One of the great things about the last few years is that my "new" job (the one I took on 2+ years ago) permits us to live life in chapters. I take on work for a finite amount of time, so there are clear beginning points, end points and transitions as I move through and between assignments. Somehow, I feel more connected to my life as I live within this framework. I am more mindful of the passage of time, and of doing all I can to spend it well. Looking back on the decade before this job, my career was a speeding car, whizzing by the scenery of my life so fast that I barely took it in. I literally cannot pinpoint even the year certain things happened, because those years are such a blur. I don't regret them for one minute, but it was hell on my personal life.
I pick up odd bits of insight and wisdom here and there, sometimes from very unlikely sources. Years ago, I read an interview with Julia Roberts, and she was quoted as saying something that has always stuck with me. I think it was from a time period after she had met Danny Moder. I can't remember if they had kids yet. Anyway, she said something like "I feel like I am in the harbor of my life." I liked the sound of it, and now I'm finally living it. I feel like I'm finally in the harbor of my life, too.
Despite being in the harbor, there are still occasional storms, and I've been thinking a lot about how to create a strong family life and how to make myself happier. We are in transition now, home from Europe but not yet settled in our new city. This time has proven to be an excellent opportunity to not only reconnect with family and friends, but also to reflect on what has worked for us over the last two years and how I would like to do things differently in the next chapter. When you are still living in a situation, it can be much harder to critique it and to figure out how to make changes. But when you have already left your old life and have no choice but to reestablish yourself professionally and personally in a new city/country/continent, the bit of distance makes it easier to look back and appraise. I like that I will have a fresh start at the end of the month, a chance to start anew. It feels easier to make changes when you are in a new home, in a new city, making new friends and working at a new job.
I wrote this a few days ago, but never got to finish the post:
We've had the most perfect day today. It is one of those crisp, sunny fall days. Despite the cool weather, Miss M and I put on our swimsuits and went swimming in the lake, then took warm baths. After that, we got dressed and went to pick apples at a local orchard. Miss M had on a a beautiful new sweater that my MIL bought for her. The orchard had pumpkins and mums and cornstalks everywhere around the farm buildings, and I took some quintessential fall pictures of her.
It really was the most perfect day. The air and the water were both far too cold for swimming, but she really wanted to go swimming so we went in anyway, and had a blast. At the orchard, a tractor hauled us in a wagon full of hay up to the picking fields. We picked three kinds of apples from the trees, then went home and made an apple pie. The fall leaves were at their peak. Miss M picked out her very first pumpkins (she at first insisted on selecting one for each of us, but we ultimately settled on just the two for her and SB). The grandparents were there. It was just such a HAPPY day.
We've had a number of those days during this transition. It made me think a lot about what makes me happy, and how to make my life even better. In no particular order, these have been my thoughts on what I'd like to work on:
1. No complaining. Two years ago (for an entire year), I had no one I could complain to at work. I was working with people who I simply couldn't complain to, for one reason or another. You know what? I was blissfully happy. It was one of the happiest years of my life, actually. I was happy for a lot of reasons, but there is no denying the complaining/commiserating factor. When I can't complain, I let it go and move one. Complaining/commiserating is like fast food: you think it tastes good, but hours later you feel like crap. You vent and get it all out, which can relieve tension and stress, but then it festers. I need to get better about this, because the proof is in the pudding that I am actually happier when I don't do it. It's a hard habit to break when you are in a high-stress environment/situation, but I know I can do it, because I did for a whole year!
2. Budget I want to get better about budgeting. When you are living abroad everything feels like it's a "once in a lifetime opportunity," and I tend to want to gorge on travel and experiences. It's easy to overspend. I want to work to create better habits over the next six months while we are in the U.S., so that when we go abroad again we will have a good system in place and can be sure we are meeting all of our financial goals. We are meeting many of our financial goals, but perhaps are not doing as well as we should be in some areas. A better budget should help us reach our goals.
3. Project Positivism I tend to be fairly focused and reserved at work, and I hate to bother other people. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes people to conclude that I am stuck up, rude, or worse. It can be hard to mend fences even when the damage was inadvertent, particularly when you are working with foreign staff. I want to be sure that I an outgoing and positive ray of sunshine as I start this next phase of my job, because that's the kind of employee that people want to work with, and it will generally make my life easier.
4. Date Night! T and I have been stretched pretty thin over the last year. We haven't had a reliable babysitter, and have only had one dinner by ourselves in the last year, which is terrible. We need to make a standing date night, and then honor that. It will be really fun, and good for our relationship. I'm a bit anxious about leaving Miss M and SB with someone, especially SB (who is not yet verbal). But especially with little kids, it is super important. It can feel like every ounce of spare energy is focused on them, but we need to carve out time for us.
In another week, I will be heading back to work and putting all of these things to the test.