I was on a canoe in the Sydney harbor when 2010 arrived…actually I was standing up against a rock on a small beach contemplating how to get my canoe off the oysters and back into the water….I had met a new friend that night who was also on the rock with me. We were watching the fireworks over the harbor bridge and he was talking about love, families and kids…I didn't push him in the water…although the thought crossed my mind.I was able to tune him out and think about the next year ahead for myself…what I want…need…it was truly just one of those moments that stick in your mind, when you're alone and totally at peace.During the evening thoughts crossed my mind like…"your in the water at night with sharks"… "Do you have a death wish?" My best attempt at describing my evening was a total sense of freedom and peace, first time in a long time…I thought of nothing…and it was wonderful.
New years quickly passed and my objectives included finding a flat, a job, and furniture basic human needs.At night I would mess around on the computer fantasizing about a "real" job in corporate Australia…I sent out countless resumes to different sales and director positions…all the while knowing my visa would be a problem, but not really caring. Just the idea of applying made me happy.My visa is a holiday work visa; this means that I am allowed to work for 6 months at one employer, after the 6 months I have to go to another employer.They do this because the visa is usually used for traveling purposes. Picking fruit, working on a farm, odd jobs as you travel around Oz.My genius idea was to use the visa as a way into a company and get them to sponsor me, which is extremely difficult, however one can always wish.That brings me to discuss my short-lived teaching career.I'd like to add here that I wish there had been a disclaimer on my CELTA program stating, "WARNING-if you are American, do not have an EU visa, and are nearing 30 years of age…back away slowly."Should I have done more research before taking a month long intensive program? Yes. Was it a rewarding experience that I enjoyed and needed at the time? Absolutely.I do not regret doing the program, what I do regret is how my first teaching experience turned out. When I left Sydney, I had been in touch with the director of one of the "better" language schools in Sydney. If I had known at the time, how disposable I really was…I may not have rushed back to Australia as quickly as I did.I went to the interview, got the position, and he told me so many lies.He explained that he was putting me on a temporary contract, but that all employees came in this way to teaching.He explained, he only had a few students at the moment, numbers were down. He wanted to start an evening class at an Advanced English level. The school had never attempted this, would I be willing to pilot the program. It would not have been my first choice, the hours were not what I was looking for, and I had no experience teaching so an advanced level seemed a bit out of control…I said yes, I will do it, in return he said 5 weeks, run this class, afterwards I would be switched to day classes.Couldn't refuse, this is what I had wanted.I'm creative; I could make this pilot program work for him…
5 students, Brazilian and Italian. I fell in love with them immediately.Brilliant bunch, hardworking, good questions, and 100% attendance.I worked very hard to be creative for them, kept them interested, made sure I understood the grammar points, I wanted to deliver the best experience, and truthfully while I was doing it…I felt at home, comfortable in my own skin, and confident.
3 weeks went by…5 minutes before my class was about to begin the director pulled me into his office to have a chat. "Ilyssa, Friday is going to be your last day."My jaw dropped. Why?Did I do something wrong?"No. Not at all, our numbers are down and two of the Australian teachers need work, so I'm taking you off and giving it to them."Possibly he thought I would just roll over and take that answer…I didn't.I asked tough questions…such as why?He really didn't like that I asked that. He looked at me like I had 8 heads."Why wouldn't you just let me finish with these students and then put another teacher on?""Is it my teaching, tell me it's my teaching….But don't tell me it is because….it is the way things are done here." I just wasn't able to accept that.My questioning burned my bridge with this particular Language College.My students went to go speak to him, and told him they did not want me to leave. Bless them.I walked away from that experience realizing a few things…the first being my first real taste of being an expat. How dare I waltz into Australia thinking I belong here…thinking that I will have the same advantages as someone who is a citizen….it made me think about my countless years in NY, the people I stepped on, didn't treat fairly, threw to the side, didn't pay properly….The universe has a way of teaching you a lesson and getting cranky when you get overly cocky…Secondly, I realized it was time for me to go after what my heart really wanted. It was time to set the bar rather high and challenge myself.Go for the position I thought I wanted, fight for it, believe in it, and make it happen. Value what I'm worth; don't stop till I feel overly satisfied.So…once again I dropped my fear and preset ideas of my worth and went for the gold.The gold is what I received.I was shocked as to how quickly I landed my current fabulous position.I would say I put in a week of serious effort, 15 resumes a day, countless phone calls….some of which included conversations like: "Why would we hire you, when we can hire an Australian"? My response was always… "Did you read my resume?Did you notice where I was from, BEFORE you called?"If so…why did YOU call me, if you felt an Australian could do a better a job?My patience and tolerance was at a complete zero.However, after each one of these ridiculous phone calls, it only made me work harder for what I really want.Finally, I got an interview for a position as a communications director for a non-profit organization up in Northern Sydney.I will be honest here and say…sad to admit….I had so many calls, so many pieces of paper, so many leads…that I truly had no idea which company I was interviewing with the day of interview. I really thought it was with Vision Australia for Diabetes…I had the address. I went, sat down in the boardroom with the founder and CEO and realized…this was not Diabetes Australia.Only someone with 10+ years in grueling sales experience from NYC could have pulled off what I did.I gathered myself, asked the right questions, I smiled, and elaborated on every tiny little thing I had accomplished the past 10 years, which I realized…was actually a lot….I could read the founder like a book; I sensed and felt her passion about her org…play therapy for children.Something snapped inside me at that moment, I knew…I was getting this position.I wanted it, I could taste it, I belonged there, it was a topic that hit close to home with my upbringing…I did get it and finally after years of searching I have found a fit for the moment that makes me want to get up in the morning.I was afraid I would never feel that again, and now that I have it…I couldn't possibly ever think about giving it up or going back, only forward with this or the next best thing for me.
