Tag: Life

The Paradox of Space and Stuff

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts

When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.

In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.

The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.

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We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.

Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!

In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.

Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.

On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.

As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”

Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.

 

Money Matters

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
― Epictetus

Welcome to money month on SDS. In keeping with my 101/1001 goals I’ll be keeping a spending diary and reporting in weekly on where my money goes so that you, faithful minions, will keep me honest. There will also be posts on the subjects of money, spending, and adjacent choices. I’m curious to read your thoughts and feedback.

We the Small Dog clan have an odd sort of problem. We aren’t bad with money, but we’ve always made just enough to not have to worry about it. Hurrah for you, check your privilege, you might respond–which would not be an unreasonable admonition–but it has had a curious side effect in that we have never prioritized saving as much as I think we should have. Between rent, groceries, cars and subsequently travel cards, etc., most of our money has always been spoken for the moment it arrives in our pockets. We’ve always had a bit extra…and instead of saving, we’ve typically spent it.

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There are some socioeconomic factors at work here. Jeff and I are millennials and like many of our generation we are paying off massive student loans. We were fortunate in that I had a job through the recession, during the worst of which we lived in a cheap university town, but it’s still had long term impact. Our savings from my first job financed our move to London but for several years we were paying over $1,000 a month towards student loans which was, in a word, backbreaking. We’ve also tended to prioritize personal goals over financial goals (one of the key insights that came out of an Edelman study looking into generational behavior) such as living in a major city abroad rather than buying a house and preferring purchasing experiences to stuff. We’re not extravagant, but the fact is that there have been times that we’ve overspent or life has been more expensive than anticipated (losses in the family requiring international travel, for instance).

We also live in one of the most expensive cities on earth. By choice. But nearly everything is more expensive for us than it would be most anywhere else. There are endless think pieces and reporting on Londoners moving further and further out from the city in order to afford rent. Expats without UK driver licenses, we need to live more centrally as we rely on public transportation to get around. Rent is, as a result, our biggest expense by far and followed closely by food. Would we like to own property someday? Sure, but it seems like a very faraway goal. It’s not outrageous for a good but basic house in a well connected part of the city to cost over £1m. For a central London home, a deposit of close to £100k is not atypical and, according to this piece in The Telegraph, if we were able to set aside £500 a month towards a down payment, we’d be able to save up to that…in about 16 years. Yikes.

Years back I made it a goal to put a specific sum (nowhere near the £500 mentioned above) in savings monthly and have mostly kept to it. But in six months of freelancing it has been hard to keep that up and some of those unexpected life incidents have periodically depleted or swallowed our savings over 7.5 years of marriage. We’re fortunate to have not really struggled thus far (written with the biggest knock-on-wood possible), but an unexpected side effect of this making of enough-to-get-by-comfortably-but-not-much-more has been an attitude of living in the moment, financially speaking, and not really thinking as much about the future as we should.

Which is why I’m making savings and budgeting a much bigger priority moving forward. This is part of my Year of Less, in that I want specifically to cut down on casual spending, consume less in general, and budget more closely. But overall, I want to start cultivating a saver’s mindset. It will be a shift, but as I start thinking about the second two thirds of our lives, it’s one I want and need to make.

What has had a significant impact on how you think about money–a book you read, an experience you had, a relationship you’ve been in or witnessed? What were the immediate effects? The long term ones? And how have the past few years changed (or cemented) your ideas about money? 

2017 – A Year of Less, But Better

“I don’t believe in a lot of baggage. It’s such a nuisance. Life’s too short to fuss with it. And it isn’t really necessary”
― Hugh Lofting, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

2016, you have flown by…and you know where the door is to keep flying straight on through. Bye! You have been an absolutely ludicrous year. But in spite of the crazy (and occasional heartache), there have been some high points too and I am grateful for them. Though the double whammy of Carrie Fischer and Debbie Reynolds was, frankly, a bit of a low blow to end on, don’t you think? Anyway, I’m willing to set that aside in the interest of the new year as there is a lot of work to do.

