Goodbye September

September was not my finest month. My circumstances were not ideal and neither was my attitude. You see, for the past 11 years I have always had a full-time teaching job in September. I am used to being slightly stressed and overwhelmed while scrambling to learn my new student’s names and organize myself and my courses for the year. I am used to long, tiring days and trying very hard not to start any sort of countdown. For the first time, in 11 years, I did not have a job on the First Day of School. And that rocked me.

 

I had been praying for a job for September since pretty much the previous September and spent time believing that God was going to provide just that for me. As I approached the summer, I was slightly nervous but still pretty confident that I would be working on the first day of school. As August started to show itself, I was growing a little more tense, but then a job opprotunity presented itself and I was SURE that it was what God has in mind for me. I interviewed and then spent the week panicking until I heard that.. Nope, it was not to be. Devastating. Yet I consoled myself with the fact that it would be okay.. I’d be working by September. And then it was the last week of August, the first week of September, Labour Day and then the first day of school. The only thing on my calendar was a hair appointment mid afternoon. For the first time in 11 years… I was unemployed.

 

I was upset. I was stressed out. I was panicky. I worried about my future, my rent payments, my RRSPs, my long term savings that were dwindling… I was a mess. I felt like a loser, a failure, way too similar to people I had previously judged. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t wake up well. It took me a long time every morning to get to a place where I felt something that resembled peace. Maybe it wasn’t quite peace but it was something that resembled being okay enough to face the day.

 

I kept praying the same thing: “God, please give me a full time job and please help me to trust you.” The prayers didn’t really seem to be working.

 

A side note is that I am not entirely unemployed. I am on a supply teacher list at my previous school and happily, I was being called in quite a lot. I also had some friends in town and I enjoyed being free to spend time with them during the day. And, I have a good friend in a similar situation to me and we did meet up occasionally and discuss how this was only temporary.

 

One day I noticed the fact that September was nearing its completion, fall had started, the weather was changing, and I just wanted time to stop. I was dreading October because that means that a whole month has now gone by where I’m not teaching. What a depressing thought! But this is the thing! I basically spent the summer not being able to enjoy myself because I was so stressed out about a job and I spent September the same way. I know, deep down, that this is all temporary and that the supply teaching gig is actually pretty sweet. I know that I may never have time like this again and I suddenly realized, I can’t keep dreading the future and spending day after day miserable and stressed out. I can’t let one thing that isn’t going the way I want it to go to dictate my thoughts and mood on my entire life.

 

Also, I started to think about how there are so many things I’ve wanted to do that I was unable to do because I was teaching or too tired from teaching. But now– I have time. I actually have time AND energy. I don’t want to waste that. I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in a unique situation, one where I actually have time to write the things I want to write and to read the books I want to read, and to cook the recipes I’ve been eyeing and to get back into running and yoga and all of the other things that I never used to have time to do.

 

I want to actually enjoy the fall. I want to spend time happily working away at projects that I’ve ignored for far too long. I want to enjoy being able to meet up with a friend in the afternoon for coffee. I want to remember that God has me in this moment in time, in these particular circumstances, for a reason and I want to be able to calm down and relax in that. He’s got me.

 

So now I’m looking at October, 31 whole days, and maybe I’ll get a job and maybe I won’t. I am determined to make use of this month either way, and to live each day purposefully and well.

 

I haven’t had my “doom and gloom” early morning freakouts for a while now and my prayers are no longer me begging God to help me trust Him. I realized the other day that finally… finally after ages and ages, I actually DO trust Him. I’ll keep praying for wisdom and guidance and direction and a job but while I pray, I hold onto the fact that I serve a good God, with a perfect plan and I can trust in Him for all things.

 

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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!