What’s next?

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write something. The time…I had…the words…I didn’t.

I thought this transition back to living in the US would be different. I’d only been away for 18 months completing my master’s degree and I came back and realized I’d changed…a lot.

Want to know what it’s like to cross off the #1 item on your list of life goals?! It was satisfying for about 5 seconds…before I realized that I needed to get my tail in gear to accomplish #2. I’ve been working on identifying goal #2 for about three months now. I’ve got NOTHING. I’ve come up with all of these things I want to do, but do they come close to my #1 (moving to Spain to work, study, and learn Spanish)?! Not really.

As I think about what I want my new #1 life goal to be, I’m surrounded by a ton of other  decisions. Should I invest in a membership to the local symphony so I can continue to enjoy those concerts I fell in love with? Do I adopt a dog? Should I look for a car that has four doors (instead of my current one that has two)? Should I start setting myself up to buy a condo? Kids…

I honestly don’t think I could feel more lost.

What I’m going to do tonight is finish reading my book, see my friends for a few hours of trivia, and write down some goals to think about.

 

A tie

Three years ago this was my dad’s last week battling pancreatic cancer.

I remember so vividly the last place we were before going to the hospital…an outlet mall in New Hampshire. Of all places!

I remember buying a super-colorful orange tie for my dad for Father’s Day, which was the following week.

Unfortunately he didn’t make it to Father’s Day.

A few weeks later, after the funeral had passed and we were cleaning up the house, I came across the tie I bought. You’d never seen so many tears pour down my face.

I went back to the store, tie in hand. As I handed it over to the cashier, my dad’s death became a bit more real. When she asked me if there was anything wrong with the tie, I simply replied, “No. My dad died and never got to wear it.”

Maybe if he’d have worn it, I would have felt differently about returning it. But, although it held the meaning of him not being there to try it on, it was never really his tie to begin with.

Amarekin

I spent a week in April traveling with my mom. It was her first visit to Spain to come visit me.

She’s not a regular traveler. She HATES airplanes.

So for her to make the trip from the US, not only to Spain, but to northern Spain, on a connecting flight…wow, I couldn’t be prouder.

Watching my mom age has been both truly heartbreaking and inspiring. Heartbreaking in the sense that we can’t do all of the things we once used to. Inspiring in the sense that she’s more independent and self-sufficient now than I’ve ever seen her in my entire life.

I go back and forth on my plans after I finishing business school here in Spain. Do I try and stay, do I go back to the States? And, I’m at the point in my life (hello, mid-30s!) where it’s not just about me. Sure I don’t have children, but I do have my mom. And I know I will regret not spending time with her now.

But should that be a major factor in changing my own career goals? Part of me says yes and part of me says no. The funny thing is that I’d like to work with the aging population and that is first and foremost my next career move. But does it matter where I do it? I think I could be happy anywhere that has a beach, little to non-existent snow, and good Mexican and Indian food.

Maybe I have to get back to my chart-creating days and lay everything out so I can visually see my decision…

 

 

 

Nope…not him

The more comical side to my life these days is definitely my dating life.

Navigating the dating scene in another culture/country can be extremely eye-opening.

When I lived in Boston, New York, Washington, DC….dating was one of the most frustrating things. You meet people all the time and sometimes get the opportunity to get to know them better. The most frustrating part at the time was the “getting to know them” part, deciding whether or not you both liked each other enough to date.

Living in Bilbao brought a whole new set of challenges. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s because I’m not a native Spanish speaker, but actually MEETING people (the part that happens waaaaaaay before getting to know someone!) is the frustration.

I remember one of my first few days here. Walking into a bar, just like I would back in the States, trying to strike up conversation with the person standing next to me about which beer to try. This was just basic conversation, not a marriage proposal. He could have probably qualified for the Boston Marathon with how fast he ran in the other direction!

As an outsider looking in, I’ve had to do what feels like months of observation. How do people talk to each other, what are the norms of going out with friends in mixed (guys/girls) groups, what does a first date look like (have you known each other for months, years, etc.?), how do people get to know each other one-on-one without the entire world thinking they’re steps away from walking down the aisle.