There’s a lot I want to accomplish in 2017. I’ve got work goals, life goals, weird and wacky goals, but on trying to figure out how I wanted to frame my thoughts I kept coming back to the idea of “less.” 2016 was a full on year with a lot of change, a lot of big emotions, big decisions, and big achievements. I’m not looking to undo or scale back on any progress, but in looking forward I realized that I want to consume less, narrow my priorities, and focus my attention to fewer things at a time.

Don’t expect extreme deprivation, I’m not looking to make a contest in asceticism out of this thought exercise, but I am going to try and be more considered in my consumption of stuff and my commitments.

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I did the first of three shopping bans last year as part of my 101 in 1001 2.0 challenge at the end of last year. It came to a close just in time for Black Friday…and I ended up getting a grand total of two jumpers and a couple of beauty purchases. I didn’t really want, much less need, anything else. I’ve never been an emotional shopper, but I really feel as if the ban was a bit of a reset button for me and clothing in particular–which was already under pretty good control.  The truth is, it’s taken a few years of thoughtful effort, but I’m pretty happy with where my wardrobe is. There are no major gaps and no major needs, both for a personal or professional life. Ditto my makeup stash which has also taken a while to put together and edit, but with which I am really happy. I use and wear everything I own regularly and don’t feel anything is wasted. I will indulge the odd purchase of something that is simply wanted, but don’t expect any major spending this year in the looks department. Less stuff, better quality will continue to be my watch cry.

On that note, I want to be more mindful of my day-to-day spending and consumption. Making my morning coffee at home rather than catching it (and paying for it) on the run, prepped lunches, sticking to grocery lists, not tossing that unplanned item in my basket when at Boots, exploring different travel options in the city, walk more, etc.. I’ve got a few posts lined up on this topic this month, so stay tuned.

Food wise, we now have the thing we’ve wanted for seven years: a proper kitchen. And I am going to be better about stocking and using it. Obviously this will require a bit of spend to get the things we need (we currently own a single small pot, for instance), but I think that committing to cooking more and eating out less will be a good thing. We aren’t overindulgent at the moment, but do give in to laziness and cheap, less healthy food more than we should. I want to be less lazy and more intentional about eating this year.

In the related field of health, the decision to consult and freelance was a good one in that it (surprisingly) reduced the amount of professional stress in my life. A freelancer always has to hustle and I’m certainly making less than I was, but going back on the freelance grind has allowed me to regain a sense of control and purpose that had slipped from my grasp a bit. I want to take this more balanced work mindset with me moving forward, whatever I do. Less unhelpful stress, more intelligent career growth.

Less fretting. I’ve developed some low level anxiety in the past couple of years that I want to get on top of. Things like changing up my work have helped tremendously, but whether through wellness or other means, I intend on letting go of a lot of baggage that I seem to cart around needlessly.

Less time online. I actually want to branch out on the site this year, try a few new things, blog more frequently, and a few other experiments, so never fear about me vanishing from round these parts. But in terms of time wasting, it’s alarming how much time I lose just mucking about on the internet while not actually doing or accomplishing anything. I’m not sure how to roll this goal out, but I’ll try and put some more intelligent thoughts together.

Overall, I think if I can come up with a theme for 2017, it would be, “Less, but better.” I’m curious to see what form this takes.

How about you, kittens? How are you approaching a fresh year? Do you have any resolutions, or other ways to frame it? Talk to me!

 

Five Things I Loved in September

“I don’t mean what other people mean when they speak of a home, because I don’t regard a home as a…well, as a place, a building…a house…of wood, bricks, stone. I think of a home as being a thing that two people have between them in which each can…well, nest.”
― Tennessee Williams

We’re in the new place, we’re largely up and running but for the key element of internet not being set up. I type this tethered to one of our phone’s wifi, which is a band aid over a bullet hole as far as communications goes, but is survivable. Proper updates on the care and keeping of a new apartment coming soon. In the meantime, here’s a short rundown of things that captured my attention this month.

