When I was a little girl, I used to stand in front of my bathroom mirror. We were abjectly poor and our house dilapidated. Melting snow on our wood-burning stove in the living room to make hot water was not an unusual occurrence, but unfortunately, by the time we got to the top floor- all the way in the back section where the bathroom was- our collected water in the tub had already grown lukewarm, if not altogether cold.
My entire childhood was a master class in survival. Holes in our walls allowed the opossums (and other rodents) to crawl in at will and it wasn’t unusual to find a fat one sitting atop the kitchen table, helping itself to whatever scraps it might find.
I wore my older brother’s outgrown hand-me-down blue jeans; they were known as “high waters” because they were far above the ankle. They almost always had well-worn holes in the knees, from years of my brothers’ running and playing and rolling and chasing. I was the lucky recipient who got their unwanted gems.
My bed was a bare mattress- the jail kind- that was blue and white pin-striped, stuffed with feathers. It had long ridden itself of its skin- the dirty, urine-soaked sheets that stayed saturated with cold pee. Even when I was given fresh, clean sheets for my bed, which didn’t happen often, they didn’t stay clean for long. Within 24 hours, they were guaranteed to be soaked again.
I was told by one of my caretakers that I would be hooked up to electrodes and shocked if I continued wetting the bed. The thought of being electrocuted as I slept terrified me and created a lifelong fear of going to sleep. Thankfully, they never followed through with that awful plan but there was always a fear that I would be hurt or punished if I continued wetting the bed. There was nothing I could do to stop it! How do you wake yourself up to go pee as a child with no alarm clock? I don’t think anybody in the world is that talented.
Regardless, nobody stepped in and tried to proactively help me. There were no responsible adults who set a schedule to wake me through the night, guaranteeing that I wouldn’t continue wetting the bed. It was a brutal childhood. And, of course, there was the sexual abuse. As if wetting the bed wasn’t enough, I had a dual fear of being molested. I never knew when he would come for me- calling me downstairs after everybody else had left. I was forced to do unspeakable and shameful acts that no 9 year old child should ever have to do.
I’ve done my research: Adults who were sexually abused as children usually don’t end up faring well in life. They more than likely end up with a boatload of psychological and emotional problems, and they usually end up statistics.
I’ve always felt God’s hand on me. Even during the worst of days as a child on Cherry street. I used to go into my Mom and Dad’s prayer closet and pull the old string that hung down from the low-hanging ceiling. I felt as if I was in the presence of something so Great and Holy! (And I was.) I could smell the anointed oil placed there on the shelf, reverently. I could smell The LORD.
I would open the King James Bible and seek out the red letters. I knew that those were Jesus’ words and I only wanted to say what He’d said. So I sat there, trembling excitedly as I read out loud all of Jesus’ words from the New Testament. I felt so close to God during those precious times, alone in there with Jesus. I felt so special and loved because I knew that He could hear me.
At night I would pull the sheets (if I had them) or clothing up to my nose and slowly cover my eyes with a clever smile. I knew that I was surrounded by angels. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there. I thought that if I hid under the blankets, I could pop out quickly and surprise-catch them! I never did, of course, but I always knew that they were there with me. Before I fell into fitful sleep, I would say goodnight to all of my friends, “Good night Noah. Good night Jonah. Good night Jesus. Good night Moses.’ And on and on. I knew that they could hear me too and had the comprehension at that young age to understand that I wasn’t alone as it seemed.
I looked into the bathroom mirror there, on a regular basis, peering deeply into the timid eyes I saw staring back at me. Skinny, sheepish, scared, curious. I was obsessed with my future. It created a world of curiosity within me, not knowing who I would be when I grew up. I wanted to be a good person so badly and do good or important things for others. Even at that age, I was fiercely driven. I was compelled to look down the road and see something worthy and good. I only saw a blank canvas and that frightened me.
I didn’t have the answers that I desperately needed to satisfy my soul. It was almost unbearable not knowing what kind of woman or person I would become as an adult. How could I be certain that I would “end up good”? It was my daily companion- the constant fear of who I wanted to be but afraid I wouldn’t be or able to be. Ten year old girls are often curious and self-doubting about what they’ll be like as adults, but I was having a full-blown existential crisis.
