Applying

It’s mid-March, the time of year when school districts start posting positions for the following school year. I have been so preoccupied with summer camp registration that I almost forgot. It wasn’t until last Sunday that I did my first search on EdJoin.

There are eight positions posted for high school Spanish teachers in my county (well, the county where I want to teach–I can’t currently afford to teach in San Francisco because I would have to take a $30K pay cut. Yeah, and they wonder why they struggle to retain good teachers…) Two of them are part time. Two of them are for a privately-run Charter school conglomerate that doesn’t interested me, and one is for a continuation high school, where I worry about future staffing needs for a foreign language position (the fact that no foreign languages are listed in their current course menu only augments my concern). That leaves three that I could potentially apply for, but one is even farther south than where I currently work, and that district’s salary schedule is lower, so I’d have to take a bigger cut. I’m not interested in making less money and driving farther to work. That leaves two potential positions that I can apply for, both of which would at least slightly shorten my commute, and offer a higher salary ceiling than my current employer.

Neither position is particularly exciting–neither inspires me like the one I applied for last June–but they are both full time high school Spanish positions at public high schools. That is, technically, what I’m looking for.

Yes, I’m going to apply. To both. I feel like I have to. I have considered moving to high school for so long, at this point I feel like I need to actually start applying. Maybe I will find that no high school will hire me. Maybe I will find that they will hire me, but won’t offer me the flexibility I need right now to be there for my family. Maybe the actual positions that come available won’t be as enticing as the scenario I imagine when I think of teaching at a high school.

Maybe the answer will be no in a way that helps me say yes to where I currently work.

I just finished reading The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis (author Money Ball, and The Big Short). It’s about the collaborative work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which can be reviewed in the tome Thinking Fast and Slow (by Kahneman–Tversky died before the writing of the book). While The Undoing Project is very much about the relationship between Kahneman and Tversky, it also touches on many of their theories, which are intriguing and, to be honest, somewhat terrifying.

At its core, Kahneman and Tversky’s work describes the systematic and unavoidable  fallibility of the human mind. Evidently, we humans are pretty horrible decision makers. We unknowingly employ all these heuristics (basically, rules of thumb) when making judgements about things, and those heuristics create systematic biases in our thinking that leads us to make irrational, many times fundamentally flawed, decisions with great certainty.

Basically our minds play tricks on us that distort our perception and make it almost impossible to judge accurately. We aren’t even any good at anticipating what will make us happy, and we frequently mis-remember how happy something made us.

We also have an irrational fear of losing what we already have, so much so that we miss out on opportunities that we might otherwise value for fear of giving up something we previously gained, even if we no longer value that thing they way we once did.

Reading this book, I wonder how I can possibly trust myself to make the right decision when it comes to pursuing a new job. If I can’t be trusted to anticipate what will make me happy, or even to remember how happy (or unhappy) my job has made me, how can I decide if I should try something new?

There are so many moving parts. It’s not just about the loss of placement on a salary scale, and the subsequent pay cut. I also have benefits at my district that are grandfathered in. Surely I’d lose those even if they did grant my request for a year leave. I also lose tenure if I change districts, and it would be two years before I got it again.

If I left and wanted to come back to my old district again, I would not fall onto the same position on the salary scale, if I were lucky enough to be re-hired.

And I might not even like teaching high school. I think I’d really enjoy the older kids, and a few colleagues I’ve talked to agree that they think it would be a better fit for me, but I know many teachers who left high school for middle school and like the latter a lot more. I’ve also never dealt with the politics of being one Spanish teacher in a much bigger Foreign Language department, let alone had to make sure my curriculum was acceptable to the other Spanish teachers (if I even had any say in how or what I taught).

And what if I love teaching older students, but am bored senseless teaching the same one or two classes all day, every day, year after year? My current school is so small that I’ve taught tons of different things over the years. I wonder sometimes if that variety has been the only thing that kept me interested in teaching.

