I met my German friend in Spanish class when I was fourteen, the September of my freshman year of high school. After spending the first 9 years of my schooling at a small, private Catholic school where the majority of the 50 students in my eighth grade class had shared those 9 years with me, starting off at a large public high school was intimidating, especially for an introvert like me. The first semester of high school, I clung to a fellow introvert and friend from my parochial school–we were essentially attached at the hip. With the exception of my German friend, who was my first new high school friend, it wasn’t until second semester when I started to expand my horizons and develop more friendships. My German friend and I got to know each other and spent a lot of time with each other in between classes. Unfortunately, her U.S. visa was only valid for three months rather than the typical year that high school exchange students spend abroad, and she was back to Germany in December.
We managed to keep in touch in spite of what we both viewed as her premature departure from the U.S. This was before I had a Facebook (that came later on during my Freshman year, and we did connect there eventually), but we e-mailed each other and had each other’s street addresses. We both had (and still have) an affinity for letter writing, and we would send letters and postcards to each other. She sent me multiple postcards from her travels around Europe, and once a big box of German Chocolates. When I started college, I sent her a pair of mittens with my university’s logo emblazoned on them. We even had an opportunity to see each other, albeit briefly, when I toured Germany with my high school band in 2011. Continue reading “On Cross-Cultural (and Continent) Friendships”
Something about being a quarter century old seems a little insane (though I recognize the subjectivity of that statement).
As I move into my next year on Earth, I am, again, looking back at the lessons this past year brought. 24, overall, was a good year. It was a challenging year, and I learned a lot, but I’m better off for it all. I felt good about 24 at its outset, and that feeling delivered. I’m downright excited for 25. As I take these lessons from 24 into 25, I have confidence that my time as a quarter centurion will be memorable:
1. Life is too short to spend in toxic situations with people who don’t lift you up.
2. Mindsets don’t change overnight…it takes time and energy and practice.
3. Inner change starts with personal awareness.
4. Not everybody has a growth mindset, and that’s not something you can force on someone.
5. Saying negative things about someone for no better reason than that you don’t like the way they are as a person doesn’t accomplish much of anything. It may feel good in the moment, but moments are fleeting. Your unkind words say more about you.
6. Focusing less on other people’s (often perceived and sometimes totally inaccurate) problems and focusing more on what I can do to lift myself up is all around for the best. Continue reading “24 Things I Learned at 24”
What can we make of a year? Of one more Earthen journey around the sun? I suppose it depends–like most things in life, a year is what we make of it. What happens isn’t always up to us, but how we react can define the outcome.
Early on in 2017, I found myself in a few situations that forced me to reevaluate how I perceive myself. When I looked closer, I didn’t like a lot of what I saw. I realized that I was putting my attention in the wrong places, and that was keeping me from focusing completely on myself and my future. In turn, I was unnecessarily anxious and completely out of wack when it came to evaluating my wants and needs in a healthy, productive way.
How did I react?
I stopped drinking coffee cold turkey when I realized that I was drinking 3-4 cups a day and accomplishing nothing because of caffeine-fuled anxiety; I quit my temp job, which left me feeling lifeless and uninspired, and started teaching ESL online; and, I decided that 2017 was going to be “The Good Year.”
Good hasn’t always been easy. It was a lot of hard days, and it was a lot of confusion. Good has meant a lot of growth, though. It meant slow change as I started to experience more good days than hard days on a day-to-day basis.
A lot did happen this year. I did take a much-needed trip to Germany with my family in the summer, where I got to see an old friend who studied at my high school on an exchange program in 2007. I also had quite a few visitors this year–one of my best college friends came to celebrate my birthday with me in early March, and my mom and Grandma came to visit in late March. My grandma had never been to DC before, and I was so happy to show her around my adopted city. My Kindergarten bestie and oldest friend came for a long weekend in October and all three of my immediate family members came to celebrate Thanksgiving with me in my DC apartment–the first Thanksgiving we had together since 2014. I quit two jobs (my temp position in January and my coffee shop position in August) and started three more (VIPKID in February, substitute teaching in September, and a really low time commitment tutoring opportunity in the summer). I am now officially an independent contractor in all three of my jobs, so I’ve learned the joys of removing tax money from paychecks on my own, as well as the frustration of not always getting work. I also moved from my first DC apartment to my current place.
In the western world, it takes guts to live in the moment (a certain level of financial security, too, I would argue, though that conversation is for another time).
