We are now to the new year and I am also about a week short of my official halfway point for this journey in Latvia. And man, what a journey it has been! Besides just traveling around Europe the past couple months, I’ve also been traveling through the stages of what an experience like this can encompass. I’ve managed the initial excitement of moving abroad, battled the struggles to find normalcy and pattern, found my routine, welcomed family and friends into my new places and spaces, explored my research interests, attended concerts and cultural events, and generally invested myself into community through giving time and effort.
The best part about this realization and marker of January 2019 is that there is still time! I have ample weeks and months to do my work as I continue to ingrain myself into Latvian culture and my communities. There is something comforting about this as I am neither strapped for time to accomplish what I would like to do, but I also don’t have to worry so much about fitting in, adjusting, and acclimatizing.
Working towards achievable goals has always been part of my strategy for both getting through the tough times in life and also structuring my day-to-day. A huge part of this Fulbright journey has been doing the same, although the goals I’ve set here have been more personal and nebulous than what I would have imagined. When a friend recently asked me what my goals were for ‘Part 2,’ it got me thinking. What can I do next? Sure, I will continue in the work that I’ve set into pattern and that I enjoy. Yes, I will actively work towards some of my long-term goals and not just use this year as an excused running away from my life in the US. But I will also make new creative and professional goals and use those to propel the next few months of this journey.
I feel that I have to add a caveat to all this as I have never been much for making New Year’s resolutions. Instead I definitely ascribe to the mentality of “if you want to change something, just do it.” However I do try to regularly reflect on my experiences to pull the past into the future. This has been especially helpful this year amidst the constant ebb and flow that oftentimes entails nebulous and creative work. Since I feel that I am steadily accomplishing most of what I’ve wanted to this year, I am going to try to stretch myself in a few new and fun ways.
So, here we are. These are some silly, serious, and (most importantly) attainable goals I have for my next few months in Latvia. Ready, set, pursue!
- Continue Writing: This blog is just one of the many platforms and mediums I’ve explored post-college in how I can continue to share my thoughts and improve my prose. Along with this site I also have the work I do for my research gig and writing/organizing for the news blog, Latvia Weekly. However, I would ALSO like to focus my efforts on some personal projects I’ve put on the back burner lately. Writing not to produce but to simply explore is what is motivating me here.
- Read Lord of the Rings: Seriously, it is just something I finally have to do. I picked up a thick volume of the combined trilogy during my recent trip to Dublin and am already invested in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” All I can say is, what better time than this?
- Research Teaching Pedagogy: As I was a non-education major in college, teaching this year has really opened my eyes to all the facets and nuances that this career substantiates. I have always been passionate about learning both inside and outside the classroom, but couldn’t imagine what I would encounter this year in my teaching positions. Since I will continue being a teacher and professor next year in my graduate program and likely into the future, this is a certainly apt and pragmatic time to research more about teaching itself. I knew many of my own college professors read-up extensively on pedagogy, social issues, and learning abilities when they started standing on the other side of the classroom. I aim to do the exact same thing.
- Watch Star Wars: This is another fun, pop culture must-do. Sure, I have seen most of the movies before and am a fan, but this goal includes watching all the movies in order (including the prequels), and exploring some of the fan-based aspects of the series. As this post goes up, my roommates and I are on Revenge of the Sith so I’m making good progress!
- 10 Concerts a Month: I have greatly immersed myself into the Latvian music scene in ‘Fulbright Part 1’ by attending a wide variety of events. I’ve seen opera, ballet, quartet, choral, orchestral, jazz, and contemporary ensembles perform. Next-up I want to further get to know specific ensembles as their seasons progress this winter and spring. For example, the National Opera of Latvia, has so many great productions planned for the next few months. Becoming a more-regular attendee is part of my vision for getting as much as I can out of specific parts of my experience here in Latvia.
I hope that the beginning of this month has been a time of reflection for you as well! Whether your goals for the next year are serious or silly, whether you feel the need for security or the itch for adventure, whether you are happy or frustrated with what you’ve made of your experiences, we can always stretch ourselves. If there is anything I’ve solidified in my year abroad so far — there is always something to learn and grow in.
Hail to 2019!