One Year Later…

So it has been a whole year since I packed up my stuff in Tokyo and moved back to Canada. It’s been quite the year. I was having drinks with a friend, who is still living the overseas dream and quite seriously entertaining the idea of moving back to Canada, and she was asking me all about the transition back home. So in lieu of that conversation, I figured that perhaps I would jot down the highlights and lowlights here.

First of all, I think that because I really wanted to be back home and had grown tired of the overseas thing, my transition has been more positive than the ones of those who came back reluctantly. I was actually relieved when August rolled around and I didn’t have to go spend $300 at Wal-Mart stockpiling tampons and deodorant and then summon up the emotional energy to do proper airport goodbyes. It was nice to just glance at Facebook and see that my friends were checking in at the airports and heading back to their second homes and realizing that, nope, no August jet lag for me!

And that’s when the fun began. I got to experience Canada and family life for the first time in a decade. I was able to see Canadian September and be around for all of the birthday celebrations, instead of just reading about it or enjoying photos of them from afar. Thanksgiving, Easter, Long Weekends…It was fun to be able to jet home for any random weekend and join in on basic family life stuff. Also, being in the same timezone as my family and friends still excites me! I don’t need to do clock math in my head to figure out when is a good time to text or call.

It was fun noticing seasons and actually being able to order Pumpkin Spice Lattes in the fall and drink them while wearing boots and sweaters. (I’m actually totally over that beverage… way overrated) But it was awesome experiencing these things.

I also still get a total kick out of being able to understand the world around me and if I don’t understand something, I can call someone and they can explain it to me. I can make my own reservations and appointments and ask for something to be added or taken way from my meal at a restaurant (although I try not to do that because frankly, that’s annoying!) I’m not limited by limited language and that feeling of independence and belonging is still quite thrilling. (Also, I can totally eavesdrop on people’s conversations and actually know what they are talking about and that’s pretty fun for a Nosey Nelly like me!)

I had a one year teaching contract at a private school in Toronto and that was a positive experience too. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with Canadian kids as I’ve only taught International ones but once again, the lesson I continue to learn, all over the world, is that a teenager is a teenager, and while location may cause a few little changes, they are all pretty much the same. So that was a relief! And it was good to get some Canadian teaching experience.

In terms of the not-so-good parts. There are only a couple. I was a bit surprised how much harder and how much longer it took to find a community in Toronto. I am so used to international communities, that for better or worse, adopt you into them the moment your feet hit the foreign soil. It was strange to show up at work and no one cared where I was living or if I knew where to buy decent spinach. Most people had a real work/life separation going on and so there wasn’t that natural social group waiting for me. It was a bit refreshing at the same time as I didn’t NEED to be friends with that strange rude girl or really weird guy, I only had to be polite at work. But I noticed that people don’t seem very aware of what it means to be embracing of new people or how to be inclusive. So yeah, that aspect was a bit harder but the closer I looked, I realized that there are a lot of lonely people in this city and so, slowly but surely, I’ve been making friends and getting some good people in my life.

I also miss the rather reckless way of spending money and taking extravagant holidays. That doesn’t happen anymore. Gone are the expat days of spending money because we could and going to fancy places because that’s what everyone else was doing. Introducing this strange thing called A Budget.

The travel itineraries of my colleagues and new friends are a little more mellow compared to my colleagues of the past 10 years. But there is something to be said for being able to just pop home for the Long Weekend, a small thing that still makes me very happy.

I think that while there are some adjustments and moving back really has been like starting over, I have not regretted for one moment my decision to move back here. (Well, maybe that one time when my bank balance kinda bothered me) I am absolutely loving living in Canada and among “my people” and being around for important occasions. I love that my whole life is in one place and I’m no longer feeling like part of me is here and part of me is across the ocean. I do not regret my decade abroad for one second, nor do I regret my decision to move back.

So there you have it… a year home and still very happy about it!












That time I had a birthday…

I’m older now. I just had a birthday that pushed me from the early thirties to the mid thirties category. A little bit alarming. When I play the rather dangerous game of remembering myself at 24 and thinking about what I thought life would be like at 34 and then actually looking at my life at 34.. well things are not how I thought they would be.

So yes, if I was being 100% honest, it is sad to be single, without kids, living far away from family. It is strange to think that certain things I was counting on happening, may not happen and it’s a lot of work to be okay with that.

But.. and there is ALWAYS a but… this weekend I was reminded that even though God hasn’t filled my life with certain people, He has definitely filled my life with the right people. I had a lovely birthday dinner on the weekend. I kept things small so that I could actually talk with my friends and enjoy their company. We went to a Smokehouse restaurant because apparently I’m into smoked meat these days, and had some drinks and ate some great food, laughed a lot and left the night feeling happy and satisfied. I was made aware that even though I’m far from my family, I have some great friends who do act as family and support me and care for me. That’s pretty nice.

