Letters from Emily: I’m Tired of Being Underestimated

August 25, 2018

I can remember the way I felt before I left for Europe. I remember how I felt when I booked my non-refundable ticket, and how I felt 6 months before, 3 months before, 1 month before, 1 week, and 1 day. I was getting ready to leave the United States for the first time to be completely by myself for 3 months. I was preparing for something bigger than myself. It was an unsettling, yet not necessarily bad, feeling of fear, excitement, anxiety, and calm. I was pretty all over the place, but it wasn’t often just one of those things. It was almost always the same combination of them all. I felt prepared but still had so many questions.

I’m under 5 months away from leaving the United States for the second time. 4 months, 24 days until my departure. It’s hard to describe how I feel this time around. I think the only word that can really describe how I feel is “ready.”

At least, as ready as I can be to fling myself into the unknown. I haven’t not had my future planned since I was 18 years old. After my gap year of working in New York, I moved to Florida, started school, and have been working to achieve my bachelor’s ever since. Since I have lived here, I have been working toward a specific, restrictive goal that immobilized me for 4 years.

But in 4 months and 22 days, my goals are all mobile. I’m ready for that. I can do what I want for 5 or 6 months. I can choose where I want to go to teach. Or, I can not choose. I can get my certification and then work online and continue to travel. I can do whatever I want. I don’t have a time restriction. I don’t have to cram everything into 3 months. This time can be unlimited, if I want it to be, and everything is on my own terms. I can travel and explore at my own leisure.

When I tell people of my travels, I get different reactions. Some people are in disbelief. Others are intrigued, wanting to know more. But some people feel inclined to try to “educate” me on the dangers of Southeast Asia. The whole “you’re going to get kidnapped and sold into the white slave trade” jokes are getting old, and honestly, they aren’t even funny. They never were. While that might be a reality, that isn’t something I necessarily want to think about every time I talk about my future. I don’t know why people try to deter me from doing what I want, from living the life that I want. Maybe people just project in weird ways. But the condescending nature of people’s “caring warnings” about the realities I face going to these places, as if I haven’t done the research, is something I can definitely do without. Support my decisions, my future, and uplift me, or don’t bother following along. Nothing, no verbal warnings, are going to prepare me for what I’m going to face. I’m aware of that. I am not naïve to think that it’s all going to be beauty and roses. It wasn’t the first time around, but I still did it by myself, and I survived. It will be even more difficult this time. I know that. And I’m tired of being underestimated.

I’m under 5 months from leaving…and I’m ready.

Sincerely,

Emily Rose Wanders (2)

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