Better Days

You feel a bit silly when you’re lying in your childhood bed, unable to get to sleep because you’ve got yourself into a state of nerves and panic.

As I lay awake for most of last night, I remembered one night when I was about 10 years old. I lay in that same bed, in that very room (only it probably had Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper at that time, which it doesn’t any more… although I still cuddle Eeyore), and thought about my impending trip to a music camp in Ballycastle. It was to be my first trip away from home; the first night I would spend in a strange place, without my family nearby and The Sister asleep in the next room. I’d insisted on signing up for the trip, and I was really excited, but that night, with the trip only a few days away, it suddenly hit me that I was going to be separated from everything that was familiar to me. Mum wouldn’t be coming to switch out my bedroom light and say “Night night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bugs bite.” as she had every night for as long as I could remember. And although it was to be for less than a week, I was overcome with fear.

Mum found me crying in the darkness, unable to get to sleep as I lay there worrying myself sick about what was intended to be a fun-filled trip for budding musicians – our first opportunity to get away from the rules of school and the routine of home.

“But I thought you were excited about it!” she said as she came to give me a cuddle. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. It’s OK.”

But it wasn’t OK. I’d seen an exciting opportunity, I was set on going, I knew I was going to have great fun with my friends. Even though I knew no one would force me to go, I couldn’t let myself change my mind. It was as if I knew my future self, even at the age of 10. What sort of life would I have if I changed my mind about every exciting opportunity, just because I was scared? How would I ever manage to do anything?

So I went. And I loved it.

And I’m going to go to Korea, and I’m determined to work hard, play hard, and have the time of my life.

But for some reason, when those lights go out at night, my brain switches into scared 10-year-old mode. What if I can’t teach? What if I’m homesick? What if no one wants to be my friend? What if I’m lonely? What if I hate it? What if something goes wrong? What if…?

What if. The question that has haunted me throughout my entire life. I don’t expect I’ll ever be free from its clutches, but like the 10-year-old me, I’m determined not to let it hold me back.

I probably didn’t help matters by reading what seemed like entire volumes of advice for new foreign teachers straight before going to bed. I overloaded my brain and went into panic as I tried to process far too much information at once. That, and the fact that the visa process is long and tedious, and that delays from all sides have put my departure date back and forward and back again so many times that I’m left with this unsettling feeling of not knowing exactly when I’m going, but knowing that it’s going to be very soon. I think I’d feel better if it was all sorted and booked and final. I don’t like this state of uncertainty.

Of course, I’d obviously find a million other things to worry about even if this weren’t the case. I feel sick. And excited. And terrified. And enthusiastic. And worried. I don’t want to go, and yet I can’t wait to go.

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7 thoughts on “Better Days

  1. I was an absolute wreck for a few days before I left to teach English in France back in 2000. And after. I spent my first hours in Paris trying my best not to cry in the café as I forced down a ham sandwich and outrageously expensive Coke (because it was American, and I thought it would make me feel more at home.) I watched ER in French (which I never watched at home) because at least the faces were familiar. But it got better. I eventually moved back, didn’t I? Bon courage!

  2. Jane says:

    I give you “S/he who has no fears has no courage.” Magical words, said to me long before you were born, by a very wise, kind and gentle man. May they be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Enjoy the adventure.

  3. Hails, you’ll be fine and you’re only a what, 20 hour trip from home. Worst comes to worst, skip over to Sydney , I’ll pick you up, wrap you up and introduce you to possums and lorikeets.

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