Shana and I found each other on Instagram, via an account we both followed! She messaged me regarding a post I’d put up about struggles in my relationship, and I was moved by her candor and sincerity. I was thrilled when she submitted for #CurvesandaCollab, and her story is a genuinely beautiful one! -S
Growing up isn’t easy for anyone. From a young age we learn to deal with bullying and other distasteful behaviors from not only our peers but the adults we are meant to trust. We are also often “encouraged” and pushed into making choices about things that will influence the rest or our lives without being given the option to explore those choices or where our own particular interests lie. These are just a few of the hurdles we learn to persevere through as children, as well as a few of the things that brought me to my August of 2015 self.
I was working as a stylist and makeup artist, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminology, a background in several fields, too many interests, no direction, and above all almost zero confidence (which you would never know from the brave face and smile I put on every day). I knew I always wanted to travel, to inspire people, and to make a difference in people’s lives in some way. I never knew how I could make that happen, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled doing what I was doing.
One day I was introduced to a girl who studied in a similar field as me. She told me about how she was going to travel to Thailand to teach English, and it peaked my interest. “How?” I asked, “How are you going to teach English with a Criminal Justice degree?”
That’s when I learned about one of the lucky benefits to being born in a country where English is my first language. I could literally travel almost anywhere in the world and make a living teaching English. I decided almost overnight that that’s what I would do, and by December of 2015 I had completed my TEFL course and started applying for jobs in Japan. Fast forward to April 2016, and I had hopped on a plane, landed in Osaka, took a train to the countryside (something I had never done before, by the way), and begun a journey that would completely change my life in many ways.
Moving to and living in a foreign country where I didn’t even know the language was no easy feat. I found myself challenged just trying to complete “everyday” tasks that were easy in America—going to the grocery store and picking up the right package of seasoning or bug killer for example was a struggle. (I had an instance where I almost suffocated myself buying a spider killer that was for outdoor use only. Oops)! I had to learn to talk to strangers, to ask people for help when I needed it, and I learned a sense of humility on a level I had never had before.
But along the way, I was also given the opportunity to meet so many different people from so many different walks of life, and I have learned and I continue to learn countless things about life, people, culture, and about myself. I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I ever knew I was before. That people, in general, are a lot stronger than we may give them credit for. That we all work through similar struggles at some point in each of our lives, we all deal with issues of self-confidence, and that each and every one of us has something special to give and to teach or share with someone else. I’ve met people who as we have learned about and helped one another, we have also grown in our own confidence and individuality. Through traveling to different countries and living as an expat, I’ve become more open-minded, broken down stereotypes, and hopefully made the future just a little brighter.
Upon becoming an expat, I also decided that in spite of years and years of wanting to make YouTube videos, but having no confidence in my own abilities to create content people would enjoy, that I would challenge myself to finally dedicate the energy to that practice. After months of living in Japan, I finally sat down in front of the camera and made my first video. I don’t regret a single second.
Creating content, editing, filming, etc, on top of working at least one and a half full time jobs is a lot and is exhausting, but it has also helped me become more comfortable in my own skin. Every time I post a new video, I feel a little bit more of my “ego” disappear, as I care less about what people think and more about what I can offer others. The more I share what I’m learning with people who either can’t have the experiences I do or just need the information/inspiration, the more assured I feel that I am on the right path and finally following my life’s purpose. No matter what “career” my future holds, I’ve realized that my life isn’t about my career, it’s about my experiences and how I can share those experiences with others.
To anyone who is being held back from traveling, becoming an expat, or chasing any dream because of any type of fear, lack of confidence, ego, or general worry—all I can say is don’t let those things stop you. If you aren’t happy, if you want something different, the only person who can change that is you. You don’t need to have all of the self-esteem, knowledge, or experience to put yourself out there. Those things come with challenging yourself to be uncomfortable and grow in some capacity. Nothing is going to change, however, until you change it. So get out there, make the change, grow, learn, travel, explore, share, and come to love yourself and others in ways you may have never expected.