My story of coming to Korea to teach English plays out much differently than most of the 20-somethings that take up this endeavor. Where many teachers come here fresh out of college or just a few years out, I was in my late 30s when I seriously decided to take the plunge.
In the midst of an economic downturn and a desire to reinvent myself, I finally decided to do something that I had once dreamed about many moons ago:
…I was a “cubical-dwelling, corporate wannabe” in the IT industry
I spent many years working for large companies trying to snag my own piece of the American prize. At times it happened, at others it didn’t. Like in 2008 when I was laid off while working as an IT project manager in Florida. That was a “didn’t” moment. That event would be the catalyst for what would be the biggest change in my life to date. Turning away from something that, to be honest, I didn’t even know why I was doing it other than it was a “good career”. I spent the next two years seeking and begging for a job in IT. I would get short-term contracts here and there, but nothing steady. In between I would stay busy either selling cars or tae kwon do memberships. It was a wicked and tempestuous time. And for what? The hopes of getting a job that brought me nothing more than a paycheck? For me, my line of work was sitting in a fabricated, cubical-laden office space where the highlight of my day was often wondering what was for lunch. It was a crazy cycle, and I was determined to break it.
Fast forward 2010 when I finally decided to take a detour. I had wanted to travel to Korea or Japan out of college, but it never happened. At the time it was more for furthering my judo training than anything else and I saw teaching English as a potential vehicle to make it happen.
In 2010, I took a meaningful look at myself and my life and started asking better questions.
Like, what are you chasing, Tom? What is this amounting to? Will it matter in the end? Where is the fulfillment? I don’t think I have to sell to anybody the idea of what corporate work is. It is what it is. The fact is – very few like it. I would say that most tolerate it. A promotion, health insurance, or a new car every 5 years is good enough reason for most. But if you don’t have a family to support or another legit driving force, it can be a life draining endeavor. For me it was just that. For 15 years!
So, I fired off an email to an ESL recruiter.
Before I knew it I was well into gathering documentation, digging up my criminal history, and selling off a bunch of accumulated stuff that I never really needed in the first place. Something inside me began to change at that moment. The hustle of the process, reading blogs(!), watching videos, wondering about how awesome or terrible it was going to be ignited a new flame in me. I was ready to take off for a year and leave the rat race to the rats. No offense!
|Here’s to the future!|
But getting back to reinventing myself. Finding out who Tom 2.0 is, I’m looking toward a new future. Teaching English is becoming a global endeavor now with nations like China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the entire Middle East upping the ante. Japan remains steady with their JET program and has grown steadily over the years. Though Korea is retracting their EPIK program, there’s no doubt the future for teaching abroad looks bright overall. I will soon be enrolling in an online teacher certification program, and possible Master’s in ESL. It’s all guns blazing to roll out Tom 2.0!
There is no correct answer. For me though, my sabbatical has come at the right time and given me something I had lacked for many years. Hope.