Today, my daughter started middle school MIDDLE SCHOOL! That fact alone is mind-blowing. I’m thrilled for her, of course, but as every parent will surely agree time flies.
We were talking about the differences between her entering school this year vs. last year. Because although it’s a new school for her, last year she was challenged with entering school for the first time in her life (she was previously home schooled), learning a new language entirely, and not knowing anyone at all (FYI–she walked out on her first day with 5 awesome friends). This year, she’s got the new school, but she will know at least 2-3 other kids in her class already.
And all this change has got me reflecting on the past year, which was had the biggest challenges of my adult life. All self-imposed, to be sure, but challenges nonetheless. But I don’t want to dwell on those challenges directly right now; and I don’t want to dwell on the things that didn’t go as planned (which turned out to be a lot of things). I want to focus on what I’ve accomplished in the past year. Because I usually do a terrible job of patting myself on the back. That always seemed too self-fulfilling, too egoistic. I regularly have to remind myself that the choices I’ve made and how I’ve managed the consequences of those challenges can actually be viewed as achievements, even when seen up close they look like potential blunders or foolish choices.
So, here’s the list of things that I think I’ve accomplished in this big year of change for me:
Moved to a new country
I mean, this one’s obvious. I’ve talked about this before, but moving to a new country isn’t the cakewalk a lot of people may perceive it to be. Moving to a new country is disorienting and somewhat traumatic, especially when you’re leaving behind so many good friends and family. I can’t say I’m fully adjusted, and some days I really feel like I’ve still just arrived. But as a I reflect at where we are in terms of the quality of life, it’s clear we have a relatively happy, healthy family, and that we live a relatively comfortable life (see below). And that’s no easy feat when moving to a new country.
Transitioned to lower cost living
This was a HUGE challenge for me, mostly because of the reduced amount of income I had to get used to. As you may know, I owned a fairly successful small business in the states, and we lived a solidly middle-class life. We didn’t have a huge house, but we ate out frequently, bought what we needed and what we wanted whenever, etc. I was making enough money that I never felt at risk financially. Today, our life is fairly different. Our living expenses are about half what they were in the States, but our salaries are much lower as well. And pretty much all my fun money has been used up. We’re financially stable after a year, but I feel a little more precarious about our spending. I don’t feel I have quite mastered our monthly budget, and we’re not able to simply go out and buy things the way we used to. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s partially what I wanted: to live a simpler life, filled with less stuff. I forget sometimes that living a simpler life also means living a more meager life, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Transitioned to freelance writing
When we were first planning to move to France, I thought I was going to open up an export business and sell French products food online. When I finally got around to looking into that (after we had moved), I realized it wasn’t something I was interested in doing (too much red tape and paperwork, basically). Then I had the idea to start a food tourism business. Turns out tourism is highly regulated and it’s really expensive and challenging to obtain the proper licenses in France for that (I could’ve registered the business in the States, but I figured we’re living here so I should be registered here). Then we shifted the idea to being an adult training company that combines French lessons with hands-on cultural experiences. This is still a good idea, but getting the right type of business in France is, again, extremely complicated. As a result, I’ve spent the last few months focusing on my freelance work. And it’s paid off. I’m much more financially stable, and I have plenty of free time to focus on my family and do other fun things.
I was published!
The other dream I had when I came to France was to pursue my writing career more vigorously. Originally, I wanted to have a first draft of a novel done by the end of 2016. But the election shocked me, to the point where I simply couldn’t focus on my novel. And I wasn’t thrilled with what I had written of it to that point. So, I decided to put that aside and focus on some short stories. One even got published. And now, I’m onto a new idea for a novel that I like far more than the first. While I haven’t been able to work on it as much as I’d like, I’m happier with it.
I’m sure there are some other things I can celebrate about this past year. Mostly, I’m just glad I’ve made it this far and that for all the ups and downs, on balance, I feel like I’m on more solid ground than I was a year ago when I arrived.