Last week while I was in Ireland, I met a really nice older gentleman who was taking Irish classes with me. Our last night with the group we got to talking and I mentioned that my life was kind of crazy right now-a lot of change, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of questions about the future as Fionn and I discuss job changes and what to do next.
"Let me give you some advice someone gave me a long time ago. When I was deciding whether or not to leave my good job to try something I was very interested in, I remember asking an accomplished colleague of mine who also happened to be a single mother. She told me, 'You're worrying too much! If this plan doesn't work, then you'll just do something else. And eventually you find something that works.'"
At first it sounded too simple to me, but that night as I was going to bed I couldn't stop thinking about it, and it struck me that they were right. Sometimes we worry so much about making the right decision, as if there was only one and if we don't pick that one exactly then we're doomed to failure and misery. But one thing I've really learned in the past few months is that you've got to get started somewhere.
2014 really threw me for a loop. When we left Germany I was so happy-I had friends, I had a fun routine, and even though my job situation was miles away from what I envisioned in college, I felt so fulfilled and meaningful in the work I was doing. I was making a difference, and I could feel it.
When we moved back to the States, everything felt very temporary. Getting a job was tricky since we were moving to an unknown location within six months. I was offered a dream job in Georgia and had to turn it down when we got news we were headed to Texas. We moved to Texas, every job I applied for wanted a Spanish speaker, I had no friends and my family was 1800 miles away.
And then Fionn found out he'd be gone for most of 2015.
When my birthday rolled around in December, I felt like I had wasted a year of my life. I'd spent all year being stagnant. I felt unhealthy, physically and mentally. The thought of spending 2015 in a similar way, with long months of solitude in an unfamiliar town sent me into a panic. How was I going to survive this?
I changed a lot of strings in February!
Thankfully, lots of my friends and family encouraged me to see our separation as an opportunity to do the things I normally couldn't. After Fionn left I had oceans of free time, so I packed my schedule with Spanish, guitar, and harp lessons multiple times a week. When Lent rolled around I swore off Facebook and brain junk food like gossip magazines, bad TV, trash music, and internet clickbait, resolving to use the time to read, sing or practice instruments, do my paralegal homework, read a devotional or a bit of the Bible, or practice my languages.
Not going to lie, it was hard at times. It's so much easier to read Buzzfeed or listen to garbage TV than it is to figure out the fingerings on a tricky harp tune or struggle through Spanish verbs. But I could see the difference in my attitude and I felt better about myself.
In addition to working on the inside, I resolved to get more active. I'm as lazy as they come, so I knew I had to start small-taking a walk or doing a little yoga three times a week for 30 minutes. I liked how it made me feel, and pretty soon I was happy to spend an hour walking, alone with my thoughts and some good tunes.
The cool thing about starting a Challenge Year is that as you keep going, you find yourself making more and more challenges. After you change a few things you start to think, "Why am I making excuses for that bad habit and not this one?"
I visited my brother in Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon, which was a nice break from a quiet Texas apartment. I also took a makeup class and finally spent some money on decent makeup brushes (totally worth it).
Two of my biggest personal challenges for February were to stop being so negative about Texas and to stop procrastinating. While the procrastination one was a bit of a toss up, but the time March rolled around I did find myself thinking about things I liked about our new Texas town. Maybe not love, but I'm making progress!
February Challenge List:
(the challenge list is kind of a rolling thing, but this is what I focused on specifically this month)
-Do something active 3x a week for 30 minutes
-Harp lesson 2x a week
-Spanish class 2x a week
-Guitar once a week, work on playing a song
-Finish paralegal certificate (done!)
-Brain junk food detox
-More creative stuff, less screen time
-Visit Grand Canyon like you've always wanted to
-Learn how to do your makeup well
-Cut down on the negativity
-Read more books
Next up, March recap!