Saturday, January 02, 2010

It's just like starting over!

It's great to be home!!

Even if "home" is a new apartment -- piled high with boxes to unpack...

We've essentially been on the road for six months. And if you count the fact that we were in a furnished apartment (temporary housing through my husband's job) for the year-and-a-half that we were in Switzerland before, that makes two years since we've been settled. It's been a real nostalgia trip to see all of our old stuff again that was in storage.

I've never been big on making "resolutions" just for the sake of New Year's, but this time it's different. This whole past year has been about re-assessing my goals and trying to figure out what I want out of life. My life's strategy thus far has essentially been "follow your nose" -- just grab whatever opportunities present themselves. And my nose has led me to some interesting places: to a Ph.D. in Mathematics, to learning French and moving to Europe, to writing three Java books and a novel, to marriage and a couple of adorable kids, and to this fabulous Internet hobby! Yet I feel like a little tweaking is in order, and maybe even -- now that I'm approaching the mid-life crisis point -- it's time to have a plan.

I've isolated three main categories of goals where I need to put in some effort: (1) career, (2) German, and (3) arts (writing/blogging).

1. Naturally I can't go into too much detail on the Internet about work. I'll just say that I'd never spent much time worrying about what my career goals are, and when I landed in Switzerland, I didn't do a proper job search since I was offered something right away through some professional contacts I'd made while working in France. It wasn't much like what I was doing before, but I'm always happy to try new things. I'm glad to have expanded my tech range (so to speak), but I'm not totally happy with the direction my career was going.

This time I have a plan! I can't promise it's a good plan, but who knows? Maybe I'll find something promising...

2. When I was wandering around Zürich -- about a week before we left for the U.S. -- I was suddenly struck by how much I miss France. Those seven years in Bordeaux, I felt more at home than I've ever felt anywhere else. But looking around at these charming city streets, the shops, the public transportation system that I adore, it became clear that it's not Zürich that's the problem -- it's me.

I had invested so much time and effort -- so much of my heart -- in being a part of France. Here, even though everyone is willing and able to switch to English for me, I hate being the clueless American who has no idea what the hell is going on all the time and whom everyone has to make accommodations for. I hate it! I feel like all those years I spent integrating myself into French culture have suddenly been flushed down the toilet, and I'm back to square one as the bumpkin who just flew in from Cluelessville.

So, I'm done with just musing "ah, I really ought to learn German -- too bad it's such a bother." Now I'm going to actually do it. As I mentioned earlier, I finally finished one complete German (self-learning) course. (I'm kind of irritated to see how little I've understood of the ambient German since I've been back here, but it's a lot more than I understood when I left Zürich six months ago...) And now that I'm back here, I'm finally going to take a real German class. I'll make a point to negotiate the time off with my new employer. (When/if I find a job, that is -- see #1).

3. Long-time readers may or not have noticed how this blog has evolved over the past two years, but there's been a pretty big (gradual) change. Basically, I totally let go of obsessing over my blog stats: who's linking to me and how many people are reading. It cost me too much time and stress. Ironically, it also hurt the quality of the blog because it was hard for me to set aside time for any other artistic/creative projects if all my free time (after work and family) is eaten up by the Internet. I've gone down to a rate of posting slightly less than once per week, but it's more of a pleasure.

One of my side projects has been to learn more about how to create artwork on the computer. The cartoon illustrations I did for Exmormon were fun, but I think I can do better if I learn more techniques.

I've already taken a few baby steps, as you can see in the illustrations of past posts. In dream house I experimented with some silly effects:

And I drew my Thanksgiving Humbug entirely with Scalable Vector Graphics -- a technique I learned for my real job, as you can see here. In a nutshell, it's easier to do line drawings on the computer using SVG than it is to draw freehand and then scan them and color them on the computer (as I was doing before).

I also have some big plans for Exmormon this year, but they're a surprise. ;^)

By the end of 2010, I plan to have a new masthead (and maybe a whole new look) for this blog. There'll be no more "living in France Switzerland." My goal is to be really here, and to be able to create some new artwork to express where I'm at.


