to work in the Windy City’s most beautiful, historical building, Tribune Tower. A neo-gothic skyscraper, Tribune Tower was built in 1923 and bronzed headlines dating back to the 1800s decorated the interior walls. The entire building, from the rooftop’s crown balcony and its watchful gargoyles to the exterior bricks imported from all over the world were intricately designed. Chicago has been my favorite city since I was a kid, and to work for one of its longtime media outlets was a dream come true. I felt connected to every nook and cranny of the city and the first goal on my childhood bucket list became a reality.
As a child, I did not realize the monotony of working in an office. Every day in an office is the same. My professional work left me feeling unfulfilled and the company expected me to dedicate my weekends and every holiday to being there while paying me half the salary as other companies would for the same work. I started thinking I just needed to find a similar job at a different company that paid more, but the idea of doing that felt miserable, too. As I mentioned before, my area of work left me feeling completely empty. I was no longer learning or growing as a person and no amount of money would change that. Money cannot buy passion, period.
In the years immediately after graduating university, I worked as an English teacher in Europe and Southeast Asia. I instructed seventh and eighth grade students in conversational English and taught lessons on American culture. I came back to the United States because I had entered into my mid-twenties and I thought it was time to settle down and work in an office. I told myself, when you reach a certain age, you’re supposed to set down roots and obtain an office position because they pay well and come with job security. At least, that’s what I believed at the time.
I do not regret coming back to the United States to work in an office. If I hadn’t, I know I would have always wondered what it would have been like. Now I know it’s one of those things in life that is not as great as I had imagined. I am not meant to spend 40+ hours every week sitting at a desk. I am not meant to wish away Monday through Friday, praying for the freedom of the weekend’s arrival to come faster. After three years of working in an office, I found that the 9-to-5 culture doesn’t work for me. It’s scary to start over, but you should never stay in misery because you are afraid of change.
When I first started at the Tribune, I wrote obituaries for people all over the country. The common theme in every death notice: retelling the stories worth mentioning. Regardless of location, families wanted readers to know how their loved one traveled the world, built something fabulous, discovered a life-saving cure, or earned honors as a hero. The best stories in life happen when a person is living their passion, and I want more of those moments. I have spent three years working a 9-to-5 and somewhere along the way, I stopped living.
I am happy to say that in August 2019 I will be moving back to Asia to pursue my dream of teaching English as a foreign language. I want a career that puts something positive into the world. I want to assist in laying the foundation for someone’s education. I want to visit Italy, Australia, Germany, and Poland. I want to see the Matterhorn and go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I want to learn more about the world instead of just reading about it on my lunch break. I want to feel like I have a pulse again instead of wishing away 40+ hours every week as I pray for the quicker arrival of two days of freedom.
If you want something different, then you have to try something else. I don’t know any world traveling English teachers, so I’m not following in the footsteps of anyone. After three years of research, I have found that it is possible to pay off debt, save money, have children, and a family while traveling as an English teacher. Over the past three years, I have Googled “Is it possible to…” more times than I am able to count. Regardless of what I asked, I consistently found that anything is possible if you try. It’s 2019 and the days of a single definition of “normal” are obsolete. I suppose I am inventing something new here, but I am just happy to finally feel alive again.