On my actual birthday, a group of former students breezed into town and took me for dinner. They had made the arrangement months ago and it was so fun to have it actually happen. There was a group of 10, all guys who I had taught for 1-3 years back when I lived in Indonesia. I was their age when I first met them and now, 10 years later, they are all grown up, with jobs and girlfriends and real lives going on. It was such a fun evening catching up and telling stories. It was fun because we were all equally excited to be spending time together and I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time. They told me stories about things they remembered I had told them way back when and we reminisced and I remembered how important they were to me back when I was a brand new teacher in a new country trying to learn the ropes. They were a really special group of students, kind, caring, bright, talented, funny. They were my first class and the first group of kids I loved and it was a good reminder that sometimes students are actually listening to my words, and while I don’t have kids of my own, God has given me lots of kids or little brothers and sisters to fill that void.. sort of.

And then there was all the love I received from back home. Messages and emails from my family, who while they are far away, are still able to be a regular part of my life thanks to the wonders of social media and the interwebs. I am very fortunate to have parents and siblings who I’m crazy about and who I know are there for me and love me. I am also extremely blessed to have a strong group of friends, amazing people who are all so different but so important to me. I might be on my own but I’m definitely not alone.

And true– I am single and quite honestly speaking, at this moment the dating situation is bleak but I’m trying not to fret myself. The fact is, this birthday has reminded me that God is taking care of me, that He is filling my life with the people I need and that I am not going to worry about the things that are so easy for a single woman to worry about. Instead I’m going to focus on how He has blessed me and continues to bless me, while holding firmly onto His promises as I head into another year.

This Past Week

Just got back from three days in Gunma with 27 high school girls and 3 other teachers. I can honestly say that it was the best field trip I’ve ever been on. Everything just worked and fun and adventure was had by all. We had 4 activities: white water rafting, canyoning, kayaking, and mountain biking. Lots of fun and scary moments. I absolutely fell in love with canyoning. It’s basically like whitewater rafting.. without the raft. You put on a wetsuit and a helmut and trek through rivers and streams and jump off waterfalls and into caves. It’s crazy! I had a really cute group of girls and we all worked together and supported each other. It was a total blast.

It was also great being in major nature. Tokyo doesn’t exactly provide that and so I think the fresh air, the fall colours, the gorgeous views, did us all some good.

It was also great to see my students out of the classroom setting. It’s fun to have them encouraging me to jump off a cliff and it’s fun to talk them through kayaking or biking.

The past three days were amazing for me on lots of levels. It was good to stretch and challenge myself to do scary things. It was fun to be totally active all day long and out in nature. It was good to see my students in a new light and it was a good reminder that yes, I really do have a great job!

“Just the Highlights Please” – The October Edition

Can you even believe that it’s the end of October!?!

PROUD OF – a successful Cross Country season. It’s nearly over (last practice today!) and the team has done amazingly well. I really don’t think my coaching skills have had a whole lot to do with it but when the other coach is all about the tough love and technical stuff– I’ve been more about the real love, hugs and snacks. It’s been awesome getting to know the girls on a different level and I feel like, joking aside, I actually do know what I’m doing now.

LETTING GO OF – Getting sucked into drama at work. It’s so easy to get caught up in emotional conversations and hearsay and sometimes it’s kind of fun. But at the end of the day, it’s not entirely productive and ends up doing more harm than good. Yesterday I was insanely busy and so I just kept my head down, taught my classes and did my work and it was a good day. Had a great time with my students and tuned out all of the negative stuff. It worked. Important to focus on why I’m there.

GRATEFUL FOR – my sister. It’s so nice to know that there is someone out there who just “gets” me. It’s important to have a person one can really laugh and cry with and I’m so grateful that I’ve got her in my corner.

OBSESSED WITH – Ommwriter. Check it out. A really cool online place that lets you focus on writing while tuning out distractions. It’s pretty and it’s fun.

EXCITED ABOUT – Getting my mornings back. I’ve spent the precious early morning hours for the past 3 months with 60 of my favourite little running machines and it’s been great but it’s time to work on my own fitness, drink hot coffee, and be able to putter around my apartment until my heart’s content.

COMMITTING TO – Finishing creating my Life Plan. I’ve been working on this 12 Category Life Vision/Action plan and it’s coming together. However, we all know I can make the plan.. but can I do the plan???

