Recently, my colleague, Evelyne, wrote a blog about unplugging from the system, not letting your life be controlled or dictated by what society says, and I have to be honest, when I read it, I thought she wrote it just for me.
A year ago, I reached a moment in my life where I knew I wanted to do something different, something “outside of the box.”
At this point, I was working steady at a job that was in my field of study (check), renting a house with a friend (check), had recently purchased a new car (check), and I had applied and been accepted to a Master’s degree program in Social Work (checky check). Done and done.
All my ducks in a row, my image was set, and all the boxes on the checklist for being a 26 year-old, single, female in the "real" world were marked as complete.
I had achieved everything I was supposed to achieve but I still felt there was something missing...
So why was I still questioning myself everyday about whether it was what I really wanted to do with my life? And why, at the end of the day, when I was alone with my thoughts, was discontentment the last thing that I felt?
I can assure you, it had nothing to do with questioning whether or not I would be successful, as I was already excelling at my job and had no doubt that I could thrive in graduate school. It was more a knowing, deep down, that I wasn't prepared to live the life that others had chosen for me. I wasn't willing to be "locked in" to a life that I could see stretched out in front of me like a story that has been repeated too many times. And I knew that I was doing it because it was the life that was expected of me (minus the husband and kids, a point of "lacking" that I got reminded of often).
And what have I done instead, you might be asking yourself...well, I became a Jedi.
Although it does look cool, no, I did not become that type of Jedi... and yes, girls can be Jedis too!
So, no, not the robe wearing, Yoda speaking, light-saber wielding type of Jedi (though we are still considering petitioning for the light sabers), but a Jedi who helps people experience the treasure that is the Panamanian culture and language through studying with Habla Ya. If you're wondering why "Jedi"? Well it's just an internal term that is given to anyone who has passed the 3 month probation period and officially has become part of the team of Language Travel Consultants here at Habla Ya Spanish Schools.
Now, when Evelyne first told me about the job as a language consultant and that I would be working on the computer all day, I was skeptical. Been there, done that, not my thing. However, within a week of starting, I realized that this job was different.
First, I get to talk with people from all over the world and encourage them to do something that I am passionate about, travel and learn a language. Having taken Spanish classes myself with Habla Ya, I believe in what I am offering and know that it is an experience worth having.
But the language is more than just about learning the verbs, nouns, etc., it is getting to know the culture and context of these words. Being a language consultant has taught me so much about this culture, and how much Panama has to offer as a Spanish learning & vacation destination.
It's easy to get trapped by the rat race without asking yourself what you want to do with life. Don't be afraid to be bold in your pursuit of happiness. This is me in Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro. I have to say that taking the risk to do something different has definitively paid off!
From amazing eco-adventure tours, including canal and san blas tours from the city, to hiking the Volcan in Boquete, to living with a host family, to offering time and talents to the local NGO's, we, as Jedis, focus on building not only a Spanish language program, but an experience, a Spanish learning experience for our students.
Probably one of my favorite aspects of this job, is getting to know the students. From the first contact until they arrive at one of our locations in Panama, we are the face of Habla Ya for individuals interested in coming to study.
For me, it is cool to see the excitement build as they realize that not only can we make sure they improve their Spanish while they are here, but we can also, through arranging flights, accommodation, tours, etc., make it a simple endeavor to discover a new country.
And of course, there is "mis compañeros".
I can honestly say that I have never worked with a cooler team of people. Not only are my colleagues exceptional at the work that they do, and I consider it a privilege to work alongside of them, but they are genuinely free-spirited people.
My colleagues are my friends... it's been the best job I've ever had specially because of my co-workers
They remind me everyday why I chose to stay here in Panama, because I have found the freedom to do what I love without the pressure to build a life of image instead of contentment.
There is a quote that I ran across recently that I really like and it goes like this -"The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been."- Albert Einstein
Since I've moved to Bocas del Toro, I've learned how to surf and that has definitively been one of the coolest additions to my life... if you surf, you'll understand what I'm talking about...
This is the attitude or "force" that I feel like I encourage by working as a "Jedi". To encourage people to continue to branch out away from the ordinary and seek a life where personal growth, learning, and discovery never stops. This is how I want to live my life and I love that my job lets me help other people do the same.
So, whether you might be considering a big life change (living and working in Panama) or a change from the normal routine (vacation & studying), let the "force" be with you and come to Panama, where we are truly livin’ the life of the Jedi.