In the end I guess I’ll never know if I’m making the right decision. I might accept a high school position and then regret it straight away. Then again, I’ll almost certainly regret never trying anything different. Can I really stay at my current job for another 20+ years?

I know applying is only the first step. I know I might not even get an interview, let alone an offer. It’s just hard to move forward on something that requires so much time and effort when I feel so ambivalent. I’m so glad I found that job last year; my excitement for that position fueled a push on updating my resume and securing letters of rec that puts me in a much better position now than I would have been. Basically I just need to write my letters of introduction, and since the positions are, on the surface, the same, that letter might only need to be written once.

I know I’ve written a thousand posts about my job and if I should look for something else. So many coulda, shoulda woulda’s. I could wax philosophical about it all day. In the end I know I need to pursue these positions. Maybe I won’t get an offer, but I will recognize a better offer next year. Maybe I’ll just brush up on my interviewing skills (which have never really been used, to tell the truth). Maybe I will try something new, hate it, and know middle school is where I belong. Maybe I will try something new, love it and be so thankful that I gave it a try.

I know I’m incredibly lucky to have a job that is secure, so that I don’t need to accept a position I’m not sure of. That is an incredibly privileged place to be, and while I probably do take it for granted, I try recognize how lucky I am. My employer has, in many ways, been very accommodating and I’ve been able to make my job situation fit my family’s needs for a long time. I’m so lucky to have had that.

Updated: Michael Lewis also wrote Money Ball, not Fast Ball. 

Looking Forward to Summer

San Francisco’s Rec and Park summer camp registration opened this past Saturday at 10am. All over the city, eager parents sat at their computers, waiting for the “Add to Cart” button to appear next to their desired camps on their Wist List pages.

I got my daughter into most of the camps we wanted. I didn’t get anything for the very first week of her break, the four-day week after Memorial Day. I’m waitlisted for two camps during that week but doubt I’ll get either (I’m far down on both lists). A few other friends are in the same boat; we may try to pool resources to find coverage four our kids together that week. Ah the joys of being a WOHparent in the summer.

Of course I don’t have to work outside the home in the summers, so I really only need four weeks of child care, for the three weeks in June and one week in August when my daughter doesn’t have school but I do. I’m very grateful that I don’t have to find camps for every single week of the summer.

My daughter will be in five weeks of camp this summer. She’s doing two weeks of a fun outdoor camp that she really liked last year, then two weeks of an arts and theater camp, and a final week, in August, of rock climbing.

I have four days in the beginning of June I need to get covered and three days in the middle of August (when my staff days start but my daughter is not yet in school–her district pushed back its start date by a week but they did it so late that the summer camps didn’t plan for that week). That week in August my son’s daycare is also off, so I’ll just have to find someone to watch them together for the three days (my in-laws won’t take our kids together–they say it’s too intense–and my mom will also be back at school so I have to figure these three days out).

My daughter is not going to camp at all in July. The first 10 days I’m in Ecuador, and the kids will be split between my husband and his parents (first half) and my parents (second half). My cousin’s daughter–she’ll be a Freshman in high school next year–is coming while my parents have the kids to help them out. My uncle will be accompanying her.

I come home from Ecuador late on the 10th and early on the 15th we leave for 10 days in St. Louis where we visit my aunts, uncles, cousins and cousins’ kids. This is where we stay at my uncle’s farm with the massive private quarry lake. It’s a ton of fun and I’m really excited for the trip. Two new cousins were born at the end of last summer so I’m excited for my kids to meet and play with the one-year-olds. My one cousin has a girl and boy almost exactly the ages of my daughter and son and in the past they’ve gotten along really well. I always love visiting St. Louis with my kids.

We also have a long weekend trip to San Diego planned for August. My husband’s friend has a “casita” (converted garage) behind their house that we can stay in and generally our kids play with their kids at the beach for a few days. We only go every other year (we don’t want to take advantage of their hospitality) so it will be fun to see them again. I also love the beach and up here the water is way to cold to swim, so I’m looking forward to some boogie boarding and just playing in the waves.

