Covid lockdowns meant a lot of sitting around in my own anxiety worrying about my life. But it also helped me come up with some solutions–not just for closing the covid chapter, but closing the chapter of my ‘wandering twenties.’
Now that I have been back in the United States for over two months, a lot of people have reached out asking me what I am doing.
In short—I don’t really know. Ever.
But I do sort of have a plan!
Last month, I wrote about why I left Malaysia but I didn’t write much of an update about my future plans—
Recently, the biggest piece of my life puzzle has been how to be abroad in a more “secure” way. For the last ten years, I’ve mostly just been winging it on one-year employment visas or playing tourist visa roulette by country hopping every few months. I’ve experimented with location, jobs, interests, and lifestyles.
It’s been a whirlwind adventure, but I’m just in a different phase of my life now. I will never “stop” traveling, but I want to put down stronger roots and have a sense of permanence in my life. I know what I want and a lifestyle of pure experimentation is starting to hold me back.
I’ll be the first to say it—Finally!
I kept wondering if this would happen. I honestly was worried I would just keep country hopping every year until I died.
So now that I have decided to be a bit more ‘still,’ here are some things (hopefully) on the horizon:
The Doctorate/More School
(“When in doubt, get a degree!” -Clare’s Dad, I think)
My Australian friend Clare gets full credit for pushing the idea onto me last October. She knew the university because, well, she is Australian and it has a decent reputation. After that, the idea just never fully went away.
At some point, it just felt like the right move. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this absolutely makes sense for me. In the spring, I put together a research proposal (and I’m really excited about it), have spoken to a potential advisor who was incredibly encouraging, applied, got accepted, and now am waiting to hear about the funding.
News about the scholarship is taking a while because 1) Malaysia is in shambles right now with their third wave of COVID (it’s bad–updates next week) and 2) my academic credentials do not translate directly into the Australian/British academic system. This means I have gotten a lot of questions like, “Did you qualify for first-class honors?” and “What was the grade on your Master’s thesis?” to which I have no answer because these do not exist in the United States. They are currently in the process of an internal evaluation. Fingers crossed.
I am trying to remain positive, but have applied for some other programs including a creative writing program I’m pretty excited about as well. Additionally, I am also in the process of developing some backup options. I haven’t settled on a firm Plan B, C, D, etc… but I want to start considering alternatives. Two months ago I thought I would be gutted if I couldn’t return to Kuala Lumpur, but now I am just letting the universe do its thing.
A big change over the last year is realizing that my old life wasn’t fitting anymore. I don’t regret the easy-breezy “take things as they come” mentality of my twenties, but I am ready to achieve more long-term goals.
I am starting to feel that remote freelance work (as much as I currently love it), may not be something I want to do in 5-10 years. I want to start laying the foundation for other kinds of jobs in the future that will help me stay stable. I’m not sure if this means teaching literature/writing at an international school or college or doing something else with writing.
Mostly, I really want to be in one place for a while and cultivate the kinds of relationships that can only come with putting in time and effort. I have felt always in a low-key rush the last ten years and I want to enjoy the sensation of patience.
Plus, I am lusting after building an at-home library, investing in plants, and creating a space conducive for creative thought and academic excellence. I love having a permanent gym and setting up a routine. This just isn’t possible if I am rushing around the world every 8 months.
Making the Wait Count
In the meantime, I am keeping extremely busy. I am still freelancing with the company I used to work for in Beijing and really enjoying my “new” role there (except it isn’t exactly new as I have been doing it for two years now). I work for a private education company specializing in helping high-achieving Chinese high school students apply for U.S. universities. The main part of my job is to teach academic writing seminars for 10th graders to challenge my students intellectually, getting them to think and discuss at the college level. Every seminar comes with a writing prompt (either an argumentative and personal essay prompt). I spend a lot of giving writing advice and feedback.
I also teach a few literature classes that have me reading multiple books a week and also juggling discussion questions and prompts in my mind.
Other than that, I have been working on my personal growth and mental fortitude. If I learned anything from this last year, it is that the emotional work I put into building strong mental habits was incredibly powerful in hard times. But there is always still work to be done. Healthy habits in good times are important pillars for when bad times inevitably come around again.
I have been working out nearly every day of the week at a CrossFit gym near my house, walking around 15,000 steps a day, catching up with friends and family, reading like my life depends on it, and actively engaging in the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had (wee!). I’ve also been using my daily walks to catch up on news and as a form of meditation to reconsider what aspects of my life are and are not healthy.
My stay in the U.S. has felt like a closing of the “Covid chapter” of my life as I get ready for whatever is next.