What is Health?

One of the ambiguities we face today is a crisis in the definition of health. What is health, anyway?

Many people describe it as the absence of disease. No germs, I’m healthy. Germs, I’m unhealthy. Concern for health is relegated to times of sickness.

Others judge health by looking. If I am overweight, I’m unhealthy. If I’m thin, I’m healthy. If my skin is breaking out: not healthy. Health is relegated to the realm of appearance.

Still others define health by movement. If I have worked out today, I’m healthy. If I haven’t worked out in a while, boo me. I’m unhealthy. Health is determined by how much I’ve exercised.

There are even more ways that we can define health. There are many more factors that indicate health. Here’s what’s revolutionary:

Focusing on any one of these things alone does not truly lead to “health.”

Health is everything. Health is how you look, but health is also how you see yourself. Health is what you eat, but health is also why, how and when you eat. Health is about how much you exercise, but it’s also about why and how you exercise and even whether or not you’re enjoying it.

There are so many articles coming out these days about how we define health. There are articles claiming that certain things are healthy or unhealthy. There is writing in defense of anything we want to defend and writing attacking everything that others are defending, too. It’s nearly impossible to figure out what is “objectively” healthy or not.

Here’s a radical idea:

You already know.

You know what feels healthy in your own life and what doesn’t. By that I mean: you know what brings you joy, what causes you pain, what obscures and distracts from your feelings. You know, somewhere, why you do things and how you could change the way you do them to be “healthier.” What’s hardest is to listen.

Some people, instead of listening, opt for control. They opt for rules that say what’s healthy and what’s not healthy so that they don’t have to think about it. I did this; the Whole30 and other programs like it are one of many ways to do this. It can be a good way to break yourself out of a rut. It is not the only way to live life in the day-to-day.

We are already our own best critics. Most of us have no end to the judgments we can place on ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. We are not, however, our own best friends or listeners. 

Maybe health is actually just….

…being friends with yourself.

Assuming our friendships are healthy, those are often the places where we shine in our treatment of others. We are willing to be there, to listen, to pick each other up when we aren’t feeling good. We encourage each other to rest when we’re tired or sick, and to cry and wallow when we break up with someone or suffer a loss.

Wouldn’t we be healthier if we treated ourselves this way, too?


What is Health?

From French Girl to Latin Girl


In high school, college, and my minimal number of years in “the real world,” I was always that girl who knows French. People who knew this fun fact, or heard that I had lived in France, would say something in French and ask me to translate, or ask me to say something French — as a test?

Now, I am Latin girl. People ask me to say something Latin, or they give me something in Latin to translate. Speaking French is no longer the most salient Fact About Me; what comes up first is Latin teacher.

I’m loving it. There’s a whole other side of me that’s been dusted off and put on, slipped over the French and the teacher and the studied-abroad. It’s the writerly, grammarly, linguistic-y side of me…back again. It’s mixed with odd echoes of my middle school self, enthusiastically chanting the declensions with my teacher and competing with my best friend over who could finish the most homework the fastest (we definitely failed the tests).

Here’s the thing that speaks-French me and reads-Latin me have in common: we love words, we love writing, and we love teaching. We love exploring different cultures through arts and literature, learning the histories, lesson planning, and spending time with kids. We get so nerdy-excited about language. Like, I bought a book on the history of sentence diagrams. I’m reading a scholarly article on classification of words into groups other than the traditional parts of speech. I’m back at school (again and again) and absolutely thrilled about it.

I’m also planning and organizing furiously, trying to get ready for the school year, but knowing that it’s a pipe dream, and instead I should adopt a carpe diem approach – seize each day, each lesson, each teachable moment as it comes. I’m confident that I will learn as much as my students this year, and that is exciting.

So really, French girl and Latin girl aren’t very different. Both feel like me.

From French Girl to Latin Girl

Going Places

I use my favorite travel photos as my desktop backgrounds. I’ve told my computer to rotate through a folder of photos, all my best ones, changing every time it wakes from sleep. I love this way of remembering where I’ve been. Every time I open my laptop, a new place pops up and I’m flooded with memories of standing right there, looking at that, capturing the moment.

