Hi all! My name is Carly Cottle. Little, and proud sister, of Ash. I am 22 years old and a soon to be graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. (Currently engaging in a little happy dance while I type this out because saying that just feels so sweet after four long years as an undergrad.) Aside from my giant passion for working with the little humans, I would consider myself to be a bit of a life enthusiast.
I am a Las Vegas native but seventeen weeks ago, jumped on a plane to Galway, Ireland to complete my Student Teaching. I wanted to share this experience of mine because it has radically restored the gratitude I have for this precious life. It has humbled me to be still, inspired me to marvel at the small things, and encouraged me to celebrate the mundane and the people found within it with an abundance of love, grace, and compassion.
I chose to embark on this journey abroad for so many reasons. I wanted the opportunity to be anonymous. I wanted the chance to be brave. To be out from underneath my security blanket, away from everything and everyone familiar to me. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted my eyes to be opened to something bigger than everything I thought I knew. I wanted to explore and I wanted to learn. To amerce myself in the unknown of another culture. I just wanted an experience that was completely my own, to courageously weave through the way in which I wanted.
When I arrived in Galway, the first couple nights were my most challenging. I moved into a large, vacant house by the sea with no Wi-Fi, no friends, and no sense of direction as to where I was going when I was to step foot back outside of the house. My roommates were to arrive the week after I got there so I was feeling quite apprehensive walking into a large empty house all alone. I remember unpacking my things, sitting on my new comfy, yet dusty bed in an emotional state of “What the hell did I just do?” My heart was pounding and my eyes were heavy. I had a world wind of emotions running throughout every inch of my body. Part of me was so angry with myself for feeling this doubt in my decision to come abroad. I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be scared, to be out from underneath familiarity. So why am I feeling this way?’
I wanted to be out of my comfort zone, yet I didn’t seem to like uncomfortable. I wanted to be away from everything and everyone familiar to me, yet I seemed afraid of the unfamiliar. I prayed a lot that night, asking God to stop me in the midst of my anxious thoughts and send me the strength to be still. I knew there was purpose in my feelings of fear, doubt, and reservations; I just didn’t yet understand what that purpose was.
That next day after spending a lot of time in prayer and being consoled by my gracious mom, my oh sweet and gracious mom, I decided I would no longer spend my precious days alone in this new place feeling anxious, afraid, and lonely. I would spend them doing what I came abroad to do. This was my experience after all, so I was going to challenge myself to work alongside my fears and amerce myself in the journey, just as a vowed to do before I left.
That day, I booked a cheap hotel room and bus ticket to Cork.
I’m not sure if it was my continuous prayer, the consoling from my sweet mother, or if it was the fact that I challenged myself to find beauty and comfort in the unfamiliar, or maybe even a combination of all three, but being alone didn’t feel like being alone anymore. It felt like an opportunity to discover who I was in a completely raw and vulnerable state. I can’t tell you how fulfilling and liberating that week alone was. I discovered a side of me I didn’t know existed. I think it was buried deep under all of that fear of the unknown, I didn’t even recognize I had.
Today, seventeen weeks into this journey of mine, gratitude means something completely different to me than it did before I left. I have met so many wonderful people throughout this journey. I have made close friends, created lifelong friendships, built relationships with my most unique, wild and rambunctious kiddos, and met sweet strangers who have restored my faith in human connection. I have witnessed the vastness of this beautiful country; I have been so privileged to live in for these months. I have hiked mountains, soaked in geothermal hot springs, and sat dangling my feet over the edges of tall, rocky cliffs. I remember each courageous thought, each silent prayer, and each feeling of emotion that made up each of these moments during this journey. My heart has absolutely been filled with joy and gratitude for every single bit of it. The places I have been able to see, along with the people I have meet along the way, have made an imprint on my being, in ways I don’t think I will ever be able to explain.
Each day that I am here, my heart continues to fill with gratitude.
Gratitude for the people I’ve met, for the places I’ve been, and the strength I’ve gained to be still.
I have learned to trust God, and to trust myself. This experience is embedded in the fabric of who I am. It has replenished and restored me. It has laid my heart brave and inspired me to never stop seeking what I am most passionate about.
So whatever your passion is or whatever you consider yourself to be an enthusiast for, go at it full speed and chase it. Make a list of empowering vows along the way, and chase it. Love it and nurture it, even if it scares you. Welcome it with unbolted arms, a heart soft and exposed, and intentions that are filled with love and purpose. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and brave. Agree to disagree with your fears, and do your best to find beauty in the scary and the unfamiliar.
Let your heart be filled with gratitude as you sit back and marvel at your wild and precious life because well, it absolutely deserves that kind of love and recognition.