Winter Rituals

I spend much of this time of year cleaning house -- literally and figuratively.  I've written about cultural new year traditions I follow -- cleaning house, paying bills and opening my house for oshogatsu.  All this serves to begin the year with a clean slate (no clutter, no obligations) and open heart.

This is also the time I reflect on my life, and decide what non-domestic clutter belongs in my past as well.  Letting go of feelings, issues, people is never easy, no matter how much you dread them or know how bad for you they are.  I admit I tend to hold onto emotional baggage much longer than I should and often allow negative influences to drag me down far enough to chip away at my well-being.

Most of you know I am taking "cleaning house" to a new level this year, and leaving family, friends, home and possessions to live in a different country.  I gave up my spring teaching load at City College, a job I have held continuously, albeit part-time, since I finished grad school.  Granted, as backup, I have not given up my fall classes, but I am going without my teaching salary for nine months minimum.  I'd like to think I'll stay in touch with everyone at home, but I know some people will move out of my life.  I don't know who yet, but I hope I will remain in their hearts as they will in mine.

In opposition to losing touch, I recently spoke with one of my oldest friends.  I met Didier the summer of my twentieth year meandering down the bank of the Truckee River.  He was a drifter who stayed in a country long enough to save money to move to the next.  I had never left the US.  I was a "type A" person, worried about my future and security.  He had faith things would work out in the end.  He passed on a scholarship to MIT to travel the world.  I clung to academia as though it were gold.  Polar opposites.  We spent the summer together, and from him I learned about passion, anger, love, hate, courage, fear, and how to let go and follow my heart a tad more and my head a bit less.  Since then, we've written irregularly, but we have kept in touch, and he moved back to his home town of Cluses, in the French Alps.

When I was in Paris last month, I called.  Unfortunately, I didn't call until I was there and he couldn't take time off work.  He offered to spend the weekend showing me around Geneva, but I was leaving Saturday morning and could only delay my departure one day without having to scramble to find a substitute for my Monday class.  It felt good to talk to him, though, and since I will be relatively close this spring, I will make it a point to visit.

The next few months will be full, as I learn German, review French and Japanese, get a TEFL certificate (I hope to teach English until I find something more stable), research employment agencies, jobs and potential employers, and pare down my life to the essentials.  We will see how things pan out when I leave my pets, possessions and home in Steve's care and head to Germany with everything I can carry in two suitcases to do the legwork on finding a job.