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New Year’s resolutions came early for me. I have felt for several months now that this is my year. The year where I shore up the weak links of my life and finally, finally live as I should.

People are always marveling at my job, my life, just how “lucky” I am. While I am flattered, I also want to shout “it’s not luck, its the result of a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice!” I mean, who in their right mind would bat aside the parental instinct of creating a home, raising a family there, establishing stability for their kids (who didn’t even have a say)? We could’ve been raising our family there on that proverbial cul-de-sac, carrying on after the kids have grown into men, our roots firmly planted. Instead, Dave and I leave our dogs, our truck, our belongings in the care of our son Elliot, in order to move into a dorm - a villa actually - for 6 months in the south of France. Romantic? For us, yes, but you have to love sharing it with 8 teenagers while you are there, and you have to be OK with giving up the luxury of a permanent residence.

We are the Directors of our prep school’s Art Term Abroad program. Since I want our student to be introduced to everything awesome that France and Europe have to offer, I, too, tend to indulge a bit too much. I find myself frequently berating myself “I’M not on a term abroad, this is my lifestyle. Exercise a little discipline for God’s sake.”

This brings me back to my resolutions. In true teacher style, I’ve done my research. What must one do to live fully; not in an all-out frantic way, but in a systemic, regulated way to stand the test of time? How can I prioritize my day to be sure I hit the mark, maximizing this unique situation? What is my definition of the “ultimate lifestyle” and more importantly, where should I focus my efforts? This is, after all, “my year”…

On November 1st I began my very own mission of adopting 12 habits, one month at a time, for the course of a year. I was going with the concept of it taking roughly 21 days for a repeated action to become a habit. I named my self-help program “JeBAHFUL” : Jen’s Bad Ass Habits For Ultimate Living. My first order of business? Saying goodbye to alcohol once and for all. While celebrating with champagne, enjoying a nice Rioja with dinner, or having beers while watching Sunday football is all fun, I realized that alcohol was gaining a tighter hold on me. My level of anxiety, especially social, was increasing. I have been putting on weight (no doubt from all of those liquid calories) at a pretty good clip, and my productive time each day would come to a halt the minute the hands hit 5:00. I’m better than this. This is shameful. I don’t want alcohol’s intrusion and insistance any more.

Here I gloss over my detox, and let you know instead that much has changed for the better since I committed to my first JeBAHFUL. I sleep more soundly, and find that I’m way less agitated while awake. It has taken weeks, but that all-over jittery feeling of being unsettled (I’m assuming that was anxiety) has all but disappeared. Each day without alcohol gets better and more productive.

So December 1st arrives, and I add a second JeBAHFUL to my plate: 10,000 steps a day, or 50,000 steps per week. In Europe this level of movement is not that difficult to achieve, but in the car-centric United States, getting those steps in takes planning and discipline. Here I am, on December 29th, feeling quite proud, for I've arrived at mastery of those two habits, and my outlook on the year is ever so bright. Dare I say I feel lucky to be on such an optimistic path? Hypocrite.

I am writing this on the TGV to Paris. Dave and I have some last-minute business tasks to do up in the capitol. The students are scheduled to arrive on January 5th, but a new glitch is closing in: Omicron. Super contagious and spreading at record speed, COVID-19’s fifth variant is responsible for chaos in the travel industry. Over the Christmas holidays, hundreds of flights have been cancelled due to the virus. Will this trend continue, affecting our students’ travel from Boston to Marseille? I’m holding my breath, but I’m not anxious about it. If there is one thing that the past two years of COVID has taught us, is how to pivot. We’ve got this.

So I settle in to my life here in France. I am back to reading books in French (a personal rule while I’m on this continent) and I’ve begun a painting. My word, it feels so amazing to be creating in this space again. To say I’ve missed our Atelier that looks on to the great Mt. Ste. Victoire would be an understatement. I cannot wait to share this creative space with our students and to experience an art term abroad through their eyes. Yes, I guess I am quite lucky.

Excerpt from my series Art Term Abroad: Feeling '22


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