Just Quick Like

Bags are packed and ready to go. Just finished my 9th year of teaching on Friday and I am so looking forward to summering in Canada!

This year has been nuts and I’m really looking forward to being home and relaxing and also just getting healthier in all kinds of ways. As one of my colleagues put it, “This school year felt like we were on a train going a thousand miles an hour and then it just suddenly.. stopped.”

So with that craziness behind me, I’m looking forward to being home and being around all of the people I love so much! 

“Just the Highlights Please” – The March Edition

Well — we survived January and February.. barely I might add but we did it! Now onto waiting for Spring to hit and knowing that before we know it, Summer will be upon us! This is all very good. And so now– here’s a bit of a recap.

PROUD OF: The fact that quite a few continuous weeks of eating right and exercising are paying off. The scale is moving in the right direction.

GRATEFUL FOR: Family. I don’t even know where to begin with this one but they are incredible. There is strength and love and loyalty there and I am a way better person because I belong to these people.

LETTING GO OF: Excuses. I am forever putting things off and forever making excuses. I recently had a revelation that the only thing keeping the person I am now from becoming the person I really would love to be… is hard work. So um… let’s get on it!

OBSESSED WITH: TwoGrand. It’s an app. Think where Instagram meets a food journal like MyFitnessPal. I’m a geek. Basically, now I take photos of everything I’m eating and know that complete strangers are looking at my meals and judging me. Whatever works right? It’s also pretty cool to see all of the healthy things other people eat. Check it out!

EXCITED ABOUT: The approaching Spring break! Only one week left until one week off. This year I’m not taking a tropical holiday *sigh* but instead I’ll be hanging out in Japan. Perhaps taking a couple days away to Kyoto or something but overall I’m really looking forward to hanging out in Tokyo, reading books, exploring cool new neighbourhoods, lunching with my friends… It should be good. Fortunately, quite a few of my friends are staying here too… so it should be a lovely week.

COMMITTING TO: Staying focused on becoming the ideal version of me. Asking myself if my daily choices are going to get me closer to or pull me further away from this idea.

And that’s about it!

Ramblings About Money

It’s a strange thing to realize that you’re a grownup. After hiding in the label of being a twenty-something for 10 years and then trying to figure out what it means to be a thirty-something.. I realized that it’s not the same kind of thing at all. When you’re thirty you need to start really getting your crap situation figured out if you haven’t already. It’s okay to be broke with heaps of stamps in your passport at 25.. at 35.. it’s a bit different. Because in my 30s, I need to be thinking about my future. I can’t be paying off the same debt, making the same financial mistakes, being the same kind of impulsive that I was years ago. I know that doesn’t actually lead to any happy or healthy state of being.

I heard recently of a bank that was trying to get people to invest for their future selves. They put people’s images through an “aging machine” and showed them photos of how they will most likely look in 30-40 years. The idea was to prompt them to start saving for that person and stop spending on who they are now. Powerful ideas really.

I have realized that I am very impulsive, I don’t like saying no and I love stuff. Seeing as I don’t have any rich uncles who are about to die and I haven’t published a New York Times best seller.. and no obscenely wealthy sheik or bachelor is vying for my affection, I can’t continue to support my impulses and desire for stuff. It’s interesting because I find that I am really quite addicted to stuff. And with online shopping, I can get all the stuff I want delivered to my house. I don’t even have to go out!

This has to stop. It’s not healthy. It’s excessive. I have learned to justify my purchases in alarming ways. I deserve it, I had a bad day, I’m alone in Tokyo so I deserve a treat, I don’t have a mortgage or children to provide for so why not, I have a good job, I can afford to treat myself… the justifications go on and on. And the thing is, they aren’t lies. Sometimes I think it’s good to treat oneself, sometimes I think that it’s nice to make a reward and figure out a way to earn it. But when I go and buy things hoping for a sense of fulfillment or glimpse of happiness, I realize how very fleeting they are. Then credit card statements come and I can’t even remember what that recent amazon purchase was.

The thing is.. yes I have money but I’m not being a good steward of it. I’m not thinking of me at 63 or 73 or 83.. I’m still so programmed to thinking of how me at 33 is going to have a good happy time. I need to be mindful of my choices, find joy in things other than stuff (God and people) and think of the future, not the present.

My goal would be to be in a position that if I was presented an opportunity to… go write a book on a island for a year or go work in an orphanage for a period of time or move home for a while or go back to school or any other sort of fill-in-the-blank situation that I haven’t thought of.. that I would be able to do it without any major strain. I don’t want to be controlled by money or the lack of it.

So I’m moving into a new stage of being sensible.. I should have figured that out 10 years ago but .. well there were some important stamps I needed in my passport.