Dog Days of Summer

A week feels like a year, and summer is officially here. A little over a week ago, the last day of school came and went; I’m a few days into my job at a summer camp, and trying to find routine.

Yesterday, I received the most important email of the last year. My work visa for China has been approved. I read the email repeatedly, sitting poolside in the last few minutes of my summer camp shift, trying to absorb the information. It’s real. It’s really happening, and I’m really moving to China. This process of getting the work visa – a five month long, high stress process – is over, and the biggest task remaining is to buy a one way ticket to Shanghai.

Transitions will always feel strange, I think, though this one feels stranger than most. I remember conversations in Indiana cornfields with high school friends, listing all the places we’d planned to travel. There was a period in college, when I decided to become a teacher, that a slow understanding grew: I really could move abroad, and make good on those daydreams. There was the summer before grad school, when I took a 100-hour course to become certified to teach English as a Second/Foreign Language, and I dreamed of all the places I could go; and I watched several friends go to those places, while I finished my Bachelor’s and headed to my Master’s. I remember the feeling of defeat after months of planning to move to South Korea, during a politically shaking period between governments; I remember the color of the sky at dusk, in a friend’s front lawn, accepting the position of teaching English in a Tucson middle school. The conversations with a friend, en route to Senegal at the time, about how this shouldn’t be considered a failure but a detour. The painful experiences of teaching for the first year. The singular goal of finding a job abroad during my second year, the interviews at night and early morning, the constant searching, the second and third interview for a school in China, the runs around my neighborhood to think about what I wanted. The moment when I told my family, all at once, that I accepted a position in Shanghai, China.

This plan is almost ten years in the making. It feels sudden for some people who know me, but it does not feel sudden to me. I’ve thought about this, daydreamed about this, and planned this for several long years. Perhaps that is why this transition feels so different from others I’ve made in the past – to stand on this cliff, ready to take the leap into the real unknown, after such a long journey, is a singular experience for me. It feels like the next natural step. It also feels surreal, and a little frightening in the moments that I fully understand what I am in the process of doing.

In the dog days of summer, I will have one of the most odd and exciting transitions of my life. And as odd and exciting as it feels, I do think I’m ready. As ready as you can be to move to China alone, anyway.

The Good Thing: Sweetwater Trails

Today was an awful day. Like, a really bad, no good, awful day. There was far too much discipline involved, because far too much discipline was needed, and so much of that discipline felt ineffective. Students were snarky and mean and totally apathetic. By the end of the day, holding in my frustration at defiant and disrespectful students (who were being that way while my principal observed me), I was shaking when the bell rang for dismissal.

I’d planned to go on a run after school, and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and not move. My friend, another teacher at the school, came by my classroom after school ended. We’d planned to run together, and after slightly exploding with frustration during our conversation, I grumbled that maybe I shouldn’t go on a run.

“Yeah, you should,” he said. “I had a crappy day too. We’ll feel better after the run.”

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He was right. We went to Sweetwater Preserve, which is on the backside of Saguaro National Park, for a short run. It wasn’t my best run, and it wasn’t my longest, but I felt like something had washed clean from my mind when I finished.

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Sweetwater Preserve contains a winding, continuously mixing series of trails and loops, and we took several of them to add up the distance. It was right on the brink of raining the entire run (which, in my opinion, makes the desert look just right).

Most of my day was frustrating and filled with pent-up tension. Less than an hour changed that. Note to self: Do the good thing. Whatever that good thing is for yourself, do that. Do the healthy thing for yourself. Especially when you’re mad, and always when you don’t feel like it.

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