There are about three weeks when we’ll be home and I don’t have my daughter signed up for camp. That should be interesting. I wonder what we’ll do. I guess I’ll figure it out.

All in all I’m really looking forward this summer, and I’m relieved to have most of the big trips planned and camps secured. I’ve even purchased all our flights! We had put in for Camp Mather, a very popular family camp that is owned by the city and runs a lottery to award week-long cabin reservations every summer. My in-laws wanted to take us, and we’ve been waiting two months to see if we won a spot. Unfortunately we are 618 on a waiting list of 848 so I don’t think we’re going. It’s probably for the best though, as we have a lot going on; mostly I’m just relieved that we have a definitive answer.

Oh, and my daughter’s birthday is in early June. We just finalized plans to take five of her friends to the local amusement park. I’m so excited! I don’t love throwing parties and the idea of putting on another two hour affair at the local playground was totally depressing me. She actually came up with the idea herself and I immediately jumped on board. Because we’re season ticket holders we can buy discounted tickets, which makes it more affordable. Mostly I’m just excited that she’ll be doing something she loves with her closest friends. Yay!

I can’t believe how few weeks are left of the school year. I’m realizing I have to truncate some units I was planning to teach because I won’t have enough time. We haven’t even had spring break and yet students are asking me how many weeks are left almost daily. It’s probably the sudden warm weather and lighter evenings that are tricking us all into thinking summer is just around the corner. And in a way it is, but in the day to day, week to week reality, it’s not. There is still a lot of time between now and the beginning of summer. I gotta keep my head in the game.

But first I have to renew my passport! Eek, so excited for that trip!

What do you have planned for this summer?

I Heart my Tile

As a chronic loser of all. the. things. I was intrigued when I first read about the Tile. This was years ago, and I was immediately curious, but I never got one because… well I’m not sure why.

Then I noticed that a friend at work had one on her lanyard because she was always losing her school keys. I keep my school keys around my neck and rarely misplace them, but was intrigued with the possibility of having one on my regular keys. I keep my keys and my wallet together with a carabiner so that I’ll never forget either one somewhere, but that doesn’t stop me from misplacing both of them around my house, like every day.

So when my mom asked for suggestions for my dad this past Christmas, I sent her a link to the Tile four pack with the note, “Two for him and two for me. Yay stocking stuffers!” You see, I inherited my propensity for losing things from my father.

My mom got the four pack and gave two to me. I put one on my keys and left the other in my nightstand drawer so I could use it to find my phone, which I spend more time looking for than my keys. And while yes, I can call my phone, the ringer is almost always off, and a lot of the time I have it on “do not disturb” so being able to call it (if I’m lucky enough that my husband is home with his phone–we don’t have a land line)  isn’t all that helpful.

And this is why I love my Tile. One of its coolest features is that if you ring your phone from your Tile it will play the song even if the ringer is off or it’s set to “do not disturb.” The app overrides both those features. So now I can always find my phone in my house, no matter what; all I have to do is double-click the circle on my Tile.

Once I have my phone, I can also find my keys. Inside the app I can ring the Tile on my keys and it will play a song too. Then I can follow the music to my wallet!

I really can’t tell you how much time I’ve saved with this simple little device. I used to spend what felt like hours scouring the house for my phone or my wallet. Now I immediately go to my nightstand, or pick up my phone, and listen for the song.

It has also helped me in my classroom, and even in my car. Sometimes I’m not sure if I threw my phone in with all the shit on my front seat. I used to have to pull over and rummage around for it, looking between the seats and even on the floor (yes, my life is a mess). Now I can press the Tile on my keys and if I hear the song, I can start driving without even finding my phone. This has prevented me from being late on quite a few mornings.

There is even GPS tracking on the Tiles, so if I really lose my keys, the app can tell me where they were last located.