Karen said...

I wish you well with your resolutions. They seem like really excellent ones to me!

RE said...

I was just telling a friend the other day that I remember far more German from high school than French even though I had more years of French. I took German in 9th grade and had to switch to French because of scheduling. I found German really easy to learn because things are more closely pronounced how they "look" (to this American) compared to French.

Hope you had fun in MN. It's a subzero winter wonderland of ice now that probably won't melt til May. As the locals are so fond of saying, "It keeps the riff raff out." lol

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Karen!!!

Hey Wren!!!

Yeah, I had a great time in MN, despite the cold.

For German, the pronunciation isn't as much of a problem as the grammar. I don't mind having nominative/genitive/dative/accusative (since I took Latin), but it's really irritating that an ending can mean one thing in one gender and then the same ending means something completely different in another!

gburnett said...

Hey C.L.!

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I've been a steady reader for a couple of years and there is always something good here, and I really enjoy hearing about growing up Mormon and living abroad. We've (wifey, two kids, three and five) just returned from a year in Australia to Minnesota and are looking for our next adventure. As someone who lived in Germany and learned German, let me say "Gut Gluck" with the damnable m/f/n tenses!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks gburnett!!!

Sounds like you've had some pretty interesting adventures yourself! Have you thought of starting a blog?

Catherine Wentworth said...

I'm not good at resolutions either, but I read that people who make them are more likely to succeed than not... so... here I go...

Good luck on your German. I had it in HS but it did not stick. Everything seemed too verbooden, too strict.

But I recently added French lessons to my Thai. I lived in Pau for two years so it's not like I'm starting from scratch.

Also, when I am searching for a Thai word French pops up, so I thought I'd give it some pleasure by dusting it off.

It is reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaly dusty ;-)

I see that you love France. Have you experienced Italy? I thought parts of France were amazing, but the good bits of Italy... wow...

As a designer, I'll be looking forward to seeing your new skills blossom. And design is great fun (or so my former clients tell me... :-D

Ho ho ho and a belated Happy New Year!


gburnett said...

Hey C.L.,

I have thought about it, but two full time jobs and a three and five year old pretty much suck all of our time up. Sigh. So many things that I would like to do, hopefully I will make the time for them soon. Thanks for the encouragement, though!


Anonymous said...

Welcome home!!

Great post -- I'm just on the tail end of my mid-life crisis, but I am way less on top of things than you are. :-)

Just for perspective's sake, my friend who is Swiss/American speaks fully fluent Hochdeutsch (with a slight American accent lol) and fluent Schwyyzerduutsch (with a Bernese accent)...and yet, most of the time when we're out and about in the town, when they hear one WHIFF of an American accent, they will switch to English. It makes me with my meagre Deutsch skills feel much better, frankly. She's so fluent, she doesn't even notice the switch -- but I always do. :D

That said, it IS good to learn more of the Deutsch. I can understand most of it now, just can't say much still. Which is nice, it keeps my trap shut. ;-)

See you soon? Also, post pictures of your new place -- where is it?

- wry

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Catherine!!!

Thanks for all the well-wishes, and I'm sorry it's taking me so long to respond to your comments.

Yes, I've been to Italy briefly (see here), and after what little I've seen, I definitely want to go back!!!

I completely know what you're talking about with one foreign language coming back when you're trying to learn another. It's as though your brain has one "foreign/alternate" slot for each native language word. That's why I'm being careful to review my Italian while learning German -- I found that when I learned French it completely erased/displaced my Latin (which I was a whiz at, but I've completely forgotten since learning French).

Hey Wry!!!

We've got to get together!!! I'm still unemployed for the moment, so I've got a certain amount of free time. :D

The fact that they're all so quick to switch to English is actually quite frustrating for people (like me!) who want to learn the local lingo. And it will probably start to really piss me off when/if I get to the point where I can communicate easily in German...