Image via Amazon

Ginger Pig Meat Book, by Tim Wilson and Frand Warde. I discovered this in the kitchen of the house we stayed in whilst in Devon and read it voraciously until we left. More than a cookbook, it starts by detailing the types of animals that The Ginger Pig (a famous butcher with a stall in Borough Market) farm rears and why. It details how the stock are reared, bred, butchered, and how different cuts of meat are best used. It also goes into the attempts of the owners to prioritize and reestablish British breeds whose bloodlines have largely been replaced by industrial style farming and the breeds that this sort of production favors. It’s not book for vegetarians, but it is a love letter to anyone who cares about good meat, ethically reared and harvested, and offered with care. I’ll definitely purchasing my own copy once the horrendous amount we had to put on the credit card to buy a sofa is paid off.

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Image via Essie

Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil. A former nail biter and still occasional nail picker, I’ve dealt with hangnails my whole life. And yet, even as a woman who paints her nails almost as ritual once a week, I’ve been incredible slow up the uptake of cuticle care. I have reformed, thanks to this stuff.

 

Image via Amazon

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn’t sure what I’d think going into this book, as I enjoyed whole chunks of Eat, Pray, Love while feeling that the overall book came off feeling enormously privileged and a bit over the top. I also don’t tend to love books that fall under “self help” with only rare exceptions. But the buzz around this book was enough for me to grab it in audio form and I ended up enjoying it tremendously. Parts personal anecdotes that didn’t feel preachy, part sensible advice around prioritizing and supporting creativity, it ended up being both an enjoyable and motivating listen.

 

Furniture shopping. Who knew I’d get into this? I still have no idea what we’re doing but slowly and surely a picture is forming for our new apartment. Even more slowly but surely, we’re figuring out how to make it happen in a way that doesn’t break the bank. Though the experience does have me hoping that my dad decides to hold onto his prized collection of middle eastern carpets for my siblings and my collective inheritance. Rugs are hilariously expensive, people!

 

Travel. At least one post on our trip to Devon will be up next week…subject to the internet gods smiling on us. Suffice it to say for now that getting out of the city and to the sea was exactly what we needed.

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
― Robert Frost

Be kind.

But…be your own first line of defense. If something is bad for you–a person, a habit, a situation, too much sugar–learn to say “no…”

Because “no” is a complete sentence.

It’s fine not to have a five year plan.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Mistakes do not a failed project, career, or life make. Messing up is inevitable and a lot less soul-destroying than anxiety often makes it appear.

It’s really nice to be liked, but not everyone is going to like you. That’s okay. Find the ones who do like you that you like back and hang out regularly.

Likewise, figure out whose good opinion truly matters to you and whose doesn’t. Prioritize accordingly.

Style matters and it’s occasionally okay to focus on the superficial. Make up is fun!

I am allowed to change my mind about desires and goals. So are other people for that matter.

Working hard is not the same thing as working smart and the former is a straight, fast shot to burnout if sustained too long…

Meaning that vacations are important. Take them. Don’t be such an puritanically-descended American. 

Ambition is not unattractive in people in general and women in particular. People who think it is have their own issues to work through.

No one is required to justify their emotions to me, nor I to anyone else. Emotions are real and true to the person experiencing them and just because I cannot see what someone else is going through, that doesn’t unmake its reality to that person.

Fear, intimidation, or lack of experience are inadequate reasons to avoid trying new things.

Being appreciated is not the same thing as being valued.

Stereotypes are useless; I like Louboutins and medieval history. Everyone else is just as fractal.

There is no “one right way” to do anything and people who claim there is generally have a lot of secondary agendas. The job, expectations, family set up, priorities, or working style of another person will not work for me and mine. If I want to demand respect and space for how I choose to live, I must in turn give the exact same courtesy to absolutely everyone else. Like unto stereotypes, judgement of how other people choose to make it work is pretty useless.

