Before I left, people asked me if I knew what my next steps after this year of study were going to be. How could I? I had not even gotten here yet. I anticipated that this country would suit me well, but there was no way to know for sure.
Well, I’ve been here five weeks now, and — big surprise — I love it. When I was talking to my mom last week, I told her how much I enjoy my classes, that I feel so confident about going into teaching. She retorted that I could like physics class so long as I was studying in New Zealand. I rolled my eyes. (She is wrong, by the way; I will never willingly venture into the field of math and science again.)
Truly though, I don’t think I have ever felt so right about where I am in life. I have never been so centered in God’s will; He brought me here, first to NZ, but specifically to Christchurch. Of course I love the natural beauty constantly surrounding me. I will never run out of opportunities to tramp, ski, kayak, trail run, mountain bike, climb…this country really is the capital for adventure enthusiasts. But Roanoke had incredible mountains, too, and it took me the better part of three years to really settle in there.
There is more to it than the outdoors. The transition here has been so smooth. I know I’m still in a western, first world society, but I really haven’t experienced many hiccups. Kiwis are generally kind and laidback, and they’re teaching me how to chill out a little bit. As for the Master’s program, I did not know how much I would appreciate or gain from the emphasis my coursework places on inclusive education. I knew nothing about Māori people or culture just over a month ago, and now I have a much deeper appreciation and respect for incorporating different students’ backgrounds into the classroom. My classmates are thoughtful, unique, and caring; we are really getting to know each other and becoming our own whānau. I am finding my groove, and I already realize how quickly this year will pass by.
The New Zealand curriculum also isn’t quite as bogged down in the standards suffocating the education system in the States. I just got my first term school placement, and I am so excited to be both a learner and a teacher there over the next couple of months. To become a fully registered teacher in NZ, you have to teach for two full years. So the last few weeks I have been asking myself:
Do I stay after this year? Do I go? Where? To the States? To Asia? If I stay, I might as well stay for at least two years and get registered. That would probably make credentials transfer better anyway…
Three years doesn’t sound like a long time. But three years means that if I stay, all of a sudden I’m 26. Which isn’t old, but…
Then the even deeper inner dialogue opened of where I suppose I have ideally always envisioned myself around 26.
Which, if I’m really honest, would be married, or at least in a serious relationship. I don’t want to marry a kiwi. I know Hoffa doesn’t want me to (ha). I’d love to live internationally for a lot longer. That I have no problems with. I’d just rather be doing so with my husband than alone. And when it comes down to it, I can only be apart from my family for so long. All roads do eventually lead home, and I think I’d like to end up back in South Carolina someday.
But I have no control over who that man will be. All I have control over is where I choose to situate myself geographically – safe and comfortable in Greenville (where marriage is still no guarantee; half of the young adults in that city got married when they were 22 anyway), or anywhere else in this great big world.
Upon even more reflection, something finally clicked this past week, and I concluded: “Well bump that.”
I am here. I like it very much. I am not going to allow a desire beyond my control or future understanding define my current situation. I don’t want to be one of those twenty-something women clearly on the hunt. I am young. I will still be young in three years, even if the cultural time clock is ticking right on by.
One of my friends had some good wisdom for me:
And she’s right! It’s crazy how I ended up here. God made it so easy. As I have learned time and time again these last few years, I am not in control. The Lord’s plan has consistently been better than what I thought I wanted or needed for myself. Another friend I recently FaceTimed also reminded me of the importance of living in the present. He has Matthew 6:34 tattooed on the inside of his wrist.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
All that is, is actually just right now. Don’t wallow in the past. Don’t be paralyzed by the future. God has you where you are, right now. As I really internalized that this week, I have experienced so much freedom. This does not have to be another whirlwind year. In Houston I dug in, got involved, and met lots of people, even though I knew I was only going to be there for five months. It was more exhausting than staying surface level, but it was worth it.
I have decided to go about my new life here in a similar manner, but with an outlook that is more long-term. I’m going to student teach at this high school with the prospect that I could be employed there next year. (How awesome would that be?!) I’m going to plug into different Christchurch community outlets like I’ll be staying a while.
My “but maybe not” caveat has the same reasoning as my decision to potentially stay here: I do not know everything. I am settling in, but I am most certainly still riding high on the waves of the new-to-NZ honeymoon stage. I haven’t experienced short winter days yet (I really dislike the bitter cold). I haven’t endured deep pangs of homesickness for beloved family and friends (though I’m sure I will). I haven’t been here long enough to develop close friendships (and people do make all the difference). I don’t know what could happen in the next year that could also influence my future path.
But as it stands, I already easily call Christchurch home. It looks like I may be doing so for several years to come.
P.S. Hoffa, I know you’re probably having a cow reading this. I love you and Mama, and I promise I will come back. Eventually.