Guys guys guys… It is fun being a grown-up huh? For the past few months, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA. I spend most of my time homeschooling my younger siblings whilst tying up loose ends and planning my next move (basically lots of paperwork).
Now it is time to start working.
Education degrees don’t pay for themselves. I have a few months til school starts. I am hoping to get a solid job beforehand so that I can save up and develop a work routine I can maintain once school starts.
Getting a job is an exciting, albeit at times frustrating, adventure.
I’m currently waiting to hear back from my dream of dream jobs… working for a tiny locally owned inn at the center of a historic main street.
Can you imagine? A small group of coworkers I can get close to! Meeting corporate visitors from all over the world as well as high schoolers touring the local college! Working in an adorable building! Always busy with a variety of different tasks!
Not to mention, I’ve always dreamed of becoming a hotel clerk.
(Granted, there aren’t too many careers I haven’t dreamed about. Foot doctor, tax assistant, math professor… that’s all I’ve got).
When I was younger, my favorite bit of vacation was the hotel room. As soon as we’d check in, I’d run to the desk and unplug the phone from the wall. Then I’d beg my sisters to sit down at the chair at the other end of the desk and offer me ridiculous situations to sort through:
“I’ve got seven children and 10 dogs, do you have a room to accommodate us all?”
“Excuuuuse me ma’am, but I’ve found a turtle in the closet of my room! How ruuude!”
I would nod at their demands and complaints then push all the buttons on my unhooked phone until the problem was solved.
So now here I am. Finding a job to save up for my new ultimate dream of becoming a middle school teacher. Along the way, I may have the opportunity to be a hotel clerk, another one of my dreams.
Dreams on top of dreams guys! Ain’t that nice!
I find out if I will get the job at the end of this week.
This morning my little brother and I learned about lenses. After reading the textbook description of light reflection and refraction yaddyayaya, we built our own makeshift projector out of a shoebox, a magnifying glass, and an iPhone and proceeded to watch part of a detective show in the laundry room (the only room safe from natural light).
I love my life.
Since I definitely, for certain sure, not-kidding-this-time decided that I want to become a middle school teacher, the jigsaw pieces of life have been falling into place.
I had an incredibly encouraging meeting with an admissions officer at my university who told me that I would be almost certainly accepted into the program starting in September and that it is possible that quite a few of my British credits could successfully transfer to an American degree.
I discovered a treasure store of teacher resources and opportunities that excited me so much I couldn’t sleep last night (optimism is my favorite source of insomnia).
It’s good to get the wheels greased. It’s good to start moving again.
I’ve noticed that having a goal greatly increases my productivity. Not only have I continued the daily grind of cooking for the family and homeschooling my siblings, I’ve been able to get back into a normal exercise schedule, listen to loads of lectures and gone out socializing a tad more. I’ve applied for three scholarships, two universities, a few jobs and even wrote a short story and a couple of essays just for fun.
(You can take a girl out of a nerd school, but you can’t take the nerd school out of a girl)
It is good to have a goal to keep you moving!
I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so completely at peace and genuinely excited about the direction of my life. In many ways, big and small, I can see the Lord’s hand guiding me closer to him, in the most patient and understanding way possible.
For all the mistakes and failures, hardships and joys, lucky strikes and distress, for the bumpy road wrought with twists and turns that has led me to where I am right now, I am thankful.
Last night before bed I found both of my parents grabbing a snack in the kitchen. I cleared my throat.
“There is something I need to tell you guys…”
I paused, a little nervous.
“I replanned my life over the weekend…what else is new?”
My parents chuckled. They are fully aware of my peculiar penchant for rehauling life goals on a regular basis.
“It has been about two weeks since the last time I replanned my life, so I was way overdue…”.
I hope all of you, dear readers, can be as patient as my parents. I do change my life direction too often, but I’m in the stage of life where I believe it is important to be extremely intentional with what I pursue.
I want a project that I can give myself to pursue vigorously. Guys, I am addicted to living off of caffeine and a packed schedule. Busyness keeps me happy, but only if I am pursuing something that matters to me.
I don’t want to just run hard. I want to run hard in the right direction.
Over the weekend I was in Knoxville, Tennessee for a church mini-conference. My sisters and I had a lot of driving time to chitchat. They were concerned about my motivations for pursuing real estate.
