So, I’ve been absent for a few days for a truly wonderful reason- I started a new job! I’m covering a maternity leave for twelfth grade history and civics teacher at a small charter school. I’m completely thrilled to be working again. I’m slightly less thrilled at the amount of reading I have to do so the kiddies won’t realize I’m clueless. Hooray!
Being at a new job in a place I’ve worked before (plus the monumental breakup I went through a week and a half ago) has made me start thinking about where I really want to be in the next few years. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a high school teacher for real (and Teach for America would pay off my student loans…), but I just don’t see it happening. I’ve wanted to work for the church or in the theater for years, and those basic desires have never changed.
I’ve also been playing with the idea of moving somewhere else again. Possibly Australia, since they have an affordable twelve month work visa. Rumor has it their Orthodox community is amazing, and what would be better than beach and kangaroo country to mend a broken heart?
My friend Juliana and I had brunch last week at one of my favorite restaurants. She mentioned that she had been thinking about returning to Romania this summer, but thought it was ultimately better to stay at home and stick to one’s routine. Avid traveler that I am, this didn’t sit quite right, sparking a discussion. J. had been dissatisfied with her experience last summer, finding monastery hopping through the countryside shallow. I countered with the incredible experience I’d had at Solovki Monastery. Eventually we decided that religious tourism and pilgrimages differed according to the amount of preparation, knowledge, and reverence the traveler had for the site visited. Since J. knew nothing about the places she was visiting and stayed for a very short amount of time, it often felt like more of a sight-seeing expedition. Since my group prepared by serving a moleben by the relics of a saint who had been imprisoned there **, learning the history of the place we were visiting, and realizing we all had a connection to the monastery in some way, our stay there was prayerful and transformative.
We also discussed regular tourism. Neither of us found short, impersonal sight seeing tours meaningful. However, when we traveled with friends or made friends during the trip, the experience took on far more significance. Taking church experience out of the equation revealed that personal connections truly made travel special. (Keep in mind we’re both extroverts, but I’d argue this is true for everyone to a certain degree.)
Anyway, this whole conversation made me look more closely at my plan to take off again. Why did I hate living Hong Kong? Well, it was mostly because I was lonely. Even now I recall the friends I made at my church more fondly than any other aspect of my time there (followed by the scenery on my daily ferry ride to and from my island home- absolutely gorgeous). It follows that if I choose to move somewhere else, and want to be happy, I must do so carefully this time. I’ve never wanted to be a tourist- I guess have to learn to be pilgrim.
** Just to keep this in the realm of reading, I highly recommend Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father. He has an amazing encounter with St. Hilarion Troitsky, who I just mentioned.