When I was a kid, people often told me that the best possible job is the one where I get paid to do what I want to do. And not so long ago, I wrote about how exciting it was that what I do at work, what I do for school, and what I do in my free time seem to be aligned and are sometimes so similar they’re basically identical. I stand by that post – it is exciting. But there’s a slight problem with it too.
I don’t know what else I do.
I go to work and research nuclear policy. I set up to work on my independent study and research nuclear regulation. In my “off-time,” I’ve been doing a lot of research into graduate programs in nuclear engineering and nuclear chemistry with allowances for policy courses or sub-programs emphasizing governance and public communication. Before I go to bed, the book I read is an overview of the French nuclear program.
I was inspired to write this post when a friend came over, saw me at my computer, and assumed I was working. When I told him I wasn’t working, and explained what I was doing, he jokingly replied “Even when you’re not working, you’re working!” And he’s not wrong.
While I enjoy all of this – the research, the writing, the potential of what I’m currently working on may become, and the possibilities of what I’ll work on next, I can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should spend some of my time reading about, thinking about, or doing something – anything – else.
Recently, I’ve been obsessively thinking about Switzerland, where employees commonly take an hour or more for lunch to relax and have flexible work schedules. I’ve placed that system of flexibility on a pedestal in my head, which is so fascinating to me because I could do that. I make my own schedule literally. every. day. If I wanted to take an hour for lunch, I could. I can. Sometimes, I do. I can make the choice to work only four days a week or work seven mornings and have the afternoons totally free. I don’t, but I could. And realizing that has made me wonder, and then realize, what it is about the Swiss system that is so appealing to me: if people take that time off work, that means they’re doing something else.
I’m not doing something else.
It’s high time I found something else to do. Something that I can focus on when I’m not working on my work, or my project, or my grad school research. A new passion, so to speak, that can occupy my non-nuclear hours. I’m open to suggestions.
In exactly one month, I turn 21. (By today, it is closer to three weeks, but that’s beside the point.) This sentence, in and of itself, could merit an entire post. A post about the realities of becoming an adult, and the fears associated with the responsibilities associated with the legal drinking age, which is actuality one of the most irrelevant things in my life, since the drinking age here is 18.
But that is not the point.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about January goals, and I wrote about my personal opinion that New Year’s Resolutions are stupid. But I don’t think resolutions in general are stupid. In fact, I think they’re a really good thing. If you want to make a change, make a change. Go with it.
I also think that turning 21 is a big deal. Even if my 21st won’t be associated with the late-night crazy parties in Vegas popularized by so many American movies, that doesn’t mean that 21 doesn’t mean anything. So I’m resolving to make a few positive changes as I enter “official” adulthood. (Which is also stupid. I can vote, travel the world, pay my own bills. What’s left in this adulthood club of which we speak?)
I’m not trying to do anything huge. No “go for a two mile run everyday.” No “turn vegetarian.” There are a few things that I’ve thought of over the past weeks, months, years, that I’ve thought I should really do that. Usually these are things I should do “when I’m grown up” or “in my real life.”
Well, here’s the thing. This is real life; though getting to spend 9 months in Prague seems unreal, it is real life. And I am grown up. So I should really stop procrastinating.
And they say that a habit takes 4-6 weeks to form, so its now or never if I want these things to be habits in real life.
Travel Better (or, Travel Truer) – I don’t want to change anything, really, about the way I travel. I don’t want to research more; I don’t want to research less. I love the way I travel! But I want to travel my way more. Not travel more. Travel my way more. Which means, when I’m traveling, I want to let myself do what I want to be doing, even if that isn’t what I think I “should” be doing. If I want to go on vacation and sit on the beach with a book, then I should let myself do that. If I want to go on vacation and party until 6am, then I should let myself do that. If I want to party until 6am, and then go read a book on the beach, then I should let myself do that. When I plan my vacations, I love planning flexibility. I pick a place to be, research things I can do or see there, but don’t make a schedule or itinerary. That way, I know all the interesting things I can do, and I get to choose what I feel like at the time. It is perfect for me, but sometimes I catch myself thinking, “I have to go here, because everyone says I should.” In a lot of ways, I think my entire trip to Berlin falls into this category. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Berlin. But I didn’t know what to do there, because I mostly went because people told me to. As an adult, I want to let myself travel where I want and travel how I want. And that starts this weekend, with my trip to Slovakia. I’m going with a huge group of people – we’re going ski-partying (ski by day, party by night). And if I want to party and ski the next day hung over, so be it. If I decide to ditch a party completely and get on the mountain before anyone has slept off their drunk-ness, that’s cool too. I’m letting myself travel true to myself.