And they were right. Some things I’ve been through have made me overly desperate to become financially independent as soon as possible. But money doesn’t drive a happy life.
So I decided to take another look at my state of affairs, goals, dreams, and potential direction. This time without the pressing need to make a quick buck.
Two realizations and one remembrance later, I’ve got a whole new life planned:
First, I realized that I am not done being a student. While in Wales, I was thriving academically. I had relationships with my professors built on mutual respect. I had a group of peers I could geek out with. I loved it all so much. Of course, I could always go back to college later or get a degree online, but I don’t think that would fulfill my desire to fully live-out the student experience as a young, unattached woman free to explore the world with my peers.
Second, I also realized that attending university at the local college or community college is financially feasible if I work hard. Between in-state tuition, a couple of jobs, and scholarships, I could work out a way to continue my education debt-free (something that is extremely important to me).
And then I remembered what I really want to do.
I want to become a middle school teacher.
Now before you start to think that I am really crazy and completely indecisive, let me ensure you that this didn’t just come out of the blue. Teaching has always been a goal of mine. I had originally planned my life to look like this:
University in Wales
Work as a Foreign Service Officer and travel the world
Settle down to become a teacher
Retire and become a real estate agent
In this way, I planned on fitting four of my main career goals into one lifetime. Dropping out of college kinda whacked up my plan, so I turned it upside down. I figured I could become a real estate agent immediately and use that business to fund my education.
Now it seems to make more sense to finish my education now, while I am young and ready to be on campus. Neither real estate nor FSO work requires a special degree, so once I have my teacher qualifications I could still switch gears and spend some time working abroad.
For now, I am ready to throw myself at becoming the best middle school teacher I can possibly be.
I know, I know, I’ve said this before. This time it is for real, if you can believe me. I really think I found a direction I can live with for a long time.
You know that moment when you realize that something you’ve done your entire life isn’t as “normal” as you thought?
For example, this morning my sisters and I were discussing various sleep woes. One sister mentioned that she had a bad habit of staying on her phone til she was dead-tired. Another sister said that she plans her next day as she falls into dreamland.
Wait, you guys don’t tell yourselves stories? I thought everyone did that!
Since I was about 6 years old, I always had a story to work out in my head as I lay my head on the pillow. As soon as the light turns out, no matter where I am, be it in an airplane, couch, or my own cozy bed, I begin to plot some imagined scene. I usually fall asleep before the scene ends.
Because I fall asleep quickly, I often spend months reimagining the same scene each night, with only slight variations. If I finish a story or get bored of it, I start something new.
The stories I fall sleep to don’t often make it into my daytime writing. I like to keep them in my head because that way they remain an alternate world I can fall into every night. Everything in that universe is completely within my control.
I think it started when my older brother told me he could control his dreams. I had a lot of nightmares as a kid, so I was pretty keen to learn my brother’s trick. I started planning the dreams I wanted to have before I fell asleep, hoping it would change my actual dreams. It didn’t, but the habit stuck.
So basically, you tell yourself bedtime stories?
Yeah, pretty much.
It isn’t as productive as planning the next day’s activities, but it is a relaxing way to decompress. It saves me from cringing at the mistakes of my day or dreading the tasks of the morrow.
Now I am curious, how do you fall asleep? What do you think about in the moments before The Sandman takes you?
A couple days after I arrived home I got a letter calling me up for jury duty. Lotsa folks gave me advice on how to avoid getting picked for a trial:
“Just tell them your uncle is a police officer.”
Is it weird that I wanted to get on the jury? In fact, I looked forward to it for weeks. I know I’d most likely be assigned to a parking dispute or something equally inconsequential. Still, I’ve always been interested in law and debate. And I’ve watched way too many crime procedurals to not have a teeny tiny hope for an unrealistically intriguing story. TV drama expectations aside, I genuinely enjoy trying new things, even if they are liable to maddeningly boring .
So the night before jury duty I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I had been excused.
Excused! I never asked to be excused! What if I had gotten into a trial, fallen in love with the court room, met an incredibly competent lawyer who inspired me to pursue a law degree, spent 10 years studying law while working, and eventually became a world-famous women’s rights lawyer, spending the rest of my life fighting for the voiceless!
Stupid jury excusement means that there isn’t even the tiniest chance for all that to happen. I was bummed.
