I'm currently working as the youth director and programmer of a mid-sized LCMS church in Liberty, Missouri and living in a 95-year-old house in Kansas City, Kansas. On Tuesday nights I teach ESL to a group of Bhutanese refugees, many of whom have only been in the US for a matter of months. Most weeks I pick up a shift as a server at Californos, a restaurant and reception venue in Westport. My social life involves hanging out with a motley crew of friends whose common bond is Jacob's Well, an emerging church in midtown Kansas City. Once in a while I still do some freelance copy editing for a National Science Foundation evaluator. Aside from periodically stalking people on facebook and attempting to start or finish a few books, that is my life.
And it's not a bad life. What little consistency there is between three relatively unstructured jobs, is good for me. Aside from moving to an upstairs bedroom in February, I've been living in the same place for over six months for the first time since high school. I've gotten used to Kansas City. I can navigate the streets and entertain my friends and family when they come to visit. I daresay I've become comfortable.
At least up until a month ago when an e-mail from Vimperk reminded me of what I wanted to do (or at least what I said I was going to do) when I graduated from college. A "writing and rhetoric" graduate who just couldn't pick a grad school program, I decided to earn a TEFL certificate and teach English as a foreign language for a few years before pursuing a Master's or PhD. I did get the certificate. I did spend 4 months working with immigrants and refugees in England. I did send resumes to numerous schools in Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic. And then I went back to Nebraska to visit my family for Christmas and never left.
My strongest lead was from a gymnasium/grammar school in Vimperk, a Czech town surrounded by Sumava National Park. There was the potential of starting in February of 2010, which was dashed when one of their current instructors decided to stay an additional semester. I didn't hear from Vimperk again until early in May, less than two weeks after I'd committed to my summer internship in Overland Park. The school needed to know by June 1 (five days before my move date) whether or not I'd like to come in August and begin teaching in Czech on September 1, 2010. I was uncertain of what would happen over the summer. What if I became part of a community? What if I began developing close relationships? What if I found another job? I'd already discussed moving in with my best friend in the fall and spending the next year "experiencing life" in KC. I passed on the offer.
Three months later I was not attached. I did not have close friends. I did not love Kansas City. I had not found a job. And my "future roommate" had decided to live with her parents for the next year. I would have happily left the country to teach in Czech September 1. I contacted them to see how many native teachers they had lined up for the fall. Unfortunately, they didn't need me. At least not that year.
February 8, I received an e-mail informing me that my golden opportunity to teach overseas had come. I could begin paperwork as soon as March to start teaching September 1, 2011. After spending a summer as a superfluous intern in Johnson County and a couple of months copy-editing lab documents in Stillwell, I was further convinced that I wanted to teach English, as far away from white-collar America as possible. Yet, I was torn by the offer I would have jumped at in August. The difference being what had transpired in those few months between summer and winter. I moved into a house. I started a job, two jobs actually. I began developing close relationships with my housemates, co-workers, and friends. I started falling in love with Kansas City. Essentially, I became attached. It was something I hadn't planned on - Kansas City as a whole was something I hadn't planned on - when I graduated from college.
Though the "logical" next step in meeting my life goals appeared to be teaching in Vimperk, I chose to remain in Kansas City for another year. A piece of me wonders how long that "year" will end up being. My greatest fear in saying "no" for now, is that I am also saying "no" for later, that I'll never make it overseas, that my plans won't be realized, my goals won't be met. It's the same piece of me that used to fear falling in love with someone who wanted to be a farmer and then spending the rest of my life in small-town Nebraska; the piece of me that wants to follow a plan, even though diverging from that plan is most often how the richest parts of life happen. I don't think I'll actually stay in Kansas City for the rest of my life. My friends will grow and change and get married and take other jobs and move away. The youth program will develop as much as it can under my influence, and the church will be ready for someone with other gifts and qualifications. I'll itch to be back in school or back overseas or both. But for now, I'm content to stay. Perhaps this time next year my answer will change.