I've been reading all of my fellow expat blogger's year-end reflections over the past weeks with interest; they have come in all forms, shading the spectrum from enthusiasm to weariness. Thanks to all who posted their thoughts and plans.
For me, 2007 was a transitional year in many ways; I think that I can look back on some solid professional achievements and long-overdue fulfillment of heart's desires. At the same time, there aren't enough hours in the day or dollars in the bank to have taken advantage of all of my opportunities or intentions (as if there ever could be...).
So a short account of the years highs and lows, and a few hopes to come...
This year, I fulfilled a longstanding dream to relocate to Europe, landing in my new job in January. The sabbatical year in the UK gave me new business perspectives and understanding, and it's been exciting to be able to put it all into practice as a member of the management staff here. Even though organizational transitions kept life edgy for the first few months, and I wasn't sure that the job had legitimacy until my first project and personal reviews in summer, everything now feels like it's got positive momentum. I am facing another cliff as my contract ends in May, though, and need to put a priority on getting a renewal or finding my next job
In parallel, I found an apartment and settled into my Netherlands neighborhood, taking up everyday life and accommodating Dutch language and culture. While I still get things wrong sometimes, I do feel comfortable and largely confident. Two weeks with the Nuns was a good start towards fluency, but I failed to find the time to really learn the language: that will be high up the list this year. Still, I'm proud of successfully making the many adjustments, largely on my own.
The rigid Dutch separation of work from not-work time helped me to achieve a better balance in my life, getting time to travel, to exercise, and to reconnect with friends. Still, I take on too much, effectively holding three jobs at work, leading a start-up in England, as thesis supervisor for a Master's candidate. That needs to stop. I haven't spent enough time with charcoals, with books, with sleep, and by year's end, it was taking a toll (fortunately, the ever-direct Dutch pointed it out). Now that I'm back from a break and feeling more sane, I need to start respecting my limits.
Some health issues are beginning to surface, nothing overt and largely just doctor's warnings about controlling cholesterol, monitoring vision, and updating dental work. The muscle weakness in my ankles is becoming more pronounced and may need some surgery. I feel like I need to be diligent abut maintaining my overall health and tone while avoiding any major reconstruction.
It's been a difficult year for relationships. I've become closer to my parents and to some friends, but I've lived alone, away from home, for over two years now. A good friend worries that I'm getting used to it: maybe it's true, people say I no longer make small talk easily when I'm around the house. I worry that I am betting adept at using distance as a convenient excuse for letting close relationships drift, largely for the worse. This year I need to resolve things: helping my son to find his passion and direction, encouraging my daughter's transition to college, and sorting out long-term relationships.
I've done wonderful travel this year, and want to keep that passion high for the coming year. The week bareboating on the Archipelago in Sweden was the highlight, followed by discovering Italy on several trips and getting a long weekend in Istanbul. I want to continue to explore the contrasts and sensations that accompany experiences with new cultures and to reflect on them in these pages.
I need to do more professional writing and networking, and spend more time having fun with friends. I need to go a bit easier on myself when I fail, and be less judgmental of the shortcomings and differences of others. I've never been the sort to go hard on others. But in the US, the combination of Republican politics and provincial perspectives has progressively soured my outlook. I need to be more detached and indifferent, and act more constructively, when confronted by these events.
For it is, after all, 2008, and they, too, shall (finally) pass.