figure it out.

navigating the 30's, one problem at a time. #FIO #thirtysomething

so, this is weird. 

i’m moving from san diego in 72 nights. it’s a place where i’ve spent over 2,500 days. seven years. i’ve never done anything like this before. 

i mean, i’ve left my home-state of wisconsin where i lived for 22 years.

isn’t that what home is meant for? to (inevitably) leave? 

this in some way seems different. 

i came to san diego in 2007 with the hope of starting a life but never really wanting to settle. like most things, time slipped away with each established routine in talking with the owner of a neighborhood cafe on a lazy saturday morning. 

my co-workers slipped into friends. people i love, respect and care for. 

this city that was once just a maze of five lane free-ways and coast and strangers has now become a home-city. 

isn’t that what home is meant for? to (eventually) leave? 

72 nights is what i have left.

to spend here. 

to eat one last time at the sushi restaurant near del mar, the one i used to call on a tired thursday night for the same take-out order: salmon nigiri, california roll, shrimp tempura. 

to accidentally get tipsy on a random sunday night with friends on discount wine at the local wine bar. 

to spend all day at coronado beach. just reading and sleeping. and walking and reading and sleeping. 

to get bored at work and wander into a shared office to eat tootsie rolls, laugh and know i work with my best friends. 

to come home from work and listen to music and just enjoy time. 

this number. 72. has become a series of lasts even though i’m determined to only see them as pauses: holding time until i come back to so-cal, which (i acknowledge) will never be the same as it is now. 

in a strange way, nothing feels unfinished. unsettled, but not regretful. 

never, ever regretful. 

take pleasure seriously. 

i left my heart in copenhagen. 

i got married. that happened <3 

i got married. that happened <3 

this has to be the saddest song of all time. 

(Source: Spotify)

i had a job interview last week… for next school year. 

it’s a job i really want but i’m still unsure whether i’ll get it or not. actually, the position itself doesn’t really matter in the context of this experience. 

somewhere in between talking about my experiences and wanting to change the world, one of the interviewers asked, 

you have all these ambitions for schools and education! i’m curious… what is your ten-year plan? where do you hope to see yourself in ten years? 

i answered the previous questions quickly, automatic. but at this one i stopped. 

ten years? i pictured myself at 40. 

honestly? i started. i’m just hoping to find a job for next year. i may end up working at a coffee house and writing my memoir… i have about twenty pages so far. 

the two strangers sitting across from me via google hangout laughed. 

no, i’m serious. i confessed. asking about my one year plan is probably a more manageable question for me right now. 

the next day, i told this story to my colleagues before school started. 

you know what you’re supposed to say to that question, right? amy asked, sounding concerned. 


i did know the right answer, but i wasn’t going to lie. five years ago i probably would have said something about starting my own school or working for an educational consulting firm or still being a passionate teacher. 

but i don’t see those things right now. at least not clearly. 

so, i’m moving to a new country. which basically means i will re-start my career. teaching is probably never something you completely re-start, but i’m leaving my organization, my contacts and the context of my work that i’ve existed in for eight years. i’m starting over. i have no idea what opportunities are available for me in a country where i don’t speak the language or even have a basic understanding of their culture or educational system. 

and i’m 30. i am recently married and we’ve talked about starting a family. maybe not soon, but given my age, soonish. it’s complicated. 

this question of a ten-year plan started me thinking about my career. in my early twenties i was completely career driven, though i realized quickly that the professional ladder of an educator has only a few rungs: teacher, principal/dean, curriculum director, consultant, politician. that’s about it. as i look back now, i’ll admit that i was primarily driven by the prospects of being something.

my classroom back in 2007. note the teaching tolerance free poster sets and my optimistic grin. 


i vividly remember my first job fair in san diego, the spring before i moved officially. as i roamed from school to school in my new pinstriped pantsuit (which i proudly still own), all i could think about was being on the other side of the interview table. i wanted to be the one who hired, who made decisions, the one who made other people nervous. ever since then, i’ve strived to become more, to constantly think about my career. it’s not that being a teacher isn’t enough… but somewhere in my mind, i’ve always been determined to move up, to push myself. sometimes too hard and sometimes unfairly. i would stay at school until 9:00pm grading papers, trying to become the best teacher i could be, for my students and for me.

and now, i have no plan. 

myself at twenty would have had a ten-year plan. maybe fifteen. she was ambitious and motivated and ready. 

to be clear, i have been completely willing to give up my current teaching position in a dream school and move across the world to be with my husband. i’ll own that. but just because i made the decision doesn’t mean i can’t be confused about where that leaves me professionally. 

