What’s Next for 2016?

Earlier today, I realized I was due to write my “Two Years Blogging Recap” post. And when I say due, I mean drastically overdue. (See One Year Blogging Recap here).

As with every year, there have been highs and lows, ups and downs, and sprinklings of grey throughout. But unlike most years, this past one has been filled with some of the highest highs and lowest lows, rather reminiscent of my time in Paris. I’m not sure if it’s symptomatic of traveling or my age, but the past two years have been (cliché warning) emotional roller coasters.

While I plan on publishing my Two Years Blogging Recap fairly soon, I wanted to take a moment to just pause for a second. Now that my mad sprint to finish first semester has ended, my life has quieted, and I’ve had more time to think – always a little dangerous.

Sitting here in Chris’s apartment with my cup of tea and view of distant Scottish hills, I feel – something – over the course my life has taken.

It’s not flummoxed, nor sad, nor happy, but some odd, prickling, enjoyable, contradictory combination of all three.

Eerily enough, my life has taken the exact shape I had anticipated. Grad school, check. London, check. Freelance worker, check. Writing a book (and editing my completed YA fantasy book), check. Check check check. Even “British Boyfriend” is admittedly something I imagined for myself many years ago. He means more than another “check,” but the many pieces of my life have fallen into place the way I had always pictured they would.

And I’m genuinely happy and grateful. But even so, something seems off.

It might be the obnoxiously driven American in me. It might be some inner melancholy I can never seem to shake. Or maybe something needs to change.

Suffice it to say I know how fortunate I am, and don’t mean to parade my problems as somehow more important than the vast, global issues we’re grappling with. But I do believe many people reach this kind of fulfillment in their lives, and find themselves feeling stagnant, so I think it’s worth exploring why.

Are most people simply incapable of sustained happiness? Is that why everyone keeps telling me to meditate?

When I started my Masters program in September, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I knew I’d be studying, I knew I’d be living in London, traveling, returning to Paris whenever I had the chance, hopefully making new friends, and most importantly, I knew I’d be writing a book.

What I didn’t fully realize – partially through my own blind enthusiasm – was that the program I chose is actually incredibly flexible. We just finished first semester, second semester starts at the end of January, but come the beginning of April, I’ll be finished with classes.

Let’s take a moment to let that sink in…

I’ll finish my classes in March but my program ends over a year later, and my visa doesn’t expire until 2018. The idea is for students to take that time to write their books, work with each other, and have individual meetings with their writing mentors (who are generally published writers in a similar field).

There’s so much freedom, I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

I understand that this is a rather odd complaint. Everyone wants freedom. Right? I’m beginning to realize that I do and I don’t. It’s daunting, really, knowing I have seemingly limitless options. I’m not rooted anywhere, and my heart belongs everywhere. I want to travel, but return home to the same warm bed every night. I want to grow, but I want to create a real life somewhere, with a relationship and friends and favorite bakeries and sushi places.

I’m not sure if I’m where I’m supposed to be or what I should do with my life – with myself – when I’m not bound to London.

Stay in the city?

Move up to Edinburgh?

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And there is one particular question that keeps swirling in my head: “Should I move back to Paris?”

I’m writing a book on Paris. It makes sense. And I’ve wanted to move back since the moment I forced myself into that taxi June 6, 2014.

So what’s stopping me?

Something. Someone. Many someones. Myself. Memories. Fear. Laziness. London. Guilt. I’m not quite sure. I don’t even know if it’s what I really want. I don’t believe I’ve truly given London a fair chance yet, and if any city deserves your best efforts, it’s London. I’ve fallen in love with too many English writers and stories to not fully immerse myself in London life.

Victoria and Albert Museum - my favorite
Victoria and Albert Museum – my favorite!

After all, how could I not embrace the weird and wonderful London lifestyle I’ve tumbled into?

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Photo credit Zac Zenza. Costume by @sophiecochevelou.

At the same time though, my lease doesn’t expire until June, and by that point, I will have lived in London for a fair amount of time – at least as long as I lived in Paris. That’s giving it a fair chance, right?

You see, these are the argumentative voices in my head. Each one has her own opinion, and they never seem to agree. As a result, I’m one of the most indecisive people I know.

I’m afraid that if I moved back to Paris, it just wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t have my French family with me anymore – the girls who danced to Beyoncé with me in the-middle-of-nowhere-Beaumont, where my friend lived on the top floor of a high school. She had many toilets, mattresses, and a whole room designated as “The Yoga Room” all to herself – not quite my 9 square metered Parisian chambre de bonne.

There was a certain surrealism to the whole experience – a surrealism absent from my London life. But maybe that’s a good thing? It’s better to feel healthier and happier, isn’t it? Even so, I miss the wonderment and uncertainty – the euphoria of flinging yourself into a completely foreign way of being.

Maybe it’s nothing but nostalgia. Does that ever go away?

Then again, it might not be Paris at all. I haven’t been on a trip that has felt truly challenging in far too long – I need to hear languages I don’t understand, participate in cultural activities I can only scarcely make sense of, look out at seas and mountains that mean nothing to me right now. Today these places are only words on pages, but in a few months they could be complex memories with realizations and disappointments and hopes.

So what’s next in 2016? I really don’t know. I’m at a point with my YA fantasy book where I’m almost ready to share it with test readers. Considering I wrote the first chapter over Christmas five years ago, I’d say it’s about time. I see 2016 as a year to pursue my writing with an almost unhealthy, relentless energy. It’s time to actually move forwards with this project.

Other than that? I’m not sure what will come. But I know it’s exhilarating and terrifying and open and daunting all at once, leaving me spinning.

But for right now, I’m wearing reindeer and Santa socks (yes, I’m serious), drinking tea, and attempting to warm myself in Chris’s frigid Edinburgh apartment. We visited the Christmas Market, rode the ferris wheel (or as Chris calls it, the Christmas Death Trap), and admired the blue, white, and golden twinkling lights on George Street with every other starry-eyed tourist.

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We’ll celebrate the holidays with everyone else, and leave the important life decisions for the New Year.

And for the moment, I’m perfectly content with that.

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