I’ve typically been pretty bad at celebrating my birthday. The last four years or so I’ve worked on my birthday and then took myself out to dinner afterwards. This year I wanted to something different. Originally I booked a cruise but then realized that I wanted something on a smaller scale. I went and booked a 4 day getaway at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic that was off the beaten path. It was good to get out the country but also good to know that DR makes the 8th country I’ve visited this year. Which isn’t too bad since I decided to scale back my travels a bit. I had an amazing time except for the small fact that people who travel solo are often “invisible” so you have to hunt down the wait staff for EVERYTHING. I sat by the pool and the beach and had some amazing naps with just the sounds of the waves and an unlimited number of drinks. It was truly worth the money and the experience. Next years birthday vacation is booked already.
As this year of my life starts to come to a close I realize that there’s a lot that I want to do. While I have definitely had some milestones this year that included finishing my PhD, I’m not satisfied yet. Working in a hospital again has reminded me of how short life really is. I’ve had numerous patients who have passed away without any warning. I’ve had a lot of major changes that were unexpected but I also got hired on to my dream job (at least past time). So far I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel a little bit and I’ve visited 8 countries. I’m hoping to develop a good work life balance in the coming year and maybe flex my entrepreneurial muscles just a bit. The whole dating thing has absolutely been a bust so far so I figure I’ll just set goals around what I can control. Here’s to bigger and better things.
At the end of September after a long hiatus I started traveling a bit more again. Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely love to get away from the mundane and have an adventure. I have a pretty good mix of domestic and international travel planned that includes a birthday trip for the first time in my life. The majority of these trips are solo and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’ve learned a lot this year and have decided that being alone is definitely preferable to being in a toxic situation. I’m wrapping up my 3rd trip in less than a month and I still have 4 more to go before the end of the year. I’m going to try to squeeze in a 5th. But I’m working towards creating a life that I don’t need a vacation from and I’m closer than I was at the beginning of this year.
Part of the nature of my job is that I completely change places every few month but it also means that I tend to move quite frequently. Recently, I went through yet another move due to the lease ending on my apartment and it has been more of an adjustment than usual. I try not to do it, but I think that I got emotionally attached to my old place. There were so many good memories but also countless tears cried as I tried to figure out my life and navigate the ever confusing world of dating. My apartment became the place I could go when I had a long day at work and just wanted to sleep when I got home. It was the apartment I went back to after graduating with my PhD and where I celebrated getting a faculty job at my alma mater. It was also the space where I dealt with some of the stress going on in my life and started to meditate in order to sleep more deeply at night. It was the space where I got to spend some quality time with someone who meant a lot to me and where we had some amazing conversations about everything under the sun. I inwardly groaned each time that I walked up all those steps to the third floor but I was secretly glad that at least I got some cardio from merely going home. It was the place where I got a second job offer and completed a total of over six weeks of training. It was my space. And for some reason, losing it has been really challenging. So many times people talk about having something or someone that grounds them and losing my space was a big reminder that I need to be deliberate in doing that for myself. The downside of traveling all the time is that there really isn’t a space to call home and that can make it challenging to really build meaningful connections with others. It’s not impossible but definitely challenging when you’re a homebody. I love to travel and by love, I mean LOVE. But there’s something to be said about having a home to go to after you’re done with traveling. So as I type from my new temporary place, I’m reminded of the fact once again that I think I’m gonna need to settle down soon. Stability is good for the soul. I think.
The past few weeks have gone by extremely fast but at this point I’m at the end of my doctoral journey. It’s been a long six years and I can’t believe that I have been in school consistently since 2008. That’s an entire decade of my life that I can’t get back. I haven’t even decided to real if it’s been worth it. However, I think that so far it has. I’ve had the opportunity to work full time and live in multiple places while working on my education. But now it’s time to make new goals as the ink on the new initials after my name continue to dry. I need to find something meaningful and while traditionally I’ve found that in education, I’m open for a change. If I’m being honest, I’d love to spend some dedicated time addressing my rotted carcass of a love life but that could be problematic and it isn’t a guaranteed win. It’s a hope. Needless to say, I have to fill my time with other things than school at this point. It’s going to be weird not having a paper due or assignments to complete. Right now my focus is on my job search and figuring out where I’ll be living next. I want to enjoy the feeling of completing the highest degree that one can earn but it just feels somewhat hollow at this point. It’s not a letdown but it’s just weird. I want to start writing more on a creative basis and I’ve been doing better so far this year with making in-person connections with people. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect and have already traveled to Europe once this year. I would love to do more traveling but most of all I think I also want a real “home base” for once. Like an actual home/apartment where I live permanently. I want my life post-PhD to involve getting settled down at some point and moving to a different chapter that could possibly include marriage and kids. However, it’s going to take a huge shift in focus and being deliberate in creating the life that I want. I’m determined but I need to plan so that I know the next thing I’m working towards. I have to fill this empty space of time.
One thing that I often encourage my clients to do is to get outside of their comfort zone once in a while. This often takes the form of encouraging them to travel somewhere. That’s why I really liked this article about traveling that’s written by a therapist. You can read it here. There’s nothing like doing something while going out your comfort zone. There’s the opportunity for learning more about yourself and the world around you when you go somewhere. You have the chance to experience a new culture and navigate in an unfamiliar environment where you don’t necessarily have the backup of friends and family. Solo travel can be daunting but that’s the fun part about working through your reluctance. The more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know. But it’s all about taking the first step and doing it–because let’s be honest, sometimes you just have to do things while scared because it’s something your future self will thank you for.