A Different Kind of Celebration

When we moved to Geneva, I kept January 2016 in the front of my mind. Three years, I thought. I can do this. I’ll move back with a four year old and maybe another child. I can live anywhere for three years. Three Christmases. Three Easters. Only three ski seasons so make it worth it.

Well, now we have arrived at January 2016. My deadline has arrived and it is just be another January. See, something happened between the first gray January week we arrived and now. We have really come to like Geneva. If you had asked me two years ago, or maybe even one year ago, I would have said I tolerated Geneva but would never love it. I would have been wrong. It’s a great city. My son and daughter are learning French. We can see the Alps every day (barring the fog which is bad November through January) and it’s the perfect mix of big city assets (great public transportation, museums and cultural activities) without the traffic and sprawl of Houston or London or New York. The Swiss are polite and reserved and I like that. They have good cheese, incredible chocolate and it’s safe. Our church is unbelievably diverse and we have made really good friends through a small group and through Forest’s school and Josh’s work.

In the past year, we have bought a house and a car. I was able to do some of those things in French. I got my hair cut- including bangs (or fringe)!- all in French. I can make reservations and chat with dog groomers and doctor’s assistants in French. Learning the language has been tough. I studied Spanish in high school and college and while the vocabulary is similar (thanks Latin), the accent could not be more different. But perhaps the most “a-ha” moment for me was selling our old car.  We had an old SUV and sold it to a friend of ours. Since we had purchased it three years earlier from another friend, I knew the process. We had to go to the DMV and switch the title to his name, prove he had insurance, change our address and register new plates. What a difference three years made. This time I was the one who was speaking and explaining the insurance complications. It wasn’t pretty but it got done. Making an effort to understand the language and culture of the place we live has proven invaluable. I’m sure that’s obvious to you but I wonder about places I have lived before this. What if I had taken more time to understand the culture of my neighborhood in New York or Houston? I assumed that America is America but maybe I could have enjoyed it more.

But I’ve been thinking about something bigger than that. What do you do when you reach your goal? When you set a date or some other goal ahead of you and you get there. It feels anticlimactic in a way. I did it. I lived in Geneva for three years and am on track to live here for a few more. Only one more and I will have lived here longer than anywhere else since I was in college. The very thought of January 2016 seemed so far away when we first moved and I anticipated the extreme relief I would feel when we reached our goal and then moved back. But instead of enduring it, I like it so much I want to keep going. It’s a strange when you don’t feel what you expected to feel. I’m almost disappointed- not that we are staying and enjoying it but January 2016 was held out as my great hope, my month of celebration and now… I don’t know. I don’t really have much of a point here but am processing as I write. That’s probably not a great writing method. I know there are trite answers like “Live in the moment and you won’t have this problem” or “Enjoy every day because if you’re waiting for tomorrow, you’ll miss what’s in front of you.” I understand those and don’t think I’ve been missing out on our life here because I had January 2016 as my goal. But as someone who loves lists and plans and the security they seem to bring (though I know they don’t actually bring any sort of safety), I think I struggle to not have an end goal or an end date.

At the same time, I do find a lot of comfort in the fact that we have made it longer than we thought we would. We’ve made a home here and I’m able to communicate. I’m proud of that. Maybe January 2016 will be a month of celebration- just of something different- of our desire to stay, our victories no matter how small and of our great friends who have made this place our home.