Friday, July 23, 2010

Working life...

It is incredible how the entire course of ones life can change in a single phone call. We make decisions in life and we work towards goals or objectives, but ultimately the course of our lives are determined by a single correspondence. That phone call telling you that you've been hired; that letter telling you that you've been rejected; that email from an old friend with inspiring words urging you to go and meet them on the other side of the world - such messages, seemingly trivial on the grand scale of things, actually carry more significance than anything else in our lives.

It was a beautiful sunny day on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and I was surrounded by loved ones when I received that phone call. I knew who it was, and I was prepared for what they were about to tell me, but I knew that ultimately whatever they told me when I picked up that phone would dramatically change the course of my life. It's not like I hadn't been through that before, and I'm sure I'll go through it again, we all do throughout life. But it didn't really hit me how significant that phone call was until I walked inside and saw the looks on the faces of those close to me when I told them "I'm going to Ecuador".

Just two months ago I never would have thought I'd be leaving the country again so soon, I came back here to work after all, and to pay off my student debt. I lived for the last two years without working and living very simply, but it is much easier to live simply in a land where the masses live in destitution. Living in Latin America I was able to overcome the pressures that accompany debt; I was able to ignore the societal voice telling me that I had a responsibility to join the workforce and pay off my debt and be a good, normal citizen. I believe that we live in a system designed to keep you working hard for the rest of your life, and I prefer to avoid this. Although I've given in to it for the time being, I'll never let it fully consume me.

I've been working here in Tofino B.C. for the last four months as a surf instructor. When I tell people what I do they think its a pretty sweet job, and it is to a degree, but like any job it has its ups and downs. I get to be outside on the beach, introducing people to the wonders of surfing, and quite often simply getting paid to surf. The down side of surf instructing comes on a cloudy day, standing waist high in chilly water as the strong wind lashes at your face, pushing a hopeless, unenthusiastic pupil over and over again into messy white wash waves. Overall it is a rewarding job, especially when you feel the stoke of someone who stands up and catches their first wave. The greatest moment I had was just the other day when I took a 72 year old grandmother out. She put her wetsuit on with less complaint than most people, carried her own board down to the beach and tread out into the water with the rest of us as her husband stood by on the beach with her heart medicine at hand. I clutched her board for her and told her to lay down facing the beach, and as I pushed her into that first wave I felt like everything slowed down and I watched her with a shared sense of joy as she careened along that wave toward the beach. She went right into shore after just one wave, and as I approached her smiling face she told me that she had finally done something she's wanted to do her entire life, and that one was enough.

Of course, satisfaction for me is a continual search, and when it comes to working I refuse to settle on something that simply pays the bills. I want to be a part of something bigger than just myself, and I know that the transformations taking place in Latin America are in need of support. My Spanish is slipping even though my goal is to become fully fluent, my bones are chilled and ready for the sun and warm water. And so with all this in mind, I started applying to different jobs. Within a week I had my first interview - I was not prepared for this in the least bit. The last interview I had was more than a year ago, and in Spanish. By the third interview this time around I was ready to impress. And so it came that I received that phone call offering me a job in Ecuador. I'll be taking a big pay cut, but it's enough to survive and pay a little off my debt at the same time. In any case, ultimately, money cannot buy happiness or satisfaction.

And so my working life continues as I move along the road. I have just less than one month left in Tofino, one month left with those close to me here. The warm weather has brought the early fog, leaving the mornings dark and cool until the fog burns off and the sun breaks through. The days almost feel longer this way, and the sun sets every evening in an explosion of crimson happiness. I'm going to try and make the most of my time here while preparing for the journey ahead, it would be a shame to not take advantage of the wonders that this place provides.

No comments: