Walking though a park in Madrid, I'm struck by a simultaneous feeling of jealousy and affection for a little boy speaking Spanish with such ease. I've been struggling to learn the language for a few years now, yet he can do it basically overnight. How is that fair? But then, I pause and realise: the fact that I'm even here and in the position to feel this irrational envy is only something to be grateful for and it’s due to nothing other than my indebtedness to the butterfly effect.
Let me explain.
When I went to university, there was such an emphasis on getting a permanent job that towards the end of my degree, it felt that my peers and I were more focused on performing well at our interviews rather than on the things that make for good teachers. I'm not blaming anyone for this. Getting a permanent job as an adult is as desired as winning a family pass to Disneyland as a kid - it's the ultimate goal. Yet, seeing as even just a few years ago when there were (only) 40,000 teachers looking for a permanent job in NSW alone* (a number that undoubtedly continues to grow); the ghastly truth seems that ‘fate’ has already been decided by a (super) large chunk of us before we even have the chance to make an impression on the world.
So there I was, 22 years old, with an education degree and a HECS debt, but no permanent job in sight. Although I honestly didn't know whether to laugh (freedom!) or cry (no $$$ for the foreseeable future) at the time, it was a huge anticlimax.
Without a permanent job, I “fell” into casual teaching. During my first stint in 2009, I somehow (well, like most stories, it had to do with a romance) managed to stumble upon the idea of moving to the UK to teach there, and, after heaps of paperwork coupled with a sad mother, that's exactly what I did. I had a whirlwind (colourful?!) time living and teaching in London - and trust me, I didn't learn anything until I stepped foot into a British school. And despite coming home two years later with an expired visa, fewer pounds (in one way) than I hoped for and a super broken heart (another story for another day), I enjoyed myself and learned more than I ever could have imagined.
It's been three years since then and I've actually moved to both New Zealand and Spain to teach since, having enjoyed every moment working and living in both places. Again, a multitude of both unfortunate and ultimately very, very fortunate events have led me to both of these countries, where my life has been showered with unimaginable experiences and the best kinds of people (let alone super cool teaching opportunities!).
I know and deeply respect that my experience is absolutely not possible for everyone and I do not, for a moment, want to imply that everyone can and should do the same (for a gazillion reasons). But what I do want to impart is, that for everyone out there that has also struggled with the fact that a permanent job may not be a reality until you're 80 and ready to retire anyway - no matter what kind of super star teacher you are: sometimes it's not the destination but the journey you take to get there that's more valuable (still quoting my HSC Area of Study - Sir would be so proud… even if he wasn't at the time). I know it’s not as simple as making the best out of a bad situation, but sometimes it's about "riding the wave" and seeing where you land.
And, here, back at the park, where I'm thinking that all I want to do is speak Spanish like a 3-year-old boy, I've realised something. Maybe I'll speak Spanish one day, maybe I won't, but what I do know is that what started as one profound frustration has led me on a super-dooper life journey and I couldn't be more grateful.
Stay positive and in the meantime, if you get “stuck” with casual teaching (which actually rocks), remember: around every seemingly bad corner is something pretty exciting that you're yet to discover.