Over the years, I’ve derailed myself multiple times from achieving the personal goals I set for myself. My life has been monumentally challenging, to say the least. As I sit here now, typing into the wee morning hours, I think of that scared little girl in the mirror.
It’s only natural that I would be self-reflecting and doing a life review at 5:00 a.m. on this early Saturday morning. I only have four weeks to go and then I’ll be graduating with my Master’s in Psychology in Addiction Counseling. It’s been a long haul! I’m ridiculously giddy. 🙂 I really did it. It wasn’t always easy but I did it.
Only over these past few days have I begun to see a clearer picture of my life. For the past few years I’ve been privately fretting about becoming an addiction counselor. I have no doubt, especially given my personal experience and history, that I’d be able to help many people in their lives. I have no doubt that I’d break new ground in that industry and blaze my own trail. But would it satisfy my soul, truly? I don’t have that answer but I’m leaning toward, “No, it wouldn’t.”
I’m an artist. And a musician. And a photographer. And a singer. And a teacher. And a counselor. (I never said that I was a “practicing counselor” but I’m most certainly a trained one.) And I’m an author- a published author. A children’s book author. At some point, I may want to finally promote my book or use it as a tool to work with kids. I’ve always seen me doing that somewhere. All I’ve ever had was a murky outline, with no distinguishing features. But now, God is showing me the direction He wants me to go in.
When I had written my Pastor, Rev. Berneice Hicks a decade ago, I had shared with her that I had enrolled as a freshman to go into Business Administration. She wrote me back and encouraged me to get out of that department and apply myself to an area in which I could “better utilize my talents”. I loved that she said that but it brought with it a measure of fear and uncertainty. How would I know what I wanted to do? How would I know where to go?
It was like walking blindly into the fire but trying to believe that you won’t be burned if you just believe it hard enough. Even so, I withdrew from Business Administration (immediately) and signed up for Behavioral Sciences. I knew that I could at least segue into something ‘people-y” later, sticking closely to her recommendation.
So for the past decade as I’ve worked on my Associates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees (and Substance Abuse certification), I’ve been tossing myself into the waves of uncertainty, rolling through every year with an ever-increasing amount of fear that I was moving in a direction of total blackness. Despite having a Master’s degree in Psychology )and Addiction Counseling), I still wouldn’t be able to be an addiction counselor (not a good one, anyway) without two subsequent years of supervised internship/practicum in counseling! Two full years of that!
I’ve been praying lately, asking God to show me where He wants me to be in this world. I’m willing! I just didn’t know what to do or where to go to truly make a difference in other people’s lives. This past week, He answered me.
I’ve always had an interest in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), also known as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language). Most programs offer 120 (study) hours, minimally, but there are a few other organizations that offer 160 hours, 180 hours, 230 hours and even up to 290 hours. The 290 hours courses are known as “master TEFL classes” and you’re a legitimate expert in the field if you receive this type of certification. For the record, people typically don’t choose something as challenging as 290 hours of TEFL certification.
I’ve eyeballed this career path for the past few decades and have always had an unhealthy interest in this industry. Who wouldn’t want to travel abroad to Thailand or Vietnam and live in a rent-free dwelling on a beautiful exotic island- and be paid to work there?! Most TEFL organizations pay their teachers $1,500 -$1,650 per month. That’s pretty good already, but when you consider that they’re paying your rent on top of your salary- it goes from pretty good to phenomenal. TEFL teachers also receive side perks, such as monetary incentives to maintain standards, as well as other personal and financial bonuses. Some TEFL organizations even offer “exit compensation” of anywhere from $500- $3,000.
When you add up all of the monies and rewards, it becomes an incredibly good deal. As I move closer to graduation, I know that I’m leaving college for good. I’ll never return. (Not to a traditional “college”, anyway.) The only education I’m willing to take after receiving my Master’s degree is to study for and receive my TEFL certification. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. 🙂
A decade ago, the industry looked very different. There have been many technological advancements over the past ten years! Whereas, years ago it was necessary to actually travel to China, or England, or the TEFL country of choice. Nowadays, those same lessons are taught online, in an online classroom. Of course, many people are in it specifically for the cultural experiences too, but if traveling to another country isn’t exactly ideal, it’s good to know the same job can be done via distance education, virtually– 100%.
