Happy New Year…a few days late.

Happy New Year…a few days late.

“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Welcome to the new year! Twenty-seventeen has a hell of a lot to match up to, because in my book twenty-sixteen was about as amazing as life gets. What I cannot fathom already is that we are two weeks into January. Halfway through the first month of the year, already?! Where has the time gone? Well I wish I could have shared this next story with you all two weeks ago, but traveling without a computer, shotty data service at best, and poor wifi connections in my hostels all around Europe prevented me from writing this any sooner. Without further ado, a piece I wrote on New Year’s Eve and had intended to publish much, much sooner:

31.12.2016 9:10PM

Okay, I’ll keep this short. I just want to document this moment in case I ever feel like reliving it someday in the future.

I was all eager and excited to be spending New Year’s Eve in Paris solo; that is up until that final moment when I had to officially decide where I’d be spending my time when the ball drops. I had a lovely day at Monte Martre and Sacre Coeur today, and also a nice mellow evening at my hostel drinking a delicious Scottish IPA and beginning my newfound obsession with NARCOS. I even took myself out to dinner across the street from my hostel too. But when it came time to actually make my decision as to where I’d be heading for the night, to be honest, I had half the mind to literally stay in, cozy up in some sweats, and watch Netflix…while in Paris…for New Year’s Eve…I should be fined.

Unacceptable. Even these thoughts. They remind me that while it appears to the world watching my new year unfold on Facebook and Instagram that I’ve become this vagabond world traveler, without a home or a care in the world; deep down inside I’m still the same Emily who left on this adventure of a lifetime eight months ago. Despite even the feat of visiting multiple countries in a few short weeks, I can’t truly abandon my old self, no matter how hard I may try at times.

I recently finished reading Amy Schumer’s autobiography, “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I laughed, I cried, I LOL’ed, I even recommended it as a read to a few of my besties who I thought would find meaning out of it too. But it wasn’t simply the humor that I connected with. Rather Amy (it’s fun referencing her as Amy…almost as it we’re friends) opened up with her readers on a real personal level about all sides of herself, and it was for this reason that I so deeply connected to the book. She writes of being an introvert in a world where everyone expects the opposite out of her at all times. She’s a comedian. She’s meant to smile, make small talk, make people laugh. Being a quiet, introspective thinker just doesn’t fit the mold, right?

If you find this dichotomy at all interesting, then please, by all means, read Schumer’s book. Don’t leave it up to me to illustrate the humorous juxtapositions, read it for yourself firsthand. It’ll be far more interesting and a million times more funny for you. But the reason I’ve brought it up is because the dichotomy she illustrates is where I connected to the story most of all.

I’ve spent the last eight months of life living alone in a foreign country. I’ve been living alone for the first time truly, in my entire adult life, and it’s been nothing shy of extraordinary. First and foremost, it’s been wonderful, but it hasn’t always come easy. For the most part, Thailand and Germany couldn’t be more different. In Thailand, I was teaching English (not my passion); I lived with some instant besties (shout-out to Al, Iz, and Laura if you’re reading this!); I was HOT-ALL THE TIME!

Fast-forward five months and I set foot on European soil, to embark on my third teaching assignment of twenty-sixteen. Moving to Neustadt was absolutely the right decision for me- both personally and professionally. I needed to be back in my own classroom, teaching social studies, doing what I do best; doing what I love most. The small class sizes at ISN are an incredible blessing, but don’t get me wrong; just because I’ve been able to shrink my class sizes from fifty down to fifteen, doesn’t mean it’s all been rainbows and ice cream parties at school. Rather, this professional transition has been quite trying, for a number of different reasons.

First of all, I’m teaching grades nine through twelve, geography and economics. Not to mention having never taught above year ten prior to October ’16, let’s just say juniors and seniors are a whole different ballgame. Which my three years experience teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies and language arts at Eagle Point Middle School didn’t fully prepare me for…

In addition to the age of my students, I’ve also never taught the particular content I’ve been assigned at my new job either. Now I don’t mind the geo classes one bit. I teach grades nine-twelve geo, and I’m thoroughly enjoying teaching and learning the new content myself, prior to sharing it with my students. It’s heavy on the prep-side of teaching, but enjoyable nonetheless. Needless to say, I don’t share the same feelings about being an “economics teacher.” No, the econ classes are definitely a whole different story! I haven’t actually studied economics myself since I was seventeen years old, just a junior in high school myself, when I took AP Econ at AHS. Obviously, never having studied econ in college, this was a factor I chose to omit during my interview back in July for my job. Whoops…

Maybe I just figured the position being in Europe made it a long shot. Who knows? But the truth is that I’m responsible for six different preps, each of which I see four separate times in a week. Meaning that I have to lesson plan twenty-four different plans. Every. Single. Week.

