Birthday thoughts & a huge life update!

on October 29, 2019

I owe you all a big life update and today, I’m happy to deliver. I’ve just cozied up in a window seat at my favorite local coffee shop, with my classic almond milk cappuccino order. I suggest you grab your own hot beverage of choice, and join me for a chat (well, I’ll write, you read).

I love sharing tid bits of my life on the blog – after all I believe it’s this personal aspect that separates blogs from classic media. And that’s what I’ve always loved about blogging! But I’ll admit lately I’ve fallen into the pit of travel guides & listicles – which have their place in SEO – and lacked a bit in the ‘personal’ category. With so many intense things happening in my life this summer & fall, I didn’t have the brain space to share tons of details. But I figure what better time to reflect on life than your birthday?! So here we are.

Yup this post is going to have some unrelated-yet-cute-if-I-do-say-so-myself photos of me in front of a wall of ivy in England.

A little back story…

Many of you know me as a freelance travel writer and blogger. And while I’ve been lucky to start earning an income doing that, I also have an alternate professional-personality in healthcare!

I’ve spent the past (almost) 2 years since I moved back from England trying to transfer my healthcare degree from the UK to the USA. I did a Masters in Occupational Therapy but unfortunately couldn’t work in my home country before a lot of faff bureaucracy was completed. Good intentioned bureaucracy, but bureaucracy nonetheless. I spent 1.5 years completing an application to even be allowed to take the USA board exams… this involved a lot of paperwork, emails, money, online classes, and one impromptu road trip to Tennessee for a hand therapy workshop! My application was finally approved in August, which meant that the powers-that-be would permit me to sit for the board exams.

Then commenced eight solid weeks of studying, which I treated like a more-than-full-time job. Luckily I could do that because I’d quit my job working in a memory care unit earlier in the year, to focus on the application process. I did continue freelance travel writing whilst studying, which was a wonderful brain-break + income source and my business actually grew during that time.

With the stress of a two year Masters and a two year degree transfer process resting on my shoulders, I took the exam on October 7. I think I entered some alternate universe of hyper-focus during the exam. I left with no clue as to whether I’d passed or failed, but a flight booked to London the following day which, honestly, feels like a very me response to a stressful situation.

The past two weeks I’ve been chilling with Dan in England. We went to Cheddar Gorge for a few days but other than that hung out at his house. We went grocery shopping, baked a pre-birthday cake, went bowling, watched Netflix. Dan had to return to work during my visit and so I set myself up at his home desk for freelance writing work. It was all very low key.

Related: 15+ Things to do in Cheddar Gorge

The Birthday Eve

So fast forward to my Birthday Eve (less extra people might refer to this as the “day before my birthday”), which also happened to be the exam score release day. I woke up in my favorite crappy pub-hostel near Paddington Station, scarfed down a gluten free variation of the full english breakfast (predominantly beans and mushrooms), and sleepily boarded the Heathrow Express. Because oh yeah, in addition to Birthday Eve and score release day, this was fly-home-from-the-UK day.

Which brings me to Gate C23 at Heathrow, waiting to board my plane and incessantly refreshing my email. Scores were supposed to be released at 7am EST, which is 12pm London time. But there I was at 12:40pm, the last person to board my plane, and still no score release email.

I boarded the plane, always sad to leave my beloved England, but this time a bit… despairing? I had 9 wifi-less hours ahead of me, with only an in-flight entertainment system, complimentary white wine, and sheer will to help me survive.

Related: Goodbye, England.

The flight from hell

Lest I forget to mention that prior to this flight from hell, I had made a drastic mistake. I wore my new brown sweater, bought at New Look in Southampton because it seemed “autumnal” and “I deserved it.” Unfortunately, I’d worn this same sweater three days prior when Dan and I ordered Indian food takeaway.

There is a certain kind of torture, that is sitting in a confined environment for 9 hours in a sweater that you acutely become aware smells powerfully of chicken tikka masala. Add to that the sad truth that I’m currently in a stage of life, traditional among us hipster-granola millenials, called “I’m hunting for a natural deodorant that actually works… but I have clearly not found it yet.” The chicken tikka masala sweater only amplified my own personal flavor of waiting-for-board-exam-results-on-a-9-hour-flight sweat, which let me tell you has a particular kind of smell.

