After floundering around for a few months trying to desperately regain control of my life, I impulsively decided to apply for a six month volunteer program in Cambodia. In February, I will venture to the Kingdom of Wonder to spend my days teaching English and working for a local NGO. Months of high humidity, language barriers, ancient temples, and tuk tuks await me, and I am ready to embrace it.
Why did I decide to do this? If you happened to read my last post, you will know that I have been struggling for months with depression and anxiety. While these were familiar demons to me, the intensity and extent to which I felt them left me feeling overwhelmed constantly and unable to focus on anything else. In a desperate attempt to put my life back on track and gain some clarity, I decided to once again catapult my life somewhere new. And so Cambodia happened.
“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you were supposed to be?” – Anyomous
How did this happen? Since mid September I found myself lusting over various TEFL programs, feeling envious of travel blogger blogs, and searching for plane tickets to Scotland. As I became more upset with my current situation, the more desperate these searches became. I found myself spending hours looking up programs, and then crying myself to sleep thinking that I would never get to do these things. Even when my family tried to console me, promising me these things would happen, I was not able to make the connection in my heart to believe them. There was a disconnect between what I knew to be true and what I felt to be true, and it was causing me additional stress and depression. Three months of misery, a few weeks of therapy, and countless emotional conversations later, I found the courage to admit what I wanted, quit my job, and apply for a volunteer abroad program. So much of my emotional turmoil was rooted in mourning the loss of who I felt I used to be; a person I admired and loved greatly. I didn’t recognize who I was, and it was scary. So, after much convincing from my family that YES this was the right thing to do and NO it was not stupid, I applied for a program and decided to commit.
I chose to a program that would allow me to do things I wanted to do. After graduating, I took a job that was in no way related to what I wanted to do, in a field that I was far from passionate about. I studied International Relations and am well versed in the subjects of Human Rights, the UN, International Politics, and Peace Keeping. I took internships that allowed me to exercise leadership, research, teaching, and international communication skills. And I wanted to use these skills. I wanted to be challenged, inspired, and feeling like I was contributing to something so much bigger than myself. In Cambodia, I can do that.
“If you don’t build your own dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs” -Tony Gaskin
Cambodia is a country that, to be perfectly honest, I do not know that much about… yet. It is a mystery to me that I am fascinated and eager to learn about and immerse myself in. I have never been to Asia before, and the opportunity to explore a new part of the world, while contributing to social impact, is one I cannot pass up. On my Cambodian adventure, I will be teaching English for the first half. The second half I will get to work at a local NGO, doing anything from writing grants, translating documents, compiling research, and assisting in field work. Both placements will undoubtedly present their own advantages, disadvantages, challenges, and wonderful experiences. And I will embrace them all as they come. Both teaching and working for NGOs are careers that I have hoped for all my life, and the chance to pursue them, rather than join in with the “Rat Race,” is the most exciting prospect in my life since working at the Scottish Parliament.
Even though living in Cambodia will be a challenge, it is one that I happily accept and hopefully will continue to as the journey progresses. Much like my computer history comprised mostly of pictures of the Scottish Highlands or Fairy Pools before I left for the Athens of the North last year, I already find myself drooling at pictures of Angkor Wat and trying to figure out how much solid shampoo, if any, that I would really need for six months. And just as I did before, I will bring you all with me, from pre-departure to return, along on my journey as I once again become the traveling smith.