The next day my big sister took me on a coffee date (which actually consisted of her driving me 30 minutes to my favorite coffee shop in silence, buying me a large black coffee, and then patiently waiting for caffeine magic to turn me into a functioning human so that we could chit chat a bit. Did I mention that my sister is very patient?).
While we were at the shop a bubbly real estate broker sat down next to us with a young couple. She was answering their questions about buying their first home.
I managed to maintain a conversation of niceties with my sister while low-key listening in on the real estate conversation.
Aggh! It was so perfect. My dream is to work as a buyers broker, helping young families find their perfect first home. I want to demystify the home buying process, empowering millennial couples to get the best deal and start their lives together on the right foot.
See, even real estate, something normally associated with investors, red tape, and $$$ can be romantic if you put the right spin on it.
I am thankful that the Lord placed that couple next to me. You see, I am a bit easily distracted when it comes to pursuing dreams. I’ve got a lot of energy, but sometimes it is hard for me to throw myself fully into pursuing one thing full-time. How do people let opportunities pass their peripheral vision without turning to look? I need 19th-century horse blinders.
Here’s a powerful graphic from my favorite productivity book, Essentialism. It pretty fairly depicts the way I spend my energy versus the way I want to spend my energy:
My licensure course starts on the 20th. So it’s a good thing that I was inspired to start studying, rather than sidelined by a potentially life-changing trip to jury duty.
At the end of 2016 I found myself facing some pretty tough decisions.
As you know, I was scheduled to spend Christmas Recess in Germany. I did get to Stuttgart for a week and had a lovely time. However, less than halfway into my time there I ended up traveling home to the US unexpectedly. Now it looks like I will be staying here in The States indefinitely.
Yes, that means I am dropping out of university. And yes, in a sense it means that my adventure in Wales is over for good.
I loved everything about living and studying in Wales. I am going to miss my British friends and professors dearly. I learned much from studying in another country, and even more from just living there.
I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I had to live abroad for a year and a half. I consider my time in Wales to be one of the most glorious chapters in my life thus far. It ended sooner than I expected, but that does not in any way detract from what it was while it lasted.
I am still unclear where life will take me in the coming months. I know this much:
I may be helping my brother’s family move across the country (road trip anyone?).
I will be spending lots of time with my younger siblings, homeschooling them and making up for the time lost while abroad.
So you can see, there are a whole lot of uncertainties. Thus, this blog will have to evolve quite a bit. I understand that if you started following me because you were curious about studying abroad, our journey together may be coming to an end. That’s fine! Thanks for joining me!
However, if you’ve enjoyed following the mishaps and stupid mistakes that make up my life, I welcome you to stay on for the ride.
I don’t know where I am going. I cannot promise international travel; in fact, I don’t expect any. Still, I’ve got a feeling that there are a lot more exciting turns of a new kind on the horizon. I am ready to embrace them as they come. And I am sure that the adventure is only beginning.
I’m hoping you didn’t notice that life updates, blogposts, emails… have all fallen into an abyss this term. Last summer my bestest friend (and incredible blogger over at Crafted Fragments) taught me that it is okay to not be okay. So I guess I am here to admit that
*drum roll please*
*actually just kidding, it really not that dramatic*
I haven’t been okay.
Second year has been much more challenging, academically, spiritually, and emotionally than first year.
It would be unfair for me, as a blogger and public promotor of studying abroad, to pretend that studying abroad is all roses and sunshine. I still think that studying abroad is a worthwhile experience, but I am learning more and more how challenging it can be.
I like to blog about the embarrassing and hilarious mishaps, and yet I’ve been in such a stinky mood lately that I haven’t been able to turn misadventures into blogposts.
*Can someone interrupt here and say “THAT IS OKAY!”… Nope? Nooone. Kay, I’m just gonna pretend someone did and keep on…*
Despite a fair amount of stress, confusion and general moohoomooness, I’m surrounded by incredible people who make my life worth waking up to live each morning. And I’ve got the support of my incredible family and friends back at home.
Despite the challenges, I’m still having the adventure of a life time.
So, as I get back onto my feet after a rough term, expect to see more blogposts (amazing guest post coming up this week!), more adventures, and more positivity.
I’ve realised that figuring things out all on my lonsesome is no way to live. So, for better or worse, this blog is going to continue to be my channel to turn those embarassing face-palm moments into (hopefully) entertaining and/or inspiring (don’t wanna get too ambitious) blogposts.
