Sunday, October 4, 2015

One day at a time

Tomorrow morning I'm catching a bus to Chicago, and in the evening I'll be on a plane to Toulouse (via Madrid). The long stay visitor's visa I have allows me to stay in France up to 12 months, but I have no plans set in stone.

I'm just going to take it one day at a time, and see what happens.

The previous three times that I've left for yearlong stints (2009-10 Madrid, 2011-12 Madrid, 2013-14 South Korea), I could feel it. I knew I wouldn't be returning home for a year's length, and I knew all of the holidays, birthdays and graduations I'd be missing.

But today was a perfectly normal Sunday at home with the parents—without those thoughts—and tomorrow I'm just going on a bus, then to an airport, then on a plane. That's about as far as my thoughts have gone. Things feel really normal; I'm not feeling anxious, nor the full extent of what tomorrow means.

I'm not sure why the slight change in feeling this time. Perhaps it's because I was just in Montpellier not too long ago, followed by two months home, and now I'm headed back—so neither of these two places feels too far apart at the moment.

Or maybe it's because I've simply gotten more used to expat life, the departure being one of them.

Or, it could be the fact that I'm not signed up for a yearlong gig anywhere like I was the other three times, so I'm not even sure if that's how long I'll be gone. I feel like I've got a huge blank slate in front of me, and I'm so excited to start splattering some color on there—one day at a time.

Besides, many other factors are out of my hands as well. I don't know where Damien will find a job, nor when that will happen. So I don't know what experiences I'll have or what people I'll meet in these new locations. Heck, I have no idea what'll happen with the two of us—how long the relationship will last or where it will go. I don't know how my thoughts, perspectives and thus reality will change during the year. So it feels totally impossible (and wrong) to "plan" much of anything at this point.

A good friend of mine was praising me for this the other night—saying it was unbelievable and so admirable that I could live like this. But to me it seems necessary, not praiseworthy. How could you live any other way when any plans will probably be broken?

I know I have a ways to go before I'm actually living in the present all the time, but as time goes on I'm only more sure of the fact that you can't plan so far ahead. (At least not me, at this point in my life.) Life is full of surprises, twists and unpredictable turns. 

For example:
  • Starting with the most recent, who would have known I'd meet Damien while in France this spring, and end up going back? Although "girl meets boy" is a commonly-heard story for expats, it hadn't yet happened to me during all my previous years abroad (so I really wasn't expecting it this time around—especially not during my final two weeks in France).
  • Also: I'd like to note that my current job didn't even exist two years ago. You can't plan for that!
  • When I was in high school, I don't think I even realized that teaching English abroad was "a thing you can do," so that was definitely not on my radar as a future plan.
I've learned it's best to just be flexible and adapt to whatever comes my way.

So rather than plan specifics, I work on building my skills, explore my interests/passions, grow my knowledge, and spend time with people I enjoy being around.

It is with this view that I will take on tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

You're welcome to come along and see what happens as it happens—one day at a time.
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