Thanksgiving…the holiday that reminds you of how “far” you’ve come in life…

It’s bittersweet, Thanksgiving.

The food…the family…the FOOD! Ah, I love it!

Every year, without fail, our family, mostly made up of lifelong friends, gather at my cousin’s house to stuff ourselves with turkey (this year we also had vegan “turkey”), corn, mashed potatoes, homemade cornbread, cranberry sauce, green beans, Brussels sprouts….I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

We all catch up on a year full of events, even though we’ve seen each other a few times since last November. And, the dreaded, “so, what are you doing now?” gets dropped and all eyes are on you.

Think. We practiced this 500 times on the drive down. Sum up my entire year and life story in three short sentences before anyone has time to interrupt with their accomplishments as a response:

Spain was amazing. Just moved back to Massachusetts. Work is fine – I’m on a contract through the next two months and am in the process of applying for new jobs. Dating is non-existent (because, hey, who has time for that?).

Ok…leave out the parts about trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life, when I want to start a family, which gym should I join, how I’m going to pay off an exorbitant amount of student loans…yeah…everything is GREAT.

Does my family go through all of these thoughts as well? Because they all seem pretty put-together.

After the initial question, everything dies down, we share stories, laugh at the crazy games the kids are playing. All goes back to normal.

As I was driving home, though, my story sunk in a bit more…and for the next 24 hours, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was going to do next with my life. Now that I crossed my number one achievement off of my bucket list…what will come next?

#molatzen

I just spent the last week in one of my favorite places in the world…the Basque Country.

After completing my master’s degree there, I moved to the US to essentially start a new life in Boston, a city I’ve moved in and out of THREE times! Rightfully so…Boston and I have a love/hate relationship…love the beer, hate the winter!

My return back to the Basque Country for my graduation (after six months away), was pretty amazing though.

Friendships became even stronger. An I love you was exchanged. A family was getting ready for a baby to arrive any day.

Quality time with quality people was all I was after. Long gone are the days of FOMO (fear of missing out), when I would run from one activity to the next, never wanting to miss a beat. Now, it’s about “who matters…during good times and bad?”

That’s what this trip ended up being about…saying “no” to certain things so I could say “yes” to others.

My heart broke when I boarded that plane yesterday. Although I will keep these friendships in my heart for the rest of my life, my Bilbao chapter formally came to an end.

Signing out…Sage Molatzen

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.