The only negative to the whole set up is I need to keep bluetooth enabled on my phone all the time, otherwise my Tile can’t find it. I think this may affect battery life, but since I charge my phone in my car on the way home from work, it hasn’t been an issue. I honestly don’t know if it makes a noticeable difference on how long my phone holds a charge-I’ve never had an issue with running out of power on my phone because I can’t use it much at school while I’m teaching.

Please know that I have not been contacted by Tile in any way to write this post. I did not receive my Tiles free in exchanged for a review and the link above is not affiliated. I just really love this little item and I do believe it has improved my quality of life. I’m sure most people don’t misplace things as much as I do, but if you spend a good chunk of time looking for the same item over and over, you might want to think about getting a Tile. It really is pretty amazing.

Dependent

I know they say it takes a village to raise a child. I’m incredibly lucky to have something of a village in that both sets of grandparents live close by. My parents take the kids for longer stints, like 24 hours on a weekend, or for a few days if I’m out of town (in the summer or during a school break). They live farther away and my mom still works so they can’t help as much for middle of the week needs.

Which is okay because my in-laws live in the city. They are both retired and neither has much else going on. Currently, our kids are their only grandchildren and they help us tremendously with both of them. My in-laws pick up my son from school at least once a week, usually to help me because I have a meeting until later and worry I won’t get back to the city in time to get both kids, or I have a later meeting in the city and don’t want to drag my three-year-old with me. They take our daughter for a spend the nights most weekends. They even take the kids when they are sick so my husband and I don’t have to miss work! (Stomach bugs excluded.)

My teaching schedule is incredibly rigid–if I can’t be at school at start time I need to take an hour and find coverage. This makes it really hard on the few occasions when my husband is away, because I can’t take my son to school on those days without seriously disrupting my work day. This is when my in-laws always swoop in and save the day.

This week, while my husband is away, they will be coming over in the mornings to hang out with our son until they bring him to school. They will also be picking him up on Tuesday and Thursday and keeping him until 6:45pm so I can work at the book fair. Without this help, I truly don’t know what I would do.

I worry sometimes that we’re too dependent on my in-laws. I know we could get by without my parents–though our marriage would suffer without that time alone–but I honestly don’t think we could manage without my in-laws. We are dependent on them, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

“It takes a village…” that is the adage, and yet most families don’t have a village to lean on. They do it alone. They make it work. I suppose without my in-laws we would too. We’d find people we could hire to fill in when needed (like this week). But we don’t have to do that, and it’s awesome, but it also makes me feel like we’re not really managing this parenting thing, not really. If we can’t do it without the help of family are we even doing it at all?

My in-laws talk about retiring for part of the year abroad. The thought terrifies me. Every year that it doesn’t happen I thank my lucky stars. I know that if they do leave we’ll make it work. I know that the older my kids get the more options I’ll have for arranging care. My mom will also retire in a couple years and she will be more than willing to help once that happens.

Perhaps this posts is silly. Why would someone write about feeling too dependent on family?! I know that inter-generational families lived together for these very reasons for a long time, and in many cultures still do, but the US is a fiercely independent nation. We value autonomy and efficiency. There is a subtle, but persistent message that if you’re not doing it all yourself, you probably aren’t as capable as someone who is.

I know that’s not true. I know I am competent. And I know I can be independent, I just don’t have to be. I’m just lucky enough to have parents near by and humble enough to ask for help when I need it. Maybe for that I should be proud.

Whatever else I am, I am immensely grateful. Always. Every day. I am so, so lucky to have healthy, able parents and in-laws nearby who love my kids and cherish their time with them. I can’t imagine doing it without them.

Opinion Piece

I went to my daughter’s second trimester conference last week. She continues to do well in first grade. Organization and attention are real challenges, but she’s getting the concepts. One of the only areas where she wasn’t meeting the standard was writing. 

“Do I think she can write a How-to paper or a short story? Sure. She’s just never finished a piece of writing before. She gets too distracted.”