Ya, ya, I can just hear my elementary ed friends rolling their eyes at me, saying that’s what they do every week. But without the risk of sounding like a total bitch, it’s very different lesson planning for a room full of fourth and fifth graders, as compared to high school students, most of which are learning at the IB level (think of it as the “AP” version of classes in Europe). The moral of this tangential story, my job is far harder than it may seem according to my Instagram or Facebook page.

Outside of work I’ve struggled since moving to Deutschland as well. Being that I’m at an international school in Europe, the median age of my coworkers at ISN is probably around 40-45. Not to beat home a dead horse, but I’m nowhere near that age. No surprise to me though, I’m actually much more comfortable being the youngest member on a staff, than being of similar age to many of my coworkers (as was the case in Thailand). While I thoroughly enjoyed the network of friends in Thailand, my three years at EPMS prepared me for my “youngest staff member” role, which I’ve fallen into again at ISN. Still, while I certainly feel comfortable in this role, and I don’t mind it in the least, it too coms with a unique set of challenges that I’ve faced since moving to Germany in October.

Being the youngest on staff may not sound all that bad, but when you work at a very small school as I do, a total of fourteen teachers for grades six-twelve, and you’re younger than the next person by a solid ten years (more likely fifteen if I’m being honest), it can potentially make it tougher on one socially. I certainly enjoy my job, I get along well with most all of my coworkers, but if you’ve noticed, I have yet to travel anywhere on the weekends with a new friend. In Thailand, I quickly set off on adventures with my favorite ladies (shout-out #2). Not the case in Germany. I’m learning the truest, most pure meaning of solo travel right now.

And by right now, I mean this very instant as I write this. Currently, I’m sitting alone at a bar, in Paris, on New Year’s Eve.

But that’s besides the point I was trying to make. Please don’t read this and misinterpret my words. I don’t want my reasons for sharing this side of reality to be misconstrued. I’m not looking for pity; I’m not sad, hell I’m very rarely lonely over here except for the seldom quiet evening at home alone. What I’m trying to convey is that I am, at heart, an introvert through and through. And while I’d like to think that living on my own, across the world from family and friends, has pulled me out of my shell, the truth is, that just ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve adapted, I’ve grown. I know now to make small talk with strangers, sure. But as my previous confession illustrates, if my darkest desire is to spend my solo New Year’s Eve trip in Paris (a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity), cuddled up in sweats, in my hostel, watching Netflix, then I think it’s very clear that I haven’t really changed as much as I thought I had over the past eight months.

Where does that leave me, though? As one year of epic proportions draws to a close, and I realize I’m still pretty much the same ol’ Emily, what can I expect or hope for in two thousand seventeen? I’m not entirely sure about anything ahead, but what I do know, is it’s one hundred percent okay to just be yourself. Don’t waste time or energy trying to be someone you’re not. Rather, learn to love yourself, and strive to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. It’s proven quite effective for me this year, because I’m honestly the happiest I’ve ever been. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting at a bar in Paris as I write this.

Location is fluid, surroundings constantly change. Happiness though, evolves within oneself. Wherever you are, if you’re happy, you’ll be happy. Right now, at 10:30PM on 31 December 2016, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. And that’s in large part due to the fact that I have learned to love myself.

We’re often flooded with stories of love this time of year; social media perpetuates this fact. Babies, boyfriends, girlfriends, engagements, weddings. Well, I can’t officially announce it on Facebook to the world, for the sheer fact that if I did, it may be significantly misunderstood if I came out in 2017 as being “in a relationship” on social media. But despite my incapacity to do so, that’s exactly how I feel right now. As 2016 draws to its final close, the clock is ticking down; people will be rushing all across the world to find that person whom they’ll share a kiss with at midnight. Despite being all by my lonesome tonight, even at a bar out in public, I’m with exactly the person who I want to be with as I welcome 2017 with wide open arms and an open heart-myself. I’m thrilled to be so happy, content, and confident in myself that I’m the only date I need this New Year’s. A whole hell of a lot has changed this past year for me; but deep down, I’m still the same, boring, shy, loud and weird Emily, and that’s completely okay with me.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” -E.E. Cummings

2 Replies to “Happy New Year…a few days late.”

  1. Emily,
    Such a well written, openly shared, Happy New Year message…a little late, but still appreciated!
    You are a gem!
    Enjoy your journey.
    Love, Aunt Becky

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