As 2019 (and this whole decade...wow) draws to a close, I've been reviewing this year and the past ten in my mind over the past few days, and I've failed pretty badly on the regular blogging front this year. So I'm squeezing in one final post before the new year.
This year brought a lot of travel, and I turned 30 on the Kenyan coast in July. In the lead up to turning 30, I definitely felt anxious about the end of my 20s and put a lot of pressure on myself to figure more things out in my life. 30 seemed like the point that I needed to get my shit together a bit more than it feels like I have it together right now, and to get more serious and become a real adult, etc, etc. etc. So after a trip to France with two friends and then a long weekend with another group of friends in Lamu on the Kenyan Coast doing the complete opposite of getting more serious, I did a solo yoga retreat in Lamu. I tried to journal a lot and set big goals for my 30s and create a ten year plan and just generally feel a bit more like a real adult than I do now, and all I did was stress myself out. I don't regret doing the retreat, and I had a chance to journal a lot and think about my life, but I realize that needing to figure out the next ten years of my life was really unrealistic because there are so many variables. So I've just decided I'm winging it instead.
A few travel highlights:
- Baja, Mexico: I started 2019 with a trip to Baja with my friends Abby and Alex. Although we envisioned working on our tans on the playa, some unseasonably cold weather meant that it was more like eating all the fish tacos we could handle shivering in our winter coats. One night our Airbnb was so cold I slept with all my clothes on. But I'm a big believer that it's the people that you're with and not the place, so this trip actually couldn't be beat.
- Kenya: I made a few trips to Kenya during the first part of the year, where I got to see a bit of our Kenya program and to spend a bit of time on the Kenyan coast.
- Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa: In April, I had the chance to visit Zambia, which I'd never seen before, and to see my friend Diana. We road-tripped down to Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), which was incredible, and I got to see the falls from both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides. It felt so different from Rwanda, and reminded me a lot of Nebraska in a weird way. I then did a little solo trip in Cape Town, which never disappoints.
- Paris + Bordeaux, France: For my 30th birthday, I met my friend Molly and Julie for a summer trip in Paris and a few days in Bordeaux. The highlight for me was getting to be in Paris for Fête de la Musique on Summer Solstice, where bands, DJs, and music groups play outside in free concerts all over the city all night. We walked across the city listening to different bands, joining dance parties where we felt like it, and accompanying a marching band along the banks of the Seine.
- Lamu, Kenya: After France, I packed some cheese and wine and flew to Lamu island on the Kenyan coast to meet up with a group of friends for a long weekend. It was my first time visiting Lamu, and it was really incredible. We took some epic sunset sailing cruises, ate some amazing Swahili food, and enjoyed the slower pace of island life. I then stayed in Lamu a few more days to do a solo yoga retreat, detox from the weekend, and have a few more helpings of their incredible curries...
- New Hampshire + Massachusetts: In August, D'Assise and I took a trip back to the US to join my family on their summer vacation. It was D'Assise's first time on the East Coast. He cried the first time going into the Atlantic Ocean in New Hampshire because it was so cold, he tried lobster and clams, hit up the boardwalk arcades, and even went to his first Red Sox game at Fenway.
- Zanzibar, Tanzania: I may have a very real Zanzibar addiction, and made a last-minute long weekend trip to Zanzibar in November. Zanzibar is never, ever a bad idea.
- Omaha, Nebraska: There's no place like home for the holidays, or so they say, and I couldn't agree more. It's been great spending some quality time with my family, making up a lot of sleep debt, and catching up with friends. I also had foot surgery last week, which has meant that I've spent a lot of time in sweatpants (the only thing that will fit over my cast!), eating a lot of cheese, and on the couch just taking it easy and recovering.
- New Orleans: I have one more trip left in 2019, to New Orleans with three friends. I've never been before, and I'm looking forward to closing out the decade on the bayou with good friends, lots of tasty food, drinks, and some live music, although I may be a bit dancing-impaired given my recent surgery.
***D'Assise started fourth grade in Kigali in August, and has experimented with a few different extracurricular activities at his school, including basketball, soccer, choir, and guitar. There was also a failed attempt by me to put him in "farm camp" for one semester which I thought was super cool (Learning to raise chickens! Proper planting techniques! Composting!) but he thought was a total drag, which is probably why I work in agriculture and he doesn't (although I haven't give up hope!).
