Back to the real world

I’m back in Italy. Not that Italy is the real world, but ever since I left for college, I’ve seen my parents’ home/my childhood home as a restful idyll where the woods around us and my parents’ comfortingly familiar presence provide a buffer from the outside world and all of its stressful demands.

Now I’m back in Italy, in my usual fog of post-overnight flight + jet lag confusion. Maximally groggy and grumpy. There’s no way around it – I hate the first few days back in Europe after a trip home, because the jet lag sucks (makes it hard to fall asleep and even harder to wake up in the morning, which the opposite of my preferred sleep schedule) and I have still not found any sort of trick that allows me to feel well-rested any sooner than about a week after the trip. Blargh.

Anyway. In a desperate attempt to perk myself up, I am making a list! Not a 22 for 2022 list (I somehow don’t feel ready yet?) and not a resolutions list of any kind… but a list specific to this random strange start-of-the-year time. Why is the start of the year random and strange? Basically due to the Italian academic calendar at the university level: they have exams until mid-February, when the new semester starts. The upshot of this is that I have precisely two days between now and mid-February when I have to go to work in person. The rest of the time, it will be scattered online meetings, an online course that I have to teach for a whopping 3 hours a week, and a whole lot of time set aside for grading and the ever-present translating (read: flexible).

So I felt that this time deserved its own set of goals and action items. Ideally, I could start the new semester with a few niggling organizational issues resolved, feeling refreshed and organized and ready to take on in-person teaching again! Ha. We shall see. (Also, in-person teaching is not looking like a very sure bet at the moment, but I suppose there’s still time for things to change before mid-February). So. Let’s get right into it. Warning: this list is heavy on the admin/organization aspects.

Admin! Everyone’s favorite!

  1. A round of invoicing
  2. Revising my test plans for testing company #1
  3. Reviewing procedures for testing company #2 (followed by another examining day to see if I fully qualify as having passed training yet or not. If not, I am strongly leaning towards dropping this commitment. The training and re-training procedures are proving pretty onerous and unlike the other testing company I work for, I don’t even enjoy the process of testing these students. Also, to be honest, I think I need fewer freelance work commitments rather than more.)
  4. Go through binders and throw out things that are no longer relevant. Archive terribly old stuff.
  5. Create new binders for the new house.
  6. Sort through stuff in the random pile on my desk.
  7. Sort through stuff in the random pile under my desk.
  8. Identify and organize keys onto keyrings.
  9. Sort through computer files; delete old stuff and backup relevant stuff.
  10. Rearrange home screen of phone so that the first page doesn’t include social media.
  11. Contact the waste management people to receive our Official Bin.
  12. Sort through clothes very intentionally and decide how would prefer to have them organized.
  13. Design wardrobe accordingly and order it!
  14. Finalize and order living room shelf system.

Fun stuff!

  1. Arrange to see best friends for casual meetups/walks/coffees/pizzas several times.
  2. Arrange video call with US best friends to announce pregnancy?!
  3. Visit my mother in Paris, help her in continued efforts to sort through grandmother’s apartment; also just enjoy being there together.
  4. Organize and execute weekend away with the boyfriend before he starts his new job (by the way, the boyfriend has a new job!). Thinking perhaps a trip to the mountains to see the snow, breath the good air, go on little hikes, and spend lots of time relaxing. Pity we won’t be able to go into any of the hot tubs or similar, but that’s life.
  5. Plan local adventures to nearby towns or even just nights out at different restaurants: several different favorite pizza places, the Greek place (!), the Indian place, the hamburger place.
  6. Try some new recipes regularly.
  7. Get some light exercise every day, starting January 10. (I’m awarding myself the next few days to just get out of jet lag zombie mode.) I’m also letting myself off the hook really easily: long walks and intense workout videos would be great, but I’m even going to count 5 minutes of yoga.


  1. Commence preparing for at least one of my last two exams!!
  2. Contact my potential thesis supervisor AGAIN to see if we can get this thing off the ground.
  3. Pay registration fees if another year looks necessary (I think it does).
  4. Submit change of plans form, taking advantage of the “extra” academic year to drop a class that was annoying me and register for one that looks intriguing instead.

Bonus: Spend lots of time resting up on the couch with good books whenever necessary. (I purchased three paper volumes for this expressly indulgent purpose the other day.)

Photo: the Alps as we flew over them, while I nauseously and groggily tried to decide if eating the yogurt they were handing out would make things better or worse. It’s always Chobani strawberry yogurt (on United flights to Europe) and I always end up eating it because it seems sad to waste it (Chobani is good quality yogurt, right? I think)… and against all odds, it somehow does always improve things!

3 thoughts on “Back to the real world

  1. Hi! Just popping over to your blog for the first time.
    2021 kicked my butt and it was very hard for me to get my head around planning anything for 2022.
    Looking forward to following along as we journey together through the year ahead – acknowledging both the hard AND celebrating the joyful.
    And honestly – admin just takes SO much space in our lives and I think it deserves a place on annual lists. It provides us with a real sense of accomplishment and also allows us to accept the fact that a lot of what we do is just about keeping the general maintenance of life afloat (sad, but true). I, for one, find that when I accept this fact I can often – but definitely not always – find a degree of flow and satisfaction in working through these mundane tasks.

    1. I totally agree – I often try to settle myself into a nice little intentional admin morning or afternoon (sometimes I even light a candle to sort of mentally inform myself: self, you are having a nice, soothing time clearing away all these niggling tasks) to try to maximize satisfaction and minimize frustration. (As opposed to when admin gets chopped up into a million annoying snatches of time throughout a week that I find myself begrudging.)

      I love your phrase ‘acknowledging both the hard and celebrating the joyful’, too – I feel like this is the exact right balance to aim for, because there’s no use pretending the hard isn’t there, and it would not be healthy to do so, but it’s important to still look for the joyful, too. Here’s to doing both in 2022!

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