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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 ūüôā

Two Three

19 Days.

My hiatus from blogging has been due to my Intensive TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Course actually being quite intense.

I’m currently in Toulouse, France, where I signed myself up for school again — teacher school! I’m learning methods for teaching English to¬†those who don’t (yet) speak English. We’re in class from 9-7 every day, learning pedagogical methods and grammar in the morning and practicing teaching in the afternoon.

It is SO nice to have a lot of work to do. It’s not just any work, either — I love planning lessons, and I love teaching them. My creative energies feel focused and my workaholism is coming back. I keep kicking myself, thinking about how much more smoothly my year would’ve gone (in my head) if I’d had all of this planning practice and all of these teaching and classroom management tools. I think it went fine as it was, but now that I know what was missing I can’t quash my urge to go back and do it all over again.

Luckily, I’ll get even more teaching experience next year, as an assistant teacher at the French-American School of Puget Sound! I’m so excited that I get to remain in (bilingual) education and use my French…¬†and be back in the Pacific Northwest!! Though¬†it still doesn’t feel entirely real that I’ve got a job…I keep imagining them taking it away from me due to some mistake in the hiring process.

I only have 19 days left in France. When that hit me, I felt…torn. Really, it’s my heart that’s torn. There are a lot of people in Europe who I love and who I’ll miss, and there are a lot of people at home who I can’t wait to come back to. There are a lot of things I love about France, and there are a lot of things I miss about the states.

But above all else, I think I’ve reached my traveling limits. One of my new Toulouse friends said, wisely, that we all have limits. Reaching a limit doesn’t mean that we can’t push ourselves past it:¬†sometimes we want to push ourselves past limits… and sometimes we don’t want to. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to. I’m a lover of challenging oneself, but if I’m pushing myself in a way that doesn’t feel right, I’m no longer loving myself, or trusting my own gut.

It feels bizarre to admit this, but I’ve reached a limit with Being Abroad — one¬†which, for now,¬†I don’t feel the need to push myself past. I feel more isolated from my fellow expats, I more often feel depleted of energy, and all this makes me¬†less willing to engage deeply with an environment that I know I’m going to leave. They’re all feelings I can compartmentalize, but they aren’t feelings I can ignore.

One of my least favorite things that people do when they’re “travelers” is when they judge people who “aren’t.” Traveling (and living abroad) is something you do, it’s not something you are. Some people don’t travel, and it doesn’t make their life experiences less cool or important. Knowing the¬†judgment that exists makes me afraid to admit:

I don’t want to travel¬†anymore.¬†

I might¬†get back to the U.S. and decide that next year I want to jet off again. I definitely will be driving all over to see my friends and family in different states when I’m home. Basically, it’s not because I’m incapable of starting over somewhere new, where I know no one and their language is not¬†my first language. I’ve done that, and loved it. Twice. Three times, if I count this move to Toulouse. I would never trade away any of my Being Abroad experiences.

But¬†at the moment, there’s something I love¬†and miss¬†about the¬†familiar.

When it’s as easy as breathing to smile at people in the street, when you¬†have to order food and know exactly what to say, when you’ve got old friends around to remind you of things you forget about yourself. When you walk into a place¬†you’ve been a million times before, and the known-ness of it makes you feel at home….all of these are the things I miss when I say I miss the “States.” I want to swim in the lake and hike mountains and wine taste in Walla Walla with my very best friends. I want to cuddle with my cat, and hear about my mom’s work day, and get ice cream at Mallard’s with my sister, and sail in the Sound with Dad.

I know I’ll miss France. But, I can miss France and appreciate home at the same time. I can miss home and appreciate France at the same time. And I feel¬†beyond lucky to have all of these things to love.

19 Days.