I wasn’t surprised to hear her teacher say this, but I was frustrated that it was the first time I was hearing about it. 

“When she doesn’t finish her writing in class can you please send it home? I’ll make sure she gets it done and brings it back to you.”

He agreed. 

Last weekend I found a cover made out of construction paper in her backpack. Inside were three pages stapled together. She had written one line. 

“We’re supposed to write a paper about cats and dogs. Our opinion about them.”

So we sat down and she wrote her paper. Here it is, my daughter’s first complete essay, an opinion piece about two popular pets. 


A translation (from Spanish):

“I like cats and dogs”

by, —–

I think cats and dogs are good. Both are furry and cute and playful. 

Cats are sleepy in the sun. They can eat a lot! They love to catch mice! They are grumpy. 

Dogs are fun. They like to play with balls. You can walk with a dog. 

I couldn’t have said it better myself. 😉

Growing Up

Yesterday was beautiful here in San Francisco — nothing but blue skies, and in the 70s! I took my son to the zoo to bask in the sunshine and we had a wonderful time. As always I was struck by how many big bellies I saw. I remember how hard it was to frequent family-oriented places in the year and a half we were trying for a second child. Every where I looked there were moms with kids much younger than mine, waddling after their toddlers. It hurt to see so many people easily enjoy what I wanted so desperately.

Now I see those same moms and I feel nothing but relief. Relief that I’m coming out of that very-young child phase. Relief that I don’t have to do the new baby thing again.

My kids are getting older. They are becoming more mature and more self-sufficient. And even though things with my daughter will never be easy, I do think they will become easier.

I can’t wait for what the next phase of our life as a family will bring. I am so excited to start traveling with my children, taking them to new countries every summer as we try out living abroad for a month at a time. I look forward to exploring the world with them, just me and my two little adventurers.

Next summer they will be eight and almost five! While I worry about their super selective eating, I think the three of us will have a ton of fun exploring new places. I want my kids to be open-minded and accepting. I want them to be curious and inquisitive. I think visiting new places with them will be the coolest thing in the world. Plus, I can’t wait to immerse our family in Spanish (which my son is finally lets me use with him; I guess he understands it a lot better now).

Growing up in Hong Kong we traveled a lot. I have very fond memories of being somewhere new with my family. I can’t wait to make those kind of memories with my own kids. Sure it will sometimes be difficult. Sure they (and I!) will sometimes be unhappy. But we’ll learn to get through it together.

It’s nice to finally find that one thing that fires my passion and gets me excited: I want to travel with my family! The idea of spending a month with them somewhere each summer makes me thankful to be a teacher, and incentivizes budgeting in a way nothing else has. It’s the thing I would happily build my life around, a goal for which I can easily sacrifice.

Soon it’s going to be a reality! My kids really are getting big. My daughter will be seven in June and has already been wearing size 7/8 clothes (which is a medium in the girl’s sections of most stores!) for a year. She just grew into a size 1 shoe! She has lost eight baby pearls and the whole front of her mouth is filled with giant adult teeth. She is long and lanky and looks every inch the elementary student. She is truly a girl now, no more little about it.

My son is not even three and a half and he’s already 41 inches tall. He wears size 11 shoes and size 4T and 5T clothes. He’s so big that I have to be careful not to expect more of him than his 3yo self can deliver. He’s clearly been going through some developmental spurt lately because suddenly he wants to read much longer, more complicated books and can engage you in his own multi-faceted stories. He can be reasoned with (to a point) and wants to do everything himself. He doesn’t even need the toddler seat on the toilet anymore.

I realized the other day I can sell the strollers and donate the training potty (which has to live in the hallway, because our bathroom is too small to house it) as we never use them anymore. I’ve already gotten rid of most of their baby and toddler toys. These are the final vestiges of my kids baby and toddler-hood, and I am excited to see them go.

