Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reflections on the Next (and Past) Years of Life

Today is my birthday.  It's also my first day of vacation and my first day of getting to sleep in without having any responsibilities in a long time, and of course my body woke me up bright and early at 6:00.  After realizing that I wasn't getting back to sleep, I decided to make a cup of tea and reflect on entering a new decade of my life.

Up until now, I feel pretty satisfied with what I've accomplished in my life.  I've developed my musical skills with bass to the point of being able to perform in community orchestras (and at one point NJ All State Orchestra and Philadelphia Youth Orchestra), and I've written an award winning musical composition.  I've gotten my undergraduate degree in Spanish and German as well as my teaching credentials and Masters in Teaching.  I've lived in Germany, Mexico, Spain, and Chile, and I've gotten to travel around Europe, the States, Mexico, and South America.  I've taught kindergarten, high school Spanish and German, and most recently English to business professionals in Santiago.  In California I presented workshops about effective teaching methods in the world language classroom at the school, state, and national level.

Beyond these tangible accomplishments, I feel very fortunate to have wonderful friendships and relationships with family.  I'm really looking forward to going home and getting to spend time with the people that know me best and to reconnect.  As I'm writing this, I'm seeing my Facebook wall being filled up with birthday wishes from friends all over.  It's a nice reminder that even though I'm not very good about keeping in contact with people that there's still a connection between us.

The travel opportunites are another thing that cannot be measured.  I have seen some amazing sights and have met some really amazing people, but I cannot pinpoint the most beautiful sight or most exciting travel experience.  While a picture or description on a blog can show a lot, it doesn't encompass the entire experience and how it changes you as a person.

In the same sense, I have grown a lot but am far from perfect.  I am a pretty sensitive person (which can be a good thing when working with students) and I still tend to take things personally.  Although I don't show it a lot, I can get downtrodden easily, focus on the negative, and have a hard time letting things go.  I also feel that I want to become more social and outgoing, less anxious and uptight, more assertive, and a better friend to my true friends in life.  Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is also a struggle for me.

So, what are the next years of my life going to look like?

I've made great gains in regards to my confidence and English teaching abilities, but there's always new ideas to try out and more to explore.  I am fortunate to have some colleagues (and a boss) who take teaching as seriously as I do, and seeing their dedication to teaching is downright inspiring.  I want to continue to have a professonal dialogue and exchange of teaching ideas with them to keep improving my skills.

I know that I'm capable of eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, as I've kept gym routines before and have also incorporated waking into my daily routine during the nice weather.  It's a matter of finding the exercise that is going to work with my schedule and having the self discipline to make healthy food choices.  This is something that I'm going to conciously make a part of my life.

And obviously I want to continue traveling.  There's so much of the world to see and so many amazing people I have yet to meet.  One day I'd like to travel for a period of 4 months or longer, without any day to day plan or travel itinerary.  I always admired the people that I met that traveled around the world for months at a time, not knowing what day of the week it was and not having a care in the world.  I'm hoping that I can save up money and take a trip like this, and also let myself be ok with traveling without having a set plan.

Another competing thought about my future has to do with my finances.  I still have my college loans to pay back.  I've been out of school for 5 years now and have paid back a considerable amount of my loans, but I still have a long way to go.  Add to this the fact that one of my loans is unsubsidized and accruing interest every day and living in a place where wages are much lower than in the States, and paying them back does not become an easy task.  I'm also not expecting to receive any type of Social Security from the States (or any government for that matter), and so I've started saving money to have a stable financial future.

They say that you should always try to learn something new, and I've given thought to continuing with music down here.  As much as I'd love to play the bass, I think the size of the instrument and not having a car would make it difficult to contine my studies down here.  What I have considered, however, is taking up the viola.  I played the cello in high school in orchestra and a bit after college, but I find myself wanting to try something completely new.  Hopefully my neighbors will be able to tolerate my practicing here.

Last but not least, I want to keep growing.  I'm happy with the progress I've made in life, but I know that there's a lot more to learn, a lot more to see, and great new friends that I'll meet in my future.

And so I set out on the same adventure I started when I came to Chile, but now one year older, one year wiser, and starting a new decade on this crazy roller coaster ride we call life.

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