In other words my grumpiness, moohoomoo, emmbarassing moments, and other emotional garbage is making a comeback. So brace yourselves.
Admittedly folks, it has been a rough couple o weeks. I love my history classes, but keeping my head above the water with non-school related commitments is a full-time job. Now I’ve got two essays almost due that, no matter how much I research and plan, are refusing to come out easy.
Enough with the moohoomoo…
I woke up this morning and decided to kick off Reading Week with some much-needed spontaneous exploration. I pulled on my warmest clothes and headed into the misty morning drizzle to my favorite park.
Normally I stop about a half a mile into the park at a lovely bridge, my favorite thinking spot after difficult lectures or bad days. This time I kept walking…
I walked farther than I ever had before. A gorgeous cathedral spire broke through the mist ahead of me and I walked toward it.
After about another half mile of walking, I ran into a huge house. The sound of singing nuns drifted through the trees. I was pretty sure I had walked right out of real life into a fairytale.
Outside of the cathedral lay quaint rows of houses and businesses, a tea room and a butcher shop.
I realized that I was in a village. A real, legit, non-touristy, and yet still way too picturesque to be true Welsh village.
Around the corner from the cathedral stood what looked to be a castle gate-house. Kids and teens in school uniform marched through the gate.
Naturally, I figured I’d wander in behind them… Keep wandering til you get kicked out right?
Inside the gate was a public green space. Down a narrow path the most mystical of doors leading to a cathedral school.
Could this be real? There was a legit old-fashioned bike with a basket parked outside the gate. Young good-lookin teachers followed students into the school. Everyone in the town was dressed in sweaters and hats and cozy looking vests and boots.
Fun Fact: when I got home I looked up the village and found out that the cathedral school I found was one that Roal Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) attended.
After checking around for cameras (this has got to be a movie set, right?), I continued to meander the the tiny town. Guys, it was heavenly. When I had had my fill I walked back past the house of singing nuns (they were still singing), down to the trail that had led me there, and home to the loud dusty streets of my city.
This morning reminded me that if I am to stay sane this year I need to take a bit more time out of my schedule to wander. Something about getting out of the city, out of the rigamarole and rat race of a competitive fast-paced life, into the fresh air… following a path you’ve never been down before with absolutely no expectation of where you are going…
Ah yah, so therapeutic. As I walked I thought about what is most important to me. I considered why I am in Wales. I wondered about what I am doing with my life.
Spoiler alert, I didn’t get any answers. Yet somehow I picked up enough of an energy to face my own reality again.
I hope you enjoyed, despite my notable lack of photography skills.
So there is this museum in my adopted city. It is the most classic of classic museums. You know what I’m talking about?
Think grand marble steps, an impressively over-priced gift shop, exhibits filled with mediocre biology facts and a few cool Van Goh paintings, a busy lobby populated by a healthy mix of sophisticated people and people pretending to be sophisticated.
As a humanities major, I feel obliged to be familiar with the best attractions in Cardiff, particularly the museums. However, the dirty truth of the matter is that I hate museums. Really, I can’t stand them.
I tried countless times in high school to enjoy them and consistently came home feeling sick to my stomach (either from looking at too many naked Greeks or from standing behind a fur-coated woman wearing way too much perfume… sometimes both).
All of last year, I told myself I was going to go to the museum. All of last year I never did. So on a lazy rainy day last week I put my foot down and decided I was going to that museum and I was going to enjoy it.
Guess what folks? I had a major epiphany about art, life, and the way to enjoy a museum. I learned that while museums in themselves are not interesting to me, the museum experience can be delightful. In other words, if you don’t like going to museums maybe you aren’t going to museums in the right way.
Here are five steps I designed to help you make the most of your museum experience, even if you hate museums:
Step One: Dress for Success!
The first step to a successful trip to the museum is to get into fancy mode. Dress up a little (for me this meant covering my t-shirt up with the only non-thrifted coat that I own). Do your hair (for me, this meant putting my hair in a pony-tail, which is basically the only hairstyle I know how to do). Maybe even put on some of that perfume you received as a birthday present two years ago!
Now that you look and smell sophisticated, pull out your most romantic umbrella and walk to the museum.
