I’m not really sure what happened in the moments following; all I could feel was my heart roaring in protest as my entire life became blurry at the edges. The weight of it all caused my head to drop suddenly into the palms of my hands while I reminded myself to breathe. I hear her frustrated sigh through the speakers of my computer, followed by concerned pleadings to “say something”.
I start to cry. Thankfully it was a somewhat quiet cry, not one to cause any serious scenes but probably enough to make the fellow patrons uncomfortable. But this doesn’t faze me. It also won’t be the last time in the next 24 hours that I cry in the middle of that same ocean-side café, for the same grief-stricken reason; that I have just had my entire “planned” life slip out from underneath me before I’ve even had a chance to brace myself.
That was my job. That was my life. I knew it, I’d actually been waiting for it to open for over a year at that point. It was the only job I’d ever loved. And just like that, it was gone again.
Fear slithers in from behind my tears, whispering on repeat, “What will happen to me now?” I had always “known” that at the end of this yellow brick road called, “New Zealand” that I’d be going to a good job and a good home, close to my family. When it all disappeared, I had to start building my dreams again from scratch.
There was so much risk involved with staying in New Zealand; so much paperwork, so much money. And at the end of it all, there was a giant question mark. Will I be able to get my dental license here? Will I find a decent job, or a job at all? And after all that, will I find a job that will sponsor me to stay??
The funny thing is, through all the fear and the questions, I couldn’t forget all the days and months living here where I knew I didn’t really want to leave. I felt strongly that I belonged here. I also knew that should I decide to stay, everything would work out perfectly. I asked God over and over again to “make it obvious”, knowing that despite that fact that my heart pulled so strongly on me to stay, I would have left for the stable job and 401K.
So my prayers were answered. I sat in the sun at that café surrounded by strangers, and I cried. I cried and I didn’t care who was watching. High up on a cliff overlooking a beautifully sunny day, I sat wiping my tears and looked out at my new life. Despite the fact that I had already been sitting at that café for hours before the phone call, what I saw before me was a completely new world altogether. So I’m staying… I’m staying in New Zealand…
And then I thought back to everything that has lead me here and knew that what had just happened was always meant to happen. I was always meant to go to New Zealand, and I was always meant to stay.
Over a year prior to that day, I went to Central America. I had finally calmed my inner heartache, I was settled and about to paint my walls. This was a big deal. I’ve never painted my walls before, I’ve never been in a place long enough to care.
On my way home, our plane to Texas was re-routed because of a massive storm. When finally arriving hours later, the airport was a chaotic mess from all the re-routed planes and missed flights. I sat in line for over an hour and when finally speaking to the irritated and exhausted customer service representative, was presented with a choice; be first in line on standby for a flight in 1 ½ hours, almost guaranteeing me a spot OR, be 5th in line on standby for a flight in 30 minutes, where I may or may not get a spot, and risk losing my seat for the “guaranteed” flight. I risked it.
I ended up getting the very last seat on the plane, in the very last row, next to a woman named Buddy. Buddy and I end up talking for hours and by the time I walked off that flight, I knew I was going to New Zealand, a thought that hadn’t even occurred to me prior to boarding.
A couple months later, I was setting all my plans and telling loved ones I was heading out into the world again. It would take me a little over a year to save, until the spring of 2014, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I figured my budget and planned every dollar so that I could go as soon as possible.
And then I found out about the job opening. It would become available around the spring of 2014, exactly when I was planning on leaving for New Zealand. Someone was going to retire. For years they had promised me a job, “should there ever be an opening.” This was my chance. What was I going to do? I have waited my entire adult life to find a job that fit like this one. It just doesn’t happen often.
After much deliberation, I decided it would be best to chose the job. Yes, New Zealand was a once-in-a-lifetime… but so was finding a job I loved. And I just wasn’t willing to take the risk.
So I let New Zealand go.
Fast-forward a couple months on a normal Wednesday afternoon. There came a phone call from Chicago, with a temporary job assignment for three months at a hospital that was almost double my current wage. I knew this was my chance. If I moved into a cheap room, sold my car, worked two jobs and saved every penny, I would have enough in three months to go to New Zealand for six months and still get my “dream job” in the spring. I jumped at the opportunity, packed up my entire life, and moved two weeks later.
And the rest, I suppose, is history. I left three months later, with famous last words of, “I’ll see you in six months!” That was almost a year ago. I arrived in New Zealand with no expectations and found when arriving that I was effortlessly happy for the first time in my life. And then I watched the one opportunity that would make me leave, disappear.
So I head to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. I spend months and thousands of dollars getting my international dental hygiene license and a sponsored “Essential Skills” Work Visa. I find an amazing office that reminds me so much of the job I “lost”, an office I love and loves me in return. I once again enjoy going to work every day, and they tell me how lucky they are to have me. But I’m only there one day a week; I am a major dental corporation’s “Regional Hygienist” that is giving me experience across five different offices. It’s an amazing opportunity but a demanding one that I’d probably wouldn’t stay in for longer than a year.
So you can imagine my elation when my New Zealand “dream job” offers me their full-time Lead Hygienist role because their current Lead Hygienist who has been there for 15 years… is retiring.
Last spring, when I initially found out I didn’t get the job back home, I went for a long walk along the ocean. I remember every single detail of that walk as I pondered my destiny and felt that deep instinctual reassurance that I was exactly where I was meant to be. I remember the ocean water lapping against my feet, I remember the hot, late-afternoon sun kissing my face, and I remember the wet sand underneath my feet.
It was the sand I remember most. I remember feeling every step sink deep into the ground, more than I’ve ever experienced before. There was something very significant about those very first steps I took in this new life of mine. And then I remembered. I remembered a journal I wrote almost three years prior after returning home from my last world trip, a journal that a very sad and lost version of me penned during a very sad and lost time in my life.
“This life is not meant for me. So have it I will not. I will fight until I find the soles of my feat treading deeper grounds, grounds so soft I seem to melt into them, grounds so foreign yet so familiar I can’t help but feel I’ve finally found where I belong. I will follow my soul until I find the life that fits. It’s just taking a little longer, because that life hasn’t been built yet. I will make this life what it was always meant to be.”
I don’t know where this road may lead or how long I’ll stay. All I know is in this moment, I’m exactly where I am meant to be, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am living my destiny.
Never give up, and never allow your thoughts to limit your eventual reality. Because at one point, everything, including you, was just a dream.