Grad School, Life, USA

All Settled In

The last time I wrote anything, I had just accepted a job at Yale and was getting ready to move out east to Connecticut – yes, Connecticut, after four years in the Middle East – in January. This year is absolutely blowing by, which feels good, but also a little nerve-wracking at the same time. On the one hand, it feels like I’ve just been going to work everyday – and thankfully, this is without a doubt the only job I’ve ever had that has something resembling work-life balance and where I’m still learning a lot four months in – but I’ve also furnished a two-bedroom apartment from scratch (yes, moving was expensive) with Layth’s help, Layth came to visit for six weeks, and my mom also came up for a week while he was here. We got to briefly visit New York and Boston together, and I’ve gotten some hiking in. I’ve made a few friends at work who have been nice enough to invite this introvert to run a few 5k races, go on birthday excursions in the Hudson Valley, and bop around the Yale campus on the weekends. I wrote a 50 page paper for grad school (plus another 10 pager last week that felt like nothing), started a Yoga Teacher Training course and have consistently done yoga everyday for over a month now. And this Sunday I head to Germany for two weeks for grad school (only one more trip after this, and this is the start of my thesis project – wow!)

We’ve spent a lot of time making this place cozy, and it’s pretty much the only move where I’ve really gotten to think about what are the important things in life. As far as the things I’ve bought to put in my house, it’s nice – at this point in life – to prioritize quality over quantity. I got a two bedroom apartment even though I could have made do with one bedroom and saved a couple hundred dollars a month, because I wanted it to also feel like home for Layth, for my mom, or any of our friends who might come visit. I have very little clutter in my home and I’m trying to keep it that way, while also ‘decluttering’ other aspects of my life, like spending and time commitments. It would definitely help if I had some freelance work (or a raise) to get me back on track and pay off my “moving-to-America” loan, but honestly, there are already a lot of things about this place that would make it tough to leave in the future – moving is a nightmare, this is the first job I’ve ever had with actual benefits (decidedly not-crappy healthcare and pretty solid savings plan), I live in a city where I actually can rent a two bedroom apartment on my own with a modest income, and I’m close enough to take the bus, bike, or even walk to work. The work is interesting, a good mix of different things to do, I work with nice people, and unlike in news, working at a university is a totally different pace – no one’s head is ever on the chopping block for deadlines.

Last year, I was either working crazy hours or not at all, and in between was pretty much debilitated by migraines or being sick. Health has probably been my top priority (aside from the frozen pizza and cookies I ate yesterday), and I’m much better off in that regard – instead of near-daily migraines, I will now wake up with a mild migraine a few times a month (usually directly related to the amount of wine or cheese I had the day before) which can be knocked out with an Excedrin. And that’s freed up time for me to do other things, like learn how to weave, do more yoga, hell, even have the brain capacity to think outside the box about how to improve my financial situation. Other plans for the rest of this year include finally starting to compost like a responsible human and possibly getting back into playing violin.

Now that winter is over, there are farmer’s markets happening in this park (where Layth was chasing some ducks), and since my bike arrived from my mom’s house last week, I’ve been easing in to cycling to work. Aside from drivers who don’t know what to do at stop signs, it’s been a great way to start the day – my commute is just under two miles, and I almost wish it was a little longer. By the time I get to work, I wish I could just keep riding and being outdoors.┬áIn other words, life is full, and I’m thankful for that.

My version of a no-spend month

May hasn’t even started yet and things have already gone a little off track, but I am going to try to meticulously keep track of any spending, and buy nothing from these categories:

  1. clothes or shoes (I don’t need anything, and if I do need clothes this year, I will try to buy secondhand first)
  2. skincare or makeup (I do need mascara, but am sitting on tons of extra toiletries at home because it took a while for my skin to adjust to the humidity here, and I was just trying new products constantly)
  3. alcohol (I don’t drink much, but it does add up)
  4. Zipcar outings (these usually cost at least $30 per trip)
  5. Ubers or Lyft rides
  6. books (I have access to some of the best libraries in the world here)
  7. lunches out while I’m at work

Writing this down to keep myself accountable – we’ll see how things have shaped up a month from now.

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