These are all things we take for granted in the culture where we grew up. It’s not until you step outside of your comfort zone that you actually see your life from a different perspective. Things that seemed so hard in the past, don’t seem as difficult now. And challenges you never thought you’d encounter, actually become challenges in real life.

And as for dating advice…any that I’m given I put to use. If it works, great, if not, oh well, it was worth the try. Puts me a step further in the right direction and also improves my communication skills. (I’m really trying to see the lesson here!!! haha)

 

 

What next?

I’m currently between finishing my MBA and my “what’s next” chapter. I’ve got 2.5 months left here in Spain before my next adventure begins (no idea where!). Half terrifying (I have so much to do!!) and half even more terrifying (WHAT NEXT!?).

As I meet more people and take on new side projects I’m beginning to narrow down my focus on what comes next. But, by narrowing my focus I’m also getting more creative with how I can accomplish those career goals.

 

Which leads to this:

Imagine about 25 tabs open, each one dedicated to the “next chapter” – whether it be work in Europe, other parts of the world, back in the States; additional schooling; online courses I can take now to help set myself apart; different types of job websites (startups, government, Fortune500, etc.); volunteer projects.

And I’m so picky about what type of work I’m applying to at this point. It feels like a relationship.

For example…I find something that looks like it’s right up my alley, exactly what I want to do. I get so excited. I reorganize the resume, jazz up a cover letter, and, after a significant amount of work, send it off into a black hole, most times the company’s website (or lack thereof).

I get so excited about my resume submission. I impatiently “wait by the phone” and hope that they’ll call. But then I think that maybe I need to be the one who reaches out. But then I think that I will only look desperate. The last thing I need HR to think is that I’m a Stage 5 Clinger! (and the vicious cycle repeats itself…).

The funny thing is that I just don’t give up. Each “no” (as frustrating and excruciatingly heartbreaking as it may be) is a lesson learned. An annoying lesson learned because of the few hours of my life I’ll never get back again. But a lesson learned. It makes me more creative in my next approach.

A walk from Sope to Barika

This year, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration aftermath went into Sunday.

And there is no better way to get yourself moving and out for some fresh air than to go for a hike along the coast.

I packed up my next book (Better, by Atul Gawande), hopped on the metro, and rode the 40 minutes to my friend’s house. From there we walked to Sopelana Beach, then along the coast to Barika.

I’ve walked along the coast numerous times. Almost every weekend I’m either walking or running in that same area. And every time I stop and stare out into the ocean, I just feel this sense of peace, accompanied by the most calming breeze. As many times as I try and capture the moment on my phone, or post it to Instagram, I can’t help but feel disappointed that the person looking at my post can’t enjoy the moment as much as I’m enjoying it right then and there.

When I get into more pensive moments during my walk, sometimes I just stop and look at my surroundings. I watch my friends with their kids or watch the dogs along the walking path just happily trotting along with their owners, and I wonder what it must be like to have a family, or to have a furry friend to pour your heart into.

At 35 years old, I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea of rescuing a dog, having my own place again, settling into a city by the water. I’ve learned so much from living here in Bilbao, and from the people I’m lucky enough to call my friends. It’s like they showed me exactly what I needed to see (how much fun it can be to have a family or a dog), exactly when I needed to see it (I’m finally ready to want something more permanent) and it’s all starting to make sense.

Confianza…

TRUST…something that can take a lifetime to build and a minute to break.

Why is it that this topic is covered towards the end of my Executive MBA course and not at the beginning?

It’s the building block, the foundation of how the next 18 months will be shaped and it’s taught after most of the team assignments are complete. It’s the cornerstone of how people work within their organizations and how they solve problems.

Yesterday’s lesson focused on trust: how to engage employees, how to solve problems, how to lead a team while giving them the autonomy to do their work.

The one thing I wanted to do after class was actually spend time with people I trust! So I did. Went to my “home bar” – the first place in Bilbao that welcomed me in, the one place I go when I want to feel like I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by familiar faces and an excellent beer selection…Bar Singular.

I met some friends and tried out two new beers (my favorite thing to do!) before moving on to the next local spot, Morrocotuda. Now the evening is complete and I finally feel better about my course on trust. I trust quality beer and solid friends, people who will see how exhausted you are after class, laugh at your silly stories, make sure you try amazing beer, and then tell you to go home and go to bed! haha