Hi, I’m Tara!I'm not quite sure where I'm going, but I plan to travel as much as I can while I figure it out. Follow along for stories about living as an expat in Shanghai, getting lost in other countries, and forcing myself to get uncomfortable!
My Story: How I Ended Up Teaching in China
Here’s my story about how I learned the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and realized how rewarding it is to live life without fear dictating my every move.
Where it all began:
Oftentimes the people I meet don’t believe me when I explain how different I am from the person I was in high school. I was always a happy, quirky, outgoing people-person, that hasn’t changed; however, I was one of the most nervous people you’d ever meet. I was terrified of stepping out of my comfort zone.
To paint you a picture, I’ll share some of my most embarrassing moments.
I was the girl who threw up on the bus on the first day of 6th grade because I was so nervous about starting middle school. Then, I refused to ride the bus for another week because I was so worried about what people must have thought of me.
I love to sing, constantly. When I auditioned for a show in 8th grade, my voice literally dropped an octave because of my nerves. It was the first time I had to audition in front of my classmates. What did I think was going to happen if I got the part?
My freshman year of high school, I nearly cried when I had to give my first presentation in class. I was shaking so badly and nearly got sick, again. FLASHBACKS!
My senior year of high school, I had a call back for a part in our senior musical. What did I do? I cried until they let me not sing in front of the others. Again, what did I think would happen if I got the part? Ugh.
Towards the end of my freshman year of college, the executive board of my favorite student org asked me if I would apply for a position with them and take on some extra responsibility. I told them no because I was too afraid. I was afraid that if I had the extra responsibility, I would screw something up. I hated the idea of possibly being the one at fault so much that I was content just taking orders from people and helping them turn their own ideas into successful events.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I decided to work at an amusement park in Ohio. For the first week or two, I refused to spiel because I was too nervous speaking in front of people – even though I was fully aware that nobody listens to the ride host’s instructions anyway.
I’m hoping by now you see how much I let my nerves run my life and really keep me from doing a lot of things I would have had a great time being a part of.
The turning point was that summer at the amusement park. It was a rough transition too. My Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader decided I would be a good candidate for their “third in charge,” that in their absence I’d be the person responsible for running breaks, dealing with problems, supervising, etc. I was mortified when they asked me. They told me I could say no but I accepted, not understanding why they picked me. I went back to my apartment AND CRIED. I called my mom sobbing and talking about quitting. I was that scared. She was able to talk me down and encourage me to just try it. If I didn’t like it, that’s all I had to tell them but at least I would have tried.
Getting comfortable being in charge that summer was definitely a struggle for me but soon I fell in love with being the person people went to for guidance, training, and guest problems. I enjoyed owning the fact that I actually do know what I’m talking about sometimes. It was an insane confidence boost for me. I think that was huge because I was never confident about ANYTHING. I’m still very modest but I don’t think poorly about myself. I realize now how much I abused myself emotionally back then. I never appreciated myself and definitely didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute to the world. I just went with the flow and was content with that.
After that summer, I decided I wanted to apply for a leadership position for the following year so I would be able to be in charge of my own crew. I also decided to take on extra responsibility in student orgs and get more involved on campus. When the time came to apply for executive positions for on campus organizations, I couldn’t have been more excited.
That was the year that I really tried my hand at leadership. It was then that I confirmed my love of stepping out of my comfort zone. After that, I decided to leave the country for the first time and spent my summer living in France studying French. There I learned independence, something I didn’t realize I was lacking. I went through one of the hardest times of my life on the other side of the world without knowing anyone and came out stronger because of it.
This led up to my senior year of college where I felt like I was on top of the world. I was high on life and felt comfortable with the person I was becoming. This year I took on even more responsibilities as President of my favorite campus org, got a campus radio show, became comfortable running meetings, and discovered some things I really enjoy doing. I became more in tune with myself and was more confident than ever.
My first job out of college was interesting. It certainly wouldn’t have been most people’s first choice but I learned a lot and was forced out of my comfort zone even more. I became more comfortable talking with total strangers, training, getting up in front of a group and teaching them something, and ultimately why it’s so important to LIVE YOUR OWN DREAMS instead of someone else’s.
When I quit that job, I knew I needed to do something I was passionate about. The two things I love most are planning events and traveling. After a friend of mine had spent the previous year teaching in Shanghai and having the time of her life, I decided to message her about it. This was something I had been considering for a while. After getting some information from her, I decided I wanted to take the leap and go for it. Originally I thought I’d go back to France and do the same thing there, but then decided to expand my comfort zone. I already lived in France once, and while I’d love to live there again, I thought it would be a great experience to go somewhere totally different.