Here is my obligatory end of the year post. I gleefully say goodbye to 2010. It has been an awesome year and I can only hope that 2011 is even better.

2011 is the year of Hippo Q. in Europe!! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high as it is quite possible that I end up still in DC next year. But my mentality during the upcoming months is that of a person who will be living out of her suitcase and frugally spending her euros this time next year.

2011 is the year that I’ll turn 30. I have no idea where the last 30 years have gone, but I can say that I’m feeling good. My twenties were such a crazy time of self-doubt, low self-esteem, longing, naivety, uncertainty, etc. For sure, I can’t say that I’ve figured everything out already, but I definitely feel that I’m about to start a new chapter of my life (my 30s) in a better place—though with declining eyesight, achy knees and hips, and fine lines.

My main resolution for 2011 has been reiterated numerous times on this blog. I want to live/work/study in Europe starting next fall. And I am determined to achieve that resolution. The rest of my resolutions/plans are related.
  • Soak-up my last few months of ulcer-inducing Hill life. I am looking forward to the new Congress. There have been so many changes on the Hill and I can’t wait to dig in and fight against the craziness that will come from the other side.
  • Enjoy my last few months in DC. There are so many things that I haven’t done in DC. I want to check out TR Island, the National Cathedral, and the National Arboretum. In reality, I just want to spend time with my friends. DC is such a transient city and I’ve watch so many of my friends leave. I never imagined that I would depart DC as well.
  • Intense language/culture studies. This will be postponed until I know if I’ll need to focus on Germany or France. I am excited about the possibility of living in either (or both) country. My fingers are crossed that it all works out. I’ll have a decision by February.
  • Reduce the clutter. I’ve already made some progress in this. A friend is coming over to take a few things this weekend, and I hope to start asking around if there are any new arrivals to DC who might appreciate free/cheap stuff. And from there, it is all about Craigslist and the Salvation Army. Whatever is left will just be donated to my shared house.
  • Go on some dates! Since my Europe epiphany in August, I have been reluctant to consider going out on dates. But I don’t see anything wrong with a little bit of DC fun this spring before I ship off. And yes, I said this spring. I honestly don’t leave my house in the winter. It will be perfect practice (and help me lose a bit of the desperation vibe) for when I meet the cliché EU lover.
  • Cut my hair. Sometime before I depart. I will cut my hair down to my 100% natural hair. My hair hasn’t grown out enough to do the cut now but I’m thinking that I’ll have enough length (and nerve) by the summertime.

Best wishes to everyone for an amazing 2011!


Possession Anxiety

My excitement about next year has started to morph into anxiety. There is so much that I need to do to prepare. Foremost, I must reduce my possessions to only the essentials that can easily fit into two large duffel bags (is that wise or even possible?). Everything else will be sold or given away to friends or Goodwill. I feel that I haven’t accumulated that much since my last purge – in preparation for Peace Corps – but I still have so much stuff. Where did it all come from?

I’ve been a packrat since I was a child and I have a way of assigning emotional value to the most mundane of household objects. It is one of the reasons that my mother’s basement is full of crates of my childhood junk. I feel that I am better than I once was but I still have trouble parting with stuff.

Thankfully, since the beginning of the fall, I’ve cut back on my purchases – not only to save money but also to avoid accumulating anything else that I’d have to throw away next year.

In the last month, I have started to give away/recycle/trash some of my clothes and desk items, but I haven’t made a significant dent in any of it (don’t get me started on my six, unpacked boxes of kitchen items, wft?!).

It is not going to be fun. But it has to be done. I don’t want to saddle my mother with any more boxes of my things and it is not worth putting any of it in storage. So I have to decide what is irreplaceable or would be expensive or a hassle to replace.

The truly tricky thing is figuring out what I should keep to bring with me. I know that my lifestyle will be that of poor wannabe expat, but I am not sure exactly what I will be doing and where exactly I’ll be living. And I won't know for months.

As a side note, over the weekend, I received my mother's full buy-in regarding my scheme to live/work/study abroad. I don't know what I expected but she didn't blink an eye when I told her that I was very open to staying longer than a year -- and that it all depended on my professional prospects and if I found a husband (i.e., if I could get a visa). And she was not suprised when I said that I want to raise my kids abroad. I brought this point up again today to ensure that she understood the implications. She does and she supports me.

It is great to have a mother who listens and lets me make my own decisions. I am very thankful to have her. And I can’t wait to host her (and all my awesome cheerleading friends!) wherever I am next year and thereafter.


Another Update, Plans for Abroad

This week marks the 4-month anniversary of my pursuit of French proficiency and professional opportunities in Europe. I have one more application to submit by Friday, and then, I will be officially done with Part One of my plan. I can’t believe how much time, effort, and money I devoted to learning French and to perfecting my applications. I am so proud of myself. My fingers are crossed that one of the programs I applied to will work out (I’ve already been contacted for an interview!). But given the economy, I know the applicant pool is crowded and the programs are highly competitive.

Now that it’s almost 2011, I’ve started to think about how I will celebrate my 30th birthday. For sure, I will drink and dance with friends in DC, but I also want to do something just for myself. I’m leaning toward going to see Thomas Fersen at La Cigale in Paris at the end of April (during the spring recess!! But that may not matter if I don’t have a Hill job…). I have become obsessed with Thomas Fersen, along with a handful of other French singers (Camille, ZAZ, etc) thanks to Alliance Française. A-M is contemplating Spain this spring and another potential travel buddy is talking about Eastern Europe. So I would probably go alone (it is a bucket list goal...), and if I'm not selected for the programs I applied to, it will make sense to visit Lyon, Nantes, and Avignon – the locations of the French language schools I’m considering.

So, thankfully, I’m still on track to fulfill my dream of living/working/studying abroad starting next summer/fall.

My mother arrives in DC on Saturday and I look forward to her visit. I am anxious to share with her, in person, all of my hopes and dreams for the future. She needs to understand that I am very open to living in Europe for longer than a year—and what that means in terms of the sort of career, family, and lifestyle I hope to have. We need to talk about downsizing my possessions and about my finances. It should be an interesting conversation, and yes, I think that we’ll discuss it over a French meal.


A Thought

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day." (E.B. White)

Hat tip to A-M for sharing this quote that sums up my life's struggle. I wish I was the type to just savor life. But I feel that I am called to a life of service: helping children and protecting the environment.

I think it is reasonable that I should want to a year (or two) to savor life in Europe. But eventually, I must return to a life of sacrifice (i.e., minimalism, anti-consumerism, etc) and hardwork that I believe will allow me to make a difference in the nation and the world.