I know a lot of moms have a hard time watching their kids grow up. There are definitely wistful moments when I miss their soft baby skin and warm baby smell. But mostly I’m just excited for this new phase and whatever it will bring. I don’t think parenting babies and toddlers was my forte, I really do think I’ll enjoy parenting older kids a lot more.

So when I round up all the clothes and shoes and toys my kids have outgrown, I don’t feel sad for what we’re leaving behind, but instead am excited for what is to come.

Bring on the big kids!

Thanks

Thank you for the support yesterday. It meant a lot. 

For the last two nights my kids have slept through. Even my daughter has stayed in her own bed! Of course I continue to wake up at least once a night because my body doesn’t know how to sleep for 6 or 7 straight hours anymore, but I’m still getting better sleep than I have in ages. 

I also started my period yesterday. It took me by surprise, but also explains a lot. Two cycles ago, when I first started taking Vitex, my period was totally fine. Then I kind of forgot to keep taking the Vitex and my next period was a nightmare. My boobs hurt so bad leading up to it that just brushing against them sent streaks of pain through my body. It was hard to sleep they were so sensitive. Then my actual period came and it just, didn’t go away. I had it for ten days. My whole cycle is about 20 days long and the only thing that makes that bareable is that my period is usually only a three day affair. But the last one just kept going and going. Have I mentioned that I can’t wear tampons because of my prolapse?! I was miserable. 

I started up the Vitex again. I’m not sure if the good cycle, then the bad one, had anything to do with the Vitex (and then lack thereof)–I’ve definitely had aberrant cycles before–but the correlation is interesting. This month my boobs didn’t hurt at all so I was totally taken by surprise when I started my period yesterday. But it explains why I’ve been feel tired and down. 

This past week my husband had to work from home because his office was being reconfigured. It was so nice to see so much of him and have him around in the evenings to help with the kids. Next week he’s gone at SXSW, and it’s going to be lonely and exhausting without him here. It’s also Book Fair week at my daughter’s school, which the PTA puts on. Of course no one is signing up to man it, so I’m not sure what we’ll do. I’m already signed up for three afternoons and am taking the day off Tuesday to help set up (and for something else, see below), but I’ll probably have to sign up for more. Such bad timing that my husband is gone. I suppose we’ll figure it out. 

It’s also the end of the 2nd trimester and grades are due next Wednesday. I’m spending all day tomorrow at work and hope to have my scores inputted and grades finalized before Monday.

This coming Tuesday my daughter goes for her one year vision therapy follow up appointment (the other reason I’m taking Tuesday off). I was supposed to call in November to make the appointment but I just couldn’t. There is a part of me that is so terrified she will need more vision therapy, which would be a financial and emotional nightmare. I really hope they say that she is seeing fine and doesn’t need any addition therapy. Fingers crossed. 

Today is Friday and it should be a decent day at work. I’m looking forward to a cocktail tonight. 😉

Hanging In

I know I’ve been writing some positive posts lately… and there have been some great things happening to be sure. But the truth is, I’m kind of struggling right now.

My daughter is going through a hard bit. She’s been in a shitty mood for about a month. She is constant negativity. The first sound out of her mouth in the morning is a bark or whine, and the last thing she says before she goes to bed is a complaint. Everything in between is more of the same.

It’s exhausting. And it’s starting to really get me down.

I wish I knew why she gets like this. I wish I knew how to make it better. She is such a sensitive kid. She clearly struggles. But she’s almost seven years old and still has daily meltdowns that put my three-year-old to shame. My patience wears so thin.

She’s been getting these red streaks on her cheeks, under her eyes. It’s probably a reaction to something, but it’s hard to get an accurate account of what she’s eaten at school and aftercare. I pack her enough lunch and snacks that she doesn’t need to eat food from either place, but she does if they offer something she likes.

It hurts my heart to think she’s having a hard time because she’s reacting to something she is eating… We all know how my husband feels about exploring that possibility.

