Many claim that life begins at 40. At 27 years old, I believe that life has just begun for me.
Anxious. Unconfident. Apprehensive. Those were the words that described my mental state at the start of this year. Looking back as I type this post, I am amazed at my current state of being which is in stark contrast to what it was just eleven months ago. There is lightness in my heart, a deep lasting joy within, and clarity of purpose for my life. It’s as if a huge burden has been lifted and the sense of freedom I feel inside is just……incredible. What rapid progress has occurred in just a short span of time! 🙂
For the past 6 months since I quit my regular teaching job at the Deaf school in July, the journey has been exhilarating at best. It has been a process of great discovery, meeting lots of new people, gaining insights, healing, learning more about myself and uncovering my heart’s true desire which I believe will change my life tremendously in time to come. This time of finding myself and the lessons gleaned, has been so precious. I have embraced it with alacrity.
Just because an opportunity that presents itself is good doesn’t mean that it is the right one
From July, I knew that my focus was to gain experience in several different school settings as a Casual Relief Teacher (CRT), concentrate on my full-time study load at university and intern at Deaf Arts Network. It has been a wonderful learning experience getting the opportunity to work in 8 different schools as a CRT and tutoring 2 Deaf kids in their homes. The challenge that arose for me in this was time management. Not having a set schedule every week meant that I never knew when I would get an SMS to replace a teacher for the day and certain busy weeks made it difficult for me to organise my time around my study schedule. There were occasions I had to say no to certain jobs because there were clashes with my uni or work schedule. I found myself racing against time to meet deadlines for assignments and at times it did feel stressful. I’m glad I got through it all.
In the last few months, it feels as if I have been in a mansion with a hundred rooms of closed doors waiting for me to open them and make an entry. There were several exciting opportunities that came my way that looked promising and offered new avenues for growth. There were some doors I chose to open and walked right into. Others I opened slightly scanning the room from outside contemplating whether to walk right into it but ended up closing after much thought. There were also doors that no matter how hard I tried to open, just wouldn’t open. While I got excited considering the possibilities each option had to offer, I also found my mind scattered in a million different directions and got sidetracked.
There was a book project idea that a Deaf person proposed to me which I was thrilled about initially but after much contemplation, I realised that I hadn’t the time and resources to commit to such a huge project especially since it required a 5-year commitment. I had to close the door on it but I am grateful to that person for thinking of me and approaching me.
An opportunity to teach literacy to Deaf adults on a fornightly basis also arose. After much thought, I had to say no given the complications and certain requirements of the whole process which I was not quite prepared for. So while it seems I made a conscious decision to close certain doors, there were doors I tried to open that remained shut simply because they were not right for me. I saw a Corporate Writer being advertised and I submitted an application for it. However, when I was addressing the selection criteria, I became aware of how inexperienced I was for the role and knew that my chances of landing the job were slim. Still, I tried anyway along with 200 applicants and got turned down. Despite the outcome, I am glad that I spent the effort writing the application because I learnt from it.
So in all this, I learnt to say ‘no’ to the good especially when it meant that those opportunities just weren’t aligned with my goals and priorities, and would take me further away from them if I had said ‘yes’.
The beauty of letting go and going with the flow
Disappointments, losses and closed doors can be blessings in disguise although at the time they may be unpleasant. Really, they can be set ups for something better. I found myself having to let go of certain situations and people this year as it was critical for my well-being and personal growth. I am so glad that I did although it was challenging at that time. Since then, I’ve never looked back and I find great delight in moving forward in my life. Many times I thought I knew what was best for me but God can see what lies ahead. When He allows a door to close, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us. In fact, it is evidence of the depth of His love for us. Sometimes He allows things to fall apart because He loves us too much to allow us to remain trapped in something that will ultimately destroy us. In the healing process, we find our strength and confidence in Him. I have learnt that there is real beauty in letting go and going with the flow of life. Things and people naturally fall into place. I have seen some of my existing friendships being strengthened and new friends come into my life. I enjoy the lightness in all my relationships with different people. The many novel opportunities that arose which I discussed earlier on also proved to be valuable learning.
I told myself in the middle of the year that I would work 6 months as a CRT and then leave teaching for good. At that point, I was feeling unmotivated and thought that I had lost my passion for teaching. I just accepted and went to the different teaching jobs because I knew I needed the pay to keep going with my university studies. I did enjoy it but my heart wasn’t fully in it. I was so sure that I wanted to find a job writing articles in the human rights and humanitarian sector, and that it was the right one for me. I even prayed earnestly for this to happen. The irony was that there were no communications roles advertised at all in an NGO that I had set my eye on. And no matter how hard I prayed, more teaching opportunities just kept coming my way instead.