Intentions matter vitally. Where harm is not intended but caused, be generous whenever possible (again remembering rule 2).

I am not required to suck up unpleasant circumstances or experiences, particularly where there is no eventual benefit to be had.

Some circumstances require speaking up, others shutting up.

Anger is a tool to power you to and through an action, it should not be a permanent state. If it is, it’s time to change something big in your life.

In most situations, the worst thing that can happen is that someone will tell me, “No.” This, while not usually welcome, is far from the end of the world, and is also insufficient reason to give up.

Never, ever cede your will, or conscience to another person or group. Ever.

Self care is not selfish.

Relationships, whether personal or professional, are the most important things at the end of the day. Ensure the ones that matter and bring you the most value and joy are cultivated.

It’s easy to want, it’s harder but more important to establish needs.

Opportunities are not a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it phenomenon, they show up constantly. It’s learning to identify them and which ones to take that’s the challenge.

Anyone or anything that asks you to make yourself smaller, quieter, or more convenient to them does not have your best interest at heart.

And finally, my motto, life is not an either/or kind of situation. One path now does not preclude other paths later.

 

 

 

A Saturday Escapade

“And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.”
― John Betjeman

London kicked off March (seriously, March already?!) in fine style with a gorgeous day. We were lazy getting up and about this morning but about lunchtime I turned to Jeff and told him I had a craving for a burger. Never a man to disoblige (or turn down beef), we headed to a perennial favorite BRGR CO and indulged.

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The weather was a balmy 45 degrees, which is practically summer in our corner of Europe. In honor of the temperature, we wore t-shirts and ordered milkshakes. Then, one craving satisfied, we decided to soak in the Vitamin D and the city as well and went on an epic wander starting in Covent Garden and ending in Kensington. Jeff suggested Hyde Park and I wanted to show him where I lived when a student here.

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Hyde Park was a glorious, green expanse.

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Dogs were out everywhere and we crossed paths with many a kid atop their pony.

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London has a bad weather reputation, some of it earned, but let me tell you when it gets it right, London gets it right!

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Buds are shoving their way up and out of the soil and tips of trees, daffodils and crocuses are blooming turbulently, and the birds were singing.  With respect, Game of Thrones, Spring is coming!

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We passed Queen Victoria’s (in my opinion hideous) Neo-Gothic memorial to Prince Albert, and just down the path a ways and across the street, there it was:

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My Kensington stomping grounds! Jeff stood still for a second with this mouth slightly ajar, glanced over his shoulder to where Hyde Park sat a mere 50ft away from the front door, and pronounced me an all my educational cohorts, “Spoiled.” Can’t say he’s wrong, though I will say I much prefer living in our flat south of the river. It might be less rarified than Kensington, but small as it is, it’s about a thousand times more comfortable and a hell of a lot less snobby an area.

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We finished up with an amble up Exhibition Road, which turned into a short foray into the V&A (where I do not spend nearly enough time) before heading home.

Height Differences

“Though she be but little she is fierce.”
– William Shakespeare

The other day Jeff was getting dressed and reached for a shirt of the drying rack, while still not too terribly awake. I know this because I came out from brushing my teeth in the bathroom when I heard him laughing to discover he had tried to put on a shirt of mine instead of his own, which apparently are awfully similar in color and pattern. (Personal note: must do something about this because one of the most odious things a couple can do in public is dress alike.)

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That’s right. His forearm is the length of my entire arm.

Visuals like this often throw me because I don’t feel particularly short or small most of the the time, even though I know I am. Other recent height issues lately include me buying too much contact solution because I’d thought we’d run out when in fact Jeff had stored it on top of a cabinet out of my line of sight, and him walking into the kitchen and burst out laughing because he found me standing on a counter so as to rifle through items on the top shelf of a cupboard that I could not otherwise reach. Shortness, a never ending source of exasperation on my part and amusement on his.