I wish I could capture the feeling. Sometimes it washes over me in a wave of nostalgic tears, and I sense so acutely that part of me is missing.

What part, you ask? There’s a lot of writing out there talking about how traveling changes your life, that it’s life-changing, that it impacts everything you think and believe in, thereby changing your life through all the life-changing experiences. Sense a pattern?

I kind of believe that, but I think it changes lives not in the generic just take off and land somewhere and you’re insta-changed sense, but in the sense of it really makes you think about yourself, where you came from, and where you’re going. And it makes you think about the now.

Maybe it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a song, or a smell. Sometimes I get any kind of sensory stimulus and it’s suddenly specific and transporting me back. I’m back on the streets of Valenciennes, strutting over the cobblestones with my school bag bouncing on my hip, in my no-nonsense black boots, watching out for ubiquitous dog crap (no matter how lucky it is to step in it). Other times I’m sitting in the Jardin de Luxembourg, under the Paris sunshine with my best friends, market cheese, and a bottle of wine per person. I’m alone in the deserted streets of Somain, walking to school before the sunrise. I’m in the metro, bathed in eau de métro – a mix of beer and pee, maybe some mold or garbage, occasionally punctuated by the wafting warm smell of a fresh batch of croissants from the metro cafés. I’m on a train heading somewhere I’ve never been, journaling about last weekend’s parties, my experiences with French people, my struggles with the language and with homesickness.

I was solo, all over the world. I made new friends and saw lots of things, and it was the first time I’d ever felt the true weight of my decisions. Each direction I took determined the likelihood of finding my way through a foreign land. Each social occasion determined whether or not I’d have genuine companions in my expatriation. Mulling over, making, and accepting my decisions was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I learned my own agency: I can do whatever I want, I make my own life, and I accept the consequences of what I make. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was feeling comfortable in my boots and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.

Being back home is like, suddenly there are more people to take into account, and way more past and future things to think about. Old friends, S.O.’s, family members, a serious 8-4 job, the next job, the life direction. There are a lot more expectations about where I’ll devote my attention, a lot more things distracting me from what I’m doing now.

Those brief moments of nostalgia are breaths of fresh air in the muggy swamp of my routine.

Then again, so is the view of Mt. Rainier at sunrise on clear days, as I drive over Lake Washington. So are margarita nights with Mom, Indian food with Dad, sushi dates with my boyfriend and house parties with friends. So is the occasional trip out of town to see more of the great Pacific Northwest, and so are the funny stories from my days spent with kindergarteners.

Being on my own in a foreign place, concentrating on the now, the great things, the adventures of every day – it taught me how to bring that mentality everywhere. When I get those waves of nostalgia, it reminds me of the gifts of the present, of where I am. And even though I’m not alone, I’m not struggling with language, or traveling, or whatever else…I’ve still got the gifts of those experiences: many tools for feeling comfortable in my boots, and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.



Going Places

Two Three

That title was mostly to show off my counting skills. Since I have been teaching so much counting, I have become a counting master. (OK, maybe I knew that well enough before…)

But the other meaning of it is…it’s almost my 23rd birthday! I’ll be finishing my 23rd journey around the sun, and starting my 24th.

My 23rd journey was a big one. It began in Valenciennes, France. In this year, I have not only journeyed around the sun, but I also journeyed to: Poland, Belgium, Greece, England, Spain, the Netherlands, and new places in both France and the U.S.A. I am so fortunate to have seen all of those places before my 23rd birthday. I’m kicking off my 24th sun journey with a trip to New York City, New Haven, and Boston, which should also be cool.

I always like a bit of reflection (but on birthdays especially). Here’s some.

Ironically, what I’ve learned in all this moving around is the importance of roots. A person is an accumulation of experiences, from when they see the first light of day (screaming and covered in mucus, which I’m glad I don’t remember) to the present (because we aren’t yet able to travel through time). Out of my total years lived (not that many — 22 and 358 days), 3.5 of them were spent at college and 1 of them was spent in France. The other 18.5 of them were spent at home. While I do think my travel and college years transformed me in major ways, there was a lot of me that had already been put into place before I pushed myself out of the nest.

