a little bit brave… and uncertain

Reader, I’m so excited to share the next installment of the “A Little Bit Brave” series.

Each month, I’ll be posting an article by another blogger who took a leap and moved themselves away from everything that was familiar to find the next “right” step in her life. You can read more of the series here.

So, without further ado, here’s a little bit brave… and uncertain. Enjoy. :)

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At 27 years old, I had finally decided it was time to test my wings. Like a free-spirited bird, I jumped from my nest with hopeful abandon. I spread my wings wide to the open sky and embraced the tickle of the wind in my feathers. And then I plummeted straight to earth.

At 26, life had been pretty comfy-cozy. I thought I had finally made it. I had the job, the car, the downtown apartment, and the professional wardrobe of my poor girl dreams. I had the PTO and the 401(k) and the HSA. I had the friends and the family and the kind of coworkers you actually look forward to seeing every day. I thought I had it all.

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So why did I feel like I was suffocating in a glass coffin every night as I lay in bed? Why did I want to scream and pound my fists against those imaginary walls as I tried not to cry myself to sleep? Why did I feel like everyone was skipping around outside my prison while I lay buried alive?

Perhaps I needed therapy, but all the psychobabble in the world wouldn’t have been able to tell me more than I already knew. I was simply afraid. It was fear that put me to bed every night and lingered with me as I went to work every morning. It was fear that made me dread waking up thirty years later only to realize I was still going to work every morning. It was fear that kept me wondering if I would hit retirement only to regret all the years I had worked to save for it.

The only way to rid myself of this fear was to track down my perpetually elusive purpose, that mysterious thing that would make me feel like I wasn’t wasting my life. I knew I had a pair of wings that were tied, or lost, or stuffed in a closet somewhere, and if they could make me fly then I had to find them.

And so I did something I had secretly wanted to do since graduating from college. I moved to South Korea to teach. I left my job with all its benefits. I said goodbye to my family and friends and my fun-loving coworkers. I packed up my wardrobe and gave up the lease to my apartment.

It was time to finally find my wings.

But as I closed my front door for the last time, a sadness within me begged to be acknowledged. It told me I was crazy and careless and that I would regret giving up my comfortable life just to test out a pair of unreliable wings. And a part of me believed it.

But then I remembered the stifling panic of the glass coffin that had choked me in my sleep night after night, and I knew it was time to say goodbye to the threat of regret. So I pushed aside the whispering sadness, pulled the door firmly shut behind me, and told myself, “No more.”

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So was I crazy and careless? Did I regret giving it all up?

Yes. And no.

Yes, because my adventure to Korea turned into the most nightmarish year of my life, for reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I fell with such speed into disillusion and disappointment that I didn’t just hit the ground and stop. I kept plummeting straight to hell.

And no because, despite all the tears and pain, I still knew in the deepest part of my heart that leaving the life that had suffocated me was the only thing I could have done.

So how does the story end? I fulfilled my year-long contract in purgatory and came marching home triumphant. But this chapter doesn’t close in a fuzzy, feel-good, finally-found-myself moment.

The truth is I’ve been home for nine months. I’m unemployed. I live with my parents. I live off my savings. I still struggle with depression. At times, with my confidence in shreds, I think about crawling back to my old job and curling up in the comfortable nest it would provide me. A practical person would. A starving person definitely would.

But I can’t. I can’t fathom squeezing myself back into that life. When I told myself no more glass coffins I meant it. Even if that means going broke or going crazy trying to figure out how to fly again.

Some people thought I was very brave and adventurous to move to Korea, but I’m not sure I really felt that way. I had traveled the world before. I had taught English before. So when I stepped on that airplane to Seoul, I felt completely confident that I had made the right decision and that I could tackle whatever lay on the other side.

There was just one thing. I had no idea how unfamiliar I was with my own wings. I leapt from my nest with fearless abandon only to face plant into the dirt of a horrible experience, one that ripped apart my sense of identity and left me scattered in paper-thin pieces.

So now, with my feathers still crumpled in the mud, it’s time to be a little bit brave and try again. Even if I fail again.

It’s time to be brave enough to pull myself out of the dirt of my self-perceived failure and finally track down that shy and mysterious purpose burning deep inside my soul. It’s time to stop my long-hidden dreams from simmering to death over the red hot stove of my own cynicism and self-doubt. It’s time to resume the search for those wings that will make me soar.

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I can’t be sure where this quest will take me or how long it will take me to get there or how much courage I will need along the way. But when at last I take off flying into that finally-found-my-wings moment, will all of this fear and faltering be worth it then?

Yes, I think it will be.

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BIO:  Jessica Irwin has lived in four countries and traveled to over twenty others. She currently lives in Indianapolis where she spends her time in a love-hate relationship with unemployment, daring her true calling to start calling her soon. To read about Jessica’s experience in Korea, check out her blog From a World Away.

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If you missed it, several weeks ago, I completed a project outlining the story of how I was a little bit brave and came to Korea. (You can read them all here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4…) In an attempt to share with you how others have been a little bit braveI decided to start asking other women to share their stories with you as guest bloggers on this site. You can read the first two installments by my friends Anna, who was living in the Philippines and Celeste, in Taiwan.

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Are you – or do you know – a brave woman who might want to share her story?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to contribute to the blog, contact me here.
Cheers,
-K
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