While I was getting my career life sorted, I was also working on home life.I moved into a flat in Bronte Beach.Luck doesn't really describe my living situation.The apartment has a direct view of the ocean, which I take advantage of every morning while drinking my coffee. Its utter bliss…Something about the water is very soothing…Getting to IKEA, buying furniture and setting up my space wasn't the easiest experience…However, very good people took time out of there schedule to help me, which I greatly appreciated.This included, lending me a vehicle to get to IKEA, and building my wardrobe.I guess…through this whole process it has made me realize how much strength it really does take to restart. Notice I didn't say money…but strength, mental strength.I've never been one to "ask" for help.When I do finally ask…its because I have exhausted every other option, and I myself am not capable of carrying out the task.Asking for help has been the hardest part of this process for me.Asking for help from people I do not know well, and not having a "support system" here in Australia has been difficult for me.Truly it has made me appreciate what I did have in NYC.Its funny when you step away from whatever or wherever you are…you can see clearly.I see now that NYC and I had a love/hate relationship, but the people I had there were amazing. I do miss them horribly at times.I have been asked numerous times now…"do you have a husband, or a man in your life that can help you?"… My response is always the same. "No, why?" Possibly they thought I wasn't able to carry the boxes by myself up the stairs…but I did. Possibly they thought I wasn't able to purchase a car that wasn't a lemon…but I did.Possibly they thought I wouldn't be able to manage my finances without speaking to a "man" about it first…but I have managed.Every time someone has asked me this it has me feel a bit lonely…but also quite empowered.I don't need a man, I want a man.Of course it would be nice to have someone take care of you, look after you…but what if you don't have that? What if you never that? What then, you have to take care of it yourself.Life doesn't stop moving, responsibility doesn't stop presenting itself, sickness sometimes doesn't get better.That doesn't mean that you stop, it means you work harder to make yourself happier.I have had a few conversations about the role of "victim".How easy is it to wake up each day and say…Why did this happen to me? It's not fair, and then blame everything and everyone for how you feel.Some days it feels difficult to thank your lucky stars for what you do have.Its much more difficult to sit back and be thankful, then it is to point a finger and blame.In my own short existence I have noticed, when I set the bar to low, I always get disappointed. If I set the bar to high, I either always reach it or get close enough that I'm satisfied.I'm talking about work, relationships, living, everything….You can stop being the victim when you choose to change your mental state and say I'm not happy with the status quo, so I'm going to reach for something more. If I don't receive it, I'll have fun trying.So I have ignored the comments about my relationship status, I'm choosing to ignore that I am disposable to the Australian work force, I've decided to give this new company everything I got, and at the end wherever I end up…I had fun trying.
May is approaching rapidly, and my 30th is weighing on me. It seems every movie I see has something to do with turning older and changing your existence, making a difference…Some days I feel the added pressure I have put on myself due to a silly number, other days I don't think at all.I have not given up on the silly idea of romance or true love.I will not give up on my fairy tale ideas…for practicality.
So…after a lot of thought…I have booked a ticket back to Italy for my 30th birthday.I leave May 17th and arrive in Florence on the 18th of May.I have made the choice to go alone, and I will show up in Santa Croce at 10:30 in the morning. I refuse to become one of those women that have been hurt by men, settles, and don't believe in the dream. My dream. I know people think I'm crazy. I know people think its very silly, I have been told "I'm lost, and living a dream."But…my dream…seems so much better then these peoples reality…that it's worth it, to me.If it all falls apart, if I get there and it isn't what it seems….It will hurt.Though…I know me and I will go on and find the next dream to make a reality.If anything, I'm not only trying to prove to myself, but to other women…don't give up on people and your romantic ideas, romance can happen every day, not just one day a year. It doesn't and won't always work out in your favor, but in the chance that it does, why not try?All of the "details" ….where will we live? Where will we work?Money? Visas? If you could find a partner, that really heard you…that respected you…that picked you up when you were down, that supported you and your family, your ideas….made you feel beautiful, even when you felt ugly and made you feel safe ALL at once…I ask you….Would you give it a shot, regardless of the "possible" outcome?
In the meantime, before my romantic adventure, I have a lot of work to do.My foundation is on the verge of becoming really big in Australia, due to my help.Not that I needed the extra pressure, but jobs are on the line, including mine.Bottom line, I do believe in what I'm doing.I do believe that children deserve the chance to play out there emotions when they feel hurt or get hurt.When innocence is viciously taken from a child, what do we replace it with?If these hurt children see and experience things like abuse, divorce, and sexual abuse…how can we expect them to become loving considerate adults, when all they have seen is pain.In order to break the cycle, you have to prevent the cycle.Expression has many forms, and I have noticed that while I am an adult, I have needed the chance for "play". Being given the chance to make these children's lives better, makes my pain seem a lot less.When I set out on this journey it was for a few reasons…one of which being to make my life different, my children's life different from my own.We all have the power to change our existence if we have the strength and courage. A recurring theme you will see in my writing and this blog. We must continue to courageously dream our "will" into being….even when it seems impossible.