While I was abroad, I was suddenly struck by the realization that my family members are important in ways that nobody else in my life is important. Ditto my closest friends. For both these groups, investing time and energy into them is a privilege, and I missed being able to when I was far away. Lesson #1 of my 23rd sun journey: just because they’re roots doesn’t mean they don’t need cultivation.

I love the people I come from, but I also love the place. Seattle is just the best. Every morning, I take 99 through downtown, and I get to see the sunrise over Mt. Rainier with all of the piers and ferries in the foreground. I always want to take a picture, but opt for safer driving…I missed the water and the mountains. And the coffee.

We watched this video about education during our pre-school year meetings, and the speaker (Jaime Casap, educational specialist at Google) advised trashing the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, he advocated replacing that with: “What problem do you want to solve?”

This question made me think differently about “the future.” My generation is in the throes of figuring out a path in life, and it’s a stressful process. This question eliminated some of the stress for me. Even if I can’t pick one particular problem that I want to solve, I know it will be in the realm of education and language and language education. It will be something about breaking down cultural barriers that block mutual understanding when people of different backgrounds try to communicate.

And right now, I am developing super problem-solving techniques. Just earlier today, I was running around trying to solve the problem of having vomit in the middle of the school hallway as classes walked through to recess. It’s all training ;).

My lesson #2 of my 23rd year: life is a process, let it unfold. “Letting it unfold” captures the zen I feel about how I’m doing at finding my path. The way is revealing itself to me, step by step, and I’m in a good position to identify when something is or is not the way. I am less worried about how things will work out, and instead I am letting them work out however they may. I think I even reflect less than I used to. But that’s okay, because I know that I will when I need to again.

Roots and ground, that’s all I need to stand tall and weather whatever comes my way, in sun journey # 24 🙂

Two Three

Working it Out

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.” – Donald D. Quinn

I’ve only taught my “patients” for 12 days, and I already feel the truth of this quote. Teachers have always been superheroes for me, given my mom’s legacy, and they are perhaps even more so now. I would be honored to become one of them.

For now, thank goodness I’m only an assistant. I get to do some fun low-key English and French teaching, hang out with the children all day, butter and jam some baguettes, and clean/organize/wrangle. If I added planning, preparing materials, communicating with parents, and meetings on top of that…I’d be my mother! And I am definitively not ready for that yet.

The best way to learn is to do, though! And I have been doing all I can find to do.

Anyway, the added complication of the classroom is also one of my favorite things about it: diversity! We had parent info night last night: out of nineteen children, there were parents from at least 8 different countries, who speak ~7 different languages. And that was only one of the 7 classrooms at our level! It felt like I was abroad again, in that expat group I love so well, except these parents ex-patted to the U.S.A.

Basically, I want their lives.

But, envy aside, I was inspired. I was standing at the front of the room helping explain some of the rhythms of the classroom to the parents and I realized how much I already care about their kids. There’s a whole lot of teamwork going into their upbringing: parents, teachers, and teaching assistants. And I am soo happy to be on their team.

And it also made me think about my own future, and how I think my destiny is to leave the country again. Grad school 2017, here I come!

Working it Out

In the Big City | In the Big World

I moved. I’m currently writing this from a basement room, now mine, in a house in Wallingford — one of Seattle’s coolest neighborhoods. In my biased opinion, that is. I’ve gotten to know most of the Seattle neighborhoods pretty well, both from summer adventures to visit friends and from recent explorations of my new home. I definitely can’t find my way between them without my trusty Google Maps app, but I’m getting there! Here’s my new nest, for the next year or so:

IMG_5058I have a new job, as a Kindergarten assistant in a dual-language school. I swear I’m more immersed in French there than I was in France. The school day is all in French except for an hour or two of English, and my whole team of teachers has French as their first language. I think I found my perfect next-step job. It’s keeping my language skills up (lots of new vocab…). It’s also really overwhelming me, in a good way, as I learn how to wrangle 5 year olds in a foreign language for 8 hours at a time — Not. Easy.

I come home sweaty and exhausted, with paint all over my fingers. It’s only been three days! But it is incredibly rewarding. The cute outweighs the mess. And part of my job is making a door look like a minion.


