Even though I've been in Tokyo just two months, I've been thinking a lot about what life will be like when I get back to the US. There's nothing like being far, far away to bring your likes into sharp contrast with your dislikes. It also seems easier to focus on what I want and feel less guilty about giving up on things or people who have been keeping me from making my life what I want it to be.
I will return to the US the week of my 10 year college reunion. I will be two months shy of my 33rd birthday and just about done with my third year at the firm. I will still have some student loans (but will be way ahead of where I once thought I would be). My car will be paid off. All of my belongings will still be in a storage unit. I will be able to choose a new place to live in LA or an entirely new city to live in. It's an opportunity to get started on the right foot.
First, I am going to give the dogs a big snuggle. I miss them so very much already.
Second, I'm going to my reunion come hell or high water. I missed my 5th year because I was worried about money and missing class and have regretted it since. I want to see the familiar faces. I want to walk aimlessly around campus. I want to go to the football game and shake my head at how young the cheerleaders look. I want to be inspired by the amazing things my friends have been up to in the last decade.
Third, I'm going to take at least three weeks off of work. Based on the pace of work here, I suspect I will have more than met our annual requirement by the time I leave Tokyo; and, during the transition between offices, I am not likely to be assigned to any deals. Given that I haven't taken a vacation since joining the firm and don't expect to be able to do so this year, it will be about time for some time off (not to mention that I'm about to reach our vacation cap and stop accruing time).
Fourth, I am going to live where I want to live. Not where the firm wants me to live. Not where a boyfriend (or a boyfriend's ex-wife) wants me to live. Where I want to live. In a place that feels safe. In a neighborhood that's at least a little bit walkable. In a location with access to a grocery store with a nice produce selection. In an apartment/condo/whatever that gets some natural light. Most of all, in a place where I can stay for more than a year.
Fifth, I am going to stop waiting to get married to live my life. I promise to stop feeling like a second class citizen because no one has chosen me. (It kinda feels like being the leftover kid who doesn't get picked for a team, except that it's not P.E., it's life!) The vacation I've been "saving" for a honeymoon one day--I'm going to take it. During the holidays, I'm going to get a little Christmas tree, decorate, and make some Christmas cookies even thought it's "just me." I am going to live in a place I like instead of living in a place that makes me uncomfortable just to save money to impress fictitious future husband with how financially responsible I've been.
Sixth, I am going to decide if I want to be a mom badly enough to go it alone. I have been thinking about this for a long time already, but have a lot of unresolved practical concerns. Is it fair to the baby? Can I build a strong enough network that a baby who would have no siblings and no dad would still feel like he/she had a "family" of some sort? Who would take care of the baby if I die sooner than I'd like to think I should?
And, seventh, I'm going to try to take some more pride in who I am. Today, as I stepped into the elevator at the office, I looked at my reflection (who thinks it's a good idea to mirror every surface of an elevator and then lights the space with harsh fluorescents?) and felt... deflated? sad? embarrassed? From my hair, to my glasses, to my makeup, to the clothes I was wearing--I looked like a person who has given up. And I think, in real life (when I'm not giving myself a blog-based pep talk), the way I talk about myself has changed and my assessment of my self-worth has changed too.
I've missed out on some opportunities and milestones, but it's far too early to give up. I am more than my job. Just because structural problems have made it hard for me to bill "enough" hours the last couple years, does not mean that I am failing as a person. Just because I feel invisible in Tokyo, doesn't mean I'm ugly and completely unattractive. I'm not married because I stayed committed to relationships that weren't working way longer than I should have, not because I have nothing to offer. I want to stop making things harder than they need to be.
In 2012, the best thing I did for myself was return to the dance studio. It gave me something to look forward to, a way to make some new friends, a reminder that there is at least one thing that comes relatively easy to me, and an excuse to dress up and feel pretty for a few hours. I still sometimes feel guilty about the time and money I spent on dance this year, but on balance I think it was, hands down, the best thing that I did for my well-being in 2012.
As we were all reminded by the tragedy in Connecticut, life is short and often unfair. There's no reason to make things harder than they need to be.