Friday Links (Theatre Week Edition)

“All the world’s a stage.”
― William Shakespeare, As You Like It

What a week! And it’s not even over, Jeff and I are going to Jeeves and Wooster in: Perfect Nonsense tomorrow evening. With Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan – otherwise known as Mr. Darcy and Dirk Gently. Somehow in one form or another I’ve combined Shakespeare, superheros, Jane Austen, Douglas Adams, P.G. Wodehouse, and most 90s romantic comedies into this week alone. I’m pretty sure fanfic has been written about this very scenario in some dark corner of the internet.

In summation, I have not a single thing to complain about. You may find me this weekend by following the intolerable air of smug contentedness that will be wafting from my desk as I work away, happy as a clam. Here are your links, kittens, and tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend.

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Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

The potential future of marketing alarms me. (h/t Kerry)

As a former flatmate of mine once put it after a frustrating day of shopping for underpinnings, “I’m not sure bosoms are worth the trouble.” This rundown of a 17th century guide on their maintenance – yes, you read that correctly – might lend force to her proclamation. Skip this one, Dad, even though it’s hilarious. “We find by lamentable, if I may not say fatal, Experience, that the the world too much allows nakedness in Women.” Dear me, how glad I am that the writer never lived to see the lasciviousness that is jeggings, it might have killed them!

This anachronistic behavior has got to stop!” (I laughed for a solid five minutes, Lady Mary needs to do comedy next, I think!)

In related news, I would totally play this. Although I’m perturbed at the lack of poisoned pastry.

Science is weird. Also, headline of the week.

The other contender for headline of the week.

Buzzfeed is almost entirely ridiculous (the weekly tumblr find attests to this), but I quite liked this article on girls and issues of likability.

 The fraught conversation…or lack of one around guns in the US. (h/t Caitlin Kelly, who knows whereof she speaks. See her book, Blown Away: American Women and Guns for more info!)

Holy cow! I thought my goal of all 7 continents was cool, clearly I set the bar too low!

NPR’s Ari Shapiro is really diving into his new London assignment. Perhaps I shall make him my next celebrity sighting goal (since I’m on a freaking roll!)

More excellent maps to reshape your understanding of the globe.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got…

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Hey team, glad so many of your are still with me in spite of the crazy pre-scribbled posts I’ve been putting up (though I hope you have been enjoying the snapshots of local life).

Now, a quick vent. As gorgeous as it is, I understand what various family members have said about it being difficult to live out here. We are a good half hour to and hour away from basic things like grocery stores. And I’m not talking a dash on a suburban road, I’m talking a country two lane-r through the woods without shoulders and usually with at least one moderately size roadkill carcass along the way. Possibly stuck behind a very slow moving tractor.

Picking up my mother’s tasks means that I regularly lose several hours round trip on any given day. I’ve taken on quite a bit of the cooking and cleaning as well, plus I just try to help my family out when I come around to visit because I like doing so. But the most inconvenient thing has been trying to work reliably. It’s ten times harder here to do very basic things than I ever imagined possible.

h49CAD505Headache the first: semi-reliable internet. Back West Jeff and I complained about our internet which was, to be fair, not always good. But compared to here in Virginia it was luxurious! The town in which we live (and we live a good 15-20 minutes away from the center of town itself) is far enough off the beaten path that there is no real infrastructure to connect it up. My parents have to make due with a wifi hotspot creator which is so laughably bad it makes me want to cry. First and foremost it doesn’t hold a charge – for reasons the local service provider can’t explain satisfactorily – and second it only broadcasts a signal for about three minutes before dying – for reasons the local service provider also can’t explain. Dad’s already replaced it once in the month I’ve been here and it hasn’t helped at all.

Headache the second: mobile phone service. Mine vanished last Saturday and has yet to reemerge. Calls to the provider only serve to tell me that they are aware and working on it but can’t give me an estimate when coverage will be restored. Causing a minor panic because even though the internet at home is non-existent, I could still get and respond to work emails from my mobile. It’s been three days without that thing and I swear my blood pressure has spiked as I try to scramble to get work projects done borrowing my father’s mobile between his own calls and needs. I’ve started coming into work with him at 7:30 in the morning and borrowing an unused conference room (with permission of course) just to have a place with an internet connection.