We live in a society that is built around the future. A society of five-year plans and 401Ks and the putting away of funds for the arrival of unborn children who are many moons away from conception.
To an extent, I believe that’s all well and good. Taking responsibility for one’s own life does require planning. Yet, there is such a thing as planning to such an extreme that it becomes debilitating. Anxiety is rooted in unnecessary and unhealthy worrying about the future, and we live in a society where anxiety is running rampant.
Mindfulness is all the rage right now. Some might say it’s a passing fad, and perhaps it is. That said, I do believe in the concept of mindfulness. I’m in a good place right now, and I attribute that to mindfulness. I’ve been working to relentlessly follow my intuition, to do what feels right for me regardless of what others might think of it (if I want to lay on my bed for three hours and do nothing, and I have the time to lay on my bed for three hours and do nothing, I’m going to do it); I do yoga everyday, and I only commit to people and activities if I genuinely want to and/or believe it is in my best interest.
Subbing is going well for me. I’ve had a couple streaks where I haven’t gotten work, which admittedly have been stressful, but for the most part, I’m going into schools every Tuesday through Friday. I’ve been mostly switching off between two different schools, and I’m developing good relationships with staff and students at both. They are conveniently located close enough to my house that I can easily walk to one of them, and I hop on a nearby bus line to get to the other. I occasionally go to other schools, but I’ve been enjoying the consistency of switching off between the two schools I frequent. When I first started subbing, I was really worried that going to different schools everyday would be unnecessarily stressful; while I do love switching things up in theory, I function best in consistent environments. Building relationships with these two schools, then, has been so perfect. I still get to enjoy switching things up regularly, but I’m doing so in two settings that I’ve grown comfortable in. On days that I don’t get subbing, I remind myself that I always have VIPKID to fall back on. I still do VIPKID on Monday mornings, and I tutor a third grader in reading Monday afternoons. Continue reading “Present Moments: Late Fall 2017”
Periods of great change have always been hard for me. After a relatively peaceful summer, which included a much-needed trip to Germany with my family, but was otherwise very quiet–a lot of working and reading and daydreaming about a future when I wouldn’t be a coffee shop barista–I’ve found myself plunged into the very future of my summer daydreams, and am extremely overwhelmed by it all.
Intuitively, I feel very good about the future. Good things are coming. Diving further into teaching feels right, and I’m so excited to grow further as a teacher. Yet, the present in wrought with a lot of anxiety and emotion, as times of change usually are for me. I don’t sleep as well during times of change, and I tire easier–a combination of the lack of sleep and the very fact that the physical symptoms of anxiety are exhausting AF. Yet, I’m impatient. Oh so impatient. I want to rush head first into things. I’m reminding myself again and again of how, if I want to keep my mental and physical health at all in check, I have to take change slower. How that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my yoga mat, and I’ve been doing meditation excercises. I’ve been reading, and I’ve been reaching out to people who impact my life positively. I’ve been trying to bottle up less emotion (something I’m REAL good at). I’ve been talking through feelings with friends and writing, too.
I do feel the need to write more, which feels good. It feels natural. It feels healthy. It feels like me. I also feel the need to be more social, which I’m notoriously bad at (it’s so much easier to sit at home and be an anti-social introvert!), but also desperately need. While I felt rather content to be alone for much of the summer (which was beneficial in many ways in terms of building up more self-awareness and internal understanding) I’m discovering that a healthy, balanced Britta needs positive interactions with others as much as she needs time by herself to recharge.
I feel this incredible need to go out in the world. I love my online teaching job. I love the relationships I’ve developed with my regular students, and it blows my mind that I can positively impact a child’s life from across the world with a computer and internet connection. I’ve learned a lot from them, too. Yet, I find it strangely unsatisfying to work from home. It’s convenient. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s joyful. Yet, I get antsy when I spend too Continue reading “On Change and Acceptance: Fall 2017”
Today marks the beginning of my last week working as a coffee shop barista. Maybe not forever–hey, who knows what the future will bring–but for now. For the foreseeable future.
It’s bittersweet. This is the first job I got in DC, not a week after I made myself at home in a tight, un air-conditioned, vacant loft space in a college friend’s crappy Arlington, Virginia rental house (this isn’t an insult to my college friend–she no longer lives there, but considered it a dump herself. It was an old house that wasn’t well-kept up).