Exercise Better – This is really just Exercise. Because I’m not a huge fan of exercising just to exercise, even though I know I ought to do it. My problem is that, since I stopped playing soccer and dancing regularly after senior year of high school, I haven’t found a form of exercise I like enough to commit to regularly. So my first task in exercising is to find something I’ll enjoy enough to do often. Something MUST be out there for me. To accomplish this before I turn 21 (or at least make a concerted effort), I’m going to exercise 21 different ways on 21 different days. For one thing, maybe I’ll actually make it to one of those dance classes I’ve been eyeing, or maybe I’ll try a half dozen different types of yoga and finally find one I enjoy. Perhaps I’ll make it to the giant pool only a few tram stops from school I’ve heard about, or find someone with a bike who wants to go on a bike ride with me. Or perhaps I can take a Thursday and go on a hike somewhere. Ooh! The possibilities are actually getting me excited, so this bodes well.
Work Better – One thing I hate is when people show up to class and then they don’t pay attention. But then I catch myself doing it all the time. So I’m challenging myself to work better by focusing on one thing at a time. People say women are really good at multitasking – I say I’m really good at multitasking – but scientists know that multitasking is just switching your focus really fast. And every time you switch your focus, you lose concentration, which means you can’t get whatever you’re working on done as fast. So I’m committing to focusing on one thing at a time – and only one thing at a time for the next month. Maybe I find it to be amazing, a miracle, a wonder cure! Maybe I discover I actually accomplish more in a day when I’m doing two things at once at all times. Either way, it’s a good thing to know for adulthood.
Eat Better – This one is easy to say, really hard to do. More greens, less meat. It isn’t hard because I hate vegetables and love meat, but because Czech cuisine hates vegetables and loves meat. My goal is to up my servings of fruits and vegetables by one of each every day, and hopefully I’ll keep it up for my entire time in Prague. (I’m not worried about post-Prague because I actually love vegetables and I’m not so great at cooking meat unless I have a barbeque…) Also, stop eating Snickers for mid-afternoon snack. Bring an apple, goddamn it.
Play Better – I’ve been plagued by a somewhat strange problem all of my college career – I go out, but then I come home. Obviously, everyone comes home, but I tend to leave early. Like, really early. I have all sorts of excuse depending on the location and situation (I like sleep, I live far away, I’m technically underage, I don’t want to dance, I don’t know anyone, I have school tomorrow….). But really, I’m just uptight. I don’t like partying because I never partied in high school, and, honestly, I still feel out of place at a party. Like I did freshman year of college, when it seemed that everyone had stories to tell about getting blackout drunk in high school, but my only stories about drinking involved the gold-rimmed plates, my grandparents, and a holiday. I need to let myself go. Forget about this strange insecurity about inexperience, because now is the time to make the memories. Even though I won’t be in the states for my 21st, I still want to welcome it in style, but I don’t even know enough clubs in Prague to know where I’d want to celebrate the moment. That seriously needs to be remedied before the date comes around, and hopefully I’ll meet some new people in the partying process. But “play” in this sense isn’t just about bars and clubs. I want to spend more time exploring the city, having lunch/dinner with friends, just hanging out. I tend to go to school, and then go back to my host family, and not really spend a lot of time with the other students. Part of that is that I feel like I should spend time with my host family, but the reality is that I spend a lot of time with them, and this should feeling is related to the should feeling from Travel Better. And by related, I mean they’re identical twins. So Playing Better is twofold – letting myself open up to meeting new people, and to having new experiences.
Love Better – This could also be Risk Better, because to me, they are pretty much the same. And by that, I mean loving is a risk. I am finishing my junior year in college and I’ve never had a boyfriend. Not a serious boyfriend, not a one-night stand, not even a real date. Which is stupid. I’ve thought about the whys and wherefores a lot, and I think it’s a combination of insecurity (mostly caused by feeling like I should’ve had a boyfriend by now, which just makes the cycle worse) and excessive expectations. I need to stop waiting for a perfect man that encompasses everything I could ever want, and just try. If I like a guy, I need to recognize my feelings, embrace them, and even act on them. I need to stop hiding, scared, waiting for Prince Charming, even though I know Prince Charming doesn’t exist. I need to put myself out there (see Play Better). This is also the only entry on this list that doesn’t have a one-month time limit. Yeah, I’d love to have a Czech boyfriend to party with on my 21st, but I’m not going to say it needs to be a thing. Because relationships can’t be forced. Or so they say. I don’t actually know.
So there you have it. Things I want to do as an adult; things I’m going to start doing now. Things on my mental list as ways I can help myself feel better (eat, exercise), stuff I do but know I can do better (work, travel), or aspects of who I am I’d like to free myself up to change (play, love). And now that I’m an (almost) adult, I guess it is time to get cracking.