I think my data needs rather perplex my family who by now are used to getting by with much less…but when your job is information gathering, blogging, social media management, and being able to respond quickly, the lack of connectivity is a legitimate terror. It’s barely Tuesday and I feel jittery and stressed trying to accomplish what should be quick and easy tasks that now stretch far longer than they should.

On the other hand, all whining can and should be kept to a minimum. Our visas have been approved and are on their way to us. Jeff flies in a week from today, which is an instant balm to my stress level. Weekends without the internet, though initially vexing, are really quite relaxing. Inconvenient work is a pain, but it won’t kill me. It’s also compelled me to learn some basic blogging skills – such as scheduling posts ahead of time, cheers.

Things I Might Have Done Differently

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
– Newton’s First Law of Motion

hindsight_2Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. I’m not a person who really lives with regrets, I find them unhelpful (unless real and valid guilt is motivating you to change past behaviors) and unnecessarily time consuming. But I do enjoy pondering on What Ifs, and I often wonder what I might have done differently if I knew what I know now. For example:

If I’d known I’d be at this job for nearly five years, I would have looked harder for one that had better career potential, or at least that I enjoyed more (although in my defense, I did look and good jobs were scarce on the ground for most of those five years).

On that note, if I had known how many false starts to move elsewhere would have proved fruitless I would have been more proactive about finding a new job anyway, instead of putting up with it for “six more months.”

Along the same lines, I might have looked for a new and better flat. Our former managers seem to walked off with all of the tenets deposit money, which has meant we have to pay this month’s rent again to our new managers and other assorted troubles. I would say I’m surprised, except that they were terrible managers. Though good at kicking up a fuss, I don’t always enjoy doing so and thus I put up with leaky faucets, patchy heating units, bad wiring, and other problems (some of which took a literal year to resolve, and most of which still haven’t been addressed) long past the time I should have demanded more.

I would have been more proactive in pursuing my own career goals instead of allowing myself to get bogged down worrying about J.’s.

I’d have devoted energy elsewhere in some work assignments. For example, if I had known how little the administration was going to do in replacing me, in spite of 4 months’ notice and a lot of extra effort on my part to prepare, I wouldn’t have argued so much for more time. I would have simply taken the time they allowed me with my trainee and focused on completing some projects to include on a resume, and improved what I could before I left. It would have saved several months of stress and sleepless nights.

I would have tried to see setbacks as opportunities to do something new instead of falling back into safer Plan B’s.

I’d have made a stronger effort to let the opinions of others affect me less. I admit freely that I want to be well thought of, but I might have been more concerned with cultivating specific peoples’ good opinion instead of everybody’s.

I would have been more forceful about my worth. As my duties crept up, and then as I took on two other people’s responsibilities after they quit or retired, I largely allowed it to happen without commentary as to whether my pay should have increased as well. And when I attempted addressing what I was making vs. how significantly my job description had changed, I allowed myself to be shut down too easily. Lesson seriously learned.

I would have taken more classes. I had some idea of doing a masters program while working, but the administration shot it down (even though they allowed a coworker to do so, grumble). But I did take a couple of online and in class courses, one of which resulted in a publication in a literary magazine. Should have done more, who knows what else I’d have under my belt now.

Basically, looking back and summing up, for the past few years I’ve lived entirely too much in the future and not nearly enough in the now. I fell into the habit of looking forward to change instead of enacting it in the present. At some points I chose safety over risk, and still feel I was right in doing so, but there are some places where I definitely could have tried for a bit more danger. It’s funny how something can become your normal without your realizing it!

But I’m going to do better about being an active force instead of an acted upon object. I’m out of practice, but I have high hopes for myself.

Looking over the last five years, regrets not included, how would you have done things differently knowing what you know now?