Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Seven months strong

I should blog more. Obviously. I really enjoy blogging, but never seem to find enough time to do both the writing AND the editing. The secret is to not take it too seriously.

This is my English-major way of apologizing for any sloppy writing that may ensue.

We have now lived in Tirana for a little over seven moths. Last month my parents came to visit from Florida, which was wonderful. I loved sharing Tirana and the region with my family, and wish we had more time--who knew a month could go by so quickly?

A lot has changed in seven months, which shouldn't be a surprise since seven months in the FS is the equivalent to five years of stateside living. Of course, as my son grows (he turned 2 in late August), my life changes dramatically. Suddenly there's sleep being had and more time to do things other than domestic caregiving. The first day I left Kyle alone at school I went home and stared at a wall because I didn't know what to do with the time.

I have changed quite a bit as well. Nine months ago my goal was to work at the Embassy in a job similar to the one I enjoyed in Manila, and it was disappointing to arrive in Tirana and discover that EFM jobs were not as plentiful as they had been in the Philippines. Very disappointing.

However, Tirana turns out to be a post that offers plenty of work opportunities outside of the Mission. Do these jobs pay as much as the US Government? Uh, no. Are they worth it anyway. Heck, yes! Do I like being self-employed? Absolutely. Do I enjoy running all over town to cover all of my different private practice jobs? Well ... I have control over my schedule, and can at least limit the time I spend running around.

The best thing about all of these jobs is that they are all in my field, which is clinical social work. I am teaching Psychology to undergrads at the University of New York in Tirana, seeing private practice clients through my business www.mindbodyglobal.com, and doing contract work with the Peace Corps. For whatever reason, it seems like work opportunities exploded at the beginning of September.

I have also discovered, for better or for worse, that I actually like being a domestic caregiver. I enjoy spending time with my son. I like planning meals and cooking healthy food for my family. I find it rewarding to pay someone else to clean the toilet and vacuum the floor.

I have also learned that social work practice stresses me out a little bit. I know that I am playing to my strengths when I practice therapy, but after taking a three year break I am very aware of how hard a job it is to be a counselor. The qualities that make a person able to empathize and be compassionate are the same qualities that make one vulnerable to absorbing other people's pain and stress. I was never, ever significantly stressed as a CLO Assistant in Manila.

I now remember how much I emphasized boundaries to myself and my co-workers when I worked in hospice social work.

But enough of that. The journey continues, and we as a family continue to have reorganize our thinking to accommodate our free-floating lifestyle. It turns out that it is entirely possible to have the urge to travel (my husband owns up to having itchy feet) and be obsessed with having the ability to plan out all the details of one's life. The two qualities butt heads quite frequently. The good news is that because my husband and I both share this traveling bug + resistance to being super flexible, the conflict is not between the two of us, but between our family and the demands of the FS.

So, Albania is awesome, and you should come here. Julie especially misses my Dad throwing the ball to her daily, and Kyle has decided that Skype just isn't the same. It's a good thing we will be heading back to the US on R&R in a couple of months.