I worked there 15-20 hours a week last summer until I got my temp job in September. During the six months I spent at my 9-5 office job, I worked at the coffee shop on the weekends. My financial well-being was lacking when I moved to DC–teaching in Thailand enriched my life, but certainly not my bank account–and I needed the extra money. Plus, I didn’t know what the future would bring post-temp, and I wanted to ensure I had a back up income. This was an intuitive move–when I started my part-time online teaching job, I needed those coffee shop hours.
I certainly didn’t appreciate the job enough while I had it. In the year and two months of my employment at the coffee shop, I spent more than enough time griping about it. I was hesitant to take the job in the first place–I had already done the barista gig the summer before I moved to Thailand and thought I should try something new. Additionally, I believed that making minimum wage as a college graduate was insulting (granted, DC minimum wage is much higher than the national average, but it was an ego thing–which I’ve since worked to quell). My mom had to give me a pep talk about how IT’S A JOB and you currently don’t have one, which knocked a bit of sense into me. When I got my part-time ESL job and realized I wanted to pursue teaching, I spent more than enough time looking through job postings for additional teaching opportunities, to a future when Continue reading “Hanging Up The Apron”
A lot of personal growth and change has been happening in recent months. I could go into the details of all that growth and change–a previous version of Britta surely would have–but now, being so open on the internet seems incredibly invasive to me. While I may be one of over seven billion people in the world, and does it really matter what I write on this tiny corner of the internet?–the fact of the matter is, I’ve changed. What I’m comfortable putting out to the world–even to just a few readers here and there–has changed.
I’m not really sure where this blog is going. I’m not ready to be done with it, but I also don’t have a clear vision for its future. I have always seen this blog as an extension of myself–so I am perfectly fine with letting it mirror the changes in my life. I’m perfectly fine with taking time of off from writing to allow for further evolution in myself.
I suppose that’s okay, though. It’s okay to let ideas be for a while. It’s okay to let them form, mature, take differing and wildly imaginative shapes.
I have no idea what this place is right now, but it’ll figure itself out in time.
So as to ensure that this blog doesn’t become defunct, I thought I’d take a moment to write an update about my life.
Back in January, I wrote that I recently discovered my love of teaching. Additionally, I wrote that I was planning to move abroad again before the year’s end.
Today, only one of those statements remains true. I still love teaching. I love it more and more every day. I will not, however, be moving abroad again before this year’s end.
— — — —
The last few months have been a whirlwind of growth and change and internal understanding. I’ve come to a lot of understandings about myself. I’ve realized that, during my youth and formative years, I lost sight of myself and my real, true passions. There can be a lot of pain and confusion in navigating the world as a highly sensitive person. As a child, I didn’t have any real understanding for why I cried so easily, why I seemed to be bothered by sounds other peope didn’t notice (I’m acutely sensitive to sound), and why I seemed to get tired so much quicker than my peers. Highly Sensitive wasn’t in my vocabularly and it wasn’t in my parents vocabulary–and because I didn’t know why I was the way I was and also because I wanted to fit in with my peers, I unconsiously managed to lock down that part of me.
I came across the term “highly sensitive person” for the first time in college and instantly recognized many of the traits in myself. However, because I had so severely repressed so much of what it truly means to be HSP, I didn’t understand what that meant for me as a person. It is only within the last few months that I’m starting to Continue reading “What am I Doing With My Life?”
For the last few months, I’ve been attending this MeetUp on and off that centers around concepts of mindfulness and meditation. I was drawn to this MeetUp because the concepts of mindfulness and meditation are extremely interesting to me, concepts that I’ve been trying to integrate into my life more as I’ve been actively working through personal and emotional baggage.
The last time I attended this MeetUp, the group leader–a middle aged man who I suppose is between forty and fifty–asked me if I’d be interested in meeting up for some coffee at some point in the future to discuss some aspects of meditation and mindfulness more in depth. He mentioned he found some of the points I brought up in our discussion that night interesting, and would like to talk more.
I didn’t see any harm in meeting up for one coffee chat. These are topics I genuinely enjoy talking about, after all, and this man is a wealth of knowledge regarding the topics of meditation and mindfulness. I thought I could learn a thing or two from. I saw him as a teacher figure, and I was eager to learn more.
That is, until he started sending me conversational text messages, and seemed way too eager to see me again when we parted from our coffee chat (“if you want to meet next weekend, let me know”).
Wait, I thought, is this guy looking for a friendship…or something more?