Zigs and Zags: The Best and Worst of September

It’s that time of year where one day you’re wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses … and then 24 hours later you’re in a jacket with the hood pulled up.

Living in Ukraine, I’ve learned to fall in love with fall again. Unfortunately, our grand entrance to autumn this year came with a cold front, gray skies, and drizzle that hasn’t really let up. Already, I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to get outside for my afternoon walk. But out I go, because I know that before too long, we’ll be neck deep in winter.

This morning I was writing an email to a colleague, trying to arrange a time to get together for dinner. “The next couple weeks are busy, then I’ll be in the U.S. for 10 days,” she wrote. “How about early November?”

To which I replied: “I’m taking off for a conference stateside in early November and won’t be back until the third week. Let’s get in touch when I get back and get something on the calendar for early December.”

Yes, you read that right: This year has gone by so fast that a few conflicts over the next few weeks lands us in the last month of 2019.

But before we run full speed into the holiday season, here are my zigs and zags for September.

ukraine countryside

Zigs

Big news about my business!

By far the biggest leap of faith, investment, and risk I took in September was investing in a business coach. Writing those words, it still feels unreal.

For several months, I’ve been floundering about what to do about my business. Do I jump all in with a single client, or do I keep diversifying with less work from more clients? Do I give up the clients and go back to hustling for the bylines? Should I drop editorial and move completely to content marketing, which tends to pay more but doesn’t come with much glory? Or, do I basically give it all up, take up substitute teaching and release myself from all the stress of trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up?

rudy

Rereading my journals from the past few years, my thoughts and feelings about work surface more than any other topic. I ask others about their work, and I think about mine a lot. It’s clearly important to me.

So, in September, I finally invested in a business coach. I want to take the frayed ends hanging around in my professional life and tie them together in a cohesive and meaningful way.

In just a couple weeks, I’ve already made big decisions about what I’m doing and where I’m going on this new path. I’m significantly cutting back my work duties and hours with one of my clients. I’ve taken on another that pays more and requires less work. This allows me to spend more time and effort focusing on a new project, which I’ll be announcing in October.

What I can say right now is this: I am eager to write about topics that are important to me, and I am taking steps to begin public speaking again. I want to plant my own flag, and I want to own my voice again. And I am very, very excited about what that means for the future.

Rudy, the love bug.

Can I just say how much I love our little guy? Seriously, I am beyond smitten with him.

When one of us is away, Rudy is the equivalent of cat glue with the other. Cory was gone for one week in September, so I had the wonderful fortune of having a little furry shadow all week long. He curled in my lap while I worked, tucked himself behind my knees while I slept, and kept me company when I worked on the couch late into the evenings.

One morning I even woke up with his little cheek resting on mine. All together now: Awwwwwwww …

“Go to Lviv,” they said.

When people think of Ukraine, there seem to be three cities that come to mind: Kyiv, Odessa, and Lviv. After 3.5 years here, I hadn’t yet ventured to Odessa or Lviv, so it was time for a trip!

A couple years ago, A and I took a road trip to Poltava and the Gogol Circuit, and we enjoyed traveling together. This time we opted not to drive and instead took the train to and from Lviv, located in western Ukraine. The city is very walkable, so we easily got around once we arrived.

Lviv’s city center is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. I imagined it would be like Krakow, and it is quaint in that “old European” fashion (it has ties to the Habsburgs). Maybe I’d over-hyped it in my imagination, but overall Lviv left me with a “meh” impression.

But it definitely wasn’t a bummer of a trip. We hit a few highlights that will always shape my impressions of the city. And, A and I spent quality time together. For that alone, the trip was a win.

Back to brunch.

Summer quickly came to an end, and outdoor patios are being as dismantled as quickly as they were built last spring. But it’s still a perfect time to brunch!

Cory and I discovered a lovely new place to brunch downtown that other people haven’t discovered yet … both a blessing and a curse. Plus I went out with K and K to a fave brunch spot that I haven’t been to in several months. Partner coffee is back up and running again as well (I mentioned in last month’s zigs and zags), and I love brunching with that group of friends every week.

Whenever I add brunch dates to my calendar, it always feels warm and fuzzy. So, I’m happy to keep ’em coming!

returned peace corps volunteerSharing my Peace Corps experience.

When we first moved to Ukraine, I reached out to find out how we could be involved with the Peace Corps community. In no uncertain terms, the director told me I could attend swearing-in ceremonies, but Peace Corps volunteers should not interact with expats. Message received.

Well, through the grapevine, I ended up speaking with departing volunteers at their Close of Service conference. And, I know I’m biased, but I was a refreshing voice. All the other RPCVs work with the government, NGOs, and development projects.

Not everyone wants to use their Peace Corps technical skills in the “real world.” I didn’t. Cory didn’t. And that’s okay.

Lots of people asked me about starting my own business, how to highlight soft skills on their resume, and for insight into the international school system. I loved answering their questions — and wishing them luck as they start on the next chapter of their lives. Hopefully I offered some hope!

Yoga: Year Two

It turns out that once you’ve taught yoga for one year, the second year is easier. I feel more confident, my classes feel more cohesive, and sequencing makes more sense. Downward-facing dogs for the win!

I’m now teaching both Monday and Thursday afternoons. I’m debating whether to give one of the days up after the first quarter of school, but, honestly, as long as people show interest, I’ll teach classes. I became a yoga instructor because our community needed and wanted one, and I like that I can give back in this way.

climate marchGlobal warming is not a hoax.

climate marchLike millions of people around the world, I joined the global climate strike from Kyiv on Friday, September 20.

Ukraine is a complicated place to live when it comes to considering the climate crisis. The country is in desperate need very basic development — rooting out government corruption, fixing roads, and managing a waste collection system, for example. I can hardly fault it for the fact that recycling is questionable at best.

But cafes and restaurants here need to stop putting at least two straws into every single beverage (including coffee). Citizens need to stop using produce bags instead of paying for high-quality plastic shopping bags or reusing cloth bags. And the obsession with balloons has got to end. It truly is maddening.

Kyiv’s march paled in comparison to many around the globe, but hundreds of people still turned out. I’m happy I was one of them.

Zags

No one likes to be left behind.

As a contract employee with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, I attended the annual event the last two years. At both events, I produced a daily newsletter, into which I poured everything I had: effort, energy, attention. I had support in kicking the newsletter out the door every night, but it isn’t at all easy writing and producing a newsletter completely on your own for five straight days. In fact, it’s damn near impossible.

During last year’s event, held in Tuscany, Italy, I hit the breaking point. Three times during the event, I completely broke down, sobbing alone in my room in the wee hours of the morning because I couldn’t handle the stress. It left me absolutely wrecked — more so than I realized at the time — and it’s been a rough year recovering from the emotional and mental trauma of the week.

So, when information dropped into my inbox about this year’s event, held in September in Sweden, I bowed out.

The week my fellow colleagues were at the event, I specifically spent time avoiding photos, social media, and updates coming in from it. The truth is no one likes being left behind. Though it was a hard week at times, I also know I absolutely made the right choice not to attend.

Everything In Between

Write a little, read a lot.

Over on the AdventureTravelNews front, you can read about the 15-year anniversary celebration the ATTA team had in Colorado this summer. And, it was a pleasure to share some of the awesome things our members are doing to help address the climate crisis.

I’m working on several articles right now I can’t wait to share with you. Nothing jazzes me up like tackling meaningful, complex topics.

Oh! I read and read some more in September. Did you see my monthly reading round-up?

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