The strange thing in the midst of all this especially when I was so sure about calling it quits as a teacher, my passion for teaching was reignited. It happened when I was teaching a mainstream class of hearing kids with Deaf kids integrated in it. When I had been asked to replace a teacher for the day at that school for the very first time, I recall feeling nervous because I have been so used to mainly working with groups of 5 or 6 Deaf kids in a class or in Deaf facilities. This time, I had to handle 24 students in different classes throughout the day on my own. I had doubts on whether I could do it and felt somewhat nervous. However, when I arrived and started teaching them, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the day and communicating effectively with the entire class. I was surprised at my ability to adjust so quickly and confidently to different classes. It was so rewarding to see the kids’ faces light up and their enthusiasm to learn when they were engaged in the lesson. It actually made my day. 🙂
I recall when I first started teaching as a CRT back in 2008, it was nerve-wrecking because I was new and so inexperienced back then. I found the constant change of settings and classrooms stressful. But now, I am comfortable in my own skin and actually thrive on change. Looking back at the past 5.5 years of my teaching career, I realise how much I have grown and gained confidence in this profession. Teaching seems like second nature now and I don’t need time to adapt. Whenever I take a new class, I settle into it instantly. For the past 3 months or so, I have woken up each day with a zest for life that I have never before known. The amount of energy I have is boundless.
I had worried about work for 2014 because while CRT was good and I had begun to truly enjoy teaching again, it started to feel unsettling. I needed to get back to a regular schedule so that I could organise my time properly. To my surprise, one school offered me 3 days every week for Term One and another school asked me to take on a 5-week full time teaching block in term 2. I did not even have to put in time and effort to apply for those jobs. They just came to me. I accepted both jobs readily knowing that having a fixed schedule until June next year will help me plan my time effectively to manage 3 units at university simultaneously. The new arrangements are just so perfect and even as I type this blog post, I am still amazed at how nicely things have fallen into place. 🙂
The insight I have gained in this is that I can pray earnestly for something that I think is right for me but God is the determinator of how and when He will answer my pleas. He is the one that knows best.
A whole new vision
My passion for a while has been about advocacy for equal rights for Deaf people and raising Deaf awareness which reflects clearly in my blog posts, other articles I’ve published elsewhere on the world wide web and a chapter that I wrote in a book. During one of my teaching days, I discovered a new direction for my life in this area. It was a lightbulb moment. Never before have I felt more certain and it is nice to know that this is my true calling in life.
The school was having a transition program for the kinder kids going to prep next year. I was asked to do a half-hour session of Auslan with them. There were over 20 kids in the class. The majority of these kids were hearing kids with a few Deaf kids integrated. I began the lesson teaching them the Auslan alphabet and some basic signs. We sung the ‘ABC’ song in Auslan and I tend proceeded to educate them on how to communicate effectively with Deaf people and how to get their attention when they didn’t hear. The eagerness on the kids faces showed they were hungry to learn new things and seeing their cheerful countenances whenever they understood something sparked a sense of excitement in me. There and then, it hit me that I was doing the very thing I loved – advocating for Deaf rights and raising awareness for the Deaf students right there in the classroom among 5-year old kids who could hear.
This one teaching occasion compelled me to probe further into the deep recesses of my heart. I discovered that what I really want to do in the future is combine my teaching background together with my writing and research skills, to promote equal access to education for Deaf kids around the world especially in developing countries where the high rate of illiteracy is ubiquitous. In order for such changes to be promoted, both Deaf and hearing people need to be educated in different ways. All Deaf kids regardless of where they are from in the world, need access to a high quality education just like their hearing counterparts. With a good education, only then can Deaf people begin to understand their rights and advocate for change and development in their society, because knowledge is power. It makes me indignant whenever I see Deaf kids being developmentally delayed because they haven’t had access to the right support in their early childhood years. It would also be ideal to see more Deaf awareness workshops being conducted for the general hearing society as this will serve as a catalyst in challenging underlying negative attitudes and assumptions.
Having articulated this new vision that I have, I realise that my heart is being led to explore the field of international development. I have actually been interested in this field for a few months now but I didn’t know specifically what area I wanted to look into as it is such a broad field. I believe I have found it – education. Attending the World Federation of the Deaf conference in Sydney also confirmed this desire. I am clueless of the places I will end up going in the future or how things will unfold next year. Presently, I am seriously looking at an option for the second half of 2014 which will probably require me to step out of my comfort zone. It is not an easy decision to make but my heart strongly desires this option which I am prayerfully considering. I will likely blog about this some time in the next few months so stay tuned for updates.
I am thankful for the opportunities for personal growth and development this year although it has been difficult at times. I don’t have it altogether and never will. There is much more learning and growing to do for the rest of my life. One thing I am certain of is that God’s plans and dreams are bigger than our own, and when we stay on His path for the long haul, greater obstacles will come our way. However, as the heart matures, it finds the inner strength to follow its leadings confidently in a way like never before. It is especially attuned to the direction of the still small voice that says:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Thank you for reading my posts. I am pleased to announce that this blog has an average of 300 page views per month and there are people checking in here almost everyday. 🙂 My writing will possibly take on a new direction so do be on the look out for new articles. Thank you for all your support and encouragement.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for 2014! 🙂