Dealing With Feelings Post-Graduation + An Update On My Life in Korea

DSC_0160Somehow it’s been over a year since I graduated from university and since then I’ve had a roller coaster’s worth of highs and lows. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, and to have found opportunities that I didn’t realize would be possible for me. I also spent several months working at a job that required me to serve people through a drive-through window in -25C weather while living back at home after 4 years of living on my own. Needless to say, in the past year I’ve felt on top of the world and I’ve felt totally distraught. I’ve felt hopeful and hopeless. I’ve felt confident and I’ve felt totally unsure of myself. I’ve felt so, so close to my loved ones at times, and at others I’ve felt very distant and lonely.

For me though, the good has far outweighed the bad. Even at my lowest points I still felt generally loved, supported, and grateful. Life has brought me wonderful experiences and opportunities that I never could have predicted or expected and that’s a pretty exciting thing. The past year has taught me so much about choice and acceptance and gratitude and being humble and staying positive and taking care of myself. It’s been difficult at times, but it’s also been so exciting to feel like I’m growing and making progress.

I try to be transparent on this blog and in my life because I think it serves precisely no one to pretend that everything is always great all the time. As you know, for the past three months I’ve been teaching English at a private school in South Korea. Yesterday, my boss told me that our school is closing down at the end of July. Everything is still very uncertain and confusing, but the gist is that I need to find a place to live and get a new job.  Yesterday I was mostly panicking, my brain going a mile a minute trying to figure out what my options were. I also spent quite a while in denial, hoping I’d wake up from a bad dream, and a bunch of time feeling sorry for myself. Today, I’m alternating between feeling totally overwhelmed and feeling like it’s going to be okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still upset and I’m still scared. Living in a country where you don’t speak the language is hard at the best of times and this, safe to say, is one of the worst things that can happen for a foreign teacher abroad…and I say that without any self-pity. And I know that it could be worse – some teachers get only a few days notice before their school closes, or turn up to find the school shuttered – in the grand scheme of things, my situation is better than some.

There is a lot I still need to figure out, but: I’m okay. I think I’m going to be okay. I think (I hope) that everything is going to work out. I can’t help but think that if this had happened to me right after graduating university I wouldn’t have been as well equipped to handle it. I’m proud to say that I haven’t completely fallen apart. After a minor panic attack in the bathroom, I reached out to my friends and acquaintances and asked them to put out feelers for me. I’ve been feeling all the crazy feelings I’m having (and I’m having lots of them) and putting them all out into the open where they seem smaller and sillier. I’m trying to square my shoulders and say “abundance abundance abundance” over and over and over to myself. I decided pretty early on that I was going to try to make this work, on my own terms.

I still don’t know how things are going to pan out. Like I said, there are lots of feelers out there, plus I’ve been researching lots of positions on the job boards and I’ve already heard back from one employer. I don’t know what my life is going to look like in two months, but this is a good reminder that nothing is ever certain or guaranteed. One year after graduating, I’m proud that I’ve grown into a person who knows she has a choice to either wallow and wring my hands or to react as gracefully as I can muster and take action.  I know that I can make the choice to be strong and generous instead of indulging the part of me that badly wants to use this as an excuse to be petty and small and selfish and to eat a lot of ice cream – which, let’s be honest, I still might do. I don’t always make the right choice every time, but I’m trying my best.

We recorded this episode of the podcast yesterday morning, before I found out that my school was closing. We talked about handling weird feelings that come up after graduating from university and going out into the “real world”. Little did I know the real world was going to feel so much more real in only a few hours!

The situation is scary and uncertain, but I’m trying to feel confident and to have faith even though I feel pretty overwhelmed. It helps that all my loved ones have nothing but confidence in my ability to handle this and to figure it out. They believe in me more than I believe in me, and while it’s hard to take their word for it, I’m trying. I’m trying to stay calm and fake it til I make it. Stay tuned.

Abundance Ideas / 01

DSC_2091At the start of the year, I chose abundance as my word for 2014. I did this last year with the word reach, and it served me well – I did, in fact, do a lot of reaching last year. I like the idea of choosing a word to focus on, one that can act as a lens through which you try to see your life and the world around you. I am 100% sure that abundance was the right word for me this year. It has come up again and again, in many different forms and contexts over these past four months.

So far I’ve learned that abundance is about choosing the third alternative instead of getting stuck in either/or, black-and-white thinking. It’s about looking for other options. It’s about practicing gratitude every single day. It’s about being amazed by the magic and opportunities and synchronicity we encounter in our everyday lives. It’s often about stepping back and looking at the big picture instead of getting caught up in petty details. It’s the opposite of being panicky or feeling like there is never enough time or money or love or friends.

IMG_3088When I chose abundance as my word, I didn’t know that four months later I’d be writing about it from a foreign country, a world away from where I was (physically and in some ways emotionally) when I chose it. The decision to move to Korea felt like the abundant choice. Instead of feeling like there weren’t enough jobs and I wouldn’t be making enough money and I wouldn’t be able to travel for a few years and I’d never have adventures again (I am dramatic), I zoomed out. I found a choice that allowed for abundance. Now I have travel, I have money, I have my own apartment that I don’t pay for, I have independence and freedom and lots of time to do the things I love. I chose the third alternative and I have so much faith that it was the right choice for me. I just hope that in the future I’ll be able to step back and look for that choice instead of feeling small and scared and boxed in.

DSC_2587Here are some of the thoughts on abundance that I’ve stumbled across so far in 2014. I’ve shared some of them before in my weekly inspiration posts, but they bear repeating.

From Seth Godin:

Here’s conventional wisdom: Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.

In fact, it actually works like this: Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.

“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” -Erica Cook

Also from Seth Godin:

If you’re spending a lot of time worrying about musical chairs, it’s almost impossible to be generous and connected. If you’ve got one eye on the lookout for when the music will stop and which chair you’re going to grab, it’s inevitable that you’re not really focusing on the amazing people you’re with. On the other hand, once you stop playing that game, it seems as though new chairs just keep materializing.

Thinking differently about time, priorities, and having enough hours in the day.

Abundance bowls: for Winter and Spring.

Marie Forleo is all about abundant thinking. One of her favourite mantras is “There’s always more _______ where that came from,” whether it’s money or love or creative content. You can hear more of her thoughts on the subject here and here.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. A truly wonderful book about thinking about the big picture and shifting your perspective to one of abundance.

I’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it’s a game-changer. The ideas have really been resonating with me. She specifically writes: “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I am enough.” She says that to combat scarcity we need to cultivate a sense of enough, of worthiness, of sufficiency. This post describes her ideas a bit more in depth. Even though she uses the word abundance differently than I do, her definition of “enough” feels very close to what I define as “abundance”. For me, abundance is about appreciating the little things, being happy with what you have, and recognizing the true abundance of your situation by practicing gratitude. It’s not about striving or constantly needing more. So maybe we mean the same thing, or maybe both concepts (sufficiency and abundance) are necessary for a happy life. I’m not sure yet, but I do know that it’s fascinating.

***

A third of the way through the year, and I’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abundance (and by extension the concepts of enough, scarcity, lack, gratitude and happiness for that matter). I’m planning and hoping to keep learning about this idea, all the while cultivating lots of feelings of abundance in my life. So far, so good.

You can read more about why I chose the word abundance here, and you can see my thoughts on my word for 2013 here.