Excerpt from a Letter to My Cousin in Spain.

It’s too bad you can’t stay in Spain for a whole year. Just when your brain is getting used to processing information in Spanish you have to come home. When I was preparing to go to China, my professors and colleagues who’ve been to China say that after a couple of months their dreams start to be in Chinese. That’s when they catch on to the language faster. I mean, through everyday application, they could speak fluent Mandarin – some even lose their gringo accents, but an extended stay really does make a difference (according to my very lucky colleagues).

Teaching English in China is a wonderful opportunity that I think I missed. I should have prepared that as a backup plan just in case the Peace Corps didn’t work out. Unfortunately, I “missed the boat.” As much as I would like to drop what I’m doing now and experience that new world, it would be inconsistent with what I’ve been doing so far. And everything that I’m doing now ought to translate into acceptance to MBA-school. There is a possibility that I can go to China for a year to teach English – the year right before I apply to MBA-school. Yet, that’s a big “if”. Maybe I can incorporate an experience in China while I’m in graduate school? Learn from my own mistakes. If you want to go to China (or travel anywhere else for an extended period of time), do it before you set foot on your career path. Once you start on that path, you will get more and more reluctant to interrupt its course as time passes by.

You commented on how you’ve only now discovered things about yourself and about what you would like to do, and how it would be better if “the light turned on” back in high school or early college. Yeah… I felt the same way. But, look at it like this: better to have the light turned on now then never at all. So many people don’t realize their own desires until much later in life (say, mid-thirties). By that time, they’re carrying so much baggage (both literally and figuratively) that they don’t want to drop it all. They might have a steady relationship that wouldn’t survive a long-distance relationship. There might be financial obligations that cannot be met with a change of job/career. Or, they might finally realize what they want out of a relationship but they’ve been with a person for so long that starting over seems too much trouble. These people end up never leaving their hometowns, stuck in a job that they are not enthusiastic about, and are unhappy in their marriage. Neither you nor I want to end up like that, now, do we?

These several months in Spain are memories that you will keep with you for a lifetime. The routine of a nine-to-five job and coming home to a happy family can wait. There’s nothing wrong with a regular, steady job and a stable, supportive family. That is security. Yet, a year out of one’s life to experience something as grand and indescribable as visiting a totally foreign country can be the difference between a normal, happy life and a fully-lived one.

Shit… I think I just convinced myself to drop everything and go to China!

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