The end of summer was really sudden, and it really feels over. For me, the end of summer has always been marked by the start of school, and this year it was no different! Une bonne rentrée, indeed.

My sister left for Italy. It’s her turn to travel the world, and I could not be more excited for her. I keep trying to convince her to start a photo blog, but I have to be content with her instagram photo updates, for now…Seeing her off filled me with nostalgia. I vividly remember my plane flight toward Paris, now almost three years ago, and how the subsequent semester changed my life. I hope it will do the same for her. Ciao, Clairenstein!

I get the question a lot: Do I miss France? Yes and no. I miss all the people I was close with, both the teachers and students of the lycée/collège in Somain and my fellow English teachers in Val. That international expat community, which insta-forms when you spend time in another country, is unlike any community I’ve encountered at home. There’s an unmatchable open spirit and joie de vivre. The world seems so big.

But losing the community, for now, doesn’t mean I have to lose the spirit of it.

Now, I’m coming full circle. I am training li’l tots to be in the Big World — to range leurs affaires (clean up after themselves) and to be sage (to be wise, in all the ways). To be cognitively and linguistically flexible, to be helpful, patient, kind, and empathetic, are, to me, the requirements of the diverse community we live in. It has returned me to my child roots. I cling to a consistent routine, I clean up after myself, and after two days of school all I needed was a hug from mama. While being in a new position has shaken my confidence, I think I do fit here. I love playing a minimal, but important, part in the development of little global citizens, and it’s exciting to help them learn and grow.

But for real, the children…they are adorable! (ah-door-ableuh)

In the Big City | In the Big World

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion

My position on “going home” was: I can’t wait, I’m so tired of moving!

Apparently, that was a lie. Since I got back, I’ve been moving non-stop. I gave myself a few days to recover from an intense case of jet lag, which made me feel like I was perpetually drunk. Thankfully that feeling subsided after a few good night’s sleeps reset my Circadian Rhythm. I’m officially on Pacific Coast Standard time.

I rested for three days, and then I went to Seattle several times. I spent a day on the Kirkland waterfront. I spent a day at the lake. On Friday, exactly a week after my flight from Barcelona to Seattle, I spent a day in San Francisco. Now it’s Monday, and I’ve been in Walla Walla for two days. I’m writing this from the Colville Street Patisserie, famous in Anne Land for being the birthplace of many thesis drafts last Spring. The cold brew is still awesome.

I fear I am addicted to traveling. My parents enabled me with the (to be paid off by me) gift of an eggplant-colored Honda Fit, which I’ve named Aubergine (Gina for short), and she and I have already gone many miles together.

The difference between travel here and travel abroad is that I’m visiting all of these places completely for the purpose of visiting my long-missed best friends. I guess this is really my style: I go where my friends are. Even in France, most of my trips were either to go see friends or to go somewhere with friends. It reflects something I realized about myself, which my close friend recently asked me to articulate.

While I am always overjoyed to meet new people, there is a large part of me that is energized by the cultivation of strong, durable, long-term friendships. In life, and especially in Nomad Life, it’s easy to meet new people. I met new people all the time over the past year, and it taught this former shy girl how to be brave and embrace strangers. What’s harder is building relationships that last, especially when there’s a time limit on togetherness. There were some people that I met, thought I’d become really close with if given enough time, and had to say goodbye to. That’s not to say we won’t meet again someday (I hope, I hope!), but every time that happened I became sadder that I had to keep moving.

So, I’ve been traveling at home to recapture those relationships I missed. I’ve been seeking out that feeling I get when I’m with someone who’s shared so many of my past experiences. And because I missed it so much, I’m looking at my relationships with fresh eyes, and I realize how precious they are to me.** The world is big, but friend and family love makes it comfortingly smaller.

IMG_4387 IMG_4379 IMG_4377 IMG_4375 IMG_4363 IMG_4356 IMG_4352

The best thing about home is: it’s where I grew up, and who I grew up with.

** I feel just as lucky to have friends I left behind in Europe that are equally precious to me, who made my year fantastic and with whom I felt totally at home. Val crew, I’m lookin atcha. Miss you.

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion