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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Minute Notes from Japan

Tomorrow I will be getting on a plane and flying back to Canada. I’m coming home! It’s been a whirlwind last few months here and yet, the day before departure has finally arrived. I am feeling more excited than anything, although as the days wind down I’m am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that there are people, places, and aspects to life here that I will indeed miss terribly.

It has been a good 4 years. I have learned a lot about myself, people, and most importantly, God. I have had a lot of exciting opportunities through work and been given the chance to really get involved in life here. I have joined a hardcore bible study and gotten to know some incredible women outside of work. I learned to run. I learned to coach. I learned to be a Head of Department (let’s never let that happen again!), and I learned what it means to trust God with every detail of my life.

With this as my third “international post”, I feel that I have some experience with goodbyes. This one feels a little bit different because this goodbye involves me handing in my Foreigner Card. I’ve been holding onto that baby for 10 years and now, it’s time to hand it in.  I feel like I’m not only saying goodbye to Japan, but also in a sense to the expat life. There is some sadness there but at the same time, I am really looking forward to being done with emotional airport goodbyes, massive Wal-Mart shops for 6 months worth of tampons, toothpaste and deodorant, and long long flights. I’m looking forward to understanding what’s going on around me, being able to easily make dinner reservations, and being able to buy shoes any time of year! So true, I am saying a major sort of goodbye, but I’m also saying a really happy hello!

I feel very blessed for the way the past 10 years of my life have played out and I am really excited about relocating and living the next 10 in my home and native land!

Home.

“You can never go home again”

They say that once you have left a place, you can never return. Once you’ve left home, nothing will be the same… that includes you. Social media is littered with posts about the things you learn living abroad, why you’ve changed once you’ve been overseas, how your life is so different, your perspectives so altered, how you will NEVER fit back into your pre-experience life. I am guilty of posting such articles too and I have found comfort in knowing that I’m not alone on this expat adventure. It’s fun to be part of a semi-if-not-entirely-self-proclaimed special group of people but… I’m tired now.

Because in all of my travels, all of my overseas experiences, all of my attempts to make and create a “sense” of home miles and oceans away from my original one, I have come to see that for me, my first home is where I want to be.

I have been blessed to meet people who were my temporary “family”. I have lived in nice places that I have called “home”. I have worked on blending into a new country that I can call my “land” but… I miss the original.

Because you see– through all my travels I think I’ve realized the other cliche truth that you can go around the world and realize that the thing you want most was there all along.

Because I want to feel like I belong somewhere. Being a foreigner is fun and exciting and makes you automatically quite interesting. You can get away with things by playing the “Dumb foreigner card” and you can get extra perks because “you’re new here”. But I’m tired of standing out, I’m tired of not being entirely sure what is going on around me and I’m tired of feeling like I don’t belong. I’m looking forward to being in a place where I do belong and am accepted.

Because I want to be close to MY people. There is something thrilling about meeting people and realizing that they only know the you that you have been since you moved to that country. You can reinvent yourself, you can change as much about yourself as you want, you can choose to leave out huge chunks of your life when you’re telling stories BUT there is something so wonderful to be around people who have always known you. People who know your family and where you came from. People who “get” you and love you no matter what. People who remember your mid-nineties obsession with all things denim and still talk to you. I have been fortunate enough to find myself in some wonderful communities and I have made some incredible friends but it’s time to go back to my roots because I really miss the people who really know me.

Because I want to be part of “every day” life with my family. I am really close with my family and I have enjoyed our intense bursts of time together during the summers and Christmas time but I want to be able to spend random Thursday nights with them or Sunday lunches. I want to be able to just go for coffee with my sister or walks with my parents during crazy times like… October or April. I’m tired of missing out on the every day stuff. I think I’m kind of homesick for the mundane.

I feel truly blessed for the last 10 years, for the amazing relationships/friendships I’ve had, for the experiences I’ve been part of, for the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve been. I am quite aware that most of the memories I take with me will be rose-coloured and I know that once I’m settled into life back home, I’ll miss these places like crazy. But I also have an ache for all things Canada and for now, that’s where I want to be.

I know I have changed a lot during the past 10 years. I know that people and circumstances at home have changed too. That’s life. I know that things will not be exactly the same as when I lived there 10 years ago but that’s okay.. and actually for the better. I’m excited to “start over again” in a familiar place.

So maybe it’s true that you can never go home again– but I’m going to try.

“Just the Highlights Please” – The January Edition – slightly belated.

Hello! Nice to see you again! I seem to have disappeared for a bit. I haven’t done one of these for a while and I feel like it’s a good way to keep track of things going on in my life.

PROUD OF – Surviving January. It was a tricky month. January has always been a problem month for me and this one was no exception. However, I managed to make it back to Tokyo, take care of a sick friend, survive exams and report writing, and still shower every day!

LETTING GO OF – Insecurities. Yeah right. But honestly, I can choose what I want to focus on and accept about myself or what I need to lay to rest. I’m trying not to be dominated by my insecurities and not let them keep me from participating in life. I’m learning to focus on the good things and then either deal with or ignore the nagging ones that don’t make me feel so great.

GRATEFUL FOR – The tight community I’m part of here. It sometimes drives me crazy but I’m surrounded by some very good and kind people. While going through a certain crisis at work, with my sick friend, the amount of love and support we were both shown was overwhelming. It is such a good feeling to know that there are people who will drop everything and help you if they know you need something. Kindness really does make me cry.

OBSESSED WITH – Macadamia Natural Oil Hair Mask. My sister gave me a couple packets for Christmas and I love this stuff! Smells amazing and makes my hair feel all kinds of wonderful. It’s a teensy bit pricey but sometimes you gotta pay for good things! Definitely worth it.

EXCITED ABOUT – February break. We have a 4 day weekend coming up and for some reason I didn’t feel like going on the ski adventure trip. I’m really looking forward to having 4 days to take care of some things, wander around Tokyo, meet up with friends for lunch in the daytime, write, read… It’l be great!

COMMITTING TO – Fitness. Yawn. I know I always say that. January was rough and I find that it takes me a while to get those New Years Resolutions going but I’m running out of excuses. Plus bathing suit and tank top season isn’t too far away! And so– committing to running at least 3 times a week and going to the gym at least 2. I can do this!

Alright well thanks for reading these ramblings. I have a few other more important things to share so please do stay tuned.

Hope your February is off to a good start!

A Note to the Single Ladies

December 2014

Dear Fellow Single Sisters,

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…! While we are heading into a time of picture perfect moments, coziness galore, good lighting (who doesn’t look good by the light of a fireplace or Christmas candles?), Christmas sweaters, warm socks, hot cider, and every other “Christmassy” moment, it’s hard not to get totally swept up in all of the hoopla. Yes, I just used the word hoopla.

This isn’t about the materialism that occurs at Christmas, but it’s about what happens when a single girl starts to notice that there aren’t any special presents under her tree.
Wait! I’m not going to moan, I’m just explaining. The fact is, I get totally swept up in the romanticism of the holiday. I’m sure you do too. I love the Christmas chick flick movies and the ideas of cuddling by the fire or walking in the snow with a well-built, chiseled-featured, strong man who looks wonderful in cream-coloured, cable-knit sweaters, red scarves and jeans. A man who can have meaningful conversations but also knows exactly the perfect moment to crack a joke, a perfect combination of mature yet playful. A man whose very presence is a gift but who also knows how to give the most thoughtful and meaningful presents all while still being able to chop firewood, shovel the driveway, and bring me a mug of hot chocolate. But I digress… a lot.
So what do we do about the fact that he hasn’t shown up? How do we deal with watching people celebrate the holidays who do have good men and maybe a few cute little munchkins? It can really get a girl down. One thing we know is that no one wants to hang out with Debbie Downer during the holidays, so what do we do?
Well.. to be blunt, I think part of the “whoa is me I’m alone for the holidays” comes from a rather selfish place. It happens when our eyes are on ourselves and what we need to be happy. We obsessively start focusing on all of the things we want, instead of all of the things we do have. This is not the key to any sort of happiness. It’s hard not to be selfish when you’re single. We spend a lot of time tending to our needs and emotions and it’s okay to be aware of our wants and needs, but also I think that in order to be happy, we need to get our eyes off ourselves and onto others. Focusing too much on ourselves, especially this time of year, can be dangerous.
I think the only way to really combat these feelings of loneliness or sadness over the holidays is to simply be thankful. Get out that “attitude of gratitude”.. sorry I said that but I’ve been thinking about it and really, that’s the only way. Because the thing is, I do have some pretty amazing things in my life and my life is filled with all sorts of love… maybe not of the axe-swinging, cable-knit sweater wearing variety but still– there is a lot of love in my life. Start looking at your own life and I’m sure you’ll see some pretty amazing things to be thankful for. Wishing for something or someone we don’t have, isn’t the key to having a happy time this holiday, being thankful for what we do have automatically guarantees a certain level of happiness.
And so while we go about the very important business of practicing gratitude during the holiday season, we must not let ourselves get sidetracked or derailed. I think the biggest culprit is social media and I think it’s particularly dangerous during this time of year. Being constantly bombarded by filtered photos of Christmas trees, lovers, children dressed up like elves, big parties, presents, family, etc… it’s very hard to maintain a feeling of contentment. It’s very easy to feel like you are the only one in the world who is single for the holidays. It’s very easy to feel lonely. And so– I know that we need to really limit the amount of time we spend checking these sites. Maybe you don’t have issues with social media but I certainly do. Yes, I’m an instagram addict, and sometimes it’s okay but when I feel myself getting jealous or resentful, it’s time to put the phone down and focus on what I do have in front of me.
It’s not only about being happy about what I have in front of me but being happy for those who do seem to be having a picture perfect Christmas. When I was little and would go to friend’s birthday parties, I would come home feeling jealous about how Jenna was so lucky cause she got a Barbie camper van AND the My Little Pony Castle. My parent’s taught me to say: “Oh wow, I’m so happy for you.” I think we need to bring that phrase back out again. No matter how we are feeling, we should be happy that our friends (and all of those complete strangers on instagram), have the great things in their lives that they do. I’m so happy for them! Say it a few times and you’ll eventually start to believe it.
If that doesn’t work.. the whole: ‘it could be worse’ game works. I don’t suggest you play this out loud as people will worry about you. But seriously, life could be a lot worse. You could be stuck in a bad marriage, you could be terminally ill, you could be homeless, you could be locked up in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, you could be stuck in an airport, you could be stranded on a desert island, you could have a flesh eating disease.. you get the idea? Not having a boyfriend at Christmas is hardly the worst thing in the world.
And then– really. Who are we to mope and complain anyway? If we believe what we say we really believe then we believe that God is working out His perfect plan. Maybe that includes us meeting someone amazing, maybe it doesn’t and if it doesn’t, we can trust that His plan is still the best one. (I am still working on happily believing this.. it’s a process) I do know that we can relax and be content in this particular set of circumstances because they aren’t for no reason. Whoa double negative. Reword: This set of circumstances is important to your story and who you are now. We must believe that these experiences are also important in making and shaping us into the people we are meant to be.
So this Christmas, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, let’s practice being thankful and grateful and loving the people God has placed in our lives…
Simple.
Do enjoy this holiday season.
With lots of love from me to you!

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.