On our last night in Thailand, Amaury and I spent some time over dinner chatting about our resolutions for this past year and the one ahead. As I mentioned last year, we tend to create our resolutions organically based on goals we already have. A year ago, my goals were to deepen my yoga practice, play more music, and start a full-time job. The first one didn’t actually take much effort. I’m addicted to yoga at this point and doing it on a daily basis for 4.5 years has naturally led to me growing my practice. That said, I’m proud that I can now successfully rest in a plow pose without feeling like I’m about to die.
Just a few things to consider before flinging your feet over your head
Playing more music was a bit more challenging. I ended up practicing my trumpet on an almost daily basis for four months and successfully played in two concerts. That was wonderful but time-consuming, so I then turned my energies to slowly learning the guitar, singing in two choirs, and joyfully, enthusiastically, and somewhat ineptly playing the piano at home. It’s been energizing to have music back in my life, and I’ll definitely be keeping up with it. Musical groups can seriously drain all your free time though, so I’m going to be mindful of that moving forward.
The last one has been a lot harder. Interesting how the universe plays tricks on us because ultimately, wrestling with my professional identity and career plans has been a major theme of 2017. A year later, I’ve realized that I did meet my goal, but not in the way I thought I would. I’ve developed my own full-time slate of work and projects that keep me motivated and boost my skills.
I’m always working to create balance and consistency in my somewhat eclectic schedule and life. One of the most important things has been to develop projects/activities that I can take with me anywhere and anytime. My research work and this blog are prime examples of that.
Along with creating these activities, it is just as important to cultivate a productive internal monologue and a meaningful external elevator pitch. Internally, when I get up in the morning, I motivate myself to “get to work,” set often made-up but still important personal deadlines, and create to-do lists that I do my best to get through. I’ve stopped thinking of myself as unemployed and, just as importantly, no longer tell other people I am. I have a clear answer to the age-old question, “What do you do?” I’m a freelance researcher and constant language learner. I’m also starting to think of myself as a writer, which is fun, and am embracing my identity as a serial ex-pat. I am mindful to describe myself in terms of who I am and not in relation to what Amaury does.
When I first arrived in Guangzhou, I said “yes” a lot to outings, coffees, lunches, and volunteer opportunities to make friends and fill my time. That is an excellent idea when arriving somewhere new. Now, I’m more strategic and often say “no” in favor of a free afternoon to work.
All of this sounds so sensible and straightforward when I write it out. Truthfully, it has taken me a lot of time to reconcile the motivated, busy person I’m used to being, with the fluidity and uncertainty of my life as an accompanying spouse. You’ll notice I rarely if ever use the term “trailing spouse.” In my mind, it implies that a spouse is always one step or more behind their partner, dragging along awkwardly like a tin can tied to a car leaving a wedding. I prefer to be in the car, thank you very much. Amaury and I make all our big work and life decisions together. And while I’m accompanying him on his professional journey, he is also accompanying me on mine. Incidentally, he was the one who encouraged me to take the plunge with this travel blog.
So that brings me to my resolutions for this year. They are: 1) Continue to deepen my yoga practice (because I always have to have a yoga one); 2) take official language proficiency exams in French, Mandarin, and possibly Spanish; and 3) turn my professional development focus from 2017 into concrete career steps in 2018.
Explanation: 1) Well I always have to have a yoga one, because yoga is amazing. 2) Having official proficiency scores will be incredibly beneficial professionally and a great motivator to keep my language skills up. I technically already hold some in French and Spanish, but it’s time for a refresher. Plus, studying Chinese has been a lot of work and I want something to show for it beyond being able to yell aggressively at taxi drivers. 3) Being in China and having a break from a full-time job has been a gift. It’s now time to apply everything I’ve learned to build my own career that complements and aligns with Amaury’s and our shared goals.
As much as this blog is a cathartic exercise for me to brainstorm and write out my thoughts, my overall goal when I go on these introspective asides is to show you the person behind the idea of a “trailing spouse.” What it’s like to pack up everything and move overseas. The upsides and consequences of such a move. The highs, lows, and the journey between those points. And the joy.
Stay tuned for yet more happy wanderings in 2018.
I got this picture through some Facebook quiz thing that purported to tell me who I am as a person. Apparently, I’m very bold and have successfully made it through challenging circumstances (subtle reference to dealing with Guangzhou taxi drivers?). I just kept the cool picture.