I believe at some point I will want to travel abroad. I do see myself doing that at some point down the road. But for now, I’ll be teaching English to foreign language speakers (FLS) here in America. I cannot tell you how absolutely stoked I am to finally see the big picture in my life! It’s no longer a hazy outline, but a wildly vivid, technicolour explosion of hope, chance, possibility, and change. I have surely risen from the ashes and am taking flight. 🙂
Being the exceedingly driven, type A, overachiever that I am, naturally, the 120 hour fast track TEFL certification is simply not enough, so I signed on straightaway for the 290 hour “TEFL master class”. If I’m going to do this thing, I really want to DO THIS THING.
I want to be the absolute best that I can be and want to learn as much as I possibly can. I’ve learned by now that if you put in the hard work, in the beginning, you can reap the rewards later. You must first sew the seeds of patience, determination, dedication, focus, energy, and passion into the academic soil and water them with your hard-earned sweat. Only then will anything worthwhile come from that soil. There are no shortcuts! Ever.
I’ve just installed the Duolingo App on my Android, which I’ll use to learn Chinese. I’m also studying Swahili, and will continue my studies in Spanish. I plan on being at least quadrilingual when all is said and done. My target countries of interest are China, Africa, and South America, so if/when I do ever want to transition from online TEFL teaching, I’ll have learned several correlating languages to the countries of my interest.
(My intentions are not to become entirely fluent in Swahili and Chinese. I do however want to be able to comfortably culturally assimilate while in those regions. I’ve just begun studying Chinese and Swahili a few days ago. I will continue studying Spanish, however, unit I’m completely fluent. I have plans for South America- particularly Peru- down the road, and although Peruvians don’t speak 100% Spanish, I’ll be more than prepared by being fluent in Spanish.)
My core foundational TEFL course is 168 hours and its official title is the “Ofqual-Regulated Level 5 Course”. Along with that course, I also signed on for 4 specialization courses which are all 30 hours apiece. (Together, they culminate into the 290 hour “expert certification”.)
My TEFL certification course is officially called the “290 Hour TEFL MASTER Training Course” and the 4 specialization TEFL courses are:
* 30 Hour Teaching IELTS Module (International English Language Testing System)
* 30 Hour Teaching TOEIC Module (Test of English for International Communication)
*30 Hour Teaching Business English Module
*30 Hour Teaching Young Learners Module
There’s no such thing as “pie in the sky” and there are no lucky breaks in life. There’s a purpose for everything and everyone- accidents do not exist. I’m so grateful for my incredibly wise Dad who taught me so much about the world and God and human nature. He used to say to me often, “It says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, ‘Time and chance happeneth to them all'”. He also shared with me Jesus’ words about the rain falling on the just and the unjust equally, and the sun shining on them both too. He taught me that God gives everybody the same chances in life, and He’s indeed no respecter of persons. With that in mind. there are no excuses for not being able to accomplish one’s dreams in life! Look at my start in life. Every card in that stack was stacked against me. I was told by strangers, family, and anybody and everybody that I was “broken”- damaged goods. I almost believed them.
I chose to believe that I can do anything that I want to do in this world and I’m only as weak as I believe I am. Nobody can hold me back from accomplishing my goals and dreams but me. Some people are so bitter and angry and stay that way throughout their entire lives. They blame others for their misfortunes despite that it was them who made those choices. They choke on their own hatred and drown in their envy. I’m so glad God snatched me up from certain doom and carved a compassionate heart into me. He saved me from an unholy fire, truly.
I want to teach others english as my job, but my real reward will be inspiring other disadvantaged individuals in life and helping them to overcome their seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I’m a living, breathing miracle and I know that if I can walk through the fires that I’ve walked through without being consumed, then I can help others do that too. ❤
I see the little girl standing on the toilet, trying to reach the mirror’s height. I see the worry and fear etched into her young face, and I think, “It’s alright, sweetheart. You’re gonna make it.” ❤
“One Fine Day”
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Perrin Park, Jeffersonville, IN- Oct. 26th, 2019- Rebel t3i + Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8