Let’s just say during that flight I recommitted to the effective although maybe cancerous non-natural deodorant life. But, you didn’t come here to read three paragraphs about my sweat glands, so let’s suffice it to say this was an unpleasant flight and move on!

The test results…

After a smelly, stressful, and cheap wine filled 9 hours, the plane wheels bumpily landed on the tarmac. Immediately I scrabbled through my backpack for my iPhone. After a few hiccuping minutes of my old crotchety phone attempting to connecting to USA data networks… the notifications came rolling in.

Heart in my throat, I logged in to my exam portal for the results…

I passed.

I passed.

I PASSED!

I’m not sure what emotions I was expecting to experience. I figured if I failed, I would be disappointed and angry and maybe casually go through the stages of grief. And if I passed, I should be overjoyed, right?

But staring at that email, with words like “certified” and “registered” and “celebrate your accomplishments”… I felt purely overwhelmed. I stared at the screen, while around me other passengers unbuckled their seat belts, climbed over one another, struggled with their overhead luggage, and impatiently waited in the aisles. All around me was motion, people stretching and preparing to move on to their next destination.

And yet I sat there, tears inexplicably filling my eyes. My heart felt big, expanding in my chest, and it was all I could do to keep it in my rib cage. Two years of my Masters. Two years of applications and studying. All for that moment on a plane sitting on the Detroit airport tarmac. And everything that’s to come, of course.

The Birthday Day

Of course, those exam results were the best birthday present I could have received. I spent my actual birthday at my parent’s house in Michigan. I woke up with a sore throat that morning, firmly believing that during the flight from hell and the 9 hours of anxiety I had made myself sick.

It was a very relaxed birthday, just with my parents. My mom made waffles for breakfast, I spent most of the day at the Verizon store and backing up my computer. Then, we had gluten free lasagna and pumpkin-chocolate cake for dinner (yes everyone thinks it’s bizarre when I say that, but I’m a Halloween baby what can I say?!).

I realized it’s the first birthday I’ve ever had without a birthday party. Bizarre, right? I’ve tried to have a party-less birthday a few times and each time someone or other threw me a much-appreciated surprise party. But this year was different. And after the emotional turmoil of this summer, and the intensity of studying, a party-less birthday was actually just what I needed.

What’s next?

Obviously, this all begs the question: what’s next for me? This weekend I just reveled in the thought that I am now a registered therapist. Unfortunately there’s actually still a bit of bureaucracy to go before I can actually practice (licensing and all that!), which might take another month or so, but that’s details. And then there’s the matter that thanks to some major Medicare changes this is the worst job market in a decade for therapists, but that’s life, right?

Of course I have plans to start applying to jobs as a therapist. I have a few different career paths in mind, one of them being travel therapy which has always seemed like the perfect fit (as you should know, sitting here reading my travel blog!).

I’m planning to continue the freelance travel writing, hopefully forever. However I might have to downsize some clients when I start working as a therapist. Although these past two years have been tough, I am super grateful in a way that it helped me find travel writing and begin working as a writer… I don’t know if I would have had to courage to try that if I’d gone straight in to working as a therapist. I have wanted to be an author and writer since I was 8 years old… it is truly my passion and I’m so grateful I’m able to do that!

What else? In the immediate future, I’ve got a press trip lined up to Quebec City and quite a bit of work on this blog! I’m also having wrist surgery in two weeks. Hopefully this will solve the chronic pain I’ve had in my wrist for four years, and enable me to get back to practicing and teaching yoga! I’ve also unfortunately been diagnosed with SIBO and have a lovely round of antibiotics and the low FODMAP diet waiting for me. I’m hoping to go to the gym, help a friend move into her first house, cook some fall favorites, walk my dogs, sell some old clothes, and see family. In short – life is good!

What’s new with you?

Well, one massive and unnecessarily smelly life update later, there you have it! Now we’re all on the same page. I am looking forward to continue sharing life and its ups and downs, as well as all my travel wisdom, with you on Endless Distances.

Now, it’s your turn. Let me know in the comments below what you’ve been up to, and what your plans are for the future!

Sarah xx

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