I have thought about emailing her pediatrician, but previous discussions on this topic suggest he won’t be of much help. “It could be anything…”

It’s just… hard for me. At this point I cringe at the thought of picking her up at the end of the day. I know that once I get her I’m just going to be berated until she goes to bed.

I have not been feeling great myself. I’m always tired. Exhausted really. I wonder if my allergies are acting up as well. The pollen count is definitely going up, as the rains stop and the sun comes out. I’ve been weekly allergy shorts for six month now, so my symptoms are more subtle, but I am still affected. I should start taking antihistamines again. Of course those make me drowsy…

I know part of it is this school year. There is only one trimester left. I can do it. I can get through. 14 weeks. I can do anything for 14 weeks. I keep telling myself that.

And of course there is always the political climate, which does so much to wear us all down. It’s not panic so much anymore as a constant, throbbing despair.

Right now I am looking to the summer. The summer is my salvation. The summer is my everything. I just gotta get there.

A Subtle Shift

I know I go on and on about minimalism here, about how I want to embrace it but I struggle… about how I don’t think I’m doing as well as I could be.

I write about reading posts where they make it seem so easy and wondering why I can’t make the changes those people make, why I fail when they succeed. I don’t mean to compare myself to those people. It’s not that I think I need to achieve what they have achieved to feel like my pursuit of minimalism has been a success. It’s that I want to find the contentment that minimalism has given them. I want to find that deeper meaning in the chaos of life.

I keep reading the minimalism blogs, not to torture myself, or because I’m some kind of masochist. I’m not looking to feel bad about myself. The thing is I feel certain that I can learn something very valuable from the movement, that in simplifying my life I will reap great rewards. I don’t think minimalism is for everyone–it is certainly not some cure all for today’s society, as some claim–but for me, I truly do believe it holds the key.

Having said that, I read some of these posts and all I can think is, I’ll never be like that. I’ll never get there.

Today I read a post that was different. Or maybe the post wasn’t different, maybe it was just me that was different.

I almost didn’t read the post. It was about letting go of sentimental things and that hasn’t been a challenge for me. One of the great surprises in my quest to let go has been how little the sentimental things I thought I valued meant to me. It has been incredibly easy for me to jettison old journals, photos, letters from friends. Yes they meant something very special to me. Yes they were incredibly important treasures in my life. But as they years have passed and I have grown up and away from the person I once was, I’ve found those tokens to mean less and less. They belonged to a different person, and reading them sometimes feels like a betrayal of her confidence. I am not the girl my middle school friend wrote letters to. I am no longer the angst ridden teenager who filled journal after journal with her tortured words. I am not even the twenty-something how corresponded with her roommates back home when she lived abroad. I am none of those people, because I’m all of them. I don’t need to revisit every past incarnation of my being. I much rather dwell in the present.

At least that is what I thought.

Reading that post, I realized that there are parts of the past that I dwell in, pieces of myself I have never let go.

I wrote recently about spending some time every night picking up the house. I’ve been good about it, but I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn’t getting much accomplished in the areas that really vex me. Tidying up after the kids went to bed helped the living room stay neat and kept the bathroom more orderly, but whenever I stood in front of the über-cluttered top of my chest of drawers, I froze. The mess paralyzed me, and almost every time, I ended up walking away, defeated.

I told myself that I just couldn’t do it. That organization just isn’t my thing and that I’ll never be good at it, that a constant mess is just who I am. I was feeling like a failure all over again.

In that post I read the author says this about shifting perspective:

There’s a well-known adage that our perception becomes our reality. How we see something becomes our truth, which at times, can be self-limiting.

I don’t know when I started defining certain parts of myself by my ADD. I think at the time it was a coping mechanism that protected certain parts of me from the other parts that judged mercilessly. I needed to embrace that explanation to attempt self-acceptance.

I kept defining myself that way because otherwise I wasn’t quite able love myself when I wasn’t living up to my values. If I could blame my shortcoming on something “other,” on something out of my control, I could practice self-compassion.

