What I Learned in 2012

Without sounding too overdramatic, this has undoubtedly been one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life. I kicked it off with three weeks in Turkey; I graduated with my Master’s degree and left a city I had called home for six years; I spent a summer bouncing around different cities on the East Coast; and in August, I packed up and moved to London to work for the fall. Now I’m at the other end of it. I can count my number of days left in Europe on one hand. This time next week, I’ll be back in my hometown preparing for Christmas, celebrating birthdays, and barreling forward to the Next Thing.

As I finish my time in London, I’m comforted by the knowledge that this isn’t the end of my relationship with the city. It just can’t be. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited, studied in, and worked in this beautiful city multiple times over the past seven years. Besides, I’ve cultivated a relationship with a waiter at my local Turkish restaurant so strong that he knows my order by heart and feeds me unlimited cups of tea and free dessert. I’ve just got to come back!

I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past week or so about my time in London, and the past year in general. I won’t keep you in suspense – a list of lessons learned!

“Ladies, we sell soap: A lesson about perspective”

This is one of my all-time favorites things that I’ve ever heard, and it kind of became my mantra throughout the past month or so. I haven’t exactly been shy about the difficulties I have had over the past four months, from trying to figure out balance to working through the concerns of living the dream to FOMO. I had a fortuitous visit from one of my former roommates at the beginning of November; as I was talking about my life and (obviously) complaining, I said something off-hand like, “I have to remember I’m not like, holding on to the nuclear launch code, it’s not THAT big a deal.”

She shared with me a story from one of her old jobs at Bath and Body Works (coincidentally, my first foray into being a workin’ gal): Her manager was on a regional-managers call and they were all having a really serious argument about some sale tactic or next step in shower gel or something. The person leading the call kind of interrupted them and said, “Ladies… we sell soap. Let’s keep it in perspective.”

I just LOVED that! I kept repeating it to myself afterwards, and every time I found myself getting frustrated or overwhelmed, I just reminded myself… some things in my life do require legitimate concern and can be serious, but most of it? It’s just soap. Not a big deal.

I am thankful for such an amazing support network of old and new friends 

Hand-in-hand with that, I’ve realized how much I love the people around me, new and old. I had visits from some of my favorite friends in London:

Outside of my personal visits, the number of people who reach out to me in times of need and even just to say hi is heart-warming and incredible. I’ve received random, “thinking of you!” emails. A wonderful email from the wonderful Laura Maas, who is basically a recurring guest star on my blog, telling me how proud she is of me. Even the little things make me so, so happy – like me writing on a best friend’s Facebook wall about a TV show I’ve started to watch that I figured she did too, and another best friend almost immediately commenting on it saying she loved it too. Little things like that that make me realize why these people are my friends. I plan to keep them around.

I don’t need THAT many things…

I moved a lot this year. Like, a lot. In May, I went from DC – a city I had lived in for six years and an apartment I had been in for two – back to Norfolk, VA for a month. In the process, I lost all the furniture I had had and consolidated down to boxes that fit into a closet in my parent’s condo. After being in Norfolk for a month, I moved to Boston for training and the first bits of my job. In mid-August, I went back to Virginia for a week before turning right back around to go to London for the next four months. And now I’m looking at all my crap once again packed and ready to go back to Virginia for the holiday season. And what have I learned? I have TOO MUCH STUFF and don’t need most of it. Convenient lesson to learn as I am about to backpack in SE Asia for a month with a bag I’m fairly confident (and hopeful) will count as a carry-on.

…But sometimes having a fixed life is worth it…

People keep asking if I’d want to do this position again, and I – quite maturely, I might add – usually respond that I need time to mull it over outside of being smack in the middle. Part of me really wants to, for professional and personal reasons. But another part of me yearns for the fixed life. As nice as it is not to have to worry about buying furniture and figuring out apartment rentals and everything, I want to be able to do something like buy mixing bowls and bake more. I want to live somewhere “indefinitely” and work to build a network and a life somewhere. In retrospect, the biggest challenge of living in London for the fall was knowing how short-term it was. Having that knowledge regrettably meant that I didn’t try nearly as hard as I should have to establish an actual life.

…And I will ALWAYS want my onesies.

I don’t care how much I have to throw away as I move from place-to-place, my onesies will be a part of my life FOREVER. Best thing I did in London, end of.

So there you go. A semester, and a year, in retrospect. I’m staring down the barrel of 25 years of life and will be soon thrown into unemployment, confusion, and (hopefully) adventure. Don’t go anywhere – the K10 Travels aren’t anywhere close to being done.

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