I have a very distinct memory of being in my elementary school classroom sometime in the early 1990s during a social studies lesson. We were taking it in turns to read passages from our textbooks about the movements of people around the world. I remember the smell of the binding and the colourful maps adorned with bright arrows showing the routes of migration across the continents and seas. The bold keys words leapt off of the page: migration, emigrate, immigrant. These words had not yet taken on a political flavouring in my young mind and yet this lesson sticks out in my mind like a rock in the middle of the sea of my childhood. I couldn’t know that over twenty years later I would be an immigrant.
I have a confession to make. I love watching the Olympics. Now I suppose as confessions go, it's not a huge revelation nor one that is likely to change the course of human history. I feel though that a confession is in order because I have a tendency to dislike sporting events, especially those that intentionally or unintentionally bolster displays of nationalism and ignore such things as systemic inequality. The Olympics falls into this sort of place in my head and yet, I really enjoy the Olympic games whenever they come around. It's a slight conundrum for me and thus I confess to my utter captivation with the current games happening in PyeongChang.
It seems strange to me that in the past three months I have stood on four continents – home in Europe, South America for my Argentinian conference, back to Europe, then home to North America, back to Europe, then off to Asia. It's little wonder life has taken on a rather surreal feel as though I'm walking in a dream.
You know the scene in The Princess Bride where Buttercup knocks the Dread Pirate Roberts (really her beloved Wesley in disguise – spoilers, but you’ve had time) down that immense hill? Since about October, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been rolling down that same hill, with no end in sight to my constant tumbling.
I have spent a fair few hours over the past two days reflecting on the year that has just passed and the year that has just started. I’ve been thinking about all of the experiences I have had that have led me to where I am in this moment and all of the people who have shared in those experiences. Having the time to pause and reflect has helped me see some things more clearly and I’d like to share a few of these reflections here.
I don’t think I can remember a busier December. There were of course the Decembers when I was thirteen or fourteen and was dancing in the Nutcracker. It seemed like endless afternoons and evenings of rehearsals and weekends full of performances all balanced with school. Then there were the Decembers when I was a full-time music teacher. Preparing the children for their holiday concerts were always stressful. It seemed that I spent every waking moment thinking about the music, rehearsing with the students, designing programmes, and planning the logistics. When I went back to being a full-time student, suddenly, my Decembers – while busy – were just a bit more leisurely. Sure I had deadlines but there wasn’t that stress of everything riding on my shoulders. This December though has been another thing entirely.
Today is my thirty-fourth birthday – the fourth birthday I have spent in the UK. I sometimes think back to my thirtieth birthday. I spent it thousands of miles away from home surrounded by people I had only known for a month. It's funny because one of those people was Jeremy and that occasion was probably the first time we ever actually spoke more than a few words to one another.
Sometimes you can't tell how hard you've been going at life until you're forced to stop and live in the moment. Those of you who follow my podcast, You Say Toma(h)to may have listened to the most recent episode detailing my recent holiday in Dubrovnik with Jeremy and two of our friends. When we got back, it became very clear that the way I was living just wasn't working for me. Oddly enough Jeremy was having similar feelings. Almost as soon as we got back from one of the best holidays we've had, we were stressed and very unhappy. How do you go about trying to capture and maintain those feelings of well-being that often arise from travelling?
The past two months have been busy. People tend to say that quite often. It's a great sort-of apology when you've been neglecting aspects of your life. "Oh, I'm sorry I haven't answered that email you sent me three months ago. It's been so busy." But in all honesty, I feel like I've not even had a chance to enjoy the few short holidays I've had recently, because I was either working during them or as soon as I came back I hit the ground running.
I can't believe how behind I am with this podcast episode recap! It has been nearly four weeks since our eighth episode went out and in that time I don't think I've had a spare moment to really reflect on our August podcast. Luckily, I managed to find some spare moments today to put into writing some things that have come to mind.