I’ve written many times about not knowing where my ADD, depression and anxiety end and where I begin. The reality is I will never know. I need to stop defining myself in these ways, because they hold me down, they keep me back.

They are heavy. They are great weights that overwhelm me.

If I’m holding onto heavy things, I leave less room to grow. No matter where we’ve been or where we’re going, when we fixate on the past and the future, It’s at the expense of the present.

I am ready to grow. I am ready to become a different person. I’m tired of this story, the one where I can’t. I want a new story, a story in which I can change and grow. A story where I can.

At times, I’ve chosen the pain from letting go over the pain of staying where I’m at.

I am done with the pain of staying where I’m at. I know that pain. It’s familiar. It’s easy. It doesn’t challenge me. It doesn’t force me to change. It’s just a dull ache that I’ve learned to live with. It’s a weight that I’m ready to shed.

It’s not going to be easy. I’ve gotten comfortable defining myself in these ways. I’ve become complacent. If I stop telling myself that I can’t, I have to start assuring myself that I can. And that’s going to be scary. If I can do something, I have to face all the other reasons why I’m not doing it. What am I avoiding? Why am I avoiding it? It will be uncomfortable. It will be painful. But I have to face those feelings, otherwise I’ll never be free.

No doubt about it, letting go can be an incredibly emotional process—and vulnerability is scary. But it is also an authentic way to live.

I’m honestly not sure what all of this means. I don’t have some new game plan or a shiny set of new goals. It’s not external, it’s more a subtle, internal shift. It’s attitudinal. It’s profound. I feel different. And I really hope my actions will be different too.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

More Investing in Myself

Sometimes I feel like things in my life align just right to remind me what my priorities are.

My cousin has lived and studied in Guatemala on and off for a while now. He goes to many places in Central and South America to write long-form articles about the political situations in different countries, and now he’s researching a book proposal about the atrocities of the Guatemalan civil war (heavy shit, to be sure). He is there now, studying with his favorite teacher, and he emailed me to see if I knew of anyone who’d want to do Skype lessons with her. I immediately thought, well I would!

So now I’m ducking out of bedtime on Wednesday nights to Skype with a lovely lady (I’ll call her L) in Xela, Guatemala for two hours. We talk and she writes notes about mistakes I make or words I don’t know or can’t remember. She gives me little lessons on the grammatical structures I still struggle with. Mostly we just talk in Spanish. She is very nice and our first talk was very pleasant.

It was definitely a challenge to keep the kids out of the room and I could tell my husband was struggling, but I love that I get to step away from my nightly bedtime duties once a week and do something for me.

Talking to her also made me realize that I really do need to invest in my Spanish. Which is why I’m so excited that…

…I bought my tickets for Ecuador!!!!!

I’ll be gone for 10 days, with two travel days, so I’ll have 8 days in Quito. I am so excited, and a little terrified. I’ve never been away from my kids for so long (I think this is twice as long as I’ve traveled without them, and I’ve only done that twice) and I’ve haven’t stayed with a host family since I was 16.

I am really excited for this trip.

I am excited to have some time away from my family, to remember who I am when I’m not scrambling to meet the needs of so many people. I’m excited to take my Spanish to the next level. I think after four months of weekly sessions with L I’ll be primed to make the most of my time in Ecuador, where I’ll be studying for 30 hours with a private language teacher. I can’t wait.

I’m also excited to visit somewhere new. I’ve never been to South America and I can’t wait to wander the streets of Quito. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, nestled in the high mountains. I’ll have a day before my classes start to roam the city and then a weekend after my classes to take some day trips. I already have a few places in mind.

I am so freaking excited! And it feels so good to invest in myself this way. By the end of this summer, I think I’ll be ready to apply for any high school job that comes available, or look into other ways of making extra money with my Spanish.

Ecuador, here I come!

How are you investing in yourself these days?