He's slowly learning to bicycle and to swim, to speak French and to play tennis as well, and it feels like this year he's turning a page from a little kid into a pre-teen. He's gotten really into Oldies music courtesy of my Dad, and regularly belts out the Beatles and Beach Boys at our house and pretends to be Chuck Berry on the guitar. I've also been doing a lot of thinking about the man I want him to grow up to be and have tried to intentionally begin teaching him a lot of the things I'd like him to know (I might do another blog post on this topic). I want him to learn how to cook well and take care of himself as a grown man, so we've started with very basic things like making coffee, eggs, pancakes, pesto pasta, and quesedillas. He's been super into it, and as a bonus he has on occasion made me coffee and breakfast in bed :)
D'Assise turned eleven this December before we left for the U.S. (waking me up before 5 am to start celebrating...) and now he's happily enjoying some time with his aunt and uncle and GrandMom and GrandDad here in Omaha. He still believes in Santa Claus, although probably for the last year, and it still feels magical listening to him ask questions about the elves and the North Pole and Santa squeezing down our Omaha chimney on Christmas Eve. D'Assise has also enjoyed learning how to make pizza with my Dad, starting to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone together (best moment of this millennial's life :), talking sports and Creighton Bluejay basketball with my Dad every chance he gets, and spending every waking minute on our foosball table downstairs.
To be completely honest, I'm ending 2019 sort of on a low note, even though this year has been incredible on the whole. I prioritized work way, way too much over the past three or four months, and it's been hard to overcome the deep feelings of guilt I feel as a single Mom for making the choices that I made. Looking back, I'm not sure that I could have done things much differently, but I feel burned out in a way that I haven't really felt before in my career. I'm not the first one to write about the ever-elusive "work-life balance" that working parents face, nor will I be the last. But I found that over the past few months, the pressures of being my family's sole breadwinner, managing a team of nearly 1,500 people, attempting to be a solid Mama to D'Assise, and trying and failing to maintain a relationship, really got to me. I've sort of learned the hard way that getting great results doesn't really replace the nights I'd get home too late to have dinner or put D'Assise to sleep, and career success doesn't make up for the Sundays I'd spend on my laptop instead of spending time with him. I'm taking a couple of weeks to relax and rest up for 2020 and hoping to re-balance before the beginning of the next decade, and to be more cautious about letting myself get too far off course in the new year. I also have to figure out how to let go of the Mom guilt that I'm feeling from these busy past few months.
2019 taught me that I don't have it all figured out yet, not even a little bit. I don't have parenting figured out and am still sort of making it up as I go along, doing the best I can with what I know and what I have. I don't have a ten year plan for my career, or even a five year one. I definitely don't have dating figured out. Maybe I'll never have all those things figured out, and that's ok.
As I look to the 2020s, I'm mostly excited and a little bit nervous about all of the challenges this decade is going to bring. This decade, D'Assise will transform from my sweet little boy who still wants me to tell him bedtime stories each night to a full-blown teenager. He will graduate high school and begin university before the 2020s are finished (!!!). I can't wait to see the young man he grows into, although I'm definitely feeling quite unprepared to face teenage parenting.
***I've been thinking a bit about resolutions and intentions for the new year, and I've settled on two general themes: to better prioritize my time, and to challenge myself. I'm starting a new job in 2020, and really excited to gain some new experience in a few different African countries while maintaining my base in Kigali. I'm looking forward to being challenged in a lot of new ways and stepping outside of my comfort zone a bit, as well as seeing some corners of Africa I haven't been to yet.
A few intentions for 2020: Prioritize + Challenge Myself
- Putting time with D'Assise first: I've only got seven years until D'Assise leaves for university, and I'm very much aware that the days of him wanting to spend a lot of time with me are waning. In 2020, I want to plan a couple of fun getaways with him, as well as prioritizing my weekends and evenings to spend time together.
- Better prioritize friendships: When I look back at 2019, the times I felt most alive were the times I spent with close friends: in Mexico, in France, on the Kenyan Coast, and here in Omaha, as well as having friends over for wine nights and game nights and dinners at our house.
- Teach a weekly yoga class: I worked hard to get my 200 hour yoga teacher certification eight years ago, but then promptly moved to Rwanda. Although I've taught a lot of classes for friends and some of my students over the years, I've never taught a regular weekly class at a gym or studio. I'd like to do a regular weekly class and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
- Take more yoga classes + get back into running: I've always loved yoga, and used to run quite a bit before breaking a bone in my foot three years ago in a half marathon. I took an extended hiatus from running and turned to boxing instead, but now that I've just gotten foot surgery to repair my foot, I'm looking forward to getting back into running a bit in 2020. Well, after I get out of my cast and crutches.
- Learn some new things: I'd like to get better at salsa dancing, and maybe learn a fourth language (probably Spanish or Portuguese, but Swahili is a contender too). I feel energized by learning something new, and want to make sure I'm constantly challenging myself to grow.
- Take a sabbatical: In June, July, and August, I'll be taking a sabbatical from work to travel and spend some quality time with D'Assise. We're currently working out the details, but planning for a big South America tour, to Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador hopefully. D'Assise is at a perfect age to travel, and I'm excited to start seeing more of the world with him.
- Read more: This is forever on my resolutions list, because can you ever read too much?
Bring it on, 2020. Wishing all of you a wonderful new year and new decade!