Step Two: Choose A Viewing Strategy
There are two main strategies to choose from:
Walk through the museum as the struggling/starving artist looking for inspiration (you know, the one who only has enough money in the bank for one more cup of coffee and is saving it for the perfect moment in which coffee and genius will meet and produce within the masterpiece you’ve been struggling for since college).
Walk through the museum as the rich woman who walks through art galleries because it is the only natural thing to do on a Monday afternoon.
I forgot to bring my worn journal with me (an essential prop for method #1), so I decided to opt for the second method and put on my best “I’m fancier than you” smile as a slowly meandered through the exhibits.
Guess what? I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Maybe it is cause I skipped the naked Greeks and was lucky enough not to get stuck behind a lady with dizzying layers of perfume.
Step Three: Be Willing To Learn Something
Seriously folks, in high school I reveled in the fact that I had/have no artistic talent or ability whatsoever. Any appreciation of art was limited to the my-goodness-how-is-that-even-humanely-possible-cause-I-could-never-do-something-like-that variety. While that is definitely a healthy feeling in small doses, walking through an entire museum and only appreciating art at that surficial a level gets dreary pretty fast.
I had to stay open to enjoy art in a new and hopefully slightly deeper way. I’ve been thinking about aesthetics a lot recently. I’ve been trying to incorporate ideas about aesthetics into my life (i.e. designing my room, simplifying my to-do list, and organizing my life, school, and the food on my plate in a visually appealing way). All this thought about aesthetics gave me a new way to look it paintings. Something about the Van Goh collection made my heart feel a little warmer:
The spacing, lighting, and use of color struck me as it never had before. I realized that I know nothing about art and/or art history, but a few paintings inspired me to want to learn more:
Then, of course, there was the portrait gallery. Imagine if you were rich enough to spend a gabijillion dollars on a commissioned portrait? How would you want to present yourself to the world? What background, body language, and props would you use? It is like a majorly amplified version of analyzing people’s facebook profile photos…?
I have an embarrassingly juvenile understanding of art, but by dropping my I-just-don’t-care-whatsoever attitude, I was able to appreciate it in my own way.
The contemporary art still jarred me pretty bad. I’m not on that level of art appreciation yet, but can’t you see I’m improving!?!?
Step Four: Don’t Forget The People
I am quite happy to have had a *major* epiphany about the glories of art, still, however, the best part of the museum was (as it always is for me) observing people observing art. Let me try that again… in non-creepy terms:
It isn’t just the Van Goh alone, it is the two high schoolers non-subtly prowling around the Van Goh looking for the best angle for an artsy profile picture of their own.
It isn’t just about the Vermeer, it is about the young couple holding hands as they gaze at the Vermeer, giggling about how they happen to have just the same sort of analysis of every painting they’ve seen so far! It was meant to be!
It isn’t just about the Polack, it is about the fancy old woman who can look at that painting and draw inspiration from it for the 1,000th time.
In other words, it isn’t just about the artifacts, it is about the way that we interact with the artifacts and use them to make sense of the world.
Step Five: Take time to reflect
Don’t let the observations, feelings, thoughts, and questions that undoubtedly ran through you as you observed the galleries go to waste! Sit down, if you have money enough, buy an over-priced black coffee in the cafe and let the inspiration whirl. If not, just sit on a bench for a minute and give yourself time to process. Note any major revelations or BFOs (blinding flash of the obvious) that you may have had.
And there you have it! How to enjoy a museum. All in all, I felt that it was a worthwhile use of 20 minutes of my Monday afternoon.
What is your favorite thing to do when visiting a fancy museum?
My wonderful extraordinary just-lotsa-perfect-normal-days summer is officially over. The second year of adventures abroad has begun! I am writing this in a bus station in London. Just chilling here (desperately attempting to stay awake) for a few hours before my coach arrives. Woot woot!
It was hard saying goodbye to my family and friends, harder even than last year when I left for the first time. I don’t know when I’ll see them again.
Somehow a handful of uncertainty and a bag full of homesickiness found its way into my suitcase right next to my favorite pair of socks. I lugged them to the terminal (with a little extra stowed away in my carry-on), vainly hoping they’d throw it all out at customs or security.
It was tough leaving.
And yet as the plane began the descent into London, I noted the dreary morning rain burst and watched the adorable miniature cars driving on the wrong left side of the road, a group of cheerful Welsh women chatted excitedly two rows behind me, it all felt so right.