subconsciously, i think i was questioning how much i should invest in a new career (in a new country) when i am planning on having a family. like, what’s the point? i’ve seen so many women leave their jobs to have children and just never return in the same way. 

do you think your life will just stop when you have children? kjartan asked as he listened to me ramble about careers and pregnancy and starting over. 

maybe i do. 

maybe that’s the problem because i’ve come to realize that i still care very deeply about how i spend my time and teaching has become more than just a stepping stone to a higher paycheck or more prestige at a high school reunion. i think all along, i started teaching for students, for impact and for the type of social change that i still believe education is capable of achieving. 

whether i get this job or not, i have decided that i’m not done. 

so, that’s my new answer to the ‘ten-year’ question. 

where do you hope to see yourself in ten years? 

not done. just, not done. 

valentines day sucks. 

and it’s not because i’m single or bitter or because i hate love. 

i love love. 

but valentines day is one of the worst days of the year because of one thing: expectation. 

i’ve never had a good february the 14th but i’ve always held out hope. at some point, someone (probably a marketing genius) made us believe that there is one day out of the year where you should feel overwhelmingly special. we try to live up to that expectation by buying things for significant others, placating to the idea that material goods will somehow give us that feeling… of being loved. 

unlike most women, i’ve actually never believed that a dozen roses would make me feel anymore secure or special in a relationship. fact: i’ve never gotten flowers for the holiday. 

so, where does this dissatisfaction come from? 

maybe my pending period. 

or maybe (and more accurately) i have to just stop expecting that the things someone else does (or doesn’t do) for me should/will impact how special i feel. 

since when did i become so dependent? 

on turning the dirty thirty.

dear year thirty,

we’ve only known each other for a few days now… one of which was my birthday. which sucked for the record. maybe it’s because my expectation of turning thirty would include magically finding time to cook every night and actually putting in the effort to clean my dirty laundry. instead, you threw real-life things at me. adult things. things that i thought would be easier now that i had additional years. one thing i’ve learned already about you, is that sheer time does not equal learning. experiences do. reflection does. 

in some ways, i’ve really come to embrace you. celebrate you, even! in between saying goodbye to my metabolism and waking up more frequently with hangovers that make me wish i was dead, you’ve brought with you a certain confidence that i didn’t have in my early/mid twenties. it’s developed in the last year. 

like the ability to stick both middle fingers in the air and say, fuck it

i don’t mean this in a completely negative way. you know that i strive to be considerate and i care deeply about what other people think. in my twenties, this ability was arguably a fault. but now (with your help) i can let go of situations rather than spend days agonizing about things that won’t really matter in the long run. i can’t explain how thankful i am for this. i am finally doing the things i want to be doing, no apologies needed. 

should i be out with friends rather than sitting in bed watching dexter? fuck it. 

now, i don’t use this lightly. i’ve learned that this doesn’t always apply to people. (in the metaphorical sense, not literal.) my twenties have taught me that relationships are the most essential thing to invest in… family/friends/significant others… all of these should occupy the most energy to keep healthy and straight. but there’s also a time when you should say fuck it and move on. it’s a delicate balance and i hope to never have to let go of people again. can you maybe help with that, thirty? 

you’ve given me other gifts, too. like a necessary perspective on a work/life balance. in my early twenties, i worked like a fiend. i stayed late, i stressed out all the time about my career. i wanted that promotion or to be recognized and i was willing to do a lot to get it. but now, i just want to be happy. i want to love my job but i also want to love my life. although i have no job beginning in july, i’m not exactly worried. i can work. i’m sure i can even find joy in making lattes for the locals. i’m competent, i’m hard working, i’m not going to freak out. so, thanks for that, too. 

thirty, you’ve come with a quiet confidence when it comes to relationships and significant others. i think the bravest thing i’ve ever done is to fall in love and i couldn’t have done that without every single day of my twenties… the good and the bad. i finally know what i want and i’m not afraid to be exceedingly vulnerable in the process to get it. 

there are some things i will miss now that you’re here though. like the ability to stay out past midnight and the feeling that i have years to mess around before figuring out my life… for real. i guess both those things are over now, there are rules to follow and adult points to obtain. 

actually, no. fuck it. i’ll be a hot mess for as long as i wanna be. 



on july 17th, i met kjartan walking into burgos, he from copenhagen and i from
san diego. this past friday (exactly six months later) we were married. i am more convinced every day that the camino is such a magical place that provides what is needed if your heart is open and you have the courage to listen to it. buen camino, friends!