Rebuild Your Life Just Like My Daughter
Inside, where moms keep their feelings and thoughts and worries, I knew better than to tell my daughter I was concerned about her life choices, but I must admit: I doubted her.
She had been working successfully as a fifth-grade science and math teacher. Her school administrators loved her, parents fought to have their kids placed in her class, and the kids themselves responded to her so positively that other teachers asked what her secret was.
As a former teacher myself, I was immensely proud that my daughter had inherited the teaching gene and seemed to be doing better than I ever did. I was thrilled that she had found her vocation, and I envisioned her teaching forever, one of those educators with cabinets full of #1 Teacher mugs and boxes of Christmas ornaments adorned with desks and apples and rulers.
But, she wanted to see the world.
So, when she decided that she wanted to turn her summer travels into a yearlong adventure, I questioned her. What about teaching? How can you just abandon it? She answered that she could always go back, but right now, while she was young and single, she wanted to see the world. As the school year came to a close and contract time came around, she told her principal she wanted to travel the world. That principal wasn’t surprised in the least. She wished her the best and welcomed her to come back any time.
She became a changed woman.
With that, Rachel packed a backpack — literally — and started her trek around the world. She fed elephants in Indonesia, received a prayer bracelet from a Buddhist monk in Siem Reap, piloted a plane in New Zealand, dived the Great Barrier Reef, worked at a language café in Tokyo, explored hidden streets in Croatia, and made friends all over the world.
By the time she returned, she was a changed person — more adventurous for sure, but it was much deeper than that. She was understanding, tolerant, and kind. She realized how small our little community was in the greater scope of things, how generous people can be, and how alike we all are, despite differences in religion, culture, color, and traditions. If I had to describe the new Rachel in one word, I would say “open.”
She did career pulse checks as the years progressed.
Rachel also discovered that her love for scuba diving had grown with each dive; with each view of the underwater world, she was drawn in all the more. So much so, that she began thinking about making it her career. To be certain, she returned to teaching for a couple years. She periodically asked herself how she felt. She did pulse checks as the years progressed. And she became more and more sure that yes, she wanted to pursue diving — maybe not forever, but for a portion of her life. So, she made plans to get her master diver and instructor certifications in Thailand, where she had dived during her travels. She gave her notice early and then… COVID-19 hit. No one knew how bad it would be or how long it would last. But, after teaching virtually, Rachel was thrilled to be moving on.
She didn’t bank on COVID’s staying power. She didn’t count on countries shutting down. And now she was without a job and without an opportunity to seek certification for a new one.
Thirty-one-years-old and she moved back into her childhood bedroom.
For the first time since she graduated college, she moved back home. Thirty-one-years-old and living in her old bedroom. She explored options, which were few and far between. But she was undeterred. Eventually, when the world began to open back up just a sliver, she found a spot in Honduras that would certify her as a master diver. While there, massive flooding devastated the country, only sparing the tiny island she had made her home. When part of the airport reopened, she was able to return home, where she rested and began researching instructor certification locations.
And then it happened, she had accomplished her dream goal.
Finally, Mexico opened up to Americans, and she headed to Cozumel to complete the last leg of her journey. While there, bad weather interrupted her lessons, and she had to return home without her final evaluation. After a few days of research, she found a certification site in Florida and traveled there, determined to finish what she had started. And then it happened. As I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a photo she posted, standing with some other divers, smiles broad, holding their certificates. She had accomplished her goal.
She moved to Maui to begin the life of her dreams.
Just a month later, Rachel moved to Maui, where she worked full-time as a dive instructor. She truly lived the dream. Her days were spent teaching happy tourists how to dive, being the first to show them underwater creatures they had only seen on TV, and helping them overcome their fear of water. She used her teaching experience to become a phenomenal dive instructor, and before she knew it, customers were asking for her by name.
Rachel is proof that obstacles and naysayers should never deter you from what you really want for your life. I have no idea if she will be a dive instructor for many years. I only know that she accomplished her goal with perseverance, tenacity, and a refusal to give up. She can honestly say she has no regrets.